In this article, we’ll be doing an in-depth comparison of Kawai’s CN29 and CN39 digital home pianos. These instruments are the latest in a long line of CN Series digital pianos from Kawai; they’ve been durable favorites of buyers looking for an affordable instrument that still delivers an outstanding piano experience.
They’ve consistently set a new standard of what it means to be high-value for people focused on action and piano tone without spending on extra features that won’t receive that much use such as sequencers, arranger functions, or hundreds of sounds.
Tone Engines & Sound:
Let’s start by looking at the sound system in these two instruments. Both instruments use Kawai’s Progressive Harmonic Imaging, which is one of the latest versions of Kawai’s sound technology. This engine features 88-note individual samples, plus additional synthesis happening on top with details like damper noise, damper resonance, string resonance, decay time, hammer delay, and fall-back noise, among other parameters. Differences start popping up when it comes to the polyphony.
The CN29 comes with a polyphony of 192, while the CN39 is equipped with slightly more at 256 note polyphony. 192 should be fine for most people, but if you’re getting into lots of layering and arranging, the extra polyphony you get with the CN39 might be useful.
The default piano tone on each instrument is the Shigeru Kawai SK-EX sample set (the SKEX is one of the most popular choices at international piano competitions. There are some other grand piano sounds, such as the SK-5 as well their EX Concert grand piano which was the previous generation’s default sample.
The SK-EX sample has a brighter sound than the SK-EX, which has a nice mix of warm mid-tones, with clear bright tones along with a Steinway-esque bass register.
When it comes to the speakers, there are two mains and two tweeters on the CN39 being driven by 40 watts worth of amplification. Interestingly, the CN29 also has 40 watts worth of amplification, but that’s coming through just two full-range speakers.
You can definitely tell a difference when you’re playing both instruments with more treble, and more tonal clarity in the sound out of the CN39. The speaker systems on both instruments were developed produced by Onkyo, which is a Japanese audio company that produces really great gear for home stereos and commercial installations.
This collaboration with Kawai is starting to show up in all sorts of instruments that they’re coming out with, including in Kawai’s flagship Novus series, and is also reflected in the Spatial Headphone Sound feature.
In terms of the other sounds, there is a huge difference in the number of tones that these instruments are loaded up with. The CN29 comes with 19 voices, all of which I would describe as pretty high quality, particularly the acoustic piano sounds and the electric piano sounds. The CN39 has all of the sounds that you’ll find on the 29, plus the entire general midi 2 sound-bank, which brings the number of tones up to a robust 355.
When it comes to the action, both the CN29 and the CN39 use exactly the same action – Kawai’s Responsive Hammer III Keyboard Action (RHIII). You can also find this action in the top Nord stage pianos as part of a recent collaboration.
The RHIII action has a reputation within the industry for being super accurate, but also really comfortable and authentic with a realistic movement pattern. Now, this is not Kawai’s wood key action as you need to get into the CA series for that.
That being said, the RH III plastic action is probably the most advanced plastic action currently on the market. It uses counterweights, a triple sensor, so the midi output on this is super accurate but it also uses an escapement or let-off simulation which makes it feel that much closer to an acoustic grand piano action, along with the ivory touch key surfaces.
When it comes to the features, one of the first things you’ll notice is that the interface between these two pianos is completely different. If you didn’t know that they were part of the same series, just looking at the control panel itself, you’d think it was a completely different line of the piano.
The CN39 is using a control interface with a high-resolution display that’s very easy to navigate. The CN29 digital piano uses a simpler design but does feature a new Pixel OLED display as well. The design is sleek and very intuitive and even though there is a couple of layers to the menu. It’s easy to access the virtual technician, transpose, metronome, four hands mode, and concert magic functions.
Kawai has also updated the lesson function with the number of books that they have preloaded into both pianos that are designed to work directly with different book series, with the 39 featuring twice as many books as the 29. Books featured include Beyer, Burgmuller, Chopin Waltzes, Czerny 30, and Alfred’s Basic Piano Library Lesson Book Level 1a.
From a connectivity standpoint, they’re both equipped with Bluetooth MIDI ( Ver. 4.1; GATT compatible), while the CN39 also has Bluetooth Audio for wireless connection to smart devices.
This makes both instruments compatible with the Kawai’s Virtual Technician app, which allows for editing of all types of parameters including the key-off effect, minimum touch, reverb, soft-pedal depth, stretch tuning, temperament key, top board, and user key volume among others.
There’s also a Virtual Technician Smart Mode with 10 presets.
Both pianos also have audio and USB ports. The CN39 has discrete ¼” stereo outputs that are separate from the headphone jacks. It also has USB audio recording as well as USB to host so that you can run wired midi to a computer. The CN29 also has the USB to host connection but lacks separate audio outputs.
Both instruments have the Grand Feel Pedal system, with full sostenuto and half-pedal adjust feature.
In terms of finishes, both instruments are available in both Premium Rosewood and Satin black, while the CN39 is also available in a Snow White with matching, built-in music rest.
The Kawai CN29 and CN39 digital piano deliver an outstanding value with some of the best action and piano samples for between $2000 – 3000 that the industry has to offer.
The construction is solid, and the authenticity of the piano playing experience will make this an appropriate choice for intermediate students, a practice or second instrument for pro-players, or even a teaching instrument.
If you’re looking at a Yamaha CLP series and aren’t familiar with Kawai, definitely give the CN series a try.