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#1520761 - 09/22/10 08:45 PM Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference?
Csillag Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/10
Posts: 249
Loc: Hungary, Europe
Hi all,

First, a short introduction. I have been playing the piano from 7 till 17 years of age. During those ten years, I received a basic classical education. (Nothing extra fancy, 2 sessions a week, a few hours of practice between the sessions.)

I really enjoyed it, but when starting the university (100 miles from home), I had to move out from home, and I could not take our old acoustic grand with me. (My siblings still used it, after all.)

Unfortunately, I could not afford to buy an other one, so I started a 10 year long pause in my relationship with the piano. (We have never really broken up, but the distance did separated us.) During my university years, I had many other things to do, so the pain has slowly faded... somewhat.

Now I am 28, with a family of my own, and I can't (and won't) anymore suppress my desire to play the piano again, so I decided to finally get a DP, and start practicing again.

Here comes the problem: these wonderful beast are expensive!

Some background info: I live in Hungary, which is in eastern Europe. The funny thing is, in this region, the average income in my field (engineering) is about 1/4 of that of the USA, but the stuff I need to buy costs essentially the same. (Or in some cases, like DPs, the same stuff is even more expensive here.)

That means that I have to work 4-7x more to get to the same level.

(Life is tough, but I did not come here to whine; I just want to explain my motivations behind my question.)

Furthermore, I have rushed my "real-life" projects up a little bit: at the age of 28, I already own a house (with a considerable sum of bank loan looming above it), and have a wonderful wife and two sweet daughters to feed smile

The point is, I don't have much surplus money to spend, so I am trying to buy only what really makes sense.

* * *

Back to the DPs. Since I basically have not played the piano for 10 years, I guess I can be considered a beginner again, but I intend to eventually come back to my old level, the sooner the better. (However, I have no idea how much work or time will that take.)

Since I intend to [re]learn to play the piano (and not the "digital piano"), and I am planning to take lessons from a teacher with an acoustic, I would like something that feels like an acoustic. (Who does not?)

I am not really interested playing other instruments, so I do not care about how many voices does a DP have.

I plan to practice mostly with a good pair of headphones, so I don't really care about the quality/power of the built-in speakers, either.

Furthermore, I believe that the computer-hosted virtual pianos have already surpassed anything that has been build in to any DP, and the difference will only escalate in the following years (especially since my DP won't get upgraded), so am not really interested in the quality of the built-in sound source, either. I can just hook up my DP to Pianoteq or Ivory running on my notebook, and play away.

So, it all comes down to the keyboard: I want the best keyboard that makes sense, and my money can buy.

I could also go with a good midi controller, but I am afraid currently they do not really produce anything like that.

(Still, if I could find a used Panasonic KX-88 or Roland A-80, I would seriously consider it.)

I have been reading this forum for the past week or so, and the collective effect of all the posting in the various "what should I buy" threads is that I have acquired a strong preference (or should I say obsession?) with the KAWAI brand, mostly because of the superior action in the upper-end models.

So, my conclusion (until so far) is this:

1. I could afford it, I would buy a Kawai CA13 when it becomes available here. (This is the cheapest model which has the best possible action, RM3.)

2. One step down from here there is the Kawai CN33, which has the best possible plastic action. (RH with let-off.)

3. One more step down is the Kawai CN23, which (to me) basically seems like a "dumbed down" version of CN33. (Almost painfully so. From an engineering standpoint, I do not see the benefit of removing cheap but useful stuff like USB support and line-in connector.)

4. One more step down is Yamaha YDP-161, which is the cheapest Yamaha/Roland/Kawai keyboard equipped with a (subjectively) acceptable level of keyboard. I do not wish to go below this line.

(My current, subjective judgment of the various actions:

Yamaha: GHS feels shallow, GH and GH3 is OK
Roland: PHA alpha II feels shallow, PHA-II and PHA-III is OK
Kawai: AHA-IV is outdated, RH is OK, AWA Grand Pro I/II or RM3 is superb.)

So, the problem is, between each of the above four levels (CA13, CN33, CN23, YDP-161), the price gap is significant. (By significant, I mean that with the difference, I could get my wife a dishwasher, or something else that we would really need.) CA13 costs almost twice of that YDP-161 costs.

If possible, I would like to avoid buying something that will have an adverse effect on my learning, but I have no means to determine how much harm would a cheaper, plastic keyboard do to me on the long run. I can go and test the DPs in person, but I still won't know whether or not practicing on them (for years) will give me any wrong habits.

I also don't know which is the level of piano skill where these differences start matter at all, and when will I reach that level.

So, my question is this:

How much do these differences in the keyboard realism really matter?

How much better is Kawai's RM3, compared to Kawai's RH with let-off?

How much better is RH with let-off, compared to simple RH?

How much better is RH, compared to Yamaha's GH?

I know that all these questions are terribly subjective; but still, you have much more experience that me, so would be glad if you could give me your impressions.

Basically, the question boils down to this: if I go with the cheaper alternatives (various levels of plastic), how much harm (or missed opportunity, or missed inspiration/fun, call it whatever you want) does it cause, considering my current (re-beginner) level, and when is the time when this starts to matter?

* * *

I understand that these questions are really hard to answer, let alone quantize.

If I could afford, I would just go the "safe" way and would buy the CA13 in no time, but as I have stated, when climbing up the price ladder, I need to sacrifice some other (non-piano related) project with each and every step.

Therefore, I have been agonizing about this for the last few days.

A few more notes:

1. The usual advice ("just go there and test it") does not help much, since

- I have (mostly) forgotten how to play
- Lacking the required knowledge and experience, I have no means to deduce the lasting damage of my skill (from practicing on a cheaper keyboard) just from playing on it once.

2. The usual advice (buy something cheap, and then later replace it, as required) does not seem to apply, since

- I am not looking the high-end models here: the models I am considering are typically described as excellent "entry level" choices or "excellent introduction to the world of piano". However, unfortunately, I am still struggling to buy even them. I do not see the point of going anything lower.
- Judging from my current budget, I am not going to have a chance to replace my first DP in the next 5-10 years.

I do not expect you to solve my problem instead of me; I just hope that you can share with me some of your insights.

If you see any factual or logical error in my thoughts described above, or have other suggestions, I would be glad to hear it, too.

Thank you for you help:

csillag

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#1520767 - 09/22/10 08:53 PM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Csillag]
voxpops Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/20/07
Posts: 2910
Loc: Oregon
Unfortunately life's too short for me to take on this one!

My only advice is to seek out the best action that you can find on a Kawai, Roland and Yamaha, and see which one you like best, and then choose the least expensive model that has that same action.

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#1520783 - 09/22/10 09:21 PM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: voxpops]
Csillag Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/10
Posts: 249
Loc: Hungary, Europe
Originally Posted By: voxpops
[...] seek out the best action that you can find on a Kawai, Roland and Yamaha, and see which one you like best, and then choose the least expensive model that has that same action.


That would obviously be Kawai's RM3 action and thus Kawai CA13,
no real contest here.

The problem is that (when it finally stars shipping), the CA13 is going to cost about twice the price of the Yamaha YDP-161.

The question for me here is this: what is likely to happen if I buy what's cheaper, and not what I actually prefer? Is this likely to bother me for the rest of my (piano playing) life, or is this likely to sink into oblivion after the first few weeks?

Any experience about this?

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#1520793 - 09/22/10 09:48 PM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Csillag]
ChrisA Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 3841
Loc: Redondo Beach, California
I can't reply to all of that but can say

I think your assessment of the various key actions is petty much what most people would agree, the GH/GH3/PHA-II and Kawai are all good the cheapers ones are not as good. All of these are good, none is best. and none is "most like" the acoustic because every acoustic piano is different, possibly the range of differences between acoustic pianos is wider than between the digital key actions. Certainly if you include older acoustic pianos this is true.

You are right about software having the best sound. but many times it does not matter, mostly you will be practicing and how good do scles need to sound.

The Korg and casio are not bad and sell here for $500. Keys are a little light but those pianos are great values, and not bad.

Don't worry if the keys have wood in them are not. It's the geomtrty of the action that matters more. Also the difference between the different version of Kawai keys is not so much. Even an old CN21 is not bad. Unlike both Roland and Yamaha, Kawai seems not to make a cheap piano. They just seem to ignore that part of the market, even if it is the largest part of the market for DPs (and I don't blame them, I'd not want to compete at the low end either)

Used DPs, as long as they contain a preferred type of key action would be a good thing to look for

Lastly, when it comes down to it, you can learn on any decent keyboard that has weighted hammer action keys. We argue which is best to much, if the goal is simply to learn, they will all do that for you

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#1520809 - 09/22/10 10:36 PM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: ChrisA]
Csillag Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/10
Posts: 249
Loc: Hungary, Europe
Thank you for your answer, ChrisA!

What you are saying is actually helping me to regain some of my "inner peace" - and save a lot of money in the process smile win-win.

Originally Posted By: ChrisA
[...] Also the difference between the different version of Kawai keys is not so much.


Do you mean both the plastic and the wooden range? (Ie. CL25 with AHA IV-E is not much different from the CA63 with RM3?)

I wonder what Kawai James would say to that... smile

Now I really need to check these out in flesh.

Quote:
Used DPs, as long as they contain a preferred type of key action would be a good thing to look for


Does this include real antics like the Yamaha KX-88 or the Roland A-80, too? (I wonder how do these actions compare to the recent ones...)

Quote:
[...] you can learn on any decent keyboard that has weighted hammer action keys.


Does that mean that learning on ungraded keys is not going to be a problem, either? (I would have guessed that this bit is important...)

Thank you for your help, again:

Csillag

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#1520819 - 09/22/10 10:52 PM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Csillag]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4393
Loc: San Jose, CA
I saved a few bucks by getting the MP8II, compared to a console-style model. I wanted the features, not the furniture. If the slab style is acceptable for your home, you might find a deal on that model, since the new one is about to replace it. Or, think it over for a few months and try out the new one. I don't know that they have a firm shipping date, but one source mentioned that they expect them in November.

Hey, I don't think having your own house is such a small thing. Maybe imported stuff is comparatively expensive in Hungary, but I would guess that the cost-of-living index is probably keyed to the take-home pay that people there really make. Anyway, it's that way on a regional basis here.

Where I live, a house is pretty much out of reach for younger people with families.

I think having music in the home will set a valuable and powerful example for your kids. Of course, having a dishwasher and a happy wife... that's pretty important too. BTW, I was up in my forties before I had a place with a dishwasher... but I had a DP. I'll bet if you and your wife pull together, you can both get what you need. Good luck with it.
_________________________
Clef


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#1520848 - 09/22/10 11:54 PM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Csillag]
FogVilleLad Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/02/05
Posts: 4680
Loc: San Francisco
Csillac, more people might be willing to respond if you would break up your post into smaller topics.

One example: connecting to a computer. You can certainly hook up a DP to your laptop, but - and I think that you already know this - unless the DP has a line in jack you'll have to plug your headphones into the computer's headphone jack. The computer's audio chip will determine the quality of what you hear and that quality will probably not be very good. So you'd probably have to buy an external soundcard. E-mu's 1616M has outstanding audio quality, but it costs $450.

Software pianos, such as Best Service's Galaxy II suite, would also be an additional expense - c.$300.

Another example: What's your budget? Does your budget include the costs of soundcard and software piano, or would you be willing to buy the DP now and wait to buy soudcard and software piano?

You might also profit from posting your question about comparing the RM3 and RH actions as a new topic. Another new topic might be What are the differences between wooden key actions and plastic actions?

Patience and persistence.


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#1520867 - 09/23/10 01:03 AM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Csillag]
ChrisA Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 3841
Loc: Redondo Beach, California
Quote:

Do you mean both the plastic and the wooden range? (Ie. CL25 with AHA IV-E is not much different from the CA63 with RM3?)

I wonder what Kawai James would say to that... smile


I'd hope the folks a Kawai woud take it as a complement, that they've never build a bad key action. Actuallykeys have been Kawai's strong point and untill resently their sound was just not as good as the competition. I think there is a strong resemblance between all of there keys. The newer ones might be a lot better, but to a first approximation they are close. But this is NOT the same with Roland and Kawai each of them make several distinctly different keys


Quote:
Does this include real antics like the Yamaha KX-88 or the Roland A-80, too? (I wonder how do these actions compare to the recent ones...)


I don't know the Roland but the KX-99 is a classic. But it's only a MIDI controller, no sound

Quote:
[...] you can learn on any decent keyboard that has weighted hammer action keys.


Does that mean that learning on ungraded keys is not going to be a problem, either? (I would have guessed that this bit is important...)
Csillag [/quote]

The only un-graded but weight hammer keys I know of are the Yamaha CP1 and CP-5. They are expensive. I think when people read they'd be ungraded many people wondered how that could work but reports from owners all seem to be postive. I think they do ssoething with velocity curves in the acoustic piano to make it play as if it were graded but I'm guessing I think your question is interestig but moot do to the lack of un-graded kays

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#1520924 - 09/23/10 05:50 AM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Jeff Clef]
Csillag Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/10
Posts: 249
Loc: Hungary, Europe
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
I saved a few bucks by getting the MP8II, compared to a console-style model. I wanted the features, not the furniture. If the slab style is acceptable for your home, you might find a deal on that model, since the new one is about to replace it. Or, think it over for a few months and try out the new one. I don't know that they have a firm shipping date, but one source mentioned that they expect them in November.


The local price of the MP8II (and the upcoming price of MP10) is about 20% higher than that of the upcoming CA13 (which is about the top of my current dreams), so this won't help much.

Getting a good deal on the obsolete model would be nice; but unfortunately, the local dealer just does not do that; he will simply sell all current items before bringing in the new ones. (I specifically asked about this.)

Quote:
Hey, I don't think having your own house is such a small thing.

Nor do I, we really enjoy it smile But to get here, we had to get some pretty serious bank loans, and therefore the monthly installments are really limiting out current expenses.

Quote:
Maybe imported stuff is comparatively expensive in Hungary, but I would guess that the cost-of-living index is probably keyed to the take-home pay that people there really make. Anyway, it's that way on a regional basis here.


This got me thinking, so I have dug up some numbers (calculated by the United Bank of Switzerland), here

Budapest data, compared to New York:

Food prices: 48,2% (page 15)
Cost of living (excluding rent): 54,4% (page 8)
Net income of engineers: 23% (page 35)
Average annual income's domestic purchasing power: 28,3% (page 10)
Average working time required to buy an iPod nano (8GB): 761,1% (page 11)

I think "annual income's domestic purchasing power" is what matters here most. That's 28,3% here...

Quote:
Where I live, a house is pretty much out of reach for younger people with families.

Well, it was definitely out of our "reach", too; we had to make quite a leap of faith (the bank loan) to get here. Whether this was a good decision remains to be seen.

Quote:
I think having music in the home will set a valuable and powerful example for your kids.


That's what I was thinking, too.

Thank you for your answer.

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#1520925 - 09/23/10 05:58 AM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: FogVilleLad]
Csillag Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/10
Posts: 249
Loc: Hungary, Europe
Originally Posted By: FogVilleLad
Csillac, more people might be willing to respond if you would break up your post into smaller topics.


I did not want to spam the forums with 5-6 separate topics, and to answer my question, ones really needs to see the context here, so I decided not to do that. However, I will do so in the furure.

Quote:
One example: connecting to a computer. You can certainly hook up a DP to your laptop, but - and I think that you already know this - unless the DP has a line in jack you'll have to plug your headphones into the computer's headphone jack.


Yeah, I am aware of that; that's why it annoys me a lot when the in line-in jack is not present on the entry level models. However, I can live with this.

Quote:
The computer's audio chip will determine the quality of what you hear and that quality will probably not be very good. So you'd probably have to buy an external soundcard. E-mu's 1616M has outstanding audio quality, but it costs $450.


Yeah, but (unlike the key action) I can upgrade this later, in small steps, as required.

Quote:
Software pianos, such as Best Service's Galaxy II suite, would also be an additional expense - c.$300.


Pianoteq play costs 99 EUR. That's not _that_ much.

Quote:
Another example: What's your budget? Does your budget include the costs of soundcard and software piano, or would you be willing to buy the DP now and wait to buy soudcard and software piano?


My budget? None available; I might squeeze out some money from myself around Christmas, but that will definitely come for painful cost cuts in other areas. (This is why it's important...) And I only need the DP now (to start practicing ASAP); I can definitely wait for any soundcard, software or whatever upgrades.

Quote:
You might also profit from posting your question about comparing the RM3 and RH actions as a new topic. Another new topic might be What are the differences between wooden key actions and plastic actions?


I might do that.

Thank you for your answer!


Edited by Csillag (09/23/10 06:06 AM)

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#1520926 - 09/23/10 06:01 AM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: ChrisA]
Csillag Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/10
Posts: 249
Loc: Hungary, Europe
Originally Posted By: ChrisA

The only un-graded but weight hammer keys I know of are the Yamaha CP1 and CP-5. They are expensive. I think when people read they'd be ungraded many people wondered how that could work but reports from owners all seem to be postive. I think they do ssoething with velocity curves in the acoustic piano to make it play as if it were graded but I'm guessing I think your question is interestig but moot do to the lack of un-graded kays


As far as I know, the good old Yamaha KX-88, which I might be able to buy second-hand (or fifth-hand smile ) below 500 USD, has ungraded keys.


Edited by Csillag (09/23/10 06:01 AM)

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#1520931 - 09/23/10 06:44 AM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Csillag]
sullivang Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/05/09
Posts: 2100
Loc: Sydney, Australia
Originally Posted By: Csillag

Does this include real antics like the Yamaha KX-88 or the Roland A-80, too? (I wonder how do these actions compare to the recent ones...)


FWIW, this Pianoteq thread has an excellent example of the A-80. (controlling Pianoteq, of course, played by Joseph Felice):
http://www.forum-pianoteq.com/viewtopic.php?id=932

I seem to recall that back in that era, hammer actions weren't as common - the actions were simpler, and were just referred to as being "weighted". However, I'm not sure how the A-80 action was designed and I have never played one. It would be interesting to get Joe's opinion actually.

Greg.

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#1520937 - 09/23/10 07:13 AM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Csillag]
Dave Horne Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5260
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
I used a Roland A80 for over ten years and I loved the action. That keyboard got used on many jobs. It responded exactly as I expected it to.

I even opened the keyboard up and replaced a key or two that had gotten broken. This was a long time ago but I believe the damage was cosmetic. It was also one of the few controllers to have polyphonic after touch. Some folks seem to make a big deal about that.

It was a great keyboard in all respects. It was a perfect size, not too heavy, and played well.
_________________________
website

mp3\wav files

AvantGrand N3, CP5

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#1520942 - 09/23/10 07:22 AM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Csillag]
sullivang Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/05/09
Posts: 2100
Loc: Sydney, Australia
Assuming that Joe's other demo recordings here: http://www.pianoteq.com/listen_by_instrument?pianoteq=08be12ffc81ff29a13a77619b63f6602 are also done on the A-80, there's some very good repetition going on in Rhapsody In Blue (at time 13:40) This is a more exciting demo overall, too. ;^)

Greg.

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#1520961 - 09/23/10 08:03 AM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Csillag]
sullivang Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/05/09
Posts: 2100
Loc: Sydney, Australia
Dave: So, did it have any "hammer" feel? I.e - did you get any sense of "throwing" hammers?

Greg.

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#1520972 - 09/23/10 08:38 AM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: sullivang]
Dave Horne Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5260
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
Originally Posted By: sullivang
Dave: So, did it have any "hammer" feel? I.e - did you get any sense of "throwing" hammers?

Greg.


Greg, I sold it some time ago. I don't think I've ever experienced the sense of 'throwing hammers' with any digital keyboard. I also don't have that feeling with the CP5.

You have to realize I only use digital keyboards when there's no acceptable acoustic piano available. I expect the action to be what it is. As long the keyboard responds as I expect it to, it's an OK keyboard.
_________________________
website

mp3\wav files

AvantGrand N3, CP5

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#1520973 - 09/23/10 08:39 AM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Csillag]
Nikalette Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/22/08
Posts: 1074
Loc: California
If I were you, I'd try for a used keyboard or get the least expensive one that you enjoy playing. The fine nuances are really not that important for someone in your position, in my opinion.

For financial reasons I had to sell my "slightly better" keyboard and am using a real cheapo, but I can still benefit from practice, and still get enjoyment (although nothing like a really good keyboard).

It seems to me that all the keyboards you're talking about are pretty good, so go for the least expensive.

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#1520974 - 09/23/10 08:42 AM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Csillag]
sullivang Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/05/09
Posts: 2100
Loc: Sydney, Australia
Dave, FWIW, I definitely get a good feeling of throwing hammers on my Kawai MP9000. However, I don't play real pianos like you do. smile

Greg.

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#1520983 - 09/23/10 09:17 AM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: sullivang]
Dave Horne Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5260
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
Originally Posted By: sullivang
Dave, FWIW, I definitely get a good feeling of throwing hammers on my Kawai MP9000. However, I don't play real pianos like you do. smile

Greg.


So, you're throwing virtual hammers ... ? smile
_________________________
website

mp3\wav files

AvantGrand N3, CP5

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#1521344 - 09/23/10 06:47 PM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Csillag]
Kawai James Online   content
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/06/07
Posts: 8383
Loc: Hamamatsu, Japan
Csillag, welcome to the forum, and thank you for detailed post - it's clear that you have already given the purchase of your next digital piano a considerable amount of thought.

Regardless of the brand (or even the product), I always recommend that consumers purchase the best that they can comfortably afford. I also strongly encourage individuals searching for a digital piano to play-test as a wide a selection of instruments as possible before making their decision.

While you may believe that your 10 year hiatus from playing will make it difficult to effectively judge the merits of each piano, I think you may be pleasantly surprised at how quickly your fingers respond to the various keyboard actions. Honestly, please give it a try - you have absolutely nothing to lose, and so much to gain. wink

Originally Posted By: Csillag
Originally Posted By: ChrisA
[...] Also the difference between the different version of Kawai keys is not so much.


Do you mean both the plastic and the wooden range? (Ie. CL25 with AHA IV-E is not much different from the CA63 with RM3?)

I wonder what Kawai James would say to that... smile


Kawai James would encourage ChrisA to play-test Kawai's latest instruments before making such sweeping statements and continually basing his judgement on three-generation-old technology. wink

Good luck with your search!

Cheers,
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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#1521377 - 09/23/10 07:29 PM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Kawai James]
Csillag Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/10
Posts: 249
Loc: Hungary, Europe
Originally Posted By: Kawai James
Csillag, welcome to the forum, and thank you for detailed post - it's clear that you have already given the purchase of your next digital piano a considerable amount of thought.


Considering the amount of thought the designers and makers of all the pianos during the history (both old and new) has given to this great instrument, and the huge amount of technology going in the modern DPs, I think it's only natural that I approach this area with the required level of respect, and do my research.

Quote:
Regardless of the brand (or even the product), I always recommend that consumers purchase the best that they can comfortably afford.


And when this (ie. what they can comfortably afford) would be a few slices of bread with butter and a glass of water, what do you recomment?

A) don't buy anything; wait until you have more to spare, and then buy something good, even if this means that you may have to wait years, or

B) struggle (ie. spare the price of the butter) and try to buy something, even if it's not really good; it's still something.

(This is obviously an exeggarated example; my financial situation is not _that_ bad, and I obviously not implying that the entry-level Kawai DPs are "not really good". I am just interested in your general thinking and strategy.)

Best wishes:

Csillag

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#1521386 - 09/23/10 07:50 PM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Csillag]
sullivang Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/05/09
Posts: 2100
Loc: Sydney, Australia
James,
Chris' comment made sense to me, because I too had the same impression - all of the Kawai actions are very good. In fact, I recall reading a Keyboard Mag quote on the Kawai web site about the AHAIV-F action, which said that it was THE most authentic feeling DP action they had ever experienced!

Greg. (typing on phone so I kept this brief)


Edited by sullivang (09/23/10 08:18 PM)

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#1521435 - 09/23/10 09:35 PM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Kawai James]
ChrisA Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 3841
Loc: Redondo Beach, California

Quote:
Kawai James would encourage ChrisA to play-test Kawai's latest instruments before making such sweeping statements and continually basing his judgement on three-generation-old technology. wink


James, I have. I just think that the gains in key Kawai's actions are incremental. And of cource the new ones are better but I think the difference in new vs. old Kawai is less then the difference between Roland's PHA-II- Alpha and Roland's "PHA-II Ivory feel with escapment"

What I mean is that Roland makes some pretty low-end stuff that is very different from their good stuff. (Same for Yamaha) and that Kawai only offers various shades of "pretty good".

When it comes to sound I agree with you completely. A few generations ago it was not very good at all, that's changed. Soe in terms of soun waht kawai currently offers on the market has a very wide range of quality.

I hope I'm being clear.

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#1521525 - 09/24/10 12:28 AM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Csillag]
Kawai James Online   content
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/06/07
Posts: 8383
Loc: Hamamatsu, Japan
ChrisA,

Thank you for clarifying your previous post.

While I agree that the improvements from AHA IV-E and AHA IV-F were incremental, I honestly believe that the new RH action represents a significant jump in quality.

The other day I was checking a couple of new prototype models that the engineering chaps were working on. They were just 'proof of concept' cabinets and didn't have any tone generator hardware inside. I had a quick play on one of the models and it felt pretty good. Then I moved over to the other and played the same notes - it felt really great, very 'solid'. It turns out that one was equipped with AHA IV-F, the other with RH.

I'm obviously delighted to read your positive appraisal of Kawai's keyboard actions, however I'm afraid I cannot accept that "the difference between the different version of Kawai keys is not so much". I believe that if you were to play a CN23 straight after playing the CN21 that's in your school, you would definitely notice a considerable difference.

Cheers,
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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#1521599 - 09/24/10 04:38 AM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Kawai James]
Csillag Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/10
Posts: 249
Loc: Hungary, Europe
Originally Posted By: Kawai James

The other day I was checking a couple of new prototype models that the engineering chaps were working on. They were just 'proof of concept' cabinets and didn't have any tone generator hardware inside.


I know this might be beyond your power inside Kawai, but I think Kawai should really sell those just like that - without any tone generator HW.

I mean, there is no midi controller on market on par with the Kawai DP-s in term of action - why does not Kawai sell 88-note midi controllers with RH or even RM3 action? That would be killer in my opinion. (And also a terribly good deal from the point of view of customers, because sound generation technology proceeds much faster than keyboard technology, therefore it makes sense to upgrade the two separately. This can be done perfectly with a good midi controller and software pianos.)

So, I think it's a pity Kawai does not do that.

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#1521638 - 09/24/10 06:29 AM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Csillag]
sullivang Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/05/09
Posts: 2100
Loc: Sydney, Australia
Here's a clip that includes the Keyboard Mag quotes that I mentioned, about Kawai's AHAIV action:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRLbiceNiz4
(at time 0:37)

"The closest any digital piano comes to the real thing"
"The sense that I'm playing an acoustic piano is uncanny"
"...a remarkably realistic feel"
"...superb".

And as we all know, the AHAIV is not, and was not at the time, Kawai's best action. ;^)

Greg.

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#1528442 - 10/05/10 05:52 AM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Csillag]
Csillag Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/10
Posts: 249
Loc: Hungary, Europe
Folks,

After facing reality, I have realized that my budget really does not go above around 1000 EUR.

Therefore, this simplifies the choice to the following models:

Kawai CL-25
Kawai CL-35
Kawai CN-23 (if I really stretch the budget)

Yamaha YDP-161

The price levels go like this:

-------------
CL-25 100% AHA-IV E action
-------------
CL-35 125% AHA IV-F action
YDP-161 125% GH action
-------------
CN-23 150% RH action
-------------

I really have to let the RM3 action go, because of price reasons.
Now all that is left to actually play-test these instruments.

I have already scheduled my visit to a Kawai dealership (in Budapest) twice, but something always came up, so I needed to delay it.

When I actually get there, I will check out how the actions compare, and the I will report back my (subjective) findings here.

Best wishes:

Csillag

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#1530962 - 10/08/10 12:23 PM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Csillag]
Csillag Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/10
Posts: 249
Loc: Hungary, Europe
Yesterday I finally made it to the Kawai dealership.

(I am calling it "the" dealership because it's the _only_ place in Budapest (~2M inhabitants) where you can actually see Kawai DPs.)

I arrived from a business negotiation, which unfortunately lasted longer than expected, so I only had half an hour or so.

Currently, I was most interested in the following models:

CL25 1000 USD
CL35 1230 USD
CN23 1600 USD

These prices are non-negotiable; the custom of getting discounts is totally unknown around here. Also, this is the _only_ shop selling Kawai, so there is not much of a price race here...

Unfortunately, the shop did not have the CL35 and the CN23. They did have the these models: CL25, ES6, CN33, CA63.

I intend to judge the offerings solely based on their keyboard actions, since I plan to replace the sound engines with software pianos anyway.

The keyboard in the ES6 is the same as in CL35 (AHA-IV F), so I tested it instead of the CL35.

The keyboard in the CN33 is almost the same as in CN23 (RH, but this has let-off), so I tested it instead of the CN23.

Playing the contestants with power-off, I could not discern any difference between the CL25 (AHA-IV E) and the ES6 (AHA IV-F). The CN33 (RH) felt better. (And the CA63 felt even better, but that's out of the question.)

I intended to test the contestants with Pianoteq (demo version), which I have prepared on my notebook, but unfortunately the CL25 does not have USB, only standard MIDI connections, and I did not have a USB-to-MIDI adapter prepared, and the shop could not lend (or sell) me one, so I gave up on this. (At this time.)

* * *

So, at this point, I only know that it would make sense to buy the 1600 USD model over the 1000 USD one (but I am not sure I can afford that). I am not yet convinced whether the 1200 USD model provides a real improvement over the 1000 USD one. (The sound is better, but I am not interested in that.)

I will go back later, armed with proper USB-to-MIDI converter, and more time.

A few weird points:

- The technical specification printed on small information tables above the instruments is flat out wrong at places.
For example:
- for CN33 it says "Progressive Harmonic Imaging II" technology.
- for CA64 it says "Harmonic Imaging II" technology. (Whatever happened to the "UP" from UPHI ??)

I pointed this out to the salesman, and the answer astonished me: he told me that this does not matter at all, only the actual experience of the customers is important. Wtf? If he thinks so, then why bother printing the (false) specs at all? (No attempt was made to correct it, even after I looked up the specs on Kawai Europe's site for them, on their own PC.)

- The shop also sells acoustic grands and uprights, too. When I asked the salesman which grand does he recommend to use as a reference (when comparing the DP actions), he told me that I should never ever compare a DP to an acoustic. Maybe an upright; the highest-end DPs may come close to the lowest-end uprights.

I consider this quite a pessimistic approach to the DP technology; I would take (for example) a CA63 over uprights costing twice as much.

Current DPs may not (yet) reach true acoustic grands, but (from what I have heard) today's cutting edge (like, CA93) paired with the best sound (say, Ivory II) should come pretty close to them.

So, why does a DP seller say that they are (at best) comparable to the worst uprights? This might have been true 10 or 20 years ago, but today this sounds BS to me. (And a stupid one at that, considering he is supposed to sell this stuff.)

* * *

As the next stop, I went to a big music shop, to check out the Yamaha YDP-161. (The cheapest yamaha with GH action.)
This shop sells almost every brand, except Kawai. Therefore, I can compare everything there, except Kawai. (In fact, there is no shop in Budapest where I could actually compare a Kawai and a Yamaha side-by-side. Why, oh why?)

In this shop, they took the YDP-161 out from the stock (it was not on show), and they lent me an USB-to-MIDI converter to help me test it with Pianoteq.

I quite like the action, but I could not compare it to the Kawai ones, because I did not hear them with Pianoteq, and I had to drive for half an hour between the tests.

(The YDP-161 costs around 1275 USD here, so it's in the same range as the CL35, way below the CN23 and CN33.)


* * *

Conclusions:

1. The Kawai's distribution and marketing system leaves a lot to desire, at least in my region.
2. I need way more tests to decide.

I will let you know how it goes.

Best wishes:

Csillag

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#1531073 - 10/08/10 03:17 PM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: Csillag]
FogVilleLad Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/02/05
Posts: 4680
Loc: San Francisco
Originally Posted By: Csillag
I intend to judge the offerings solely based on their keyboard actions, since I plan to replace the sound engines with software pianos anyway.

Playing the contestants with power-off, I could not discern any difference between the CL25 (AHA-IV E) and the ES6 (AHA IV-F). The CN33 (RH) felt better. (And the CA63 felt even better, but that's out of the question.)
I also noticed that the pivot points of the RH and RM3 actions appeared to be almost the same distance. Can you say what it was about the RM3 which made its touch superior?

Originally Posted By: Csillag
I need way more tests to decide.

I will let you know how it goes.
You're doing everything right - and in difficult circumstances. Please keep us updated.

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#1531106 - 10/08/10 03:52 PM Re: Deciding on new DP: what to buy/how great is the difference? [Re: FogVilleLad]
Csillag Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/10
Posts: 249
Loc: Hungary, Europe
Originally Posted By: FogVilleLad
Originally Posted By: Csillag
I intend to judge the offerings solely based on their keyboard actions, since I plan to replace the sound engines with software pianos anyway.

Playing the contestants with power-off, I could not discern any difference between the CL25 (AHA-IV E) and the ES6 (AHA IV-F). The CN33 (RH) felt better. (And the CA63 felt even better, but that's out of the question.)
I also noticed that the pivot points of the RH and RM3 actions appeared to be almost the same distance. Can you say what it was about the RM3 which made its touch superior?


I am not sure; I could easily have been only my hopeless longing for the (currently unattainable) RM3 action, or the UPHI sound. (Hard to separate touch from sound..)

At the moment of the testing, the impression was rock solid, but to be really sure, I would need to do some blind testing. (Which is kind of difficult to pull off on my own smile )

Anyway, this is not that important to me, because this question (RM3 vs. RH) is already decided by my budget. Now I only need to choose one from the plastic ones; AHA-IV vs. RH vs. GH

(But I probably won't be able to resist the urge to play the CA63 when I get there again, so I will post my results here.)

Best wishes:

Csillag

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