Yamaha versus Roland. The debate has been ongoing since both introduced digital pianos more than 20 years ago. Both lay claim to reproducing sound that is representative of an acoustic grand piano. Both emphasise "home furniture" feasibility. Conversely, Yamaha boasts of its Advanced Wave Memory feature, which utilises digital technology to provide authentic samples of acoustic instruments. Roland regards its technological prowess with features such as a large-colour touchscreen and high-quality sound speakers. Music producer Michael Downing uses Yamaha and states that its music sequencing ability gives it technological prowess as well, but advises that comparisons be based on need.
Decide why you want a digital piano. Two popular reasons are to produce music or to accompany a singer on stage.
Ascertain which brand approximates an acoustic grand piano. For starters, an acoustic grand piano has three pedals: a soft pedal, a sustenuto pedal and a sustain pedal. The importance of the pedals lies in the fact that Yamaha is a traditional manufacturer of acoustic grand pianos. Roland is not. Thus, many of Yamaha's digital pianos have the three pedals. Also, consider the "graded hammer effect."
Evaluate the brands using the "spec charts. These are easily obtainable from Yamaha and Roland's websites (yamaha.com and roland.com). The Yamaha YDP223 Digital Piano and the Roland RD-300GX share the following attributes: 88 keys with graded hammer effect, numerous effects, MIDI capability (MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital interface, which allows instruments to interface with each other along with computers).
However, this is the keyboards differ: The Yamaha YDP223 has 64 note polyphony (the amount of notes it can play at one time). The Roland RD-300GX has 128 note polyphony. The YPD223 has three pedals while the RD-300GX has a single pedal. The YDP223 also comes with a bench and is larger.
Determine your budget. Yamaha's prices are generally more affordable. Leading musical instrument retailers such as Musicians' Friend offers price ranges between £195 and £1,040 for Yamaha digital pianos. For Roland digital pianos, it offers price ranges between £975 and £3,900.
Cal Louwe of Musician's Friend, one of the leading suppliers of and experts on musical instruments, says Yamaha is the superior manufacturer of digital pianos and keyboards. Most notably, he cites the Yamaha P60 and P120 digital pianos for their simple set-up and their authentic grand piano feel and sound. In comparison, Abe Martin notes that the Roland RD 700SX and the Roland RD 300 SX give you the same feel and sonic heft as an acoustic grand piano. He recommends them for performing musicians because of the speed at which their operations and functions can be executed.
Consulting a music sales rep, a trade magazine or a musician is recommended only after applying the above steps.