Yamaha Clavinova CVP 501 Review

By: Hiram LeCedre—November 15, 2009 6:00PM
"The CVP 500 lineup is Yamaha's most advanced Clavinova CVP to date."
Yamaha Clavinova CVP-501

Product Summary


  • All new beautiful 3-level CFIIIS piano samples
  • 128 notes of polyphony
  • 16-track sequencer
  • More than twice the data capacity of the CVP-401


  • Other than piano samples, same sounds as the CVP-401
  • Would have been nice to have upgraded on-board sound system
Yamaha Clavinova CVP-501 LCD display


The Clavinova CVP 500 series is here! As amazing as the CVP 400 series have been, it was time to take a great digital piano and make it even better! From the new 5-level (CVP 509 only) CFIIIS piano samples to the Super Articulation 2 voices (CVP 509 only) and .wav audio recorder (CVP 503-509), the CVP 500 lineup is Yamaha's most advanced Clavinova CVP to date.


One question I'm sure you're asking, "What are some of the new features the CVP 501 have over the CVP 401?" Good question. Here are the main comparisons between the two:

Features CVP 401 CVP 501
Polyphony: 96 128
Piano Sample Levels: 3 3 (new CFIIIS piano samples)
Keyboard: Graded Hammer Same
Onboard amps & speakers: Two 20W amps & 2 16cm speakers Same
Data capacity: 560KB 1.4MB
Preset Voices: 296 sounds + 480 XG sounds & 15 drum/sfx kits + GM2 & GS sounds Same

As you can see, the distinguishing features between the Clavinova CVP 501 over the CVP 401 is increased polyphony, a new 3-level CFIIIS piano sample and more than double the data capacity used for storing sequences, user programs and styles. Let's talk about these features in more detail.


If the CVP 501's 3-level piano samples are as good as the CVP 401's piano samples, we're sure most people would be quite happy with that—well, not Yamaha. The CVP 501 as well as the entire CVP 500 series feature an all new piano based on Yamaha's flagship CFIIIS (pronounced: C-F-triple-I-S) concert grand piano.

According to Yamaha, they selected their finest CFIIIS, had a piano technician tune, regulate and sample the piano at various velocities. However, since the Clavinova CVP 501 is the entry model in the lineup, its piano program is just the 3-velocity level version (the flagship CVP 509 comes with 5-velocity levels, key-off and sustain samples, and string resonance (iFAC) —we'll review the CVP 509 soon).

At the time of this writing, our local Yamaha dealer did not have a CVP 501 available for demo (was still in the box); however, we fully expect the CVP 501's piano to be a marked improvement over the CVP 401.

We were pleased to see this entry-level Clavinova CVP given 128 notes of polyphony—a 33% increase over the CVP 401! This ensures that the CVP 501 won't unexpectedly cut out while playing the most demanding piano runs.

As for the rest of the sounds, nothing was changed or added to the existing 296 sounds + 480 XG sounds & 15 drum/FX kits + GM2 & GS sounds that were on the CVP 401.

Other Features

The Clavinova CVP 501 comes with the Graded Hammer (GH) keyboard, 16-track sequencer capable of recording in real-time and step-time, a 16-track mixing console complete with vol/pan, filter, tuning, effects, and master volume parameters, an effects processor with more than 300 presets, and over 300 preset accompaniment styles, great for inspiring new song ideas.

The lesson/guide mode with guide lamps plus score and lyrics display so the user can learn both to read and play music at the same time. All these features can be conveniently accessed through the 320x240 pixel monochromatic LCD display.

Lastly, the Clavinova CVP 501's is powered by two built-in 20W amps with a pair of 16cm speakers. We would expect that the built-in sound system would be adequate for most users; however, serious pianist might want to hook up an external sound system thru the CVP 501's AUX OUT ports.


The biggest change to the CVP 501 over the CVP 401 is the new 3-level CFIIIS piano samples, increased polyphony, effects presets, and data capacity. Aside from that, we couldn't find any other significant changes to note.

The Clavinova CVP 501 is, all around, a very good digital piano. It comes packed with lots of sounds and styles, the GH keyboard, and 16-track sequencer. The lesson mode with guide lamps and score is also a great feature to have for music students.

With that said, however, those of you who are serious about music and piano realism might want to look at the Clavinova CVP 503 – CVP 509 models for their 4 and 5 level piano samples, extra sounds, and GH3 keyboard (we will review these pianos next).

As for availability, our local Yamaha dealer only had one CVP 501 and 503 digital piano on hand. They also mentioned that the CVP 507 and 509 were on back order and would hopefully be available in time for Christmas 2009.