Saturday, September 3, 2011
REVIEW - Kawai CN43, Roland HP305, Yamaha CLP440 Digital Piano Comparison
By Tim Praskins
UPDATED REVIEW - June 1, 2013 - The Kawai CN43 and Roland HP305 are now discontinued. The Yamaha CLP440 is still being produced and is considered a current model. The Kawai CN43 has been replaced by the CN34 although the CN34 internal speaker system has been downgraded by over 1/2 half of the audio power (100 watts down to 40 watts) and only 2 speakers, but that model is also about $300-$400 less than the CN43. I think it was a bit of a mistake to have reduced the audio power and speakers in the new CN34, even with the price savings. The Roland HP305 has been replaced by the HP505 which has been upgraded in its piano playing realism and speaker system and is only approx $100 more than the older HP305. The Yamaha CLP line of pianos has seen no changes and is the same as before.
Original comparison review of the Kawai CN43, Yamaha CLP440, and Roland HP305: New digital pianos in furniture style cabinets are available in many different price ranges these days. Generally speaking, there are pianos for under $2000 and then there are the pianos for over $2000 on up to $10,000 and more. In this review, I am comparing new digital pianos in the $3000 price range (normal store discounts in standard cabinet finish) from Yamaha, Kawai, and Roland. These 3 companies (although there are a few others) are the primary manufacturers for good digital pianos over $2000 in nice looking furniture style cabinets. Roland, Yamaha, and Kawai make fine musical instruments and all have their own strengths and weaknesses. But ultimately when it comes down to it, piano tone and key action touch is an individual thing, and therefore a subjective choice.
All three of these piano brands offer a variety of models that come in different cabinet styles, colors, and configurations. If you're looking for something that is beyond the basic digital piano and don't mind spending around $3000 (more or less), then the 3 models you need to look at and compare are the Kawai CN43 (above), Roland HP305 (left), and Yamaha CLP440 (below). All of these pianos are the latest, current model acoustic piano replacements and I have played all of them. In my opinion, any of these pianos would be great to own and would offer a generally very satisfying piano playing experience. However, as with all products, sometimes there is a brand or model that is ahead of the rest in a specific price range, and in my opinion that piano is the Kawai CN43.
The Kawai CN43 seems to offer a more features and for less money than the other two comparable brands, and the piano tone and touch on the Kawai is quite impressive going through 100 watts of audio power with a very smooth keyboard action. The cabinet is quite attractive and comes in two colors, with my favorite being the premium satin black. The tone, touch, and furniture cabinet style & color is personal and subjective, and the Roland HP305 and Yamaha CLP 440 are also very nice. But if it were up to me, I would choose the Kawai CN43 piano because not only does it have very useful built-in piano educational and fun features, the CN43 also has a very impressive piano touch and tone that's hard to beat although I do like the Roland key action very much as far as the way it moves, responds, and the dynamic range of the stereo piano sound.
Below is a comparison chart of many of the important features of these three pianos. It is important to note that each piano model has their own unique way of generating their piano sound and piano touch and that each one is noticeably different. They use various words in their factory specs to describe the way they produce their tone and touch, but at the end of the day, it boils down to how it feels and sounds to you. Few people really care what it's called, as long as it's good and it allows the player (and the audience) to have a satisfying playing and listening experience. But as a complete package, the CN43 would be my pick and it's somewhat less money. I also really like the fact that Kawai and Roland have developed a close replication of a grand piano key mechanism creating a let-off/escapement movement inside the key action which none of the Yamaha models have. It's really the difference between what a grand piano feels like compared to an upright piano.
Take a look at my comparison chart (at left) of these three models so you can see for yourself some of the important piano features and how these pianos compare to each other. The chart does not cover all the features on each piano, as the list would be much too long otherwise. But this will give you a very good idea of how they do compare in areas that I believe need to be considered in your piano decision. Please note that the audio power on the Kawai CN43 is actually 100 watts total (2 X 50 watts) and not 80 watts as stated in my comparison chart. This makes for an even more compelling reason to consider the Kawai CN43 as top choice in this comparison. However, these are not the only pianos to consider when looking to purchase a new instrument, but they are very good ones. I also recommend you consider pianos under $2000 as well and I have done a comparison review of some of those models which include pianos by Kawai, Kurzweil, Casio, Roland, and Yamaha. Take a look at the link below to get more information on those pianos as they may satisfy you just as well, and you will spend less money too which is always a good thing. Also, many people these days are purchasing portable versions of furniture cabinet pianos because it can reduce costs significantly. Review - Digital pianos under $2000
Update June 1st 2013: The new Roland HP505 in its price range is my new pick for best all around piano sound and key action realism in its price range. If you don't mind being in the $3000+ price range then you should consider the Roland HP505 and read my blog review here: Roland HP505 review