|Yamaha CLP545 satin finish|
|Casio Celviano AP700|
|Kawai CN37 control panel|
Here are some specifics you should know about these pianos below that may help you:
Yamaha - The Clavinova CLP535, CLP545 (1st pic on left), CLP565GP, and CLP575 utilize the same key actions as in previous models (with the exception of the "X"-factor in the action model number (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 make 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 newer 500 Clavinova series, go to my review at the following link: Yamaha CLP535, 545, 575, 585, 565GP Review
Roland - UPDATE: Roland's new 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 not 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 CS polished ebony upright|
|Kawai CS control panel|
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|
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 control panel|
|Roland control panel|
|Kawai CA/CS control panel|
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call direct at 602-571-1864 .