In this review we are going to take an in-depth review into the Yamaha P45. The Yamaha P45 is an entry level, portable instrument released by Yamaha in 2015. It replaces the P35 in Yamaha’s “P” lineup.
Yamaha makes lots of pianos in the “P” series, including the mid-range P125 which we’ve reviewed before, and the P515 at the high end. The P45 is the entry-level instrument in the range, but it’s also the cheapest and most affordable. As we’ve come to expect from Yamaha, this is a high quality product, that delivers great value for money.
However, the low cost and the portability comes at the expense of some features. Despite this, the P45 is exceptionally popular with beginners. There are big improvements over the P35, which we’ll get into later. However, is the P45 the best choice when there are so many great competitor instruments on the market, such as the Casio PX160?
Yamaha have also released the P71, an Amazon exclusive version of the P45. It’s essentially the same instrument, just a little cheaper. All the points that I raise here about the P45 apply also to the P71 - so this is a Yamaha P45 Review and a Yamaha P71 Review.
Yamaha P45 Summary
A limited feature set for the price, unfortunately. Not many voices, no ability to connect a pedal board and overall a very basic experience.
Speakers are exceptionally weak, though the overall sound system is OK if you plug in a pair of headphones. Don't expect to give concerts.
A cheap digital piano, and good for those on a budget, but not great value for money by any means. A far better alternative is the Yamaha P125 or the Casio PX160.
Yamaha P45 Summary after extensive testing
A good choice for the absolute beginner, or someone who wants the Yamaha name in a portable piano and doesn’t mind losing out on features.
However, there are better alternatives on the market, and you should explore them before you choose the P45.
Our Rating: 3.5/5
Check the availability and the current price of the Yamaha P45:
Now, let’s get started on a review of the Yamaha P45. Let’s first have a look at the specification list.
Full Specification List
For a complete specification list, please contact the manufacturer or visit yamaha.com.
As with most pianos designed for portability, the Yamaha P45 is an exceptionally compact digital piano. It is one of the smallest digital pianos out there, and is on par with competitors such as the Casio PX160. Naturally, this is great if you need to save some space, or you need to move your piano around a lot. It's small size is a big plus as far as I'm concerned, and will fit almost anywhere.
What Yamaha has done that I really like is make this keyboard as minimalistic as possible; there’s almost no visual clutter on the body of the piano itself, save for a few buttons or lights. If you like a clean appearance, this will appeal to you. However, there are some drawbacks around the control system as a result of this, which we’ll get onto later.
Again, as you’d expect at this price point, the piano is plastic. However, unlike equivalent models, especially from Casio and Korg, this piano feels exceptionally robust and sturdy, despite the fact that it doesn’t weigh very much. It feels like you could bash it about quite a bit and it wouldn’t make a difference. This is great news if you’re on the road as a teacher or session musician, where you might not be able to treat your piano as delicately as you might like.
The exterior plastics feel well-made, and they don’t feel like they’d be prone to scratches or gouges. I’d still invest in a bag or case if I were taking this out regularly, but that’s more to stop dust and other foreign objects getting between the keys.
The P45 is 133cm wide, which is on par compared to other models in this price range. The casework is thin enough to ensure that the piano takes up as little space as possible.
This piano is ever so slightly heavier than equivalent pianos from other manufacturers. However, not by much; the Casio PX160 weighs 11.3kg whereas the Yamaha P45 weighs 11.5kg. It’s unlikely that this will stop you taking it out and about; it’s still one of the lightest pianos I’ve ever tried.
You may have some reservations about the quality of the materials included as a result of this light weight, but after having tried the piano for some time, I had no such worries; perhaps it’s as a result of my trust in Yamaha’s brand, but the piano felt very solid.
Assembly isn’t required for the Yamaha P45. You simply remove it from the box, place it on a stand or table, plug it in and start playing. However, there is an optional stand made by Yamaha, and if you plan on using your piano at home on a regular basis I’d recommend you go for this. Alternatively you can just use an X-frame keyboard stand; either is fine.
There’s a MASSIVE limitation with using this piano with Yamaha’s bespoke keyboard stand, or indeed any stand, which I’ll get onto in a moment. For now, you may want to look at this video, which demonstrates an unboxing of the piano, and everything you get with it.
Controls and Buttons
I’ve ranted about this before, so I will keep it short in this review. Yamaha have stuck with a specific method of controlling their entry-level pianos and keyboards for at least the last ten years, and it’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of it.
What you must do to control the Yamaha P45 is use what’s called a function + key control system. That is to say, to make the piano do anything, you need to press the “function” key, and then press a designated key on the keyboard to make the piano do something, for example play a demo song, change a voice or use the metronome.
In Yamaha’s defence, I will say that it’s been implemented a little better on the P45 than on some other models. Yamaha have actually written what each key does above the key itself, so there’s no need to actually memorise which keys do what, or keep the manual handy. I remember when I first came across this, I was testing the old Yamaha Arius YDP-140, and this required memorisation or keeping the manual handy because the key functions weren’t written anywhere on the piano.
However, there’s no visual or audio cue when you’ve selected something. Obviously you’ll notice whether the piano’s voice has changed, or whether the metronome is on or off, but you won’t necessarily notice if you’re fine-tuning to match another instrument, for example.
All in all, a frustrating experience, and one that I’ve written about several times before and will continue to do so until it’s changed. Props to Yamaha for improving it slightly, but it’s nowhere near as good as Korg’s system, for example, especially on the LP380; I know what each button does and it’s very easy to change things up without having to think about it too much.
Here’s where we come onto a SERIOUS limitation of this piano. In all honesty this is what majorly lets the Yamaha P45 down, and is the sole reason I wouldn’t buy one in favour of a competitor’s offering.
We’ve spoken about the optional piano stand, and with other manufacturers this is usually a smart choice, as it allows you to add a three-pedal board to the piano to give you all of the functionality of an acoustic piano.
The Yamaha P45 features no such functionality. You cannot plug a three-pedal board into the piano; you can only use the P45 with a sustain pedal. That’s all it has a connection for.
I think this is so short sighted of Yamaha because it’ll be a dealbreaker for almost every serious pianist. If you’re buying the P45 as a beginner, graduating from a cheaper non-weighted keyboard, how can you expect to develop as a serious musician if you’re missing the required tools right from the outset? Casio includes this in the PX160, and Yamaha even includes it in the P125, so why haven’t Yamaha included it in the P45?
Unfortunately this is the main reason I wouldn’t buy a Yamaha P45, and why I won’t recommend one to any of my students. This, in my opinion, is a major oversight on Yamaha’s part and I cannot understand why they wouldn’t include this functionality. I mean, all they would need to do is make it compatible with the P125’s pedal board and include a connector on the back of the P45!
It’s worth saying that if all you need is a sustain pedal, this will be fine, and the P45 comes with a basic sustain switch. However, for any serious musician, they’ll require all three pedals and should avoid the P45 for something like the Casio PX160 instead.
The P45 is available in one colour only; matte black. This may irritate you if you like a white piano, or another colour; indeed, the Casio PX160 comes in several different colours. However, the piano looks smart, professional and a black colour hides marks and scratches much better.
In order to faithfully capture the sound and experience of a Yamaha acoustic piano, Yamaha have used their AWM sampling technology in the P45. This is a full concert grand piano sound, recorded at different dynamic levels. The sound is then blended together using technology to create a more natural piano-playing experience, much like an acoustic piano.
The result is an excellent, lifelike and organic piano experience; almost like the sound of a real piano. Of course, it kind of is; the sound is recorded directly from a real Yamaha concert grand.
It’s worth saying that Yamaha have included this technology in their pianos for several years. While I believe the tone of the piano is better than almost all other digital pianos out there, the technology is not. I felt a much more organic and lifelike experience playing Roland or Casio examples. Yamaha have upgraded this in their latest Clavinova and Arius models, but don’t seem to have bothered here. It’s worth saying that the upgrade is much better, and is my preferred digital piano sound.
Other Included Sounds
You get ten included, built in sounds available on the Yamaha P45.
I must say, 10 is quite limited, and won’t be suitable if you need lots of different instrument sounds to create a wide variety of music. However, the basic sounds included will be fine for most pianists.
The most important aspect, of course, is the main grand piano sound, which I’d encourage you to take a listen to. I think you’ll agree, it’s a fantastic sound, but unfortunately the playing experience it offers is a little lacking.
The Yamaha P45 features a pair of 6W, 12cm amplifiers. Unfortunately I found the included speakers to be pretty pathetic. They aren’t suitable for anything more than individual practice, or maybe a small performance in front of family or friends.
The sound quality coming through the speakers remains acceptable, and is on par with what I’d expect from Yamaha. You get a clear, crisp sound, with no distortion or crackling. It’s just a shame the sound is so weak.
If you want to take the piano to a gig, or will be regularly performing music on it, you will need to plug the piano into a speaker system or PA. You’ll need to do this through the headphone port, as Yamaha offers no AUX Out port, but honestly I really wish they’d gone for a better pair of internal speakers. Casio nails this in the PX160; they probably have the best speaker system at this price point, with a 16W four-way speaker system that sounds fantastic.
Effects and Reverb
Yamaha have included quite a few sound effects and reverb effects on the P45, which I’m grateful for as often this is lacking in some manufacturers.
Reverb refers to changing the acoustic of the sound; for example, it simulates the piano being played in a large room, or concert hall.
There are four reverb types on the Yamaha P45; from drier acoustics like “Room” and “Hall 1” to wetter, bigger acoustics such as “Hall 2” and “Stage.” You’re also able to adjust the strength of these effects to your liking.
Additional Sound Features
There isn’t much else to talk about, unfortunately. Yamaha have let us down with the lack of an AUX out, which is really necessary because the internal speakers are so weak.
You do get a USB to Host, which is a welcome feature if you want to plug the piano into a computer, or use it as a MIDI controller. However, the only port to really speak of is the headphone port, and even then there are only one of those, whereas most equivalent models include 2.
You get several different modes with the Yamaha P45. However, the feature set you get is basic (as you’d expect for the price) and will probably only suit beginners and maybe intermediate players.
Layer Mode (also called dual mode) is a feature where you can play two sounds at the same time. This will allow you play, for example, piano and strings together. When you play any note on the keyboard, you’ll get piano and strings sounding simultaneously.
This is an interesting effect, and can be useful if you’re making music with a band, or simply want to experiment with new sounds. It’s also possible to adjust the balance, meaning you can make one voice louder than another. The P45 only allows you to do this with two voices.
Duo Mode (sometimes known as partner mode) is useful if you plan to give lessons on the P45, as it essentially splits your 88 note keyboard into two 44 note keyboards. The P45 is split down the middle, to give you two keyboards with identical ranges.
This is really useful because you as a teacher can play something or demonstrate something to a student, and they can repeat it while sitting next to you without either of you having to move.
For a more detailed explanation of polyphony, check out my related article.
Polyphony refers to the maximum number of notes that can be played at once on the piano. You may think that you can only get ten notes at a time, because you only have ten fingers, but this isn’t the case. Other factors such as using the sustain pedal, or making use of layer mode, also take up polyphony.
The Yamaha P45 has 64 note polyphony, which is much lower than what competitors offer in this space. I was actually very disappointed, as when I was playing rich, densely textured music such as Debussy or Ravel, I could hear notes being cut off as I reached the instrument’s internal memory limit.
If you are a complete beginner, you probably won’t notice this as an issue, but if you are intermediate to advanced, you should really look elsewhere. By the way - if you are a beginner, you might find my article on the best beginner piano books helpful.
Transposition allows you to adjust the pitch of the entire keyboard. This is useful if you’re learning a piece in one key, for example, and you need to play with someone else who has learned the piece in a different key. Rather than relearning the piece, you can play at the same pitch just by transposing your Yamaha P45 up or down.
As is standard across other Yamaha pianos, you can increase the pitch by 5 semitones and reduce it by 6 semitones.
You also get a fine-tuning feature, which allows you to minutely alter the pitch in intervals of 0.1Hz. This allows you to match someone who’s playing in the same key as you but their instrument is slightly sharp or flat.
One of the most useful practice features there is, the Yamaha P45 thankfully includes a metronome. You can adjust the time signature, the tempo and the volume, but you can’t do things like include an accent. This is basic, but it will do for the vast majority of players, who just need help keeping a steady beat.
The P45 offers no MIDI recording or playback feature, which is very disappointing. This is almost a standard feature on almost all digital pianos nowadays and I’m shocked Yamaha didn’t include this. If you want to record yourself playing, you still can do this, but you’ll need to do it via the included USB-MIDI connection using music software such as Garageband or Sibelius.
Keyboard and Action
This is by far the most important thing to any pianist aside from the piano sounds. Let’s take a good look at the keys and the action. Do they live up to expectations?
The Yamaha P45 includes Yamaha’s famous Graded Hammer Standard piano action. This means it has a fully weighted, 88 keys scaled piano action that behaves a lot like a real piano.
The Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) is Yamaha’s cheapest action, and it’s been around for years and years. It’s commonly included on lower-end pianos made by Yamaha, with the higher-end instruments such as the P515 or Clavinova range including a better, more realistic action called the Graded Hammer action.
The GHS action is very quiet, and for the beginner player, is perfectly adequate to get used to the feel of playing a real piano. It’s certainly a massive step up from non weighted keys or keyboard with spring loaded action such as the Yamaha NP12.
You’ll also find that the keyboard is touch sensitive, so the harder you press the keys, the louder the sound. It’s also graded, meaning that it’s heavier in the bass and lighter in the treble, just like a real piano.
However, there’s a lot of hate out there for the GHS, with people saying that it’s inadequate and unpleasant to play. I can understand where these people are coming from, as I believe the GHS is inferior to most other piano actions out there today, including those by Casio and Roland. You’ll get a much more authentic and pleasurable playing experience by going with a different manufacturer, or a Yamaha piano with a better action.
However, as I mentioned, for the beginner player, it’s more than adequate, and shouldn’t cause you problems if you want to graduate to a better instrument in future.
The P45 includes touch sensitivity; meaning that the harder you press the keys, the louder the sound. There are four different levels; light, medium, hard and off. This allows you to change how sensitive the keys are based on the strength of your fingers.
If you’re a beginner and don’t want to have to press too hard to get a loud sound, you can change the sensitivity to “light.” Conversely if you want more expression in your playing, you can change it to “hard.”
The keys are standard plastic keys, which I actually like a lot. I’m not a fan of this “ebony and ivory keytops” thing that manufacturers do on higher end pianos. As I’ve said before, most real pianos now have keys made out of acrylic resin and wood, and haven’t been made from ivory for decades.
However, I like the matte black finish that Yamaha have put onto the black keys; it feels very pleasant to play, and results in your fingers being able to firmly grip the keys, even when sweaty or clammy.
As we’ve mentioned, you don’t get much with the P45. All that’s in the box is the following:
As mentioned, the sustain switch is not fantastic, and you may want to consider a bespoke music stand. You also don’t get a music book, which Yamaha have included in more high-end models, which allows you to learn the demo songs included with the piano.
However, as with any digital piano, I’d really recommend you get a good pair of headphones. Read my recommendation for the top 5 headphones for a digital piano at the link below:
Our Rating: 3.5/5
Unfortunately it’s hard to recommend this model when there are so many alternatives available for a similar price that have a more extensive feature set. While the Yamaha build quality means this piano will last a long time, it’s quite dated now, so you’re better off going for something a little more feature-packed.
This piano isn’t great value for money. The lack of recording and inability to connect anything beyond a basic sustain pedal is a dealbreaker for me. It’s the reason I wouldn’t buy this piano.
If you’re an absolute beginner, this piano is perfectly adequate. If you’re anything more, I think you’ll be disappointed with the Yamaha P45.
Check out our article on the Yamaha P45 vs P125 if you're on the fence about these two models.
Check price and availability of the Yamaha P45/Yamaha P71: