Taras WOLF retro DESIGN REVIEW. 21st April 2021
A retro review looks at products that are at least over ten years old from a present-day WOLF design perspective. While the technology and fashion of the period influence design, and are taken into consideration, great design ideas will transcend their eras to be timeless.
Interesting and factual information may be provided, but our review aims to deliver insight from the perspective of a designer’s mind and eyes.
A plain but heavy Jane
As with most reviews the focus is on an objects design and its evolution within its industry. The functioning systems and sound quality are not necessarily considered.
Launched in 1983, the PF15 was an 88-note digital piano with weighted and velocity-sensitive keys. It utilised the same FM system used in Yamahas DX range but designed for those in favour of the conventional acoustic piano feel.
Price and Availability.
In 1983 the PF15 was selling in the UK for approx. 1000 pounds, a significant cost, even by today’s standards. Unless it’s a mint example they might struggle today to fetch more than 100 pounds.
The PF15 has essentially the same quality keyboard seen on the might DX1. Yamaha also launched at the same time, a more affordable PF10 that was shorter and with cheaper keys.
First impression/ Delight
This instrument is neat, simple, and every bit as solid and heavy as it seems. In fact, it’s so plain that it is actually quite hard to date. If not for the brown colour, this could have easily passed for being less than a decade old, a testimony to timeless design.
Exterior Design Review
The PF15 feels like a cousin to the legendary DX1. It has the same paint colour with similar thick steel panels. The front is just one plain brown surface with a few buttons on the left side and power button on the other end.
Compared to the DX1, the wood highlights are made of aluminium instead of real veneer. Although fake, it’s quite realistic considering it was manufactured in 1983. The built-in speakers are very neat and join perfectly flush and with its surrounding panels.
Apart from the cosmetic wood treatment, this instrument is completely devoid of any ornamentation or fancy details. It is almost a pure example of form following function.
The PF15 is a statement for Yamaha’s solid build quality. The steel is thick and the paint finish is of high quality. The plastic speakers might have been even better in metal but we respect the cost differences. While still expensive in the day, Yamaha did advertise their PF range as being an affordable alternative to a real grand piano.
The buttons feel good to press and the keys were first class in its day. Even by todays standards the keys feel nice to play.
As a digital piano, this instrument is all about the keys and the sound. The keys were as good as it could get for a compact piano, and still incredible today for an instrument that is nearing 40 years of age (at the time of this review). Unfortunately, it did not have MIDI, otherwise it would have remained in service by many as a master keyboard.
Desirability / Collectability and what to look for.
This is a quality instrument and has its place in history as Yamaha’s first compact digital piano with 88 proper weighted keys. Unfortunately, its desirability is limited by its heavy weight and dated sounds. There are plenty of more interesting instruments out there to collect, and the vintage synthesizers tend to over shadow the digital pianos.
WORD OF THE WOLF
If you happen to collect vintage digital pianos, the PF15 would have to be on your list as a significant instrument of quality from Yamaha. A mint example is inexpensive and many even have cases. A factory Yamaha case however, is extremely rare and reminiscent of the magnificent red case for the DX1.
The factory case is rare and uses the same materials and colours as those on the DX1. Yamaha only ever made two cases in red colour, and the PF15’s case was one of them.
The original brochure.
WOLF DESIGN EXCELLENCE SCORE = 6.1
The information in this review is intended for informational or educational purposes to provide readers an understanding of how something may be seen from a certain design perspective. In this case it is from the view point of WOLF DESIGNS. As design is subjective this review should only be considered as an independent opinion. Information further to being of an opinion is provided to the best of our knowledge based on our own research at the time of doing the review. We cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies or inconsistencies and reserve the right to change or update any content as appropriate.
The final responsibility of the design resides with the original manufacturer.