Yamaha NP-12 | NP-32 review: No-Frills Keyboard with Focus on Piano

Yamaha NP-12 NP-32 Review

As you may have gathered from our previous reviews, we’re reviewing our “Top 5” lists, particularly the most recent ones focused on the budget end of the spectrum.

Reading: Yamaha piaggero np12 headphone jack

These keyboards are especially popular with beginners thanks to their much more affordable price tags.

The Yamaha PSR-E363 covered above was one of the best-selling budget keyboards at the less than $300 price point, and we ended up praising it for its wealth of features and good sounds.

this time, we’re covering the yamaha np-32 and np-12, two keyboards sold under yamaha’s piaggero brand.

Given that both cost about the same price, there is an obvious question to ask.

why wouldn’t you buy the psr-e363 instead?

The easy answer would be to pick the one you like best, but there’s a bit more nuance to it than that.

the np-32 topped our under $300 list for a reason. it all boils down to the laser focus on piano sounds, unlike the psr-e363’s emphasis on arranging features.

Today we’ll put the np-32 (and by extension the np-12) through our rigorous review process and tell you why it’s one of the best choices for newcomers to music.

yamaha np-12 versus np-32

Yamaha NP-12 NP-32 versions

Before we start, let’s cover the differences between the np-32 and the np-12.

the np-32 has 76 keys and dual 6w speakers, but the np-12 has 61 keys and dual 2.5w speakers.

we used the np-32 as our primary keyboard for testing throughout the review process and believe it to be the best choice.

We’ll talk more about the differences in the written review, so let’s dive right in.

Below you can check the availability and current price of the yamaha np-12/np-32in your region:

layout

The namesake of the np series, “piaggero”, is Italian for “light“, and that is the design focus of the np series. Yamaha markets them as lightweight keyboards, and as you’ll soon see in the comparison tables, they really live up to those expectations.

Yamaha NP-12 NP-32 front panel

To put things in perspective, these keyboards are lighter than their psr-line counterparts of the same number of keys. that’s no small feat, as the psr-e363 is already known as a portable arranger keyboard.

here is a quick comparison table to show you the differences between the two.

There are certainly more differences than just the number of keys. the np-32 has a weaker battery life, but we can attribute that to the higher powered speakers.

Now, let’s focus on the design in general. I like the look of the np series.

from a distance, the np-32 may look like a premium digital piano. the body itself, while compact, features a clean front panel that doesn’t have too many buttons or printed text.

There are also the piano-style keys, which look much better than they feel.

Yamaha NP-12 white

As for the finishes, both keyboards come in black and white. Personally, I am more interested in the black color, although Yamaha is quite insistent on marketing the white variant.

in my opinion the buttons and speakers stick out like a sore thumb when you opt for the white variation, which in turn makes the np-32 feel cheap.

The black variant, on the other hand, looks sleek and clean, making it the top choice in my books.

The np-32’s limited number of controls is a blessing in disguise. on the one hand, it helps reduce the width from top to bottom and also avoids unnecessary options that can be overwhelming for beginners.

in terms of looks, yamaha has done well with the np-32. it’s unfortunate that the controls feel flimsy.

Yamaha NP-12 NP-32 buttons

The buttons are of the “clicky” variety and, as you’ve probably guessed, not the same premium “clicky-ness” that you’d get with premium digital pianos like the Korg Grandstage. each keypress delivers a clear (and loud) response, but they feel like they’re susceptible to wear.

The same goes for the volume knob. it’s smooth plastic, but there’s hardly any resistance to actual turning, which means precise volume changes are difficult. these are not problems for most beginners, as the keys and sounds are of paramount importance.

Yamaha NP-12 NP-32 controls front

To close this section, I would like to thank Yamaha for including dedicated controls for most of the commonly used functions.

This seems trivial, but the company’s own ydp series tends to use button and key combinations that are less user friendly than the alternative.

In summary, the NP-32 and NP-12 look good, but fall short when it comes to the feel of the controls. however, the keys are the most important part of learning to play the piano, so let’s dive into that now.

keyboard

the np-32 and np-12 use virtually identical keyboards with minor differences.

yamaha marks these keys as a “piano-style keyboard“, but as with the layout, this description only applies to the look, not the feel.

visually, these keys look like keys from the yamaha line of digital pianos. you don’t get synthetic or textured ebony or ivory key covers, but that’s not a huge loss, and real pianos often use soft keys too.

I wish Yamaha used semi-weighted keys instead, but that might have increased the price beyond the affordable range.

despite being unweighted, yamaha includes speed sensitivity and is responsive, like the psr-e363. you can get acquainted with dynamic control, an absolute must for any pianist or keyboardist.

key touch sensitivity

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There are 3 different touch sensitivities (soft, medium, hard), as well as an option to turn it off. the default medium setting is natural enough, and I never felt the need to change things.

That said, I think slow keys hurt the np-32 / np-12 in this regard. I’m more used to the weighted keys on full digital pianos, but I still found the flat keys on the PSR-E363 usable.

the np-32 feels like an awkward medium, and I ended up needing to adapt my playing style to use the built-in sounds to their fullest.

Online demos show the np-32’s excellent velocity sensitivity, but personally I needed to pay more attention to pin down my dynamics.

This, again, might not be a problem for beginners. The so-called weight may not be as noticeable as I make it out to be, but I still dislike that.

regardless, there is an argument for developing finger strength and having these keys could be good for newcomers.

The keys themselves are also 1mm narrower than those on real pianos, possibly yet another step in reducing the overall width of the keyboard. ultimately this is negligible and I didn’t notice it too much during testing.

Yamaha Graded Soft Touch

Finally, let’s talk about the “graduated soft touch” that is included in the np-32. In theory, a graded keyboard means that the keys of the lower registers are heavier, but those of the upper registers are lighter.

however, on the np-32, the effect is so subtle that sometimes I’m convinced it’s not even there. I think there are some speed modifications on the software side, but testing usb midi functionality didn’t show that either.

If you’re thinking of getting the np-32 for the graduated feel, don’t. For a more realistic graded feel, I’d recommend getting Yamaha’s p121, which uses the ghs key action and is fully weighted.

The most important thing is that beginners can learn these keys. Even an experienced keyboard player can find value with the NP-32 as a MIDI controller. eccentricities may take a bit of getting used to, but ultimately they are just minor concerns.

solid velocity response is something yamaha does well, and these keys are solid in that regard. Since we consider dynamic control to be an essential part of any learning regiment, the np-32 (and by extension the np-12) is a solid choice.

sound

sounds are where the np-32/np-12 excel in their price range.

You may have made fun of the 10 sounds included (especially compared to the 500+ sounds on the psr-e363), but this is a matter of quality versus quantity.

the default piano sound is probably your mainstay. At first glance, the piano sounds almost identical to the PSR-E363, but playing it shows that there are many more variations available.

The magic here happens due to the increased number of multiple samples.

Yamaha Concert Grand Piano sound

while the psr-e363 reacts to dynamic changes (eg from fortissimo to pianissimo), you can clearly hear that the same audio file is playing for most ranges, being the volume the only thing changing.

The same principles apply to the np-32, but you can also listen to a few different samples that are included. this is particularly obvious when playing intense parts at high speed. this enhances the sense of realism, and I’m always glad to hear that.

Sure, you don’t get as detailed sounds as full digital pianos, but it’s still a step up from the budget keyboards you usually get at this price.

The sound of the piano itself appears to be your typical yamaha c-series concert grand piano, and it samples decently well despite the limitations. I think it’s hard to argue that this is the best sounding piano you can get for under $300.

The rest of the sounds may seem a little less detailed, but it’s always nice to have a little more variety to spice up your practice sessions. highlights include the dx7-style e.piano 1 and the tooth-based e.piano 2.

If I had to complain about something, it would be the lack of specific sounds, such as electric organs and electric bass.

The former means you can’t practice organ techniques like glides and licks, which is where unweighted keyboards shine.

built-in instrument sounds

the lack of bass (and a split mode) means you can’t practice playing different sounds in the left and right hand. this isn’t as important to pianists, but many keyboard players find split playing an important part of stage performances.

The base sound of the piano is important here. exceeds my expectations. Ultimately, that’s most of why I find the NP-32 to be a great beginner’s keyboard.

effects

the np-32 is basic when it comes to effects, with a single reverb.

this is a bit disappointing, but a reverb is all you need to practice and play the piano.

reverb effects

The term ‘reverb‘ is short for ‘reverb’ and, if you know the physics, they are emulations of how a sound reacts in a closed space, like a room or hall.

In most musical instruments, a reverb effect is included to add a sense of space to your playing.

sounds are often sampled close to their source, giving them a dry feel. adding reverb allows the keyboard player to place them in spaces that suit the songs they are playing.

the np-32 (np-12) comes with 4 different algorithms, including small room, small room, large concert hall and recital stage. these can be tweaked in depth to change the intensity of the effect.

as with most yamaha instruments, each voice comes with a default reverb setting, which I find well tuned. Unless you’re looking for a specific hue, you should be fine with the defaults.

the lack of other effects like chorus hurts a bit, but it’s a minor loss in the grand scheme of things.

polyphony

Yamaha NP-12 NP-32 Polyphony

the yamaha np-32 has 64 notes of maximum polyphony, and that’s a good amount, allowing you to play most classical and modern pieces with no problem.

polyphony is a measure of how many notes you can play simultaneously without cutting off previous notes. as such, if you play 65 notes at the same time, the first note you played will stop abruptly.

Remember, it only has 73 keys at most (61 on the np-12), so you won’t have much trouble.

speakers

the speakers of the np-32 are another highlight, since they have a high power compared to the competition.

Most other keyboards under $300 come with 2 or 2.5w speakers, which are fine for home practice, but not much else. these speakers are fine, but tend to get muddy at higher volumes and specific frequencies.

with the np-32, I was surprised at how clean the dual 6w speakers sound. the speakers are front-facing and point toward you as you play. this should discourage you from turning the volume up too high, to avoid the risk of hearing damage.

These speakers are a step above the competition and are also capable of projecting their sound in a small performance room.

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Yamaha NP-12 NP-32 speakers

Although I don’t really like the placement of the speakers, I can’t deny that they sound great. I prefer front speakers placed at the top end of the front panel, rather than on the sides of the keys. Regardless, sound is where the NP-32 excels.

features

As with most simple digital pianos, the NP-32 is pretty minimal when it comes to extra features. however, the included features are still quite useful for any aspiring musician.

modes

dual mode is the only additional playback mode you get, and is sometimes called “layer mode” on other brands of keyboards.

dual mode allows you to play two sounds simultaneously with each key press and allows you to get richer sounds with minimal effort.

Dual Mode Layering

A common use of this mode is to layer a piano sound with orchestral strings to get a ballad style piano tone with additional harmonics. add some reverb depth and you’ve got a rich backing for singing.

Sadly split mode isn’t included, though without a dedicated bass voice I guess that’s understandable. however, it would have been nice to get this as an extra.

song recorder

A single-track song recorder is included in the np-32, and can be conveniently accessed with the dedicated record button on the front panel.

Unfortunately, you can only save 1 single recording at a time, and there is also no way to export the song as a midi file.

this is a missed opportunity, but most people today directly record their songs using the usb to host connection, which we’ll cover in a bit.

functions

There are some modifiable parameters on the np-32, and you can change them using combinations of keys and buttons. some notable settings include:

  • transposition. can transpose the keyboard up 5 semitones or down 6 semitones to accommodate unknown key signatures.
  • octave. can transpose 1 octave up or down to suit different voices to different sound registers, this can also be applied individually to each layered sound.
  • metronome. a standard metronome is included for easy practice and can be used while recording.
  • master tuning. Middle A center tuning can be changed from 414.8hz – 466.8hz in 0.2hz increments. default is 440hz.

reverb depth and type are also included here.

connectivity

Yamaha NP-12 NP-32 back

The NP-32 is also pretty basic when it comes to connectivity options, but all the essentials are here.

A headphone jack allows you to practice without disturbing the people around you. Since the NP-32 doesn’t include stereo TRS outputs, these are the outputs you’ll use to connect the NP-32 to external speakers.

There is a sustain pedal jack on the back panel, and the np-32 supports half pedaling! Although the default package does not come with a companion sustain pedal, your dealer may have other options. if you include the fc3a pedal, you’re good to go.

Yamaha NP-12 NP-32 ports jacks

finally, it has a usb to host connector provided, using usb type b cables. this option allows you to send midi data over a usb connection and allows you to record midi data on computers.

Sadly, the NP-32 lacks the USB audio interface features that other Yamaha keyboards have. this is quite disappointing, especially considering the high quality samples in the np line of keyboards.

Yamaha NP-12 NP-32 USB MIDI

something noticeably missing is the absence of an auxiliary mini trs connector. most keyboards include this option, allowing you to connect your phones or music players to the keyboard to play through the speakers. this is a minor complaint, but i miss it.

again, it’s 2020 so I’m expecting some kind of connectivity via bluetooth, but I can’t really complain too much with these slightly older models, so it’s not a big deal.

accessories

you might have guessed that the np-32 has few accessories. you get an AC adapter, the manual, and a nice music stand (surprisingly high quality).

Yamaha NP-12 NP-32 Owner

sustain pedal

It’s kind of amazing to me that Yamaha didn’t include a sustain pedal with every purchase, although you can always buy one separately.

Ideally, I’d go with Yamaha’s own FC3A to take advantage of the half pedaling functionality, but that’s a bit pricey.

whenever we talk about sustain pedals, remember that yamaha goes against polarity rules. That’s why I advise against buying the fc3a, as it may not work with other keyboards or digital pianos from other manufacturers.

If you can live without half-pedaling (which isn’t important for beginners), you can opt for the Nektar NP-2, an inexpensive but well-built sustain pedal with a universal switch that works with any keyboard.

Some Chinese brands are creating universal half pedal sustain sustain pedals, but we haven’t tested them yet and their prices imply they are of dubious quality. make these purchases at your own risk.

standing

RockJam-Heavy-Duty X Stand

yamaha recommends the l3-c bracket, but it is expensive. Since we’re looking for an affordable keyboard, I recommend getting an affordable universal x or y mount, like the rockjam xfinity double-x mount recommended above.

headphones

Headphones are very useful when you want to practice in private, concentrating solely on playing and not disturbing those around you.

Also, a good pair of headphones will provide clearer and more detailed sound compared to built-in speakers.

Check out this guide to learn how to choose the best sounding headset for your keyboard.

summary

Yamaha NP-12 NP-32 Review

For starters, I find the np-32 a great value buy, but I’ll also admit there are a few omissions that make it feel a bit less complete than its other competitors.

Anyway, it’s a beginner’s keyboard, and most importantly, it has a good piano sound and velocity response.

This allows beginners to develop the necessary dynamic control and muscle memory skills essential to mastering the piano.

The sounds of the NP-32 are arguably the best option in its class, giving it an edge over the competition. in terms of piano sounds, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything better for less than $300.

While I wouldn’t consider the np-32 perfect, it will serve most players beyond the beginner level.

As with most budget picks, you’ll need to investigate an upgrade in the future, but the np-32 is a solid choice for picking up the basics.

While the NP-12 is similar in most respects, the NP-32’s speakers are worth the extra cost. having clean speakers makes the practice process more enjoyable. reducing ear fatigue and allowing you to hear all frequencies is always a plus.

In conclusion, the NP-32 and NP-12 are solid entry-level keyboards that impress despite their limited feature set. I’ll stand by what I said above, and the np series keyboards are easily one of the best budget keyboards you can buy as a beginner.

Below you can check the availability and current price of the yamaha np-12/np-32 in your region:

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