One need look no further than the Shigeru Kawai series of handcrafted grand pianos to challenge the notion that the top pianos in the world are exclusively built in Europe. Not only do the Shigeru Kawai pianos from Japan challenge this perception – they do so convincingly – at price points previously thought unthinkable for a true world class instrument. Each Shigeru Kawai is built by hand by Master Piano Artisans in a truly laborious process, and if that’s not enough, every owner of a new Shigeru Kawai is visited within one year of ownership (COVID permitting) by one of the aforementioned Master Piano Artisans for a day of extensive in-home servicing.
The Shigeru Kawai series features 6 distinct models, and the Shigeru Kawai SK-5 falls in the middle size wise. At 6’7″, it’s a very popular option for a range of professional venues, while still being a suitable option for the among those seeking a degree of power and projection only accomplished by instruments closing in on the 7′ size range. Like every Shigeru Kawai grand piano, the SK-5 boasts an enviable list of design features. With a premium, industry leading piano action, excellent tuning stability and projection, and a very clear, clean sound with excellent sustain, the SK-5 stakes its case as one of the top studio grands available.
Probably more than any other single thing, Kawai is most famous for its cutting-edge, industry-leading piano actions. The Millennium III action was introduced with the Shigeru series and has now made its way throughout Kawai’s entire grand lineup. That said, the version found in the SK-5 and the rest of the Shigeru series features far more regulation and factory prep time, resulting in one of the finest actions available in any piano on the market.
Built with state-of-the-art ABS-Carbon, the Millennium III action not only feels great but is also one of the strongest and most durable of any action on the market. While the industry as a whole was initially hesitant to endorse a non-wood piano action, the consensus among piano technicians about the superiority of ABS-Carbon eventually emerged, and other manufacturers have since begun to follow suit.
Kawai has also extended the key-stick lengths with these actions, so when playing the 6’7″ SK-5, it actually feels like you’re playing a concert grand piano, making this the perfect home practice instrument for the performing pianist.
Like the slightly smaller SK-3, the big stand out with regards to tone when it comes to the SK-5 is the super broad dynamic range is, albeit with lots of power and projection. There’s a Steinway-like mid-tone through the tenor and lower treble, which turns into a very complex and prominent treble. There is enough clarity and projection for contemporary material, but enough colour and depth to serve highly discerning classical players. Like every Shigeru, the SK-5 has excellent sustain, which would be truly apparent in an intimate recital space for example.
Individually machined Concert Agraffes, hand-wound Temaki bass strings, and an intricately designed multi-laminated pin-block are but a few reasons every SK-5 sounds so good and will continue to do so for years and year.
Kawai reserves their “Ultimate Voicing”, top quality Shiko Seion hammers for exclusive use in the Shigeru Kawai series. These hammers receive substantially more voicing than any other set of hammers Kawai produces, amounting to a Concert Level voicing before the piano has left the factory.
The Shiko Seion hammers feature a mahogany core (double felted) and are hand-pressed without any additional chemicals.
ustom-tapered with only the most exclusive Sitka Spruce, the SK-5 features a soundboard that maximizes the musical instruments’ sonic potential. Aged by the traditional kigarashi process, every Shigeru Kawai soundboard undergoes no accelerated drying to ensure a state of natural balance by the time they are ready for installation.
The SK-5 features the exclusive Konsei Katagi rim, which uses an amalgamate of divergent hardwoods to form a balanced and dynamic tonal range. Small-pored hardwoods are used in the inner rim to provide power and brightness, which are interlaminated with dense, large-pored hardwoods which offer warmth and fullness. This use of different hardwoods is another reason for the SK-5’s incredibly broad pallet of tonal colours.
This elevates the rim from being a purely structural component to an active participant in the sound generation of the instrument.