Reinventing my personal blog

29 Jul 2023

Making the Yamaha P-125 digital piano sound better

Early pandemic, I decided to reconnect with a part of my life that was very important to me: music. I played music, specifically piano, clarinet, trumpet, and other orchestral instruments, for most of my life. Then I stopped. Startup brain worms got to me. I did nothing but work for many years.

The best digital piano in my budget that available at the time was the Yamaha P-125. All I wanted was a piano that was white, had weighted keys, had 88 keys, and that I could use with headphones.

I had a lot of fun with it, but the one problem I had was that I don’t really like how it sounds.

There’s a particular range of keys (I think in E4 to G4) that sound, to my ears, a bit weird and digital. When I play them together they smoosh into each other and it is noticeable enough that I recoil, every single time.

Instead of getting a new piano, I decided to try to tweak it somehow.

Here’s what I did.

  1. Get a printer cable and connect the P-125 from the back (near the power cord) to your computer’s USB / USB adapter
  2. Install the USB-Midi Driver so that I can use the P-125 as a Midi keyboard on my Mac
  3. Install Pianoteq
  4. Get decent headphones, I have the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x (you can get them used, for a third of list price, on audiophile forums or subreddits)

The only thing slightly confusing about all this was how to activate the keyboard as a digital piano. Turns out, you need to press the metronome and rhythm key AS WELL AS the C5 key at the same time, in order to switch the audio output to the computer. You know that you’ve succeed at this when the piano says ‘Off’ in a slightly robotic voice. This means that the piano will now not output sound on the piano. You can now decide how to hear the music. On Pianoteq on my Mac, I either define the output as ‘my nice speakers’ if I want to hear the piano through my nice speakers; or ‘digital piano’ (then I plug in my headphones to the piano directly) if I want to listen through there. I use the headphones when I don’t want to disturb my neighbors, like when I’m playing late at night.

You’ll know this is working (both on speakers and headphones) when you change the instrument on Pianoteq to something like ‘vibraphone’ and you can hear that the output.. sounds like a vibraphone. Personally, I really like the Steinway jazz and Grotian instruments. For those who have piano tuning interests, the pro version lets you tune each note. For someone like me who just wants to play a digital piano and have it sound better, the stage version is sufficient.

Pianoteq is not cheap, but it is one of the best ones and it’s what I like most.

Next up, I’d like to learn Logic Pro and learn to arrange and record.