$16,095.00 – $17,995.00
The Kawai K-500 is the 51” entry in the K-Series line of pianos which debuted in the early 2010s. This piano offers massive value for its price point (~$10,000 USD ‘street’, give or take $1000 depending on market), offering several features typically found on pricier European models from C. Bechstein, Sauter, Schimmel. The K-500 competes directly with Yamaha’s U3, W. Hoffmann’s V126, and is a close cousin to the Boston 126 (designed by Steinway, produced by Kawai in the same factory & production line).
Top-End Performance for a Mid-Range Price
Kawai has been building pianos since 1927 and is currently one of the top-rated pianos manufacturers in the world. With over 200 piano products available, Kawai is highly focused on building a product to meet every customer need, whether that’s a portable digital piano for the touring musician, or a 9ft Concert Grand for the world’s finest concert pianists. The big brother to the legendary Kawai K-300, the Kawai K-500 upright piano is a perfect example of a product that offers exceptional performance, while still giving great value. Over the past 10 years, Kawai has won more industry awards than any other piano manufacturer in the world.
The K-500 is equipped with an advanced version of the Millennium III action, with energy-absorbing rest rails, carbon-fiber-reinforced action components, lengthened key-sticks for greater control, and mahogany hammers. That’s a mouth-full for sure, but the result is an ultra-smooth action that gives most grand pianos under $20,000 a run for their money in terms of power, control, and repetition speed.
The Millennium III action the biggest and most obvious difference between the K-500 and the pianos it competes with, and this action is now found in virtually all of their models including the ultra-exclusive Shigeru Kawai series.
Although Kawai doesn’t give their uprights ‘version codes’ in the same way that Yamaha does (i.e. U1-A, U1-M), the K500 has gone through several technical updates since its introduction, so that a K500 purchased in 2019 has notable differences between it and one purchased in 2013. The biggest updates are around the Millennium III Action; they’ve added energy-absorbing foam that now adorns the hammer rest rail, which has even further increased the repetition speed of what was already the fastest recorded repetition speed in the industry.
Millennium III Upright Action features components made of ABS-Carbon, a composite material created by the infusion of carbon fiber into our renowned ABS Styran. The foam virtually eliminates any bounce as the shank returns to its rest position, reducing the chance of a missed strike while playing softly or quickly. It’s become a virtual consensus among piano technicians that actions of abs-carbon composites will require less maintenance over time than traditional wooden actions.
The Kawai K-500’s tone is very warm with a surprisingly strong treble attack which projects well, without feeling metallic or shrill. We can thank their innovative duplex scaling for this. I say innovative, because on first look, literally, no-one can find where the duplex is on a K500. I assure you – it is there – but Kawai’s crafty engineers have hidden it somewhere you almost never see it – on the capo itself. This innovation promotes controlled and strengthened upper harmonics, a tonal category that upright pianos are notoriously weak in.
The bass is clear, full, and without any boominess or ‘woofiness’ that you sometimes get with extended string designs. There is also a substantial increase in power and dynamic range between it and its little brother the K-300.
Kawai uses only straight-grained, quartersawn solid spruce for their K Series soundboards. Every solid spruce soundboard is meticulously tapered to further optimize its sonic potential. Kawai’s quality standards are well known throughout the industry, and they are thusly highly discerning in selecting which spruce is selected for use in their professional upright pianos. These soundboards are one of the main reasons the K500 has such a rare combination of power and tonal richness.
Kawai exclusively uses premium quality double felted Mahogany-core Hammers in all of their Millennium III actions. The hammers are T stapled and underfelted to preserve their shape over time. Mahogany is both lighter and denser than maple making it a superior material to work with for hammers. A Yamaha U3 by comparison features maple hammers.
Kawai gave some exterior trim updates to the K series which, while subtle, were nonetheless stylish and modern. Beveled edging, a redesigned gable, an art-deco inspired toe block, and an ultra-wide music desk (the widest if I’m not mistaken) all make for a functional design that still looks elegant when it needs to serve as a showpiece in a living room. The K500 also has solid spruce back posts for long-term stability and durability.
The Millennium III action is probably the K500’s main selling features, but as mentioned above, it also boasts a list of features typically found on much more costly European models from C. Bechstein, Sauter, and Schimmel. These include:
- Pure Copper Hand-wound Bass Strings
- Tuned Duplex Scale (Treble) **
- Extended Key-stick lengths equalize key weight between front and back, and better simulate the grand feel
- A more extended bass bridge for longer string lengths for its box height
- 5 Laminated Hardwood Backports
- Direct Steel Hardpoints between backports and plate
- 100% Built and Assembled in Japan
- Longer Key Length
- NEOTEX Keytop Surface
- Ultra-Soft Fall Fallboard System
- Millenium III Carbon Fiber High-Performance Action
- Extra Long #1 Bass String
Since the Kawai K-series was released in the mid-1990s and along with the Yamaha, U-series it’s been considered the standard for colleges, universities, and institutional buyers. The Kawai K500 further cements this legacy as one of the best value options on the market for a professional musician, institution or hobbyist. With the sound and performance of a grand in a much smaller package, the K500 is more than ready to meet the musical demands of any studio.
For more information on how the Kawai K-500 and other Kawai upright pianos click here or visit the Kawai website.
51” (130 cm)
|Width||59” (149 cm)|
|Depth||24.5” (62 cm)|
|Weight||525 lbs (238 kg)|
|Touch||White Key Surfaces||NEOTEX™|
|Black Key Surfaces||NEOTEX™|
|Action||Millennium III Upright Action with ABS-Carbon Composites|
|Hammer Felts||All Underfelted|
|Sound||Soundboard||Solid Spruce, Tapered|
|Speaking Length of No.1 String||48.4" (1230 mm)|
|Exterior Design||Pedals||Soft, Muffler, Damper|
|Fallboard||"Soft Fall" Closing System|
|Other Features||Steel Reinforced Keyslip & Keybed|