Yamaha has given us some of the best performance keyboards ever, whether it’s workstations, synths, or stage pianos. Most Yamaha keyboards have one thing in common: they are built with the performer in mind. From the Motif to the Montage, it’s about delivering high-quality sounds with minimal fuss.
In this review, I’m looking at the CP88, which marked another step forward in the progression of Yamaha stage pianos.
CP stands for combo piano, and it all started with legendary instruments like the CP-70, loved by Prince, D’Angelo, and many others. The Yamaha CP88 is an advanced yet incredibly simple 88-key stage piano. It combines both modern and vintage features that should appeal to the working musician.
About the author
- 88 weighted keys
- 128-note polyphony
- 57 presets
- 1/4″ inputs, pedal inputs
- 1/4″ outputs, XLR
- MIDI I/O, USB
Final verdict on the Yamaha CP88
It’s hard not to love the CP88 as soon as you see it. If you like retro-styling, you will agree that it’s one of the best-looking stage pianos around. The proof is in the sound, feel, and interface; the CP88 scores big in all three areas.
When spending top-dollar, it’s always a close call, and your choice can often come down to which features are most important to you. I can say this much: very few will outperform the CP88.
What I like
- Outstanding piano sounds.
- One-to-one layout.
- Built-in audio interface.
- Lots of connectivity.
- Perfect for live performance.
- Soundmondo platform.
What I don’t like
- Doesn’t have as many onboard sounds as some competitors.
The overall sound quality of the CP88 is exceptionally high, but for me, there are two clear standouts: the CFX Concert Grand and the Bösendorfer Imperial 290. Both of those legendary grand pianos are reproduced incredibly by Yamaha’s AWM2 sound engine. Each piano has a dynamic and expressive sound, with the Imperial 290 perhaps having more resonance in the low-end.
The electric pianos are right on the money, too. Yamaha’s history in vintage electric pianos means they are recreating many of their own instruments, including the classic CP-80.
The Sub sound group contains organs, clavinets, strings, synths, and more. Across the board, it sounds fantastic.
The CP88 has a real premium feel with the NW-GH keyboard. NW-GH stands for Natural Wood Graded Hammer, and it doesn’t get much more realistic than this.
Of course, even with wooden keys, the weight can vary from one manufacturer to the next. So, it’s not unusual for players to prefer Yamaha, Korg, or Nord over all others. But, I feel the CP88 gets pretty close to perfect here.
The keys also have synthetic ebony and ivory keytops that absorb moisture. The premium keytops feel more luxurious while providing additional grip. It feels great, and with triple-sensor technology, it’s very responsive.
The CP88 has a very specific set of features, all of which are designed to make live performance easier.
The Yamaha CP88 has three main voice groups, each with dedicated effects. There are several scenarios where dedicated effects per group will be extremely useful.
If you layer or split sounds, you won’t need to apply the same effects to each sound, giving you more control. The most helpful example might be when gigging if you have a song where you change from one voice to another.
For example, if you start with a piano and switch to a synth in the chorus. You might want a noticeable delay on the synth, but not the piano. Without dedicated effects, you might be scrambling around the controls to get your sound right in real-time.
Soundmondo is a social sharing platform where members can upload and download custom patches. It allows owners of various Yamaha keyboards to showcase their sound design skills and gain access to a limitless collection of voices.
The platform is easy to use and even ranks patches by keyboard type. It’s worth checking out.
Seamless Sound Switching
Yamaha isn’t the only manufacturer to adopt the Seamless Sound Switching feature. It’s one of the most important features you can have as a performer. It lets you switch from one sound to another without the first sound dropping out.
For example, if you hold a chord with a strings patch but need to switch to an electric piano, the strings will still play after switching until you release those notes.
It seems like a simple thing, but if you’ve ever tried to time a voice switch perfectly on stage, you’ll know how important this feature is.
2-channel USB audio/MIDI interface
A few of the high-end stage pianos have a built-in audio interface, and it’s very handy, especially on the road. Being able to connect to your laptop via USB and record audio and MIDI without any other gear saves a lot of hassle. It’s a quick and easy way of tracking ideas with minimal fuss.
Of course, you can also send audio to the interface via the audio inputs if recording guitar/bass, etc.
The CP88 has a built-in two-channel (one stereo channel) audio/MIDI interface with a sample rate of 44.1 kHz.
The CP88 features a new system that receives regular updates. These updates mean that your instrument will keep growing and improving with new features and sounds.
The layout is somewhat similar to the classic Nord style. At a glance, it may look like a lot is going on, but it’s actually a very tactile layout. With dedicated sound groups, it’s easier to focus on precisely what you need. The same can be said for the dedicated effects sections.
The reason there are quite a lot of controls is that you get a one-to-one user interface. Once you learn where everything is, the hands-on control becomes very intuitive. There is a small LCD display that helps you browse voices within each group quickly.
Another nice touch is the Live Set section, which makes it easy to recall patches and settings for live performance.
When I think of the CP88 at home, I think of it in a home studio setting rather than general piano practice. It’s pretty expensive, quite heavy, and has more features than a beginner would need. But, for a working musician or home studio producer, it’s a dream.
The connectivity it offers means you can easily combine it with external hardware in your setup. You could also work without an external audio interface if space is limited. Essentially, the CP88, a laptop, and a pair of monitors could be your setup.
For the right user, it’s perfect.
The CP88 is built for the stage, so it will always score well in this department. The main thing that makes it ideal for stage use is the tactile one-to-one user interface. It starts to feel more like a real hands-on vintage instrument than a digital keyboard piano.
In my opinion, the interface doesn’t just save time, it leads to more naturally expressive performances. Like a home setup, you can combine external hardware for a more interesting setup.
Beyond the keyboard’s layout, features like Seamless Sound Switching and Live Sets make it a joy to play on stage.
There’s a lot to be happy about here. As for audio outputs, you’ve got two 1/4″ outputs and two balanced XLR outputs. Then there are two 1/4″ audio inputs that allow you to record via the built-in audio interface.
You also get MIDI in/out, so there are lots of ways to interact with external gear. There are two USB ports, type A (to device) and type B (to host).
It only has one 1/4″ headphone jack, but that’s absolutely fine on this kind of keyboard. Lastly, you get two 1/4″ pedal inputs for sustain and damper (FC3A pedal included).
In short, it’s absolutely solid. It’s not the heaviest of the high-end stage pianos, but it’s heavy enough to let you know it’s made of strong stuff.
The metal top panel is not only robust, but it also looks awesome. I would say the same for the controls, too, they have a retro styling that looks great, and they feel very sturdy. The metal switches, in particular, give the CP88 an authentic vintage look.
It’s a pretty expensive keyboard, so everything should feel premium, and it does.
Compared to other stage pianos
The CP88 is one of the best keyboards I’ve ever tested. But if you’re considering it, you are spending some pretty serious money. So, before you decide, check out these alternatives.
Yamaha CP88 vs Roland RD-2000
The RD-2000 is one of my favorite stage pianos ever, and like the CP88, it has a very intuitive layout. It’s more modern, more versatile, while the CP88 takes the vintage route – sound quality is a coin flip; listen to both.
Yamaha CP88 vs Yamaha YC88
Very close to the CP88, but where the CP focuses on electric pianos, the YC is more focused on organs. It has drawbars for organ sounds; otherwise, the layout is pretty similar.
Yamaha CP88 vs Korg SV-2
If you aren’t sold on the CP88 but want to stick with something that has a vintage touch, the SV-2 is it. It’s designed to look and sound like a vintage stage piano – it’s cheaper, too.
Who is the Yamaha CP88 best suited for?
The Yamaha CP88 isn’t for beginners; it offers far more than they need. It’s for serious performers and producers.Buy Yamaha CP88 at: SweetwaterAmazon