🎹Kawai K-300 AURES 2 Hybrid Piano Review & Demo - Play Silently with Headphones Anytime🎹

Even before the onset of the 2020 and 2021 global lockdowns that saw much of the world spending much more time at home than usual, hybrid pianos, i.e. fully acoustic pianos augmented with digital piano features, were becoming increasingly advanced and increasingly popular.

With the onset of the events of 2020 and 2021, demand for these instruments went through the roof to the point that they were rarely ever in stock without being presold. After all, many people live in crowded households or in close proximity to neighbors making it hard to find a time during the day to make all kinds of noise on an upright or grand piano. Having the option to flip a switch and play your otherwise fully acoustic piano with headphones opens up all kinds of possibilities.

This brings us to the Kawai K-300 AURES 2 hybrid upright piano, which serves as an update to the first-generation AURES. There’s been a few critical upgrades, yet everything that made the first-generation AURES so popular and so well-liked remains in place.

With all of that out of the way, here’s our review of the new K-300 AURES 2.

Kawai K-300 AURES 2 – Background

 

Kawai K-300 AURES 2 Hybrid Piano
Kawai K-300 AURES 2 Hybrid Piano

AURES vs ATX

It’s important to clarify off the hop exactly what kind of instrument the K-300 AURES 2 is and how it differs from a standard K-300 or an ATX K-300. So, what we have here is a standard K Series Kawai K-300 Upright Piano augmented by the digital sound engine technology featured in Kawai’s premium NOVUS series hybrid digital pianos and Kawai’s Hybrid Soundboard amplification system which features nothing short of 4 high-performance transducers.

This means that in addition to being able to plug in a set of headphones and play without bothering others, you’re given full reign of the cutting-edge SK-EX Rendering Engine, and Harmonic Imaging XL engine (with 90 total sounds), both of which can be used acoustically via the transducer powered solid spruce soundboard speaker system. You can also stream music through the soundboard speaker system via Bluetooth Audio, giving you what amounts to a high-fi stereo setup.

The contrast here with the ATX-labeled instruments is that while they still have the silent functionality and tone generator, the transducer soundboard system is absent.

This is important to note because while the Kawai K-500 is available in an AURES 2 model, the Kawai K-200 is only available in an ATX format.

Differences from AURES 1 to AURES 2

Next up, many people will be wondering what the differences are between AURES 1 and AURES 2. While there are certainly more similarities than differences here, let’s get into exactly what the improvements are.

First of all, there has been an update to the transducers, though Kawai hasn’t been very specific as to what those improvements are. It seems like the placement of the transducers has been changed, and it sounds like there’s also been an update to the mechanism of the transducers themselves.

While there seems to be some confusion online as to the amount of transducers with some people suggesting that the AURES 2 has more transducers than the AURES 1, this isn’t actually the case as the AURES 1 also had 4 transducers, so the differences really seem to be in the placement and the design.

The second big difference with the AURES 2 is the absence of the control panel on the left side. For most users, this will be a positive thing because many will agree that this improves the overall aesthetic of the instrument.

While not everyone was bothered by the constantly backlit control panel, there were plenty of users who felt it cheapened the look of an otherwise beautiful upright piano. The other advantage here is that by removing the screen, they’ve removed one of the components most prone to mechanical failure down the road.

This means that to get in and control all of the digital piano-related functions, you will do so from a smart device by connecting either through Bluetooth MIDI or through the USB port.

The last difference with the AURES 2 is that it features an updated version of the SK-EX Rendering engine, which happens to be one of the most advanced digital piano tone engines currently on the market available in any new piano.

Kawai K-300 AURES 2 - SK-EX Rendering Engine
Kawai K-300 AURES 2 – SK-EX Rendering Engine

Update to the K-300 Professional Upright Piano

In terms of the acoustic instrument portion, there has been a small update to the K-300 itself, which is the addition of the microcell dampening rest rail for the underfelted hammers (double felted hammers).

This takes the already great repetition speed of the exclusive Millennium III upright action (with ABS-Carbon composites, extended key length and textured key surfaces) and makes it even better. Kawai first deployed this microcell technology in the K-800 and K-500, and how it’s made its way into the K-400 and K-300.

When looking inside the piano, you can see that the mahogany core hammers have virtually no bounce at all when resetting.

Otherwise, this is the same high-quality upright piano that has won Acoustic Piano of the Year for consecutive years in MMR magazine with perks like a soft fall fallboard, heavy-duty back posts, steel reinforced keyslip and high-quality casters.

AURES 2 Functionality

Let’s dive in now and still cover the bulk of what you get with an AURES instrument for people who are just exploring this technology for the first time, or for those who might be comparing the K-300 AURES 2 to an equivalent product from Yamaha or another piano company.

Given that the K-300 AURES 2 is a fully acoustic piano augmented by digital technology, there are multiple different playing modes to choose from, as we have alluded to throughout this review. Let’s get a little bit more specific about each mode.

Aures 2 Functionality
Aures 2 Functionality

Mode 1: Acoustic Piano

The first playing mode would of course just be as a standard acoustic piano. To have it play in acoustic piano mode, you’ll need to make sure that you have the electronics totally turned off or the volume knob set to zero, otherwise, you’ll still get sound coming from the transducers. You’ll also need to make sure that the middle pedal, which serves as the mute rail, is not engaged.

With many silent upright pianos of the past, the piano action was compromised as a result of the added technology. This is not the case with the last few K-300 ATX and AURES pianos where the acoustic piano experience is completely maintained. Pianists can rest assured that they’re getting a K-300 of equal quality, performance and craftsmanship to their non-AURES brethren.

Mode 2: Transducers Engaged

The next playing mode is when you engage the damper rail which stops the hammers from striking the strings and turns on the electronic components. The transducers engage and the sound generated via the digital sound engines actually plays through the K-300’s tapered soundboard. This is definitely one of the coolest and most unique aspects of AURES musical instruments.

Honestly, it’s worth visiting a piano gallery or showroom that carries Kawai products just to see this in action for yourself, or with your favorite music streaming through the soundboard via a smart device.

Mode 3: Acoustic Piano Layered with Digital Sound

The third playing mode is a sort of hybrid mode that adds the AURES’s tone engine to the acoustic piano sound. With the mute rail not engaged, simply turn on the electronics, adjust the volume, and you can layer any one of the AURES 2’s many sounds over the acoustic upright piano sound.

For example, an absolutely classic pairing is to layer some strings over the acoustic piano sound, but any of the AURES 2’s 90 sounds are available here.

Mode 4: Silent Mode

The fourth and final mode is commonly referred to as silent mode. This simply means you have the mute rail engaged and electronics turned on, but instead of playing sound through the soundboard, you plug in a set of headphones.

This of course allows you to practice anytime you’d like with a fantastic acoustic upright piano action without disturbing others.

Stu’s Advice to Present & Future K-300 AURES 2 Owners

When drilling down to do this review, Stu noticed that there are two or three notes on the piano that produce some odd acoustic effects when using the default SK-EX concert grand sound when playing with the transducers and soundboard.

An easy thing that dramatically reduces that effect was simply switching the Rendering Character to Classic 2. This odd acoustic effect will probably only be audible in certain rooms, if you happen to be noticing this, simply switching to Classic 2 fixes the issue.

Connectivity

Kawai K-300 AURES 2 Connectivity
Kawai K-300 AURES 2 Connectivity

Given the K-300 AURES 2’s digital piano components, it naturally has a number of connector ports built-in right underneath the keyboard.

There are dual headphone ports so two people can actually play or listen with headphones on at one time. There’s also classic 5-pin MIDI in and Out, as well as USB Type A and B.

Next, there’s a 1/8” stereo line in, and a 1/8” stereo line out. Rounding out the connectivity is the Bluetooth MIDI and Bluetooth Audio connectivity. As we mentioned, having an AURES 2 is essentially like having a high-end stereo system. Being able to stream music and hear it played through the K-300s soundboard is a truly singular experience!

Closing Thoughts

Thanks very much for checking out our review of this truly special instrument. If you aren’t yet familiar with hybrid instruments or have been exploring the option for a while, the K-300 AURES 2 is a class leader through and through.