Kawai ES920 REVIEW | Digital Piano | 2021 Model | Bluetooth


Kawai ES920 Digital PIano Review
REVIEW - Kawai ES920 Digital Piano - Portable - Kawai has just announced their new upcoming portable digital piano called the ES920 at $1599 internet price. The new ES920 replaces their extremely popular ES8 ($1649 internet price) which was out for the last few years. The previous ES8 was top of the line for piano sound, key action movement & response, and pedaling and always was constantly selling out due to high demand. In fact it has been out of stock for a number of months now, but like all good things, it eventually had to come to an end. So how do you make a great digital piano even better? That can be a difficult thing to do but Kawai did the smart thing in my opinion on this new ES920 by keeping their impressive key action, digital piano sound chip, and pedaling functionality from the ES8 and putting it in the new ES920 and improving some of the technology features and internal speaker system within the piano. In other words, the new ES920 is basically an ES8 but with some very good improvements in areas that people have been asking for and all for a bit less money, which is always a good thing!

ES920 KEY ACTION


Kawai ES920 piano review

Let's go over the ES920 key action in some detail because it is worth talking about even though I did talk about it in my prior ES8 review. What makes this ES920 key action so special in my opinion is because it is like no other key action in any other portable digital piano under $2000.
Kawai calls this key action the "RH3" which stands for "real hammer 3-sensor" key action. I have played this key action many, many times on the prior ES8 and to me this same key action in the new ES920 moves very quickly and yet gracefully which allows a fluid-like key movement that is very responsive whether you are playing aggressive louder fortissimo musical passages or softer, quieter pianissimo passages of music. In other words, it plays like butter and responds quickly and is not hard on the fingers, wrists, or hands and this allows for a longer and more consistent playing experience without getting tired out. The other key actions out there are generally heavier, especially the Yamaha key action in their $1500 portable digital piano. Even though I certainly like other brands and have said so in my reviews, when it comes to key action in a portable digital piano in this price range, in my opinion nothing else comes close and I think that's why Kawai kept this key action movement and did not try to change it because it is that good. 

Kawai ES920 triple sensor key action
Kawai is still using their proprietary simulated ivory and ebony key-tops which make a great "feel" when playing on the keys. They have a bit of texture but yet are smooth and silky and this material also helps absorbs sweat from the fingers.
The simulated ivory and ebony material also looks good on the keys and in my opinion gives it a very classy appearance. This RH3 key action also has counter-weights in the white keys which gives in added weight and balance as the key as are going up & down. There are not any portable digital pianos that I know of under $2000 that uses this kind
Kawai ES920 counter weight key action
of technology in their action and it really makes a difference in terms of key response and balance and it it another reason why this key action feels so good to play and I have heard from many other people who have played on this key action how much they enjoy it...even from piano players who play at advanced levels. The other key action features of this RH3 action is the 3-sensor electronics for each key which provides for better key repetition sound response along with the "let-off" feature for each key which adds a touch of realism when playing lightly and softly because when pressing down the keys slowly, you will feel a slight notch or hesitation before the key hits bottom. This is the type of experience you would have on a real grand piano when doing the same thing. If you have never played a grand piano then it's not going to mean anything to you and this let-off feature is not that important in the big picture. But for those who have had playing experiences on grand pianos, then those people will likely appreciate this "reproduction" of this key function.

PIANO SOUND REALISM


Kawai ES920 piano sound
When it comes to the piano sound realism (authenticity) in these higher priced portable digital pianos, it can be a bit subjective as far as what your ears like to hear and the type of sound that will appeal to you.
While there are other portable digital pianos out there in this price range with self-contained internal speakers, for my trained (piano) ears I think this new ES920 has by far the most sophisticated and acoustic piano-like tone that I have ever heard for current model digital pianos...and I have heard them all up close and personal. Now it is true that good, high quality acoustic pianos can sound different from one another with some being brighter and more metallic in tone, some more mellow, and some in the middle...but
Kawai ES920 piano sound realism
generally they are all enjoyable to play. Their commonality is that good acoustic pianos all (obviously) sound like "pianos" but depending on the type of music you like to play and the way your ears hear it, you will likely prefer on piano over another. With digital pianos I find that some of them sound very artificial and almost synthesized in tone with others sounding twangy and still others having little tonal expression when playing at different velocities. The Kawai grand piano sound chip they use in the ES920 is way beyond what you would expect in a piano like this one and is noticeably more authentic with regard to the organic elements associated with a real grand piano, in my opinion. In fact, the next cabinet self-contained Kawai piano model up from the ES920 that uses this proprietary piano chip is called the CA59 which sells for $3099. That price is almost twice as much as the ES920 although the CA59 does have a much more powerful internal speaker system, more features, and comes in a full furniture cabinet with a matching bench whereas stand, triple pedal, and bench are extra with the ES920. So getting this HD-XL grand piano sound technology in a $1599 digital piano is very impressive as far as I am concerned.

10 Kawai ES920 piano sounds
With the ES920, Kawai offers 10 different acoustic piano sound re-creations from different Kawai acoustic grand pianos, upright pianos, and specialty pianos.
They have been able to reproduce the piano sound in a way that makes you feel you are playing a "real" grand piano in terms of offering impressive HD piano sound quality and tonal expression with smooth, even dynamics. As compared to the former model ES8, Kawai added 4 additional piano sound tonal elements including undamped string resonance, cabinet resonance, hammer noise, and release time which gives this model more real-time "presence" than it had in the previous model. This allows for musical expression without that artificial flavor I hear in other digital pianos. In other words, this piano is at a much higher level of piano sound authenticity then you would normally expect in this price range and actually the ES920 sound, in my opinion, rivals digital pianos closer to $3000. It gives you the impression you are not playing on a digital piano but instead on a real piano. Is the piano sound on this ES920 perfect? No, because it is not acoustic and the sound comes through amplifiers & speakers (like other digital pianos), so it does have its limitations as compared to an acoustic piano in that way. But as compared to Yamaha, Roland, and Casio portable digital pianos under $2000, in my opinion the ES920 definitely rises to the top with regard to piano sound realism in a digital piano.

PEDALS


Kawai ES920 single sustain pedal
The pedaling on the Kawai ES920 is responsive and smooth and the decay-sustain time when holding down the sustain pedal gives you a lush and full sustained tone and that sustain-decay time is also long in duration and it decays and falls off nicely without being abrupt or lasting too long which would make it sound more artificial.
A full size metal single piano style pedal comes with the ES920 and this single pedal also can trigger the "half-damper" effect so that the sustain you hear is variable in length of time it sustains rather than just be on or off like almost all of the other more basic single pedals that come with the other portable digital pianos out there. In addition to that, you can also use the "damper hold" feature in the piano to allow the damper pedal to "hold" out any of the legato string, choir, organ, or other similar types of instrument sounds so that the sustain keeps going and doesn't decay at all (the instrument keeps playing while holding down the pedal) which is similar to the real instruments and how they are played. With other brands such as Yamaha, it only sustains momentarily (like a piano) and does not continue to hold continuously which is not normally how you want it to be when using the other instruments. Kawai is the only digital piano with an option to have sustain-damper hold or to switch it off, whichever way works best for your music. 

Kawai ES920 portable triple sustain pedal
With regard to this single sustain pedal included with the ES920, it is by far the best pedal out there in terms of feel, construction, and operation and great for beginners through advanced players.
This single pedal included with the piano may not mean much to beginners but it is important as you progress in your piano playing skills. If you prefer a portable pedal unit but need all three pedals, Kawai also has an optional portable metal 3-pedal unit called the GFP-3 which is really good if you are wanting to more easily take it with you and it comes in at a very reasonable internet discount price of $125. The new ES920 also has a new optional (furniture style)
Kawai ES920 triple sustain pedal-bar
triple pedal bar which attaches to the sides of the proprietary furniture stand instead of a furniture style pedal lyre as was found in the previous ES8. I like the triple pedal bar as it attaches easier to the stand which makes it easier to remove if necessary and the depth of the pedals from your feet is a little further than before and therefore provides more room for the legs and feet to use those pedals. All 3 pedals work well in the furniture option and control the traditional soft, sostenuto, and sustain functions. The triple pedal-bar looks nice attached to the stand and allows for more stability of the pedals and permanent placement where the pedals should be located.

INSTRUMENT SOUNDS


Kawai ES920 instrument sound library
When it comes to these portable digital pianos over $1000 I find that most people purchase them primarily to get the best piano playing experience they can get in this price range and the ES920 definitely qualifies for that.
However, I find that it is always a bonus if there are also some high quality instrumental sounds like vintage electric pianos, symphony strings and pads, Jazz and pipe organ sounds, harpsichord, and maybe a few synth sounds. Many of these portable digital pianos have extra instruments and I have heard them but I feel this ES920 takes it to another level when it comes to the authenticity of those instruments. There are 28 of them and they sound pretty amazing and I like them very much. I personally love to add some of them to my music to give it a different "flavor" and make playing that much more enjoyable. Some of you out there may not feel a need for those type of instruments because you mainly just want to play "piano." But for me I like playing all types of musical styles and I find that these additional non-acoustic piano sounds are really great to have at your disposal, as long as they are high quality and don't sound like a toy, and these extra ES920 instrument sounds are at a noticeably higher level of quality and can make your music really come alive. You can use them independently by themselves or within a layer or split of 2 tones together such as acoustic grand piano & symphony legato strings, or harpsichord & pipe organ, or electric Fender Rhodes piano & string-pad/synth, or maybe an upright bass on the left hand and a jazz piano for the right hand. The adjustable and variable reverb, chorus, voicing, and touch curve effects you can apply to those sound combinations are also very impressive and add an extra element of authenticity to those sounds, which I will talk about more in-depth a bit later on.

SPECIAL EFFECTS


Kawai ES920 special effects
I will say that for a $1599 portable instrument designed to give a person the best piano playing experience under $2000, there sure are a gazillion other things you can do with this ES920 that you would not know about just by looking at it.
If you just want to use the "preset" factory sound setups just the way they are and never change them, then that's great...no problem and you will enjoy your musical experience. But for those of you who are like me and sometimes want to "tweak," adjust, and modify the factory sounds and setups to your own particular musical tastes, then this piano is also for you. In fact, there are so many ways to to do that on this instrument, it is as they say...mind boggling! Want to change the reverb-echo settings to give the sound a thicker, lush, rich flavor? There are multiple ways of making those adjustments. Want to add and control the type of stereo chorus, tremolo, delays, or touch sensitivity adjustments you would get? No problem, that is easy to do and there are many ways of customizing those things. Want to "voice" the piano to your own liking and make the piano and instrument sounds you are using brighter or more mellow? You can definitely do that and that's what technicians call "voicing" in real acoustic pianos. The individual adjustments you can make to the factory sounds are almost limitless.  

VIRTUAL TECHNICIAN


Kawai ES920 Virtual Technician

On top of all you can do with the special effects features, Kawai has even included an impressive separate feature for the acoustic piano sounds called "Virtual Technician."
Virtual Technician is where you can go into the editing functions of the piano sounds and adjust the individual organic elements of those sounds which are normally found in real acoustic grand pianos and are natural. However, some people like to minimize or maximize those piano tonal elements because people's ears (their hearing) is different from one individual to the next and what your ears may like to hear my ears may not want to hear it at all or perhaps not as much...or perhaps even more of it than you would like. It's like how much ketchup, mustard, relish, or onions do you want on that hot dog? Some people want more, some people want less, and some people may not want one or more of them at all. That is what Virtual Technician is like...it let's you personally adjust (and it's easy to do) the string resonances, overtones, sympathetic string vibrations, hammer noise, stretch tuning, individual note volume, and other things that are normally associated with an acoustic piano sound so that you can have more, or less, or none of one or more of them. It's impressive that Kawai has as many factory preset piano sounds as they do which include SK Concert Grand, EX Concert Grand, SK5 Grand Piano, Jazz Grand, Warm Grand, Pop Grand, Upright Piano, and others which are already set up to sound great, and as I mentioned earlier, for most people I think that's all they will need. However, when you want to go deeper and get those grand piano & upright sounds to be perfect for "your ears," then you can absolutely do that and use the Virtual Technician to accomplish that task and then once you do you can save those custom settings into user memories to recall later on.

GRAPHIC 4-BAND EQ


Kawai ES920 4-band graphic EQ
OK...so although you have all of this great stuff you can do to the piano sounds, you would need to go into the user menu to access those features and that can take a bit of time and a slight learning curve as well. However, there is an immediate real-time way of editing and changing the piano sound to give it your own "custom sound setting" and doing it very easily with the all new graphic EQ system with 4 separate sliders which are located on the control panel surface of the piano.
A graphic EQ allows you to instantly change the "frequencies" of the piano sound (or any sound) by adjusting the intensity of those sound frequencies from maximum to minimum. I have always liked that type of instant control over the sound because, as an example, I can customize it to give me more bass and less treble, more treble and less bass, more mid-rang and more treble while taking down the bass range a bit, etc. In other words, I can make these sound adjustments in real-time as I am playing by physically moving one or more of those 4-slider controls to adjust the bass, mid-low, mid-high, and high frequencies. This is a very practical feature because let's say you are an older person who has lost some hearing ability in the higher frequency range which happens a lot as you get older. Well, you simply boost the high frequency intensity by pushing the high frequency slider up so the sound becomes more clear and sharp. Or perhaps you are a younger person and want more bass in your music...more "thump" as some people refer to it. For that kind of need you would boost the low frequency bass response by pushing up the 1st slider which is the low frequency bass response. You can configure those sliders in any way that you wish to get the sound you want. For those people who may not know exactly what they want then Kawai also has 6 factory preset EQ settings for one touch play. That means the factory has preset EQ setups to give you a variety of EQ sound settings rather than you do it yourself. Either way it works well and can have a big impact on the final outcome of your music. The EQ settings feature is above and beyond the Virtual Technician settings that I discussed earlier so you can combine both of those features and get a very precise piano sound adjustment and this gives you literally thousands of sound possibilities. Yikes! For some people it's almost too much...but you don't have to use any of it if you don't want to. You can just turn on the piano and play it "as is" and enjoy it.

ACCOMPANIMENT BACKING TRACKS


Kawai ES920 accompaniment backing tracks
Now it's time to talk about the "fun features" of the ES920. What I consider to be the "fun stuff" in this piano are the drum rhythms and interactive accompaniment styles.
If you will be playing something other than traditional classical music or hymns and you also like playing rhythmic music such as rock, jazz, Latin, country, waltz, big band, blues, gospel, bluegrass, and so on, then Kawai has this super cool feature which I refer to as the backing track accompaniment styles. No other portable digital piano in this price range has this feature which let's you be a "one man band" by giving you 100 nicely produced drum rhythm patterns like a real drummer would play along with the accompaniment instruments such as a bass player, guitar player, organ player, brass player, etc which all combine together to sound like you have a band accompanying your music like a real band would do if you were a lead piano player or singer. This accompaniment band works when you play your music using left hand chords and right hand melody-harmony notes and is not meant for traditional bass clef/treble clef play. So you select your drum style such as a jazz drummer for example, add the auto bass player, then add the extra band accompaniment backing tracks and play left hand chords in real time playing your favorite music and they will all play in a jazz style with jazz progressions. 

Kawai ES920 chord recognition

This rhythmic chord system recognizes 15 different chord types including most inversions, diminished, augmented, etc.
You simply play full 3 or 4-finger chords on the left hand or even 1-finger chords (which would give you the full chord in just one finger) and turn on your favorite accompaniment style/backing track and you will sound way better than you really are and just like a real band! Beyond that, this accompaniment system has start & stop, fill-ins, intro, ending, and style variation. You can adjust tempo of your backing tracks and also use this accompaniment feature in a variety of ways which include just having the "live" drummer playing drum patterns in 100 different music styles, or you can add a bass player to the drummer and when you play a left hand chord the bass line will come in within that chord, and then you can add the full instrument band to all of that which then gives you those other instruments (guitar, organ, brass, etc) and the whole thing makes you sound way better than you really are and it's really like playing with the entire band selecting any style of music you want. Just add the melody line using any of the ES920 instruments such as grand piano, electric piano, etc and you can play some very cool stuff which is super fun to do. If you don't want to use this feature at all then no problem...just don't use it. I have use it and it's really enjoyable especially because I like all types of music and when I want to "jam" a little bit and maybe play some rhythmic music by ear, then this is the perfect thing to help you do that.

RECORDING FEATURES


Kawai ES920 MIDI recording
Whether you are a serious piano student, a song writer, or want to learn how to do some multi-track song arranging, having useful recording and playback features in a digital piano can be very helpful and there is no shortage of those features in the ES920.
It has 2-track MIDI recording so that you can use that method to record both your right and left hand parts independently and then playing them back independently or simultaneously to hear how you sounded when practicing your music and then to playback both your left and right hand together or independently to analyze how you did by listening to each hand separately and then together. You can also use a digital metronome when playing your parts so that your timing can stay on track. When playing and practicing music there tends to be some places in the music where it gets to be more difficult to play depending on your playing skills and the complexity of the music. To make it easier to learn the more difficult parts you can "loop" any part of the song to repeat it over & over so that you can practice just that part of the song which is very helpful in learning the more difficult parts. Beyond that you can also record the interactive one-man-band backing tracks including the drummer, bass player, and other instrumentalists if you wish and put them altogether in one recorded song and save all of it to a USB flash drive so that you can build up a library of songs.

Kawai ES920 audio recording
To make it even more fun and more interesting, you can save that completed MIDI song file as a stereo audio MP3 or audio wav file.
You can then take that stereo audio file, save it to a USB flash drive and then load it onto your computer or iPad, iPhone, etc and play your completed recorded song on those devices. That's a pretty cool thing to be able to do because then you can listen your music on any of those devices, let other people hear your music, send your recorded song to anyone you want by attaching it to an email, etc and be able to share it with other people. Recording the music you are playing in these various ways can definitely be useful to furthering your musical abilities, your musical career, and just learning how to play your music better with less mistakes. You can also overdub the audio files on the ES920 with being able to play and record more tracks on top of what you've already done to build a larger arrangement of your music. You can pretty much do to an audio recording what you can do on this instrument to a MIDI recording but with even more functions and features. You can start and stop it, change tempo, change key, and make your music perfect. If you just want to play the ES920 as a piano and do nothing else then that's fine and you'll enjoy it. But if you take advantage of these recording and playback features it can make you a better player, a better musician, and be a way to permanently capture your music to listen to later. You can also use your recorded music as a sound track to your own YouTube video should you want to do that type of thing. The possibilities are really endless and I encourage people to take advantage of these features no matter what age you are.

REGISTRATION SETUPS


Kawai ES920 Registration Memories
For someone like myself, I really enjoy using some of the helpful technology in these digital pianos to make my music even more exciting and enjoyable.
I like to create my own personal sound setups such as layering 2 of my favorite sounds together and adjusting relative volume balance, or splitting two of my favorite sounds and assigning a split point and octave change, or setup the accompaniment drums and instruments with a certain rhythmic style and tempo, or maybe I want to transpose the song in a different key for singing or playing purposes, or perhaps "tweak" the piano settings to create my own piano sound the exact way I like it as I have previously mentioned. On some digital pianos once you make those changes and modifications you cannot save it, so all that work you did is gone once to power off the instrument. On the Kawai ES920 there are 28 "memories" to save what are known as "user registrations" that allow you to save up to 28 of your own custom settings and then whenever you want to recall any of them you just touch a couple of buttons on the control panel and it will instantly be reloaded and your piano will be set to play your music just like you had previously set up. Kawai already has including 28 "factory created" setups just to give you a head start in getting some very cool, instant setups from the factory musicians at Kawai. But you can over-write any of them with your own settings although you can always bring back the factory setups with a factory reset to original registrations. I use that registration feature all the time because it saves me a bunch of time and energy to try to reset it all over again. It's a feature that makes it more fun to make changes and combinations in the piano because you won't lose them. Also, if you want more than 28 registrations you can just save a group of them onto a USB flashdrive and reload all of them into the piano at any time. So Kawai makes it very convenient to use the many features on the piano, create your own personal setups, save them, and then recall them. This is definitely a very useful musical tool as far as I am concerned.

BLUETOOTH WIRELESS


Kawai ES920 Bluetooth Wireless
When it comes to wireless connectivity there is a good reason why a lot of people like to have it in their personal devices, especially Bluetooth wireless audio where you can play your music from your mobile phone or tablet through an external Bluetooth speaker.
In the world of digital pianos some of the top brands and models have included this type of wireless connectivity in their digital pianos so that you can wirelessley stream your music from your phone, tablet, etc directly through the speaker system in your digital piano. This feature allows you to listen to and play along with your favorite music and also have it all come directly through headphones for private practice. Another Bluetooth wireless digital piano feature is called Bluetooth MIDI. This function enables to you connect your digital piano to an external device (especially a tablet like iPad) so that you can interact with a variety of responsive music/piano related apps for learning how to play the piano, read music, or add more instrument sounds to your music via MIDI connection and the ES920 has this feature along with Bluetooth audio streaming. Some people will find both of these new features very useful while others may use one or the other depending on their musical goals and needs. However, there may be some people who won't have a pressing need for either one of these Bluetooth wireless functions and that's OK...not everyone will use everything on these digital pianos. But in my world I enjoy taking advantage of useful, helpful technology and these two new Bluetooth functions are great to have for the intended purposes and make this new model even more desirable.

HEADPHONE SOUND TECHNOLOGY


Kawai ES920 Headphone spatial sound technology SHS
One of the great things about digital pianos is that unlike an acoustic piano, you can practice in complete privacy with a digital pianos because you can plug in stereo headphones. When you plug in headphones the internal speaker system is made to shut off and then the sound is only heard through headphones.
All digital pianos have this feature so it's definitely not exclusive to the ES920. However, what the ES920 has that many digital pianos do not have and that the former ES8 also did not have are brand new
Kawai ES920 SHS technology
headphone listening features that makes it even more enjoyable when using headphones. It's always important to start off with a good pair of quality stereo headphones which I have used for years and have many different types in my studio. Any pair of stereo headphones will work in this new model but the better the headphones are the better your listening and playing enjoyment will be. Beyond the basics are the new headphone features in this model which includes the new SHS mode to "spatially reposition" the headphone sound that comes in to your ears by digitally moving it forward, keeping it even and centered, or widening the sound so it seems like it is all around you even though the headphones are physically sending the sound directly into your ears. It is newer technology that does this and the result is impressive. It also helps cut down on headphone listening fatigue when playing for a long time because of that stereo sound being digitally repositioned. There are sometimes when I use this headphone feature where it sounds like I am really not wearing headphones when I really am wearing them because the sound seems like it's in the room and not coming through the headphones. I actually have to take off my headphones to be sure the sound is not coming out of the speakers because it sounds so natural coming through the headphones...like I am not wearing any. It's a cool experience and allows for longer private practice sessions.

Kawai ES920 headphone optimization
If that weren't enough when it comes to improving the headphone practice-listening experience, 
Kawai also has a second new headphone sound feature called "headphone optimization." What this new feature does is to optimize the headphone sound depending on the type of headphones you are using. For instance, the different headphone designs out there include the following: open, semi-open, closed, inner ear, and canal. Each type of headphone is used for a purpose depending on whether you want your headphones to be completely closed to outside noise, somewhat pen to it, or fully open to it. Canal headphones fit inside the ear cancel and isolate inner sound from the noise outside the ear and also provide for more bass response from those earphones. When it comes to inner ear headphones-earphones that would be like having Apple Air Pods or something similar. Kawai has technology to optimize the ES920 headphone listening experience for those individual type of headphones/earphones so that your private piano playing experience is more natural and therefore more enjoyable. Given that Kawai has added these two new headphone technologies in the ES920, you can know that if you are the kind of person who will be using headphones somewhat often to practice with, that your playing experience will be that much better and for me this is an important aspect of the new ES920. 

CONNECTIVITY


Kawai ES920 input-output connectivity

External and internal connectivity in digital pianos can be very important for some people, especially those who want to connect their digital pianos to an external speaker system or they want to use the internal piano speakers to hear their external devices come through the piano speakers.
Maybe you want to connect your digital piano from a USB output on the piano to a computer with a USB input so that you can interact
Kawai ES920 USB flashdrive input
with music notation or education software. There are many reasons to want some good connectivity in a digital piano and the ES920 has just about all you would need. It has dual audio output jacks, a stereo line input jack, USB connector, standard MIDI in & out connectors, single damper pedal connector, triple damper pedal unit connector, a USB flashdrive input connector to load and save songs, and two stereo headphone jacks with one being a standard 1/4" jack and the other being a 1/8" mini headphone jack. There is also the power supply connector for the included external power supply that comes with the piano. So there is no shortage of connectors and based on my personal experience with Kawai digital pianos, their high quality connector jacks and parts should hold up well over time. Also, for those people with "legacy" MIDI keyboards and sound modules, those standard "old school" MIDI connectors can come in handy if you happen to have one of those products and want to connect it to the ES920.

INTERNAL SPEAKER SYSTEM


Kawai ES920 internal speaker system
Some portable digital pianos have built-in internal speakers and some portable digital pianos do not have any speakers built in. Those without built-in speakers are typically called "stage digital pianos" because performers on stage in many cases use external stage speakers to hear the sound coming from their piano.
The ones with built-in speakers like the ES920 are called "self-contained" digital pianos because you would not necessarily need external speakers to hear the sound. Many of the "self-contained" portable digital pianos under $1000 have low powered internal amplifiers and
Kawai ES920 internal speaker system
smaller, more limited speakers. It's when you get up into the ES920 price range does the internal speaker system become more robust and able to project the music in a noticeably more authentic way with better speakers, better and more powerful internal amplifiers, and a fuller, richer tone. The new ES920 is no exception in this way with its new Onkyo made upgraded internal sound system consisting of 40 watt total stereo amplification with 2 high quality speakers controlled by new Onkyo audio processing. This internal sound system is a definite upgrade over the previous model with more clarity and and more natural grand piano sound than before and the difference is noticeable when comparing this new model to the older one. So the bottom line for this internal sound system is that it is powerful considering the compact portable size of the ES920, and in fact just as powerful as most all of the furniture cabinet digital pianos under $2000. Plus...you can easily switch off the internal sound system with an off/on switch on the back of the piano in case you do not want to hear the internal speakers for some reason. When you plug in a set of headphones the internal speakers automatically shut off but the on-off switch is for other applications and can be useful. Of course you can also connect this piano to an external speaker system or powered monitors for even bigger, bolder sound and this can be helpful if you are using this piano in a venue like a church, school, restaurant or outdoors somewhere. But for indoor spaces in most homes, this 40 watt internal speaker system should be more than enough for vast majority of people.

CONTROL PANEL USER INTERFACE


Kawai ES920 user interface
The ES920 has a new updated control panel as compared to the previous model ES8 with 2 areas on the control panel where the buttons, sliders, and display screen is located.
The top area has the 4-band EQ sliders and next to that is the new larger and brighter OLED display screen which is much easier to see and read and more intuitive to use. Next to that are the menu control buttons for navigation, etc. Below that area just above the keyboard are the main function buttons of the piano which control pretty much all of the features and functions. The contemporary, user friendly flush mounted buttons and sliders have been nicely redesigned to feel better, work better, look better, and have easy-to-see blue small on/off indicator lights built into the buttons which is very helpful and something that other digital pianos don't have. Also, with the control panel separated into two levels of control, one above the other, this setup condenses the buttons into a slightly smaller width and make seeing and accessing those buttons and sliders easier to do. So as far as I am concerned the control panel design and placement was well thought out and is a nice upgrade from the previous model. The function menus in the display screen are fairly easy to navigate and understand once you get a bit of time to get to know the operating system of ES920. As in all digital pianos the internal operating & navigation features and functions do take a bit of time to understand and this is no different with the ES920. However, I find it is fairly intuitive overall and should not take you too much time to learn. 

PIANO BODY DESIGN


Kawai ES920 piano design

The size, weight, and design of the piano is something that should never be overlooked and the ES920 is no exception. It has an attractive body design style and a more elegant look to it with rounded edges as compared to the previous model that had straight edges and that is definitely more appealing to the eye.
The fit and finish of the control panel and surface is very nice and the new buttons and sliders have a refined tactile feel to them that gives you the impression you are playing a more expensive instrument than its $1599 price tag would indicate, and even the optional furniture stand and triple pedal bar look great. When the piano is placed on that optional furniture stand, the stand itself has 2 front support legs which gives the entire piano more stability. It's a nice combination and if you have it in your budget I would recommend getting the optional stand and triple pedal bar especially if the piano will be staying in one place and not moved around much. The dimensions of the piano are a good compact size and they measure approx 53" wide x 15" deep x 6" high and the weight is 37.5 lbs. The interesting thing about the weight of this new ES920 is that it has been reduced by 11.5 lbs over the previous model ES8 and the weight reduction is welcome news to a lot of people out there looking for a lighter weight high quality digital piano. The way Kawai reduced that weight is to go from a heavier metal case on the previous model to a lighter plastic case on this new model. The plastic material and construction used these days in a variety of tech oriented products is so advanced that there is really no reason why the new ES920 should not be using those same materials. So Kawai did a smart thing and brought down the weight to a more manageable level so that people who need to need to frequently move the piano can actually carry it by themselves without needing to hire a "roadie" buying a dolly!

PIANO MUSIC RACK


Kawai ES920 Music Rack
I wanted to point out what otherwise appears to be a relatively small change in this model to some people but is actually a huge upgrade to people who will appreciate it (like me) and it is the newly resigned music rack which comes with this piano.
When you want a place to put your sheet music or books on the piano, you have to use the music rack. Actual "stage pianos" typically don't come with music racks and many of these "self-contained" portable digital pianos have music racks that are poorly designed or cheaply made
Kawai ES920 Music Rack
while others are just ok. The previous Kawai ES8 had a smaller basic wire/metal open music rack that came with it which was OK but not great and it did not allow for complete support of your sheet music or books. There was an optional upgraded larger plexiglass music rack that was available but you could only get that sheet music holder rack if you bought the optional $260 furniture stand. Kawai did not offer or sell that upgraded better music rack apart from it coming with the furniture stand. For me that was a sore spot and Kawai could have done better. On the ES920 Kawai includes an upgraded full size plexiglass music rack at no additional charge that is durable, sits higher off the piano top and is also a bit closer to the player so you can get a better music reading position, and it is angled to hold your music more securely without the music falling or slipping off that rack. In other words, a very good, nicely designed music rack now comes with this new model at no additional charge and to me that's a major improvement.

FINAL THOUGHTS


Kawai ES920 white piano with stand and triple pedal-bar
At the end of the day there's a lot to like about this new Kawai ES920 and very little if anything no not like. All the improvements made to this model as compared to the previous model ES8 pretty much was "on point."
Kawai did not need to change the main piano components that were in the prior ES8 which includes the key action movement & response, the piano sound chip, or the pedaling movement or response because they were already so good and everyone really seemed to love it (as did I) so those three things stayed the same. It was all the other things I previously mentioned that change and were adapted to this new model including control panel interface, many features and functions, speaker system,
Kawai ES920 control panel
cabinet design and layout, and the fact this ES920 is so much lighter to carry than ever before. Oh...and another big thing...all of this improvement should have made the price on the ES920 go "up" from the previous model but yet the price actually came down from the former ES8 at $1649 to $1599 on the ES920. To me that's pretty amazing and as far as I am concerned buying this new model should be a "no-brainer" if you want one of the best piano playing experiences you can get in a more portable self-contained digital
Kawai ES920 top and speaker grill design
piano at any price. I have played them all in this price range under $2000 including Yamaha, Roland, Casio, Korg, and others and this new ES920 beats all of them in my opinion...and I don't don't say that lightly. The main problem people will have is to actually find one available to purchase because they won't be available to the general public here in the US until sometime in late October (if you're lucky) and even then they may all get presold even before they come in due to pent up demand. My advice is...get one on order if you think it fits your musical needs and budget because otherwise you may be waiting a very long time to get it since demand is already so high and the price is right. Also, please contact me before making any digital piano purchase decision and buying 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.


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