The Kawai GX2 grand piano is a piano that creatively blends traditional craftsmanship with modern innovation and technology. Whether it’s straightforward improvements to the lid props and soft fall systems, to the more complex improvements in touch control with the carbon fiber Millennium III action, Hard Finish coatings on the music rack, or steel-reinforced body parts like the keybed and keyslip, this instrument is one of the most popular choices amongst well regarded home and institutional grand pianos on the market today.
We hope you enjoy our video review and accompanying article by Stu Harrison from Merriam Pianos in Toronto Canada.
Kawai GX-2 Grand Piano Review Video Transcription
Hi, everybody, and welcome to another piano review. I’m Stu Harrison, we’re here of course at Merriam Pianos, just outside of Toronto, Canada. We’re in our beautiful Oakville showroom today and we’ll be taking a close look at the Kawai GX2 BLAK, an instrument that has had an enormous impact on the institutional piano industry, and really the home piano industry as well. Amongst new pianos in this category, there are a multitude of revolutionary things going on throughout the design of this instrument, including the action, pinblock, key surfaces, lid prop stick, finish, and even the tapered solid spruce soundboard.
The GX2 is the current 5″11″ grand piano from Japan in Kawai’s premium category (the very top level is Shigeru Kawai, which is hand made and about twice the price of the GX line). It’s a classic size, and is the most popular size for most companies that produce a 6′ piano. It was preceded by the RX2, a 5’10” which was the first from Kawai to include vertically-laminated bridges and the Millennium III action. But unlike most product evolutions, the GX is devolved from the Shigeru Kawai SK2, rather than evolved from the RX2. In fact, the RX was discontinued around 2012/2013, its lineage is more apparent in the current GL line than anything else. So the GX is rolling off the line at their Ryuyo factory in Hamamatsu Japan, which is where they also produce other Kawai Grands from the GL, GX lines, and some of the Boston grand models for Steinway.
Tone and Harmonic Components
The GX2 has such a colorful, rich, lush tone, and unlike some of the previous Kawai piano models where you had a lot of upper partials and a very strong fundamentals, some of those warmer mid-tones maybe didn’t come out as strongly. And often you got a compressed EQ curve out of these pianos – almost like an MP3 vs CD or Vinyl tone. It was warm, but some people heard it as a harsh sound. The GX has a beautiful tonal curve to it. You’ve got nice, lush, mid partials, the upper treble, it’s all very well balanced. And the other great thing is there’s very little mechanical inertia in the sound. So in other words, very responsive, the instrument comes alive, even at very, very low dynamic ranges.
It’s no surprise that this instrument is finding a huge audience with the institutional market as well as the home market. Even performance venues, where you’ve got a need for affordable quality with good projection, are liking this line. And the majority of players enjoying the GX are young professionals or advanced students looking for versatility, consistency, and dynamism. An instrument that is really going to give us the widest palette possible so we can figure out how to use all of those colors. That’s what pushes us as players, as artists to get better, is to be given more tools and figure out how to use them. These qualities are a given at $100,000 budgets. You can most certainly achieved that if you look hard at the $50,000 price level. When you get down into the $30,000 range, that becomes slim pickings to really have an instrument that you can truly describe as giving you a superb tonal depth to play with, something that at least lands tonally in the same range as a concert grand, and not break the bank.
Another major component which is contributing to the GX’s tone is the fact that we’ve got a vertically laminated bridge.
Vertically laminated bridges are features that something that you find on pianos like a Steinway, you find it on Bechsteins, and Faziolis have really beautifully complex bridges. And the whole idea there is that you’re trying to take all of the frequencies and their harmonics that are flowing through the string and get them down onto that soundboard. And of course, one type of wood is never going to deliver the full spectrum of tone without biasing it in some way. So, you’ve got multiple laminations on the bridge delivering different parts of the tone to the soundboard. You’ve got a tapered soundboard on this, which again, is a premium feature that you often find concert instruments but it’s a little less usual in this price range. And you’ve got a hard rock maple, combined with the mahogany inner rim, which of course is delivering a lot of projection, a lot of rigidity, a lot of nice mid-tone projection, but that mahogany warms it up a little bit. And so, you get a very interesting mix of both this lower bloom to the tone, but you’ve also got this nice mid-ranged kind of laser beam thing that a lot of people would normally associate with a Steinway.
I think that’s where the GX series grand pianos have really stepped up to the plate and helped bridge the divide between what normally would be an exceptionally well built mass-produced piano, which I would describe the RX or the Yamaha C-Series is this workhorse instrument that didn’t require a lot of maintenance, lasts decades and decades, and produces a consistent tone. The gap occurs between those options and having to double your budget to get into something that really truly gave you that lush palette that you’d normally associate with a concert instrument. So it finds a nice halfway point.
The last few points I’ll make on the harmonic features of the piano are the agraffes – there to help reduce distortion and improve clarity in the mid and upper ranges, and the stretcher bar – there to improve cabinet resonance.
GX2 Key Action and Feel
Now, I did mention that we’re going to talk about the action. And so, we are definitely going to pull out and on the GX, they’re using the Millennium III action, the Ninja edition. Now, this is a slight update to the Millennium III action with ABS-Carbon that they’ve had for quite a few years. One of the notable features that they have on the GX is this extended key stick length. And this is something that they’ve brought out in the GL, they brought out on some of the K-Series upright pianos, the GX and the SK and that is this extra-long key stick that they’re putting on there to better simulate the type of dynamic feel that you get on a concert instrument or at least a 7-foot instrument. It’s a simple yet effective innovation that reduces the transitional effect that you have, if this is your practice instrument and you wind up having to do recitals on a 9-foot or in-studio on a 7-foot, this doesn’t feel worlds apart, just kind of a nice thing. It also reduces the differences in weight and speed between the front of the key and the rear.
There are several other aspects besides the keysticks that make this action very fluid, consistent, and versatile. For one, It’s going to feel slightly deeper than what you’d normally get on a European action. For many people, what that does is it sort of increases the level of control they have, particularly in the lower dynamic ranges. And, of course, Kawai as rather famously or infamously switched from wood components to composite action parts for a lot of the repetition components. For anyone who’s been in the industry for several decades can tell you that Kawai took a lot of flack for making this change. They became an easy punching bag for a lot of competitor companies to come in and say, “Oh, it’s plastic, it’s cheap.” or crazy claims like “it’s made of recycled garbage bags.” And I’ve heard a multitude of very interesting things said about this composite action. Unfortunately, the facts of the matter is that this has been shown to be an incredibly easy to own consistent action. And one where I think a lot of people have appreciated the fact that you’re having to regulate it less. And especially in a climate like this, the piano plays the same on a hot sweaty day, as it does in a cool dry day. And that’s, it’s just a nice convenience, a nice musical convenience to have your piano feel the same regardless of what’s going on with the weather.
Looking at the action from the hammer back, we’ve got double felted hammers with mahogany cores, we’ve got the mechanics in the repetition section of the action which is made of the composite. And as mentioned in the introduction, Kawai does a number of other things in its key bed to really reinforce the NEOTEX keys and make sure that we’ve got maximum energy flowing through the action and finally reaching the string.
Cabinetry and Finishes
The GX2, like most of the other grand piano models in the GX line, have a blend of contemporary and traditional lines and influences in the exterior design. The most common finish is polished ebony, but it is also available in polished mahogany, polished walnut, and in some markets sapeli mahogany polish. You can also get it in satin ebony, a traditional hand-rubbed finish normally seen in American grand pianos.
The casters are solid brass and extremely high quality, and the V-Pro plate is powder coated in an automotive-quality like gold finish.
So, the GX presents a really interesting option I think for parents looking for advanced students at home or of course schools looking for an easy to maintain grand piano that delivers consistent touch and dynamic, clear tone. Now, its main competitor, of course, is the Yamaha C2X grand piano. So, I did say at the beginning of the video that we’re going to be comparing the GX2 to the Yamaha C2X. And we’ve got a Yamaha C2X, a relatively new one, I think 6 million serial number in the showroom, and we’re going to be just taking a look at exactly what the Yamaha brings to the table. It’s another formidable instrument, and exactly how it compares to the Kawai GX2 grand piano. I’m sorry to disappoint, this video will not be delivering a conclusive one is better than the other type of statement. Really, the hope here is to draw your attention to the comparison points so that you can continue to do some research and draw of course your own conclusions. Musical instruments and pianos are no exception are so personal. And so there’s no way I’m going to be able to predict what tone or what touch might appeal to you the best.
But like I said, hopefully, we can help direct your research so that you can focus in on those salient points and maybe just make the shopping experience a little less confusing or just a little more focused. So, we’re going to get set up in front of the Yamaha C2X in our next video and see just how these two pianos stack up.