I'm a novice and I can barely play the piano but the Roland EP-85 is one of the most realistic sounding pianos I have ever heard. It comes with two head phone jacks and integrated speakers. If you get a chance to test this piano in person, plug some decent headphones in like the Audio-Technica ATH-M40fs (or better) and give a listen to the demos from the world class pianist Roland hired to do the recordings.
This piano lasted my family 20+ years before I sent it to my oldest daughter. Now, I'm thinking about replacing it with a Roland Juno 88 DS. Seems the Roland Juno 88 DS is actually better than the EP-85 with hammer weighted keys and an arsenal of on board sounds, but if you can find a used EP-85 for under $300 that is still working (with stand) you might want to give it a look. The tone of EP-85 and Juno DS models just seem much more inspiring than even some more pricier competitors...
BTW: Through the MIDI interface, you can actually gain access to more than the 8 user facing "control panel" sounds; however, the other sounds aren't particularly special by today's standards. The EP-85 piano and vibraphone sounds are still amazing in my opinion. though.
WARNING: No warranty whatsoever comes with this post. I can be a reckless kind of guy at times and sometimes go "off the cuff". You need to evaluate the EP-85 and Juno models yourself. I've been listening to even some more expensive pianos though and few models inspire me like the EP-85 and Judo DS models.
Very nice keyboard, much similar to a real piano than other digital pianos. It's light enough but you can still feel the action mechanism under your fingers. Being a pianist, I find its keyboard very intuitive, the keys are well proportioned and do not slip.
Having rescued it from the junkyard, I never had the manual!
I have never been tempted to configure MIDI, it starts directly on channel 1, so I adapt my MIDI setup consequently. It's a very good master keyboard.
The sounds aren't very useful, given their age. I recommend it exclusively as a master keyboard!
I've used it for a year, more or less. I love its keyboard, its robustness (I've taken it on tour several times and it has endured all sorts of abuse — liquid, dirt, drops, welding, etc.), and it can be easily repaired when there's a problem.
The snag is its size (88 keys, it's as wide as a piano!) and weight (it's heavy as a whale), which make it very impractical to transport in a car.
I saved it from the junkyard, so it cost me nothing (apart from the tin to repair a couple of things), so its value for money is pretty interesting!
7 octaves, internal sounds dating from 1997, so it makes little sense to talk about them in 2012
MIDI in out thru, inputs for optional sustain and mute pedals
The keyboard of the piano is very interesting, because it's light: There's no need to hammer it to play, like it's artificially the case on so many weighted pianos that are much more expensive!
If you take any baby or parlor grand, the keyboards of these "worthless concert craps" are more similar to that of the "small EP85" than that of a Clavinova!
Put this piano together with a Pianoteq and a good patch and you'll have the first arabesque that takes off!
I won't give it the perfect mark for the benefit of the doubt: There are surely better things out there, but since I stopped looking any further, I don't know them.
I give it an average mark for one reason: Back then (1997), it did a nice job. I remember cranking the reverb all the way up to make the sound more lively.
Coming back to the present: If you pull the volume fader down to zero, you can still hear something, which I solved by plugging a pair of headphones into the audio output and the sound is now excellent, because it's only the sound of the Pianoteq.
Oh, the ruthless passage of time.
Yes, I have tested clavinova and other Rolands, and other Yamahas, but their "weighted" keyboard are very artificial and far from any musical instrument.
88-key half-weighted keyboard
8 sounds (with the possibility to combine two at a time and adjust their respective volumes)
Polyphony: 28 voices
2 effects: Chorus and Reverb
Possibility to record (1000 notes)
11 arrangement programs
Tuning + transpose
Midi in/ Midi out
2 Inputs/2 Outputs on mono jacks (which means 1 stereo input and 1 stereo output)
2 pedal inputs (Damper and Soft)
2 headphone outputs (stereo)
Dimensions: 43.5 ft x 12.5 ft x 3.7 ft
Weight: 33 lbs
The features are all right for a digital piano.
It doesn't have many sounds and the arrangements are amusing a couple of minutes, but since you can't edit anything, they are useless.
The input is practical to play with an accompaniment, for example.
The piano doesn't really have a realistic keyboard, but it's nevertheless pleasant. I don't know how to explain it: It is well-conceived, very intuitive...even my "pianist" friends had to admit after a couple of minutes that it isn't bad. But it remains a "plastic" keyboard, which ends up cruelly lacking really weighted keys.
I think it's all right for people who play for their own pleasure, because you don't need too much strength in the fingers.
Very easy to use.
It doesn't have too many functions, but it was certainly conceived in a very intuitive way.
The documentation is very comprehensive. There are even musical explanations for people who aren't musicians.
I have used MIDI a bit and haven't had a problem. The implementation seems comprehensive enough, if you believe the booklet included (it comes with the piano).
I'm not always kind on the buttons and they are still in their place. The plastic shell is solid.
The pianos aren't bad, in my opinion. It's true that they are a bit old, but they remain all right, considering its secondhand price.
The combinations and extent of the piano allow very interesting things: I used the combinations and fiddled with the lows (really low) to play a very metal song and, and the harpsichord became very aggressive!!! I love it!
Unfortunately, it is a bit limited for a more varied use.
The effects are well-conceived. Just like the velocity of the piano.
I bought in late 1997.
The piano is really well-made. I simply had to dust the contacts. When you open it you can see that it really has good electronics inside (unlike my cheap '80s casio)
It is really solid. I had to move it several times and it is still in one piece and in excellent condition. The plastic shell doesn't scratch easily, but impacts will leave their marks on it.
I repeat: Mine has traveled in unfavorable conditions and it has a misleading look, in my opinion.
I don't know if I would buy it again: It is my first real piano. My brother and I bought it together and, in the end, we were very ill advised...but I don't regret having bought it.
At the end of the day, it is a nice and affordable piano.