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#2197561 - 12/14/13 02:50 PM Kawai CA65, GF, RM3, Review and Actions In General
guguma Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 31
Hello All,

I just upgraded from my Roland HP-201 to a Kawai CA-65, I just want to write a little review on CA-65 and the GF RM3 actions, also some comments on piano actions in general. For my reasons of upgrading you read this topic:

Considering Upgrade from Roland HP-201

First off let me point out once again that, I am in no way a professional piano player, I would be considered intermediate, yet when it comes to the science of it I am quite careful when I am stating my thoughts.

I will start with comparing the RM3 and the GF actions:

I was suggested to purchase a Kawai VPC1 which has the RM3 Grand II action, which I was inclined to to begin with, when I went to the dealer they did not have the VPC1, and they made me such a great deal on CA65 with the GF action that I simply could not say no, and got the CA65.

When I observed and played the mechanism of the GF and the RM3, really the only and the one and only difference between the two is the length of the keys (thus more leverage on the GF), simple as that. RM3 just feels slightly heavier than the GF.

So, if somehow you cannot decide between the GF and the RM3, just go for the one that feels better for you, if you can adjust to slight heaviness (one of my teachers in the past had a Kawai grand with massive keys (I mean massive, really massive) mind you, when i confronted him he told me he specifically wanted it that way.) go for an RM3 action to save some money you will not miss anything.

So let us talk about CA-65 Action in general (same goes for RM3):

When I purchased my good old HP-201, the reason I chose it over a Yamaha was due to the presence of hammers, instead of only counterweights on the Yamahas, but really HP-201 action was nothing close to an acoustic action.

CA-65's action on the other hand is simply amazing, One of the realizations I had was, when I was test running CA-65 with a slow movement I noticed that I missed some notes (pp), that actually made me smile, because this is exactly what happened when I practiced on my Roland and went ahead and played it on a real acoustic.

The keys have a sinking feeling, escapement (let-off) is there although I would prefer a tad bit more noticeable escapement (mind you this is quite personal too, I have played on acoustics with very different escapement characteristics). The keys are heavier and much better balanced than the Roland I had.

The only thing missing in the action is the "feedback" (with this I mean the instrument telling you that what you want is played, I will talk quite a lot about this in the next section), there is some fake feedback which is ok.

So overall, personally I find the GF action (same goes for RM3)amazing, it is really great to be able to get a digital close to an acoustic action like this, I am simply delighted.

Tone and other capabilities of CA-65(Short Review):

Honestly I do not care one bit about the tone, speakers, bells, whistles, concert magician, wizard, virtually enchanted technician sorcerer whatever. I play classical, and that I play through Ivory German D, with headphones, or with my 2 speakers with a great frequency response. That is why I wanted the VPC1 but as I said it was a deal that if I refused I would be a moron so anyway, if internal sounds are important then I do not have a lot of good things to say about CA-65.

Piano Sound:

It is a Kawai sound, and it sounds good, I am just terribly picky about how a piano sounds, but the piano sound in Kawai I liked it, until sustain and una corda pedals were involved. One thing I hated about the Roland was how the sustain pedal did not really sustain anything. The Kawai does a good job at sustaining, and I think the sustains are genuine samples not loops (not certain though), however there is some unresponsiveness of the damper pedal, when you let go of it the sustain does not stop but decays exponentially (this must be a setting issue, or the pedal is getting stuck, or the half pedal region of the sensors are getting stuck I do not know I will update my remark on that)

Other Sounds:

I like 3 built in sounds in a DP, (Choir, Strings, Church Organ, Harpsichord)

These were amazing samples on my old Roland, on the CA-65 I did not like the Strings and the Choir. Church Organ is pretty good, however (major, major dissapointment) Harpsichord is terrible, it sounds like strings plucked by space lasers, it has such an artificial tone it takes away from that baroque feeling.

Pedals on the CA-65:

I mentioned a little problem with the pedals up in the post, but one neat thing I noticed (this is really minor but neat) is the physical feeling of the pedals, when I pressed on the una corda pedal I almost expected the keyboard to shift to the right slightly (of coure it did not), I do not know if it was done intentionally, but if it was intentional, I huge +1 for Kawai for their perfectionist approach.


Some of my thoughts on DP actions, and that missing "feedback" feeling:


A piano action consists of a wooden key, free to rotate around a given pivot, and a much more complicated hammer mechanism attached to it.

One great step towards realism was to make weighted keys that rotated freely around the pivot, thus the digital piano action was basically born.

If this is done, what is it there that is making DP's not feel like a real acoustic, what is so hard to replicate, let us think about that.

Honestly, there is absolutely no limitation whatsoever that prevents our beloved manufacturers to put a real piano action (with maybe slightly shorter keys) and with all that hammer mechanism in a DP, and register the speed of the hammer on a sensor strip than the string. I am serious about this, and I have no doubt that some years from now a company will introduce their RGF (Real Grand Feel) action, that is exactly made in this manner, and we will all go crazy about it. But as you know, manufacturing costs, demand, supply, there is all that, there is untapped technology that has potential to make money so they do not want to jump ahead.

The magic basically happens at three points (excluding trill ranges),

i) Move the damper up
ii) Hammer-Escapes the Key
iii Hammer Returns to the key

i) The damper and hammer moving up with the key, due to their lateral as well as vertical motion puts a variable resistance to the key while the key is lifted

ii) Hammer escaping the key is an "extremely important" realism point (I have seen some people not liking escapement feeling on this forum, for practicality concerns, it is ok, for getting as close to an acoustic action as possible this is terribly important). A sudden increase in force is required, followed by a sudden drop in required force.

Now the lateral movement of the hammer, and the damper is not THAT variable, besides, I can sort of see modern DP actions getting that quite right so i) is pretty much done for.

5 years ago when I bought the HP-201 the HP-207 had the escapement feature, the CA-65 has it, the feeling is there, it is realistic, just not perfected yet (the after escapement before escapement area is also very important for trills and repetitive strikes), this part is quite hard to replicate using a fake mechanism but they are almost there.

My concern is at number (iii), I still do not see this in DP's and I believe this is what most people are missing, "hammer returns to the key"

I did look at those see through actions, they are trying to replicate the feeling of the hammer hitting the key back, but there is a huge difference with a weight almost free falling somewhere close to your pivot point, and a hammer striking a high tension string with an almost elastic collision and falling on the key at the far end.

Go and play a full piano chord, both hands in the midrange, strongly (ff), i bet you will feel the hammer hitting the key, you do not need to be playing forte for this to happen, this is also highly noticeable at p playing (in fact even more than forte). This is what I am talking about as the feedback, the hammer tells those highly sensitive tips of our fingers that it has done its job and returned.

Of course and entire massive piano vibrating and giving you feedback is also missing, but I believe it is one thing someone has to live with if you want your digital to stay digital.

Final Remarks:

I am hoping to see that RGF action I mentioned at some point grin

Until then, if you are considering to buy a digital, either you are a beginner, or intermediate, or an advanced (a highly advanced player would probably notice more details than I could have, so it is best to test the instrument yourself) player I would greatly recommend the CA-65 or the VPC-1 or a Keyboard with an RM3 action,

I believe the budget range for these actions (GF, RM3) vary from $1.500 - $6000 (CS10), VPC1 being around $1800, CA65 around $3000.

Thank you for reading, comments and inputs always appreciated, corrections done properly so, are even more appreciated.

Best,

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#2197672 - 12/14/13 07:33 PM Re: Kawai CA65, GF, RM3, Review and Actions In General [Re: guguma]
Kawai James Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/06/07
Posts: 9162
Loc: Hamamatsu, Japan
guguma, many thanks for posting your thoughtful comments.

And of course, congratulations on the purchase of your CA65!

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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#2197720 - 12/14/13 09:29 PM Re: Kawai CA65, GF, RM3, Review and Actions In General [Re: guguma]
iceporky Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/26/13
Posts: 149
Loc: Singapore
Congrats on your new CA65! smile

Originally Posted By: guguma

Honestly, there is absolutely no limitation whatsoever that prevents our beloved manufacturers to put a real piano action (with maybe slightly shorter keys) and with all that hammer mechanism in a DP, and register the speed of the hammer on a sensor strip than the string.


I think that's what Yamaha's AvantGrand N1, N2 and N3 have. Their key mechanisms are the same as Yamaha's grand; except sensors replace strings.

Here's an account of a Yamaha technician checking out a AvantGrand N3 for the first time - My First Time on a Yamaha AvantGrand N3




Edited by iceporky (12/14/13 09:38 PM)
Edit Reason: self-correct
_________________________
Kawai CA95, ES7.

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#2197753 - 12/14/13 10:24 PM Re: Kawai CA65, GF, RM3, Review and Actions In General [Re: guguma]
lolatu Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/01/13
Posts: 461
Loc: UK
Originally Posted By: guguma

Honestly, there is absolutely no limitation whatsoever that prevents our beloved manufacturers to put a real piano action (with maybe slightly shorter keys) and with all that hammer mechanism in a DP, and register the speed of the hammer on a sensor strip than the string. I am serious about this, and I have no doubt that some years from now a company will introduce their RGF (Real Grand Feel) action, that is exactly made in this manner, and we will all go crazy about it. But as you know, manufacturing costs, demand, supply, there is all that, there is untapped technology that has potential to make money so they do not want to jump ahead.

...
Of course and entire massive piano vibrating and giving you feedback is also missing, but I believe it is one thing someone has to live with if you want your digital to stay digital.


This already exists... the Yamaha Avant-Grand. The most expensive model has a vibrating keybed. But as you can imagine, they're out of the budget of your average home pianist (£5500 - £13000) or anyone who cares about money.

(edit: oh, iceporky already said this!)

I had a go on the CA65 recently. On paper it looks great, but I was disappointed by its sound - noticeably lacking in bass. I suppose it has to sound worse than the CA95, which has a soundboard speaker system, but it also sounded weak compared to its equivalent Roland, the HP505. Maybe some fiddling with the EQ settings would help. Of course, if you're using headphones or external speakers, this doesn't matter. The keyboard felt slightly better than the Roland, but not to the extent I hoped for given the long wooden keys and grand-like hammers... although, they both felt great, which is perhaps just a reflection on how good the Roland PHAIII action is. (At the other extreme, Roland's "Ivory-Feel G" action that you get in the cheaper / more portable DPs like the F120 and FP50, I found to be absolutely dire - the keys wobbled every time you hit a note, like you're playing on jelly.)

It's nice that actions are getting better, but I think there must be a point where they're good enough. It's not like all acoustics fell the same - if you imagine a multi-dimensional space in which the acoustic piano feels can be plotted, I think good modern DP actions already sit within that volume defined by the acoustics. A pianist worth his salt should be able to make a piano with even a crappy action sound good. And I'm not going to spend thousands more on an Avant-Grand to try to compensate for my... deficiencies as a pianist.


Edited by lolatu (12/14/13 10:25 PM)
_________________________
Kawai CA95 / Pianoteq Stage / Sony MDR-7506 / Steinberg UR22
In the loft: Roland FP3 / Tannoy Reveal Active / K&M 18810

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#2197776 - 12/14/13 11:25 PM Re: Kawai CA65, GF, RM3, Review and Actions In General [Re: lolatu]
gvfarns Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 3483
Loc: Pennsylvania
Originally Posted By: lolatu
And I'm not going to spend thousands more on an Avant-Grand to try to compensate for my... deficiencies as a pianist.


Yeah, I'd be happy to spend thousands on a piano if it would compensate for my deficiencies as a pianist. Too bad it doesn't work that way--money isn't a substitute for diligence and talent. smile

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#2197789 - 12/15/13 12:08 AM Re: Kawai CA65, GF, RM3, Review and Actions In General [Re: lolatu]
guguma Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 31
Originally Posted By: Kawai James
guguma, many thanks for posting your thoughtful comments.

And of course, congratulations on the purchase of your CA65!

Kind regards,
James
x


Thank You.

Originally Posted By: iceporky
Congrats on your new CA65! smile

I think that's what Yamaha's AvantGrand N1, N2 and N3 have. Their key mechanisms are the same as Yamaha's grand; except sensors replace strings.

Here's an account of a Yamaha technician checking out a AvantGrand N3 for the first time - My First Time on a Yamaha AvantGrand N3





Originally Posted By: lolatu


It's nice that actions are getting better, but I think there must be a point where they're good enough. It's not like all acoustics fell the same - if you imagine a multi-dimensional space in which the acoustic piano feels can be plotted, I think good modern DP actions already sit within that volume defined by the acoustics. A pianist worth his salt should be able to make a piano with even a crappy action sound good. And I'm not going to spend thousands more on an Avant-Grand to try to compensate for my... deficiencies as a pianist.


Cool, I had no idea about the Yamaha N's, they should advertise better, but probably I had no idea because of its price range. Lolatu's idea of a phase space of piano actions is epic laugh

The N series might be expensive now, they (or similar ones) will not be so in the future; in fact, at least in the US, I am noticing a price drop in acoustics. Even a half-decent upright would be considered luxury back in my home country when I was a kid (thus my piano education was halted), I am a graduate student and I make next to nothing and can get a nice digital, I believe (again please no one take me wrong, speaking only for the US) given that you have a place to put it, or given that you can sound isolate a room, and if one is passionate enough, one can get an acoustic (a good upright to a nice grand)

Originally Posted By: lolatu
A pianist worth his salt should be able to make a piano with even a crappy action sound good. And I'm not going to spend thousands more on an Avant-Grand to try to compensate for my... deficiencies as a pianist.


I also agree with this, but the reverse is also true; the unlearning of a habit is quite hard to do, and as I have mentioned, certain feats I was easily able to do on the HP-201 simply failed when I sat in front of an acoustic, most often I had to completely alter my pedaling from digital to acoustic.

Especially for parents who are passionate, and serious about teaching their kids how to play the piano, or if you are a beginner on the piano, I truly believe going for the most affordable, most realistic action is very important, action plays a big part on getting the "sound out of the piano", most of you would know better, but I learned a little too late that there is a huge difference between pressing the correct keys at the correct time, and playing a piece, emphasizing the beats, cantabile playing all involve certain shifts and twists to your entire body in general, which all depends on the piano action, and that is why I believe the escapement, hammer feedback, vibration feedback, correct weighing of the keys are very important, much much more important than how the piano sounds.

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#2197794 - 12/15/13 12:16 AM Re: Kawai CA65, GF, RM3, Review and Actions In General [Re: guguma]
jborica Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/09/13
Posts: 2
My VPC1 just came in today, I set it up and shortly played with it, then drove (for unrelated reasons) across the state and played at my girlfriend's house where she had an acoustic Kawai upright (it looks like a 508 or 607 decorator series).

In terms of touch, movement, response, the RM3II action is a great imitator of a real piano. Even with quick repeats.

The keys on the VPC1 did feel slightly heavier than the upright. I'm sure there are other acoustic pianos with a similar weight. It's absolutely nothing one can't get used to.

The review is spot on.

One thing I noticed about the pedal system, is that the pedals themselves were weights. The right one felt heavier/more resistant than the other two.

My personal piano playing level is beginner.


Edited by jborica (12/15/13 12:19 AM)

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#2199518 - 12/18/13 04:02 AM Re: Kawai CA65, GF, RM3, Review and Actions In General [Re: guguma]
ado Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/18/08
Posts: 94
Loc: france
Originally Posted By: guguma

A piano action consists of a wooden key, free to rotate around a given pivot, and a much more complicated hammer mechanism attached to it.

One great step towards realism was to make weighted keys that rotated freely around the pivot, thus the digital piano action was basically born.

If this is done, what is it there that is making DP's not feel like a real acoustic, what is so hard to replicate, let us think about that.

Honestly, there is absolutely no limitation whatsoever that prevents our beloved manufacturers to put a real piano action (with maybe slightly shorter keys) and with all that hammer mechanism in a DP, and register the speed of the hammer on a sensor strip than the string. I am serious about this, and I have no doubt that some years from now a company will introduce their RGF (Real Grand Feel) action, that is exactly made in this manner, and we will all go crazy about it. But as you know, manufacturing costs, demand, supply, there is all that, there is untapped technology that has potential to make money so they do not want to jump ahead.

The magic basically happens at three points (excluding trill ranges),

i) Move the damper up
ii) Hammer-Escapes the Key
iii Hammer Returns to the key

i) The damper and hammer moving up with the key, due to their lateral as well as vertical motion puts a variable resistance to the key while the key is lifted

ii) Hammer escaping the key is an "extremely important" realism point (I have seen some people not liking escapement feeling on this forum, for practicality concerns, it is ok, for getting as close to an acoustic action as possible this is terribly important). A sudden increase in force is required, followed by a sudden drop in required force.

Now the lateral movement of the hammer, and the damper is not THAT variable, besides, I can sort of see modern DP actions getting that quite right so i) is pretty much done for.

This is what I am talking about as the feedback, the hammer tells those highly sensitive tips of our fingers that it has done its job and returned.

Of course and entire massive piano vibrating and giving you feedback is also missing, but I believe it is one thing someone has to live with if you want your digital to stay digital.



If I won't be able to get tuned an old 1855 upright I bought recently I was envisaging to remove strings and install midi triggers from an 88 keyboard controller ,I will try to keep hammer action on as it is and instead of hammers hitting the string I will probably experiment with some kind of felt bumber.
I have been thinking about the project for a long time and still have to figure the midi aftertouch thing.

It certainly be nice to have an ivory fool action keyboard controller.

I was wondering if anyone done this before (save moogpianobar ).
_________________________
ado

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#2199629 - 12/18/13 10:23 AM Re: Kawai CA65, GF, RM3, Review and Actions In General [Re: ado]
Marcos Daniel Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/07/13
Posts: 161
Loc: Punta Alta, Buenos Aires, Arge...
There is a guy that made what you say, unfortunately, he does not make his circuit diagrams public.


http://sebion.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/epick-goes-oberdaempfer/

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#2199646 - 12/18/13 10:58 AM Re: Kawai CA65, GF, RM3, Review and Actions In General [Re: Marcos Daniel]
gvfarns Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 3483
Loc: Pennsylvania
Originally Posted By: Marcos Daniel
There is a guy that made what you say, unfortunately, he does not make his circuit diagrams public.


http://sebion.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/epick-goes-oberdaempfer/


From what I can tell, that guy uses sensors that mount under the keys, not the hammers. That's not physically different from the much more available PNOScan. Probably your local piano tech can get and install that.

Epick's innovation, apparently, is that it uses multiple measurements of the keys to calculate whether the hammer would have hit the keys. Not sure how PNOscan does it, nor whether his product works better.

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#2199906 - 12/18/13 10:53 PM Re: Kawai CA65, GF, RM3, Review and Actions In General [Re: gvfarns]
Marcos Daniel Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/07/13
Posts: 161
Loc: Punta Alta, Buenos Aires, Arge...
Originally Posted By: gvfarns


From what I can tell, that guy uses sensors that mount under the keys, not the hammers. That's not physically different from the much more available PNOScan. Probably your local piano tech can get and install that.

Epick's innovation, apparently, is that it uses multiple measurements of the keys to calculate whether the hammer would have hit the keys. Not sure how PNOscan does it, nor whether his product works better.


There is a digital piano that measures hammer's strike energy, but you would not like to know its price...
http://www.alpha-piano.com/

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#2199982 - 12/19/13 03:42 AM Re: Kawai CA65, GF, RM3, Review and Actions In General [Re: gvfarns]
ado Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/18/08
Posts: 94
Loc: france
Originally Posted By: gvfarns
Originally Posted By: Marcos Daniel
There is a guy that made what you say, unfortunately, he does not make his circuit diagrams public.


http://sebion.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/epick-goes-oberdaempfer/


From what I can tell, that guy uses sensors that mount under the keys, not the hammers. That's not physically different from the much more available PNOScan. Probably your local piano tech can get and install that.

Epick's innovation, apparently, is that it uses multiple measurements of the keys to calculate whether the hammer would have hit the keys. Not sure how PNOscan does it, nor whether his product works better.


That's PNOscan looks just perfect solution also I found pianodic tnt strip ,however nowhere to find what they cost ,anybody has got the idea ?
_________________________
ado

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#2200103 - 12/19/13 10:43 AM Re: Kawai CA65, GF, RM3, Review and Actions In General [Re: ado]
gvfarns Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 3483
Loc: Pennsylvania
Originally Posted By: ado
That's PNOscan looks just perfect solution also I found pianodic tnt strip ,however nowhere to find what they cost ,anybody has got the idea ?


At least in the US you can't get them without going through a piano dealer or technician who will install them. Ballpark guess, $1000 without labor. Maybe a bit less.

I think Europeans can get them without having to involve a piano tech but I might be wrong.

The PianoTeq forum has threads from time to time by people installing PNOscan in acoustics and digitals. There's some kind of relationship between PNOscan and PianoTeq. Anyway people over there tend to know a little more about it than we do.


Edited by gvfarns (12/19/13 10:45 AM)

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#2200518 - 12/20/13 03:01 AM Re: Kawai CA65, GF, RM3, Review and Actions In General [Re: gvfarns]
ado Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/18/08
Posts: 94
Loc: france
Originally Posted By: gvfarns
Originally Posted By: ado
That's PNOscan looks just perfect solution also I found pianodic tnt strip ,however nowhere to find what they cost ,anybody has got the idea ?


At least in the US you can't get them without going through a piano dealer or technician who will install them. Ballpark guess, $1000 without labor. Maybe a bit less.

I think Europeans can get them without having to involve a piano tech but I might be wrong.

The PianoTeq forum has threads from time to time by people installing PNOscan in acoustics and digitals. There's some kind of relationship between PNOscan and PianoTeq. Anyway people over there tend to know a little more about it than we do.


Uups that's a bit of cash for an experiment ,I might stick to the dissecting old midi controller idea.
Thanks
_________________________
ado

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#2200625 - 12/20/13 11:19 AM Re: Kawai CA65, GF, RM3, Review and Actions In General [Re: ado]
gvfarns Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 3483
Loc: Pennsylvania
Originally Posted By: ado
Uups that's a bit of cash for an experiment ,I might stick to the dissecting old midi controller idea.
Thanks


Yeah, some time back I had the idea of making my own ghetto AvantGrand by taking an action from a dead grand and putting a MIDI strip in it. I worked it out with a piano tech but it was ultimately going to cost a couple of grand, so I ditched the idea. Too much risk, and I'm not sure how well those midi strips really work.

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