as promised I have been to the local piano dealer this afternoon for a quite lengthy test of several DPs and stage pianos, along with a comarison of several APs.
My original intent was to test drive the new Yamaha CP-1, but unfortunately it's not yet available, and the salesman couldn't give me an arriving date either...
Anyway, so I had lots of time to play all the others... I literally played through almost all the DPs they had, except for the stuff that obviously was nothing I would consider (like Technics and Casio, although Casio seems to have some very interesting stuff for people who are on a budget.
This is what I tried:
Kawai CA63 (just for comparison although I own it)
Kawai CA93 for the additional escapement effect in the keyboard
Kawai CA51 (for comparison of new RM3 keyboard and sound with the old keyboard and sound)
Roland HP-307 (finally I got my fingers on one after Dewsters technical review and others positive feedback)
Roland V-Piano (Is that modeling really that great?)
Yamaha CLP-370 (after a while and get used to Kawai sound I wanted to compare with my "old" favorite)
Yamaha CVP-509 (flagship with the same sound engine on DPs as CLP-380)
Avant Grand N3 (First time!! A must-try!!)
Then I played a lot of the available acoustic uprights and a KAWAI acoustic grand for comparison of digital versus analog keyboard and sound.
I played all the DP with a decent headphone, all the acoustics (naturally!) and the Avant Grand N3 were played without headphones.
Of course I have to say that I might be biased in favor of the Kawai CA63 since I own it, just that you know.
These are my impressions after playing these DP with direct comparison:
I first played the HP-307, because after all I heard in this forum this could have been the most interesting DP. First of all, the keyboard is really something different than the CA63 keyboard: It's heavier, and you have to press the key down deeper to get a tone. It was much more difficult to me to reach the correct volume on notes, but of course this is also a matter of adaption. But it was a lot more difficult to play very softly and at the same time quickly up and down the keyboard. This is something that works amazingly well on the CA63 keyboard.
The sound was, well, decent. I know this doesn't sound enthusiastic, but it is like it is: Its a mellow sound with lots of different effects on it, but it's just mellow. You have to press the key very hard to get a bright sound, and this happens all of a sudden, it's difficult to get something in between... It helps a little bit to set the touch of the keyboard from "normal" to "light", but it's still a very different keyboard feeling as the CA63, for my taste not better. Not really convincing. The damper effect: It sound quite real, but also quite light. So I set the intensity from 5 to 10/10, but that produced an almost "chorus"-like effect, not realistic at all. You can set the damper effect of CA63 to maximum without this "overprocessing" feeling.
One word of caution: For a real fundamental judgement I would have need to play a little bit longer with it.
Then I played the V-Piano. Well, at first it seemed that it was much superior to the HP-307. Maybe because of the good playability and reaction to velocity changes. But on the other side, after some playing time, I had the feeling that the mids are somehow on the thin side. But overall the playability of this one was way a tad better than the HP-307, the brightness does not come to suddenly after velocity goes up. I played some time with it (20-30 minutes), in this timeframe I didn't change any settings, just played with the first piano grand setting, just fiddled a little bit on the ambience adjuster, that's all. This shows that it's really playable, it was a lot of fun. On the contrary, from the beginning I had the feeling that the sound is not real, there is some artificial touch in it, I can't explain this better. Bottom line: This is a good beginning but nothing I would buy for lots of money. I have quite similar feelings to this piano sound as I have to the pianoteq sound which I just don't like (but the V-Piano sound is better).
Then I played the CLP-370:
It's the known, bright piano sound that many people love. And it sounds quite good when playing fast musical pieces. But: After reading Dewsters test, I checked the sustain of the notes: The higher notes have a really creepy looped sound. It starts very soon, you can clearly hear the start of the loop, and it's just plain static... Horrible! I'm sure I would have detected that after my buy and would have really regret the buy.
The keyboard again is a matter of taste: If you love a rather heavy keyboard that starts running after you have forced down the key a bit, then this is right for you. Ivory touch of the keys is very nice.
The CVP-509 is of course something completely different. I only tried this one because the CLP-380 was not available and this one should be quite similar on the DP part. And indeed: The sound was Yamaha-like and much better than the CLP-370 sound. Also the key action was much better than the CLP-370 (was this real or just imagination?). But this one costs a real bargain!
After that I played my CA63 again just for comparison purposes. An this time there was this big "aaaah"! The keyboard felt perfect, and also the sound was just right! Maybe is was because I'm used to it, who knows! But it festl just so - right compared to the others.
CA93 - This has an additional escapement mechanism on the keyboard. I don't care too much about that, I played in my life 90% piano uprights and max. 10% grand pianos, so I anyway don't care for this escapement feeling.
CA51 - It has a quite different keyboard feeling (much lighter and a little wobbly, and of course no ivory), and the sounds are much more mellow and not that much expressive.
After that I went to the acoustic piano department. While the DP department was quite crowded (about 6-8 people strolling around and trying this and that), I was the only one in the acoustic piano department. So I had no inhibition to play them all and very loud and expressive.
What I discovered at once was that almost all of the acoustics where heavily out of tune. Asking a salesman about this I got the answer that they know about this and that the reason for that is, that the door is opening and closing all the time, and they cannot tune all the acoustics every week. What the ...? The place for such an instrument at our home would be the space between two large windows/doors to our backyard which of course will be open all time... I don't want to pay endlessly for a tuner... Anyway, the sustain and the damperless play was really impressive, but these were my conclusions:
- Detune is a real pain
- The keyboard of acoustic pianos / grands are very different, from mediocre to very good
- Long sustain notes and damper effects etc. are the absolute strengths of acoustics (of course!)
- There are extreme quality differences between the cheapest model (2.500 Euro, Ravenstein?) and an expensive upright (Kawai and Schimmel upright). There was not one keyboard that felt the same.
I also tried a Yamaha model (can't remember which one it was, but it was more on the cheap side, 4.000 Euro?) which had a very good keyboard and sound (at least I can imagine it has a good sound if it would have been in tune). The keyboard action is although not comparable to the Yamaha DP action, it's was better.
All in all: After playing the acoustic I get really confirmend that buying the CA63 was the right choice: The keyboard feeling of it was quite comparable to an upright, and is somehow on par and within the wide range of keyboard feelings of the uprights.
Then I played the N3: This one is really an impressive instrument:
It really has a 100% feeling of a real piano, and it also sounds like one, when playing through the loudspeakers! Very impressive, you can play nuances very good! I played about 30 minutes on this one, because I couldn't stop. The price tag although is really hefty: It says 13.500 Euro (of course without any negotiation, don't know the end result). But if you have the money, this could be really a consideration!
One additional thing: Within the acoustic piano department this one (although digital) sounded best! But this was no wonder considering the other were all more or less out of tune! I really don't know how they want to sell any acoustic!
After all, this is my very subjective and very spontaneous ranking:
1 Avant Grand N3 (way ahead)
2 KAWAI CA63 / CA93
3 Roland V-Piano
4 Roland HP-307
5 Yamaha CVP-509
6 KAWAI CA51
7 Yamaha CLP-370
It's a real close call between V-Piano and HP-307. Both of them have areas in which they shine and some weaknesses.
My final conclusion of the visit was, that I made everything right with buying the CA63! It's the best sounding and especially the best keyboard action in this price range! Furthermore all others, except CA51, are more expensive.
Hope this review helps you a little bit with your decision making, but always remember: Only actual playing and comparing shows you which DP is for you!