Yamaha P515 Review – Is It Worth It in 2021?

Since the P-515's release, we've been itching to see how it performs against its predecessor, the P-255.

Without a doubt, the P-515 lives up to our expectations through the improvements made to its design and piano sound and key action. Yamaha intended to market the P-515 for gig musicians and music professionals who need a high-quality digital piano without compromising the features.

However, a few questions still stand.

Should you buy the Yamaha P515? What makes this model different from its predecessor like P125, P71 and P45? And how does it compare to popular options such as the Kawai ES8 and Roland FP-60? Let's find out. 

Specs

  • Weight: 48.5 lbs
  • Dimensions: 52.3 x 14.5 x 5.5 in.
  • 256-note polyphony
  • Full dots LCD (128 x 64)
  • 88-weighted Natural Wood X (NWX) keys with Ivory and Ebony keytops
  • Touch Sensitivity (6 Levels): Fixed, Soft 1, Soft 2, Medium, Hard 1, & Hard 2
  • 3 chorus types, 6 reverb types, 12 effect types
  • 15W + 5W x 2 Speakers
  • Includes music rest and sustain pedal
  • Virtual Resonance Modeling (VRM): Aliquot Resonance, Damper Resonance, String Resonance
  • Recording Capacity: 16-track MIDI Recorder; 250-song capacity
  • Grand Piano Sounds: Bosendorfer Imperial and Yamaha CFX concert grand pianos, Yamaha CFX with Binaural Sampling 
  • 18 drum kits + 480 SKG tones and 40 instrument sounds
  • Metronome: 5bpm to 500bpm
  • Comes with Intelligent Acoustic Control, Master EQ, Sound Boost, and Stereophonic Optimizer
  • Transpose function: plus and minus one octave
  • Connectors: USB to device, USB to Host, Headphone jacks (2), Bluetooth 4.1 (Audio only), MIDI in/out, Pedal unit
  • 3-year warranty parts and labor

Design

The P-515's design isn't exactly a head-turner; however, its contemporary and simple design revealed qualities far worth noting: ease of use and functionality. Yamada made it clear that form wasn't an urgent priority and more of how the user would benefit from using it.

This is not to say the Yamaha P-515 looks bad. In fact, we had a comfortable piano playing experience. Pair this with any universal keyboard stand, and it would look great even as home decor in any part of your home. Although we don't recommend using a cheap keyboard stand since the P-515 is quite heavy and might cause it to be unstable over time.

While the Yamaha P-515 comes with a single-pedal unit, we encourage you to get the 3-pedal unit. It's the cherry on top and completes the whole package. What we also loved about its design is being able to operate the settings through the Smart Pianist app for improved settings navigation. You can easily download the Smart Pianist app online (It might come in handy one of these days). As much as we love the design alone, there are some issues. Apart from its heavy weight, the Yamaha P-515 doesn't allow you to save settings combinations - a feature only the Rolando FP-90 and Kawai ES8 have. 


Keyboard

The Yamaha P515 passed with flying colors when it came to touch/sensitivity responsiveness, easy control features, and improved functionality.

It's definitely high-quality, and if you've used any of the pianos from the Clavinova series, you'll love the P515.

First up, the keyboard. The piano keys are made of Natural Wood X (NWX) and covered with a synthetic ivory and ebony material. Overall, the keyboard allowed us to have a smooth piano playing experience, similar to playing a keyboard on a real acoustic piano.

That's not all.

The Yamaha P515 keyboard comes with 5 touch increments to adjust the responsiveness of each key. We loved this keyboard feature, especially since it allows players to play various pieces that need a faster tempo. If you're still a starting musician, we recommend using lighter touch sensitivity/responsiveness for the keyboard and then progress to a heavier response so you can learn the proper finger technique.

Now, what about the controls and buttons? No disappointments whatsoever. The keyboard features a large & clear LCD screen that allows you to control piano features without breaking a sweat.

This is a huge improvement compared to Yamaha's old pianos key press combination. Finally, Yamaha added a new feature, Smart Pianist, which allows you to connect the P515 via Bluetooth to your iPhone or iPad and control piano sounds and effects with added convenience. 


Sound

Even with a high-quality design and impressive functionality, a piano is nothing without being able to produce beautiful acoustic piano sounds. In the case of a portable digital piano, piano sounds have been a recurring complaint for many users.However, a few stand strong and tall when it comes to piano sound, and the Yamaha P515 is one of them.

The P515 comes with 2 grand piano sounds: Yamaha CFX grand piano and Bosendorfer 290 grand piano. Additionally, Yamaha also included a third grand piano sound, Yamaha CFX with binaural sampling. The sound quality was incredible and checked all our boxes regarding crisp clarity, richness, and full-bodiedness.

Here's a sample of how it sounds:

Both the CFX and Bosendorfer piano samples offer one of the highest standards as digital pianos go. If it's your first time hearing these acoustic piano sounds, here's a guide:

CFX - well-rounded sound used for classical, jazz, pop, and rock
Bosendorfer - mellow and rich piano tone ideal for romantic or modern music
Binaural sampling - ideal for headphone use and can be useful as a sound boost

Yamaha also included additional sounds apart from concert grand, such as:

  • 9 Classic Yamaha sounds
  • 18 Drum and SFX sounds
  • 480 XG sounds
  • 4 Bass sounds
  • Vibraphone
  • 7 Strings sounds
  • 6 Organ sounds
  • 2 Harpsichord sounds

Finally, the P515 comes with a feature called Virtual Resonance Modelling (VRM), allowing you to replicate the sounds you get from an acoustic piano, such as body resonance, damper resonance, overtones, and string resonance.


Polyphony

Polyphony, or the polyphony count of digital pianos, refers to the number of notes a piano can play simultaneously.

It's enough to have a piano with a 64-note polyphony; however, this might be too small for advanced musicians if you want to enjoy playing advanced piano pieces to charm your guests.

Since the P-515 has a 256-note polyphony, this means you can play 256 notes all at the same time! Even though the Roland FP-90 has a 384-note polyphony, 256 is more than enough for any pianist. 


Speakers

If you're someone looking to practice mostly at home or in a dedicated piano room, the P515 speakers are incredible to use. Thanks to the 15W driver and 5W tweeter installed on each speaker, rest assured, you're getting exceptional sound clarity, zero distortion, and great bass & treble across all ranges of sound.

However, if you plan to use this for a concert hall or environment, the speakers lack the power and oomph that acoustic pianos naturally have. If you need a much powerful speakers, checkout this guide to learn how to choose the best studio monitors.

Comparing the speakers of the P515 to the Kawai ES8, the quality is nearly identical; however, the Roland FP-90 beats both digital pianos. Nevertheless, the P515 still offers a great speaker system you won't regret.


Other Features

Piano Reverb and Effects

With a wide selection of chorus effects and reverb types, the Yamaha P-515 adds another great quality that makes it worth every penny. This allows you to adjust the character of the piano sound and enhance the playing experience. Two functions worth mentioning are Sound Boost and Piano Room. The Sound Boost function gives you total control over the sound character to suit your environment and edit the graphic equalizer (EQ). So if you need a brighter, more crisp sound in a bigger room, this function will help you achieve that. As for the Piano Room, this function is not only our favored feature but mostly a crowd favorite as well.

With Piano Room, this where the "magic of reverb" happens. You're given 6 types of reverb to choose from: 

  • Concert hall (for a large room or hall)
  • Cathedral
  • Club (Jazz club)
  • Recital hall (for a mid-sized room)
  • Chamber (for a small room)
  • Plate (for a recording studio)

Overall, the reverb and effects the P-515 has to offer are fantastic, giving you total control over your piano sounds and adjusting various effects to suit your personal preferences. 


Preset Songs

The Yamaha P515 comes with 71 preset songs, where 21 out of the 71 songs are different instrument sounds while the remaining 50 are classic songs that contain all your beloved favorites: Chopin, Bach, Debussy, Beethoven, and more! These songs are easily accessible with the single press of a button, making it the perfect shuffle function to have whether you want some background music or socializing with friends. 


Playback and Recording Features

Yes, the Yamaha P515 is a 16-track sequencer that is worth spending hours toying with. Most digital pianos don't come with a 16-track sequencer, and upon seeing the Yamaha P515 offer it, this got our bones all jumpy and excited. You might be wondering why, and that's primarily because of its large storage space, allowing you to save up to 250 MIDI songs!

Although, each song must at least be 500kb if you want to store this much on the piano's internal memory. Truth be told, we even found it challenging finding ways to create 16 different tracks. Even with drums, bass, guitar, piano, and strings covered, that still leaves you with 11 more!

The best part? The Yamaha P515 lets you record audio data in WAV format and then save it on your USB flash drive. What's not to love about this piano? 


Tuning

Most digital pianos come with standard tuning, otherwise known as Equal Temperament.However, Yamaha made sure to go above and beyond with its tuning options. Here are 6 more tunings you can use with the Yamaha P515: 

  • Kirnberger
  • Meantone
  • Pure Major
  • Pure Minor
  • Pythagorean
  • Werckmeister

If these 6 tuning options weren't enough, you can go even further and tune your piano in ~0.2 Hz steps so that you can create a balanced output with other instruments that aren't in tune. 


Transpose

For advanced pianists, the transpose feature is extremely useful. The transpose feature allows you to transpose half-step increments up to + 12 or - 12. If you want to play along with a recorded song and the original pitch is too high or low, you can use the transpose feature so that you don't have to learn how to play the song in a different key. This feature even works on live performances, allowing you to play it in the key you know and sound the way you desire while still sounding at an alternative pitch. 


Metronome

Finally, the metronome feature lets you adjust the speed between 5 and 500. Don't worry. After testing the Yamaha P515 digital piano, we found the metronome feature effortless to use and user-friendly. What took us by surprise were the 40 drum tracks you can play along with. This means you don't have to stick to a certain rhythm. Instead, you can choose your preferred music style, such as Pop to serve as the foundation for a new song or add more fun into your practice session. 


Connectivity

Compared to most of the features we've mentioned in this digital piano review, the piano's connectivity isn't the first thing you would think of. That's all about to change with the Yamaha P515.Why is it important? Mostly because not everyone uses the same input and output when playing their piano. Ultimately, it's the flexibility that matters.

The Yamaha P515 provides all the plugs and connections you need, such as:

  • 2 Stereo headphone jacks
  • MIDI In and Out
  • Aux In (useful when using the built-in speaker system)
  • Aux Out (useful for amplifying sound)
  • AUX sustain
  • 16V DC In
  • USB to Device and USB to Host

Accessories

Given the wide feature set of the Yamaha P515, it's only fair to say there's only a handful of included accessories, such as:

  • Sustain pedal
  • Music rest
  • Owner's Manual
  • AC power adapter

We would have preferred just a tad bit more, though, which we'll discuss in the next section. 

Better Pedals

The original or included pedal in the P515 is suitable for most beginners and ideal if you're just starting out. The problem, though, is that the included pedal of the P515 only supports half-pedal operation, which means it's simply an on/off switch.


LP1 3 Pedals

For advanced users or anyone who plays regularly, a half-pedal operation just doesn't make the cut. For the best piano experience, adding an LP1 triple-pedal experience is a worthy investment.


Piano Stand

Could you really play a digital piano while arching your back for hours on end? That's what a pianist's life would be like without a proper stand.

So should you invest in one? Definitely. Unfortunately, the P-515 doesn't come with one. The good news is, getting one isn't going to cost you a lot! If you invested in a new keyboard or wanted a better sound engine, for example, that would be a different case. But for a piano stand? One stand is hardly going to hurt your wallet. Even better, it adds stability to your piano and keyboard! 


Headphones

If you're serious about producing high-quality music, investing in a good pair of headphones is necessary. Whether you're recording tracks or composing a new song, good headphones provide clearer and more detailed sound that you wouldn't be able to achieve without one. If you're living with someone or your family is a noisy bunch, headphones will save you from producing music content that's any less of the quality you would want. 


USB Adapter (Wireless)

As much as we love the wide connectivity options the Yamaha P-515 has, it lacks one aspect that could've made things easier: wireless. No, it's not a Gen Z type of thinking. It's about seamlessly connecting your piano to a smart device or MIDI-compatible apps like FlowKey or GarageBand.

But don't lose hope! You can still get one easily! The Yamaha MD-Bt01 is an excellent choice that allows you to connect via the MIDI ports without the need for an additional power source. 


Yamaha MD-Bt01 adapter

Alternatives 

The Yamaha P-515 and Yamaha's P-series line is an excellent breed of digital pianos. For the price range, features, and quality, it's rare to find a digital piano of this caliber nowadays. However, that doesn't mean it's the only one. There are a few digital pianos apart from the Yamaha P-515 worth mentioning, although they offer a more expensive price range.

Let's take a look. 

Kawai ES8 

Sounds

The ES8 uses a Harmonic Imaging XL sound engine, along with three main sounds. It's worth noting these sounds are extraordinary grand pianos. The SK-EX and EX are Kawai's flagship 9-foot concert sounds, and honestly speaking, marvelous to play.The third sound Kawai offers is taken from the SK-5 grand piano. If we compare which digital piano produces a more realistic or natural tone, we feel ES8 wins by a slight inch.

However, various users have argued that the P-515 produces a better tone, so this preference may differ per user.

With regards to being able to adjust the sounds to your liking or preference, the ES8 offers more adjustment options and even unique parameters, such as:

  • Hammer Delay
  • Damper Noise
  • Decay Time
  • Stretch Tuning

Now, here comes the most important part.

We could be wrong, or we could be right, but after using a considerable number of digital pianos, it all boils down to your taste and what it sounds like to your ears. Everyone has different tastes, and what may sound excellent to us may sound different for you.

Key Action & Keyboard

The Kawai ES8's key action is the best plastic action Kawai offers in their arsenal of pianos, also known as RH3. Although it doesn't feature the NWX keys the Yamaha P515 offers, the ES8's keys are surprisingly responsive due to the counterweights added to each key.

Some users mentioned the ES8's keys feeling a lot lighter than the P515; however, this is up to the user to decide whether he/she prefers a lighter or heavier touch. However, a lighter touch carries an added advantage of playing fast passages and thrills easier.

Portability

There isn't much of a difference between the two. The ES8 only weighs one pound more than the Yamaha P515. In this case, both are equally solid in terms of portability.

Recording

This is where the Yamaha P515 outshines the ES8. Recording with the ES8 is more restricted since you can only record 2 MIDI tracks, and recording any audio can only be performed through the flash drive. It's also worth mentioning that while the ES8 comes with more settings to adjust sounds, the Yamaha P515 is a clear winner when it comes to the number of piano voices.

The ES8 offers 34 sounds, while the P515 has 40, not including 480 XG voices and 18 Drum/SFX kits.

Connectivity

Aside from the drawbacks we mentioned about the ES8's recording ability, there isn't any significant difference for connectivity. Both offer similar connectivity options.

Price

The ES8 is slightly more expensive than the P-515. Honestly, that's not too bad considering all the features and quality it comes with.

Verdict

It's hard to choose between either one. Both have excellent concert grand, great key action & keyboard design, amazing features, and exceptional sound. Regardless of which you choose, you won't be disappointed by either one. Although, if you prefer lighter touch responsiveness, a fuller realistic & natural sound, and more adjustable sound settings, the ES8 would suit you well. 


Roland FP-90

Sounds

The sound department is perhaps the biggest difference between the Roland FP-90 and P515. Unlike the piano sample and sound engine featured in the ES8 and P515, Roland stands unique from both flagship models. Roland uses a SuperNatural sound modeling engine, meaning the sound isn't sampled from a concert grand piano but rather created once you press the keys. Is it as good as the ES8 and P515? In our opinion, this takes away the "soul of the piano," and even though it still sounds great, we prefer concert grands and sound samples that sound less artificial. Then again, the advantage of this type of engine is having more control over the sounds.

Speaker-wise, the FP-90 is 10 watts louder than the P-515/s 40-watt speaker. Take note, though, that the Yamaha P-515 carries a sound boost function, allowing you to amplify sound as well. Finally, Roland features 72 main sounds, 270 voices, and 8 drum sets. Although it's not as many as what the P-515 has to offer, the gap between both flagship models isn't something you should be awfully concerned about.

Key Action & Keyboard

The FP-90 uses a hybrid wooden action (PHA-50), which felt lighter to play on than the NWX keyboard. If you prefer to play faster tempos and don't want to strain or exhaust your fingers too much, lighter keys are excellent choices. This also holds especially true for beginners. However, some still prefer a heavier action, so it all comes down to how it feels to each user.

Portability

While the P-515 is already quite heavy, the FP-90 weighs even 4 more pounds heavier. Granted, 4 pounds doesn't make a significant difference, but it's noticeable enough to affect the portability slightly.

Recording

Sad to say, the FP-90 doesn't have a 16-track sequencer and USB audio interface. Roland redeems itself with two features you might be interested in having, thanks to its connectivity features.

Connectivity

Two features we feel we should give credit to Roland for are the mic in jack and audio capability through wireless connectivity. A mic in jack is useful if you want to add voice to your music, while the wireless connectivity is also MIDI compatible, which means you can control music apps such as GarageBand or Flowkey by simply connecting the FP-90 to your smart device.

Price

While Roland's flagship model is impressive in its own right, price-wise, it's quite expensive compared to the P-515. Furthermore, considering all the features that the P-515 has to offer, you get a higher value in return with Yamaha's flagship model.

Verdict

Roland's flagship model is a serious contender against the Yamaha P-515 and comes with unique functions and features that make it a great digital piano for beginners and advanced users. However, we feel it benefits beginners more due to its lighter touch responsiveness.

If you want a piano that offers a lot of features and parameters you can experiment with, better connectivity options, a louder speaker system, and more flexibility in adjusting sounds, this is an excellent piano to go for.  If you're looking to read more digital piano reviews, checkout this roundup article which includes the absolute best digital pianos in 2021.


Digital Vs. Acoustic Pianos: Which Is Better? 

When we think of an acoustic piano, we think of concert halls, a large audience, and inspiring performances. And while digital pianos are a more recent innovation, it doesn't always follow that an acoustic piano is the better choice.

Let's take a look at a few differences worth comparing between the two. 

Sound

An acoustic grand piano will naturally produce better sound than a digital piano. Even a high-quality acoustic upright piano is still just as impressive and more suited for homes and apartments. On the other hand, digital pianos can only mimic the sound of an acoustic piano. Still, it's worth noting that a high-quality digital piano can produce better sound than a low-quality acoustic piano. Roland, Yamaha, and Kawai are examples of top-notch digital pianos.Usually, an acoustic grand piano is considered to be a preferred choice for large spaces, concert halls, and auditoriums. 

Flexibility

Without a doubt, digital wins this category by a mile.

Digital pianos are more flexible because:

  1. They're portable. You can move one around easily and fit it nearly anywhere around your home or living space. For a digital stage piano, it has even higher portability than a digital upright type.
  2. Comes with various instrument sounds. You aren't limited to producing only one type of sound. You have the freedom to produce various sounds from a drum to a saxophone. This makes it useful for music producers and composers.
  3. Recording and playback features. Recording and storing audio files are highly beneficial for songwriters and even uploading on YouTube for your fans to hear!

Other reasons include volume control to easily adjust the volume when you have guests at home or prefer to play in private.

Just like the piano room button in the Yamaha P-515, you have access to various sound adjustments you can use when developing songs or playing various pieces. Acoustic pianos are heavier, are more restricted, and hardly come with any extra features.Additional features add more fun when playing a certain song, or if you feel like composing a new song, a digital type allows for that easily. 

Maintenance

Maintenance is undoubtedly more expensive for an acoustic model than a digital model. Tuning an acoustic piano requires a professional and added cost that should be performed at least twice a year.

Furthermore, the materials used in an acoustic model are more susceptible to temperature and humidity fluctuations, so it's essential to keep your piano in a suitable environment. 

Touch Responsiveness 

Acoustic models have better touch responsiveness or sensitivity due to the weight of each key. For digital pianos, it's much harder to achieve good touch sensitivity. Not to mention, digital types tend to produce a finite number of tones.

When playing the piano, the movement and strength of your fingers influence the sound your piano produces. In an acoustic model, you can produce numerous shades of sound with just one key. In contrast, a digital model will most likely produce the same tone or sound regardless of your fingers' strength and movement.

Price

While a digital model costs 5 or 6 times less than an acoustic model, an acoustic type's resale value is much higher.Digital types range are usually under 4 figures, while acoustic types can cost more than $3000. Furthermore, digital pianos depreciate faster than acoustic models. Ultimately, while acoustic models are far more costly, they also make for great investments long-term

Pedals

Acoustic types come with three pedals: sostenuto pedal, soft pedal, and a sustain/damper pedal. Digital types typically come with only a sustain pedal and, in some cases, none at all. Pedals can influence your performance and give your music a richer, lusher sound. Most of all, pedals are mainly used to change the tone or even prolong it so that the sound produced sustains longer, therefore enhancing the acoustics in a room or space. Overall, this largely depends on your preference, and since it's an advanced technique, most beginners don't need one until they progress further.

Verdict: Which Is Better?

Neither one is truly better than the other. It all depends on your music genre, your goals, skill level, and available hours for practice.

A digital piano is for you if:

  • If you prefer mixing between pop, rock, jazz, or playing tunes from your favorite artists like Ed Sheeran, Troye Sivan, etc.
  • You're on a tight budget but still enjoy playing the piano.
  • You're still learning the fundamentals and aren't into advanced techniques.
  • You have restricted hours to play and practice.

An acoustic piano is for you if:

  • You want to stick to just classical music and hone your skill in this genre.
  • You want to become an advanced pianist in the future.
  • You're looking for a long-term investment. 

Checkout this guide to learn more about the differences between digital piano and acoustic piano.


Summary

The Yamaha P-515 is hardly a disappointment for any pianist looking to improve their skills or even for a beginner. Yamaha's P-series flagship model is unrivaled in terms of features, and after nearly a day of using this fine instrument, the piano sounds and action are worth every penny.

Our only concern? The price point. While it's true that Yamaha's P-series flagship model offers a vast number of features, it's not exactly a budget pick. However, if you're looking for a digital piano with great value and portability, you can't go wrong with the Yamaha P-515. Finally, if portability isn't too much of a concern and you prefer to practice mostly at home, we suggest going for the Yamaha Clavinova. It has more features and offers a similar price point to the P-515. 

Pros

  • Covers wide features needed for any pianist
  • Includes a Smart Pianist app for improved operation of settings
  • Huge improvement in keyboard design and key action
  • Superb sound and piano samples
  • Comes with a built-in USB interface
  • Powerful built-in speakers
  • Works well for any pianist and beginner
  • Natural wood key design with synthetic Ebony/Ivory

Cons

  • LP1 pedal has to be purchased separately
  • Heavy 
  • Sustain pedal could use improvement
  • Not for the casual pianist

So is the Yamaha P-515 for you? Whether you're still learning the ropes or progressed into more advanced lessons, the P-515 is an excellent choice. Its top-notch quality, great price value, countless sounds, powerful speakers, and great action make it well worth any user's spend. Compared to other digital models, the P-515 of Yamaha's P-series performs much better and costs far less, given its extensive features and functions. 

About the Author Linda Ritter

Linda Ritter is a passionate pianist and a songwriter for more than 7 years. With a Masters in Music, she has explored the world of music and has collaborated with several musicians and brands like Roland, Tune Core, and plenty of blogs.

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