Yamaha P85- A Detailed Review

Yamaha P85After attending a function with a live band recently, I noticed some great tones and sounds coming  from a digital piano that had the big ‘Yamaha’ sign plastered on the back. I’ve been quite curious since then, to learn more about Yamaha’s range, feature and prices.

The Yamaha P85 was at more of the budget end of Yamaha’s range, so I thought I would start with that and see if it was a decent instrument. Here’s what I found…

  Yamaha P85 Features

The Yamaha P85 is a full size digital piano with 88 keys and a graded hammer action system which means that the keys have a very similar feel to that of a big grand piano, where the bass note keys are heavier and as you move up the keyboard, the keys are lighter to play.

The P85 also allows you to customize the touch sensitivity of the keyboard with four different options available. Four reverb settings and one for chorus give you the ability to modify and jazz up your tones.

To help with practice sessions, the unit also features an inbuilt metronome that ranges from 32 – 280 beats per minute and also the option to record a song or practice session via the song recorder.

The Yamaha P85 gives out what is called an Advanced Wave Memory or AWM stereo sampled piano sounds. Breaking down these fancy words into what this really means to the player, is that the instrument delivers a very realistic and acoustic piano-like sound. I learned that ‘realistic piano like sound’ is not common in  other digital pianos.

Apart from the piano sound, you also have a list of other instrument sounds that you can use on the Yamaha P85. All up there are 10 different voice functions available. These are:

    • 2 Grand pianos- one concert grand tone and the other with bright acoustics
    • 2 Pipe organs- the first with three choirs for a Baroque sound, and the other with a “coupler” type tone
    • 2 Electric pianos- one called dynamically sensitive, whilst the other is straight
    • 2 Harpsichords- one straight, or the other that is layered with same voice an octave higher
    • Strings
    • Vibraphone

I noted that the different instrument sound function selection is very simple on the Yamaha P85. All 10 instrument sounds have its own dedicated button, making changing instrument tones very quick. Realistically, it means that you can play around with different sounds even while in the middle of a song. A lot of other keyboards have a menu type sound selection, making quick changes more difficult.Yamaha P85

The digital keyboard also  features dual voice function. Essentially, this means that you can select any two of the tones listed above to play at the same time. Selection of two tones at once is also very easy. It is done by pressing any two voice function buttons at the same time.

As you would expect, there is an onboard speaker system where the speakers are located underneath the keyboard which is interesting. Users have reported that the dual 6W speakers provide very decent, good quality sound. For those who wish to practice or play with more privacy, the Yamaha P85 also comes with two headphone jacks.

A MIDI connection is available at the back of the unit. For composers (or even just for fun), it means that you can connect your keyboard up to your computer to download your music to the PC. It should be noted though, that an additional cable is required to do this. It’s the Yamaha’s UX16 USB-MIDI interface.

After looking at all the features of the Yamaha P85 contemporary digital piano, here’s a summary of what people say are the pros and cons:

The Advantages

1. Great Sound Quality: Really impressive tonal quality of the unit. This seemed to be the most common attribute to just about every review from owners I read.

2. Value For Money: The second common element was that the Yamaha P85 was exceptionally good value for money. Reviews claimed that the P85 definitely outranks Korg’s 250, Rolands RD700 and others by miles ahead comparing price and sound.

3. Feel of the Keys: The weighted keys have a really solid feel and mimic that of a really expensive grand piano and the touch sensitivity can be finely adjusted which allowed users to feel comfortable playing.

4. Grand Piano Voice: The quality and realism of the ‘Grand Piano’ tone seems to surprise and be reported really often by users, from the novice to the professionals who have tried the P85.

Here’s a video that demonstrates the Grand Piano tone


5. Lightweight: Although the unit is reportedly solidly built, it is lightweight at under 25lbs. The Yamaha P85 is primary designed for home usage, however some people have used the unit at bigger gigs and events for its apparent ‘…good sound and lightweight portability’.

6. Dual Voice Functionality: Users were impressed at both the quality of the 10 different instrument tones and the ability to combine two tones together.

7. Built In Songs: Finally, most people reported the high quality of the 50 preset songs that comes with the keyboard, from Liebestraum, Moonlight Sonata, Pathetique, Maple Leaf Rag and more.

Yamaha P85The Disadvantages

It’s certainly not perfect and there is an area which could make it better.

No dedicated output to connect an amplifier/speaker: It’s a surprise omission that Yamaha didn’t include a socket to plug in your amplifier or speaker, especially when the digital piano sounds good and if the opportunity rose, you would want the option to share your music at the next family function perhaps.

Fortunately though, there is a way to get around that problem. The headphone jacks can double up as an output socket to plug your amplifier or speakers into and it works the same way anyway. It’s just a little disappointing that the Yamaha P85 didn’t include a specific socket for this, even when there is a perfectly fine workaround.

Customer Reviews…

I read quite a bit of reviews from customers and here’s some of the more recent ones:

“This is an awesome substitute for someone who does not have the room for a full size piano but still prefer the feel of one.”

“I was deciding between the P-85 and the comparable Casio. So glad I went with this. The piano keys are weighted so nice that it’s just like playing on a real piano. I don’t care about how many voices the keyboard has, all I wanted was a nice sounding Grand Piano. “

“I love the sound and the feel of this P85. Lucky that I made the choice at the begining. And good price too >.<“

“This is my very first piano! I had a cheap keyboard that I began taking lessons on. The weighted keys and the sound are awesome. I love my new piano! This is a great product at a great price. I was thrilled to be pointed to this piano by an expert at a Yamaha distributor. He knew I was just getting started but wanted a weighted key piano with a great sound! I was very excited by the price too! LOVE IT!”

“This is a wonderful keyboard. The keys are very sensitive and feel like the real thing. The sound is very rich and true as well. It is relatively small and compact and more than I expected. No tinniness detected. It is simple and straightforward to operate. Love it.”

Bottom Line

After looking at the advantages and disadvantages of the Yamaha P85 contemporary digital piano, it is clear to me that this instrument is yet another high-quality model from Yamaha available at a very decent price. It outclasses its competition by offering a much better ‘bang for your buck’. My extensive research on this piano has led me to believe that it is a highly recommendable product, with lots of very satisfied customers.


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