Kawai sound vs. Yamaha

Posted by: yiss

Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/13/06 02:18 PM

I've been researching the market of digital pianos and synths some time now, and I was wondering if anyone noticed the following issue.

I was (and still) thinking of ES4, and currently seriously considering the MP8. They have excellent features, very good-looking and esthetic (as apposed to Yamaha) and have very realistic response. The sounds are warm and lush, and very characteristic.

But, when you listen carefully to the kawai sounds, they sound somewhat lo-fi. You hear a kind overtone or additional noise that is not part of the sound . I can’t express exactly what this is. Something fuzzy. In some sounds it is very annoying. In others perhaps not as much or barely noticed, but when you layer sounds everything becomes full of this say unwanted resonance, and quite noisy. All together it intermingles and gets sort of muddy and unpleasant to the ear. Of course this it is a subtle thing, not monstrous like it sounds from my description through trying to express myself.

However, by Yamaha this is not the case. The sound is extremely clear and pristine, easy on the ear, and every note and instrument is heard separately, like on an individual channel. When you listen to a peace recorded with Yamaha you can concentrate on any track without being disturbed by everything else.

So what I’d like to know is first of all, am I the only one to notice this? (If yes, then there is a problem with me , but if not, I can’t understand how kawai is so super popular in Europe. Do Europeans tend to just except things the way they are?).

Second and most, I want to know what is the professional definition of this diference. What is the cause of it, and why doesn’t this bother the kawai technicians. Could it be that some people LOVE IT THAT WAY? Is this a unique kawai feature? I know some complain that Yamaha sounds very cold and sterile, and that has its own aspect of being not natural. But for most you can describe it as ‘unnaturally realistic’. At the end of the day, it’s stunningly real.

(Except that I personally do like the warmness of kawai better, and the features too. But I’m a boy that can’t stand anything in sound that shouldn’t be there, so I’m afraid I’ll never be happy with the kawai pianos. On the other hand, I definitely might get bored with Yamaha. Yes. There is nothing better than an acoustic piano. But I now need a digital… so I’ve got to make my decision, and OH it’s a hard one .)

I’m not asking for advice. It’s too personal. I just want to know what you guys think about this problem, and what is its technical designation and explanation.
Posted by: yiss

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/16/06 05:23 PM

No Response? :rolleyes:

This means one of the two. Either nobody knows what I’m talking about, or else all agree and have nothing farther to say.

I’d hope to get some feedback on that point.
Posted by: napster

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/16/06 07:59 PM


I have a Kawai ES4 and previously had a Yamaha P120. I know what you are talking about. I am not a high tech guy so I can't explain it, but I agree with your assessment. I try to ignore it though because I am getting tired of trying to find the perfect digital piano for me. I like a warmer sound, especially because of the type of music I play. I am an older guy and play standards and jazz, and therefore the Kawai suits me better than digitals with a brighter acoustic piano sound. In the last 5 years, I have bought and sold 3 keyboards. I am reasonably happy with the ES4, except for some clicking sounds on a couple of keys that I mentioned in response to another post. I know others who have had no problems with it however. I would have gotten the MP8, but it was a little too heavy for me when I was gigging. People tell me maybe I am a little too picky, but I like what I like!
Posted by: Craigen

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/17/06 07:42 PM

What you may be describing is an effect or sound that is sometimes evident from the looping of the sound sample in the decay. Any chance of some electrical interferance from outside the instrument? Blown speakers?
Posted by: OldFingers

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/17/06 09:53 PM


Does it happen on a small cluster of notes, or is the effect all over the keyboard? Does the Kawai sample all 88 keys?

Sometimes when less than 88 keys are sampled there is a high-frequency ringing introduced caused by the sample splitting technique used to interpolate the missing sample from the samples of neighboring notes.

Posted by: yiss

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/18/06 05:05 AM

napster: I think we share the same problem. I'm also getting tired of searching. There is just no perfect digital piano.

craigen: The overtones that disturbed me are present also in very fast pieces. So there should be no looping there. Could it be an on/off type of noise? However that might be the case with strings, for example. Did you hear the piano and strings of the MP8, on the Kawai website? It's a mess!

Oldfingers: I don’t know if Kawai sample all keys. I think only Roland did that on the RD-sx. But Yamaha don’t sample all keys either, and even there cheaper models don’t sound that way.

To tell the truth, I only played the ES4. All the other ones were just mp3's. But I burned them on to CD's and heard them with good headphones. Since the ES4 sounded (almost) the same in real as through my stereo with the same headphone, this led me to the conclusion that I can actually judge from what I hear at home. I listened to tens of recordings on various models very carefully. And I'm talking about the sound itself. Not the overall quality I'm getting from the mp3 files.
Posted by: The Pro

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/18/06 02:51 PM

This is a vague topic so my answer can be forgiven if it is equally vague.

From actually playing many digital pianos I found that I do not like Yamaha digital pianos in general, including everything in the P-series and CLP's. I know a lot of people will disagree with that but that's how I feel. I tried them all out at various stores over many months and found that while the Yamaha tones overall sounded clear, the upper midrange where a lot of soloing and melodic content occurs always seemed thin and piercing to me. The Kawais ES4's upper midrange seemed more natural and the overall sound seemed warmer than the Yamaha's. I would agree the ES4 overall may not be as "clear" as the Yamaha tones but it certainly seems more natural sounding. I play a Yamaha acoustic grand piano at one of my gigs once a week and my Kawai ES4 sounds more like that grand piano than Yamaha's digitals do IMHO.

My point is this: for me it's not so much what I like as much as what I don't like - I don't like Yamaha or Roland or Korg digital pianos and I know for certain that I don't want one. Once I determined that then I was left with fewer choices and of those choices the Kawai ES4 was the one I liked best, second only to the Kawai MP8 which I deemed to be too heavy for transporting regularly. Since I bought my ES4 in February I've not found anything I liked better. No, the sound of the ES4 isn't perfect or maybe even as clear as some others but I enjoy the sound, the look and the feel of the ES4 very much and I'm glad I have it.
Posted by: yiss

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/19/06 10:21 AM


So that I could understand your point of view better. Do you play regularly on acoustic pianos, or your more of a synth musician?
Posted by: The Pro

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/19/06 10:57 AM

Originally posted by yiss:

So that I could understand your point of you better. Do you play regularly on acoustic pianos, or your more of a synth musician? [/b]
I am a fulltime professional pianist. Generally I perform about 5-6 nights a week and twice some days. I use the pianos that are on hand or I bring my own. When I use synths it's to create my MP3 backing tracks, but onstage the piano is my primary instrument.

Posted by: rintincop

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/19/06 12:13 PM

I have an ES4 and the difference in its sound is substantial between it and the MP8. When playing live with external speakers I actualy prefer the RD-700SX piano sound over my ES4. Live the RD-700SX sounds smoother and with more sustain.
The new Yamaha CP300 is also a fine sounding digital piano.

Just a warning, some not all of the ES4 actions are prone to black key clicking. Mine is quite problematic in that regard.
Posted by: Bodhi

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/19/06 02:01 PM

Do I presume you are saying the MP8 sounds better than the ES4? How about the CA-X? Bottom line - is the extra weight and size worth it? It looks like the MP8 has more memory, more voices, more setups, more polyphony, more authentic weighted keyboard feel... (am I missing anything)? If I want primarily a digital piano for the home that once in a while I can schlepp to a friend's house for a jam, is the MP8 the cat's meow?

Posted by: EP

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/19/06 03:17 PM

I'll add my 2 cents - I own both the ES4 and the MP8. The MP8 is definitely a superior instrument, in my opinion. Action, sound, features, etc. But, it's a lot to "schlepp". The ES4 is perfect for a portable instrument.
Is the CA-X a good compromise? I don't know. I really like the wooden-key action, so if I had to choose, I'd probably take the CA-X over the ES4, although you'd have to provide your own speakers and amps.
I suppose a lot depends on how much you plan to cart it around, and how easily you can handle and transport an instrument that size. The ES4 fits on the back seat of my Taurus. The MP8 would be a real struggle to get in my car at all.
Also, my MP8 is pretty well installed into its spot and I wouldn't want to pull it out to take it with me. The ES4 fits in a nice bag and I can carry it with one hand.
Posted by: saw

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/19/06 04:46 PM

As long as we're comparing different Kawai stage models, what about the MP4? I am considering purchasing one as a home practice instrument. Although I have not found one that I can play, I understand that it is similar to ES4 in action with more patches built in and more focus on controller features. It's sometimes thought of as "little brother" to the MP8, primarily missing the wooden-key action. I'm thinking that the MP4 may be a good alternative to other inexpensive stage pianos. And, it also has the weight advantage at 45 lb (i.e., over MP8 or CA-X). I have not heard many negative comments on it. I have found a source where I can get a factory-refurbished one for a good price. Just wondered about others' opinions. Thanks.

Posted by: rintincop

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/20/06 02:13 AM

Hey EP,

Do you notice any black keys clicking on your ES4 action. It's getting more and more noticeable on mine and my friend's ES4s.

Posted by: EP

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/20/06 08:43 AM

No, I haven't had any problems with the ES4. But, I haven't logged nearly as many hours on it as I have on my MP8.
I have recently played a Roland digital (not sure the model, but it's an "upright" model - that had key clicking and it is rather distracting.
Posted by: Piano Gal

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/20/06 08:52 AM

I'm getting ready to purchase the Kawai CP207 and am reading this thinking, "red flag", should I be worried that the CP207 can also have that awful clicking noise? Has anyone played the CP205 or 207?
Posted by: yiss

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/20/06 01:36 PM

The CP205 has the wooden AWA PRO action. Rintincop was talking about the new plastic AHA IV plastic action in the ES4 therefore I would not worry.
Posted by: Piano Gal

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/20/06 01:37 PM

Thanks Yiss!
Posted by: Kawai50

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/22/06 08:49 PM

Hello guys,

I have posted on several threads because I feel after all my research I have found the closest to a "perfect" digital piano. Instead of running the Cp207, try the Ca-5 ran into a very fast computer into a program like Ivory. Trust me, the sound is geniune, and you can always upgrade the sounds. IMO, no digital piano sounds good but with a computer you can be very satisfied.
Posted by: Agathis

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 09/22/06 09:21 PM

well done pianogal, did you find a dealer?
Posted by: pianopop9

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 02/06/07 10:56 AM

Kawai50 - you have hit the nail on the head. When I run my Yamaha P200 through my PC as midi controlling Ivory or any other good piano midi sample...it is as real as it gets!!! I actually found a rack mount module they sell that is essentially a PC that can do this for you in a live setting! Haven't splurged yet though on that. This is the next generation of digital pianos in my opinion.
Posted by: RonP

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 02/06/07 09:56 PM

I believe what you people are talking about with Kawai's is what audiophiles call: harmonic distortion. It is simply harmonics.
The purist wants the harmonic distortion to be created by the room only. Not the source. And they prefer a room that creates none.
I would like to call this simply: Harmonics. The Kawai creates more of them. They create fullness with them. It is beautifully done. Sounds more like a Grand Piano in an outstanding concert hall.
This is also why Yamaha's can sound too bright and lack fullness in the highs. Yamaha insists on sticking to their measurements in their sound chamber.
Using sound deadening panels in a room will take the chaos out of fast playing a Kawai. They also help out anything Yamaha.

Hope I didn't bore you all. I'm just a newbie who has been an audiophile. It's just my opinion.
Posted by: RonP

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 02/06/07 09:57 PM

Sorry...didn't go through the first time. Hit it again and posted twice.
Posted by: gaffster

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 02/07/07 04:28 PM

Every sample has harmonics, otherwise every note is a pure tone (sinewave). Any piano is very complicated, harmonically speaking.

Harmonic distortion is term reserved for unwanted harmonic content, usually caused by looping, numeric round-off, bit over-flow, or undersampling in the digital realm, or by clipping in the analog realm.

The raw smaples are digital processed with EQ filters, attack, decay, sustain, reverb, etc,etc,etc which are intended to provide a room effect.

The best way to find the source of "noise" is to strip away all the effects, If it is still there it is from the raw samples..or from the analog circuits that follow the Digital to Analog Converter (e.g. headphone amp, etc.)
Posted by: durtyz

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 02/09/07 08:04 AM

I am about to purchase a yamaha CLP range DP tomorrow, the dealer I go to has mid and upper range models from roland, kawai and Yamaha, so I was able to A/B test most of the models we see mentioned regularly in the threads here...

Im not saying that the Roland or kawai were bad instruments, its just that Iintend the DP to be recorded as part of a band sound, I'll be recording both acoutic and electric guitars alongside the piano arrangements, thats where the clarity of the sound was the clear winner for me, yes they are quite bright sounding, personally I like that a lot, but combining the sound and feel the yamaha came out as the winner for me, the kawai boards were indeed very nice, but I thought that the sound from the yamaha was better, the feel on all the upper end models of each brand was good, but as the 'whole package' was the biggest consideration, then sound, the yamaha just won in the end.

the muddy sound referred to earier in the thred, I also found to be quite noticable in the kawai series, although the MP8 in particular was very nice to play and visially appealing for a stage piano.

as stated elsewhere it seems as yet there is no perfect digital piano, just as there are sound/feel fluctuations in the acoustic pianoi market also.

for me the yamaha emerged as the most satisfactory 'complete' package and as I would be using it in a non-classical setting it had the most appealing and clear sound.

just my tuppence worth
Posted by: Craigen

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 02/11/07 06:28 PM

Some of the highest end audio components today are Yamaha. In the Clavinovas there are:
Yamaha speakers
Yamaha amplifiers
Yamaha crossover circuitry
It is very pure sound. Nearly impossible to overdive. That coupled with the piano they sample and their sampling technology, IMO they are the best on the market.
Posted by: KBBit

Re: Kawai sound vs. Yamaha - 02/11/07 09:38 PM

I hear some strange sounds from my CA5 (harmonics) and it sounds 'hollow' through the console. Put on a nice set of headphones and all is fixed. The Kawai seems to have good samples but not a great amp/speakers. I hooked up my guitar amp to it and toned it to play along with the console speakers and it improved the sound greatly. I may invest in some nice external sound this year. Most of the time I play with headphones now, so it hasn't bothered me.