🎹 Kawai CN201 Digital Piano Review & Demo | Kawai CN-29 Upgrade | Kawai CN201 vs Kawai CN29🎹

Kawai has an overflowing trophy case from all of the awards the CN series has won over the years. The Kawai CN29 was a massive seller over the past few years, but despite a relatively short production run, Kawai has already announced its replacement with the next-generation CN201.

This will be our first look at the brand-new Kawai CN201, and we’ll of course be focusing in on exactly what has been improved from the CN29, and what has stayed the same.

Let’s start with a little bit of context.

Kawai CN201 Background

Kawai CN201 Home Digital Piano
Kawai CN201 Home Digital Piano

We’ve been fans of the CN series here at Merriam Music since its inception many years ago. The CN29 came out in late July of 2019 and was the model with us through the period of worldwide lockdowns when digital piano sales absolutely skyrocketed.

Kawai probably could have squeezed another year or two of production out of the CN29, however, several things conspired to make the CN201 a reality and retire the CN29. The biggest reason is of course the fact that Kawai’s main chip supplier Onkyo, actually went out of business, and as a result, they had to source new circuit boards for their CN series.

Rumor has it the new supplier is an even more well-known manufacturer, but they’ve decided against co-branding so, at this point, the identity of said supplier remains a mystery.

That said, it’s quickly apparent that we’re dealing with a higher level of signal processing here, and this is particularly noticeable with a totally superior experience when playing with headphones and the Spatial Headphone Sound effect.

Is the Kawai CN201 a Revolution or an Evolution?

Now, as a whole, while the CN201 is undoubtedly an upgrade over the CN29, it’s a very subtle one and by no means a dramatic revolutionary leap forward.

Given the fact that we’re working with a totally new circuit board, however, it makes sense as to why Kawai decided to give this model a new name.

In terms of its overall capability, it fills the exact same lane that the CN29 did meaning it’s a great option for people with the budget for a used acoustic upright piano but who want the convenience and consistency of a good digital piano.

This is a huge crowd of the buying public, so we have no doubt that the CN201 will be just as popular as the CN29 was, if not more so.

Kawai CN201 – Piano Sound

Kawai CN201 Progressive Harmonic Imaging Sound Engine
Kawai CN201 Progressive Harmonic Imaging Sound Engine

Kawai’s Progressive Harmonic Imaging (PHI) Sound Engine

Kawai’s same PHI sound engine returns in the CN201 from the 29. This is an 88-key individually stereo sampled tone engine with a wonderfully high-quality rendering of the Shigeru Kawai SK-EX concert grand piano. The Kawai EX concert grand sample also returns, but new to the CN201 is a full 88-key sampling of a Kawai K-60 upright piano.

And this sample has to be one of the best upright samples we’ve heard in a digital piano. For folks that like to play modern pop or indie styles, a good upright sound can’t be beaten as a clean grand piano sound isn’t really associated with that type of music.

The differences from the CN29 are solid without headphones, but we are noticing some improved clarity which is likely the result of the superior signal processing.


Polyphony remains the same at a cool 192 notes, and for a digital piano built primarily for acoustic piano playing, this is more than enough.

Other Sounds

There are 19 total onboard sounds here, and aside from the new K-60 sample, they sound the same as what was offered on the CN29. The sounds are pretty consistent across the staples like electric pianos and strings, but the Jazz organ is a definite highlight,

Virtual Technician

The CN201 doesn’t feature the Virtual Technician feature on-board, but it is readily accessible via the Kawai PianoRemote app, and this allows you to adjust 19 total sound-related parameters, including things like damper resonance, string resonance, key-off noise etc.

They also make their Smart Presets available if you don’t want to dive too far into the weeds, and these consist of a number of preset configurations of the above parameters.

You’re of course also able to edit things like reverb, and the CN201’s Low Volume Balance feature automatically equalizes the tone when playing at low volume levels.

Speaker System

Kawai’s using a dual speaker system here with a total of 40 watts of power. This is on the upper end of what’s available for the class, and it’s actually enough power to fill even a medium-sized room.

This was actually a key selling feature of the CN29 and will probably continue to be so for the CN201 as many comparable models from the likes of Yamaha and Roland for example do not generally feature speaker systems that are as robust.

Kawai CN201 – Piano Action

Kawai CN201 Responsive Hammer III Keyboard Action
Kawai CN201 Responsive Hammer III Keyboard Action

Responsive Hammer III Keyboard Action with Improved Cushioning

Kawai has brought back the Responsive Hammer III action here (RHIII), though it’s actually a new and improved version. Likely as a result of all the people confined to their homes with family who became first-time piano players during the pandemic, the issue of mechanical key action noise suddenly became a big focus.

As a result, this new version of the RHIII features improved key cushioning, meaning pianists can essentially play at all hours without worrying about bothering others. The improved cushioning should also improve the long-term durability of the RHIII as well. We expect this trend to continue across the industry.

Weighting & Repetition Speed

In terms of weighting, this is right in line with where the RHIII was previously, meaning it’s weighted out to be approximately the same as a 5’6” baby grand.

The repetition speed is very good on this action, and probably the best among plastic actions, though it’s of course slightly slower than some of the higher-end wooden actions.

Triple Sensor Key Detection & Other Action Features

The RHIII action is equipped with a triple sensor meaning it’s very accurate from a MIDI output perspective. It’s also equipped with counterweights and let-off simulation which helps in making this action behave and feel like a grand piano action.

Ivory touch key surfaces are employed for the white keys, and there’s a nice matte finish on the black keys.

One other interesting tidbit about the RHIII action; you can actually buy a version of the Nord Grand that features the RHIII as an upgraded action mechanism for folks who want something better than Nord’s much more basic action.

Kawai CN201 Ivory Touch Key Surfaces
Kawai CN201 Ivory Touch Key Surfaces

Features & Connectivity

Bluetooth Connectivity

A key upgrade over the CN29 has been Kawai expanding the Bluetooth functionality beyond MIDI to also include a Bluetooth Audio connection. This is a really nice addition that allows you to stream music directly from a Smart Device through the CN201, taking advantage of its solid onboard speaker system.

You can of course use Bluetooth MIDI to access apps for iOS and Android, such as Kawai’s own PianoRemote app or the PiaBookPlayer.

Other Connectivity Ports

Otherwise, the CN201 is fairly lean from a connectivity standpoint, with the largest omission being 1/4” line outputs. If that’s an essential feature for you and you don’t want to fiddle around with an adaptor, fortunately, the CN301 is equipped with line outputs.

Otherwise, the CN201 has dual headphone jacks and USB to host.

Grand Feel Pedal System

On a grand piano, all three pedals have a different musical purpose, and they also have a different weighting. Kawai recreates this with their Grand Feel Pedal System which the CN201 happens to be equipped with.
This means that the weighting of the damper, sostenuto and soft pedals mimic the exact way they feel on acoustic grand pianos.

User Interface

Kawai has improved on the interface from the CN29 going with a new OLED display controllable via a cheekblock control panel. All of the onboard features like the metronome, lesson function, and Alfred books can be controlled from here, or via the PianoRemote app.

Finish Options

The CN201 is available in three gorgeous finish options; Satin Black, Premium Rosewood and Satin White.

Closing Thoughts

All in all, we think the CN201 continues the CN tradition very aptly. It’s going to appeal to the fact exact same audience and continue to ensure that Kawai has one of the single most compelling options in the class.

Thanks for reading!