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My very first review of Kawai CA63
#1449589 06/03/10 04:12 PM
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After more than two weeks of waiting my Kawai CA63 is finally here. I wanted the Premium Black Satin but they told me I had to wait too much for it, so I agreed on Premium Rosewood. Here it is:
[Linked Image]

It was me and the guy who assembled it which took about an hour. I have never played the Kawai before, just a blind purchase smile Scarry thing. I was so eager to test the keyboard that even before we attached the main body I opened the lid and tried the keys without a sound. First impressions: very very realistic touch and quite heavy indeed. Finally I started playing it with some Chopin stuff with the speakers. Very first impression on the sound was that the bass is a little bit too loud but not too much. That can be tweaked of course. Next impression on the playability - the default touch response was too light and fortissimos were too easy to obtain with even slightest touch. Playing with a fine control especially thrills is quite a challenge. That disappointed me a little but I opened the manual and checked how to change the touch response and after I switched to "Heavy" it immediately felt so much more realistic and such a pleasure to play! Main grand piano sound is pleasant and mellow, playability is great, damper resonance is very realistic. Before receiving it I was afraid about the note decay which some owner criticized for being a little bit short. I find it perfect for my taste. To be honest I find Pianoteq (which is often mentioned as a reference for natural and long decay) to be having too long a decay for my personal taste. The looping is done extremely well. (For example my Roland RD-700SX was having too noticeable looping in bass notes). I am sure I could obtain excellent sound with Ivory and I even bought the piano with that intention since I was not impressed to much with the internet demos but in fact I am very pleased to see the main grand piano sound is much better that what I have expected. All the sounds except the main piano sound are nothing spectacular. Rhodes is too bright, Harpsichord and pipe organs are artificial. There are actually some good strings and pads but I am using such sounds once in two years.

Here is the summary:

Keyboard: extremely realistic and on the heavy side. I am finally able to obtain perfect control over the pianissimos which is something I couldn't do with my previous pianos.
Main Grand piano sound: surprisingly good and usable.
Playability: excellent
Other sounds: mostly garbage
Build quality: perfect

It's normal for people to be happy with their new instruments and it seems I feel the same smile For the price paid I think it's a killer (1800 Euro, VAT included). I have had and sold: Korg SP-200, Yamaha P90, Roland FP-5, Casio CDP-100 (used as a controller only), Roland RD-700SX. Before purchasing CA63 I considered and tested Roland HP-305 and Yamaha CLP-340. Interestingly I haven't had the chance to test CA63 but decided to order it smile

Of course, I will make another review in a month or two and it should be more objective.

And here is a piece I recorded with the USB-to-WAV recorder. Please don't judge me too harshly, I hadn't been playing piano for two months, there are some tiny mistakes and the thrills are awful frown

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach - Rondo Espressivo


My YouTube, My Soundcloud
Currently: Yamaha N1X, DIY hybrid controller -> Garritan CFX
Previously: NU1X, ES7, MP6, CA63, RD-700SX, CDP-100, FP-5, P90, SP-200
Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
CyberGene #1449653 06/03/10 05:16 PM
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Very nice playing CyberGene! I'm impressed both with your technical ability and with the sound of your new CA63!

The CA63 layer blending sounds very nice. And you do have a point about decay sometimes sounding bad if it is too long, though I think that is more the case when the decay portion fundamentally sounds fake - a longer decay in that scenario draws attention to it, compounding the fakeyness. I think the latest piano sound Kawai has is comparable to Yamaha's latest, and Kawai has gone even farther by eliminating note stretching.

Glad you found a DP that suits you!

Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
CyberGene #1449656 06/03/10 05:18 PM
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Wow, it sounds beautiful. I can see why you like it so much. And you played very well. I didn't even notice any mistake. Congratulations on your new piano!

Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
Volusiano #1449662 06/03/10 05:25 PM
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I have to admit the piano sounds excellent!


website | mp3 files | Yamaha AvantGrand N3 | Roland RD 2000 | Sennheiser HD 598 headphones
Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
Volusiano #1449666 06/03/10 05:31 PM
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CyberGene, congratulations on your new DP!

Thank you also for posting the nice photograph, positive review, and lovely playing clip.

May I recommend that you double-check that the instrument is using the latest software version (currently v1.06) by holding down the ORGAN, HARPSI&MALLETS, and STRINGS buttons while turning on the instrument.

Furthermore, if you have any suggestions or recommendations for improving the owner's manual, please do let me know.

May I wish you many more hours of musical enjoyment at the keys of your Kawai DP!

Cheers,
James
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Employed by Kawai Japan, however the opinions I express are my own.
Nord Electro 3 & occasional rare groove player.

"I agree that the User Manual is very good." - arc7urus, March 2019
Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
Kawai James #1449696 06/03/10 06:19 PM
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Congratulations and it sounds very nice to me too, and your playing sounds fine, some good expression with dynamics.

I have a strange question if you don't mind, since I'm considering a Kawai too, but alas maybe not a CA63 - how do you find the rosewood finish - is it very fake, quite realistic or any other comments about it? Thanks

Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
spanishbuddha #1449699 06/03/10 06:25 PM
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Congratulations, CyberGene...the piano looks and sounds lovely.

Happy playing,

Snazzy


Semper Gumby: Always flexible \:^)
Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
snazzyplayer #1449710 06/03/10 06:42 PM
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Nice playing and I agree, it looks classy indeed. There's something about the attack portion of the notes though that leaves me a bit cold...just something not quite right compared to the aural blueprint of a piano in my tiny mind. But very glad you are happy with it!

Steve


C. Bechstein Model B | Roland RD-1000 | Kawai VPC1
Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
EssBrace #1449915 06/04/10 02:02 AM
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Thank you all for the kind words!

@Kawai James
As a software developer I am little bit paranoid about not using latest versions that's why checking the firmware version was one of the first things I did. It came with 1.06 preinstalled. The manual is excellent, congratulations on the great work! What Kawai have done with hiring a native English speaker for their manuals is something Yamaha and Roland should have done long ago and they are so huge compared to Kawai - shame on them smile Although my English is not so good, I can at least distinguish whether a manual has been written by a native speaker or a Japanese engineer smile I have one question for you though. I noticed the WAV recording on USB is very quiet, the peak is about -20dB. When I normalize it, the noise floor raises too much and the quality of the recording as you hear is bad, there is a lot of noise. Can this be corrected somehow and how difficult would it be for the engineers to add "gain" in the settings? I think I would be able to make a way better recording using simple analog audio cables and the whole point of direct digital recording on USB flash drive makes no sense in its current state.

@spanishbuddha
I am not sure if I have understood correctly so I will try to explain all aspects of the finish. If you are talking about the rosewood finish in general and not that in CA63 in particular, I think this is the most popular choice of digital piano finish and seems to be preferred by many people including me. My mom saw the pictures and told me I could had done a mistake with the Black Satin since it looked cheap to her. Of course it is not a good idea to judge a finish on pictures. It was my wife who insisted on Black Satin actually but when she finally saw the piano in the room, she was very delighted and said it looked gorgeous. Now, regarding the actual finish of CA63, I think there is some very slight fake plastic shine in it but I can also say exactly the same for Yamahas and Rolands and since it's not an actual rosewood which is used by those three brands, it seems that's the best what could be achieved in regards to real wood imitation. In any case the piano looks very classy.

@EssBrace
I know the sound is just a tiny degree off the perfect one... I have already MIDI-ed to Ivory and while the Ivory sounds really perfect, I am struggling at making the correct touch response between both the instrument and software and the playability suffers a lot. I think for now I am ready to sacrifice that little imperfectness of the internal sound to the excellent general playability.

Last edited by CyberGene; 06/04/10 02:04 AM.

My YouTube, My Soundcloud
Currently: Yamaha N1X, DIY hybrid controller -> Garritan CFX
Previously: NU1X, ES7, MP6, CA63, RD-700SX, CDP-100, FP-5, P90, SP-200
Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
CyberGene #1449919 06/04/10 02:15 AM
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Originally Posted by CyberGene
I have already MIDI-ed to Ivory and while the Ivory sounds really perfect, I am struggling at making the correct touch response between both the instrument and software and the playability suffers a lot. I think for now I am ready to sacrifice that little imperfectness of the internal sound to the excellent general playability.

Hm, that's interesting. I though that MIDI just records key strokes at 128 different velocities and is an exact recording of how you play, so it shouldn't color the sound in any way.

Are you saying that the velocity curve setting (or keyboard sensitivity setting) for the CA63 is much better than whatever velocity curve setting you can come up with for the Ivory sounds? Can you customize any sensitivity setting either on the CA63 or Ivory? Or is it just a few pre-set settings of off/low/medium/high?

Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
CyberGene #1449925 06/04/10 02:31 AM
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I've never had a digital, but wow, nice sound. Nice playing. I should learn this piece smile

Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
Volusiano #1449929 06/04/10 02:47 AM
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Technically speaking MIDI sends values between 0-127 reflecting the velocity of the keys being pressed, however the problem is that if a note at MIDI velocity 20 is two times louder than a note at MIDI velocity 10, it's not necessary that a note at 30 is three times louder than that at 10. This is just an example. Different acoustic pianos have different sound colors and different responses. For example one real acoustic piano may produce fortissimo when you press a key with velocity of 5m/s and another with 7m/s, etc.

So, you have:
1. The touch curve of the controller
2. Touch response of the software
3. Mapping between MIDI values from point 2 and sample layers being triggered.
4. Final dynamic range of the audio output.

All those 4 are adjustable:
1. On CA63 you can choose between 5 factory presets (and you can create your own by playing from ppp to fff and let the instrument create a custom curve for you but I found it very unreliable)
2. Ivory has control over the start and end point of the curve and arc shape.
3. There are two sample sets in Ivory per instrument. Those marked with "II" are mapped in a way that favors softer samples.
4. Dynamic range is adjustable via knob in Ivory

So, it may seem that you have almost infinite control, but in fact you need to spend a lot of time to find the perfect balance since all the possibilities are not linearly ordered. For example, you may choose "heavy" touch on controller and correct for it on software with lighter curve, or you can choose light touch on controller and correct with heavier curve. The problem is that curves are not having the same shape on controller and software and you should be very meticulous about finding the perfect combination of all those components. I imagine that someday there will be a better specification and extension of the MIDI protocol which maps an exact key velocity in [m/s] to exact MIDI velocity in [0-127] to exact piano tone color [pppp - ffff] to exact sound amplitude in [dB]. This way you would be able to mimic the exact behavior of a particular Steinway/Bosendrofer/etc...


My YouTube, My Soundcloud
Currently: Yamaha N1X, DIY hybrid controller -> Garritan CFX
Previously: NU1X, ES7, MP6, CA63, RD-700SX, CDP-100, FP-5, P90, SP-200
Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
CyberGene #1452616 06/08/10 12:03 PM
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Kawai James,

I have few suggestions for improvement and have so far found few cosmetic bugs:

- [bug/improvement] Damper/String resonance is applied only to the first 10 or something notes after damper/chord has been held respectively. I am sure the piano (CPU, memory bus) potential is more than that, that's why I suppose it is a bug or a poor algorithm.

- [improvement/bug] The recorded WAV sound on flash drive is too quiet. There should be a way to set gain. The current implementation makes it unusable as a feature since the volume is so low that when you normalize the file to 0dB, the noise floor gets too high.

- [improvement] There should be a way to reload the stored User Memory settings by a button combination. Currently this is only possible by turning the instrument off/on. Of course you can also store those settings in a registration but I don't want to store one and same settings in two places and also I prefer using the registration mode for other stuff like layered sounds, etc. This is really needed because I have set the User Memory to contain my default and best piano sound but after playing around with other sounds, layerings, effects, touch response, etc. I need to quickly go back to my best piano sound. (On my RD-700SX there was a single "one touch piano" button that did this).

- [improvement] There should be a key combination to turn MIDI local control ON/OFF. This is essential for people using it as a MIDI controller and switching between internal/external sound.

- [improvement] The registration memories should store the MIDI local control ON/OFF state. This is essential again (for the above reasons).

- [cosmetic bug] When erasing a recorded part of a song, there is a message on the screen "Eraseing". My English is not that good but I still think it has to be "Erasing".

- [cosmetic bug] When creating a custom touch curve, there is a message on the screen saying you should press "Start/Stop" button but the actual button is sprayed as "Play/Stop" on the piano.

- [random irreproducible bug] Once I played a lot with the settings, sounds, menus, effects, etc. After that I tried to record a piece in the internal memory. After I finished with the playing, I pressed the "Play/Stop" button and it said it was "saving" but after that - nothing has been saved and there was no asterisk to denote the part contains data. I tried many times but in fact I was not able to make a recording until I have rebooted the piano.

- [suggestion] I am really convinced the default touch response of "normal" is producing too easily obtainable fortissimos which is very unrealistic, creates the feeling of jumpy velocities and could really deter serious pianists from choosing the piano in stores (where they test with the default settings) . And it would be such a shame because with the "heavy" touch response it becomes such a dream to play! That advanced RM3 action shouldn't be spoiled by such an unconsidered default touch response!

Last edited by CyberGene; 06/08/10 12:08 PM.

My YouTube, My Soundcloud
Currently: Yamaha N1X, DIY hybrid controller -> Garritan CFX
Previously: NU1X, ES7, MP6, CA63, RD-700SX, CDP-100, FP-5, P90, SP-200
Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
CyberGene #1452679 06/08/10 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by CyberGene

- [suggestion] I am really convinced the default touch response of "normal" is producing too easily obtainable fortissimos which is very unrealistic, creates the feeling of jumpy velocities and could really deter serious pianists from choosing the piano in stores (where they test with the default settings) . And it would be such a shame because with the "heavy" touch response it becomes such a dream to play! That advanced RM3 action shouldn't be spoiled by such an unconsidered default touch response!


This should be the first thing they fix. If they had any kind of dealer merchandising organization, they would send a bulletin out. As it is, I bet this advice will disappear into the big time bureaucracy of a small time company that doesn't even know who its dealers are...

Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
theJourney #1452688 06/08/10 01:35 PM
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I think the same thing too, the touch reponse is really bad. I use a custom one which is far more flat. But there is also another thing, whatever you do, the highest midi input occures too quickly compared too an accoustic.

Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
CyberGene #1452818 06/08/10 05:04 PM
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Originally Posted by CyberGene

- [bug/improvement] Damper/String resonance is applied only to the first 10 or something notes after damper/chord has been held respectively. I am sure the piano (CPU, memory bus) potential is more than that, that's why I suppose it is a bug or a poor algorithm.


I also had this problem with the old firmware version, but the new firmware (1.06) should have fixed this problem. Are you sure you have applied the newest firmware release?


<~ don't test forever - play and enjoy! ~>
Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
theJourney #1452820 06/08/10 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by theJourney

This should be the first thing they fix. If they had any kind of dealer merchandising organization, they would send a bulletin out. As it is, I bet this advice will disappear into the big time bureaucracy of a small time company that doesn't even know who its dealers are...


Seems like you have some spare time each day to do some kind of Kawai bashing...

Would be much more helpful if you could contribute something useful...

Sorry, couldn't resist.


<~ don't test forever - play and enjoy! ~>
Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
mucci #1452826 06/08/10 05:13 PM
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I am sure I have 1.06. Try increasing string resonance and damper resonance at level 10 and play loud notes in the high register with damper pedal pressed. At some time the resonance just stops. The same applies for string resonance but instead of holding the damper pedal, hold a Cmaj chord in left hand for example.


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Currently: Yamaha N1X, DIY hybrid controller -> Garritan CFX
Previously: NU1X, ES7, MP6, CA63, RD-700SX, CDP-100, FP-5, P90, SP-200
Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
CyberGene #1452844 06/08/10 05:37 PM
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I also recognized that this happens with string resonance (but after more than just 10 keystrokes), but it definitely doesn't happen when damper is down. I have tested this extensively because this problem annoyed me very much back in February, and that's the reason why I know that it's gone. But maybe you're talking about something different - may I ask you to explain the effect a little bit further.


<~ don't test forever - play and enjoy! ~>
Re: My very first review of Kawai CA63
mucci #1452847 06/08/10 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by mucci
Originally Posted by theJourney

This should be the first thing they fix. If they had any kind of dealer merchandising organization, they would send a bulletin out. As it is, I bet this advice will disappear into the big time bureaucracy of a small time company that doesn't even know who its dealers are...


Seems like you have some spare time each day to do some kind of Kawai bashing...

Would be much more helpful if you could contribute something useful...

Sorry, couldn't resist.


I am giving free needed advice to Kawai: fix your poorly functioning retail distribution if you want to sell digital pianos. This includes having the pianos prepped in the store to show well so that if a consumer actually finds a store that stocks them they will compare favorably to the competition. One way to influence this in the short term would be for Kawai to send a one page merchandising bulletin to all stores informing them to make adjustments to the settings to make the pianos more playable. That is what professional consumer products companies do all the time.

That is not bashing, that is deep care for Kawai. I am giving them free advice that other companies have paid big bucks for. If they would follow up on this critical issue it would have infinitely more impact on their sale than the baseless cheerleading from you.

Sorry, couldn't resist.


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