The 5’11” Kawai GX-2 grand piano is among our top-selling instruments here at Merriam Music, but for some folks, the 6’2” GX-3 is worth the extra spend all day.
In this article and companion video, we’ll be comparing the Kawai GX-2 vs GX-3 side by side. This should be helpful as these two instruments often wind up on the finals list for families looking for mid-range, professional-level grand pianos.
Let’s start with some background information and context.
There’s a list of commonly asked questions that piano dealers get asked every single day. The most frequent are things like digital or acoustic? Upright or grand? Kawai or Yamaha?
Beyond these staple questions, there are some model match-up questions that we often get as well, questions pertaining to the differences between the Kawai GX-2 vs GX-3 are quite common as well.
For a good number of people, their piano buying journey comes down to these two instruments. The GX line is very popular in the modern marketplace and is often compared to say, the Boston GP series (designed by Steinway but built by Kawai in Japan) and Yamaha’s CX series.
The GX line also sometimes gets positioned against the Yamaha S Series in markets where the Yamaha dealers have been forced to more heavily discount, and sometimes people will consider the GX line against Eastern European options.
Why is the GX Line so Popular?
The GX line is so well regarded among industry critics, musicians and institutions because it’s unanimously considered a very high-performing, high-value series of instruments.
When you look at the spec sheet for the Kawai GX-2 vs GX-3, they both read as though you’re looking at a European concert grand piano. In fact, the GX-2 and GX-3 are essentially factory reproductions of the handmade Shigeru Kawai SK-2 and SK-3 respectively.
Front and rear duplex scaling, vertically laminated bridges, special Konsei Katagi outer and inner rims with blended hard rock maple mahogany hardwoods, tapered solid spruce soundboards, V-Pro plates, steel-reinforced keyslips and keybed, extra wide stretcher bars and the list goes on.
Differences from the RX Line
The GX series came out close to 10 years ago now and were released as slightly larger updates to the hugely successful RX-2 and RX-3. The reason for the additional size was due to a slight thickening in the rims and lengthening of the keysticks as the newest version of Kawai’s Millennium III Carbon Fiber action features extended-length keysticks for better control.
For example, at 5’11” the GX-2 is classic salon grand size-wise, but the action will feel more like a 6’6” piano while the 6’2” GX-3 will feel closer to a 7-footer.
The other main upgrade over the RX series and an overall improved cabinet design and new hard finish that is both better looking and more durable.
Key Differences Between the Kawai GX-2 vs GX-3
Despite very similar-looking specs sheets aside from the 3-inch size difference, the GX-3 lists for a substantial $12,000 USD higher than the GX-2. This is due to the fact that Kawai manufactures many more GX2’s as compared to the GX-3, and as such, the GX-3 simply doesn’t have the economy of scale.
Now, if you actually have a GX-2 and GX-3 side by side and take a close look at them, you’ll notice some beam support differences when you look underneath both pianos. The GX-3 has a slightly more intricate cabinet which delivers a greater degree of cabinet resonance.
Otherwise, the differences between these two pianos are purely musical and result from the size differences since components such as the hammers, pinblock and agraffes are all the same, whereas the larger soundboard, strings, rim etc. result in different musical experiences.
We’ll dive more specifically into the sound now, but be sure to check out the video to hear these differences for yourself.
Musically speaking, there are a few things widely observed about the GX series as a whole that definitely apply here.
For example, the sustain on both of these instruments is exceptionally good for factory-produced instruments. The treble on both of these instruments is strong and thick with a very well-defined fundamental and yet lots of color too.
The biggest tonal differences start to emerge as soon as you get below concert A down around middle C. The “break” is a little bit smoother on the GX-3, and there’s greater warmth in the bass register. It’s also fair to say that the sound is slightly more open overall on the GX-3 as well.
Let’s expand on these observations and go register by register.
Interestingly, the GX-2 actually offers slightly better rim activation in that lower octave and while the mics we used for the video probably won’t pick this up, you can definitely hear this in person.
Both bass registers offer a similar level of projection, but we’re hearing more of the fundamental on the GX-3 due to the longer strings.
One of the most significant differences as we move up through the range is the “break” area as we mentioned above. The “break” on the GX-3 is more controlled than the GX-2, and largely, this is a function of the extra string length.
The longer you can make a string, the cleaner you can make that transition.
Moving to the second octave up from the bottom, and there’s a lot more of the third and fourth partial coming from strings on the GX-2 than the GX-3. If you play a good amount of repertoire within that particular range of the piano this could be a significant consideration.
Mid & Treble Ranges
Once we move up into the mid and treble ranges, the GX-3 is a little bit more colourful, although the GX-2 still sounds really great with lots of warmth.
GX-2 through this range offers more of a direct sound with less of a cabinet resonance but a more direct soundboard tone.
At the very top of both pianos, differences are almost indistinguishable from one another, which makes sense as the string length up here is basically the same.
Feel and Response
Millennium III Carbon Fiber Action
Both pianos are receiving the same ABS-Carbon composite action – the Millennium III Carbon Fiber action. Both pianos come very well regulated from the factory, and the voicing is generally very good out of the box as well.
The Millennium III action is without question one of the key selling features for the GX series musical instruments, especially for institutions where whose pianos will be receiving intensive use. Carbon Fiber reinforced plastic is more durable than the wood used in other actions at this price point and less temperamental.
Extended Length Key Sticks
At the same time, the repetition speed is extremely good, as is the responsiveness. The extended-length key sticks we mentioned earlier come into effect by providing the player with a greater level of control than they could normally reasonably expect out of a similarly sized piano.
Both pianos feature Neotex Key Surfaces on both the white and black keys, and this is another composite material that mimics the moisture-absorbing qualities of genuine ivory.
Summarizing the Musical Differences
The key musical differences between these the Kawai GX-2 vs GX-3 can be summed up as follows; The GX-3 offers more fundamental tone in the lower registers than the GX-2 and a little bit more power, but the overall character is actually quite similar.
As we move into the second octave, the GX-3 has a smoother “break” area, meaning there are fewer of those metallic harmonics coming through that often appear in this part of a grand piano.
In the third octave, the Kawai GX-2 is actually producing more cabinet resonance, and the treble areas are quite similar. This means that if you happen to play a lot of music that’s confined to the mid and upper registers, you’re not going to be sacrificing anything if you opt for a GX-2 as opposed to a GX-3.
On the other hand, if the extra bass presence, power and projection of the GX-3 are important to you, it’s well worth the premium.
Finishes & Aesthetic Features
Both pianos are most commonly sold in a polished ebony finish, but both are also available in satin ebony. That’s it for the GX-3, but as the bigger seller, the GX-2 is available in a variety of additional finishes including Walnut, Cherry and Oak Satin, as well as Snow White Polish, and Walnut and Sapeli Mahogany.
In terms of other aesthetic considerations, both pianos feature soft fall fallboards, as well as brass pedals and lid props.
We hope this article has been helpful, whether you’re looking for a new piano and these were on the final list, or if you simply like learning about pianos.
For people who maybe only had a chance to check one model out in a showroom, we hope that this has helped shed some light on whether or not it’s worth exploring the other model.
Thanks for reading!