I recently had an opportunity to get my hands on the new PSR-E273 keyboard, the latest entry-level offering from Yamaha.
Unveiled at NAMM 2020, the PSR-E273 is designed to be a first step to the world of keyboards and includes built-in lessons that will gently ease you into the instrument. This makes the whole thing a little less intimidating. Sometimes just seeing a keyboard covered in buttons and sliders is enough to put a potential new keyboard player off but the PSR-E273 is very easy to get to grips with.
It arrived to my door in a very sturdy box that featured a large diagonal photo of the keyboard on the front. If someone was unwrapping a gift like this, it would be like, “Ta-Da!”
Maybe it’s just me but when I give a gift, I want the box to create some anticipation and represent something really special within. That being said .. if you DO order one for a gift, you may want to pick it up at the post office or make sure the recipient isn’t around so the “Ta-Da” doesn’t happen prematurely. I’ve heard that when you choose the gift option on Amazon, they will put things in a plain box if you request it.
Inside the box…
The keyboard was held in place at each end with two Styrofoam blocks and there was plenty of space in the front and back of the keyboard. It was also wrapped in a clear poly bag. Inside, was a music rest and an instruction manual. The optional mains power adapter is not included, but the keyboard will also run on 6 AA batteries. It always amazes me that some of the modern home-use portable keyboards run on AA batteries. I come from the generation of heavy portable keyboards and big D-cell batteries.
I took the PSR-E273 out of the box and my first impression was of a lightweight, sleek, more rounded design than previous versions of the entry-level PSR’s. I always find that rounded corners are more durable. It is a sophisticated upgrade from the previous PSR-263. The black, matte-finish console has color-coded categories, as did it’s predecessor — but in a way that is a little more “grown-up” in appearance. The interface is intuitive and minimalistic and the color-coding is subtle, not bright and cheap-looking. It is immediately understandable. The Function button made zipping through options really easy for me. Another difference is a one-touch SFX button that gives you access to various sound effects that are indicated by little symbols that run along the top length of the keys. For younger ones, there is a quiz mode that uses the same sounds as game-play. However, the PSR-E273 is for any age.
The LCD display window includes notation, song/voice/style selection, the on/off status of the ultra-wide stereo function, auto-accompaniment, dual voice, and split keyboard duo mode. It also indicates the chord being used in the auto-accompaniment or via Song playback and shows the current measure of the song being played along with the function number. The keyboard diagram in the display window indicates the current notes being played. It also shows song track status and the beat of playback.
While the interface, itself, is really intuitive, the instruction manual is excellent too.
The manual is perfect for beginners, easy to understand, even with all of the things the Yamaha PSR-E237 can do. The quality paper in the instruction manual is white, (not newsprint) and the words are actually large enough to read. The diagrams are clear, detailed, and labeled. I have the attention span of a hamster so short-and-sweet is what I like. There is even a chord chart inside. (I use a free super-fast android chord-finder app, called P-Chord, which can be found in the Google Play store).
The PSR-E273 has 384 Voices, 17 drums, and SFX kits, (total 401 sounds). It also has 130 auto accompaniment Styles.
I want to talk about the sounds.
The first one is the classic Yamaha Grand Piano sound, something Yamaha is well known for. Not the cringe-y electronic pseudo-piano sounds that come with other budget-friendly models. This sounds like a piano. A separate Portable Grand Piano button will also take you back to the default settings so you can start over if you want to go in another creative direction. A worthy piano voice is one of the MOST important things you will need in your keyboard journey.
I am impressed with the sounds overall. I actually visited several music stores to listen to the onboard tones of other brands in the same price range as the PSR-E273. The Yamaha was far ahead of the others. I have two other keyboards of my own. I love them both and they were more expensive, but the PSR-E273 had better acoustic guitar sounds. I was really impressed because that is a sound I use a lot.
A few of the onboard voices get a little quieter on the low end of the keyboard, but not many. This could be down to the size of the built-in speakers. Larger speakers can be found in other Yamaha models at higher price points.
A couple of the sax sounds shine brighter than the others. The piano category, organ, strings, wind instruments, (the synth, especially)…were all good. There is nothing more frustrating than tones that barely resemble the instruments they represent. I was happy with most of them. There was no ability to layer sounds but some of the user tones are already layered. Designated “Dual”, they are really nice. The layers were well balanced in volume and provided a very usable sound palette. There are 16 of those.
Here is a NAMM 2020 promo video that features the PSR-E273.
Gabriel does a great job of giving a quick overview of the Yamaha PSR-E273 and some of its highlights.
A little about the styles…
There are a lot of back-up styles for different music genres and also style variations. So, when you are using the auto-accompaniment feature, you can add song dynamics by selecting an intro, a fill-in, and an ending. This keeps your arrangement from being monotonous. The styles are fun – quite usable – and will also help you develop right-hand improvisation.
Y.E.S. What is it?
Yamaha Education Suite.
It helps the beginner self-teach or it supplements lessons with an instructor.
A game-like method. Prompts players to repeat notes, simple melodies or chords, giving feedback on correct and incorrect answers and encouraging ear training.
Three built-in lesson modes: Listen & Learn, Timing and Waiting.
On-board Songs are used to help build your skills. The recording function allows you to listen to your performance and improve.
1: Listen and Learn
The melody/chords of the part you selected will sound. You listen carefully and remember.
You learn to play the notes with the correct timing. Even if you play the wrong notes, the correct notes shown in the display will sound.
3. Waiting: You play the correct notes shown on the display. The Song pauses until you play the right note, and playback tempo will change to match the speed at which you are playing. This is great because it takes time to navigate the notes on a keyboard at first and it’s nice to not have the song leave you in the dust while you’re trying to get a grasp of things.
You can record performances with the onboard song recorder and play them back to help you improve. There are two kinds of recorders, a Song Recorder and a Phrase Recorder that acts as a pedal looper.
You can play chords with the left hand and the auto-accompaniment feature will play Styles (rhythm + bass + harmony) that match.
Smart Chord allows you to play chords with only one finger, thus leaving the right hand free to improvise.
This allows two people to play together on the same keyboard by splitting the keyboard in half and allowing them both to play in the same octave.
With just 61 keys, you’ll need to cozy up and find a bench that will accommodate two ample back-sides, so you can play with a partner or be coached by a teacher.
It doesn’t have a USB port for midi, but it has a 1/8-inch stereo mini input so you can plug in your smart device and play it through the speakers. Great for playing along to your favorite songs. It also has a headphone port for silent practice, so you can hear your music and others don’t.
In my local music store, I also played the Yamaha PSR-E363 and the 76 key PSR-EW300 — the next step up — and the sounds were even better. Unlike those two, the PSR-E273 keyboard doesn’t have touch sensitivity. In other words, striking the keys harder to change the dynamics or add emotion to a song will not increase the volume. Whether or not a keyboard has touch sensitivity will also affect the sustain, expression, and flow. However, on the PSR-E273, there is a sustain pedal port in the back and also a panel sustain option that will sweeten the sound and make the notes flow nicely.
It’s a matter of investment. Comparing the PSR-E273 to the closest models — the Yamaha PSR-E363 and the PSR-EW-300; the latter has extra functions, but they cost a little more than the PSR-E273. So the question is, what can you comfortably afford? How much do you want to invest in something unexplored — for a new student or for yourself? Which will be the most playable and keep things interesting? Do you want something to grow into?
For some, an entry-level instrument is just the first step before later buying a keyboard with more options. and there are lots to choose from in the Yamaha lineup. It’s a personal choice, but that’s the fun of shopping, right? I love to read up on specs and user reviews … watch YouTube videos .. and then dream about my choice until it lands on my doorstep. I have almost as much fun looking for something as buying it.
Since the PSR-E273 has exactly the same sounds as the E263 (+ 1 extra), here are some sounds and style samples from the Yamaha website. On the same website page, at the bottom, you can also click on the other two models I mentioned, the PSR-E363 and PSR-EW300 if you want more information on those.
Here are the Specs:
Touch Response: No
Display Type: Custom LCD
AWM Stereo Sampling
Polyphony: 32 notes
Preset Voices: 401
Effects: Reverb, Chorus
Accompaniment Styles: 130
Style Control: ACMP ON/OFF, SYNC START, START/STOP, INTRO/ENDING/rit, MAIN/AUTOFILL
Custom User Styles
Music Database: 300
One-Touch Setting (OTS)
Preset Songs: 112
Compatible Data Format Playback: Original File Format
Lesson/Guide: Listen & Learn, Timing, Waiting, Chord Dictionary, A-B Repeat
Lesson/Guide: Yamaha Education Suite (Y.E.S.)
Metronome: Tempo Range 11 – 280
Transpose: -12 to 0, 0 to +12
Tuning: 427.0 – 440.0 – 453.0 Hz (approx.0.2Hz Increments)
Connectivity: DC IN 12V
USB Connectivity: No
Headphones: Standard stereo phone jack
AUX Pedal: sustain pedal (optional)
Amplifiers: 2.5W + 2.5W
Speakers: 12cm x 2
Optional Power Adapter: (PA-3C/PA-130), or batteries (Six “AA” size, LR6 or Ni-MH rechargeable batteries)
Power Consumption: 6W (with PA-130)
Included Accessories: Music Rest
Dimensions: 37″ W x 4 3/16 ” H x 13 12 1/2″ D
A quick note;
I found specification errors on some of the music retailers’ websites. The specs were wrong on some important points. Some claimed that the keyboard had touch sensitivity, midi capability (USB), and the ability to layer sounds. This is not accurate. Listing errors sometimes happen, unintentionally. There are so many models out there.
Overall, if you’re going to get an entry-level keyboard with really decent sounds, at the lowest price, the Yamaha PSR-E273 is, in my opinion, the best out there. There were others, with a few more capabilities, but I couldn’t get past their onboard sounds.
If you want to spend a little more and get one with touch sensitivity, more sounds/styles, and a USB port, I’d go with the Yamaha 61 key PSR-E363. If you want the same keyboard with 76 keys; then the PSR-EW300 model, which costs a little more.
How a keyboard sounds is at the top of the list for me, so here is a Youtube video of the Yamaha PSR-E263, the predecessor of the E-273 with the same onboard voices. It gives you an idea of what it can sound like with skilled hands. This video was made by Gear4Music, a retailer of musical instruments and music equipment.
Something to remember; nothing beats going to a music store and actually playing an instrument and comparing models before you buy.