Since it was established, Kawai has always been one of the strongest names in the piano industry, thanks to the exceptional quality of its acoustic grand and upright pianos.
The same quality has been transmitted by the company to its digital products, which are among the best digital pianos available on the market.
In this guide, I will try to help you finding the ideal solution among the Japanese manufacturer’s huge catalog, selecting from a list of the five most popular Kawai digital pianos, starting from an entry-level product to one of the best stage pianos ever created.
And before moving on, please use the table below to compare see how a powerful Kawai digital piano stands against other popular digital pianos on the market:
|Roland RD-88||PHA-4 Standard action, ZEN-Core sound engine|
|Nord Stage 3||OLED Display|
|Casio PX5S||Tri-Sensor Scaled Hammer Action II Keyboard|
|Nord Piano 5||Polyphony: 120 Notes (piano section), 46 Notes (sample synth section)|
|Yamaha YC88||128 Notes (AWM2/Organ), 128 Notes (FM)|
Phaser, Flanger, Chorus, Vibe, Pan, Tremolo and more
|Casio PX-560||5.3” Color Display|
TOP FIVE FOR KAWAI
For this comparison, we’ve picked five distinct models that differ in price range, features and applications. But since we want to suggest the best Kawai digital piano for students and intermediates, we won’t exceed a budget of $2000.
Therefore, you will not find Kawai’s most expensive products in this article, nor the high quality wooden digital grand pianos that the company produces nowadays, as they’re clearly directed to a more professional and demanding audience.
That said, let’s discover the five instruments that we’ll be discussing today:
In order to pick the “best” of the five products, we will analyze four different aspects: the sound, the hammer-action keyboard, the main available features and the price.
And before we move on, please take a moment to view some of the best selling digital pianos currently online, and then compare how they stack up to the Kawai pianos we will discuss today:
|1) Casio PX-770|
|2) Yamaha YDP-145|
|3) Roland RP-102|
|4) Yamaha YDP-165|
|5) Casio PX-870|
Kawai uses a main sound engine for all of its products, so we’ll focus on the differences between the several editions of its Harmonic Imaging engine, which offers at least a 192-note maximum amount of polyphony.
In fact, the ES-7 features a 256-note maximum polyphony, which is one of the biggest advantages of this model.
Each product of the group features a specific version of the Harmonic Imaging engine with 88-key sampling, which means that each key of the piano has its own unique tonal characteristics. Every note has been sampled with several dynamic layers to offer the most natural and realistic piano emulation possible.
The standard Harmonic Imaging with 88-key sampling is powering both the ES-100 and the KDP-90, which are the two entry-level pianos in this group. While those products still sound extremely great, when compared to the Progressive Harmonic Imaging of the ES-7, and the CE-220, you’ll obviously notice the differences.
In fact, the Progressive Harmonic Imaging uses a larger tonal database than the standard version, and provides even greater tonal details. For example, the lower notes are deep but never boomy, the middle notes are warm and surrounding, and the higher notes are virtually crystal clear.
Though the ES-7 and the CE-200 basically sound the same, there’s another product that sounds even better: the MP-7. This is possible because of the new Harmonic Imaging XL engine, which extends the length of the sound attack by up to 120% and gives more expressiveness to the player, who will be able to play basically every sound shade from pianissimo to fortissimo.
Three different hammer-action keyboards are mounted on the selected models, with the classic RH2 Responsive Hammer keyboard shipping in both the ES-7 and the MP-7, the new AHA IV-F featured in the ES-100 and KDP-90, and the AWA PRO II for the CE-220.
The AHA IV-F is the new solution from Kawai to provide a great graded hammer action keyboard without increasing too much the weight of the piano itself. While it does offer a mechanical movement and feel similar to a real piano, its smaller size may be not suitable for advanced students and intermediate pianists.
The RH2 is one of the best hammer-action keyboard ever created by Kawai, and offered for many years possibly the most advanced mechanical emulation by adding key and hammer pivot points, a let-off mechanism and a triple sensor for increasing the number of repetitions of a single note.
While this is of course a good thing for professional pianists who are used to playing with such a heavy keyboard, beginners and early students may find it too hard to play complex pieces of classical music without a proper technique to master it as well.
The AWA PRO II is the new hi-end hammer-action keyboard from Kawai, which is featured in the CE-220 digital piano. This action includes extra-long wooden keys along with a counterbalancing weight under the bass keys, which increase the realism while playing across the 88 keys.
The result is a piano with slightly heavier keys on the lower zone, and lighter keys in the higher zone, with a responsiveness that can be customized by adjusting the sensitivity and the touch action.
The CE-220 has therefore the most incredible and versatile hammer-action keyboard that can be found in a digital piano when it comes to this particular price range (which we’ll get to later).
In order to better understand the differences between the five products, let’s divide them into two main categories: the ES-100, CE-220 and KDP-90 will be considered as home pianos, while the ES-7 and MP-7 are stage pianos.
That said, while the ES-100 and KDP-90 are basically the same (the first is a furniture-less version of the second model), the latter offers a few additions to the mix, such as a USB-port, and the Dual and Four-Hands Modes, which are missing in the ES-100.
Among the home pianos, the CE-220 definitively offers the best features, thanks to a bigger Effects section, a 2-track recorder and even the option to assign a different set of dynamics to each sound when using the Layer or Split modes.
The ES-7 and MP-7 offer quite a different set of options, designed with a live approach in mind. While the ES-7 is a basic stage piano with 32 beautiful sounds and a USB recorder also capable of WAV and MP3 playback, the MP-7 offers four different zones for complex layer/splits, MIDI/USB controller capabilities, 256 professional voices and a system that allows users to create their own sounds and recall them quickly during gigs.
The MP-7 even offers a Virtual Technician mode to virtually customize every aspect of the piano tone, and a complete Effect section with six reverbs and a total of 129 effects.
It’s time to evaluate the full potential of each product compared to the price. Let’s start again with the home pianos: keep in mind that while the ES-100 ships for $799, you’ll need to buy the optional $230 stand plus triple-pedal system in order to make it closer to the $1150 KDP-90.
So, though you can still transform the ES-100 into an upright-like digital piano, for that price gap you’ll find in the KDP-90 a more complete solution, especially if you are not planning to play on-the-go in gigs and don’t need a compact and lightweight portable piano.
The CE-220 ships for $1899, and thanks to all its top-of-the-line features, is probably one of the best upright digital pianos currently available on the market, not only from Kawai, but any manufacturer.
The competition between the stage pianos ES-7 and the MP-7 has only one true winner: despite its lower price of $1799 (against $1999 of the rival), the Kawai MP-7 offers a better sound engine, the same hammer-action keyboard and lots of more professional features which are helpful if you study at home or play at gigs.
Selecting the top digital piano from Kawai is obviously a subjective thing, but if you want to buy the best instrument, you’ll need to strongly consider the Kawai MP-7, which we feel is a great option for students and intermediates.
Of course, the final judgment may vary according to your needs: if you’re looking for an affordable solution, you’ll find the ES-100 to be a great product to begin learning the piano.
And finally, if you’re looking for a top-of-the-class upright piano for your home, the CE-220 will keep you very satisfied for years to come.
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