KAWAI Digital Pianos 2018 - REPORT & REVIEW

REVIEW & REPORT - Kawai Digital Pianos for 2018 Review - 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 is a relatively small company in the manufacturing world as compared to other companies like Yamaha, Casio, and Roland because Kawai only makes pianos whereas Yamaha and Casio and Roland are more mainstream because they make so many consumer items like audio equipment, calculators, watches , and keyboards (Casio), guitar products, recording gear, keyboards, motorcycles & snowmobiles (Yamaha). 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 

Currently the Kawai piano company has 23 distinct digital piano models (20 of them are for the US market only) which cover a huge span of digital piano technologies, price ranges, and sizes. From a low discount price of $729 ($1049 retail price) for the ES110 portable digital piano all the way up to about $22,000 retail price for a 5'3" full size digital baby grand called the CP1, Kawai has a digital piano that can fit the musical needs of most piano shoppers. In the US market Kawai has 2 portable digital pianos with built-in speakers which includes the ES110 ($729US internet discount price) and ES8 ($1999US internet discount price). Kawai also has 3 models of portable digital pianos (usually referred to as stage pianos) which include the MP7SE ($1799US internet discount price), MP11SE ($2799US internet discount price), and VPC1 $1849US internet 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 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 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 $2799 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.

Next in line of the Kawai US digital pianos are their home furniture cabinet models which include the starter model KDP110 ($1199US internet discount price) and also the CE220 ($1899US internet discount price) which can be purchased on the internet through on-line Kawai dealers or through local Kawai stores. All of the other Kawai home digital pianos beyond the KDP110 are NOT available for purchase at on-line US internet dealers or Amazon because those models are only available at local Kawai authorized piano stores. This type of limitation in not being able to purchase through on-line dealers is typically designed to give local piano store dealers an advantage where they do not have to compete with those same models on-line that may be sold at lower prices. This is not only true for Kawai digital pianos but also for many Roland, Yamaha, and Casio digital pianos. So if you don't see the Kawai digital piano you are looking for on-line at a US internet store, this is done deliberately to drive you into a local factory authorized Kawai piano store and it is there you will likely see these other models.

Kawai has 2 new home cabinet models for 2018 called the CA48 ($2099US internet price) and the CA58 ($2999US internet price) that just came out and are available at just 1 online US Kawai dealer but also available at all local Kawai store dealers. So with these 2 models Kawai has a unusual marketing promotion where you can buy them on-line in the US...but only through 1 authorized dealer at the moment, otherwise you need to find them at a local Kawai store. All of the other home furniture cabinet models are ONLY found at local Kawai stores which include the CL26 (1099US store discount price), CN27 ($1899US store discount price), CN37 ($2599US store discount price), CA78 ($3999US store discount price), CA98 ($5399US store discount price), CS8 ($5399US RETAIL price), CS11 ($8499US RETAIL price), Novus NV10 hybrid digital piano ($15,999US RETAIL price), CP3 ($5999US RETAIL price), CP2 ($8999US RETAIL price), and CP1 digital grand piano ($21,999US RETAIL price). The current CS series are housed in actual acoustic piano cabinets offered in polished ebony finish only which makes them unique for Kawai digital pianos because none of the other models look as authentic as far as the piano cabinet designs are concerned. However, because of the increased costs of producing the polished ebony cabinet, Kawai does charge quite a bit more money for them so 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 more basic, although still attractive piano cabinets of  CA series instead.

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." Other models are listed as RETAIL prices and Kawai does not provide info on the discounts for those models. However based on the approximate discount percentage Kawai offers on their other models I think it's fairly safe to assume a 20% discount (approximate) off retail would be a good guess as to the actual selling price, although you would need to go into a Kawai store to actually get that information. Another thing to know about discount prices is that the discounts quoted are for the Rosewood cabinet color only for all models that offer "matte" Rosewood as a cabinet finish. For all other matte cabinet finishes such as black or white finishes you can expect to pay another $100 for those models. When you get up to the CP series in finishes other than rosewood, you can probably expect to pay another $200 for those finishes. Kawai has a few models that automatically come in a more elegant polished ebony finish only the that upgraded finish is already figured into the retail or discount price.

Most 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 which reproduces the most authentic piano sound is found in their compact ES8 digital piano. Kawai uses that same sound chip in higher priced models which is good, but the ES8 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 ES8 Review

For 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 grand piano key action built into their all new hybrid digital piano called Novus (NV10). 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 selling for $15,000 or more because the Novus key action is a fully acoustic grand key action movement 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 keys that help control the key movements and 5 different all-wood keys that help control the key movement. In my opinion all of the key movements are satisfying to play depending on what your musical is and what your budget is. Also, just because the key has wood in it does not necessarily make it better or more money. For instance in my opinion the ES8 black with stand & triple pedal at $2427 and CN37 black at $2699 has a more authentic key movement with the all-plastic keys than the wooden-key CE220 although the CE220 key movement is still quite enjoyable to play. Ultimately when it comes to key action and they way they 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.

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. 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.

Some Kawai digital pianos like the ES110, CN27 and KDP110 with all three under $2000US just focus mostly on piano playing with only a few "extra "bells & whistles" while other models such as the CN37, MP11SE, and ES8 have a few more "bells & whistles" but still primarily focus on the piano playing experience. The there are other Kawai models which are in-between or have even more extra interactive functions & features such as the CP series. 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 just came out with new color touch screens in their new model CA series and Novus digital pianos. Kawai has had color touch screens before which are on their CP models, but these new touch screens are android based, smaller and work in a different way with newer user interface technology. I have tried out these new touch screens already and although they are quite nice, they do take a bit of getting used to them and can be a bit  needy in terms of how they react to your touch.

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 people have different needs when it comes to the actual cabinet, cabinet design, cabinet color, moveability, 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 20 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 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.

At the end of the day it is still 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. If that were the case then there would only be one car manufacturer, one truck manufacturer, one refrigerator manufacturer, one computer maker, one cell phone maker, etc. In reality one company cannot satisfy all the needs of everyone shopping for that type or product. That's why there are other top name digital piano manufacturers like Yamaha, Casio, Roland, Korg, Samick, and others out there who offer something different than Kawai which may or may not fit your needs better . There are also piano makers who make very poor playing and sounding product 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 more playing problems than a person realizes. I call that kind of a digital piano a "Piano Shaped Object" (PSO) and I advise people to stay away from them if at all possible. They are pianos which have Made-up names that are really just cheap technology and construction in a cabinet that appears to be attractive but can cause long term headaches. I have seen that happen quite often 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 something that I recommend. 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.


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

  2. 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.