Kawai Digital Pianos - REVIEW | 16 models including CA79 & CA99

Kawai Digital Pianos - Review of 16 models
 Kawai Digital Pianos | Updated Review & Consumer Report | Nov 1, 2022 | All Kawai Digital Pianos including the ES520, ES920, CN201, CA301, CA49, CA59, CA79, CA99, NV5S, NV10S etc. The Kawai piano company was founded nearly 100 years ago in 1927 and its international headquarters is in Hamamatsu, Japan which is where its founder, Koichi Kawai was born back in 1886. Kawai's US headquarters is in the city of Rancho Dominguez, Southern California. Mr Kawai got his start in the piano industry by working for the Yamaha piano company back in the early 20th century and was quite famous for his inventions and designs in the piano industry in Japan and was the first person to build a complete, quality piano action there. In 1927 Koichi Kawai left the Yamaha company to start his own piano manufacturing company under the name Kawai Musical Instrument Company. 

Kawai Digital Piano
Kawai is a relatively small company in the manufacturing world as compared to other companies like Yamaha, Casio, and Roland because Kawai.
This is because Kawai only makes acoustic & digital pianos whereas Yamaha and Casio and Roland are more mainstream with a variety of products such as audio equipment, calculators, watches, keyboards, guitar products, recording gear, motorcycles & snowmobiles (Yamaha), and many other things. But I think it goes without saying that even though the Kawai piano company may not be quite as familiar to people outside of the piano world, the Kawai piano company has a long, impressive history in the piano business and continues to this day to build not only some impressive acoustic upright & grand pianos, but also has a big selection of high quality digital pianos. - Click on pics for larger views 

lower prices than Amazon or internet

Kawai Portable Digital Pianos

Kawai Digital piano pictures of cabinet and control panel
Currently, the Kawai piano company worldwide has 16 distinct digital piano models for the US market which cover a huge span of digital piano technologies, price ranges, and sizes. From a low discount price of $899 for the ES120 portable digital piano all the way up to about $14,500 price for the Novus NV10S Hybrid grand action piano, Kawai offers a huge choice. Kawai has a digital piano that can fit the musical needs of most piano shoppers and in the lower price range in the US market Kawai has 3 portable digital pianos with built-in speakers which includes the ES120 ($899 Kawai Digital piano pictures of cabinet and control paneldiscount price), the new ES520 at $1299 internet price, and the ES920 ($1799 discount price). 

Kawai also has 3 models of portable digital pianos without built-in speakers (usually referred to as stage pianos) which include the MP7SE ($2199 discount price), MP11SE ($3499 discount price), and VPC1 controller piano $2399 discount price. The VPC1 is especially unique because it has no internal sounds or functions and no buttons, sliders, knobs, or display screens of any kind on the cabinet. It's designed to be a dedicated "controller" digital piano so that you would connect the VPC1 to your iPad or computer to "control" external piano sounds (software by other digital piano sound companies) that you can buy Kawai Digital piano pictures of cabinet and control panel so your external device with the external piano sounds in it is "played by" the VPC1 piano keyboard. 

You would connect an external audio system to your computer or iPad to hear those pianos sounds you are playing. Some people may prefer this configuration who are comfortable with computers and are OK with always needing to use a dedicated computer with added sounds for their VPC1 piano rather than have the convenience of built-in Kawai digital piano sounds already in the digital piano such as the Kawai MP11SE. I especially like the MP11SE home studio/stage pro portable digital piano because it's a great combination of solid Kawai Digital piano pictures of cabinet and control panel grand piano type key action, natural, organic piano tone, and enough extra features that many people are looking for. 

In fact for people who own full size acoustic grand pianos and want a digital piano that gives them a great piano playing experience and one they can do privately using headphones, the MP11SE tends to be very popular with that crowd and I have had number of people (both advanced pianists and recreational players) order this model through me for those very reasons. Also, since the MP11SE is only $3499 then its price is very affordable for many people looking for a high quality digital piano in a more portable form with a relatively small footprint. The MP11SE has no built in speakers but is otherwise completely self contained with its own sounds, controls, and easy to use features. All you would need to do is to connect a pair of smaller high quality powered monitors and depending on the room size you are trying to fill with sound, good monitors may only cost you and extra $300 or so and they make the MP11SE piano sound as good if not better than many furniture cabinet pianos that cost a lot more money than the MP11SE plus the external monitors.

Kawai Furniture Cabinet Digital Pianos

Kawai Digital piano pictures of cabinet and control panel Next in line of the Kawai US digital pianos are 3 home furniture cabinet models under $2000 which can be purchased on the internet or local stores and they include the starter models KDP75 ($999 price), KDP120 ($1499 internet discount price), and the upgraded CN201 at $2199.  The KDP75 and KDP120 are both available in local Kawai stores and the internet stores but generally are more available at internet stores. The CN29 is available at just couple of US internet stores but mostly found at local Kawai stores. I think the brand new Kawai CN201 is a very nice model at its $2199 price but if you go up just a bit to the next price range you'll get a lot more for your money in my opinion.

Kawai Digital piano pictures of cabinet and control panel
Kawai has 3 newer home cabinet models between $2000 and just over $3000 called the CA49 ($2899 price), CN301 ($3099 price), and the CA59 ($3799 price). The CA49 and CA59 digital pianos are part of the "concert series "and can both be purchased on the internet or local Kawai stores (assuming you have one near you). Further above the $3000 range are the new CA79 ($4699Kawai Digital piano pictures of cabinet and control panel store discount price), CA99 at $6299 store discount price, Novus NV5S hybrid upright action digital piano (approx $9500 store price), and Novus NV10S hybrid "grand action" digital piano (approx $14,500 store price). 

The newest CA79 and CA99 top concert artist series are also available in the polished ebony cabinet finishes but that particular finish adds a high premium to the cost of the piano (about $700-$800 more than matte finish), so you need to keep that in mind. Those polished ebony finishes are beautiful and elegant and they are worth the extra cost assuming you want that "look" in your home. You would need to decide if that is worth it to you or would prefer to save a bit of money and look at the Concert Artist series in the matte finishes which are very attractive and come in at a reduced price. The "matte" finishes are called satin black, satin rosewood, or satin white and all are beautiful. I talk more about these two new CA79 and CA99 digital pianos below. If you are interested in a top performing digital piano that gets very close to a grand piano playing experience, definitely check out the new CA79 and CA99 concert series pianos.

Kawai CA99 digital piano
Kawai CA99 satin rosewood
When it comes to the prices I have just mentioned, it is important to note that some of them have already been discounted by Kawai and are indicated by the word "discount" and pricing for those models are also found on the Kawai US website. A few other higher priced models are listed with "retail" prices and Kawai does not provide info on the discounts for those models on their website. However, based on the approximate discount percentage Kawai offers on their other models I think it's fairly safe to assume a 10 - 15% discount (approximate) off retail price would be a good guess as to the actual selling price in a Kawai piano store, although you would need to actually go into a Kawai store to get that information on models that are exclusively available there and not on the internet. Even with that being said, I can help you purchase new digital pianos for less than store prices including free shipping, no tax, brand new. So before you purchase a new digital piano please contact me.

Piano Sound Chip & Polyphony

Kawai Digital piano pictures of cabinet and control panel
Kawai Digital piano pictures of cabinet and control panelMost piano digital manufacturers have different piano sound chips depending on the price of the piano. As you go up in price the quality and authenticity of the piano sound (generally speaking) gets more realistic. The Kawai piano company has 4 different piano sound chips for their digital piano line. The way I categorize them is "good," "better," and "best," and then the fourth one which is at the top I refer to as "best plus." All of the piano sound chips are actually quite enjoyable to hear, but as you go up the piano sound chip ladder you get a higher degree of authenticity, and for more discerning players that extra realism translates to more sonic expression and enjoyment so that your piano playing experience can be even more satisfying. 

In terms of piano processing power, otherwise known a polyphony, Kawai offers in their US digital pianos either 192-note maximum polyphony or 256-note polyphony which is generally plenty of polyphony piano processing power to handle even the most sophisticated piano music without hearing notes abruptly drop out. Kawai does have an older model digital piano called the CL26 (and CL36 in Europe) with only 96-note polyphony which is fine for some situations but I would instead recommend you get at least 120 notes polyphony or above with full stereo piano sampled sounds as opposed to older digital pianos with 96-note polyphony or less which also may not have full stereo sampled sounds and therefore not near as authentic in tone as newer models. 

My favorite piano sound chip in the Kawai piano line which reproduces the most authentic stereo acoustic piano sound is found in their lower priced compact ES920 portable digital piano for just $1599. Kawai also uses that same sound chip in higher priced models which is a very good thing, but the ES920 is the lowest priced self-contained digital piano which offers this more authentic piano sound reproduction. I have done a review of that model so if you want more info on it please read my review at the following link: Kawai ES920 Review

Piano Key Action

Kawai Digital piano pictures of cabinet and control panel Kawai Digital piano pictures of cabinet and control panelFor those people concerned with having good key action in their piano, Kawai currently offers 7 key actions (which is a lot) in their digital pianos including their newest and best which is an actual acoustic grand piano key action built into their new hybrid digital piano called Novus (NV10S). The Novus key action is called the Millennium III and is taken out of a top Kawai acoustic grand piano so that when you play the Novus the key action will be the same as a fine Kawai acoustic grand piano that would sell for $20,000 or more because the Novus key action is a fully acoustic grand key action movement (minus the felt hammers) whereas all the other Kawai digital piano key actions are specifically made for digital pianos only and lack most of the actual parts of a real acoustic piano key action. 

Kawai has 3 different all-plastic key actions and 5 different more advanced wood key actions. In my opinion, all of the key action movements in the Kawai digital pianos are satisfying to play, depending on what your musical ability and budget is. Generally speaking the more money you pay for a digital piano the better and more natural the key action gets. This is not always the case and I can point out to you
Key action pic
some of the digital piano models from a few different name brands that are in higher price ranges which are not nearly as good or natural as some of these Kawai models that sell for much less money. Ultimately when it comes to key action and the way the keys feel and move...the key to picking out the right one for you should be based on your playing skill level, type of music you want to primarily play, your expectations and desires for the way the key action actually responds and moves, and your budget. There are actually real specifications as to the "weight and movement" of key actions that I can share with you so that you can get good info to make a wise decision before you buy anything from anyone. I always tell digital piano shoppers that once you buy the piano you cannot change the key action which is the most important part of any piano. 

You need to that right and make sure you can grow into it instead of grow out of it quickly and/or find out it is not responding correctly. It's like buying a car...you want to be sure you get a smooth transmission and a powerful smooth engine or else you'll likely be sorry you bought that vehicle. It's the same with a digital piano. Just because it looks good on the outside and has black & white keys does not automatically make it a piano that offers a good piano playing experience. 

That's one big thing I admire about the Kawai piano company...all of their piano models are impressive in their price range and I enjoying playing them. It's just a matter of which one is right for you.


Kawai Digital piano pictures of cabinet and control panel
Pedaling with the triple pedal system on Kawai pianos also varies depending on which model you choose. The primary pedal called the damper-sustain pedal can be lighter and firmer to press down depending on the model you choose and the sustain/decay time of the piano sound can be longer or shorter depending on the piano your choose. So even in the pedal mechanism, there can be a difference among different Kawai models with some being more responsive than others and that is true as you go up the line. They all offer half-damper pedaling with controllable pedal sustain amounts to come out closer to what a real acoustic piano sustain pedal offers. The color finish of the pedals can also be different depending on the model with some pedals coming in a chrome plated finish and others in a golden brass. That kind of thing just boils down to appearance and whether you really prefer one over the other just as in cabinet colors and finishes.

Extra "Bells & Whistles"

Kawai Digital piano pictures of cabinet and control panel
Kawai Digital piano pictures of cabinet and control panelSome Kawai digital pianos like the ES110, CN201 and KDP120 with all three near or under $2000 focus mostly on piano playing with only a few extra "bells & whistles" while other models such as the CN39, ES920, CA59, CA79, CA99, NV5S, and NV10S have quite a few more "bells & whistles" but still overall primarily focus on the piano playing experience.  Whether it's wireless Bluetooth connectivity, MP3/wav file song recording, 50 or more instrument sounds, 8-16 track multitrack recording, color display screens, or interactive accompaniment styles, the Kawai pianos cover a lot of ground and depending on what you want to do with your music and with your time, you can probably find what you want within the lineup of new Kawai digital pianos. Kawai also came out with new color touch screens in their newer models CA and Novus digital pianos which is very cool. 

I have tried out these new touch screens already and they are really nice and the only digital pianos out of all brands to have this type of user interface which is located on the left side of the keyboard. The older CA78 and 98 were the first to have these color touch screens and now that interface has been incorporated and updated into the new Kawai CA79, CA99, NV5S, and NV10S. Those 4 models have the same piano sound chip technology, same user interface, and share most of the same functions. This is becoming a more standardized approach to user interfaces in digital pianos and even Yamaha and Roland are going in this direction with using the same user control panel interface into a variety of models to give a more consistent user experience with their digital pianos. 

The Kawai CA59 for $3799 (don't you just love how everyone uses those "99's" instead of rounding it off to $3800, etc:), which is an impressive model for that price, has a button controlled user interface display screen and the LCD is a  blue screen like some of the Yamaha Clavinova digital pianos, but it is still fairly intuitive. 

Important Shopping Tips

Kawai Digital piano pictures of cabinet and control panel
My suggestion for deciding on what model digital piano will best fit your piano needs is to decide how much the person playing the piano really likes music, how much they like being around music, and if they (or you) would actually like to play a piano along with what you are willing to spend to get the "right" piano for you and/or your family. If you already play the piano then you should decide, based on your available budget, how real of a piano playing experience do you really want to get? How natural and organic do you want the piano to be as compared to a real acoustic piano, and also how much volume and richness do you want out of the internal digital piano speaker system for the room, home, or building that the piano is going into? Also, a lot of Kawai Digital piano pictures of cabinet and control panel people have different needs when it comes to the actual cabinet, cabinet design, cabinet color, movability, and portability of the instrument itself. 

These are all important questions when deciding on the best piano for your needs and for your budget and the Kawai company with its 15 available current models for the US market should be able to cover most bases for most piano shoppers. However, one of the things about a single company offering so many models (Kawai is not the only one) is that it can definitely get confusing for the shopper (you) after a while because sometimes there is more than one model in the same price range and perhaps even 3 or 4 models Kawai Digital Piano picture - Review and Report - azpianonews.com in a similar price range from the same brand and you are left to figure out which one would be best for you...and that's not counting digital pianos in a much higher or lower price range that you might also like to consider. 

My favorite Kawai digital pianos under $3000 selling price, which is where most shoppers want to be in terms of price, is the Kawai ES920 portable digital piano with optional furniture stand and triple pedal lyre and also the newer Kawai CA49 at $2899 matte black finish with an new all-actual wood baby grand style key action with triple sensor system including escapement/let-off function and an impressive piano sound reproduction in this lower Kawai Digital Piano picture - Review and Report - azpianonews.com price range. The two newer model CN series called the CN201 and CN301 have improvements over the previous CN models with the speaker system sounding better and the user interface control panel being improved to be much more intuitive to use than before with easier to read & understand OLED display screens replacing the older style technology. 

At $2199 for a CN201 and $3099 for a CN301, those discount prices are very competitive with Yamaha, Roland, and Casio and their popular RH3 weighted (plastic) piano key actions really feel like an acoustic piano key action in a lot of ways. Combined with the popular "wood key action" models CA49 at $2899 and CA59 at $3799, those 4 digital pianos along with the ES920 would be the "bread & butter" of the Kawai digital piano lineup. Check out my reviews of the popular CA49 and CA59.

The Concert Artist CA79 & CA99 and Novus 5S

Kawai CA99 satin whiteThe newer CA79 & CA99 have not been out that long and have been upgraded from the previous CA78 and CA98 with even more realistic "wood key actions" called Grand-Feel III as compared to previous models. The new key actions move smoothly, are more refined, are quieter, and really give you a sense that you're playing a grand piano. The static down-weight measurement of the nearly 14" long wooden white keys is about 53 grams which is just like a real grand piano in terms of finger force applied to pressing down the key (at middle C). So the action for both the black & white "all wooden" keys feels great, plays like "butter" without creating hand, finger, and wrist fatigue, but yet is expressive with excellent weight distribution from the front of the keys to the backs of the keys. 

Kawai Novus NV5S polished ebonyThis was my personal playing experience on this new Grand-Feel 3 key action and I was impressed. The upgraded piano sound chip in these new models is using a combination of the latest physical modeling technology and sampling which gives a very immersive piano playing experience, even to the most demanding players based on my playing experience with this model. Utilizing an all new and improved ONKYO speaker and amplifier audio system with better sound dispersion, these 2 new models have impressive internal sound systems that are difficult to beat. 

Kawai Novus NV5S control panelI have already played these 2 new models extensively and unless you are very picky you will have a difficult time trying to get off the bench and stop playing...these new models are that good. There is a redesigned color touch display screen for both of those models for easier navigation to access the many features in these models including new Bluetooth audio streaming. The CA99 has a smaller size "wood soundboard" in the back of the piano like the previous CA98 (see above left pic) to further enhance the piano sound with attached transducer microphones attached to that soundboard....and the resulting "organic" sound is noticeable. Pricing for the CA79 is $4699 for the matte rosewood, black, and white cabinet finishes, and $800 more for the polished ebony version. The CA99 is $6299 for the matte rosewood finish, black or white finish, and $800 more for the polished ebony finish at $7199. We will have a separate review for the new CA79 and CA99 coming soon. 

Kawai CA99 rosewood piano with closed key coverThe new Kawai Novus NV5S at approx $9500 is the upright piano version of the current NV10S Novus "grand action" piano. The new NV5S utilizes the same piano interface, sound chip, and overall speaker system of the CA99, but the NV5S has an actual full size upright piano key action taken directly from the top model Kawai acoustic upright piano. So what you get in this piano is a smooth and "buttery" key action response that is exactly like a real high-end acoustic upright piano because the key action is identical to a Kawai upright piano with the exception of metal rods replacing the felt hammers so the piano sound responds correctly to the "hammer movement" utilizing state-of-the-art optical sensors that are able to correctly sense all 88 keys and their motion with varying degrees of velocity. 

With an accurate fully formed acoustic key action that has absolutely real upright key motion and response along with a huge sound coming out of this impressive internal speaker system, the natural feeling of key movement and piano sound  you get when playing this model is amazing, and I have played it many times. 

Even the pedaling response is "real" as the pedals move a spring assisted damper rail with actual felt dampers (although there are no strings in the NV5S) that recreates the motion and feel of play "real" acoustic upright piano pedals. If you want a more compact but elegant piano for your room with the latest digital interface features, but you want the best upright type piano playability and performance you can get anywhere in a new digital piano under $10,000, the Novus NV5S may be the perfect piano for you. 

lease note that the NV5S key action does not simulate or recreate a "grand piano" type key action which is different than an upright piano key action. Some people have more experience playing upright pianos whereas other people have more experience and prefer to play on grand pianos. It just depends on what you prefer to play or if you don't care which one it is.

Final Thoughts

Kawai NV5S exposed interior key action
Kawai NV5S - key action
Kawai Digital piano pictures of cabinet and control panel At the end of the day it is true that one digital piano company cannot cover all of the bases when it comes to musical needs and budget of the digital piano shopper That's why there are other top name digital piano manufacturers out there like Yamaha, Casio, Roland, Korg, Samick, and others who offer something different than Kawai which may or may not fit your needs better. There are also digital piano makers who produce very poor playing and sounding pianos that I do not recommend, and although they may look good on the outside, they are not necessarily good on the inside and can create a variety playing problems than a person realizes. I call that kind of a digital piano a "Piano Shaped Object" (aka: PSO) and I advise people to stay away from them if at all possible. 

Those brands have pianos are really just cheap technology in a cabinet that appears to be attractive on the outside but can cause long term issues with regard to the piano playing experience. Unfortunately, I have seen people buy these kinds of digital pianos before and then later on realize how bad they can be in terms of trying to play them like a piano. So I recommend you go with the name brands that I mentioned above and you will likely be very happy for a long long time. 

The Kawai piano brand is definitely worthy of your attention and it is certainly one of my favorites. They make great acoustic grand and upright pianos played by professionals and piano teachers around the world and their digital pianos use cutting edge piano technology to recreate a very impressive piano playing experience in just about every way possible...plus the cabinets look great too. If you want more info on Kawai pianos or even lower prices than Amazon, Internet, local store, etc, then please contact me before you buy anything from anyone...you'll be glad you did!

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.


Toti said...

How much for the NV10 in US? I don't want to get scammed. 15999$ is way out of the line for me

Tim Praskins - AZ Piano Reviews said...

I have nothing to do with Kawai retail or discount pricing. Piano stores in the US discount their piano prices lower than retail price. I would advise that you go into a US Kawai authorized store and find out what their discount price is on that model and then you'll know if you can afford to buy one.

rob1261 said...

Hi Tim, what are your thoughts on the CA58 vs CA78 vs CS8. thanks

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim! I really wanted Kawaii CA89 but local music stores around my area say” it’s been discontinued “ then try and push the CA99. CA 79 is more for my budget but find local dealers wanting $4,999 pretax and $150 delivery charge. I live in North Las Vegas. I plan to have my piano in the living room ( first floor) and yes I have room for it!

May I email you? I will need financing for 3 years. Can you help me?

Tim Praskins - AZ Piano Reviews said...

yes, you can email me