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#2032957 - 02/14/13 11:54 AM Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic  
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ygm Offline
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Hi,

Some background. I did a lot of research on the topic of Digital vs Acoustic piano on the internet, and based on the premise of the latest DP being close in terms of key action and sound as well as space savings, set out to purchase a DP in the range of $3000-$4000.

Fast forward. Yesterday, at piano showroom in NYC I was shocked to discover how poorly the Kawai CA65, CA95 and a Roland mocked up as a really short and very cheesy looking Baby Grand, fared against the real thing. They sounded muddy and artificial. I could swear that I could hear sampled white noise when the keys were pressed. The salesman, who played a range of pianos for me (and was btw simply a fountain of information on the subject), agreed with my assessment that there is really no comparison. Now having some time to consider my experience, I'm still at a loss to explain it. Is it possible that the DPs were purposefully set up in such a way as to drive potential customers towards buying the more expensive acoustics?

Thanks in advance,

Y.

PS. I though that the Kawai RX-2 BLAK sounded wonderful.

Last edited by ygm; 02/14/13 11:56 AM.
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#2032966 - 02/14/13 12:08 PM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: ygm]  
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Thrill Science Offline
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I don't own a digital piano, and the piano I'm most used to is an "analog" 7' 4" piano in my living room.

That being said, I have been very impressed with the sound of the Yamaha Avant Grands. Granted, they're not cheap, but I think I'd be perfectly happy to practice on one of them. I've spend hours on one at a dealer.

The point being that some digital pianos are very pleasant to play and listen to.

Either these instruments weren't configured correctly, the room was poor, or there are simply better choices. Or maybe there are certain sounds that bother your ears which don't affect others. (Some people have much better high frequency sensitivity than others, for example.)

Last edited by Thrill Science; 02/14/13 12:09 PM.

Robert Swirsky
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#2032977 - 02/14/13 12:23 PM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: ygm]  
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Mark... Offline
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Digitals are "trying" to emulate a real piano. So unless space and money are issues, why not get the real thing.

Your rx-2 option sounds about right... smile

#2032994 - 02/14/13 12:39 PM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: ygm]  
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Comparing a 4000$ DP to the $25000 Kawai Rx2 ...?
That said, most people will agree that DP's are not an exact replacement of a high quality AP. Although I like the sound of my DP, I'm the first to admit that it can't compete with AP's, definately not when it comes to sound volume.
I have my reasons why I choose the CA65: silent practice. That and price setting are the main reasons why people choose for a DP.
You mention space saving: compared to an upright you won't save that much space... Is that the only reason for you?


Kawai CA65
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#2033006 - 02/14/13 01:03 PM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: Thrill Science]  
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ygm Offline
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Originally Posted by Thrill Science
I don't own a digital piano, and the piano I'm most used to is an "analog" 7' 4" piano in my living room.

That being said, I have been very impressed with the sound of the Yamaha Avant Grands. Granted, they're not cheap, but I think I'd be perfectly happy to practice on one of them. I've spend hours on one at a dealer.

The point being that some digital pianos are very pleasant to play and listen to.

I did hear the Avant Grand in the showroom next door that same day, and from memory it sounded better than the Kawai CAx, however, the price point as well as size are getting very close to the Kawai RX-2 BLAK.

I also noticed that there was a big difference in the way the sound was actually projected from the instrument. The DPs sounded much more directional, while the AP radiated sound. A very different listening experience, I must say.

Last edited by ygm; 02/14/13 01:04 PM.
#2033015 - 02/14/13 01:14 PM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: StefaanBelgium]  
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ygm Offline
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ygm  Offline
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Originally Posted by StefaanBelgium
Comparing a 4000$ DP to the $25000 Kawai Rx2 ...?
That said, most people will agree that DP's are not an exact replacement of a high quality AP. Although I like the sound of my DP, I'm the first to admit that it can't compete with AP's, definately not when it comes to sound volume.
I have my reasons why I choose the CA65: silent practice. That and price setting are the main reasons why people choose for a DP.
You mention space saving: compared to an upright you won't save that much space... Is that the only reason for you?


It may seem silly but I just don't like the look of uprights.

The reason I originally decided on the DP was that I could place it in my daughter's room, alternatively a more expensive instrument would go in our living room, where there is a lot less chance of it being destroyed. (Silent practice is a very good point btw as she is 5. smile )

Last edited by ygm; 02/14/13 01:15 PM.
#2033040 - 02/14/13 01:57 PM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: ygm]  
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poggler Offline
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This is my dilemma as well. In the end I'll probably end up picking a DP mainly because of the ability to practice while the family is sleeping. It's tough knowing it's a replica of a sound.

Maybe, using one of the non-grand piano sounds would help with immersion? The advantage of a DP is that you're not limited to one sound. The advantage of an acoustic is it uses real strings.

My solution... buy a cheaper ($1k - $1800) DP and save for an acoustic later?

#2033042 - 02/14/13 02:00 PM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: ygm]  
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PNO40 Offline
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A North Atlantic Island former...
I have a Yamaha CP33 Stage Piano which I have only used a few times since I got myself a decent upright. Two things:

1. With a good set of headphones, you will quickly find the weaknesses in the sampled sound of digitals, especially if you play any music that requires the notes to sustain or uses the sustain pedal for sympathetic resonance. I tired of my 'on board' sound very quickly and then switched to using computer-modelled sound via Pianoteq modelling software for a richer and fuller sound. It was still some way from the 'real deal' but I didn't tire of it the way I did with the on-board samples.

2. 'Silent practice': Any half-decent keyboard will have some kind of 'hammer action'. These can be quite noisy in the still of night, and as impact sounds, can travel quite far and be very irritating to others, arguably more so than if they are wrapped up with music. Indeed, an upright piano using the felt 'muffler' can actually be quieter than a hammer-action keyboard with headphones, though admittedly it doesn't sound too good.

Given your budget, perhaps you should consider the Roland V-Piano. I haven't tried it, but it has a good reputation here on PW and is one of the very few keyboards that uses modelling rather than samples, so generates are much more palatable sound than sampling technology can provide.

Best of luck with whatever you go for.

P.

PS I think some uprights can be extremely handsome. Much more so than midget grands that look like they are trying too hard to be something they're not. But then, this is all a matter of taste ...

#2033082 - 02/14/13 03:50 PM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: ygm]  
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Chris H. Offline
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This is a topic on which you will never get people to agree, lots of strong opinions!

Sometimes it depends what you want the piano for. If silent practice is a priority, you enjoy using a range of sounds and/or you need to place the piano somewhere that might not be suitable for an acoustic then digital is fine. Up to a certain price point I recommend digitalis to me students because they can be a lot better than very cheap and old acoustic pianos.

If you want to learn or play the piano and you have the money then I still say acoustic is the best choice. By the sound of your budget you are probably at the point where you can buy a nice acoustic upright. As good as modern DP's are and as useful as they can be you will still get more feedback and musical pleasure from an acoustic. When I play a nice acoustic I often stop and just listen to the sound because it's beautiful. You can describe it as warm, rich, bright, mellow, dark, clear, etc. sometimes you can't even put your finger on what makes it sound right, it just does. It can send a shiver down your spine or make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Digitals don't do this. Usually the best thing you can say about a digital is how much it sounds just like a real piano.

Just my opinion of course.


Pianist and piano teacher.
#2033100 - 02/14/13 04:27 PM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: ygm]  
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If you can get an acoustic piano that you like, go for it. I happen to own both a good digital and a baby grand. The digital serves only to practice late at night and for occasional gigs where no decent acoustic piano is available.

#2033136 - 02/14/13 05:27 PM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: ygm]  
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concertina Offline
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I had the exact same experience as you when I looked at digital pianos. In theory, it was a great idea, but when I actually played them, I just couldn't like them. Then the salesman at the Kawai dealer I was at suggested I play one of the acoustic pianos for comparison and the sound made me feel like crying, the tone was so beautiful in comparison. But I just couldn't get a "real" piano then, due to circumstances, so I didn't buy anything.

But now it's been a couple years and I still don't have any piano at all, so maybe I would have been better off getting something, who knows?

#2033159 - 02/14/13 05:51 PM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: PNO40]  
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Originally Posted by PNO40


Given your budget, perhaps you should consider the Roland V-Piano. I haven't tried it, but it has a good reputation here on PW and is one of the very few keyboards that uses modelling rather than samples, so generates are much more palatable sound than sampling technology can provide.

Best of luck with whatever you go for.

P.


I'd second that.

I have been playing on the V-Piano for three years, but prior to buying it, I'd never played on a digital. I've played on acoustics of all sorts from the good, the bad to the ugly until then, basically any acoustic piano I could get my hands on. Simply put, the V-Piano (and its big brother V-Piano Grand) is the only digital that reproduces with uncanny realism almost all the effects that you can get from an acoustic - the resonances, the immediacy of response to your touch and the way you play. It's the only digital from which you can get an ugly sound, if you choose to play that way - just like on any acoustic.

I think that the modeled sound generator of the V (where the sound is generated from scratch from when you press the key, not from pre-recorded samples which are then electronically processed) is what makes the difference: the sound isn't pre-determined. Repeat a chord evenly without pedal on the V, and compare with any sampled digital, then with any acoustic. The sampled DP will just give you exactly the same sound each time (assuming you're good at playing repeated chords), a rather unrealistic 'perfection'; the V and the acoustic will pick up on minute differences between each strike which get magnified through the various resonances. That's the kind of 'imperfection' that makes the sound 'real' and which is why, I believe, for good pianists who want to be in control (rather than a machine), the V is the way. It's also the only DP that allows you to change the sound of any of its 28 factory presets in several ways, from tone color (you may prefer a brighter Yamaha-like sound to a mellow Bl├╝thner sound, for example) to hammer hardness to unison tuning, to various resonances, sustain, pedal effects etc.

But of course, if you can afford a good acoustic grand of at least 6ft (and have the space for it), it's still preferable even to a V-Piano.....


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
#2033270 - 02/14/13 08:50 PM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: ygm]  
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It's actually very easy to decide between digital or acoustic. You should always consider the acoustic as your primary option. You consider a digital when owning an acoustic is simply not feasible or practical. Also, owning a digital as a second piano to an acoustic has lots of benefits. There are 3 people playing piano in my house, and one piano simply isn't enough. Being able to put on headphones for the other piano really helps. Sometimes, I need to practice something over and over enough my wife wants to hurt me. The digital can save relationships. Still a DP is a lifeless tool, similar to a computer. No inpiration comes from my DP.


Art is never finished, only abandoned. - da Vinci
#2033289 - 02/14/13 09:26 PM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: ygm]  
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Please don't refer to a digital keyboard device as a piano. It is not.

There is no need to preface piano with the word acoustic. It is a given and becomes redundant. A piano IS an acoustic instrument, not digital or electronic.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#2033302 - 02/14/13 09:45 PM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: ygm]  
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I prefer the digital, you can bring it anywhere to play so you don't have to be stuck in your room playing, how bland. bring it with you and play for an audience! and they really won't care too much about the sound, as long as it sounds good enough. digital all the way!


Casio Privia PX-150

#2033340 - 02/14/13 10:27 PM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: ygm]  
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YGM - you hit it on the head - there simply is no comparison. It's like trying to compare a bicycle with a car. Or an apple tree to an apple.


Alan from Queensland, Australia (and Clara - my Grotrian Concert & Allen Organ (CF-15)).
#2033497 - 02/15/13 03:07 AM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: StefaanBelgium]  
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Originally Posted by StefaanBelgium
You mention space saving: compared to an upright you won't save that much space...


It depends -- some digitals you can use on a folding stand, and both the stand and keyboard can go vertically in a small closet when you want them out of the way. Sort of like an ironing board. It's a consideration in places like Manhattan and Tokyo.

Unless you're a really good player, digitals are plenty good enough for practice, and doing it with headphones opens up loads more practice time.

Last edited by JohnSprung; 02/15/13 03:08 AM.

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#2033520 - 02/15/13 05:03 AM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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Originally Posted by Minnesota Marty
Please don't refer to a digital keyboard device as a piano. It is not.

There is no need to preface piano with the word acoustic. It is a given and becomes redundant. A piano IS an acoustic instrument, not digital or electronic.


A few years ago, I'd have said the same. Then I bought the Roland V-Piano, which really is just a digital piano. There are 28 different piano sounds in it, all customizable in several parameters, as I mentioned above. But they are all piano sounds. Not even 'EP', which means it's derided by many 'keyboard' and 'synth' users, who expect much more for their money grin. No organ/harpsichord/clavichord sounds either. So, the only term for it really is 'digital piano'.

In fact, classical piano magazines like International Piano, Clavier Companion, Pianist etc all refer to such instruments as digital pianos - including even those that offer many other non-piano sounds, unlike the V-Piano. As does 'Piano Buyer' of course.....

So, even though I was brought up on, and still play classical music 99.9% of the time, and play on acoustic pianos frequently (mainly big grands these days - I can't abide the indeterminate-pitch low notes of small grands for long), my home piano is a digital piano.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
#2033556 - 02/15/13 08:16 AM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: backto_study_piano]  
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There is no point comparing 25K acoustic with 3-4K digital.
3K acoustic is no comparison to a 25K grand either.
3K digitals have better action than all pianos below 7-10K and better tone than some entry level pianos, although lacking resonance.
For practice purposes they are probably even better than an entry-level acoustic.

Last edited by personne; 02/15/13 08:16 AM.

Roland HP-507RW | Yamaha U1
#2033572 - 02/15/13 08:57 AM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: personne]  
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Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted by personne

3K digitals have better action than all pianos below 7-10K and better tone than some entry level pianos, although lacking resonance.


Really? Upon what do you base this statement?


private piano/voice teacher FT

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#2033581 - 02/15/13 09:17 AM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: adak]  
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Originally Posted by adak
I prefer the digital, you can bring it anywhere to play so you don't have to be stuck in your room playing, how bland. bring it with you and play for an audience! and they really won't care too much about the sound, as long as it sounds good enough. digital all the way!


Serious musicians having to carry DP's around with them??

Adak, you must be taking the P155 grin


Pianist and piano teacher.
#2033606 - 02/15/13 10:05 AM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: Chris H.]  
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Dave Ferris Offline
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The only reason more portable DPs exist in my musical world are for gigs. cool

I did have a very brief experimentation with the Kawai CA65 in our living room. It sounded thin and I didn't like the action. I'd thought the sound would be enhanced with our hardwood floors and higher ceilings but once I got it in there, that wasn't the case. So after 3 days it went back to the dealer who luckily refunded my money.

I would certainly however welcome the Avant Grand, N3 or 2, in my living room. A lot of the Jazz type practicing I do involves transposing single note lines and chord voicings to all 12 keys. I could "save" the wear and tear on my Steinways' hammers and action if I had the AG. That kind of mechanical, repetitive practicing lends itself less to a high quality acoustic.

Of course I'd have to use headphones in the house, the sound would drive my wife to leave me after 33 years of marriage.. grin


https://soundcloud.com/dave-ferris

2005 NY Steinway D
Yamaha CP4, CP5
#2033614 - 02/15/13 10:35 AM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: ygm]  
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The problem with turning on a digital piano is that it doesn't return the favor.


-Steve
1969 Yamaha U3
#2033629 - 02/15/13 11:02 AM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: Dave Ferris]  
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Originally Posted by Dave Ferris
The only reason more portable DPs exist in my musical world are for gigs. cool


Cool-looking shades, Dave.

In my musical world, the slab exists for its utility -- storing composition ideas to save for later, comparing how different key signatures sound, hearing what something might sound like on another instrument, and, most importantly, providing a portal to my personal word of headphones. I don't have a piano of any kind in the living room because it's a common living area where people don't bring or place their personal devices. That's a house rule and obviously won't work for everyone.

My latest slab has never moved from the little corner of an alcove it occupies with a clearance of a quarter inch on each side. I actually have to dust the thing like a knickknack because the cover I bought is difficult to squeeze through the clearance.

To the OP,

The digital puts you in a playing groove. The action, no matter how sophisticated, has a limited number of dynamic response possibilities through its sensors. Repeated play will sooner or later alert your ears to that fact and to some other limitations as well. Changing the settings will refresh things a bit, but there will still be a sameness to the musical product that will let you know that the product is as much about the piano as it is about you.

On the other hand, the groove will not be interrupted by action inconsistency and tuning issues that arise over time with an acoustic.

Threads both here and on the digital forum reduce the matter to an aggressive either-or proposition, but both species can be wonderful musical tools. It comes down to a question of the application, your application.


Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier
#2033702 - 02/15/13 01:34 PM Re: Buying a piano Digital vs Acoustic [Re: turandot]  
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Dave Ferris Offline
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Originally Posted by turandot
Originally Posted by Dave Ferris
The only reason more portable DPs exist in my musical world are for gigs. cool
Cool-looking shades, Dave.


Thanks turandot. We come in pairs. grin cool
http://www.divshare.com/download/20724592-8f7
http://www.divshare.com/download/23731062-1ce

And of course I do solo
http://www.divshare.com/download/22844801-586

Seems like we always have them on whenever we're outside... cool


https://soundcloud.com/dave-ferris

2005 NY Steinway D
Yamaha CP4, CP5

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