Pros: beautifully even keyboard, nice cabinet, low maintenance, quiet action, deep key travel, music stand.
Cons: low quality speakers, limited 64 tone polyphony, price.
Since this is a review of a piano, perhaps a little note about my qualifications in the field wouldn't hurt - I am a classically trained pianist and have been performing and recording classical piano music for over 20 years now. I make my living playing and teaching piano.
This is my second digital piano, my first one was a Casio Privia PX-110.
Although the intention was to use the Yamaha YDP-135R as a secondary instrument to supplement my acoustic piano, I must say I've been using it more and more and really enjoying it. The advantages are obvious - it is always in tune, doesn't need any maintenance, and most importantly it can be used at any time without disturbing anybody.
The YDP-135 comes in one fairly large box and needs a little bit of assembling. I bought mine from a local store and since it was their demo unit I got it for a good bit less than its regular price and it was already assembled, they only separated the keyboard from the stand so it would fit in my car. The only down side was that it did not come with the bench, which they had already sold separately.
I am sure that anyone who has had any experience with moving a piano, would appreciate the fact that this one fits in the trunk of a mid-size station wagon, even if not disassembled. Still, this particular model is larger than my older Casio and quite a bit heavier.
But enough about that, let's talk about the quality of the instrument.
Digital pianos have come a long way in the past 10 years in their ability to resemble the real thing. Yet none of them can ever match an acoustic piano, so that shouldn't even be e goal when choosing one. But just like acoustic pianos, they all have their own little quirks, that make each instrument a unique and a little different than every other one. This is what I love most about it.
Unlike most other instrumentalists, a pianist can't bring his own piano to a concert and has to make do with whatever is available. This is why it is great to practice on a variety of instruments and not allow yourself to get used to just your own. Despite its shortcomings, the YDP-135R provides a great practice opportunity even for experienced pianists and here is why:
1. It has a very nice feeling and even keyboard, that very few acoustic pianos can match. Only the best maintained instruments have that kind of evenness from one end to the other. The piano features Yamaha's Graded Hammer Standard action, which means that the keys are heavier towards the bottom and lighter toward the top. It is supposedly the cheaper, less capable Yamaha system, but I tried some more expensive models in the store with the graded hammer action and the difference was negligible.
2. There are three settings of the touch sensitivity - soft, medium, and hard which change the amount of effort needed to produce sound. This is a great feature - it allows you to practice for different situations, for a heavy piano or for a light one. Used together with the volume control it can really stretch the difference from one extreme to another. There is also a fourth setting - fixed, which basically means that no matter how hard you press the key, the sound is always the same level. I see no use for this feature.
3. There are different reverberation options. Again - every piano sounds unique, changing any of these options allows you to create a whole new instrument on which to practice. I find myself using more reverberation when I play at lower volumes as the sound does not bounce sufficiently from the walls that way. At higher volume and I turn down the built in reverb and rely primarily on the room's acoustic.
4. It is easily movable. Unlike an acoustic piano, this one is easy to take apart and move if needed. I plan on using this when I go to our country house in the summer - no more missing weeks or months of practice!
5. Easy recording - recording your performance is one of the best learning methods for a pianist. With a digital piano it is as simple as pressing a button. Of course taping yourself on a video is always more helpful, but for a routine practice the quick and easy built in recorder is more than sufficient.
There are a few other features that I frankly don't care about - sounds for other instruments (two pianos, electric piano, harpsichord, organ, strings), built in metronome (if you can't develop your own sense of time, a metronome won't ever help you), pre-recorded pieces (could be helpful for playing at weddings for instance!), and MIDI connections. As my only use for this instrument is as a real acoustic piano alternative, I haven't used nor plan on using any of these features.
Now let's discuss the negatives here.
I would like to reiterate again - a digital piano cannot yet match the qualities of an acoustic instrument.
My biggest problem on this model are the speakers, it simply needs better and more powerful ones. Most notably the medium register, the one that's played the most, sound hollow and thin. The result improves dramatically with good quality headphones or external speakers and amplification. I intend to look some time and see if I could possibly replace the built in speakers with higher quality ones.
The 64 tone polyphony is limited. It causes quicker drop-off in the sound volume than is typical on an acoustic instrument. Further more in changes the reality of the use of pedal - this Yamaha tolerates a lot more pedal than would be appropriate on an acoustic piano, which is very important to keep in mind.
I know I already mentioned it as a positive, but I'll list this as a negative as well - the keyboard is insanely well balanced. This is great, every piano should be like that. But the reality is that only the best concert grand pianos have this level of balance and depth of the keys. Most of the time we get to play on some clunky, beat up old pianos and they always have some quirks that we have to learn to compensate for - one octave might be brighter, some key would only play without the soft pedal, another will be much quieter than the one right next to it... every single piano outside of the stage concert grands have these oddities that we have to learn to compensate for. No such problems exist on the Yamaha - it is a very easy instrument to play on, technically speaking. It is the type of ease that you get on a finally balanced Steinway grand and you never ever get on, say, a Bösendorfer. I think it is very important not to get used to playing on this type of keyboard as it is the exception and not the standard.
Finally, I can't help but feel that the price is a bit high. Casio seems to offer more features and better specifications for a lot less. But than again it might be a question of quality. I have to say that the Casio was definitely a good value for about half the price. Still the Yamaha provides noticeably higher quality - the keys are quiet and even, the touch is exceptional, the cabinet is far more beautiful. As far as the quality of the sound though they are about the same.
Despite the negatives, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this piano to anyone. Does it sound like a real piano? No. But the truth is that it sounds better than most uprights, it has a touch as nice as the best concert grands, and it requires practically no maintanence. As long as it is not the only instrument that you practice on, it is a great choice - then again, the same applies equally to any piano.