Two digital pianos from the same manufacturer - both part of the same product lineup. But is that where the similarities end? Today we’re going to have a look at two of Yamaha’s most popular pianos, and how they stack up against one another - the Yamaha P515 vs Yamaha P125.
If you’re in the market for a digital piano you will almost certainly have come across both these models. They’re both very well reviewed and held in high regard, but come with significantly different price tags. The feature set might look quite similar, but is it? Is it really worth spending the extra money for the P515, or will most pianists be happy with the great set of features offered by the P125?
Let’s find out. Which is the better bet - the Yamaha P515 or the Yamaha P125?
Yamaha P515 vs Yamaha P125 - Which one is best?
Let’s have a look at some of the pros and cons of each of these pianos.
This one is tricky to give an exact recommendation. Generally speaking we would recommend the P125 as the extra features of the P515 are going to be overkill for beginner and intermediate level pianists. The P515 wins out on every one of our areas of analysis (except price) but it’s hard to argue that this is a logical choice for someone who isn’t already playing at a high level.
However, the feature set of the P515 is not to be ignored, and in all honesty it’s very probably the only piano you’ll ever need to buy. If you’re in this for the long haul, or you’re an advanced pianist, the P125 probably won’t cut it. In this situation, we’d really recommend you go for the P515. It’s an incredible instrument.
Let's jump into which of these keyboards is best and why.
Winner: Yamaha P515
As you might expect, the P515 includes many more features, being at a higher price point. But is it enough to warrant the extra cost? What do you actually get for your money?
There are several things here - including the modes you get, the voices, expanded metronome, transposition, polyphony, etc - however I’m going to focus on the two areas where I feel the P515 gives the most value over the P125.
The Yamaha P515 basically includes any connection you can think of and then some. While you can hook up the P125 to a speaker system via the AUX IN, there’s no AUX IN like there is on the P515, meaning you can’t play anything external through the speakers. This might not seem like such a huge problem but it can be if you’re playing a gig and want to use the built-in speakers, or you want to play along with a backing track.
USB-to-Device is also missing on the P125, which is present on the P515. These individual connections may not be important to you, but I feel like if you’re using this piano for performance, or you’re composing on it, there will come a time when you’ll need to use these connections, and if you buy the P125 they won’t be there.
Fortunately, both models come with USB-to-Host, sustain switch and pedal board inputs and two headphone jacks. I wouldn’t expect anything less on the P515 given the money you pay, but they’re definitely welcome inclusions on the P125 at this price point, especially since they are missing on some of the competition.
Controls and Buttons
The P125 frustratingly still uses the function key + key press method of controlling the piano that Yamahas of old did. They have made it easier than they used to by putting buttons on the fascia, but fundamentally I still feel that if you’re not familiar with the controls, you’ll need to keep the manual close at hand. This is not ideal if you’re teaching a lesson or playing a gig.
Fortunately the Yamaha P515 does this much better, including a very clear, high-quality LCD screen. It’s super-easy to see exactly what all the features and functions are and how to operate them.
However, the saving grace for the P125 is that if you have an iPad, you can connect the iPad to the keyboard with the Smart Pianist app, which allows you to control all the functions of your keyboard using your iPad. You can also do this with the P515, but given that the controls are so easy to use, I never felt the need. It’s a must with the P125, though.
Winner - Yamaha P515.
Let’s take a detailed look at the sound system on both these pianos, and how they stack up against each other. The P515 has won this one, but why?
The P515 includes two phenomenal new grand piano voices - the Yamaha CFX and the Bosendorfer 290 Imperial concert grand pianos. These are both sampled sounds, with some of the most incredibly realistic effects, such as sympathetic and damper resonance using Yamaha’s VRM technology, almost exactly like you’d get on a real piano.
The P125 also features a good Yamaha piano sound - although it doesn’t seem like it’s from the CFX. It’s by no means a bad piano sound - in fact it’s better than most of the competition, including very well reviewed models from Korg and Casio, but it’s unfortunately not a patch on the P515.
Not much to discuss here, as the other voices tend to be roughly the same quality on the P125 vs the P515. However, you do get many more of them on the P515, as you might expect. There are also more piano sounds equipped to the P515, as well as including all the additional sounds the P125 includes, plus 18 drum and SFX voices, and 480 additional XG voices.
However, most pianists won’t ever use even half of these, so it’s up to you whether this is a selling point. In my opinion, the piano voice alone is of such high quality on the P515 that it’s worth the extra cost, but you have to weigh up whether this is a dealbreaker to you and whether the P515 is worth the extra money because of it.
Actually this is where we can start to give the P125 some credit. The P125 features two 14W speakers on either side of the keyboard, whereas the P515 features two 15W speakers plus two 5W tweeters on either side. The P515 is a little more powerful, and yes, when you turn the volume up you can hear the difference, but I thought the P125 puts out a very respectable sound for the price point.
Nonetheless, both speakers are as you’d expect from Yamaha. They’re very clear, with crisp treble and powerful bass, and no audible crackling or distortion even when you turn the volume up to max.
Winner - Yamaha P515.
The keys on the P515 are made of wood and plastic with a synthetic ebony and ivory finish. It feels very nice and very authentic under the fingers, and they absorb moisture well after playing for several hours at a time.
The keys are graded on both the P125 and P515, so they’re lighter in the treble and heavier in the bass. This makes for a compelling experience - but again, the keys on the P125 are made of plastic, and feel very synthetic and artificial compared to the P515 which makes for a much more natural piano experience.
This one is easy. Yamaha’s keys and actions have always been a little bit of a mixed bag. For example, at the lower end, you have the Graded Hammer Standard, which in my opinion really isn’t very realistic and is majorly overdue an upgrade. It’s not an action I would recommend to anyone looking for an authentic piano experience. On the flip side, they have some of the best actions in the industry in the NWX action fitted to some Clavinova models.
Incidentally this is exactly what we’re looking at in the Yamaha P125 vs Yamaha P515. The P125 is equipped with Yamaha’s dated Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) action, which I can’t really recommend to anyone other than a beginner pianist. The reason for this is that it’s very sluggish, far too light and doesn’t provide enough control.
The NWX action fitted to the P515, however, is a different story. It uses both natural wood and plastic, as well as dummy hammers and accurate weighting to replicate the feel of a real piano. And I must say, Yamaha has done an excellent job in this regard - it’s a very convincing (if a little heavy) action that feels and responds very much like a real piano. Paired with the excellent piano sounds and great speakers, combined it makes for an excellent experience.
In this respect, once you play the P515, you won’t ever want to go back to the P125 - you will notice the limitations straight away, and I imagine you’ll be very disappointed after having played the P515 at how much better it is. It is high time Yamaha brought out another entry level action to replace the GHS - it’s dated, limited and unpleasant to play at this stage.
Winner - Yamaha P125.
Now, this is where we purely look at the cost of these two instruments. It’s plain to see that with the reduced feature set of the P125, it’s obviously going to cost less. In fact, it’s quite a lot less - around half the price of the P515. Now, this may make it seem like for those on a budget, the P515 isn’t really an option.
However, consider the long term. If you get good enough at the piano, you will almost certainly be replacing the P125 if you choose to buy it at some point. Even if it lasts you five or ten years, you will eventually outgrow it and you’ll need to replace it with something else. This makes the P515 much more attractive, even if it is much more expensive.
Depending on the part of the world you live in, you might find the P515 for sale for a more competitive price compared to the P125 - in which case the decision is even easier. However, you should evaluate exactly what your needs are in this regard, and plan accordingly. If you don’t think you’ll ever use the extra features of the P515, then the P125 is probably the better choice for you.
Value for Money
Winner - Tie
It’s actually very difficult to give a value for money proposition on these two pianos, as they both offer respectable feature sets in their respective price ranges. However, it all depends on your budget and your skill set.
For example, a beginner is going to find the features on the P515 overkill. The subtle nuances of the keys and action, the enhanced sound set, the increased control and half-pedalling support you get will all be wasted on a beginner as they won’t have the skill to properly utilise these extra features. In this situation, the P125 is a much better bet.
However, if you’re an advanced pianist (or even an intermediate one) you’ll find the P125 very limiting. You’ll find the GHS action sluggish and difficult to control, and you’ll long for an instrument that gives you more control, expression and precision. The P515 in this case is a much better bet.
If you’re unsure whether the P515 is worth the extra money, you’ll need to go and try both models out and see what you think. Unfortunately this is one of the limitations of the internet - sometimes you just need to feel and hear the piano for yourself.
I do think that most pianists will eventually outgrow the P125 and need to upgrade - so from a pure value proposition, you have the choice between the P125 now and an upgraded model in a few years, or the P515 which you’ll never have to replace. To me, that makes for a compelling argument for the P515 and one that’s hard to ignore.
So, let’s tally up the scores.
Yamaha P125 - 1 point
Yamaha P515 - 3 points
Clearly the P515 wins out here - it is, after all, the better instrument. However, it’s up to you to decide whether it’s worthwhile for you to spend the extra money.
If you’re serious about your playing, the P515 is by far the better buy. You won’t ever have to replace it - it’ll keep you going even if you get to concert pianist level.
The P125 is a good model in its own right - and if you’re a beginner or intermediate level pianist, you definitely won’t be held back by the P125. However, there will come a time when the P125 just won’t give you the expression, control and nuance you need to make music at an exceptionally high level, and that’s when you’ll need the P515.
However, if it was my money: I’d buy the P515 every day of the week.