$2,299.00 – $2,837.00
The brand new ES520 fills a previously existing gap in Kawai’s portable digital piano lineup – the mid-range option for those seeking something with more punch than an entry-level model who doesn’t need an instrument geared towards working professionals. With a solid triple sensor action, super authentic sound engine, and surprisingly powerful 40-watt speakers system, the highly portable ES520 is ready for a variety of musical situations.
The portable ES series from Kawai has consistently stood among the elite instruments of the portable all-in-one class. The series has traditionally featured an entry-level model sold for around $1,000, and a professional model for over $2,000. Anyone seeking a mid-point option was out of luck – until now.
The new Kawai ES520 combines aspects from both worlds and offers consumers a true mid-range option, something folks have been requesting for years now. Featuring a fully weighted action with triple sensor technology, Kawai’s Progressive Harmonic Imaging sound engine with Shigeru Kawai SK-EX concert grand, a super lightweight cabinet (32 lbs!), and Bluetooth Audio.
Kawai has outfitted the ES520 with the current generation Responsive Hammer II Compact Action (RHC-II), which is an evolved version of the RHC-II action featured in the ES110. The central improvement is that while the RHC-II in the ES110 utilizes a double sensor, the new incarnation features a triple sensor for greater accuracy and potential expression. The key construction has also been further reinforced with different cushioning, creating a feel closer to a true acoustic piano. You can also find this action in the hugely popular KDP110.
Overall, it’s a forgiving action that’s medium-weighted, touch-sensitive with an excellent track record of maintenance and wear. Kawai developed its 3-sensor Responsive Hammer Compact II action used in the ES520 to capture the distinctive feel of an acoustic grand piano. It doesn’t have an escapement on the action, which most beginners won’t notice or miss, All around, a very satisfying action to play on!
The ES920 utilizes Kawai’s Progressive Harmonic Imaging Sound Engine (PHI). The PHI engine can be found in the more expensive CN series home digital pianos and is upgraded over the more basic Harmonic Imaging engine found in the ES110, but not as advanced as Kawai’s top sample-based engine, Harmonic Imaging XL, which can be found in the more expensive ES920.
The PHI engine features 88 note individual key sampling, Kawai’s newest SK-EX Concert Grand Piano sample set, the EX Concert Grand Piano, and 192 notes of polyphony. Combined with the dual speaker system and 40 watts of power (amps developed in concert with audio company Onkyo), the ES520 delivers a very satisfying piano sound with surprising power. In fact, the ES520 matches the ES920 with regard to power output.
The other tones, including electric pianos, organs, and strings are all generally very good, with 34 on-board sounds total.
The connectivity is an area where the ES520 really shines, as the connectivity options presented here showcase the versatility of the ES520, and its viability as an instrument with professional applications.
For starters, the ES520 features Bluetooth MIDI, but also Bluetooth Audio, which is a really nice feature given that the ES110 and ES8 didn’t offer any Bluetooth capability. Bluetooth Audio is especially nice (and rare for the price point) as it essentially turns your ES520 into a large Bluetooth speaker, able to stream music from a tablet or smartphone.
After the Bluetooth, there are 2 headphone jacks, MIDI in and out, ¼” L/MONO R line out, ⅛” stereo line-in, USB to host, and USB to device. There’s also ports for the single damper pedal that comes with the ES920 (F-10H), as well as a port for the optional 3 pedal add on (GFP-3 or F-302.) All of these connectivity options mean the ES520 is equipped for both studio and stage use.
Given the total package of what the ES520 offers for the price point, it’s a bit challenging to zero in on any one particular feature as a highlight. That said, the fact that the ES520 features Kawai’s PHI sound engine, is pretty significant. This same sound engine is used in the CN39, which costs almost double the price! Never before has Kawai offered this level of sound quality for this price point.
Kawai really deserves credit for listening to the market, and responding to the request for a mid-range, all-in-one portable option. The ES520 fulfills this role, and does so very convincingly. For anyone looking at an instrument in this category and price range, the ES520 will surely be regarded among the class leaders for years to come.
Kawai ES520 Owner’s Manual
|Keyboard||Responsive Hammer III action
- 88 keys
- Grade-weighted hammers
- Ivory Touch white key surfaces
- Let-off simulation
|Pedal||F-10H pedal unit
- Damper (with half-pedal support)
|Piano Sound||Progressive Harmonic Imaging (PHI)
- 88-key stereo sampling
- 192 note maximum polyphony
|Piano Resonance||- Damper Resonance
- String Resonance
|Piano Adjustment||Virtual Technician (17 parameters)
- Touch Curve (incl. User Touch Curve)
- Voicing (incl. 88-key User Voicing)
- Damper Resonance
- Damper Noise
- String Resonance
- Key-off Effect
- Fall-back Noise
- Hammer Delay
- Topboard Simulation
- Decay Time
- Minimum Touch
- Stretch Tuning (incl. 88-key User Tuning)
- Temperament (incl. User Temperament)
- Temperament Key
- Key Volume (incl. 88-key User Key Volume)
- Half-Pedal Adjust
- Soft Pedal Depth
|No. of Sounds||34|
|Other Effects||11 types + 4 combination effects + amp simulator|
|Speakers||(8 x 12) cm x 2|
|Output Power||20 W x 2|
|Display||128 x 64 pixel OLED|
|Music Rest||Detachable type (included)|
|Dimensions||Width||52 3/4" (134 cm)|
|Depth||14 2/3" (37.5 cm)|
|Height||5 2/3" (14.5 cm) (not including music rest)|
|Weight||32 lbs (14.5 kg)|
|Internal Songs||Sound Demo||23 songs|
|Internal Recorder||Total Memory||Approximately 5,000 notes|
|No. of Songs||3 songs|
|Parts||1 track recorder|
|Metronome||Time Signatures||1/4, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 3/8, 6/8|
|Drum Rhythms||Rhythm Section
- 100 styles
|Bluetooth *||Bluetooth (Ver. 4.1; GATT compatible)
Bluetooth Low Energy MIDI Specification compliant, Bluetooth Audio
|USB Audio Recorder||Playback||SMF|
|App Functions||Virtual Technician app (iPad)|
|Connector Jacks||Headphone||2 (1/4",1/8 “ )Stereo jacks|
|MIDI||MIDI IN, MIDI OUT|
|Line Out||1/4" L/MONO, R [unbalanced]|
|Line In||1/8" Stereo|
|USB to Host||✔|
|USB to Device||✔|
|Others||Damper/Soft (for GFP-3/F-302)
Damper (for F-10H)
|Power Consumption||18 W (PS-154 AC adaptor)|
|Others||Warranty Card *
F-10H damper pedal (with half-pedal support)