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#1256409 - 08/26/09 10:50 AM Re: First DP for advanced pianist? [Re: emenelton]
dRummie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/23/09
Posts: 39
Hi emenelton. My budget is ~1k, but can stretch up a few hundred if necessary. The FP-7 goes for around $2k new, and since I'm considering used instruments as well, I think that my budget can stretch to accommodate one if I decide that this is the one I really want. However, I should say that I'm trying pianos outside my budget, too, just to get a sense of the technology out there. I have never played digital extensively before, so I want to get an indication of what is available at different price levels. I'd like to establish how much I need to pay to get what I want, as well as what I can get for how much I can pay right now.

I tried the P140 at the Yamaha dealer, and didn't like the action on that one. Not to mention the Yamaha sound (this not just on the 140, but the Yamaha grands). As far as I remember, the 155 has the same action, and I expect it will have the same Yamaha sound. I will be playing exclusively solo piano, and almost completely classical, so I'm looking for the combination of action+sound that is most pleasant to my hands and ears.

Of course, I'll be giving all these another visit (or several) before I start excluding any. And still looking for a Kawai dealer.

Thanks for the advice!

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#1256438 - 08/26/09 11:37 AM Re: First DP for advanced pianist? [Re: dRummie]
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7164
Loc: torrance, CA
Quote:
from dRummie
Now, looking at the specs, I see it has a "progressive hammer action". If the PHA II of the PF-7 is the newer version, I will definitely want to give that one a try. It seems strange, though, that the PF-4 didn't have a similar effect, even though the quality of the sound (through headphones) could not have been better on the KR5.
I am still concerned about the rather uncomfortable feel of the keys hitting the bottom, but hopefully I'll get a chance to figure out if I can live with it when that first dealer gets the FP-7 back in stock. I've read that the FP-7 has decent sound, so it could turn out to be the all-in-one unit for me.


On the action question, PHA II and PHA alpha II are different actions. I would not want to claim one is better than the other. You can fly a little faster and lighter on an alpha than you can on the non-alpha. Resistance is greater on a non-alpha. You might say you can dig in more. Which is 'better' is subject to your taste of course. However, in looking at both the FP series and the RD series you will find that the more expensive models: FP7 and RD700GX include the non-alpha and the less expensive models: FP4 and RD300GX include the alpha.

On the comfort level of the Roland PHA II action (which has been beaten to death here on PW), I think your statement is very apt.

"But the more I played on it, the more it came to life, and while the keys did not feel any kinder after a few minutes, I did feel compelled to put some effort into getting used to them, that's how musical and responsive the instrument felt!"

The willingness to adapt to an action that feels foreign depends on what you can get out of it. IMO, what you can get out of the PHA II on an FP7 is considerable if you can vary your touch to suit your expression.

The ability to adapt to the PHA II on the FP7 depends on your technical skills. If you have the necessary finger control to avoid plunging your fingers into the so-called 'hard bottom', you will not have a hard-bottoming sensation.

Some have also noted that the key dip on the FP7 is shallower than many other digitals. This is correct. Again, if you have the finger control to accommodate and adapt and you are rewarded musically by your efforts, it should not be a problem. It took me three visits to a showroom ( a couple of hours of play in total) to decide that the FP7 action worked well for me. IF you have 13 years of classical study, it may take you less time to make up your mind.

BTW, if you are going to continue to audition digitals critically, you will want to have a reference pair of headphones that you carry with you. Either buy or borrow good phones. Do not depend on any that dealers might lend you during your visits.

Quote:
from emenelton
If you are considering an FP-7 then you have a budget to get most of the portable(if not all) digital pianos out there. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

When I tested pianos in Milwaukee the dealer had on display:
P155
EP3Kawai
FP-7
V-Piano
The tone of the V-Piano and the FP-7 were surprisingly similar. I didn't like the FP-7 for two reasons.
1. I didn't want Roland's broad tone.
2. I didn't like the action, if felt shallow and not nice.
I felt the P155 had the best action overall but had only the one sound, which was the bright yamaha sound.

What's good about the Yamaha's sound is this. If your playing piano in any sort of combo, the Yamaha will serve you very well.
The EP3, at first sounded similar brightness wise to the Yamaha, but after a while it started to grow on me. It's a little bit like Pianoteq in that if seems like a real instrument.


First of all, a digital piano is a "real instrument". If you are saying that the Yamaha sounds like a Yamaha acoustic, there's a good reason for that. How similar a digital sounds to an acoustic depends on what acoustic your own frame of reference is. There are many many significant variations in the sound of different acoustics.

Secondly, it would be truly surprising if the V sounded like an FP7 since the approach is totally different. The default position of one may remind you of the other (more than of any Yamaha or Kawai), but the similarity would end with the default.

Thirdly, unless I've misread here, the OP is not interested in playing in a combo and cutting through the other instruments. Granted, a Yamaha excels in that situation, but I think the OP's interest is in getting one instrument that will allow him/her to play solo piano classical repertoire. The "broad tone" of the Roland that you don't like may be better suited to his/her purposes. It's all subjective.

_________________________
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

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#1256459 - 08/26/09 12:16 PM Re: First DP for advanced pianist? [Re: turandot]
emenelton Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 08/02/09
Posts: 465
turandot

I compared the Kawai modeling to pianoteq. Pianoteq gets praise in the form of, "it's like playing a real instrument". That's because of it being a modeled piano with modeled behaviour, similar to Kawai.
Yamaha's sound seemed like the keys simply switched sounds on and off, and sounds a little static compared to the Kawai, however in trying to keep with the mostly positive tone of the forum I was putting the Yamaha in a good light by extolling it's virtues for combo work - ie: great purity of tone
I didn't say I didn't like Rolands sound, I said I didn't want it.
After playing the V-Piano with headphones, I immediately went to the FP-7 and was surprised at how the sound was the same.
Your views on the action of Roland seemed very good, I was just reporting on my demoing all these keyboards in one setting and my impressions of them. Have you had a chance to sit down at a V-Piano and compare it to the FP-7?

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#1256492 - 08/26/09 12:57 PM Re: First DP for advanced pianist? [Re: turandot]
dRummie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/23/09
Posts: 39
Originally Posted By: turandot
On the action question, PHA II and PHA alpha II are different actions.

Actually, I'm asking about the difference between the PHA and the PHA II. Unless I've misunderstood something and the PHA isn't actually a different action from both the PHA II and the PHA alpha II.

Originally Posted By: turandot
BTW, if you are going to continue to audition digitals critically, you will want to have a reference pair of headphones that you carry with you. Either buy or borrow good phones. Do not depend on any that dealers might lend you during your visits.

I've been going around with my Grado 225's. Not ideal for piano, but they suit the task well enough.

Thanks for the great discussion, everyone. It's great to have such an informative start into this new venture.

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#1256493 - 08/26/09 12:59 PM Re: First DP for advanced pianist? [Re: emenelton]
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7164
Loc: torrance, CA
Emenelton,

Careless reading cause me to miss the EP3 / ES6 references. Sorry for that. But when you refer to Kawai's modeled sound, are you saying that the EP3 and ES6 are modeled pianos...in the sense of Pianoteq and Roland V? I don't believe they are. I believe they are sample-based. Perhaps you're referring to what Kawai callsd Harmonic Imaging or something like that.

I have played a Roland V. It was a while back when the first one arrived locally. I didn't have an FP7 next to it to compare, but I have one at home so the comparison came naturally to me. I brought my own phones with me to demo the V.

No, I don't see much similarity between those two Roland models other than typical dark and warm Roland sound in the default.
_________________________
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

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#1256591 - 08/26/09 03:10 PM Re: First DP for advanced pianist? [Re: turandot]
emenelton Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 08/02/09
Posts: 465
From what I understand Kawai's Harmonic Imaging Starts with a single recording per note, converts it to something they call a 3-d image? and then extrapolates the various dynamics, overtones and sympathetic resonance elements from that.
There are sophisticated characteristics that appear as a layer on top of the basic 'note' on the Kawai. When you listen carefully to a note you can hear an overtone element develop and die away, an effect that appears to be uniform across the board.
It gives, IMHO, the Kawai a more lively character than other straight sampled instruments and makes the Kawai seem more like playing a real instrument.

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#1256738 - 08/26/09 06:11 PM Re: First DP for advanced pianist? [Re: emenelton]
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7164
Loc: torrance, CA
Originally Posted By: emenelton
From what I understand Kawai's Harmonic Imaging Starts with a single recording per note, converts it to something they call a 3-d image? and then extrapolates the various dynamics, overtones and sympathetic resonance elements from that.
There are sophisticated characteristics that appear as a layer on top of the basic 'note' on the Kawai. When you listen carefully to a note you can hear an overtone element develop and die away, an effect that appears to be uniform across the board.
It gives, IMHO, the Kawai a more lively character than other straight sampled instruments and makes the Kawai seem more like playing a real instrument.


Thanks for the clarification. What I understand in tech terms ain't much (somewhere between low-tech and no-tech), but I think the description you give of Harmonic Imaging is pretty standard stuff in building on a core sample. Judging from a comparison of Yamaha acoustics and digitals, I'd say they probably do less refining, layering, and tweaking than Roland, but I don't think any of the major makers is presenting you with some sort of raw sample. On the other hand, each presents you with what little insight they wish to share with you on their actual process in their own terms. Hence, Harmonic Imaging is brand-speak.

In a pure modeled piano, there is no core sample, so the difference is pretty clear. When I first played a V, I thought surely that buried somewhere was a sampled piano. Apparently I was wrong. Alden Skinner states in Piano Buyer that it is pure modeling.

In terms of Kawai's digital sound, it is not to my taste, and does not sound to me in any way comparable to an acoustic grand. That's a subjective opinion of course, and in no way better than your different opinion.
_________________________
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

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#1256795 - 08/26/09 07:42 PM Re: First DP for advanced pianist? [Re: turandot]
pilgrimjoel Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/09
Posts: 158
Loc: Michigan
But do any of them -- excepting perhaps the V -- really sound comparable to an acoustic grand?

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#1259353 - 08/30/09 11:22 PM Re: First DP for advanced pianist? [Re: pilgrimjoel]
dRummie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/23/09
Posts: 39
Originally Posted By: pilgrimjoel
But do any of them -- excepting perhaps the V -- really sound comparable to an acoustic grand?
Great question, one to which I wouldn't mind hearing a few answers myself, not having played many grands in my life.

I tried a few Kawais the other day. There were three with the lower-end action that felt pretty awful (the first plastic action to actually feel clearly plastic of everything I've tried), and one, a CA61, with the higher-end one. The wooden action felt good, but the sound left me with some questions.

It was a very pretty piano sound - very sweet and musical, but even using headphones, it sounded like this great piano was sounding through some digital device, like a faraway speaker. Now, I realize that it is coming through a digital device.. but this seems more evident in the sound of the Kawais than any others. Is this an artifact of their unique modelling method? Should I have played with the sound settings on the piano more? Is the CA61 just not that great?

Also, all the pianos in the showroom were consoles, and I am considering the ES6. As I understand, all the Kawai digitals have the same sound technology. Is the action on the ES6 (AHAIV-F) significantly different from the AHAIV?

I'd be grateful if someone could offer an opinion on whether the sound can be improved through tinkering and if the AHAIV-F action is worth trying despite my not liking the AHAIV. I'd have to call the dealer to try to arrange to audition an ES6, since there wasn't one in the showroom, but if it's very similar to the ones I've already tried, it's not worth the bother.

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#1259429 - 08/31/09 03:40 AM Re: First DP for advanced pianist? [Re: dRummie]
Kawai James Online   content
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/06/07
Posts: 9014
Loc: Hamamatsu, Japan
Quote:
As I understand, all the Kawai digitals have the same sound technology.


While it is true that all KAWAI digital pianos utilise Harmonic Imaging sound technology, the specifications for the main sound hardware differ across the various product ranges.

Quote:
Should I have played with the sound settings on the piano more?


The CA61 features six different acoustic piano sounds and several options to adjust the tonal character of each voice. Through experimentation, it is possible to configure the instrument somewhat, however the emphasis is typically on offering subtle, rather than dramatic, changes to the sound.

> Is the action on the ES6 (AHAIV-F) significantly different from the AHAIV?

AHA IV-F is KAWAI's most recent plastic key action, and is currently being used in the CN22, CN32, CN42, CL35, ES6, and EP3. The 'F' designation indicates the revision number of the action. Previous generation instruments, such as the CN21, CN31, CN41, CL25, ES4, and EP2, utilise the AHA IV-E action. Mechanically, there is very little to separate the two actions (F / E), however a number of subtle changes were made to the most recent revision that - among other things - improves the weight consistency of the action.

Unfortunately, however, if you were unsatisfied with the action of any of KAWAI's plastic-key instruments (regardless of whether they utilise the 'E' or 'F' revision AHA IV), I believe it is unlikely that you will find the touch of the most recent ES6 to be significantly different, and therefore agreeable.

I hope this information is useful.

Kind regards,
James
x
_________________________
Employed by Kawai Japan, however the opinions I express are my own.
Nord Electro 3 fan & occasional rare groove player.

"Richard, none of us could forget you have a CLP-990." - EssBrace, 2014

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#1259554 - 08/31/09 10:49 AM Re: First DP for advanced pianist? [Re: Kawai James]
dRummie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/23/09
Posts: 39
Thank you for the informative reply, James. Subtle changes of the kind you're describing are not what I'd want to see if I tried out the ES6, so I guess I'll keep looking elsewhere. Thanks again.

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#1262499 - 09/04/09 04:36 PM Re: First DP for advanced pianist? [Re: dRummie]
dRummie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/23/09
Posts: 39
In case anyone is interested in following my saga, here's the latest installment smile

I visited the first dealer again, and spent some quality time with the FP-4. I had brushed past it previously, not being used to light actions, but decided to give it a chance after trying that lovely KR5. The action on the FP-4 felt pretty good, once I got used to the (lack of) weight. It felt quick, responsive, not too plastic-y, and felt better than the higher-end Korg (don't remember the model number). Quick repetition of a note was comfortable, more so than on any other model I've tried. Playing a real grand, though, was night and day. I'm likely comparing both action and sound here, but the level of musical control offered by the FP-4 was nowhere near that of the real grands I tried. (Then again, those seemed like very decent grands, so it's hardly a level comparison.)

After playing the FP-4 for about 40 minutes I decided that if I can find nothing better, I can live with this. Action and sound (through headphones) combined, it offered enough contrast of tone for a satisfactory rendition of the Grieg Piano Sonata, and was fun and musical enough for a switch to Billy Joel's Piano Man. It was the second piano (after the KR5) to take my mind off auditioning and put forth the music, but it nonetheless lacked the magic of the KR5.

I'm sure this difference has to do with the action - if I had to sum it up, I'd guess that I prefer actions with more initial resistance (weight?), but easier subsequent downward travel. It feels like I have more control, as if the key movement translates more naturally to the sound with this kind of action. The KR5 felt this way, whereas the FP-4 seems to require a more uniform application of force. I'm unfamiliar with the intricacies and terminology of piano design, so can't explain it better than this. (It would be great if someone could explain to me what it is I have a preference for, lol.)

I'm waiting for the FP-7 to be in stock again before deciding. I haven't yet played it, but I much prefer its features - in particular, the sensitivity adjustments and lid height are ones I would miss with the FP-4 - so here's hoping its action is something more like the KR5's.

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#1262604 - 09/04/09 08:44 PM Re: First DP for advanced pianist? [Re: pilgrimjoel]
Nikalette Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/22/08
Posts: 1079
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: pilgrimjoel
But do any of them -- excepting perhaps the V -- really sound comparable to an acoustic grand?


It would be nice to be able to try an acoustic grand and a Roland V-piano side by side. At our music story they have many acoustic grands and many Yamaha DPs, but they only had one Roland a KR 575 (I think) which they really wanted to unload. When I tried that one I liked to so much better than the Yamahas for touch and sound.

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#1262649 - 09/04/09 10:01 PM Re: First DP for advanced pianist? [Re: dRummie]
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7164
Loc: torrance, CA
Originally Posted By: dRummie
if I had to sum it up, I'd guess that I prefer actions with more initial resistance (weight?), but easier subsequent downward travel. It feels like I have more control, as if the key movement translates more naturally to the sound with this kind of action. The KR5 felt this way, whereas the FP-4 seems to require a more uniform application of force. I'm unfamiliar with the intricacies and terminology of piano design, so can't explain it better than this. (It would be great if someone could explain to me what it is I have a preference for, lol.)

I'm waiting for the FP-7 to be in stock again before deciding. I haven't yet played it, but I much prefer its features - in particular, the sensitivity adjustments and lid height are ones I would miss with the FP-4 - so here's hoping its action is something more like the KR5's.


dRummie.

Some of this you can measure objectively and fairly easily.

If you want to measure the key dip (depth of the key's downward travel, you can simply use a ruler. If you want to measure static weight, (granted static weight is not the whole picture), take a bunch of nickels to the place you're shopping. Tape a stack of 10 together before you go (so you don't spill them all over the floor grin). Put your stack of nickels on the end of a key. It may get the downward travel going. It may not. I doubt it will get the key to bottom, but if it does, then you'll need to remove a couple from the taped stack. What you want to do is add nickels individually to your stack to see how many you need to reach bottom. You'll probably notice that an individual nickel added will bring the key down further but not necessarily to the bottom. Make a note of how many nickels you need to get the downward travel going and how many you need to get the key to bottom. It's important to not push down as you place the stack on the key or add to it. Repeat the test on a couple of other keys in a different keyrange of the piano, check for consistency, and move on to the next piano to compare notes. Don't use pennies. Older pennies and newer pennies have different weights. Pennies are also thin enough to wedge between the keyfronts and the case front if you have a little mishap. The sales staff wouldn't appreciate that.


If you find a piano with keys that will go completely down from rest position to bottoming with one additional nickel, you have found the piano touch that you have described as the one your prefer: "actions with more initial resistance (weight?), but easier subsequent downward travel." Then you will know if what you are saying that you prefer really is what you prefer. I have a hunch it isn't.

In general, the FP4 lets you fly across the keyboard light and easy. The FP7 lets you dig in. I'm a meat and potatoes player, so I like to dig in grin, but I have no problem with the FP4 action.

Repetition should be fairly similar on both.
_________________________
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

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#1262761 - 09/05/09 01:52 AM Re: First DP for advanced pianist? [Re: turandot]
dRummie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/23/09
Posts: 39
Thanks, turandot. That's not quite what I meant, though - I can evaluate those aspects of the action by playing it. Perhaps my description, as you note, wasn't strictly accurate, I'm only trying to describe what I perceive. I meant that some actions give that impression more than others, not that that's necessarily what's happening from the standpoint of forces. I'm not sure how to describe what I like using proper terms or how to link it to actual piano construction, or what significance my preference has - e.g. do ill- or well-regulated actions behave in that way, is it more common to a particular brand, etc. Not really relevant for my decision here, just a point for curiosity.

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#1271577 - 09/20/09 01:18 PM Re: First DP for advanced pianist? [Re: dRummie]
dRummie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/23/09
Posts: 39
The newest installment:

I finally got my hands on an FP-7. Gotta say, the action felt great. Interestingly, I didn't notice the hard bottoming-out that is so often complained about, whereas I did feel it on the older PHA action.

The action felt quite realistic, heavier than the PHA alpha II (I like this), and had that feel I like so much, that I tried to describe above: the greatest burst of energy being required to set the key into motion, with it continuing to fall almost as if by its own inertia. I was particularly thrilled upon discovering the hammer response setting. The default is 0, but setting it to just 1 or 2 added a whole new realm of realism. I'm surprised I haven't seen this mentioned more, because during my (albeit not exhaustive) encounter today, this was the single option that did the most to make the roland action feel like a real piano. For a minute I thought something had actually changed mechanically in the action. I feel compelled to mention, though, that the lag in the sound it produces is considerable. There are 10 possible levels, plus "off", but I'd have to play it again to be sure I can live with the lag on level 1, never mind 10.

The sound seemed decent, both through headphones and integrated speakers. I didn't have time to figure out and play with all the adjustments, but thanks to this forum I did know to set the lid to the highest setting, which improved the sound greatly.

To try to keep things impartial, some things I did not like:
Action felt sluggish compared to the FP-4. In addition, it was much louder mechanically. With my open phones, I imagine it could be a distraction when playing quietly. The FP-7 also seemed to have less tonal range, but I suspect this was largely due to the much noisier environment in this show room than in the one where I'd auditioned the FP-4. (Someone was playing electric guitar in the next room, and then a young child came in to "audition" a drum set...)The "digital veil" seemed to be present to a greater degree (the sounds felt more like a recording here than on the FP-4), but again, environment and sound settings likely contributed.

Finally, there is the price tag. I've been keeping an eye out for used units for the past few months, and so far nothing.

Anyway, that's my story so far. Conclusion hopefully coming soon!

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#1271616 - 09/20/09 02:47 PM Re: First DP for advanced pianist? [Re: dRummie]
FogVilleLad Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/02/05
Posts: 4680
Loc: San Francisco
Originally Posted By: dRummie

I'm sure this difference has to do with the action - if I had to sum it up, I'd guess that I prefer actions with more initial resistance (weight?), but easier subsequent downward travel. It feels like I have more control, as if the key movement translates more naturally to the sound with this kind of action.
I think that you're accurately describing the feel of an acoustic's action.

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#1280275 - 10/03/09 11:38 PM Re: First DP for advanced pianist? [Re: FogVilleLad]
dRummie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/23/09
Posts: 39
Originally Posted By: FogVilleLad
I think that you're accurately describing the feel of an acoustic's action.

It's reassuring to read that wink Seriously though, I think you're right. With actions that feel uniform on the way down it feels like nothing is brought into motion. Where's the hammer?

A final update: I've decided to purchase the FP-7. It is quite a ways out of my initial budget, but given that my parents have agreed to help me out, and my favourable experience with the instrument, I've decided the extra amount is worth it.

My decision was made after a second extensive visit. One thing I was particularly looking to confirm was that the "hard-bottom" action wouldn't bother my hands. A couple days after the first visit, I developed a tiredness in my wrists that I thought may be due to the action, as I'd read of a similar case on the forum. Happily, I've experienced no such discomfort after this second visit, so likely there was no connection.

I am still as impressed with the PHA II action as I was at first. I also evaluated again the Hammer Response function, and on the lower settings it doesn't produce excessive lag in the sound. Together the mechanics and the HR produce a feel that far surpasses everything else I've tried. The action is really the main feature swaying me towards the FP-7. The FP-4 is responsive and a lot of fun to play, but I realized that were I to purchase it, I would always miss the more hefty feel of a real piano. Not having easy access to an acoustic, and yet not being cut off enough to forget their feel altogether, I was especially looking for that in my practice instrument, and the FP-7 gets me a lot closer.

So, there it is. Now the final (and rather unwelcome, heh) step of handing over the cash, and then it's practice time laugh

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Hi Everyone
by JoyBug
Yesterday at 10:02 PM
Do pianists care?
by Ed Foote
Yesterday at 09:44 PM
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