The Yamaha NP-12 is a 61-key beginner keyboard that takes a serious approach to learning. In this review, we are taking a look at what it has to offer and why it makes a great first keyboard.
If you like the sound of the NP-12 but want more keys, Yamaha’s NP-32 has 76-keys at a slightly higher price.
Our verdict on the Yamaha NP-12
We chose the Yamaha Piaggero NP-12 as our best keyboard for beginners in 2021, and we stand by that choice. If we think about the fundamental functions and features that a beginner needs, the Yamaha Piaggero NP-12 has it all.
It’s a more serious instrument than the average beginner keyboard, so it won’t suit every learner/kid. But, for rock-solid credentials at an awesome price, it’s going to be hard to beat.Check availability and current price: SweetwaterAmazon
Who does it suit?
Beginners who place quality of sound over quantity of features.
- Outstanding sound quality.
- Access to multiple iOS apps.
- Power supply not included.
There’s not always a great deal to say about the sound quality of keyboards in the few hundred dollar price range. In this case, we have lots to say about the NP-12.
We’re going to address anything that could perhaps be considered as a negative. The NP-12 has a max polyphony of 64 notes, and that’s not unusual for a keyboard at this level. It could potentially become an issue when you move onto intermediate playing and beyond. Still, it would be unfair to be too harsh here as the NP-12 will outlast most beginner keyboards anyway.
It has 10 voices in total, and you could easily find a keyboard at the same price with hundreds of voices. We would argue that you won’t likely find one with the quality of voices offered by the NP-12.
The sound comes from Yamaha’s AWM Stereo Sampling and delivers arguably the best grand piano sound in its class. The main acoustic piano sound is actually shared with some high-end Yamaha keyboard pianos, so it’s not some downgraded budget version. We haven’t heard a budget keyboard deliver a piano tone with such depth and realism.
It doesn’t stop at the grand piano, either; the electric pianos offer an authentic FM and Rhodes tone. Other standouts include a church organ and strings. It’s just better than the price suggests. We love it.
The Yamaha Piaggero NP-12 has a built-in speaker system with two 2.5 W amplifiers. It’s not the most powerful speaker system that we’ve ever come across, but it doesn’t have to be.
The built-in speakers play a significant part in the voices sounding so good. The sound is clear, crisps, and articulate, and nothing is muffled. There’s no nasty crackling when you play hard and loud.
Another thing we like about the speakers is the layout. They are positioned at either side of the keys rather than above, and they look great.
The Piaggero NP-12 has 61 velocity-sensitive piano-style keys. Because the NP-12 sounds so good, it’s almost disappointing that it doesn’t have weighted keys. It would add another level of expression and dynamics to your playing.
However, that’s wishful thinking at this price, to say the least. When compared to similar keyboards, it’s absolutely fine. In fact, the sound quality being so high will probably encourage users to get every ounce of expression out of the keybed.
Overall, it won’t blow you away, but it’s as good as any in its class.
This area is where opinion might start to divide. Some students will respond better to lots of features, and gimmicks, which is fine. However, the NP-12 doesn’t offer that; it provides minimal but excellent features.
Half-damper control is a feature that you don’t always see in beginner keyboards. It gives you more control over the sustain you apply and replicates the action of a real piano more accurately.
The FC3A sustain pedal isn’t included; it comes as an optional extra.
The Yamaha Piaggero NP-12 offers a battery life of up to five hours on six AA batteries.
Being battery-powered means you can take it anywhere with you, and five hours is more than enough, even if you decide to put on a performance for friends/family.
A 12 V DC adapter is an optional extra, and when being used at home, it will save time and money on batteries. We would have liked to see the power adaptor included with the keyboard.
Yamaha iOS apps
Yamaha has a whole range of iOS apps that add to the user experience.
The most prominent are Smart Pianist and Chord Tracker. Between those two apps, you have everything from piano lessons to song tutorials and instant chord charts.
Another popular Yamaha app is the Digital Piano Controler app that provides a visual control interface via your smart device.
The range extends to additional sounds and effects.
The built-in recorder captures up to 7000 notes (one track).
Having a recorder is vital for beginners but sometimes overlooked. It’s essential to listen to your progress properly to avoid picking up bad habits that can last a lifetime.
The most important aspect of the NP-12 in use is that it’s so portable.
It’s ideal for practice at home and moving from room to room without hassle. Of course, that means you can take it anywhere, be it a friend’s house or to the park on a sunny day.
The NP-12 is by no means a high-end keyboard, but the sound is good enough that we could imagine a more advanced player being happy to use it for a rehearsal to avoid carrying something heavier.
The layout is neat, simple, and doesn’t come with any learning curve at all.
In terms of progressing as a student, we think the NP-12 and access to Yamaha’s series of iOS apps provide a clear path to improvement. Ultimately, that’s what a beginner keyboard should do.
The build quality is what you’d expect from a beginner keyboard. It’s plastic, it’s lightweight, and you wouldn’t want it to take any severe blows.
However, it’s all about the price, and again, it’s perfectly in line with the competition.
We could argue that the design makes it better than the competition in some areas. For example, the type of buttons used on the NP-12 won’t get caught on anything in transit and risk falling off. They also feel very nice, as does the master volume knob.
The appearance is more like a keyboard piano than a beginner keyboard, which adds to the playing experience.
It’s available in black or white.
There’s not too much to mention here, but the essentials are covered. It comes with USB Type B connectivity and a 1/4″ pedal input.
It also has a 1/4″ TRS headphone jack that doubles as an audio output if you need to hook up to an external amplifier, etc.
Compared to other keyboards
Just because the NP-12 is our favorite beginner keyboard doesn’t mean it has to be yours. Here are some more fantastic options.
Yamaha NP-12 vs. Yamaha NP-32
This choice is a no-brainer; it’s the bigger brother of the NP-12. If you want the same great sound with 76-keys, go for the NP-32.
Yamaha NP-12 vs. Casio CT-S1
If any other keyboard comes close to matching the NP-12 on sound quality and features, it’s the CT-S1. We prefer the NP-12, but it’s a close race, so check it out for yourself.
Yamaha NP-12 vs. Roland Go:Keys
To be blunt, we love the Roland Go:Keys; we just think the NP-12 is better. But, for learners who respond better to extra features, or young aspiring producers, Roland might be the way to go.