Kawai Digital Piano Series Overview Review Video Transcription
As one of the ‘Big 3’ digital piano manufacturer’s on the market today, Kawai has an extensive product line, with products ranging from under $1,000 CAD, all the way up to $20,000. In this article, we’re giving you an overview of almost every single Kawai digital piano that’s currently available in the market in 2020. We’ll go series by series describing exactly what the major components and characteristics of each series are and, who they’re intended for. When you’re doing research and finding yourself on the manufacturer websites, the product descriptions sometimes contain coded language that can be hard to decipher, and you might be left wondering who a given product is actually intended for. Hopefully, this article straightens some of this out. This article will cover the CA, CN, KDP, ES, and MP series instruments below.
Let’s start with the flagship CA series, which stands for Concert Artist series. The name really says it all. This is a set of digital pianos which Kawai has designed for professionals, for teaching studios, and users that are looking for a premium digital piano experience in a mid-price range, relatively speaking. All of the CA series pianos have elements in common and when you look at the total package from cabinetry, sound engines, speakers systems and piano actions, this is the very best that Kawai makes with the exception of the Novus 10 and Novus 5. The Novus instruments sit in a totally different category so we’re going to cover those in a separate article.
What are the aspects of the CA series which are all in common you might be asking? Well, for one, they all use Kawai’s top cabinetry, with finishes such as premium rosewood, satin black, satin white and polished black available depending on the model. This means really high-quality hardwoods and fiberboards for the cabinet which results in great durability, which isespecially important if your piano is going to sit in a church, school, or teaching studio. The CA series instruments are built to stand the test of time, not just in terms of their musical instruments/components, but the furniture itself. Another thing the CA series instruments have in common is that they all use wooden key-actions, with ivory touch keytops. That being said, there is a difference between the top two pianos of the line and the bottom two. You can think of it as two subcategories within the CA series line. The 49 and the 59 use Kawai’s Grand Feel Compact Keyboard Action. This action is very similar to what Roland has done with their PHA 50 action. You’ve got wooden key-sticks, but in kind of traditional balanced hammer action, whereas the CA99 and the CA79 use Grand Feel III, which utilizes extended full-length keys that look and operate a lot more like a grand piano action versus a digital piano action.
Looking at the tone generators on the CA series, every model features an Onkyo amplifier. Onkyo is a totally separate and distinct company from Kawai, but they’re also a Japanese-based manufacturer who build high-end audio equipment. They’ve been doing amplifiers and signal processing for a wide variety of vendors for many years. This partnership between Kawai and Onkyo has raised the bar in terms of what’s possible for piano tone out of a digital instrument without getting into tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of expenditure. All four CA series pianos also feature discrete headphone amplifiers with spatial processing. This is a beautiful feature for anyone whose going to be playing with headphones for any length of time. Between the Onkyo amplifiers and spatial processing for headphones, every CA series is a essentially a hi-fi stereo.
At this point you might be wondering why someone would spend more on the Kawai CA99 versus the Kawai CA49 for instance? Here is the major difference as you step from the top down; the CA99 uses a real soundboard speaker system. As the only instrument in the series that features this, in addition to the main speakers and the tweeters, you actually have a spruce soundboard on the back of the instrument which is magnetically activated and actively contributes to the resonance of the instrument. It creates a powerful acoustic effect that results in a dramatically different playing experience than the rest of the series. The CA79 is virtually the same as CA99 except for that soundboard, and a few minor details. This means that if you’re somebody that’s gonna be using the instrument almost entirely with headphones and occasional speaker use, then you don’t have to worry about the CA99 and can go straight to the CA79 without sacrificing musical experience. Another upgrade Kawai’s includes with the 99 and 79 is the beautiful color touchscreen panel on the left side that’s replaced the button based control panel from older generation models.
When we get down into the Kawai CA59 and 49, we lose the touchscreen, but the interface is still intuitive and easy to operate. The CA59 comes with tweeters and main speakers, with the same power output as the CA79 at 100 watts. When we drop down to the CA49, the control panel is further simplified, there’s only 2 speakers with a power output of 40 watts, but, of course, we still have that great wood key-action. Regardless of which instrument you’re looking at in the CA series, you’re getting an instrument where the objective has been to deliver the very best touch and piano tone for the price that you’re going to find anywhere within the market.
The CN series sits just below Kawai’s CA series and functions as another home-based series of instruments. The CN series instruments are not particularly portable for gigs or rehearsals, but, for people who are looking for a stationary digital piano in a reasonable budget range, you can think of the CN series as being Kawai’s “Pro-Sumer” grade digital piano. Folks who are used to shopping for cameras, televisions or audio equipment will know the term “Pro-Sumer” as a product that bridges that gap between high-end pro-level stuff entry-level products. Every aspect of the CN series screams that they’re not entry-level instruments, but Kawai has been able to keep the costs contained to a reasonable level. This area of the market is where the CN series really takes its stand and has done incredibly well in North America over the last five or so years. The series has been out for much longer, but we’ve really seen a jump in popularity first with the CN27 and 37, and then more recently, with their replacements in the the CN29 and 39.
Just like the CA series, the CN series also feature Onkyo processing on board that dramatically improves the the structure of the tone. Both the CN29 and 39 feature the SKEX, Progressive Harmonic Imaging sound technology with 88-key digital piano sampling sets for their main and primary acoustic piano. The polyphony is very high with 192 on the CN29 and 256 on the CN39. Both the CN29 and 39 also feature the Responsive Hammer III action, which is widely considered one of the top plastic actions available on the market. It’s fair to say the CN29 is one of the absolute best values in Kawai’s lineup if all you’re looking for is a fantastic action with good sound. It’s not an instrument that would be recommended for serious classical practice in the 3-4 hour a day range, but it’s definitely one of the most authentic, most interesting and overall most satisfying acoustic grand piano sounds that you’re going to find in the market in and around that $2,000 price range. But, that’s about the only thing that the CN29 does as it’s pretty lightweight in terms of the number of tones that it’s got on board and really just covers the basics in terms of features. There’s 19 total on-board sound so there’s some versatility, but relatively limited compared to some other instruments on the market in this price range.
So, what do you get when you get up to the CN39? For starters, the CN39 has four speakers instead of two speakers with the 29. The other big jump is that you get 355 sounds on the CN39 compared to the 19 sounds with the CN29, not too mention a lot more external connectivity with the 39. Factoring in these upgrades, you can think of the CN39 as the institutional commercial-use version of the CN29. All of this is to say that the CN39 is intended for professional applications, whereas the 29 is more intended for home use.
Like the CN series, the KDP series consists of two models, the KDP-70, and the KDP-110. These two instruments constitute Kawai’s entry-level home digital pianos. Its worth noting that even though the KDP series is considered entry-level for Kawai, in the industry as a whole, the KDP series pianos are viewed as a mid-range level instruments, so don’t be turned off by the “entry level” tag. You can think of the KDP-110 and the KDP-70 as representing where the CN series was about five years ago. If you buy a KDP-110 or a KDP-70 today, you’re getting about the same quality of instrument as you would have if you’d spent about twice that amount of money four or five years ago.
So, what are the differences between the KDP-110 and the KDP-70? 3 key things – speaker size and wattage, the action, and the Bluetooth radio. The KDP-70 doesn’t have Bluetooth, has smaller speakers, less powerful amplifier and a slightly less sensitive action. The KDP-110 boats a substantially more powerful amplifier, Bluetooth radio and upgraded action. For that few hundred-dollar difference, if you can see yourself making good use of the Bluetooth MIDI connection and extra speaker power, it’s well worth it. If you know for sure that you’re going to be using your piano in either in a relatively small space or frequently with headphones, then the KDP-70 should be a fantastic choice for you.
ES Portable Series
Kawai makes two series of portable pianos – the ES series and the MP series. We’ll start with the ES series, which is comprised of the Kawai ES110 and the Kawai ES8. Kawai is constantly evolving and coming out with new models, but at this moment, ES8 and the ES110 are still current. The easiest way to think of the ES110 is that it is an ultra-portable version of their Kawai KDP110. Its no accident that they both use 110 in the name because they share many of the same components even though the KDP-110 is slightly more up-to-date than the ES110 as it has a second generation version of the action, whereas the ES110 has the first generation of that Responsive Hammer Compact action. The ES110 is known for a couple of things in the industry, one of them is just how super portable and lightweight that instrument is. We have a lot of customer’s who use the ES110 professionally for performance situations and rehearsals simply because of how light and compact it is.
The ES8 is a different beast. Even though both instruments are part of the same series, they retail at very different price points, with the ES8 being more than twice the price of the ES110. The ES8 features a totally different action with the Responsive Hammer III action, has a much more powerful speaker system, has onboard intelligent accompaniment, and has USB digital audio recording capability. The ES8 is really an all-in-one unit designed to compete with models like the Roland FP-60 or FP-90 or the Yamaha P515, whereas the ES110 is designed to compete more with Roland’s FP-30 or the Yamaha P125.
MP Portable Series
The MP series is a much more focused and less generalized product and is also comprised of two models with the MP7SE and the MP11SE. I believe the SE stands for Second Edition because there was a first generation MP7 and an MP11 that the SE models replaced. These instruments are both designed exclusively for professional applications and fall into the stage piano category. These are instruments that are primarily designed to be used in live performance settings or live studio settings. Certainly we do have some hobbyist users who really love audio, and use an MP series piano in their home piano setups as they enjoy the extra level level of control and high fidelity in terms of sound production, but otherwise, these are instruments that are exclusively built and marketed to professional musicians.
The MP11SE is more of a piano-centric instrument. It actually has the same extended wooden key action length with an actual hammer in it as some of the CA series and is popular in recording studios where a digital piano requiring super authentic touch and MIDI output is required. The MP7SE uses the Responsive Hammer III action and is set up more like a stage piano ala a Roland RD-2000 or Yamaha CP4.
Thank you very much for checking out our article on Kawai digital pianos. I hope it’s been helpful and I hope you have a better understanding of exactly what series fits into what price point and who it’s been made for. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call or visit one of our showrooms for more information.