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Yamaha P125 Review – Is This Upgrade Worth Your Money?

Last Updated on September 18, 2020 by Ryan Harrell

The Yamaha P125 is the most recent update in Yamaha’s legendary P series of mid-range digital pianos. An upgrade to the ever popular P115 (and before that, P105), this keyboard adds new features, better speakers, and a smart app for beginners as well as serious pianists. Find out if this is the perfect digital piano for you in this Yamaha P125 review.

Yamaha P125

Portable mid-range powerhouse

Build Quality:4.2 out of 5 stars
Performance:4.4 out of 5 stars
Value for Money:4 out of 5 stars
Average:4.2 out of 5 stars

Yamaha’s P series has to be one of the most successful line of musical equipment ever made. The P95 was a critical and commercial hit, the P105 drastically reduced the weight (we reviewed it here) and the P115 added new smart features.

The P125 is the latest iteration in the P series. Launched in early 2018, it’s Yamaha’s mid-range flagship and remains one of its most sought after digital pianos, especially among serious pianists.

While not much has changed in terms of build quality or the sound engine, Yamaha has added better speakers and paired everything up with a very handy smart app. It’s not a revolutionary upgrade, but an evolutionary one. Truth be told, this is what I expected when the P125 was first announced – the P115 was already touching the limits of what’s possible in a mid-range digital piano and there wasn’t much room to revolutionize the keyboard further.

Is this upgrade worth the money? Are the new speakers truly better? What kind of buyer will the P125 appeal to?

Find out in this Yamaha P125 review.

Quick summary:

  • GHS action keys and Pure CF sound engine sound as good as ever
  • Surprisingly low weight for its size
  • Best-in-class speakers create a rich aural experience
  • New smart app is a great addition for 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 P125 Review: At a Glance

Here’s everything that I think about the Yamaha P125 review in one glance. Use this if you’re in a hurry or want something for reference later.

Yamaha P125 review at a glance

For a more detailed Yamaha P125 review, read on.

 

Build Quality & Design   4.2 out of 5 stars

Why change what’s not broken?

That’s the philosophy Yamaha seems to have approached with the P125. Nothing much has changed as far as the build quality, weight, and design are concerned. Visually, you won’t even be able to tell the P125 and its predecessor, P115, apart.

While you might blame Yamaha for being lazy with the upgrade, I personally don’t think there was much room to change things. The P series reached its pinnacle of build quality with the P105, and there isn’t much you can do to improve things further.

Nonetheless, let’s take a closer look at the overall design, build quality, and other physical features in our Yamaha P125 review.

Portability

The biggest change since the P105 has been portability. Yamaha smartly recognized that the people buying their mid-priced keyboards weren’t just serious beginners, but also amateur artists dragging their keyboards around to live gigs. The weight dropped substantially in the P105 iteration, going from nearly 40+ lbs to barely 26lbs.

This feature hasn’t changed much in the P125. The weight is still the same, though the dimensions are the tiniest bit smaller. However, when placed next to its predecessor, you can’t really tell them apart.

The P125 remains one of the lightest digital pianos in this price range. It is substantially lighter than Yamaha’s own arranger keyboards like the DGX-660 (46 lbs). The only comparable keyboards that weigh less than it are the Casio PX-160 (24.5lbs). The difference, however, is minute enough to be immaterial; any adult should be easily able to carry the P125 around to live gigs.

Note: There is a smaller version of the Yamaha P125, the P121. This one has the exact same features, but has 73 keys only,

Build Quality

The build quality is unmistakably Yamaha. The chassis is made from high-grade hard plastic with a glossy finish. The buttons, though small, are tactile and have a satisfying click. The keys are high quality plastic. The black keys have a matte finish for better while playing.

I do think that Yamaha sacrificed long-term durability for portability. As good as the plastics are, I would have preferred something even tougher. A digital piano isn’t something you buy every couple of years; if you’re buying this one, you’ll likely use it for a decade. Given that gigging musicians might also buy it, tougher construction would have better handled the rigors of the road.

Another miss is the lack of textured keys. A lot of high-end digital pianos nowadays have textured keys to simulate the ebony/ivory keys on actual grand pianos (a feature called Ivory Touch). This feature has started seeping into mid-priced digital pianos as well. I would have liked to see Yamaha step things up a notch and include textured keys in the P125.

Design

There’s nothing much I say about the design except that it’s “striking” and “minimalist” – words I’ve repeated for every P series keyboard since my original P105 review.

Yamaha’s design philosophy for it’s keyboards is rather simple:

  • Low-end keyboards (such as the PSR series) have a friendlier, more expressive design. PSR-series digital keyboards look like digital keyboards with large buttons, dials, and screens.
  • Mid-range keyboards, such as the P-series, look like halfway between a real upright acoustic piano and a digital instrument. The buttons are visible, but they are smaller and there is no screen.
  • High-end keyboards, such as the YDP series, are meant to simulate acoustic pianos. The controls are hidden away and they’re usually sold with upright furniture stands to mimic real pianos.

You have to see the P125’s design choices within this context. Yamaha wants to acknowledge that this is a digital piano, while also giving the impression that it could be an acoustic instrument.

The small buttons (which I had criticized earlier for being too small) and minimalist aesthetic, thus, are intentional.

Overall, the P125 looks decidedly Japanese. The layout is extremely clean and the buttons are neatly organized. The only striking feature is the red line that runs across the length of the keyboard.

If you like your digital pianos to look like the real thing, you won’t be disappointed.

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

I have to point out that the layout has a slight right hand bias. The controls are placed near the left side of the device which makes them easier to use for right-handed players (since your left hand would be free). Perhaps if the buttons were placed more in the center of the keyboard, it would be better.

Oh and before I forget, you can also get the P125 in white color which, despite being a dust magnet, looks absolutely stunning.

Conclusion

To round up this section of our Yamaha P125 review, I’d say that this is one of the better built mid-priced digital pianos. It uses some of the best plastics and has a gorgeous, minimalist design. Although not as “real” as the YDP series keyboards, the P125 does a great job of looking and feeling like an actual acoustic piano.

To sum it up:

  • Beautifully built; everything looks and feels premium
  • Minimalist design looks stunning
  • Small buttons and lack of textured keys are a miss

Sound Quality & Performance 4.4 out of 5 stars

The Yamaha P125 looks good, but does it sound as good as well?

Let’s find out in this section of our Yamaha P125 review.

Keyboard

Let’s talk about the single most important part of any digital piano: the keyboard.

Like all of Yamaha’s mid-range keyboards, the P125, like its predecessor, has 88 full-sized keys with Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) action.

Since the keyboard is arguably the most important part of any digital piano, I feel this part deserves a more detailed explanation.

Yamaha’s keyboards have three types of graded hammer action:

  • GH/GHE (Graded Hammer Effect): This is Yamaha’s premium weighted action and is only found in its top of the line YDP-series and up. The components are higher quality and offer a smoother and quieter performance.
  • GH3: This is similar to GHE but the action is faster. Press a key and it springs back into place faster than the GHE. It’s similar in performance to the GHE, but is meant for faster playback.
  • GHS (Graded Hammer Standard): This is Yamaha’s mid-range weighted action and is meant for beginners and intermediate players. The keys have variable weight which helps mimic the action of a real-world piano.

Essentially, every GHS keyboard has weights built into the keys. The weights are heavier on the lower bass keys, and become lighter as you go up the octaves. This weight is meant to simulate the action of a real piano where bass notes tend to be more tightly wound, and thus, heavier.

Weighted keys vs weightless (Synth action) keys

Good weight distribution in any keyboard is paramount for accurate performance. Higher notes tend to be played faster. Bass notes, on the other hand, are often held longer. You’re not going to play a lot of staccato bass notes, but you might do that on higher octaves. If the weighted action isn’t variable, it would be very difficult to play fast, staccato notes on higher keys (this is why it’s next to impossible to play proper piano pieces on a synth action keyboard).

In GHS keyboards, the weight of the keys decreases as you go up the octaves

Yamaha’s GHS has been the industry standard ever since it was launched. Over the years, Yamaha has made small changes to the action, but by and large, it has remained largely the same.

Yamaha claims that they’ve made the GHS action on the P125 smoother than P115, but the difference was not noticeable to this reviewer. Perhaps the difference is in the durability of components, but that’s something you’ll only find out over extended use.

I would argue that Kawai’s RHC (Responsive Hammer Compact) action is better than Yamaha GHS in terms of sheer responsiveness. But in terms of sheer durability and versatility, you can’t beat the GHS. It’s perfect for beginners and intermediate pianists. It also works perfectly for a wider range of music styles. You can really hammer on the keys if you’re playing, say, rock ballads. And you can go really soft too – like the opening notes of Fur Elise.

Needless to say, like the P115, the P125 also has variable touch sensitivity. You have four settings to choose from:

  • Hard – Ideal for pianists with a heavier playing style. Also works great for genres or songs that require a great deal of piano bashing (say, the last solo in November Rain)
  • Soft – The soft setting makes the piano particularly sensitive. It’s great for pianists with a light touch or songs that require delicate control. For most songs, however, the soft setting will be too sensitive.
  • Medium – The default setting on the P125. This will work for 95% of users.
  • Fixed – This setting removes touch sensitivity altogether. You’ll want to use it in some synth-based tracks/sounds or if you’re using the P125 as a MIDI keyboard.

As I mentioned above, I’m slightly disappointed that Yamaha didn’t include textured keys on the P125. It’s time one of the big manufacturers bring this feature down to mid-range keyboards. You shouldn’t have to spend $1,000+ to know what ivory/ebony keys feel like.

Sound Quality

To understand the P125’s sound quality, you have to first understand how digital pianos produce sound.

Unlike synthesizers (which, as the name implies, synthesize sound from raw digital or analog signals), digital pianos are essentially samplers. That is, they include a bank of sound samples that are triggered when you press specific keys.

As with any sampler, the quality of the output sound depends a great deal on the quality of the original samples. If the original sound itself is poor, there is no amount of algorithm magic that can improve it.

Yamaha’s mid-range keyboards have a big advantage on this count. All these keyboards use the Pure CF sound engine. This sound engine uses samples recorded from Yamaha’s legendary CFIIIS 9′ concert grand piano that cost well over six-figures.

The Yamaha CF Sound Engine is based on the CFIIIS Concert Grand Piano

Since the source itself has such a rich and vibrant sound, the Pure CF sound engine, and by proxy, the P125, also sounds positively stunning. When you’re using the default concert grand piano sound, you’re practically playing the $100k CFIIIS 9′ piano.

But a few things have changed from the P115.

One of the biggest change is the use of 4-layer sampling. The P115 Pure CF sound engine included 3 layers of samples. Yamaha has bumped this to include an additional layer. This fourth layer adds a touch of richness to the sound that was previously missing. You’ll heart it particularly when you’re using the headphones, thanks to the stereophonic optimizer.

Speaking of the stereophonic optimizer, this is a new feature on the P125 that widens the sound when you’re using headphones. As someone who likes to play his music late at night, I’m a heavy headphone users. Most digital pianos, including the P105 and P115, sound scrunched up on headphones.

The stereophonic optimizer feature kicks in when you’re using headphones and widens the sound stage. This creates a sense of roominess that was previously missing.

A third and perhaps biggest new improvement to sound quality is a new set of speakers. Like the P115, the P125 also has two regular 12cm speakers and a pair of 4cm tweeters.

However, the speakers are placed in such a manner that they project sound in both upward and downward direction. This creates a richer sound profile and better mimics the free-ranging sound projection of an acoustic piano – as this visual from Yamaha shows.

The Yamaha P125 has downward pointing speakers for richer sound projection

You can now feel the sound envelop you. In rooms with good acoustics, the feeling is absolutely magical.

A big negative is the pedal included with the P125. This pedal feels light and chintzy, and doesn’t nearly do justice to the excellent build quality of the P125. I feel that Yamaha just packaged its cheapest pedal in order to bump up the perceived value of the device. You’ll want to throw it out asap and get a better quality pedal instead.

Another cool improvement is that the polyphony has been bumped up to 192 from 128 in the last iteration. You likely won’t even notice it but it’s good to know that you have additional room for extra notes – should you ever manage the keyboard that far.

Connectivity

Ever since the P105, Yamaha has included two connections as standard in the P-series digital pianos:

  • USB to Host to connect the piano to a computer or MIDI  sampler
  • L/R line out ports to connect to a mixer

The P125 is no different and includes both these connections, along with ports for sustain and pedal units. A gigging musician will particularly appreciate the L/R 1/4″ line out ports. They make it much easier to hook up the P125 to a mixer.

There are also two headphone ports located on the front of the device. These come in handy when you’re learning alongside a teacher.

I have to make a special mention of the USB to Host port. This is the port you’ll use to connect the keyboard to an iPad for using the Smart Pianist app. You’ll also use it to connect the piano to a computer for transferring files or using the keyboard as a MIDI controller.

USB-to-Host and L/R Line Out ports come in handy on the Yamaha P125

While transferring MIDI files is standard enough, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that you can record audio directly via the P125. Just plug in the keyboard to your computer and play your piece. Instead of MIDI, you have the option to record it as audio – without relying on external converters or mics.

However, a big negative is that the P125 does not ship with A-B USB cable necessary for connecting it to a computer. You will also have to buy a Lighting to USB cable in case you want to connect it to an iPad or iPhone.

Given how much Yamaha touts the Smart Pianist app as a key feature (more on this below), I would have liked if they had thrown in a free A to B USB cable in the box.

Conclusion

To round up this Yamaha P125 review, I would say that this digital piano is a marked improvement over its predecessor. The new sound engine is richer, the sound quality on headphones is substantially better, and the new speakers do better job of projecting the sound.

However, lack of textured keys and a missing cable are definite misses and keep this keyboard from being “exceptional” instead of just being “great”.

Yamaha P125 Review: Features  4.1 out of 5 stars

This is the part where Yamaha has made the biggest improvements. There are more sounds, a brand new app, and new modes to play around with. For a certain kind of buyer, these new features alone might be worth the upgrade.

However – and I think I can speak for most serious pianists – these features are hardly going to swing your decision. If you’re looking for a keyboard in this range, your top concerns are likely sound and build quality.

Having said that, I also understand that Yamaha doesn’t really have a lot of room to improve as far as the quality of the keyboard or sound are concerned. The only way to make this new offering stand out is through evolutionary changes such as newer sounds and smart apps.

Keep this in mind as you read through this section. These new features are nothing to ignore, but they’re also unlikely to be the only reason why you’d choose the P125.

1. There are 10 new sounds taking the complete range of built-in sounds to 24. There are the original 14 sounds found in the P115, but there are also new grand piano, electric piano, organ and string sounds.

My favorite new sounds are Organ Tutti and Vibraphone.

That said, outside of the grand piano and e-piano sounds, the P series’ onboard sounds have always been something of a miss. The guitar sounds are too artificial and organ sounds too tinny.

If you’re buying this for versatility, you’ll do better by picking an arranger keyboard.

You can switch sounds quickly through the onboard buttons

Stick to the P125 for its core grand piano sounds.

 

2. The built-in effects is the same. You get one reverb effect with four room settings (hall, concern hall, club, and chamber) and that’s it.

This should suffice for most users though I do wonder if Yamaha missed a trick by not including some additional effects. A chorus or delay would have added some interesting sound design choices. Since there are new e-piano sounds, a flanger or phaser might have been nice as well.

Certainly adding more on-board sound effects is something Yamaha needs to consider for the next version of the P125.

 

3. Table EQ improves sound performance on flat surfaces. Remember when I told you how the P125 now projects sound in both upwards and downwards direction?

That sounds great when you’re using a stand, but if you’re keeping the piano on a flat, solid surface, you’ll get nasty reflections from the downwards facing speakers.

Yamaha smartly recognized this and built a Table EQ feature. This feature cuts out frequencies from the downwards facing speakers such that you get minimal reflections on flat surfaces.

Table EQ feature cuts down dissonant frequencies and reflections when the piano is placed on a flat surface

A very handy tool if you plan to keep the P125 on a desk.

 

4. You get both Sound Boost and IAC. We saw these features in Yamaha P115 and they mark a presence here as well.

Sound Boost is an EQ + volume feature that boosts treble frequencies. The purpose is to make the high end stand out more when the piano is played with other instruments. The effect is marginal and likely won’t be noticeable in 99% of situations.

Intelligence Acoustic Control (IAC) solves the problem so many pianists have faced: low frequencies are just not audible enough at low volumes.

IAC boosts the volume of both top and low end frequencies at low volumes such that they cut through the mix more. The effect is particularly more pronounced with low frequencies.

I like it – it makes practice sessions particularly better. But it’s not nearly remarkable enough for Yamaha to dub it “revolutionary” as it has in its marketing.

 

5. There are more playing modes now. You already have the standard Duet Mode which has been around since P95. If you’re unaware, in Duet Mode, the keyboard is divided into two halves. It’s great for practicing alongside a teacher, or, as the name implies, perform a duet.

Refer to this graphic to understand all the different modes:

Additionally, there is now a Split Mode. This mode allows you to split the keyboard into two instruments. Both sections play separate instruments (usually a bass instrument on the low frequencies on the left and a treble instrument on the right).

You can change the split point as well.

There is also a Dual Mode where instead of separate zones, you can play two instruments at the same time. It’s great for creating more complex arrangement – like playing strings alongside a piano.

In practice, outside of Duet Mode – which is helpful while learning alongside a teacher – you’ll rarely ever use Dual or Split mode. They’re nice novelties to play around with but hardly something you’ll ever pull out in a live gig or even use on a semi-regular basis.

 

6. The P125 skimps on the accompaniment features. The P105 introduced the “Pianist Styles” feature that created backing tracks in different piano styles (Jazz, Blues, etc.). The P125 removes this feature altogether.

Instead, you get a wider range of Rhythm Accompaniments (also introduced in P105). This feature creates drums in different styles to play along to. From the 10 rhythms originally introduced in P105, you now get 20 rhythm styles, including some very effective Fast Jazz and Shuffle rhythms.

All the rhythm styles available on the P125

I can’t say I’ll miss the Pianist Styles feature – I don’t know anyone who used it regularly. But I do appreciate the expanded rhythm accompaniment feature – this is something you’ll use far more often.

 

7. There is a new app. This is Yamaha’s “big” feature for the P125 – a brand new app called Smart Pianist.

This app gives you complete control over the P125. You can choose from a range of onboard sounds, change the pitch, choose different reverb effects, pedal performance, etc.

Yamaha also touts its Smart Chord feature that allows you to extract chords from songs on your smartphone/tablet.

In practice, this feature only works if the track is simple enough and the chords audible enough. Don’t expect it to work with your Tool albums, though it should be able to extract chords from simple ballads.

The Smart Pianist app was only available on iOS when the P125 was launched. Thankfully, Yamaha has since expanded support to Android as well.

On the whole, the Smart Pianist makes controlling the P125 easier, but it’s not a revolutionary leap in technology. Given that you have to plug in your keyboard into your smart device, you likely won’t even use it much.

 

8. The onboard recorder is as dismal as ever. While I understand this isn’t an arranger keyboard, and that everyone can easily plug the P125 into a computer/smartphone, I’m yet again disappointed by the onboard recorder.

Like its predecessors, the Yamaha P125 only supports recording of two tracks. That’s abysmally low for modern day standards. I’m not looking to create complex arrangements on this keyboard, but Yamaha could have at least bumped this up to 8 tracks.

The limited tracks feel particularly egregious when you consider how Yamaha has expanded the number of sounds to 24. If you’re going to give me 24 instruments to play with, at least give me the option to record more than two of them.

Yamaha P125 Review: Overall   4.3 out of 5 stars

The Yamaha P125 is an evolutionary change that improves on many of the shortcomings of its predecessor. The sound quality is the best it has ever been thanks to a new speaker arrangement, and the keybed has been fine-tuned even further.

There are also a bunch of new features to improve sound quality a little bit more. Table EQ, Sound Boost, IAC – these are all welcome additions, as are the new rhythm styles.

On the whole, if you’re looking for your first mid-range digital piano, the P125 would be perfect for you.

However, if you already have one of the older models from the P series (or its equivalent from Casio/Roland/Kawai), the P series doesn’t offer enough to warrant an upgrade.

To sum up this Yamaha P125 review, here’s a quick overview of all its pros and cons:

What’s good:

  • Classy minimalist design
  • Great keybed with authentic GHS action
  • Best-ever speakers with a richer, fuller sound
  • Expanded rhythm styles to create more enjoyable accompaniments
  • Multiple settings to improve EQ and volume in different situations
  • Expanded polyphony – 192 instead of 128
  • Smart Pianist is a handy new app
  • Stereophonic optimizer for headphones is a great new feature for practicing

What’s not good:

  • Dismal onboard recorder
  • Small buttons and LEDs can be difficult to use for new users
  • Apart from grand piano sounds, most built-in sounds are lackluster
  • Ships with an awful plasticky pedal
  • New playing modes are best as gimmicks and not as something you’ll use regularly

My recommendation: Get the Yamaha P125 in two situations:

  • You’re upgrading from a beginner keyboard (such as the Yamaha PSR E363)
  • You’ve never bought a serious digital piano before

It makes little sense to upgrade to the P125 from an older model in the P series (or equivalent from other brands). You’re better off saving up for a high-end keyboard instead.

For everyone else, the P125 will be an excellent first “serious” digital piano.

Also read:

References:

FAQs About This Yamaha P125 Review

Before I leave, let’s answer a few quick questions to round up this Yamaha P125 review:

Q. What extras will I need to purchase?

The P125 ships with an AC adapter and a pedal. However, as I mentioned above, the pedal is cheap and not satisfying to use at all. You’ll want to buy a better pedal at least.

In addition to this, you’ll also want to buy:

  • A pair of headphones – preferably studio headphones for an accurate sound profile
  • A USB A-to-B adapter for connecting the P125 to a computer
  • A stand
  • A Lightning to USB adapter if you’re using an iPhone or Mac, or a USB A to C converter if you’re connecting to an Android


Can you record with the Yamaha P125?

Yes, there are three ways to record with the Yamaha P125:

  • Use the built-in recorder to record up to two tracks
  • Connect the P125 to a computer and use a MIDI sequencer/DAW to record MIDI notes
  • Connect the P125 to a computer and record audio directly via USB

And of course, you can always just place a mic next to the speakers, though I can’t see any reason why you’d want to do that.

 

Does it come with a stand?

Sadly no – the Yamaha P125 doesn’t ship with a stand. It does, however, have a nifty Table EQ feature to negate unwanted frequencies when using it on a table or other flat surface.

That said, you’ll want to buy a stand asap since that makes the playing experience significantly better.

 

Does the Smart Pianist app work on Android smartphones?

When it was launched, the Smart Pianist app was iOS only. This was a major negative and Yamaha quickly rectified this problem by launching the app on Android in early 2019.

So you can now use the Smart Pianist app on any device you choose – Android or iOS.

Changelog
  • August 15, 2020: Article first published
  • September 18, 2020: Minor updates

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