10 Oct Yamaha Arius Digital Pianos – REVIEW 2021 | 6 Models under $2500
By: Professor Tim
Yamaha Arius Digital Pianos – REVIEW | 6 models Under $2500 | for 2021 | Lower prices Here | The Yamaha Arius digital pianos consist of 6 models which include the YDP-103, YDP-S34, YDP-144, YDP-S54, YDP-164, and YDP-184. The Yamaha Arius pianos have been produced for well over 20 years and are considered the mid and lower priced “furniture cabinet” Yamaha digital pianos.
The current Arius models start at $899 and go up to $2199 discount internet price and they come in different cabinet styles and colors. No other digital piano brand has as many models of furniture cabinet digital pianos in this specific price range available on the internet as Yamaha does.
Having 6 furniture cabinet models in this price range does not necessarily mean that Yamaha has the best digital piano in every one of these price points as compared to their competition. But what it does mean is that they dominate this range range with more cabinet models than anyone else and there is no doubt that Yamaha makes a very good product with regard to design, technology, and durability.
There could even be a new, additional model coming which may be priced at somewhere between $1500 to $2000 but we should know more about that at some point in early 2021. Please read all about the Arius models below and how they compare to each other.
– Yamaha Arius YDP-103 | $999 internet price | The YDP-103 is Yamaha’s entry level Arius model and has been out now for awhile. It comes in a traditional furniture style cabinet and is available only in a dark rosewood color. The YDP-103 is very basic in functions and features with just one function button located on the left side of the keyboard and to access features within the piano you would need to look in the owners manual at a chart for the features which are then accessed by pressing the one function button on the piano and then simultaneously pressing a specific white or black key to trigger that feature.
These features would include instrument sounds, key change, effect, or whatever it is you are looking to access or change within the piano. This model has an 88-key weighted key action which is Yamaha’s entry level key movement called GHS and it’s overall good for a digital piano although it does not feel like a real piano but is certainly a big step up over any of the less expensive “off-brands” out there including Artesia, Williams, Suzuki, and others.
The YDP103 uses an older technology piano sound chip which only has 64-note piano polyphony power (most digital pianos have at least 128-note polyphony), a fairly compressed piano sound without much tonal dynamic range, and overall has a noticeably artificial piano sound as compared to the Arius models above it. The internal speaker system is also fairly weak with just 12 watts of total power going through 2 smaller main speakers which makes the piano sound quite weak and somewhat tinny, although to some piano shoppers out there it may still be acceptable.
There is a master volume control but you’ll need to turn it up almost all the way to get a reasonable volume out of it. A 12-watt speaker system is very low power and way behind some of the other digital pianos out there including the Casio PX-870. For just $100 more the Casio PX-870 has 40 watts of power going into 4 speakers and the piano polyphony power is 256-note polyphonic vs 64 notes in the Yamaha YDP-103.
To put this all in perspective, the lower priced Yamaha P-125 portable 88 key digital piano at just $699 with the same same GHS key action has a much better 192-note polyphony piano sound chip with more natural dynamic tonal range and expression, along with slightly more powerful internal amplifiers going through 4 speakers instead of just two speakers.
Although you would still need to add an optional stand, triple pedal unit, and bench to that P-125 to get it to look and operate more like a real piano, the price then would be about the same between both models but the P-125 would be a much better piano.
The YDP-103 has just 10 instrument sounds accessed by the function button, a digital metronome, transpose function, a USB output to external device, and 2 headphone jacks for private practice, digital touch sensitivity control, and a few other features. However, this model has no recording features to use for recording your practice sessions and playing it back so you can hear what you are doing and being able to better understand improvements you might need to make in playing a particular song.
The cabinet is attractive and has a sliding key cover, brass color triple pedal unit, and a traditional music rack to hold your music.
It’s a nice piano but in this price range we think there are definitely much better options in other top name brands with more advanced, more natural key action, piano sound, more powerful internal speakers system and more connectivity as well. You could also just spend a bit more money and purchase a slightly higher priced Arius model which would probably be the better investment, especially in the long term.
– Yamaha Arius YDP-S34 | $1099 internet price | The YDPS34 is the next model up in the Arius line of digital pianos in a more compact contemporary form with a number of different improvements over the YDP103 mainly because it’s a newer model with newer improved technology.
This would include a newer, better piano sound chip called “CFX” sampling which offers more organic content to the piano sound, more dynamic tonal range, more expression, and includes 3 times the polyphony power of the YDP103 at 192-notes of maximum polyphony. This is helpful for better sound, longer and more natural pedal sustain tone, and overall a noticeably better piano sound.
The internal speaker system is also a bit more powerful with 16 watts of total power going into 2 speakers, although the speaker size is the same as the YDP-103 which unfortunately still makes the piano sound more tinny and smaller than it should be. The control panel on the left side of the keyboard has more direct access buttons for easier control of the main piano features including a 2-track MIDI recorder for recording your music.
This recorder/playback feature can record the left and right hand separately and then you can play them back simultaneously to hear how you are doing with your music and is especially useful for your song practice sessions. The only downside to the recorder is that it can only save one song in the piano so if you want to record another song you need to record over the existing song.
There are 10 instrument sounds in this model along with 3 of them being acoustic piano sounds and the ability to layer/mix two sounds at a time such as piano & strings, harpsichord & organ, etc. The YDPS34 also has reverb effects for a more natural piano sound, key transpose function, digital metronome, 2 headphone jacks for private practice, a USB output to external devices, and a few other interesting functions.
This newer model also is the first Arius that takes advantage of a Yamaha proprietary app called “Smart Pianist” which allows you to control the functions & features of the S34 from the color touch screen of an iPad. This is a very cool way to interface with this Arius model and also adds extra features not already on the S34 such as wav file audio recording, digital music notation for built-in songs, importing of iTunes into the Smart Pianist app so you can play along and also get instant chord charts from the audio track.
We really like the YDP-S34 and what it does for its price, but we wish the piano had a better key action and better internal speaker system for more realistic piano sound reproduction.
The modern cabinet looks quite nice in either matte black or matte white color with a fold down key cover which folds flat over the keyboard, a built-in music holder in the key cover, and chrome plated triple pedal unit. The YDP-S34 is relatively new so it will be a current model throughout 2021 and probably beyond.
– Yamaha Arius YDP-144 | $1199 internet price | This Arius model is essentially a YDP-S34 but in a more traditional cabinet with slide-out key cover, brass plated triple pedal unit and traditional music rack, along with matching bench. This model comes in 2 colors which are matte black or matte rosewood. So if you like what the YDP-S34 offers then the YDP-144 is the same piano in every way except that it has the traditional cabinet and is available in the rosewood color whereas the S34 does not have a rosewood color option.
The GHS key action, piano sound chip, internal speaker system, pedaling, functions, features, and Smart Pianist app are all the same. It’s one hundred dollars more than the YDP-S34 because of the cabinet differences and added bench. The sound output on this model is the smaller 16 watt, 2 speaker system which gives out a tinnier sound than we would like to hear along with needing to have the master volume control turned way up so that we can get some reasonable volume out of this model. The YDP-144 is a newer model and should be out through 2021 and beyond from what we can see.
– Yamaha Arius YDP-S54 | $1449 internet price | This next Arius model is the 1st Arius in this line up to address the issues I have with the lack of power and the less realistic key action in the lower priced models. The YDP-S54 (aka:S54) has 2 x 20 watt amplifiers for a total of 40 watts going into 2 speakers so it definitely has more noticeable volume and fullness to the sound than the Arius models below it and this is a very good thing.
In reality it really does not cost that much more to put in more powerful power amps in these pianos and Yamaha could have done it in their lower priced Arius models for just slightly more money but you’ll need to spend $250 more going up to this model to get that although we would have preferred to see 4 speakers instead of continuing with just 2 speakers or perhaps providing 2 “larger” speakers for more bass response.
Beyond the improved speaker system power is the upgraded key action called GH3 with heavier weighted keys, a quieter key movement, 3 electronic key sensors per key instead of the 2 key sensors per key in the models below this one, and the addition of proprietary synthetic ivory & ebony feel key tops.
Decades ago in real acoustic pianos, those keys were made with real ivory & ebony placed on the key tops to give those surfaces those organic materials to help absorb sweat from the fingers along with have a natural grain or texture on those keys offering a better grip on the keys for the fingers. The YDP164 keys now offer a similar playing experience with this synthetic material.
The digital functions and features of this model is identical to the lower priced YDP-144 and YDP-S34 including the 10 instrument sounds, MIDI recording, and connectivity including interfacing with the Smart Pianist app. Just like the YDP-S34, this model comes in the compact contemporary cabinet available in either matte black or matte white with folding key cover, built-in music rest, and chrome plated triple pedal unit. A bench is not included so you would need to get your own bench. This model is relatively new and should out on the market throughout 2021.
– Yamaha Arius YDP-164 | $1599 internet price | This model is like the YDP-144 compared to the YDP-S34 which means that the YDP-164 is the traditional cabinet version of the YDPS54. The YDP164 has the same key action, same 40 watt audio power, same speakers, same digital features and user interface including being able to connect with the Smart Pianist app except that the cabinet in this model has the more traditional piano design and available in matte black or matte rosewood whereas the YDPS54 has the contemporary cabinet and available in matte black or matte white.
The YDP-164 has the brass plated pedals, sliding key cover and full size traditional music rack with built-in music holder clips. The YDP-164 also comes with a matching bench. So if you like what the YDP-S54 has to offer but you prefer the appearance of the YDP164, then it’s just another $150 more to get it which makes it a good value. The YDP-164 has not been for a while but should likely be available through 2022 and beyond.
– Yamaha Arius YDP-184 | $2399 internet price | The is the top-of-the-line Arius model and it has a number of newer, upgraded features beyond the YDP-164 which is why it has a much higher price tag. The key action in this model is identical to the YDP-164/YDP-S54 but that is pretty much where the major similarities end.
The piano sound chip on this model is also called “CFX” but that piano sound chip is much more advanced in terms of providing a more realistic, more natural acoustic piano sound with new resonance modeling technology and a bigger 256-note polyphony piano sound chip. The speaker system in this model is also more powerful at 60 watts of total power with 2 larger speakers which really helps the piano sound in being fuller and richer than the YDP-164.
There are many more functions and features in this model including a 16-part MIDI recorder/player which allows you to recording up to 16 different instrument sounds one at a time and then play them all back simultaneously and save your song creation on a USB flashdrive for storage so you can keep that song for future use and playback. This feature gives you the ability to do a full arrangement of a song and learn how to layer instruments together which is a very cool feature.
There are 24 instrument sounds in the YDP-184 instead of only 10 in the other models and all of those additional instrument sounds are very good and you can layer any 2 of them together like the other Arius models or you can “split” any 2 sounds with one on the left hand and another one for the right hand and this is the only Arius piano which has this feature.
The YDP-184 also has a 250 song music library in it so that you can play along with these educational practice songs and also fully arranged popular classical and other types of music and you can also access the sheet music notation digitally through the Smart Pianist app. To add to the musical fun is 20 drum rhythm patterns such as rock, jazz, Latin, country, swing, waltz, etc, which helps you with rhythm & timing instead of just relying on the digital metronome, and it’s more fun to play along with drum rhythms.
To access all of these functions & features is a built-in LCD digital display and interface control panel which is on the left side of the keyboard. This is the first and only full digital display screen and user-friendly interface in any of the Arius models. It’s fairly easy to use, intuitive and allows you to access all features without the need of an iPad and an app.
Another exclusive feature on this model not found in other Arius pianos is a feature called “Piano Room.” You can access this function directly from the control panel and it allows you to “customize” the acoustic pianos sounds in the YDP-184 so that you can easily control the reverb effects, brilliance/brightness, touch sensitivity, chorus effects, master effects, etc which makes playing the piano sounds more enjoyable.
Connectivity is really good in the 184 with stereo audio input, audio outputs to external speakers systems, USB output, USB flashdrive input, MIDI output & input, and 2 stereo headphone jacks so you can expand what you can do with this piano in those different connectivity ways. It’s obvious that the appearance on the YDP-184 is different and better in that it has 2 front support legs for better stability and the piano is taller and looks more like a real piano in these ways.
It has a nice sliding key cover and nicely positioned music rack along with brass plated pedals and matching bench. So in terms of the “Arius” series of digital pianos, the YDP-184 would be considered the “Lexus” and the others are the more basic cars.
There are even more functions and features on this model that I have not mentioned but those things are relatively minor and secondary but can be useful for the right person playing the right kind of music to take advantage of those functions. Overall the YDP-184 is a very nice piano although the GH3 key action on this model as well as the YDP164/YDPS54 can be a bit heavy for some people because it does require more force to press down the keys than some people might like.
The only obvious downside to this newer model is that it’s only available in the dark rosewood and not matte black or white. So if you want or need a different color than matte rosewood then this would not be the piano for you and instead you may want to look at the Yamaha Clavinova line and their lowest priced models called CLP-725 at $1999 and the CLP-735 which is available in multiple cabinet colors and finished.
The CLP-735 has all of the features and functions of the YDP-184 but with a better, less heavy key action plus many more things you can do with it. It also has the addition of a beautiful Bosendorfer grand piano sound setting not available in the Arius pianos and a much better warranty.
When it comes to new digital pianos around and under $2000, the Yamaha Arius series is a good competitor but in my professional opinion the Arius models under $2000 have a long way to go with regard to key action and internal speaker system and lack some of the “bells & whistles” their competition has going for them. I would like to see some improvements but overall they are solid digital pianos and worth your consideration.