Jan 21, 2016

REVIEW - SAMICK EBONY NEO Digital Piano - Elegant

Samick national headquarters-Nashville

UPDATED REVIEW - August 1, 2017Samick Ebony NEO - Hybrid upright style acoustic-digital piano - RECOMMENDED - The Samick piano company which has its huge US headquarters in Nashville, TN, is a piano producer of well known acoustic piano brands such as Samick, Seiler, Knabe, Kohler, Pramberger, and others. Samick who has its international headquarters in South Korea, has been producing acoustic and digital pianos for decades and continues to grow and expand as a piano company. They are just introducing their first new digital piano in a number of years which they call the Ebony NEO hybrid upright style digital-acoustic piano. This new model is a combination of an upgraded Samick acoustic piano cabinet with full size ribbed acoustic soundboard combined with high quality digital piano electronics, and the retail price is $4395US in local piano stores that carry new Samick pianos. By the way, this model is not available for purchase on the internet in the US. The Ebony NEO is also known as the "NEO" so I will be referring to it that way. The new NEO replaced the former Samick Ebony 3 piano which came out some years ago but was not widely available in the US and was not 1/2 as good as this new model, so this review reflects the new NEO digital piano and its capabilities.


Samick Ebony NEO hybrid digital upright piano
Ebony NEO
The Samick NEO is somewhat unique among other digital upright style pianos because it combines a beautiful authentic polished ebony acoustic piano cabinet (with a full size built-in passive soundboard) made by the Samick factory with a top-of-the-line "Fatar" Italian made quick response piano key action and new digital electronics designed in Germany. The control panel and buttons are nicely installed in the left side of the keyboard cheek block utilizing an easy to read LED display so the user knows what function they are using. Unlike some other digital piano brands that have a control panel on the left side of the keyboard, Samick has installed their panel into the Ebony NEO in such a way that they were able to put a hinged lid cover over it so that all of the controls are completely hidden when you look at the piano and you see no buttons at all (the Kawai piano company also has this feature in their CS10 digital piano). Even the on-off power switch is easily accessed under the piano so that the piano is clear of any indication that it is digital...which many people will appreciate. The cabinet looks completely acoustic and authentic and many digital piano shoppers whom I talk with have been asking for a product like this in a reasonable price range (under $5000) for many years and the NEO may be the perfect solution in its price range.

Samick Ebony 3 hybrid digital upright piano
Ebony NEO with closed key cover
After playing this new model many times, I found it to be simple to use and has enough features to make it enjoyable to play but keeps its focus on the piano sound, upgraded piano style key action, and pedaling functions. This model is really for people who mainly want to play piano along with having some impressive higher quality instrument sounds (10 total) including strings, organs, choirs, harpsichords, etc, digital recording features, metronome function, splitting and layering any two sounds together or apart, special 24 bit higher quality reverb-echo effects to simulate concert halls, and 135-note polyphony so that you won't run out of notes when playing more complex music. In other words, this piano has a lot to offer but is not for someone who wants extensive instrument sound libraries, drum rhythms, interactive chords, extensive multitrack recording features, or micro editing features. It is designed to primarily be a piano without the need for ever tuning it and yet being able to practice in privacy using stereo headphones or just turning down the volume output with a volume control...all things a regular acoustic piano cannot do.

Samick Ebony 3 hybrid digital upright piano
Ebony NEO with hidden control panel
The Italian Fatar acrylic key action that is used in the Ebony NEO is very important because a piano key action is the most important feature that should be considered when shopping for any digital piano. Fatar of Italy produces a number of different key actions for a variety of brands and I have reviewed some of those other brands with different Fatar key actions. It's important to know that just because the key action is made by Fatar does not mean its a realistic feeling and moving key action because there are different quality levels of Fatar key actions and other brands of key actions. The Fatar key action built into the Samick Ebony NEO is one of the top Fatar key actions made and is called a "Four Zone Graded Hammer Action." The action is smooth and balanced and very quiet as compared to many other digital piano brands I have played. Samick uses this same key action on their digital grand pianos and I have played those models many times and like them. I will say that there are noticeably more realistic feeling key actions in some other top digital piano brands, but they also retail for money too...so you do usually get what you pay for.

Samick Ebony NEO hybrid digital upright piano
The pedals on this piano are a full functioning set of Samick piano pedals with soft, sostenuto, and sustain-damper control over tone and digital string vibrations. The pedals are solid and well built and are a part of the normal pedals on a regular acoustic piano cabinet which is nice. The sustain-damper pedal also has half-pedaling control to give the player control over the amount of sustain applied to the notes when playing a song unlike other digital upright style pianos I have played which only have on-off control (such as the Kurzweil brand). Pedals and how they work is an important feature to consider when shopping for a piano especially as you progress in your music complexity and playing skill level. Based on my playing experience with this new piano, the Ebony NEO has the pedaling functions which will allow you to have a higher degree of playing satisfaction when it comes to pedaling and the things it can do for your music.

Samick Ebony NEO digital piano
Full size ribbed soundboard
The acoustic stereo piano sound in this new model itself is quite good considering it is produced digitally and the panel functions give the player control over its tonal qualities by being able to adjust for more or less tonal brightness or mellowness. The full size passive soundboard in back of the piano helps make the piano tone more natural through passive resonation of sound frequencies. Although the piano sound is actually coming out of the internal speaker system, the piano sound frequencies also resonate through the full size soundboard adding a touch of organic realism to the piano sound which no other digital piano has in this retail price range (the full size passive soundboard). With regard to these "soundboards" in the back of the pianos, all acoustic pianos have soundboards whether they are upright or grand pianos, and without them there would be no sound amplified from the vibrating strings. The best way to amplify the piano sound in a digital piano beyond using speakers is to use transducers on the soundboard which is a type of microphone that projects the energy/vibrations of a soundboard and amplifies them to give a bigger, bolder sound. This is a more expensive process which makes the pianos cost more money, but the sound realism results are better too (you usually get what you pay for). Kawai does that (using transducers) with their top of the line digital piano soundboards whereas Samick has a passive soundboard with no extra help from transducers. 


Samick Ebony 3 hybrid digital upright piano
Easy to use control panel buttons
Key touch sensitivity (aka: velocity curve) can also be adjusted in the editing features to help people customize the response of the keys to volume when pressing the keys harder or softer depending on the muscle strength in your fingers. The dynamic range of tone (loud to soft, mellow to bright) in this piano is also quite good and expressive so that you can grow into the piano instead of out of it. There certainly are brands of digital pianos in this price range such as Roland, Kawai, and Yamaha, and I have played them all, and they have impressive digital piano sound and key action as well. However, those brands do not offer a real full size acoustic piano cabinet with full size spruce piano soundboard in this price range and that is what sets the Samick Ebony NEO apart from the other other brands. The acoustic piano sound in the Ebony NEO is good enough (realistic) more most people, but if you want even better digital piano sound recreation in a digital piano then there are other choices in my opinion at higher price ranges, but piano sound is somewhat subjective and the Samick Ebony 3 stereo piano sound is overall enjoyable to play and will satisfy most people.

Samick Ebony NEO hybrid digital upright piano
back side connector array
The Ebony NEO offers a good array of connectivity to other devices such as computers, external speaker systems, MIDI products, and headphones using MIDI in/out connectors and USB to host connectivity. You can also use the Ebony NEO to connect an external CD player, MP3 player, or other audio device to the Ebony NEO and use the internal sound system audio input of the Ebony NEO to hear the external music players, computers, or tablets (iPad, etc). The Ebony 3 also has an audio output to run the piano such an external sound system to make the sound even bigger and fuller than it already is. The internal sound system of the Ebony 3 consists of 4 power amplifiers totaling 80 watts going through 4 separate internal speakers, so the internal audio system is quite good and very powerful.

Samick Ebony 3 digital piano The Ebony NEO measures 41" tall x 19" deep x 56" wide so it is compact enough to fit into small spaces. The cabinet design, high polished ebony finish, and unique chrome hardware and pedals give it an elegant contemporary look that I really like (few other digital pianos I have seen offer chrome hardware) and the key cover is a special "soft-close" cover that will come down slowly and cover the keys while keeping fingers from being squashed... a great feature for younger kids. Even the top of the piano will be able to open up using a built-in mini grand piano lid prop so that the sound can come out Samick Ebony 3 digital piano
of the top as well as through the bottom speakers and soundboard. Considering that this new compact hybrid digital piano piano looks quite elegant in its design and finish, plays very nicely with a smooth and responsive Fatar advanced key action, sounds big and full and has useful digital features, never goes out of tune, can be played silently with headphones, allows you to record what you're doing and play it back, can connect to a variety of devices, has a hidden control panel allowing the cabinet to look like an organic, natural upright style piano, and you can have fun connecting to other devices if you choose to, the new Samick Ebony NEO has many of the important features people are looking for at a reasonable price. The next nearest pianos in price which offer an elegant looking polished ebony piano style cabinet with impressive piano sound and key action would be the Yamaha CLP585, Roland LX17, or Kawai CS11, but they retail  near or over $7000US.... a $2,000 minimum difference. The other brands do offer more piano playing realism with more features & functions, but as I said earlier, that will cost you more money. If you are looking for a good digital piano that actually looks like a piano in a beautiful polished ebony finish with some cool features, then the Samick Ebony NEO may be the best choice for you.

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.

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