Kawai KDP120 - REVIEW | Digital Piano 2023 | LOWER PRICE HERE

Kawai KDP120 review
🎹 Kawai KDP120 | UPDATED REVIEW | Jan 2, 2023 | LOWER PRICE HERE | The Kawai KDP120 at $1499 internet price is from a company that has been producing high quality acoustic & digital pianos for many decades and is well known throughout the world by professionals, teachers, and musicians as a leader in digital piano technology. So it should come as no surprise that Kawai has "upped its game" with their KDP120 home digital piano at just $1499 that offers good "looks" with 3 cabinet color options, great playability, impressive sound, and a useful selection of features that can satisfy most people looking for a good digital piano from a top name brand in the $1500 price range.

INITIAL THOUGHTS


Kawai KDP120 cabinet colors
The primary things shoppers are looking for when wanting to purchase a new digital piano is
realistic, responsive piano weighted key action, expressive, organic acoustic piano tone with a smooth, wide dynamic tonal range, and last but not least...responsive pedaling with long, bold piano sustain decay times. Also, to enhance these things it is necessary to send all that great sound through a competent internal speaker system which can bring out a good bass response so the sound is not tinny and artificial, but full with a rich sound coming through. All of the other things a digital piano can do such as offering many other instrument sounds, drum patterns, extensive recording, layering, etc, are secondary in my opinion. Although they can be useful and fun to have, it is really all about the "piano playing experience" that is most important and your ability to grow into the piano instead of growing out of it.

KAWAI KDP120 KEY ACTION


Pictures of Kawai KDP120 digital piano
First, it is important to talk about key action which is by far the most important thing you should be concerned about when shopping for a digital piano. Key action includes how the keys move individually or together, the weight of each key, the amount of pressure it takes for the fingers to press the keys down, the amount of time and pressure the keys exhibit in coming back up, the way the keys interact with the piano sound and if the key action under each key has proper electronics under the keys (called key sensors) to allow the piano to have smooth transition in volume when playing
Kawai KDP120 white key action
lightly or quietly and then when playing harder with more expression and how the piano sound volume and tonal dynamics come out as you are playing. 

Also many key actions exhibit a lot of noise (much more than normal) when the keys are being played, both when the keys go down and when they come back up, and many off-brands of digital pianos behave badly in this way and produce loud and distracting key movement noise along with terrible volume and tonal response. 

Unfortunately that is something you cannot see...inside the key action where it all happens. Also, if you do not play piano at all or do not play fairly well, you are likely not going to know what is good and what is bad when it comes to the all important key action and the way it is supposed to work. If you get a digital piano with a poor quality key action it will absolutely stunt the growth of any piano student no matter what their age and that is something you want to avoid at all costs.

Pictures of Kawai KDP120 digital piano
key actionIn its price range the Kawai KDP120 key action called RHC2 is very good for a digital piano in this price range and I was impressed overall. It has a good balance of graded weighted keys with key movement from low to high octaves being not too firm and not too light, and overall a quieter moving key action as compared to some of the competition. Korg and Casio also have very nice key actions and we recommend them as well. The weight and movement of both the black and white keys on the Kawai KDP120 are good which is not necessarily the case with other manufacturers, especially when it comes to the black keys and how they move. Beyond the physical nature of the piano key action are the electronic key sensors under each key. In the past Kawai had a 2-sensor key action which has 2 electronic sensors under each key to sense key repetition. 

Three key sensors under each key can help with key repetition response when playing faster and more quickly on the keys, especially when the keys are being pressed down before they come all the way back up again. Kawai KDP120 has 3 key sensors although in a 2-key sensor digital piano, if the key sensors are "high definition" sensors, then 2 sensors are all that's needed as compared to 3 sensors that are not high definition type sensors. There are only two things this key action does not have that a couple other brands do such as Casio & Roland and that is synthetic ivory & ebony keytops and/or the escapement feature. Synthetic ivory and ebony is being used to try to replicate the key feel (the tops of the keys) that old acoustic pianos used to have decades ago. The escapement feature is a Pictures of Kawai KDP120 digital piano hesitation or "notch" that you would feel as you press the key down very slowly on a grand piano. However, the escapement feature on a digital piano is, at best, a very limited imitation of the real thing. 

The KDP120 does not have the synthetic ivory & ebony and even though that feature does add to the playing enjoyment for some people, it is not absolutely necessary. Since Kawai builds real acoustic upright and grand pianos then they know what they're doing in producing high quality piano keys. So as far as I am concerned Kawai has done a very nice job offering a satisfying piano key action in their new KDP120, especially in this price range.




PIANO SOUND


piano sound dynamics banner
The next most important thing when shopping for a good digital piano is to pay attention to the piano sound authenticity. For people who do not play piano or have little experience with the actual piano sound of good acoustic pianos then knowing what constitutes a good piano sound can be a daunting task. How do you know if one piano sound is more realistic than other and does it really matter? The answer is that it doesn't matter so much in the beginning if you don't know how to play piano yet. But as you grow in your piano playing skills then having a more authentic and expressive piano sound in your digital piano will matter quite a bit because unless your piano is capable of reproducing a large amount of smooth tonal expression and volume, you will not be able to properly reproduce the music your are trying to play and your piano can and will stunt your "musical growth." 

So just because the instrument looks like a piano does not mean the piano sound and expression will be good, particularly in the off-name brands like Artesia, Kurzweil, Suzuki, Williams, etc. In fact in some of these cheaper priced brands the tonal dynamics and volume when playing the key action can be choppy and compressed and it may hurt your piano practice when a student is trying to improve in their piano playing skills and abilities. So you need to be very careful in what you finally decide to buy.

Kawai grand piano
With all this in mind I can tell you from 1st hand experience that the Kawai KDP120 has fairly realistic acoustic piano sound reproduction originating from Kawai acoustic grand pianos. These piano sounds offer good dynamic tonal range (mellow to bright and everywhere in-between) depending on how hard you play on the keys along with smooth volume transitions from very soft to very loud and also everywhere in-between. The piano tones are actual samples/recordings from real Kawai acoustic grand pianos including concert quality, mellow, bright, jazz, pop and and a variety of other choices. With 192 notes of polyphony power there is plenty of room in the piano memory to play complex pieces of music and be able to have a very 192 note polyphony satisfying result. One of the reasons the piano tones come across so realistically is because Kawai samples all 88-notes individually instead of in groups. In other words some piano companies sample one note and then electronically stretch that note up to the next note and the next note and so on. 

So basically the notes are "tuned up" to the next note in some brands rather than the next note be individually sampled and recorded from the real grand piano. Since Kawai does individual note sampling then the piano sound characteristics on each key are more realistic when transitioning from one note to the next. When you do the same thing in playing one note to the next on a cheaper quality (off-brand) digital pianos like the ones I mentioned above, it's like you are hearing different pianos on each note/key. One key is more mellow then the next key is very bright and then one note may be louder and then next note be softer in volume. This kind of thing really inhibits musical growth, creates bad playing habits, and overall the music just sounds "fake" and not pleasing at all. Unfortunately, many shoppers don't understand what to look for when it comes to piano along with key action the key actions to express those sounds. 

Some people buy digital pianos they have never heard of before on Amazon because they think they are getting a "good deal" on a low price. Instead what they wind up with what I call a "PSO" (aka: a piano shaped object). Please...do not get a piano shaped object but spend your hard earned money on something good, something that will be as much like a piano as you can afford to pay, otherwise you will regret it especially if this piano is for a student (you, an adult relative, or child) or you already play piano and you want a new digital piano that will allow you to have good musical growth which in my opinion this KDP120 will do very well within its price range.

PEDALS


Pictures of Kawai KDP120 digital piano
The three pedals attached to the front bottom of the piano are important, especially the right damper/sustain pedal. Without using the right pedal most songs can sound choppy and much less beautiful. However when a beginner student is learning to play then the right pedal is not important until many months have passed by where that beginner student is ready to use the pedal and learn proper pedaling technique. The other two pedals include the center pedal known as sostenuto pedal which sustains only specific notes and the left pedal is known as the soft pedal which softens the volume on all notes simultaneously whenever the song calls for it. 

Kawai KDP120 piano pedals
The damper/sustain pedal (right pedal) is the one which is used almost all the time. The left soft pedal is used much less often by beginners to intermediate players, and the middle sostenuto pedal is rarely used by anyone these days as it has almost become a decoration rather than a useful pedal function...although in some classical pieces for some players, it is useful. But it's really all about the right damper/sustain pedal and Kawai does a very good job reproducing that pedal experience with a "grand feel" pedal system which tries to simulate the actual feel and weight of the pedal when pressing down on it and which also offers half-damper pedaling. 

Half-damper is a term that means when you press the pedal down there is a variety of sustain times or amounts of sustain that you get depending on how far down you press the pedal. This function is absolutely necessary for realistic piano sound and without the half-damper feature the piano sound would be more like a keyboard because most keyboards don't have half-damper piano pedaling...the pedal just is on or off with no variation of sustain which makes it more choppy sounding. So when it comes to pedaling Kawai has what anyone would need in this price range to have a very good pedaling experience.

GENERAL FEATURES AND "PIANO REMOTE" APP


Pictures of Kawai KDP120 digital piano kawai virtual tecnician logo kawai virtual tecnicianWhen it comes to the non-acoustic piano sounds and functions in the KDP120 there are many and they are all pretty good. There are realistic instrument tones including electric pianos, organs, choirs, harpsichord, strings, etc and you can layer (combine) any two sounds together such as strings and grand piano or harpsichord and choir just to name a few. You can also digitally transpose the key you are in and play the song in any key which can be useful when singing along and getting into your vocal range. The KDP120 also has some useful reverb (echo) effects which accentuate the piano tones by adding to the realism like you would hear in a bigger room or hall where there is natural echo/reverb to give the piano tone a larger effect. This kind of thing is very nice to have and even though other digital pianos may have these reverb effects doesn't mean they are actually any good because there are different qualities. 

The KDP120 has some noticeably high quality reverb effects that sound more natural than other digital pianos I have played in this price range. Beyond the reverb effects, when playing a good acoustic piano there are all kinds of natural occurring organic sounds coming from within the acoustic grand piano cabinet when the the keys are being played and the notes are being heard. Some of these organic elements of piano sound are called damper resonance, key-off tone, hammer sound, lid position, damper/sustain decay time, half-pedal sustain positions, and the way a piano is tuned which normally is called stretch tuning and this kind of tuning can drastically affect the outcome of the piano sound the player/person will be hearing when playing the piano. 

All of these nuanced organic elements of an acoustic grand piano are in the Kawai KDP120 and those individual features are
Kawai Piano Remote app
adjustable in the KDP120 as well. In fact, Kawai also has an iOS/iPad/Android app they call "Piano Remote" which will allow you to easily see and adjust most of the functions in the piano along with these natural organic piano elements.
You can customize the piano sounds to your liking by adding more strength to the effect or taking away some of the strength of that effect. Using the iPad for the touch interface to control these things (along with the key touch sensitivity and other features) makes using the "Virtual Technician" a breeze and then anyone can do it...even a 3 year old:). 

 Kawai is really focusing on the piano playing experience in this new KDP120 so that a person who mainly wants a satisfying piano playing experience will get one in my opinion. If you don't want to make any adjustments to the piano sounds using "Piano Remote/Virtual Technician" then you don't have to at all. You can simply play the piano as it has been set up by Kawai at their factory with what most people will enjoy hearing, so the factory default settings are generally more than enough for most people.

DIGITAL RECORDER & SONG PLAYBACK


Pictures of Kawai KDP120 digital piano
With regard to learning how to play a piano the KDP120 does have some useful features which helps the student learn to play better and also helps the recreational player (who can already play piano) to have a more interactive and fun playing experience. One of the features that can be useful is a digital recorder which can store 3 songs internally in the piano. It's a very simple recorder where you just press the record button, play your song, stop the recording, and then play back your song...simple. Some digital pianos have more extensive recording functions with alfred books separate tracks and separate sounds that can be recorded on each track. But the KDP120 just uses quick and simple technology to record both left & right hand simultaneously and then be able to instantly hear what you did. I am a long time piano instructor and pro musician and to be able to actually hear your performance or practice session is very helpful so that you can hear your mistakes and be able to correct them later. 

When you play back your recording you can also play "live" over it to accompany yourself if you wish which can be fun. Included with the recorder practice function is a full set of songs from the popular Alfred piano method series book level 1A and book level 1B along with songs from the Burgmuller, Czerny, and Beyer instructional books. These songs can help you understand what they should sound like when looking at the lesson books (optional) and you can slow down or speed up the playback of the songs while you are learning to play them. I believe that good ear training is helpful to the student and being able to play along really can help with musical development. To keep the student playing in the correct tempo there is a also an adjustable digital metronome on board to help with rhythm and timing which is a vital part of learning to play the piano and working on new music.

4-HAND PRACTICE MODE


Kawai KDP120 digital piano
Also, sometimes you may want two people to learn the same song and play at the same time, especially younger students. So you you have kids then if two of them who are learning to play the same things can actually play at the same time on the KDP120 by setting a function to electronically split the 88 keys in half having two 44-note keyboards and then you can have one person play on the left side of the piano on the first 44 keys and then the other student play on the right side using the other 44 keys. the right pedal controls sustain for the right side keys and the left pedal controls sustain for the left 44 keys. This is a pretty cool feature and works well for these kinds of practice situations and Kawai calls it a four-hands mode allowing two people to play simultaneously with both 44 keyboards playing in the same octave having the sound so that 2 people will hear can practice independently but at the same time.

CONCERT MAGIC TRAINING FEATURE


Kawai Concert Magic
Kawai Concert MagicI need to mention that Kawai has an exclusive learning feature in the KDP120 that no other digital piano company offers that specifically targets rhythm and timing training in beginner kids and adults and is actually quite fun for any person to use. Kawai calls this feature "Concert Magic." What Kawai has done is taken 40 popular well-known tunes over the years such as "Twinkle twinkle little star, Mary had a little lamb, O when the Saints, Row row row your boat, Yankee Doodle, Silent Night, Jingle Bells, The Entertainer, Fur Elise, Blue Danube, and many others and put those full piano songs into the memory of the KDP120. Many people of all ages (in the US) know these songs fairly well which also helps this system work well. 

When you activate the Concert Magic feature then you can play these songs yourself and have them come out (hopefully) perfect without knowing how to play piano:). Here's how it works: you select the song you want and then when you play ANY key on the piano it plays each part of the song perfectly, note by note including accompaniment chords, word by word all with one finger. In other words, you cannot make a mistake so you always sound good. Now some people might say, "how can this be helpful or why would I want it for me or my child?" 

Well...even though you can press any black or white key anywhere on the piano and it will play the next note (word) in the song perfectly regardless of the key you play, you will need to play that key with the correct timing or rhythm to achieve the proper movement of the song. That's the whole point...you are not trying to learn the correct notes/keys of the song on the keyboard with this system, but the student is trying to learn the correct timing of the song without also having to worry about playing the correct key. Kawai even has an "Easy beat" mode where all you need to do is tap out a constant steady beat with your finger on any key and the song will play perfectly without you having to already know the timing of the song. The motivation behind all this training is so you can sound good each and every time whether you already know that song or not. If you do know the song then as long as you play in the correct tempo on each key you play, the song will song great. 

Play it too slow or choppy than the song will not flow and sound good, so eventually when you play in the correct rhythm then the song will actually sound like the song. With 3 different training modes for the Concert Play system it will definitely produce big smiles for all members of the families, especially when a 2 or 3 year old starts playing using the Concert Magic system:). So when it comes to having fun and learning important music fundamentals at the same time, Kawai has really produced a great feature if you take advantage of it.

CONNECTIVITY 


Pictures of Kawai KDP120 digital piano
As far as connectivity on this model goes, Kawai offers a lot including standard MIDI in/out connections, USB output to device connection (to computers, tablets, cell phones, etc), and new Bluetooth MIDI connectivity to connect with music and educational apps on your tablet using wireless Bluetooth. This is not Bluetooth audio but is Bluetooth MIDI so that when you press the keys on the piano while connected to a device like iPad or computer using educational apps and programs, then the Bluetooth app will recognize that input of your keyboard playing and respond to your playing with instant feedback depending on the app or program. I use iPad iOS apps in my studio to teach with and I find Bluetooth MIDI can be very practical to have in digital pianos although I would also like Bluetooth audio as well built into the piano which Kawai does not have in the KDP120, which is a disappointment for me...but I guess you cannot have everything. The KDP120 does not have any audio outputs but you can connect any external audio source to one of the stereo headphone jacks on the piano should you ever want or need an external speaker system connected to the piano.


INTERNAL SPEAKER SYSTEM


Pictures of Kawai KDP120 digital piano
When it comes to the KDP120 speaker system Kawai has a 40 watt 2-speaker sound system which produces a bigger, better tone through the piano than the previous model. I have heard it in person and am impressed with it and it can easily fill up a small to medium size room. It does not sound like a grand piano but that's OK...it does sound good enough for most people. The KDP120 puts out 40 watts of audio which is good in its price range although the popular lower priced Casio PX-870 also puts out 40 watts of power going through 4 speakers instead of the 2 speakers in the KDP120. At this point with all the new features, improved sound, key action, and pedaling of the Kawai Kawai KDO110 digital piano KDP120, Kawai has a piano which is competitive in this lower price range . Nevertheless, it is still difficult to beat the lower priced Casio Privia PX-870 for just $1099. The Casio has many more usable features, impressive sound, and all for quite a bit less money. 

The Kawai company's next furniture cabinet model up is called the CN29 and that 40 watt digital piano costs $2199 internet price although its features are vastly upgraded as compared to the KDP120 with a much better piano sound chip and key action. But you have to spend a lot more money (as I mentioned earlier) to get it. The KDP120 is energy efficient over past models in that it only uses 11 watts of power when playing at the same levels. Plus, Kawai has now has a new stereo headphone feature which optimizes any pair of good stereo headphones for high definition spatial positioning to give you the feeling that the piano sound is coming all around your head instead of directly into the ears like traditional digital pianos do. 

This new spatial headphone feature makes the headphone listening experience more enjoyable and more realistic and it's a nice feature to have although now absolutely necessary to use as it can be disabled for normal headphone use. Kawai even has some headphone modes which optimizes the sound for different kinds of headphones like open ear, semi-open ear, closed ear, inner ear (buds), etc. So that new technology can be useful if you will be using headphones a lot.

THE BOTTOM LINE


Pictures of Kawai KDP120 digital piano
The bottom line is this...in my opinion Kawai has produced a much better digital piano than past Kawai models (especially as compared to the Yamaha Arius pianos) and all for only $1499 internet price in offering an upgraded triple sensor key action with a more natural key movement, expressive dynamic stereo piano tone, responsive pedaling, and digital features. Yes, there are always some more or different features a person could want on their digital piano which the KDP120 may not have, But the KDP120 has enough things to satisfy many piano students and 
Kawai KDP120 digital piano bench players. I do like the new matte black, dark rosewood, and matte white finishes and they look attractive with an all newly designed cabinet along with an included comfortable matching padded bench. 

At the end of the day there are choices in this price range from all the good digital piano manufacturers including Kawai, Roland, Yamaha, Casio, and Korg who produce the better digital pianos. But with this newer offering from Kawai I think they have certainly risen further up the ladder of quality pianos in a lower price range. It is important to note that the KDP120 is still considered somewhat of an "entry-level" digital piano because there are definitely more realistic key actions and more authentic piano sounds out there in other brands & models, but you will likely pay a lot more money for them as well. 

The Kawai piano company has been producing high quality acoustic grand and upright pianos for many years along with an ever improving line of digital pianos and have developed a good reputation for making quality instruments which can last for many years. The KDP120 carries a 3-year parts & labor factory warranty with in-home service for factory defects should that happen (which is unlikely). With all the KDP120 has going for it, it could be a great piano for you, although I always recommend to do your homework to make sure you are getting a piano that meets your musical needs and budget.

ALTERNATIVE DIGITAL PIANOS


Casio PX-870 digital piano
One other digital piano in this price range that I like very much and recommend (as I mentioned earlier) is the Casio PX-870 digital piano
. The Casio company is very well known for their digital pianos and those pianos are played by people all over the world. Casio has been producing home digital pianos for well over 40 years that are very impressive in my opinion. The PX-870 has an impressive acoustic piano sound, impressive piano key action & resonate stereo sound in a compact body, and lots of other cool features including USB audio wav file recording and playback and it is also offered in 3 different cabinet colors. Besides the Kawai KDP120, this Casio PX-870 home digital piano is worth looking at too. It's current internet discount price is $1199 which in our opinion is a very low price for what this models offers. Check out my review of the Casio PX-870 home digital piano at the following link: Casio PX-870 Review. Oh, and for just $200 more than the Kawai KDP120, please check out the very impressive Casio AP-470 (which sells for $1699) at the following link: Casio AP-470 Review

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.

12 comments:

Lu said...

hello Tim, this is a great review! I'm looking for a piano for my daughter to begin this music adventure and have narrowed down the search to Kawai KDP110 and Roland F140R. Most of the sales people in piano shops recommend Roland over this Kawai, but I'm having impression Kawai sound is much more natural and more designated to classical music. Roland on other hand has more "fun factor" with accompaniament and variety of sounds. What you think would be better to begin a classical piano learning path?

All the best, Lukasz.

Unknown said...

Hi,
What's the difference between KDP110 and Kawai CN17? Is RHC II only differs in triple sensor than older RHC? Any other differences? Thanks.

Felipe said...

Hi Tim! Great review as usual.
There are still some units of the older model, the KDP90, also a very good piano, that can be bought at a discount price. You know both models well. In your opinion, apart from the improved key action, what are the most important improvements of the kdp110 over the kdp90, and are they worth to pay the price difference? Thank you!

Unknown said...

What's better kawai kdp 110 or yamaha ydp 163?

Tim Praskins - AZ Piano Reviews said...

without question...the new Kawai KDP110. Much more expressive key action, piano sound, and pedaling than the Yamaha in my opinion.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Can you also use midi files to play with your favourite song?

Unknown said...

When i can buy both. Which one would you recommend? The c1 air or the kawai kdp110.

Thanks in advance

Eran Leasure said...

Hi Tim. I’m a total beginner and looking for a digital piano to learn on. I’m looking for something that I wont “grow out of” as I progress. Right now I’m only interested in learning to play classical (Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, Mozart, etc.). I’ve been trying to research mainly the actions as that’s what I think would be most important. I’ve been looking at the Kawai KDP-110, Roland RP-102, Casio AP-270, Casio PX-870, Yamaha YDP-143. I’d also be open to any other suggestions that I may not have listed. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

Bukola said...

Hi Eran, am in the situation as you and looking to buy a piano for my son. we narrowed it down to the Korg C1 Air & Casio PX 870. I then spoke with a music specialist who then brought the Kawai into the mix saying it was better sound quality. What did you end up buying please ?

Asanga khiangte. said...

Between Kawai KDP110,CN17 which one is the lates model and what are their difference.

Vivek Sharma said...

$1000 question: Casio PX870 Or KDP110??