Yamaha CP88 Digital Piano Review

Yamaha CP88 Digital Piano Review


  • The Yamaha CP88 combines workmanship suitable for the stage with a contemporary stage piano concept.
  • What you see is what you get! Thanks to the new organization of the sounds in three individual sound groups, handling is very easy.
  • The NW-GH keyboard provides an authentic and precise feel.


Yamaha CP88 - Stage Piano (Image source: Yamaha)

Yamaha CP88 overview

Available since: March 2019
Keyboard: Natural Wood Graded Hammer (NW-GH) 88 keys, graduate weighting
Polyphony: 128 voices
Manufacturer: Yamaha

The Yamaha CP88 stage piano marks a kind of product-philosophical turning point in the traditional CP family. With a surprisingly new design language and a contemporary range of sounds, the CP88 manages the daring balancing act between vintage elements, suitability for the stage, and the latest digital technology. And thus exactly meets the zeitgeist.

Compared to the no-frills design of the previous models, the control panel made of colorful vintage elements looks almost a little playful. Still, a cool mix that looks modern and iconic at the same time. Most eye-catching in terms of shape and color are the rocker-switch preset buttons in bright yellow, green, and red. The toggle switches underline this accent. Furthermore, there are LED rings on all relevant controls of the stage piano for optimal control – even in poorly lit surroundings.

Серия CP88/73 - Изображения - Сценические пианино - Синтезаторы и студийное  оборудование - Продукты - Yamaha - Россия

As an alternative to the CP88, Yamaha offers the smaller model CP73, which, however, is technically identical to the larger model. The only difference here is the “Balanced Hammer Standard” keyboard (BHS) with 73 keys and the resulting housing dimensions.

Yamaha CP88 Controller (Image source: Yamaha)
The processing of the completely made of the metal housing is great. The controllers for pitch bend and modulation (in the front of the picture) might look a bit small at first glance, but they work fine in practice.

Three sound engines

The sounds of the Yamaha CP88 are organized into three sound sections: piano, electric piano, and sub. While the content of the first two should appear conceptually clear, the latter section functions as a supplementary library set with sound categories such as pads, organs, strings, brass, or chromatic percussion. All three sections work independently of each other and can be combined to split and layer sounds.

As is typical for Yamaha, the sound quality of the preset selection is at the expected high level and also covers all practice-relevant topics with ease. Rudimentary sound processing can be done quickly with the attack, release, and tone controls. In addition, there are four high-quality effects for further sound refinement, which offer everything you need from rotary speakers to chorus to drive including depth and speed modulation.

Yamaha CP88 NWGH keyboard and sound sections (Image source: Yamaha)
Yamaha CP88 with “Natural Wood Graded Hammer” keyboard. In the center of the control panel are the three sound sections piano, electric piano, and sub. (Image source: Yamaha)

Little simulation scope, but good acoustic pianos

The Yamaha CP88 has a total of ten acoustic piano sounds. Apart from a switchable damper resonance, the piano sounds dispense with sound details such as sympathetic resonance. Here are some of the subtleties that are standard in many digital pianos today. When playing on a PA, however, dynamic details such as damper noise or fall-back noise can also be disturbing, and it is not uncommon for these to be better switched off in live use.

Yamaha CP88 Stage Piano STAGE RIG | KraftMusic.com

Ultimately, the decisive question for a stage piano is whether it will prove itself in live use. And here the CP88 shines with exactly the piano sounds for which Yamaha is rightly world-famous to this day. Especially in the band structure, the assertiveness of the CFX concert grand piano and the upright models U1 and SU7 prove to be exemplary for a stage instrument of this class.

While delay and reverb effects can be routed to one of the three sections (piano / e-piano / sub) via an extra section, the four effects compressor, distortion, drive, and chorus, including intensity control, are immediately available for quick modification of the basic sound the piano area ready.


Vintage electric pianos and effects

The designers put the most extensive effects library next to the obligatory e-piano section, in which, in addition to the classics Rhodes, Wurli and Clavinet, of course, your own e-piano legacy in the form of a DX tribute should not be neglected. 

Two different processor departments, in conjunction with electromechanical instruments, provide indispensable effects such as auto-pan, tremolo, ring modulator, touch-wah, phaser, flanger, and chorus. Together with a 12 o’clock portion of the drive, the phaser effect can skilfully crown a Rhodes sound.


Yamaha CP88 connectors (Image source: Yamaha)
An additional symmetrical output pair in XLR design enables the simultaneous connection of a mixer and a personal active monitor system. In addition: stereo input with its own gain control, USB device (storage media), USB to host, MIDI in / out, sockets for two footswitches, and two additional controller/expression pedals.

Reload more sounds?

This is also new about the Yamaha stage pianos. Reloading of individual sounds, as for example, the Nord keyboard allow, is not possible with the CP88, but Yamaha offers extensive library extensions via update. The currently available OS update in version 1.3 gives a good impression of what Yamaha understands by this new type of product maintenance. This includes, for example, a completely new sampling grand piano called the CFIII and the electric piano recreations Rd73 Studio and Rd74. 

Another addition from 1.1 to the 1.2 operating system already concerned the vibraphone. It has that typical tremolo and sounds extremely cool. However, you couldn’t turn off the effect. From version 1.2 the vibraphone is also available without a tremolo.

Stage piano control panel - Yamaha CP88 (Image source: Yamaha)
The control panel of the Yamaha CP88

Light and color in the dark

The operation of the Yamaha CP88 can hardly be optimized any more compared to the needs of a live keyboard. Every parameter up to the global EQ has its own knob, button, and area. Layers can be created by simply activating additional sections (piano / e-piano / sub) and directly coordinated with the individual volume controls in the mix. What you see is what you get!


The keyboard of the Yamaha CP88

The “Natural Wood Graded Hammer” keyboard (NW-GH) was adopted from the previous model, the CP4 Stage. With the term “Natural Wood” one spontaneously suspects a hammer action keyboard with wooden keys, but these are wooden composite keys. The white keys are “clad” with wooden elements. Nevertheless,  thanks to the synthetic ivory and ebony top layers, the graduated weighted keyboard is easy to grip and plays with precision. This keyboard does not have a pressure point simulation.

The keyboard not only gives a high-quality impression but also impresses with an excellent playing feel, which can be further refined using 5 different dynamic curves.


Conclusion: Robust stage professional with a vintage look

Yamaha CP88 stage piano with NW-GH keyboard

The Yamaha CP88 is a full-fledged and robust stage professional who is convincing in terms of sound and technology. In view of the positive update policy as well as the professional equipment and practical conception, Yamaha’s latest stage piano is a real no-brainer. Good sound, good feel, and a cool and fresh vintage look.


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