Mar 15, 2017

REVIEW COMPARISON of 2017 Digital Pianos from $3000-$7500 - Yamaha CLP535, CLP545, CLP565GP, CLP575, CLP585, NU1 - Roland DP603, HP504, HPi50e, HP603, HP605, LX7, GP607, LX17, HPi50e - Kawai CN37, CA65, CA67, CA95, CA97, CS4, CS7, CS8, CS10, CS11 - Casio Grand Hybrid GP500, GP400, GP300, AP700, Samick Ebony NEO

UPDATED - May 1, 2017 - COMPARISON REVIEW & REPORT OF 2017 DIGITAL PIANOS from $3000-$7500US - Yamaha CLP-535, CLP-545, CLP-565GP, CLP-575, CLP-585, CLP565GP, NU1 - Roland DP603, HP504, HP603, HP605, LX7, LX17, GP607 - Kawai CN37, CA67, CA97, CS4, CS8, CS10, CS11, Casio Grand Hybrid GP500, GP400, GP300, Samick NEO -There are so many choices and so much to consider in shopping for a new digital piano so I have written this comparison overview to help you in that process. I have included only the best piano brands available in the US in this comparison review for approx $3000-$7500US retail price range. *Find out more here and click on pics to see larger views of the pianos.

Yamaha CLP585 polished ebony digital piano
Yamaha CLP585
Roland LX15e digital pianoThere are many digital piano shoppers out there who want to invest in a "Premium" digital piano for their home, church, studio, or other area. I consider a Premium digital piano to mean something that retails for at least $3000 and goes up to at about $7500 or more. Once you start looking in that price range there are many good options and the field of available products is very large...and it can be confusing too. In this report I will not be talking about or mentioning (what are known as) interactive auto-accompaniment/player pianos such as the Yamaha CVP701, CVP705, and CVP709, or the new Kawai CP1, CP2, and CP3 digital pianos. They are for different purposes and typically not something that you buy primarily to play traditional piano on. If you do want to know more about Ensemble Digital Pianos, go to the following review I did on the Kawai Performer series: Kawai CP1, CP2, CP3 Review. What I am talking about here in this report are Premium pianos that people buy to primarily play piano on and then have some other useful, fun, and practical features that make digital pianos great to own, and in many cases, a better alternative to a regular acoustic piano. I have played every single model of the top name brand digital pianos in this Premium price range including the new Yamaha CLP585 (top left pic) and the new Roland LX17 (above left pic) and they are all quite good in their own way. Some have nicer looking cabinets, some have more powerful internal speaker systems, some have more authentic key action, more authentic piano sound and tonal range, more realistic pedaling response, better and/or more numerous digital features such as a large library of instrument sounds, drum rhythms, and multitrack recording features, more intuitive user controls, more advanced innovative technology, and so on. The most important primary things a shopper needs to consider when researching new digital pianos is, in the following order, realism in key action movement and response, piano sound authenticity, and pedaling response (especially the damper/sustain pedal) and its interaction with the piano sound and key action. All other features and functions in terms of their importance should come after the primary features are satisfied.

Yamaha CLP545 satin finish
When shopping for one of these "premium" digital pianos from Roland, Yamaha, Kawai, and Samick, you will find that in the US, they are only available at local piano stores. In the US these pianos are not available on the internet or general music stores such as Guitar Center, Sam Ash, etc. and you may not be able to find out what an actual discount selling price will be until you actually visit the local authorized piano dealer. In most cases you can find the retail price listed on the manufacturer web site so that will give you a starting place. The retail price will also be different depending on the cabinet finish color and furniture design. So for instance if you want a digital piano from Yamaha, Roland, or Kawai in the polished ebony finish, that will cost you quite a bit more money as opposed to the regular satin finish which usually comes in either black or rosewood and occasionally mahogany or white. I have found that in many cases in US piano stores, the dealer may not have one or more of the new models in stock or even a demonstrator model to see. This may be because that model is in short supply and not available at that moment or that store just sold what they had, or...that dealer simply does not want to stock that model because they don't think they can easily sell it. So do not be surprised if you cannot find what you are looking for near you.

Casio Celviano AP700
So here's what you need to know about these premium pianos to make a good buying decision. First of all, every piano store will likely say that their brand is better than the competitive brand sold by another company, which is normally what they do, but that does not mean it's true. All of the top name brands make very good, reliable pianos that will last many years and be good instruments to play on. But that does not mean there are not significant differences among these pianos in a number of ways, some of which you may like and some you may not like. Piano key action, piano sound, dynamic tonal range realism, key touch sensitivity, pedaling sustain, and the speaker system the sound goes through are the vital components and features of any digital piano. There are some off brands (I have not listed them here) that are so bad they are not worth mentioning, but be aware that if you don't choose from these top brands I have listed here in this price range, then you will likely be asking for problems or disappointments at the very least.

Kawai CN37 control panel
When shopping in this $3000-$7500 price range you may hear digital piano terms such as graded grand piano hammer action, wood keys, balanced, graded weighted plastic key action, escapement, let-ff, counter weighted keys, fulcrum, pivot point, synthetic ivory feel keys, synthetic ebony feel keys, decibel range, audio power, wood piano soundboard, digital piano soundboard recreation, individual note volume and character editing controls, 2-position key cover, minimalistic appearance, General MIDI, wav and MP3 audio recording & play back, piano designer, virtual technician, USB output, USB flashdrive input, multitrack MIDI recording, music library, wireless connectivity with iPad, 3D sound imaging through headphones, touch sensitivity curve, special effects, layering, splitting, LCD display screen, 2-position key cover, decay time, continuous detection pedaling, half-pedaling, redesigned, sympathetic vibrations, pedal resonance, organic, sampled, stereo, Steinway, Bosendorfer, Yamaha, Kawai, and many more. There are SO MANY terms and features used in some of these pianos that it can quickly become overwhelming and in many cases it usually does. But don't let these terms scare you. Just concentrate on the basics first and then everything else should fall into place...and if it doesn't, then you can always contact me and I will try to help you figure it out.

Here are some specifics you should know about these pianos below that may help you:

Yamaha NU1 digital hybrid pianoYamaha CLP585 digital piano with closed key coverYamaha - Yamaha is just coming out with brand new CLP 600 series Clavinova models for 2017 including the CLP635, 645, 675, 685, and 665GP. Although there are some changes on all of these news models, the biggest changes are on the CLP675 and CLP685. I will have a review coming out soon on these new models. In the meantime you can still find previous Clavinova CLP535, CLP545 (1st pic on left), CLP565GP CLP575, and CLP585 for sale in many stores at slightly lower prices. I would recommend you wait for the new models since they won't be much more money. The CLP535, 545, 575, and 565GP utilize the same key actions as in previous models called the 400 series with the exception of the "X"-factor in (meaning "escapement" added) with the CLP535 and CLP565GP having all plastic keys and the other models have wood keys. But in my opinion the wood component to these keys makes only a little difference in the feel of the key action movement although the weighting and key movement is better (slightly lighter) than with the regular GH3 plastic actions. It is important to note that the CLP535 and CLP565GP are the same basic pianos except the CLP565GP is housed in a mini baby grand piano style cabinet which is quite attractive and has an upgraded internal speaker system, but is priced at about twice the price of the CLP535, at around $5000-$5500US discount selling price for the CLP565GP. The new top of the line CLP585 (3rd pic with closed key cover) has a newly redesigned key action (it's about time) using what is known as key counterweights installed for each key which make the key action significantly more realistic in my opinion. This new CLP585 action has better (easier to press) touch/down-weight movement in the keys and is much more enjoyable to play (for me) than most other Yamaha Clavinova key actions I have ever played, including the some of the higher priced CVP series. Although the regular GH3/NW/NWX key actions (plastic or wood) are solid, durable, and fairly quiet, I have personally never been a big fan of how the keys move in terms of the initial down-weight (somewhat heavy) which is how much pressure from the fingers it takes to engage/press the key. The new CLP585 pretty much takes care of most of that down-weight issue but is the only CLP model Yamaha currently offers with this new improved key action. All Yamaha CLP key actions now have the escapement feature (previously only found in Roland & Kawai digital pianos) and synthetic ivory key tops. However, in my opinion, the escapement feature (Kawai calls it let-off) in the Yamaha key actions, which is a slight notch or hesitation about half way down the key travel when playing very lightly on a real grand piano, is so light that it is almost non-existent (hardly noticeable) as far as I am concerned. I like the fact that Yamaha added it to their key actions but it simply does not feel very realistic, especially compared to both the Roland & Kawai escapement feature. But in the long-run, the escapement feature is only a simulation and not very real in any of the digital piano brands as compared to a real grand so in the long run this feature is not a deal breaker one way or the other. The Yamaha NU1 (also known as a digital hybrid piano - 2nd pic) is a specialty polished ebony instrument with a real console-upright key action from a real Yamaha acoustic console-upright piano. It's not that the keys are just made of wood like some of the other digital pianos, but the entire key action includes real acoustic piano moving parts such as hammers, etc, but it has no strings and instead uses optical sensors. In my opinion this NU1 natural key action is much more realistic and enjoyable to play than any of the new Clavinova models with the exception of the new CLP-585. The NU1 key action does feel like an upright piano and not at all like a grand piano, and that's fine, but there are some key actions such as what is in a few of the new Kawai, Roland, and Casio grand Hybrid models which feel much closer to a grand piano action in the NU1 price range, even though they are not fully acoustic in construction like the NU1. This may all sound a bit confusing, and it is, but all these differences among pianos, even within the same brand, certainly make for a variety of choices:). The NU1 averages around $4500-$5000US discount selling price at Yamaha pianos stores throughout the US so it is in a fairly good price range.I have done a more detailed review of the NU1 at the following link: Yamaha NU1 Review

*For a more detailed review of the 500 Clavinova series, go to my review at the following link: Yamaha CLP535, 545, 575, 585, 565GP Review

Roland - UPDATE: Roland's newer 2017 line of digital pianos surpasses their previous lineup so please read my latest detailed review of these new models at the following link: Roland HP603, HP605, LX7, LX17, GP607 Review. The Roland company really has done an impressive job with their line of digital pianos this year although they cost a bit more than the lower priced Kawai or Yamaha pianos. But you do get what you pay for most of the time, and Roland is no exception. The HP504 full size digital piano key action (called Roland Premium Key Action) is quite good in acoustic style key movement and response (graded hammer and balanced) and I enjoy playing them. Although the Premium key action is Roland DP90Se digital pianonot quite as good as the other Roland key action in the HPi50e (called Concert Key Action), the Roland Premium Key Action is fairly satisfying in response for its price range and with a more personal connection to the music than some other brands and models I have played such as the Yamaha CLP key actions, with the exception of the new CLP585, but that one costs twice the price as the Roland HP504 with the Premium key action. The new Roland PHA50 hybrid wood/plastic key actions in the other new Roland pianos including the DP603, HP603, HP605, LX7, and LX17, GP607 come closer to an actual piano feel than the Premium Key Action and are on a higher level of realism in key movement and key feel than any Roland piano before it. Although no digital piano key action on any of these brands listed here exactly replicates an acoustic upright or grand piano, many of them do a very good job in providing a satisfying piano playing experience which gives the player a good level of expression and playability depending on the brand and model. All Roland key actions have the escapement feature found on grand pianos and this feature feels fairly realistic although it is a simulation and does lack some authenticity, but this is true of any simulated escapement/let-off features, especially as compared to the Yamaha CLP pianos. It is interesting to note that Roland is the only brand of the major brands that offers a furniture cabinet compact digital piano (DP603) that has Premium features like the higher priced Roland models do including key action & sound, but are housed in an attractive and unique contemporary compact furniture cabinet in satin or polished finishes with a fold down flat top (see DP603 polished ebony above left pic and also pic near bottom of this review). This compact "footprint" allows people to have a Premium quality digital piano to fit small or tight places such as apartments, condos, small homes, or just smaller areas within a larger home where you don't want the traditional cabinet size or look. The polished ebony & polished white compact models have a retail price of $3399 but the discount selling price is just $2799 making it a great low priced alternative to the higher priced pianos. Go to the following link to read my review on the brand new Roland 2017 model DP603: Roland DP603 Review

Kawai CA97
Kawai - The new CN27 & CN37 digital pianos have all-plastic key actions called RH3 with counterweight technology, whereas all the other Kawai digital pianos mentioned here have wood key key actions (the key is wood but not the other parts) which are called "Grand Feel 2." All Kawai key actions are hammer weighted, balanced, and graded just like the other brands but that weighting is proprietary for Kawai products. The CN37 just replaced the popular CN35 for Kawai and it has some very impressive upgrades over the CN35 including additional new piano samples, new upgraded speaker system, new control panel and new cabinet among other things. It comes in at a popular price point of approx $2700US discount store price. The CS4 polished ebong model still uses an older prior key action and sound chip so in reality the CN37 in the traditional satin black, rosewood, and white finishes is a better more authentic piano than the CS4 for Kawai. Kawai also produces a model called the ES8 contemporary compact piano called the ES8 which has an upgraded piano sound chip over the CN37 (noticeably more authentic piano sound) but has the same very responsive counter-weight technology key action of the CN37 which is a good thing. The ES8 piano sound chip is also the same one found in the new $8000 Kawai CS11 digital piano so it's a high-end piano sound reproduction. The key movement on Kawai pianos seems more responsive and easier (more lifelike) to play than the Yamaha CLP key actions in my opinion with the exception of the new higher priced Yamaha CLP-585 which is, as I mentioned before, very good with its new counter-weight key action design and construction. Kawai has three specialty polished ebony piano cabinet models called CS4 (as I mentioned), CS8, and CS11 and the CS8 and CS11 just came out on the market now and replaced the former CS7 and CS10. The CS4 is really the CN24 (now discontinued and replaced by CN25, and now the CN27) in an upgraded cabinet design, finish, and speaker system. Although the CS4 is a very nice piano, the key action has been upgraded in its non polished ebony version CN27 along with some extra digital and connectivity features, So even though the CS4 is a current model, it still needs to be upgraded into a new model likely called the CS5 whenever Kawai decides to come out with it. The CS8 is really a non polished ebony version of the CA67 in an upgraded cabinet design, finish, and speaker system. The CS11 is really the CA97 in a super upgraded authentic cabinet design and finish,
Kawai CS10 digital piano
Kawai CS polished ebony upright
and it looks beautiful. To complicate matters a little more, Kawai stores may still have some of the older stock for sale, but the newest models, especially the CS8,and CS11 have impressive upgraded piano sound samples, more advanced and detailed sound editing elements, upgraded key action called GF2, better pedal sustain/decay time, some additional upgraded digital features, and an improved internal speaker system on the new CS8 over the former CS7. These models also have an improved cabinet design as well. The CS11 is about $3000US more money than the CS8, which is quite a bit (depending on your local Kawai dealer) and the difference is the CS11 has a much improved and more natural sounding internal audio system (with built-in wood soundboard) than the CS8 as well as 80 total instrument sounds as compared to 60 instrument sounds in the CA67. What that also means is the Kawai CS8 and CS11 are noticeably improved in a
Kawai CS10 digital piano control panel
Kawai CS control panel
number of ways over the discontinued CS7 and CS10 polished ebony piano cabinet versions. Although all of this can be a bit confusing, unless you are paying really attention, it has to do with when new models actually come out and when older models are discontinued. Since manufacturers do not change all models all at one time, there tends to be a staggered introduction of new product when new pianos come out, but this is true for some of the other pianos brands as well. With regard to cabinet height, the CS11 is just over 41" tall which is well below a real upright acoustic piano height of 48" tall. But for most people, 41" is plenty tall for a digital piano and it looks great and is quite sufficient in a normal room. Regardless of height or design differences among these three brands, I like all of the new Kawai digital pianos and recommend them as good choices to seriously consider in their price range, but the one that offers the "most bang for the buck" in my opinion is the new compact lower priced Kawai ES8 which sells at internet discount price of approx $2500 including furniture stand and triple pedal lyre.

Casio - For the 1st time in the history of Casio digital pianos, which is about 35 years, they have come out with their first set of digital pianos in the $3000 + price range which include the new Celviano Grand Hybrid GP500, GP400, & GP300. These 3 models have a key action built by the famous German grand piano company called Bechstein. Bechstein is very well know in Europe and around the world but they certainly are not a mainstream brand here is the US. But this association with renowned acoustic piano company Bechstein gives these new Casio digital pianos the credibility and prestige it needs to compete with the "big dogs" in this price range including Kawai, Roland, and Yamaha. Casio is certainly the big dog in digital pianos under $1000 so they have a proven past for many years. But these new Grand Hybrid digital pianos open up the way for Casio to be taken very seriously when it comes to advanced digital pianos in terms of piano key action, piano sound, pedaling, and digital features along with elegant furniture cabinets. In fact, after playing the Grand Hybrid many times, in a few important ways I like these new models better than what Roland, Yamaha, and Kawai are currently offering. The GP300 retails for $3999US, the GP400 is $4999US, and the GP500 is $5999US retail price. I would recommend you read my detailed review of these new models before you make any buying decisions in this price range. Casio GP300, GP400, GP500 Review. *Also, Casio has a model called the Celviano AP700 which has the same exact electronics, sounds and functions of the GP300 Grand Hybrid model but in a slightly different cabinet with an all-plastic key action...although the 3-sensor key action and sound in the AP700 is responsive and enjoyable to play. Retail price on the AP700 is $2999US and discount pricing in stores is approx $2500US. Click on the following link to read my review of the Casio Celviano AP700:Casio AP700 Review

Yamaha CLP control panel display
When it comes to piano sound and all that it entails, each manufacturer tells you they have the most realistic, most authentic, most natural sound available in a given price range. What else would you expect from them? They use proprietary terms to make it sound like they have created the ultimate piano sound. However, piano sound is somewhat subjective depending on your ears (sensitivity to certain frequencies or tones), musical listening experience, piano playing experience, and your expectations. You could literally be happy playing any of these brands and models even though a local piano store would tell you otherwise because they want to sell their brand(s). The manufacturers use fancy and impressive words and phrases to describe their piano sound, but at the end of the day those words are meaningless when it comes to the actual sound you are hearing because it is subjective (as I mentioned) and also subject to the way the internal speaker system projects the sound from inside these digital pianos.

To get the best acoustic piano sound reproduction possible with available technology, Yamaha uses their own Yamaha acoustic pianos to make a sample/recording piano sound. Yamaha also uses a European Bosendorfer acoustic grand piano to sample/record another piano sound for their digital pianos. Yamaha uses Bosendorfer because they own the company...so why not:). I have played many Bosendorfer grand pianos over the years and they are beautiful pianos and compare well to the Yamaha, Kawai, and Steinway acoustic grand pianos in my opinion. However the piano sound on the CLP series that Yamaha refers to as their Bosendorfer sound, is nothing like a real Bosendorfer acoustic grand. The digital Bosendorfer sound is a bit muffled and muted and lacking in dynamic tonal and volume range in my opinion. The Yamaha CFX digital grand piano sound taken from a Yamaha grand is much better in their CLP series than the Bosendorfer sound. The Kawai company uses its own Kawai acoustic grand & upright pianos to record its pianos samples and then Roland focuses primarily on Steinway grand pianos to reproduce that sound through a new technology called "Physical Modeling." Physical Modeling (based on the technology) allows the complex piano sound to be more easily and accurately (on paper) reproduced than through a sampling process. So when it comes to sound technology, Roland has just jumped ahead of the pack although this process is still fairly new and has a few anomalies in my opinion but will likely get better over time. It's important to note that some brands of digital pianos that get their piano sound through the sampling process (Yamaha, Kawai, Casio) have higher and lower quality piano samples depending on the model number of the digital piano and price range. For instance, Roland has a good, better, and best scenario for its piano sound and Roland calls their piano sound SuperNATURAL and the realism of the SuperNATURAL sound becomes more advanced and authentic as you spend more money on the higher priced models. Just like Roland, Kawai also has 3 levels of piano sound realism and Yamaha also has different levels of piano sound realism could be a number of different models depending on price range. The new Casio Hybrid pianos have 2 levels of sound authenticity and the difference in realism is noticeable. What you will like in terms of piano sound will depend on if you can personally distinguish the differences among the different levels of piano sound realism and authenticity in the different brands and models. The bottom line is...some people can tell a difference between two or more different piano sounds and some people cannot, so it's best not to "overspend" when getting a new digital piano just because a store salesperson or piano teacher might tell you that you need a certain type of model piano that costs a lot of money and they try to convince you won't be happy unless you do get the best, more expensive one. Take it from me, a person can be musically happy and satisfied on a new digital piano without necessarily spending more than you have to, because even in the lower price ranges some of these digital pianos sound and play great!

Yamaha CLP545 digital piano control panel
Yamaha control panel
When it comes to the user interface control LCD screens, almost all of the Yamaha & Kawai models use a larger LCD display screen located to the left side of the keyboard. Roland uses a smaller display screen located in the middle above the keys. Although the Kawai,Yamaha, and Casio pianos display info that is a bit easier to see with their larger screens (with the exception of the CS4 and CN27 for Kawai, and Yamaha NU1), I personally like the Roland design a bit better because it is in your direct line of sight above the keys in the middle and is easy to see and the buttons are somewhat more intuitive to use in my opinion in navigating the many features. The Kawai, Yamaha, and Casio pianos limit their features to be accessed by fewer buttons than the Roland pianos with a bigger screen which can look less distracting, but it's in a less convenient area of the piano based on my experience with it. As an example, there are a number of features in the Yamaha CLP pianos that take many button pushes to get into the menu before you can actually access that function and you need to look over to your left side all the time to push those buttons. I
Roland control panel
personally find this positioning inconvenient especially as I am right handed and prefer to use my right hand when selecting buttons. Another thing you'll notice (look at the left pics) about the Yamaha & Casio control panels is that they are made of shiny (black) plastic and they show fingerprints, dust, and smudges more easily, and to me, it looks a bit cheaper. I don't mean to pick on Yamaha & Casio in this way (I like those companies very much), but when you are buying a beautiful piano and cabinet you would think they could give you a non-glare, no-smudge control panel to go with it, especially when you will be pressing buttons often with your fingers. If you notice the Kawai and Roland control panel and buttons, they have a non-glare,
Kawai CA97 digital piano control panel
Kawai CA/CS control panel
no smudge surface which reduces these issues. Generally speaking, the Roland control panel and button design is more user friendly and intuitive to use, and that is important to me. The buttons are in a linear format in front of you and they are spread out to be able to select and use them easier as compared to the Kawai & Yamaha buttons which are more squeezed together in a smaller area. The satin/mat finish on the Roland (and Kawai) control panel, in my opinion, also looks classier than a shiny plastic material and the buttons themselves are smaller low profile which also gives the control panel a more elegant appearance. It is also worth mentioning that Roland has a 2-position key cover on their HP pianos which allows the key cover to slide over the control panel only and then it hides the buttons completely while only the keys remain to be seen (left pic). Or you can pull the key cover all the way closed and cover up the entire keyboard when you are not playing it (below left pic). So when it comes to a minimalistic button/control panel they all do a nice job but unfortunately in doing that I think some of them (Yamaha & Casio) created a less friendly control panel positioned in a more difficult to use space on their new pianos. Actually, I don't mind the controls and buttons being on the left side of a digital piano keyboard if they are simple, nicely laid out, don't have a surface that can smear when touched, and do not require many button pushes and the display & buttons are easy to read. The more features & functions in the piano there are to control, the more tedious it can be to use them when the controls are not user friendly. The perfect marriage of being minimalistic in design and efficient in use is probably the goal of these companies and it can be difficult to achieve. OK...enough said about that.

If you want to save money and stay in a lower price range, then buying a digital piano under $3000 will still get you a Premium quality digital piano in the Yamaha, Roland, or Kawai brand in a satin cabinet finish. The polished ebony Premium digital pianos always add a big increase in price to the name brand pianos in various price ranges, sometimes as much as $500-$1000 depending on the piano model. I believe all of the models here offer attractive cabinets, very good features, are reliable in quality, offer substantial factory warranties, and can satisfy a lot of musical needs, but as I said before, there are definite differences among brands and models. I like to stress that you cannot always "judge a book by its cover" in thinking a digital piano must be good if it has a nice looking cabinet. I have seen some very nice looking cabinets with beautiful finishes that are very poor pianos when it comes to how they play and sound. People constantly make the mistake of buying a piano on "looks" rather than how it really plays and behaves as a piano. One of the brands that are not near as popular but have some attractive cabinets is the Kurzweil brand. Based on all my personal experience with their current line of pianos, I find that the Kurzweil piano sound/touch response, pedaling, and key action are erratic and uneven and/or are missing fundamental piano playing technology found in the major brands and come nowhere close in quality and authenticity to the pianos I have listed in this report. Also based on my years of personal experience with their digital piano products, the reliability of the electronics and availability of service to repair Kurzweil digital pianos has not been very good over the years.

Roland LX15e digital piano
Roland LX17
Yamaha N2 AvantGrand digital pianoYamaha N1 AvantGrand digital pianoIt's really best to stick with brands that are proven winners in overall piano performance, digital technology, and reliability and those brands are definitely Roland, Kawai, Casio, and Yamaha in the $3000-$7500+ price range. Just so you know, the top digital piano in each brand are the Roland LX17 polished ebony, Kawai CS11 polished ebony, Yamaha CLP585 polished ebony (less money for the satin black walnut option of the CLP585), and the new Casio-Bechstein Grand Hybrid GP500, and they all retail for approx $7000 or more for the polished ebony cabinet models, except for the Casio-Bechstein GP500 at $6000 retail. The more money you spend in each brand, the more you will typically get in terms of features, functions, piano sound realism, and key action authenticity as well as upgraded cabinet design and cabinet finish. However, the most important feature in any piano would be the key action and the way it moves & behaves. The best Yamaha Clavinova key action is only available in one model and that model is the new CLP585. Unfortunately this piano is also the most expensive of the Yamaha line-up and comes in only one cabinet style, but in two color choices. With the Kawai brand, their best key action comes in 4 different (new) piano models and styles (CA67, CA97, CS8, CS11) as well as being available in a wider selection of color/finish choice and price points among those models. With the Roland brand, their best key action comes in 5 different models (HP603, HP605, LX7, GP607,and LX17. as well as being available in a wide selection of color/finish choices and price points among those models. Yamaha only has their best key action in one model called the CLP-585 as I mentioned earlier, which is too bad. In my opinion they should also have placed that same new key action in their CLP-575 and perhaps even their digital grand (CLP565GP). I think it is also important to say that Yamaha does produce a significantly upgraded and entirely different key action than the Clavinova series and it is designed only for the Yamaha AvantGrand digital pianos which not only includes the console style NU1 (sells for about $5000US) as I mentioned earlier which is much nicer to play than any of the Clavinova key actions, but also includes the top of the line N1 (left pic - sells for about $8000US), N2 (above left pic - sells for about $10,000), and N3 (sells for about $15,000) which Yamaha refers to as Hybrid pianos which come exclusively in beautiful polished ebony cabinets. However, the N1/N2/N3 key action is an actual complete (without strings) compact version of the famous Yamaha acoustic grand piano all wooden key action and it does feel very good and is a pleasure to play. But...you have to really pay to play on one of the N Hybrid models:). I have done a review of those models here on my blog. In my experienced opinion, depending on your playing skill level, even though some of the top models have very good key actions, having the best key action is may not be necessary because the key actions in the less expensive models ($1000-$2000) can be more than enough for many people who just want to play music recreationally for their own enjoyment.

In the final analysis, when it comes to key actions and piano sound, the ultimate buying decision for someone is quite subjective (and can be somewhat contusing) and is based mostly on a person's piano playing experience (or lack of it), their musical goals, as well as what you believe you can be satisfied with. Did you know that most good acoustic piano brands and models sound and feel different from each other? If that's true (and it is), then how can any digital piano actually sound and play like a real acoustic piano when there is no one real and perfect acoustic piano? Kind of confusing, isn't it? However, there are some naturally occurring organic acoustic piano elements in every good acoustic upright & grand piano which transcends brands and models and that is what digital piano shoppers should try to concentrate on when shopping for a digital piano instead of so-called piano perfection. It really has to do with musical and playing enjoyment so a digital piano does not have to be "perfect" for you to have that enjoyable piano playing experience.

Other variables that should be considered when shopping for one of these digital pianos is that everyone's hand and finger muscles as well as the way they hear sound frequencies are different and that will have a bearing on what someone will like in terms of key action and piano sound. I have talked with thousands of digital piano shoppers all over the world about this subject including my own students over the years, and although I find that most people would agree with my analysis and opinions of these various digital pianos with regard to key action and piano sound, there are others who may have a different viewpoint, but that does not mean they are wrong, For instance I have found that some people do not like the Roland piano sound as much as they do the Kawai or Yamaha piano sound and yet many people like the new Roland piano sound better and believe it is more expressive than either of the other two brands. Some manufacturers make a big point of talking about their all wood keys vs all plastic keys (with and without synthetic ivory keytops), or their key action feeling more like a grand piano and less like an upright. But I have been playing for years on good digital pianos with plastic keys that feel more like a good upright piano and have enjoyed the playing experience very much and still do. The Roland piano company, for instance, has a hybrid key of both wood and plastic unlike some Kawai or Yamaha models which have all-wood, and yet their pianos are very enjoyable to play because they use that hybrid combination of wood & plastic for more key stability and yet the wood helps projects vibrations into the key. When it comes to any one of these pianos I have talked about, I really don't think a digital piano shopper can make a wrong decision here, especially in this higher price range. But if you want a digital piano that will fit your musical desires and/or needs, then the differences in these pianos can really mean something. For me, I do have some personal preferences in piano sound and key action, along with pedaling realism, but I tend to keep that info at a minimum on my blog site because this is not about me, it is about you:).

I have played all of these new digital pianos many times and have done individual reviews on all of them, except for the Kawai pianos mentioned here. I will be doing that soon and when I do I will link those Kawai reviews from this blog post so you can get even more details from me on each model. You can also go to the manufacturer web sites to get more details, although those sites do try to "sell you" on their product...as they should:). No matter which brand you purchase, they are all solid, reliable brands which excellent factory warranties and good overall reputations. As with anything, people will lean one way or the other with regard to what they feel is important to them in a new digital piano within their price range. You could likely be happy on any of these new models but obviously there differences and you'll need to determine what fits you best.

NEO
SAMICK NEO - In the beginning of the report I mentioned a digital piano by the Samick piano company called the Ebony NEO. I did not talk about it here prior to this for a few different reasons including that it is the only vertical upright style digital piano that the Samick company produces but it is definitely one to consider as it is a fairly low $4399US piano store price. The Samick piano company, headquartered in Nashville, TN (it is a South Korean company), is a very large acoustic piano company well known for producing acoustic upright acoustic and grand pianos, but is not very well known for digital pianos although they have been producing and selling them for many years. I have already seen and played this new model and for the money I believe it is worth consideration up against Kawai, Yamaha, and Roland vertical style pianos in the $3000-$6000 price range depending on what you think you need. I have played this model a number of times and it has a minimalistic digital control panel, easy to use functions, an elegant full size polished ebony piano cabinet with slow-close key cover, along with USB, MIDI, and recording features. I liked the key action, piano sound, and pedaling along with the fact that there is an actual full size acoustic piano soundboard on the back of the piano. Although there are not near as many digital features as are in the more popular digital piano brands such as the Clavinova line, this new Samick NEO is a unique digital piano and it has a separate closing display panel lid that will hide the buttons while the piano is in use (like the Kawai CS10/CS11) so it looks completely like an acoustic piano at that point. Although the Kawai, Roland, and (some) Yamaha key actions and piano sound chips are generally superior in the higher price range, this new Samick NEO can still more than satisfy a lot of needs both musically and visually
Read my review of the Samick NEO at the following link: Samick NEO Review

*Before you make any purchase on these higher priced Premium digital pianos, do your homework and research and then contact me and I can give you free helpful advice so that you can make the right decision for your musical needs. As I mentioned earlier, there really is no perfect choice and there can be no numerical or star "ratings" comparatively applied to any or all of these pianos because they all have their upsides and downsides. Your decision will ultimately be a subjective one, but as with all decisions, especially in this price range, there will be a piano that's just right for you. Be sure you contact me before you make any purchase on a new digital piano and I will tell you if you are getting the right one at the right price.

If you want more info on new digital pianos and LOWER PRICES than internet discounts, please email me at tim@azpianowholesale.com or call direct at 602-571-1864 .

11 comments:

  1. Very very good review. Simply, the best.
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  2. Exactly the kind of article i was looking for. Thank you very very much for your work and experience !

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for a well covered review on a range of premium digital pianos, which I'm in the market for. I'm curious on when a full review on the CVP-585 will be done, though?

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have 2 choices clp 545 and 90se .i have not decided yet . Which one do you advice me to buy? Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  5. Several years ago I found I needed a silent piano for practice to supplant my wonderful Schimmel grand piano, so I wouldn't bother my family during long practice sessions. I spent quality time on the phone with the author of this blog, and I shopped extensively, eventually choosing the Kawai CA-65.

    I'm not a bells and whistles guy; I just wanted the best feel and sound. After playing the best that Yamaha and Roland (and others) had to offer, it was clear that the Kawai was it for me, no comparison. I knew it right away. I went back and played the Yamaha and the Roland again to be sure, then back to the Kawai for a final check, and the purchase.

    Now, several years later, this has absolutely been the most important piano of my life. I find playing it so enjoyable that I end up practicing much, much more than I ever have before, and my playing has improved dramatically as a result.

    The recording and playback feature is a great learning tool, and even more important, the Kawai has many different piano voices to choose from: Concert Grand, Studio Grand, Mellow Grand, Jazz Grand, Pop Piano, Upright, etc. They each sound very different obviously, but more importantly they PLAY differently, and they require different technique and rhythym to sound right. If I play one for a while and then switch to another, I have to adjust my playing technique to make it sound good. The result is when I meet up with a "strange" piano I've never played before, I can make it sound great much quicker than ever before. I can adapt!

    This is my advice to any of you out there looking: play a few of these instruments, then go back and play the one or two you like best again. When one of them is right for you, you will know it. Use headphones so you are not self-conscious of your playing and are just focusing on how it feels and sounds TO YOU.

    Happy hunting!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi. Tim, nice guide. I am wondering if you had a chance to play new CASIO GP300/500 and where would you put them within those. I am in Washington DC and it seems that nowhere has it. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have played the Casio GP300 but have not published a review on it yet. I am not "sold" on that model so am waiting to play a GP500 to see if I like it better. My preference at the moment is the new Roland HP605. I recently published a review of it.

      Delete
  7. Hey Tim,
    I'm having a big doubt here and would be very important and nice if you answered me. I can't decide between clp 545 and hp 603. In YOUR opinion, which one is better?
    Please, answer me!!! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  8. They are both good but both different. My personal preference is the new Roland HP603 for more authentic key action movement, piano sound and tonal dynamics, and functionality. The speaker system is a bit more powerful and fuller on the Yamaha but I prefer the Roland for all the other reasons.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Dear Tim,
    I am doubting for some time between de Roland HP 605 and the Kawai CS 8. I tried them both a few times, but... What would be your preference?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Dear Tim,

    I hesitate between CLP 525 and CN 25 (I'm a beginner and I would like to play for my own pleasure). What would you advise ?

    Thank you very much !

    ReplyDelete