Best 88 Key Weighted Keyboards in 2018 – Tinkle the Keys
I really felt the difference the first time I switched from playing a regular piano to a keyboard...
... The keys just didn’t feel the same.
I later found that it’s because the average keyboard doesn’t have weighted keys.
This added weight helps a keyboard feel more like a piano, which offers more flexibility in your play.
Finding the Right Feel – The Best 88-Key Weighted Keyboards
So, what do you do if you want a keyboard that emulates the feel as well as the sound of a piano? I’ve listed six full-size weighted keyboards below to ensure you get the most suitable 88-key keyboard for your needs.
1. Kawai CE220
Though it may look like a traditional piano, this is actually a digital keyboard with a unique style. The key here is that Kawai also produces acoustic pianos. As a result, they’ve sampled the sounds from their acoustic pianos for use in this digital keyboard variant.
This means you get close to the acoustic sound quality that you’re looking for, though you do lose a little in the translation. You can also couple that with useful features, including a USB port and two-track MIDI port. Both allow you to connect the keyboard to a computer or recording device.
You can also customize the touch sensitivity. As a result, this may be a great choice for beginners who want a full-size keyboard but aren’t yet comfortable with weighted keys. As your skills improve, you can add weight as needed.
The keyboard has an LCD display, plus it comes with a 29-song music book to help you get started. It also has an impressive max polyphony of 192 sounds.
Of course, the design also means that this isn’t a portable keyboard. It’s large and weighty, so you won’t want to move it after assembling. It can also take a while to put together, but that’s a small sacrifice given the keyboard’s sound quality.
The sheer range of accessories you receive with this keyboard drew me to it. You get a furniture stand, stool, sustain pedal, dust cover, and a headphone as part of the package. It also comes with both a DVD and music book for beginners, in addition to some headphones that you can use when playing with other people in the room.
Of course, accessories don’t mean much if the keyboard doesn’t sound right. Luckily, I don’t think that’s a problem with the DGX-660. It features some great samples that sound almost exactly the same as an acoustic piano.
Yamaha has also built in its “Scaled Graded Hammer” technology. In practice, this means that the keys can tell the difference between light, medium, and heavy presses. As a result, it can create 264 tones from its 88 keys.
I also like the option to connect the keyboard wirelessly to an iOS device. This helps with recording and also makes it easier to pull up notation when you’re playing. It also has a USB port if you don’t have an iOS device.
It does take a little breaking in, as the keys feel stiff when you first start playing. The damper pedal also lets the package down, as it feels a touch unnatural.
Aimed at the beginner’s market, this may not be the best choice for performing. However, it’s an excellent practice keyboard that features semi-weighted keys. Again, this can get new players used to the idea of weighted keys without confusing them.
It has a max polyphony of 128 and is extremely cost-effective. I also like the headphone jack, which allows you to play without disturbing others.
Despite having 128 polyphony, it only has five voices. You can adjust each of these to produce different effects, but it’s perhaps not versatile enough for an experienced player.
It does offer USB and MIDI connectivity, plus it’s one of the most portable options on my list. You can pack six D cell batteries into it if you need to take it to lessons. It also comes with a power adapter for when you’re playing at home.
I also like that it comes with a three-month subscription to Skoove, which is an excellent teaching tool for new pianists.
Most people associate Casio with beginner-level keyboards, but the PX160BK has a lot to offer to the experienced player too. It comes with two 8-watt speakers, which pack a surprising punch. It also has several ports that allow you to connect loudspeakers for recitals and performances.
It only has 18 tones, which is far fewer than many of the other keyboards on my list. However, it’s surprising to see just how much it can do with those tones. Couple them with the weighted keys and you have a surprisingly versatile keyboard.
At only 25lbs, it’s also one of the lightest keyboards on my list. This improves portability, with the slim design also ensuring the keyboard packs away easily after use.
The scaled hammer action detects the difference between soft, medium, and hard contacts. There’s also a USB port to allow computer connectivity.
Having said that, it may not be the best choice if you like to play with headphones. The notes also have short sustains, which can make playing some passages difficult.
5. Yamaha P115
Another great Yamaha keyboard, the P115 doesn’t come with as many accessories as the DGX-660. However, you still get a stool, piano bench, and sustain pedal.
While the P115 works as a performance keyboard, it really shines as a practice keyboard. This is down to the “Duo” mode, which allows for side-by-side play. A teacher can show a student something on one side so they can emulate it on the other.
The impressive 192-note polyphony means there’s plenty of range to the sound it produces. It also comes with backing tracks built in. I also like the Intelligent Acoustic Control, which adapts the tone based on your volume settings.
Special mention also goes to the black keys. These have a matte finish, which ensures better grip. You’re unlikely to find your fingers slipping off the keys with this keyboard.
The keyboard also comes with a free iOS app, which you can use to adjust its settings and trigger backing tracks.
The inbuilt speakers let the package down a little. They don’t sound great when you’re playing at low volumes. You can plug external speakers into the keyboard, but you’ll have to find the jack hidden away at the front first.
6. Kawai ES110
The ES110 offers the portability that’s missing from the Kawai CE220, plus it sounds amazing to boot.
It has a 192-note polyphony and an excellent key action. The Advanced Hammer Action IV system can detect even the lightest of presses, allowing you to get some really subtle sounds out of the keyboard.
Much like the Yamaha P115, this one has a split mode that makes it a great teaching tool. It also only weighs 26 pounds, so it’s easy to carry back and forth between lessons.
The keyboard comes with a sustain pedal, though you’ll have to fork out extra for a stand. It also has a MIDI port, though the USB port that comes as standard with most of these keyboards isn’t here. As a result, this may not be the best choice for computer connectivity.
It also offers varying styles of instrument, ranging from classical piano through the church organ and jazz piano.
Why Weighted Keys?
To find the answer to this, you have to think about how normal pianos work.
Simulating a Standard Piano
With a piano, each key has a hammer attached. This strikes a string when the back of the key rises with your press. This creates the sound that you hear from the piano.
Naturally, these hammers also have weight. A light press means that you get the slightest little tinkle. Heavier presses produce much louder sounds.
The point is that you don’t get a consistent sound like you do with bog-standard keyboards. I think this is a good thing, as weighted pianos allow for more variety in your play. You can creep your way through a quiet passage before launching into something louder.
It’s all about the feel.
That’s why many musicians prefer weighted keyboard keys. These emulate the hammer-based design of a piano. As a result, weighted keys expand the scope of what your keyboard can do.
Are They Good for Beginners?
This is a difficult question.
On one hand, starting off with an 88-key weighted keyboard means you’re playing with the most difficult kind of keyboard. If you can handle that, you’ll have no problems moving onto a piano. You’ll also about the subtle differences in power needed to produce different sounds from the same key.
However, these keyboards can also be a bit daunting. They require a lot of patience to master, which may put you off from learning altogether.
If you feel like you fall into the latter camp, these keyboards aren’t for you. Instead, you may find yourself more at home with an unweighted 61 or 76-key keyboard.
These produce consistent tones and offer fewer keys. Some beginners may prefer to use them to get to grips with the instrument, before moving up to a more advanced keyboard when their skills improve.
One advantage keyboards have over pianos is the ability to play several sounds simultaneously.
We refer to this as the keyboards polyphony. With a high polyphony, a keyboard can play multiple sounds to back your regular playing. In some cases, you can create these tracks yourself and play them back while you play a tune.
Polyphony becomes a major buying factor if you want to move beyond simple playing. It’s not an instrument itself, but it will help you to fill out your sound.
The advent of more advanced computers offered a lot of recording options to keyboardists. With many keyboards, you can now plug your instrument into a computer to record anything that you play.
Look for a USB or MIDI port to facilitate this. You’ll also need the relevant cables. Also, some keyboards allow you to store what you play onto an SD card for later transferal to a computer.
An inbuilt speaker may do the job for practicing, but you won’t be able to perform with it. Such small speakers don’t provide the sound quality or volume that you need for a performance.
Look for an audio output on your keyboard if you intend on playing for other people.
The Final Word
So, what should you look for when buying a weighted keyboard?
Key sensitivity is crucial, as you need the keyboard to detect the difference in power when you play. Ideally, the keyboard will also have a large polyphony to properly emulate a full-size acoustic piano. Pre-set backing tracks and computer connectivity generally add to the digital package.
The keyboards I’ve examined here all offer something different. Some work best for performances, while others work better as teaching tools. Consider your own needs and budget, then use my list to make the ideal selection for you.