When purchasing a piano, particularly one that is perhaps a little higher up the price ladder, one of the first things that many people will ask is the durability and longevity of the instrument.
Unlike their acoustic counterparts, digital pianos are not infinitely repairable and due to their the intricate components inside, it can often be far more difficult (and expensive) to find someone with the know-how of how to fix a digital piano motherboard or rail sensor than trying to perhaps an acoustic piano technician to do some basic repair works.
That being said however, there most certainly is a place for digital pianos, today we are going to be looking into the benefits and potential pitfalls of digital instruments to help you decide which might be right for your ability, budget and requirements.
Why Digital Over Acoustic?
Typically speaking, if you ask most accomplished pianists, 9/10 would say they prefer to play on a real acoustic piano over a digital as even though digital technology is constantly innovating and evolving with highly sophisticated touch and sampling, at the end of the day, they are always trying to replicate the movements of a real acoustic instrument.
That being said, there are times where acoustic instruments simply aren’t practical for some. For example, those who live in smaller spaces or perhaps those in the likes of flats or apartment buildings where there may be weight restrictions, noise restrictions or numerous staircases to navigate are prevalent.
The other key factor that makes digital instruments more appealing to some is price point, as the technology has evolved, digital instruments can now easily surpass that of older acoustic instruments that are in need of refurbishment.
For the most simple digital pianos with full 88 keys and weighted actions (you need this if you want to ‘learn piano’ - read our guide on why here) it is possible to find certain models for a around the £300 mark, whilst these instruments will not be suitable for advanced learners who require a more sophisticated action, for those new to the instrument, they can be a great starting point to get comfortable with the keys.
For those looking for something a little more sophisticated, or are looking to upgrade their existing instrument and want something that can keep up with your ability, we’d recommend reading this article.
One final point to make before continuing is that of buying secondhand digital pianos from the likes of Facebook Marketplace, Ebay or some other third party site. Generally speaking, due to the fragility of digital pianos and their shorter lifespan, we would advise steering clear of these instruments and instead opt for buying from a trusted dealer who can offer a warranty on the instrument. We have had a number of clients asking us for advise on secondhand digital pianos they have brought online, only to find they have broken within a few months and are unable to claim the warranty (as most warranties are nontransferable between owners).
How Long Do Digital Pianos Last?
As we will cover shortly, there are a number of digital piano components that can break and can be more difficult to fix. After a certain period of time, depending on the model, they will likely move to being out of production and those specific components such as the motherboard will no longer be produced, so the instrument is near impossible (or incredibly expensive) to repair.
On average, we estimate that most digital pianos have the following lifespans based on their quality of components such as wooden keys and actions over cheaper plastics, of course certain models may have longer lifespans if rarely played and well maintained, and others may have shorter lifespans if played for hours a day and not looked after properly.
Entry level digital pianos: 3-7 years
Mid range digital pianos: 5-10 years
Hybrid or High Quality Digital Pianos: 10-15 years
In comparison, a well maintained acoustic piano is far more likely to live around 50 years before components will either begin to perish or need replacing, however because these components are far more accessible and will almost never be put out of production, we describe acoustic pianos as being infinitely repairable.
Common Faults And Issues With Digital Pianos:
Of course, due to their complexity, there are no end of small parts on a digital piano that can break, become loose or simply stop working, however below we have outlined the most common issues we see.
This one perhaps makes the most immediate sense as it is the component that is moving the most and is being constantly pummelled by the fingers. Whilst built for this level of impact, a piano action can be pressed thousands of times even during one playing session over a few hours, let alone over weeks, months and years.
Because of this constant force and movement, this force builds up and eventually the component will fail. In some ways this is no different to having a sticking key on an acoustic piano, however because acoustic actions are far easier to access and this is a relatively basic job as they can be easily replaced or repaired, digital instruments typically cannot without taking the entire instrument apart.
Motherboard, Electronics and Sensors:
Much like laptops, TVs and phones, digital piano electronic components have a limited shelf life and will fail overtime regardless of how often they are used. This is dependent on the manufacturer and each model will have its own ‘fail rate’ meaning the likeliness of the product failing. Typically this is around 0.5-2% and in most cases but regardless of this, nothing can be done to prevent it other than replacing those components or using the manufacturer warranty to replace the instrument.
The same can be said for the likes of the sensors under the keys, on some higher end models these can be replaced individually but on some, the sensor rail is just a strip, meaning the entire rail would need replacing.
Likewise, the likes of jacks such as the headphone jack, MIDI jacks or other inputs into the instrument, some of these jacks may have a high level of use and the physical mounts can be broken relatively easily, meaning the component will either need resoldering or replacing, but again, due to the nature of the component, these parts are usually difficult to get to and often require full disassembly of the instrument.
As explained, once these items are out of production, the instrument can essentially be rendered useless unless you are able to get a motherboard specially made (very very very expensive), it is almost always more cost effective to purchase a new instrument.
So there you have it! A quick insight into the world of digital pianos and the things to know before investing in one, if you would like to learn more about digital pianos or how they compare to that of their acoustic counterparts (particularly silent acoustic pianos), contact our experts today or visit our showroom to learn more!