For many years Kawai has been the leader of acoustic pianos: grand and upright. Their attention to detail and quality craftsmanship have made the sound and feel of their pianos a favorite among professional musicians. Once the advent of digital pianos arrived, Kawai took their knowledge and expertise of the piano and used it to craft incredible digital instruments unlike any others on the market.
And so today, we’re going to examine some of the best Kawai has to offer. If you’re looking for a great Kawai digital piano with weighted keys, then look no further. In fact, we encourage you to enjoy the interactive table below full of Kawai digital pianos that we think are excellent options for anyone in the market for a new piano.
|Kawai ES110||88||$$||Bluetooth MIDI; Replaces Kawai ES100|
|Kawai ES-8||88||$$$||RHIII Graded-Hammer Action|
|Kawai CE220||88||$$$||AWA PROII w/Counterbalancing|
|Kawai KDP90||88||$$$||AHAIV-F Graded-Hammer Action|
|Kawai MP7||88||$$$||256 Harmonic Imaging XL Sounds|
|Kawai MP11||88||$$$||Grand Feel (GF) Wooden-Key Action w/Let-off|
|Kawai VPC 1||88||$$$||RM3 Grand II Keyboard Action|
Kawai’s 88 Key Sampling
Kawai’s grand piano sounds use “88 key sampling.” This means that each key on the digital piano has been recorded individually with Kawai’s EX Concert Piano acoustic grand. Some other digital piano manufacturers only sample some of the piano keys; then they essentially copy and paste the sample to other notes and only change the pitch.
This can give the notes an artificial sound, since the strings, felt, and hammers on each key are slightly different. All of the pianos discussed in this article utilize Kawai’s 88 key sampling method.
Below, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling digital pianos currently on sale at Amazon (and see how well they stack up to the pianos we will be discussing in-depth today).
Kawai’s Hammer Actions
Kawai digital pianos are also widely known for their impressively realistic key actions. They’ve come up with a pretty simple but effective way to replicate the feel of an acoustic’s wooden piano keys: use wooden keys.
Regardless of the advanced technology used to make plastic keys respond like wooden ones, plastic will never come this close to the real thing. Kawai keys are coated in a simulated ivory that adds a natural texture and better grip. Depending on the model of keyboard, a simulated ebony texture is available too.
The mechanics behind their weighted hammer action keys are impressive too. Kawai uses extra long keys that allow for a more natural pivot point in the center of the key rather than the back, (where most weighted keyboards pivot). The keyboards are graded, meaning that more force is needed to press a lower key than a high key. That is how the keys work on a grand piano, and it helps contribute to a realistic feel. Even in the portable Kawai keyboards where size and weight are some of the most important considerations, the plastic keys don’t use springs, and respond to Kawai’s triple sensor key detection. This feature is employed in all of Kawai’s keys, and gives players a more accurate and nuanced performance.
Although the very high price tag on many of their pianos might scare some prospective buyers away, Kawai offers some more reasonably priced digital pianos with only bare bones features. Some of these lower end instruments are still priced at around $1,500, which still may be pricey for many people. But it really is true: you get what you pay for. I think that even the cheapest, most basic model of Kawai digital piano could easily go up against many other manufacturer’s higher end models. The quality of the sounds and the realistic touch of the hammer action-keys are really hard to top.
The Kawai CL26 is a digital piano with fewer bells and whistles. The features that it does have, however, are still impressive. This keyboard only has 8 instruments sounds, but each patch sounds full, rich, and convincing.
The list of instruments is pretty standard on most digital pianos:
- Concert Grand
- Studio Grand
- Electric Piano
- Church Organ
Musicians with limited space might find the CL26 appealing, since it’s only about ten inches deep and very compact. Because of it’s space-saving size, the premium wooden keys aren’t used, and instead the plastic Advanced Hammer Action IV is used. To keep the cost and the size down, some compromises had to be made with the CL26’s features.
It can only handle a maximum polyphony of 96, and only has a single damper pedal, rather than the full set of three that come with many Kawai keyboards. Still, the CL26 would be a good purchase for either the beginner or occasional player.
Another keyboard on the lower priced spectrum is the Kawai ES8. It’s an 88 key digital piano listed at an MSRP of $1999, but has a lot more features than the CL26.
This keyboard has a few more instrument sounds, (34), and can handle a lot more with a maximum polyphony of 256. The ES8 utilizes the Harmonic Imaging XL Sound Technology to generate its sounds, and like the other Kawai digital pianos, it has the 88 note sampling as well.
This piano comes with 100 different rhythm tracks to accompany your playing. The ES8 was designed to be portable, but you can purchase some additional optional features like a stand and a three pedal lyre. These features really make the keyboard even more elegant and expensive.
The Kawai ES110 is another keyboard in the same Kawai “portable” line as the ES8. This piano is a little more streamlined when it comes to features, but it is extremely affordable with a listed price of only $1049.
Kawai never skimps on the quality of its piano sounds, so like the others, it uses Harmonic Imaging and 88 key piano sampling. With the ES110, you have 19 different sounds; 8 of which are distinct piano sounds. This digital piano is equipped with a 192 note polyphony, which is plenty for any average musician. It offers both dual layering and split keyboard modes.
Like the ES8, you can choose to purchase the ES110 in either the black or white finishes, and it is possible to add on the optional furniture style keyboard stand with a three pedal lyre. The pedal that comes with this keyboard is a single “piano style” pedal that feels solidly built and is responsive.
A somewhat new feature that isn’t found on many keyboards is its Bluetooth MIDI function. This allows you to wirelessly transmit as well as receive MIDI data. Not every player will find this useful, but for those who want ultimate portability without the hassle of wires, this could be a really helpful feature.
The ES110 has some nice features for beginner players and people who are learning how to play. This keyboard offers built in Alfred Piano Lessons to help you learn and play along.
It also has some features for professional gigging musicians, too. Its weight and slim size make it easily portable for a musician moving it from show to show (the ES110 only weighs 26 lbs). Many entry level keyboards from other manufacturers only come with built in speakers, which make it ineffective in a live situation where amplification is needed.
While the ES110 does have a pair of stereo speakers built into the keyboard, it also contains a left and right ¼” output, allowing players to connect directly to a sound system or direct box.
Sitting right in the middle of the road in terms of pricing, the CA-97 has a lot to offer for $5,999. This keyboard has both the textured ivory and textured ebony keys. It’s got even more instruments and sounds (80), and they are also powered with the Harmonic Imaging XL Sound Technology.
The CA-97 also uses something called Acoustic Rendering Modeling Technology. Kawai was able to recreate the shapes and many details of their actual grand pianos in order to calculate how sounds would resonate and propagate inside the piano.
All of these algorithms and complicated science bring the player one of the most realistic, rich, and detailed piano sounds. In fact, the CA-97 won a 2015 Music Inc. Product Award.
As we move up in price and quality, you’ll find that many of the standard features are found in all or most of Kawai’s pianos. This keyboard also has 80 sounds running off of the same sound engine as the last few digital pianos that were mentioned. The CS11 also has both the ivory and ebony texture simulated keys.
What sets the CS11 apart is its completely authentic upright piano cabinet. At first glance, you might not even realize that it’s a digital piano. If you have the space, the CS11 would make a gorgeous addition to someone’s living room or studio, with its beautiful ebony finish and a matching piano bench.
In most cases, even if a digital piano has great samples and beautiful sounds, it can easily feel inauthentic when the piano is played through its built in speakers. The CS11 has a speaker system built into its sound board. The effect is pretty impressive. It sounds like a piano, instead of just a piano played through speakers.
The Kawai Concert Performer (CP1) may be one of the most impressive digital pianos on the market today. It’s certainly not cheap, with an MSRP of $21,999. This piano comes with all of the best features that Kawai has to offer.
The color touch screen mounted on the front of the piano is easy and intuitive to operate. The front panel of the piano has all of the necessary knobs and buttons right where a pianist would need them. Visually, the digital piano is stunning. It brings a classic grand piano aesthetic and merges it with the modern technology of the front panel.
The CP1 comes with over 1000 sounds. It of course includes many of Kawai’s fantastic signature piano patches, but also has organs, strings, horns, percussion, synths, sound effects, and any other sound you could think of. It uses the Harmonic Imaging XL Sound Technology. In this case, the XL stands for extra long. These particular piano samples are much longer than competitors’. Using a slightly longer sample really improves the sound quality and makes it sound more natural.
One of the most impressive features of the piano is its 9 speaker, 3 channel system. The speakers are mounted in the piano’s soundboard, which allows you to hear the digital piano patches as if they were coming from a real grand piano. The reflection off the piano lid is something that really adds an element of realism to the sound. A subwoofer enclosure is even included in the CP1.
When it comes to choosing a Kawai digital piano, I think it’s nearly impossible to make a bad choice. All of their keyboard actions feel incredibly realistic and nuanced, and their sounds are fantastic as well. It really comes down to personal preference.
Are you a player that tends to only use the traditional piano patches, or are you a musician that likes to explore and experiment with sounds, rhythms and prerecorded songs?
I tend to think that the Kawai CA-97 is one of the most versatile and robust keyboards. It has enough extra features to keep any pianist entertained, and it retains the incredible quality that Kawai digital pianos are known for. However, if money is an issue (and when is money ever not an issue), then you might be very happy with either the Kawai ES110 or the Kawai ES8—it just depends on what your personal needs and wants are.
When it comes to choosing a Kawai digital piano, I think it’s nearly impossible to make a bad choice. All of their keyboard actions feel incredibly realistic and nuanced, and their sounds are fantastic as well.
It really comes down to personal preference.
Are you a player that tends to only use the traditional piano patches, or are you a musician that likes to explore and experiment with sounds, rhythms and prerecorded songs? I tend to think that the Kawai ES8 is one of the most versatile and robust keyboards available. It has enough extra features to keep any pianist entertained, and it retains the incredible quality that Kawai is known for.
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