Smaller and less expensive than "real" pianos, and Yamaha hybrids never need tuning.
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
In 2009 I wrote about a new kind of piano, Yamaha's $20,000 AvantGrand. It's a hybrid (digital/acoustic) piano. Yamaha now offers a full line of hybrids, with prices starting at $5,499 for the recently released upright NU1 piano.
Hybrids feature the same mechanical piano "action" and natural wood keys used in Yamaha's acoustic pianos, but the sound is generated from digital samples. The NU1 is no toy, it weighs 240 pounds and has a full standard piano keyboard. The NU1's sound is derived from samples taken from Yamaha's CFX concert grand acoustic piano.
Yamaha's hybrid pianos don't sound exactly like real pianos. How could they, since the sound is generated by speakers inside the instrument? The NU1 has built-in stereo 40-watt amplifiers, 6.3-inch woofers, and 0.75-inch tweeters. The pianist can feel some of the sound through the keys, just as he or she would through an acoustic piano. The piano also has a volume control; you can turn the sound down or listen over headphones, and record the sound from its stereo output connectors. The NU1 also has harpsichord and electric piano sounds.
I listened to the AvantGrand and an acoustic Yamaha grand piano side by side, and the real piano definitely had a bigger sound with superior harmonic complexity. That piano sells for five times the Avant Grand's price, and it takes up a lot more space. I listened to the N2 hybrid, which sounded smaller than the Avant Grand, but the sound was quite good; again, not exactly the same as a real upright piano. After I listened for a few minutes I forgot the N2 was a hybrid and just enjoyed the music. If you don't have room for an acoustic piano and don't want to pay to have your piano tuned from time to time, a Yamaha hybrid piano would be a wise investment.