🎹Kawai Novus NV5 Hybrid Digital Piano - TwinDrive, Onkyo Transducers, Shigeru SK-EX Sound Engine🎹

With the release of Kawai’s NOVUS NV10 hybrid digital piano, Kawai completely raised the bar in terms of what was possible as far as touch is concerned with a fully acoustic action in an otherwise digital piano. The main drawback of the NV10? The price.

When the Kawai Novus NV5 hybrid digital was announced, the hype and anticipation absolutely exploded. The NV5 being the upright piano entry in the NOVUS series that was set to cost several thousand dollars less than the NV10.

In today’s video and article, we’re finally taking a look at this new instrument that has been instantly met with rave reviews upon its release.

We’ll of course be covering the state-of-the-art action, sound engine and advanced speaker system, as well as the additional features and connectivity. Thanks for joining us – let’s get right into it.


The NV5 hit the market in some other jurisdictions several months before arriving in North America, such as Japan and Europe. Needless to say, everyone over here at Merriam Music was keeping a close eye on new review videos and articles as they came out with extreme jealousy.

The first few shipments to finally arrive were all presold so it took us even longer to get one on the floor to try out. But when we finally did – wow!

But before we get into that, let’s cover some reasons why we were so excited about this piano in the first place. For starters, the level of hype and fanfare the NV5 immediately received, including many proclamations that it happens to be the finest digital piano ever produced, was really pronounced. Any successful new release garners a lot of hype, but the NV5 took this to a whole new level.

Our President and resident piano reviewer Stu Harrison was especially interested in trying the NV5 for personal reasons, namely that due to having a young baby at home, he’s been unable to spend much time playing his acoustic upright piano. This led him to ask – is the NV5 good enough to consider as a replacement for his beloved high-end German upright piano?

First Impressions

After his first couple hours on the NV5, Stu described his feelings as a mix of shock and surprise – the most musical experience that he’s ever had on a digital piano, bar none. He would ultimately end up trading in his German upright for an NV5 in the ensuing months.

Now, it’s important to note that we’re not saying that the NV5 is a superior instrument to a high-end German piano. But depending on your living situation, the flexibility the NV5 provides is ultimately more suited to a lifestyle with small children, and the NV5 delivers enough musical potential to be fulfilling.

Kawai Novus NV5 Dimensions
Kawai Novus NV5 Dimensions

Getting to play on a great acoustic piano action while being able to adjust the volume, and of course, playing with headphones can be a real motivator for certain people. And there’s a level of closeness and responsiveness that you wouldn’t normally expect to get out of an instrument that plugs into the wall.

At Merriam, we think this is the way of the future – eventually, we’ll get to the point where most digital pianos are delivering a high-level experience like this because the world is heading towards a situation with increasingly smaller and smaller living quarters, thus necessitating a greater level of sound control and management that only a digital piano can provide.

Let’s move our discussion over to the sound engine.

Kawai Novus NV5 Sound

Pianist Mode: SK-EX Rendering Engine

The NV5 is outfitted with the same sound engines as the NV10 – SK-EX Rendering with multi-channel sampling while in Pianist Mode, and the Harmonic Imaging XL engine while in Sound Mode.

Multi-channel sampling with the SKEX engine means a Shigeru Kawai SK EX concert grand piano was recorded with more than just two channels as is the norm, meaning several microphones were used to capture the SKEX. After this, a variety of rendering characters and resonance modelling parameters are applied to the sample to simulate natural acoustic phenomena, such as damper resonance, cabinet resonance, aliquot resonance and even undamped string resonance.

Virtual Technician

There’s so much colour and detail with this acoustic rendering sound engine, and you can actually go into the Virtual Technician mode and edit the parameters to further customize the sound to your own liking.

Parameters like the touch curve, soft pedal depth, key volume, stretch tuning, reverb, ambience and even the temperament key among many others.

Polyphony & Amplification

Soundboard Speaker System
Soundboard Speaker System

Polyphony is unlimited when playing in Pianist Mode, which means you’re going to play even the most complex classical works and never have a concern that notes will drop away.

There are 135 watts of amplification, which is a serious amount of power. 75% seems to be the optimal max volume you’ll want to play it, and that’s going to be plenty loud for home use.

Sound Mode: Harmonic Imaging XL

Over in Sound Mode with the Harmonic Imaging XL mode and we have a more conventional digital piano sound engine. There are a number of acoustic piano patches here including another SKEX recording, as well as all of the non-acoustic piano tones.

Despite a number of acoustic piano patches in the HIXL engine, it’s tough to see anyone spending a ton of time playing these patches instead of pianist mode unless you plan on doing a lot of layering

Moving onto the electric piano tones, and many of these are very compelling, as are the nice selection of church organs.

Solid Spruce Soundboard System

Twindrive Soundboard
Twindrive Soundboard

Now, we need to address what’s happening with the speakers here, as this is a really big deal. We mentioned the amplifier wattage, but what’s really remarkable is that in addition to 6 traditional speakers (4 top speakers and 2 dome tweeters) is the presence of a real solid spruce soundboard speaker system driven by dual Onkyo transducers.

Because of this full soundboard on the back, the acoustic effect and sheer presence of sound, especially in a lower frequency register is just wild. Especially on organ patches, the power coming through the soundboard delivers a remarkable playing experience. We’re betting the NV5 will be hugely popular in the worship community due to how good the organ patches sound with this soundboard.

Sound Wrap Up

To summarize, the NV5 is delivering a truly singular sonic experience for a digital piano hybrid instrument. From the cabinet design to the sound engine, to the Twindrive soundboard speaker system, the NV5 will surprise even the most staunch purists when it comes to sound.

Piano Action

Millennium III Hybrid Upright Piano Action

Connecting you with all of that great sound is Kawai’s Millennium III Hybrid Upright Piano Action, and this is the first time a Kawai digital instrument has featured an acoustic piano keyboard action.

The only modification between this version of the action and what you would get with say a K200 is that instead of a hammer that has wool wrapped around it that strikes strings, this hammer crosses an IHSS optical sensor to determine the speed and how hard or soft you’re playing the keys.

Millennium III Hybrid Upright Piano Action
Millennium III Hybrid Upright Piano Action

Solid Spruce Extended Length Keys

When looking at the key sticks, these are solid spruce wooden keys that are also equal in length to what you’d find in a K200, offering an excellent level of control. The action is made of carbon fiber reinforced ABS so from a maintenance standpoint, this action is built to last.

The danger with the NV5, just as it is with the NV10, is setting the volume too low, which gives the perception that the action is quite heavy. Now, the NV5 manages this better than the NV10, but keep this in mind if you have the volume set to a low level.

The repetition speed behaves like a midsize upright, and there is a micro-texture on the keys for glide. As far as the regulation is concerned, there’s nothing to complain about as the action is clearly receiving a good amount of regulation at the factory.


On the left side of the NV5 just under the keyboard, you’ll find a panel with a whole bunch of connectivity options.

For starters, there’s a line out in the form of a stereo mini jack. If there’s one criticism here, it’s that Kawai went with a stereo mini jack as opposed to dual 1/4” line outs because odds are, lots of folks will want to use the NV5 on a stage, such as in a worship setting where discreet 1/4” outputs would come in handy.

After that, we’ve got a line-in which is also a stereo mini jack, so this input allows you run devices, such as an iPod, directly through the NV5. There’s also a headphone port with 1/4” and 1/8” inputs.

From there they’ve included old 5-pin in and out MIDI ports, as well as USB MIDI.

Bluetooth MIDI & Bluetooth Audio

The Kawai Novus NV5 is also equipped with both Bluetooth Audio and Bluetooth MIDI. Bluetooth Audio is especially nice here since it allows you to quickly and easily stream and playback music from a smart device through the NV5, taking advantage of its amazing speaker system and solid spruce soundboard.

In that sense, the NV5 can actually function like a super high-end Bluetooth speaker, and unless you have a serious audiophile set up at home, odds are the NV5’s speaker system will easily overpower your home stereo.

Bluetooth MIDI means you can transmit MIDI information wirelessly, or of course record MIDI and WAV files wirelessly as well.


Gorgeous Ebony Polish Finish

The NV5 receives essentially the same cabinet as the Kawai K-200 acoustic upright piano, which means it looks the part of an upright piano with a beautiful ebony polish finish.

It’s also outfitted with a handy soft fall fallboard so there’s no concern about fingers getting pinched by the fallboard.

LCD Touchscreen

LCD Touchscreen
LCD Touchscreen

Navigating the NV5 is easy and intuitive thanks to the cheekblock LCD touchscreen. In fact, it essentially operates like the touchscreen on a smartphone so most users will already be familiar with this type of technology and will have no problem getting around the NV5.

Upright Piano Damper Mechanism

The Kawai NV5 has a pedal system built to mimic the exact nuances of a real upright piano damper mechanism. Real acoustic piano soft, sostenuto and damper pedals all weigh slightly differently, and Kawai has captured that exact weighting with the pedals here.

While this might seem like overkill, it’s actually going to be greatly appreciated by advanced pianists looking for a convenient practice instrument that offers the advantages of a digital piano while resembling an acoustic piano as closely as possible.

Final Thoughts

There you have it. Thanks for joining us for our rundown of the Kawai Novus NV5 hybrid upright piano.

Since the filming of the video, our company President and piano reviewer Stu Harrison has actually purchased an NV5 for his own home. He’s found that the flexibility to play whenever he wants in a home with young children has resulted in him playing much more piano than when he only had an acoustic upright piano, and he’s had no warranty issues whatsoever.

If you’re looking for the best possible recreation of an upright piano in a hybrid digital form, you owe it to yourself to seriously examine the Kawai Novus NV5.