Pros: 61 Weighted keys, a good sound, fun way to start to learn piano.
Cons: A lot here is just bells and whistles.
My son is very musically inclined. I love music and I do my best to play it. About two years ago, my son started to take piano lessons from our local music store, Crossroads. He had an organ at his mother's house, but he lives with me, and he needed something at home to practice on. We had plenty of guitars, but no grand pianos, uprights or organs to play on. Heck, we didn't even have a Xylophone.
I needed to buy an affordable entry level Keyboard. We couldn't quite afford a Korg, or a Hammond Organ just yet, so we went to look at beginner's keyboards. The one that we found and purchased was
Yamaha PSR E223 Entry Level 61 Key Portable Keyboard
The keyboard doen't come with a stand, check the links below for the X stand I purchased with this Yamaha. It does come with a 61 key keyboard, cords to plug it into the wall and a sustain pedal that plugs into the keyboard. This Yamaha has line in and out for Midi, headphone out which doubles as output. There are no standard output or XLR balanced outputs for amplifiers, but you can use this with an amplifier via the 1/8 inch jack line.
The keyboard is lightweight and easy to pick up and carry, and it fits easily on most stands. If you wanted to, in a pinch you could practice by setting it on a table or a desk. The unit is black, made of hard plastic, and it has a variety of buttons above the keys themselves for setting sample demo songs, setting tones, and setting a variety of backing tempos for your playing.
The center has a monochrome readout displaying the style or song you've selected and a representation of the keyboard, the treble cleff and the bass cleff. The keys animate on the keyboard as they are played (by you or the demo song) and the notes appear on the treble cleff for right hand notes and on the bass cleff for left hand notes. I found them nearly impossible to follow along.
This keyboard also has built in speakers which are sufficient for home use and practice. It is certainly not loud enough for a performance, but again, this is an entry level keyboard and not one designed for professional use.
The Keys - Ebony and Ivory (well black and white plastic anyway)
61 Keys - If you don't know much about pianos, a full size piano has 88 keys. They repeat the notes throughout 7 octaves. That's 52 white keys and 36 black keys. Some entry level keyboards only cover a couple octaves. This one has a large enough keyboard to cover most songs and has a five octave range.
Weighted Keys I liked this entry level keyboard because it has weighted keys. Have you ever ran your hands across a piano? If you press the keys, you notice that there is some resistance to them. The weighted key feature makes these keys behave more like true piano keys.
Not Dynamic Keys Since this is an entry level keyboard, the keys are not dynamic. This means that when you play a note, that note will sound at a uniform volume. On a real piano or a more advanced keyboard, notes will sound softer or louder depending on how hard you press the key.
The Features - You will play with them before you play the Piano!
As an entry level keyboard this is loaded with lots of toys. There is a basic digital screen in the middle that shows what sort of sound you are playing, and will also show the notes being played on it.
Songs - In demo mode a variety of songs can be played complete with an accompanying back beat. I wouldn't try to learn from this though, it just doesn't work that way. You watch the keyboard as the song plays and in rapid succession it shows the keys played, the notes played with the right hand, treble cleff and the left hand bass cleff. It goes far too fast to be of any practical use for the target market of this keyboard. We usually use this song mode to pretend we are playing with a complete back up of midi provided orchestra.
Metronome/ Tempo You can accompany yourself with a basic adjustable metronome or set varying rhythms which gives a basic drum beat sort of sound to work on your timing.
Tones - Our favorite feature! This keyboard, like many electric keyboards can mimic many different sounds from pianos, electric pianos, organs, woodwinds, guitars, horns, accordians, harpischords, even special effects like machine gun fire, explosions and laughter. When we first got this keyboard, we spent far more time playing with the various tones than actually practicing.
After I actually started to play this myself, I noticed that despite over 100 tones, you really don't necessarily get the sounds you want. I grew up on classic rock and heavy metal, so a couple tones I went searching for weren't there. I wanted the rich heavy sound of Deep Purple's Jon Lord, or the classic rock keyboard sound of The Door's Ray Manzarek.
Styles - This setting allows you to have a backing accompanyment in a variety of styles from various styles of rock to samba, Latin, Pop, House trance, dance etc. etc. Frankly, I thought that they mostly sounded cheesy and rock didn't sound much different than trance. There was no melodic death metal setting either. I could play along with something that sounded like a Lady GaGa video, but not set a blast beat drum backing to sound like Children of Bodom. That is the problem with artificial effects.
Keypad Entry The songs, the tones and the tempos set forth above can all be assigned via an easy to use keypad. First you hit the main diamond button that is labeled tones, songs or styles, then you enter the number for the tone, song or style that you want. You can also use an up or down key to just browse through the various selections. A simple Grand Portable Piano button takes you back to the beginning basic piano sound. The digital display lets you know what you have selected, and writing on the keyboard itself gives you a basic table of contents about what is in the hundred or so songs, styles and tones.
There are other features on here, I just frankly haven't tried them, because I don't have much interest in them. However, there is a setup whereby you can record part of a demo song, or your own stuff and loop it to accompany you.
This keyboard is easy to play and fun to use. The wide variety of settings makes it entertaining. My son spend the first couple of weeks playing machine guns, laughter, fireworks and other special effects before getting down to the business of actually playing. He was pleased to find settings for example that perfectly matched the Mario Brothers theme that he learned. He was also able to select organ or strings for a really nice sound for Edvard Grieg's Hall of the Mountain King (from the Peer Gynt suite). I have also had fun playing with this, and it gives us both an easy way to practice. I liked it because it was under $150.00 and it is a nice enough keyboard to last until we can get a more elaborate keyboard. I am not enamoured over some of the bells and whistles, but I do like the variety of tone settings.
This Yamaha PSR E223 is a good quality entry level keyboard that I felt was very good. I gave it 4 stars and would recommend it much more readily than some of the toys masquerading as keyboards in department stores. You can find this for not much more than one of those at any music store.
This has been my entry Musical Instruments in Wlswarts's Around Epinions in 80 Days Write Off.
For my review of the stand that this keyboard sits on check out
On Stage Stands