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Yamaha P105 Review – Perfect Gigging Keyboard for Serious Pianists

Last Updated on September 18, 2020 by Ryan Harrell

The Yamaha P105 is the replacement to the legendary and ever-popular Yamaha P95. Effortlessly easy to pick up, yet packed with features, this keyboard promises to hold its own in practice rooms as well as recording studios. In this Yamaha P105 review, we put this keyboard through the grinder and tell you if it’s worth your money.

Yamaha P105

Perfect mid-range gigging keyboard

Build Quality:4.3 out of 5 stars
Performance:4.2 out of 5 stars
Value for Money:4 out of 5 stars
Average:4.2 out of 5 stars

As far as music gear companies go, Yamaha doesn’t really need any introduction. What Gibson is to electric guitars, Yamaha is to digital pianos. Yamaha absolutely dominates the low, mid, and even high-end of the digital piano market, leaving others to eke out niches here and there.

To this reviewer, this dominance is highly deserved. Yamaha is a legit pioneer in the digital piano space, leveraging its century-old history in acoustic gear to create the most realistic sounding digital pianos.

The Yamaha P105 is the company’s mid-range offering. It’s powerful yet portable and aims to be at home in the practice room as well as live gigs.

Does it meet this brief? Is it a worthy successor to the legendary Yamaha P95?

Find out in this Yamaha P105 Review.

Quick summary:

  • Great keys and rich grand piano sounds
  • Low weight and relatively smaller dimensions make it great for gigging
  • Minimalist design helps you focus on the keys
  • Limited features might frustrate beginners
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About your reviewer
Ryan Harrell is the founder of MIDINation and an experienced producer/DJ. His first experience with electronic music production dates back to Cubase 3.0 in the summer of 1997, and he’s been a fan ever since. He prefers Ableton as his primary DAW these days, though he is still partial to Cubase and Pro Tools. He lives in San Diego and freelances as a producer and part-time DJ.

Yamaha P105 Review: At a Glance

Here’s everything that I think about the Yamaha P105 in one glance. Use this if you’re in a hurry or want something for reference later.

For a more detailed Yamaha P105 review, read on.

 

Build Quality & Design   4.3 out of 5 stars

Overview: The Yamaha 105 is built specifically for practicing musicians. Consequently, Yamaha has prioritized portability in this model. Yamaha knows that most gig venues don’t have their own acoustic pianos and musicians have to bring their own gear. As such, every single design decision on the P105 is meant to make live gigging easier.

Let’s take a closer look at the overall design, build-quality and other physical features.

Portability: Let’s talk about the biggest reason why you’d want to buy this unit in the first place – portability.

Unlike older models in the P-series, the P105 has lost a considerable amount of weight. It’s barely over 25 lbs – a far cry from the 40+ lbs of the P95. I had no problems dragging the P105 into my Uber to take to a gig.

Yamaha has also squeezed the dimensions by reducing the size of the speakers. Instead of full-fledged speakers, you get two small tweeters and woofers. The sound quality is arguably better while the dimensions are reduced further by a few inches – a big deal when you’re gigging.

Build Quality: The build quality is typically mid-range Yamaha – all smooth and robust. The keys have a wonderful smooth finish and the piano black really glistens. All the buttons are made of hard plastic and have a soft bevelled top that’s pleasant to touch. The main chassis is hard plastic + bits of metal. It’s lightweight without feeling flimsy. I can confidently say that this is one of the best built mid-range digital pianos you can find.

Design: Yamaha’s aesthetics in the P range is drastically different from its beginner-focused PSR range. There is a stronger focus on minimalism and getting out of the way of the player. This means minimal (or absent) screens and smaller buttons that allow you to focus on the keys, not the features.

This philosophy is amply on display in the Yamaha P105. It has no screen (nor should you need one in this category). All the buttons are small, tiny even, and are cleanly laid out along a single horizontal line.

A striking feature is a red line running along the top of the keys. I understand this is a personal preference, but I loved this aesthetic touch. It adds a pop of color to what can otherwise be a very minimalist and monotone design. Plsu, it helps create a visually distinct “space” for the keys.

The red line running across the top of the keys is visually striking and helps create a visually separate zone for the keys

I personally also love the angularness of the Yamaha P105. Everything is laid out in straight lines. From the speakers to the buttons, there is hardly any roundness in any element. It feels distinctly like a Made-in-Japan product.

Usability: Usability refers to the placement of different features/buttons and how they affect real-world usage. On this front, the Yamaha P105 can be a mixed bag. The focus on minimalism means that a lot of the buttons are smaller than they would be on a beginner-focused keyboard. There are also missing features like a screen. Plus, Yamaha has used very tiny LEDs to indicate status of different features (such as Record or Play). This makes for a gorgeously minimalist device, but it also makes it hard to gauge what state a button is in – especially if you have bad eyesight like I do.

Case in point: the master volume dial. On a beginner-focused keyboard, you bet this dial would be massive and within easy reach. But since Yamaha is targeting intermediate and even advanced musicians with the P105, the volume dial is narrow and doesn’t feel particularly tactile.

The P105’s buttons are a little too small for this reviewer’s preferences

Sure, Yamaha’s pro audience wouldn’t mind this, but to a beginner switching to a better digital piano, the lack of user-friendliness can be off-putting.

Conclusion

To sum up this section of our Yamaha P105 review, I’d say that this is arguably one of the best looking AND best built digital pianos in this price range. The minimalist, distinctly Japanese aesthetic looks stunning. The portability is off the charts. The buttons are small such that you can focus on what truly matters – the keys – and not a parade of features.

To sum it up:

  • Beautifully built; everything looks and feels premium
  • Minimalist design looks stunning
  • Small buttons draw attention to the keys, not the features

Performance   4.2 out of 5 stars

Overview: I’ve seen a number of Yamaha P105 reviews that talk about the lack of features in the 105 such as different learning modes or composition capabilities found on Yamaha’s arranger keyboards.

To these reviewers, I’d say that you’re getting the P105 completely wrong.

The Yamaha P105 is meant for serious musicians. If you’re buying this, you’re not a first-time beginner tinkering around in her basement. A large screen, hundreds of sounds, learning modes – all the features a beginner wants – are intentionally missing here.

Why?

Because Yamaha’s serious customers want good keyboards, not just good features. This is meant to be an acoustic piano replacement in a live setting. Anyone playing it wants fast, responsive, and authentic piano sounds – everything else is secondary.

So when you read this review, keep this in context. Don’t compare the P105 to, say, the Yamaha PSR e363 – it’s not meant for the same customers.

With that out of the way, let’s continue this Yamaha P105 review with a closer look at the performance:

Sound Quality: You buy a keyboard for the sound quality and on this front, the Yamaha P105 delivers in spades. The grand piano sound, called the “Pure CF sound engine”, is based on the Yamaha CFIIIS concert grand piano – a $100k+ grand piano. The sound is full, rich, and strongly resonant – as you’d expect a grand piano to sound like.

There are two small speakers and two tweeters built into the P105. The tweeters are a new addition and add some much needed high-end to the sound. The frequency response is otherwise mostly flat save a dip in the lower bass registers. You’ll get better results if you plug it into external speakers, but for practice sessions and small gigs, the built-in speakers are totally worth it.

The Yamaha CFIIIS concert piano is the source of the Pure CF sound engine

Other Sounds: While the grand piano sound is the heart of the Yamaha P105, you also get two acoustic piano sounds. These two acoustic pianos occupy the softer and brighter spectrums of the piano sound respectively and can add some variety to your playing. Though if you’re like me, you’ll keep coming back to the grand piano sound.

Apart from these acoustic pianos, you also get a bunch of classic electric pianos and organs, including a genuine Rhodes sound. These are all decent enough though none will blow your socks away quite like hearing the grand piano sound for the first time.

Key Quality: The keys on the Yamaha P105 are, in a word, fantastic. You get a full 88-key keyboard that uses Yamaha’s legendary Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) action. This system replicates the resistance you find on an acoustic piano. Lower octave keys are heavier and become lighter as you go up the octaves. You can also change the velocity response as per your preferences, moving from soft to hard, or even removing it altogether (which helps if you’re using it as a MIDI instrument).

Connectivity: Speaking of MIDI instruments, you can turn the Yamaha P105 into a full-fledged MIDI keyboard. Just hook it up to the computer via the USB port and you’re all set.

Apart from the handy USB-to-MIDI, connectivity is a definite plus point on the P105. You get a dedicated 1/4″ line out which makes it dead easy to hook it up to an external mixer console. You can bypass the headphone out port altogether which makes monitoring much easier. As a gigging musician, this, along with the low weight, will be a massive timesaver.

USB and two L/R aux ports make it easy to hook up the P105 to mixers or a computer

Features: Most of Yamaha’s entry-level digital pianos are loaded with features. But as you go up the product hierarchy, you’ll find that Yamaha keeps stripping away features, focusing more and more on the essence of a great piano: authentic sounds, fantastic keybeds.

The Yamaha P105 is somewhere in the middle. It’s not as stripped away as the YDP series, nor is it filled with bells and whistles like the PSR series. There is no screen or complex arrangement capabilities. Instead, you get some basic features such as:

  • Piano accompaniment: With this feature, you can play a chord (or heck, even a single note) and the P105 will create an entire accompaniment in ten different styles (such as Blues, Jazz, Boogie, etc.). Nothing groundbreaking but fun to use when you’re bored playing alone.
  • Rhythm function: Switch this feature on to get basic drum patterns for practicing. These patterns are in different styles including Samba, Waltz, Swing, etc. I found myself using this feature a lot more than the piano accompaniment. It’s particularly good for practicing, though I wouldn’t be caught dead ever using them in a live gig.

Other features include a mini two-track MIDI recorder built in to record chord/melody parts. You also get duet mode which splits the keybed into two – great for practicing with a teacher.
And that’s it – the P105 does the bare minimum as far as features go. And honestly, if you’re looking for a piano in this category, you can’t really complain.

Conclusion

To round up this Yamaha P105 review, I would say that this digital piano ticks all the boxes that really matter. It has a fantastic sound engine, wonderful built-in speakers, and gorgeous keys. If you’re a serious musician, the lack of hundreds of sounds and different learning modes is likely not a priority either way.

Yamaha P105 Review: Overall Score  4.3 out of 5 stars

The Yamaha P105 is great at what it does: offer its users an authentic acoustic piano experience at an affordable price. It’s gorgeously designed, has wonderfully responsive keys, and a full, resonant sound that sounds eerily like a real piano.

This is NOT a keyboad for beginners. You’ll find the lack of features frustrating and the keyboard does not even try to hold your hand through the features.

I would recommend the Yamaha P105 to any serious musician who wants a well-rounded, no-nonsense, portable keyboard at a reasonable rate.

What’s good:

  • Classy minimalist design
  • Great keybed with authentic GHS action
  • Resonant and rich sound engine
  • Decent accompaniment features
  • Great connectivity – line-out port is particularly welcome
  • Low weight and relatively smaller size make it very portable

What’s not good:

  • The lack of features can frustrate beginners
  • Small buttons and LEDs can be difficult to use for new users
  • Apart from grand piano sounds, most built-in sounds are lackluster
  • Drum accompaniment patterns are robotic and unenthusiastic
  • Large 88-key size means you’ll have to buy specialty stands for it

My recommendation:Get the Yamaha P105 if you are a serious musician looking for a portable keyboard for live gigs. It’s as close a replacement to a full-fledged acoustic piano as you can get in this price range.

If you’re a beginner, however, avoid the Yamaha P105. Instead, something from the PSR series which will be cheaper and have better learning features.

Also read:

References:

FAQs About Yamaha P105

Before I leave, let’s answer a few quick questions about the Yamaha P105:

Q. What extras will I need to purchase?

Nothing really – the P105 comes with everything you’ll need to start playing right away.

However, you’ll want to invest in a stand as well as a foot pdeal. I would especially recommend the latter since a lot of piano pieces explicitly call for the foot pedal use.


Can you record with the Yamaha P105?

Yup – the P105 includes a two-track MIDI recorder built right in. It also has a USB-to-MIDI connection which allows you to plug it right into your computer. Once connected, you can record anything you want in your DAW or sequencer.

Does it come with a stand?

Sadly no – you will have to buy a stand separately. I found this to be a pretty big inconvenience since 88 key keyboards are, by default, very unwieldy. They also don’t fit standard 61 or 76-key keyboard stands. You will have to buy something designed specifically for 88-key keyboards, though I must admit that Yamaha’s own stands look really good.

What is polyphony in a digital piano?

Polyphony refers to the number of sounds an instrument can produce simultaneously. If you have 16 note polyphony, it means that the instrument can make 16 different sounds at the same time.

Most modern keyboards have at least 128 note polyphony, i.e. you can play 128 notes simultaneously. Of course, there are few situations where you’ll ever need that many, but 128-note polyphony should be considered the target figure (which the Yamaha P105 supports).

Changelog
  • August 6, 2020: Article first published

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