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#1748433 - 09/07/11 06:07 PM Advice on Kawai DPs - CE, CN, CA or M Series?
stupe Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/07/11
Posts: 3
Hello all,

I've just spent the last few hours sifting through posts on the forums here, and have learned a lot! Still I figured I'd write to ask for everyone's advice about my particular situation.

My girlfriend is turning 37 this year and I want to get her a top-quality digital piano. She played in the Royal Conservatory in Madrid for nearly 20 years and was *almost* a professional pianist before deciding that she didn't have enough of a natural gift. At this point she stopped playing entirely and has barely touched a piano for the last 15 years. As you might imagine, this has been heartbreaking and I know she has a lot of regret. However she has been talking about starting up again lately, and I want to surprise her with a digital piano for her birthday at the end of the month.

I would do the rounds at music stores in the city myself (we live in Atlanta) but I'm a guitarist not a piano player and don't know what to look for. I'm worried about getting her too much of a beginner piano that she will be frustrated by, as she has taken master classes with the top pianists in Spain. But at the same time we're relatively poor - I'm still in grad school and she just took a job as an assistant professor at the university here. We are also living on the top floor of an old converted house with shared apartments, so the neighbors are right next door and soundproofing is an issue. Also those rickety stairs...

I would love to find something for around $1000 USD but I know that's unrealistic given the professional quality I'm looking for. However it would be great to come in under $2000 for piano, stand, bench, speakers etc. It doesn't need to be portable. Also I know she'll only be concerned with grand piano sound and uninterested in all the electronic/synth effects that many of the digital pianos appear to be loaded with, so really I'm looking for a replacement acoustic.

That said, my big question now is whether the upright cabinet setup is better or simply the keyboard itself. Kawai seems to have a great line, and I'm looking at the CE200, MP6/MP10 and cabinet models CN23/CN33, as well as the CA62 (which I think is out of my price range though I can't seem to find any concretes). Or maybe even the Roland FP7F. I'm not exactly sure what the difference is between the keyboards and cabinets and if it's primarily aesthetic. The RM3 technology sounds amazing but is it really that much better than the RH action? And is 96-note polyphony adequate for complex classical pieces?

Again, she was a professional-level pianist for many years and it's important that the quality be sufficient for her to want to start playing again. From my research thus far it seems that weighted keys with graded hammer action, proper pedals and (ideally) wooden keys with ivory feel would be the best. It's worth it for me to pay more at the outset so she will be excited to play again, as I know she's regretted giving it up all those years ago.

So...with all that said, what model do you suggest? And from where to buy it? I know that instruments are very idiosyncratic and it's best to try everything first, but as this is a surprise gift it has to be purchased sight unseen.

Thanks for your time and consideration and apologies for the long post and newbie mangling of jargon. Still, I've been learning a LOT from this forum and I thank you in advance for any advice you might be able to offer.


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#1748440 - 09/07/11 06:12 PM Re: Advice on Kawai DPs - CE, CN, CA or M Series? [Re: stupe]
spanishbuddha Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 3001
Loc: UK
Welcome stupe.

You're not going to like the answer - but - you need to let her choose!

So you need to think differently about the present.

It can still be a digital piano of course but you don't choose it, instead you choose how you give her the present of choice.

#1748447 - 09/07/11 06:18 PM Re: Advice on Kawai DPs - CE, CN, CA or M Series? [Re: stupe]
stupe Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/07/11
Posts: 3
Hi spanishbuddha, and fitting that you're here to give advice to my Madrileña!

Yes I know that her picking out the piano is the best idea, but she's so stubborn that I know she'll never agree. It needs to be sidled into the office so she can pretend not to be interested at first - 15 years away from playing is a long time.

Also (as I mentioned) we're relatively poor and no way is she going to let me spend this much on a gift. But I KNOW how happy it will make her (eventually) and I'm happy to scrimp on other household items like a TV, etc.

#1748472 - 09/07/11 07:14 PM Re: Advice on Kawai DPs - CE, CN, CA or M Series? [Re: stupe]
MacMacMac Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/24/09
Posts: 4994
Loc: North Carolina
If you're willing to spend $2000, start with a keyboard for around $1000. Have her pick one that has a touch that she likes.

The sound won't be very good, so ...

Add a laptop computer ($500, or perhaps you already have one?).
Add Synthogy Ivory software ($350) and key ($50).
Add an external sound card ($150 new, or half that on ebay if used).
Add headphones ($50 to $100).
Add speakers and amplifier ($200 used).

That's $2300, a bit over the mark. But if you already have a recent model laptop you can bring it in for $1800.

With Ivory producing the audio it will be better than any $1000 keyboard. Or $2000 console. Or $3000 console. Or $4000 console.

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#1748480 - 09/07/11 07:26 PM Re: Advice on Kawai DPs - CE, CN, CA or M Series? [Re: stupe]
Kawai James Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/06/07
Posts: 12795
Loc: Hamamatsu, Japan
MacMacMac, you are correct in stating that the sound produced by Ivory will likely be superior to even the best $4000 console digital piano.

However, there's an awful lots of faffing around in order to reach a satisfactory goal. I would argue that most folks will prefer an instrument that they can simply switch on and play.

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

#1748511 - 09/07/11 08:38 PM Re: Advice on Kawai DPs - CE, CN, CA or M Series? [Re: stupe]
gvfarns Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 3510
Loc: Texas
It sounds like this is intended to be a surprise, but you might feel her out a little on the looks issue. Specifically, would she want something that looks like a real piano with cabinetry, etc., or is a stage piano ok? Also, you should find out how much she values speakers as opposed to headphones and whether she thinks onboard speakers are sufficient or she would want nicer speakers.

Personally I like the look of stage pianos and for comparable quality they tend to be cheaper and more focused on sound and action quality. Get a nice heavy-duty stand to go with it if you go this route. There are fewer stage piano models so I can comment a little more specifically about them.

The Kawai line is nice. This is what I have (the MP8, a couple of models previous to the mp10). The MP6 gets good reviews. Neither is what I'd call cheap, but they are good. Great actions.

On the Roland side, I suspect the Roland FP7F is also great, though I haven't played it. The RD 700 has even better reviews. Roland's pianos cost a pretty penny, though.

I didn't see you mention the largest (I think) manufacturer of good digital pianos: Yamaha. They have a number of products that might work for you. I used to have a Yamaha stage piano and it was great. I actually preferred the sound of it to my current Kawai and the action was also quite good. They have some inexpensive and nice models. As you want to spend as little as is reasonable, I'd suggest looking at the CP-33 (the successor to the piano I used to have) and the P-155. Those can both be had for about a grand each. When random people tell ask me for a single recommendation for a cheap, good piano, I suggest the CP-33 and some good headphones.

Notice, most stage pianos don't come with speakers. Actually, the ones I recommend don't tend to. People I see on the forums tend to get powered nearfield monitors. I used to have KRK Rokit 8's and a KRK subwoofer. Nothing wrong with them, but they were large. Probably if you get a woofer you don't need the 8-inch model. There are lots of other powered monitors from other companies like behringer and M-audio. There are others from nicer brands. Thing I didn't like about nearfield monitors is that they are very directional--you really need to point them right at your head for them to really sound right. I think next time around I'll get some hi-fi speakers instead (maybe bookshelf speakers). In general you want speakers that don't color the sound (and especially don't emphasize the bass) too much. Nice flat ones, which is why so many people use nearfields. By the way, the other problem I had with my monitors was that my piano was in a small room and when I played a certain low note, it was the resonant frequency of the room and it was VERY loud. Also the bright yellow drew a lot of visual attention. That could be a good or a bad thing.

Frankly, for me, the digital piano is a practice and possibly recording instrument, so speakers are irrelevant. You might think about a nice pair of headphones, though. Possibly a high impedance pair that requires a headphone amp. Personally I use Sennheiser HD595. They work well straight from the digital piano jack. Not a ton of bass in them, but overall good sound and very comfy. If I had it do to over I'd get a higher impedance pair and a dedicated headphone amp.

Currently I have a set of computer speakers plugged into my piano in case I want to produce music for someone besides myself. They sound terrible, but I never end up using them.

Almost all current digital pianos I've mentioned here sound great, as do others in this price range. Their polyphony will be more than sufficient. The big thing you want to make sure is that the action is good. Definitely don't get anything less than a fully weighted, graded hammer action. You can later change the sound (with a computer piano) if you want, but you can never change the action. If you are able, you should take her down to a store and let her play a few. Unfortunately, not all models are readily available to try out, but some brands use the same action in many different models so you can test one and buy another.

By the way, wooden keys are nice, but there aren't too many models with them and I'm not sure they really make all that much difference. I probably wouldn't get hung up on them if I were you (My piano has wooden keys and a wonderful action, but I don't think it's the wood that is the important part of that). There are many truly great digital pianos without wooden keys. I personally think the ivory touch stuff is a gimick, regardless of which brand it comes from. I have played a number of *real* ivory pianos and I don't like their surface any better than digital piano plastic. In short all digital piano surfaces (on reasonable quality pianos) feel fine to me...it's the weighting that matters. Others disagree, though.

That's my take on digital piano purchasing for the budget shopper. Have fun shopping!

Edited by gvfarns (09/07/11 09:18 PM)

#1748558 - 09/07/11 10:57 PM Re: Advice on Kawai DPs - CE, CN, CA or M Series? [Re: Kawai James]
MacMacMac Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/24/09
Posts: 4994
Loc: North Carolina
Originally Posted By: Kawai James
... there's an awful lots of faffing around in order to reach a satisfactory goal. I would argue that most folks will prefer an instrument that they can simply switch on and play.
I agree. All-in-one would be better. But the OP mentioned that his friend was this close to being a top-flight conservatory pianist.

That's a cut (or two) above the rest of us. For such a performer, a fine acoustic would be best. But on a budget, I thought that a computer-enhanced digital might suit.

#1748599 - 09/07/11 11:40 PM Re: Advice on Kawai DPs - CE, CN, CA or M Series? [Re: stupe]
stupe Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/07/11
Posts: 3
Thanks so much fellows, and especially gvfarns for such a long and detailed response!

Very very helpful and thoughtful suggestions, and I'll definitely open up the possibility of Yamaha as well. I agree that the action is the most important element, and I suppose that's why I was drawn to the Kawai - so many amazing reviews on this here forum.

I'll weigh up both the computer-enhanced front (though I must admit that neither of us are whizzes in that department) as well as the plug-and-play with a good set of headphones...

Lots of chew over and I really appreciate you taking the time to help her get back on the piano wagon.


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