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I think most of us realize that buying a digital piano to last for the next four or five years can be awfully difficult. A person must take into account overall tone from low to high, key action, the variety and quality of sampled pianos and peripheral instruments, the effectiveness of the pedals, cabinet appearance, and of course, price. And I'm probably not listing even half of the features to consider.

I believe there are no digital pianos that are top-rate in all categories, regardless of price, and so compromises must be made in choosing a digital instrument. And that leads me to ask a question...What was most important to you in the choice you made?

For myself, tone is the most important, followed by touch, and then cabinet appearance. Having found several dealers about 120 miles from me, I will be testing out a number of instruments, but I know that I won't find the perfect model. As such, I will have to compromise, and I accept that.

Among those I'm strongly considering are

1) Kawai CS8 (excellent tones in the middle and upper octaves, weaker on the lower end, perhaps the best action of any digital piano in the sub-$10,000 range, a gorgeous cabinet, not the best speaker system I could hope for, and no sound board.)

2) Kawai CA97 (similar in tone and touch to the CS8 of course, with a superior speaker system and the soundboard. It costs about $600 less than the CS8, but the cabinet is not so attractive.)

3) Roland (across the range of their DPs bass tone is very deep, but the middle and upper octaves sound either too muted or too shrill for me. Worth another look, though.)

4) Yamaha CLP 585. At least from what I can tell, this is the only Yamaha CLP model that has a speaker system that can compete with the Kawai CA97. Not outstanding tone for any octave, but really very good, and the tones are the best balanced of any DP in the sub-$10,000 range. Price is the most uncomfortable part of this choice.

5) Kawai CS11 (No doubt worth the money, and in my opinion this may be the best sub-$10,000 DP on the market right now. But I seriously doubt that any dealer would make me an offer that I could live with. I'd like to play it, though.)

Of course, a lot of people will disagree with my evaluations on these digital pianos, and this makes it apparent that subjectivity plays a major role in the purchase process. And so I will repeat my question: What were the most important points that led you to make the buying decision you did?

Thanks for all responses and opinions.

Last edited by ADWyatt; 07/07/16 12:29 PM.
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Hi ADWyatt, very interesting and helpful review, i agree with you. Regards!.

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When I bought this Clavinova I knew little about digital pianos. I had been using a full-sized Kawai upgright.

So I went looking for Yamaha, Kawai, and Roland digitals. This was in September 2008.

I found a small piano store nearby that sold mostly acoustics, but had a fair number of digitals ... Rolands. Didn't like the tone of any of them. Didn't like the cabinetry either. One exception was their mini-grand digital. Looked very good, sounded quite good, but was listed at $7000. No go.

I found a warehouse-sized Yamaha dealer. A hugh floor filled with grands, and a dozen or more Clavinovas. I ended up buying the CLP240. It felt good, sounded okay, and looked fantastic.

I couldn't find a Kawai dealer. Poor advertising! Years later I discovered a Kawai dealer not a half-mile from that Yamaha dealer. There's a fair chance I'd have bought a Kawai had I known about that dealer.

Were I to buy another digital, armed with eight years of digital experience, I'd choose differently.

1. In 2008 the piano was destined for the living room. It had to look good. It had to be polished ebony.
After moving to NC, the piano is no longer in the living room. Looks don't matter as much.
I might even go for a slab. The Kawai VPC would be very tempting.

2. I've learned that no digital piano sounds like a piano. They range from mediocre at the high-end to crap at the low-end.
That's why I use piano software. I never listen to the piano's native sounds anymore.
So once again, the VPC seems attractive.

3. The Yamaha action is pretty good, but I might want something better.
Having never touched a Kawai digital, I'd be tempted to try one.
Would the VPC be good enough? Or might I prefer one of the better actions in a CA or CS model?

I'm not sure what you meant by "buying a digital piano to last for the next four or five years can be awfully difficult."
Finding can be difficult. Choosing can be difficult.
But having it last for four or five years shouldn't be at all difficult.
It can be expensive, though. I've spend $400 on repairs and maintenance over the eight years I've owned the Clav.

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I recently purchased the Yamaha CLP 545 for my daughter (and I'll actually begin taking lessons next week as well).

Key factors for our purchase was the sound and touch, as long as it fit within a pretty wide price range. After first trying Roland, she settled on the Yamaha Clavinovas (we did not look at Kawai). She then tested those out in a showroom. As a result of the better speaker system and wooden keys in the CLP 545, my daughter enjoyed the playing experience much more on that instrument than on the CLP 535. She said the CLP 545 felt very similar to her teacher's acoustic piano and was instantly comfortable playing it (she put the touch response level to Hard 1). Interestingly, she didn't find much of a difference when she tried the CLP 575 for comparison so it didn't make sense for us to upgrade for the additional cost, with minimal added benefit. She did try the CLP 585 and while it was definitely a significant step up in both feel and sound, it was out of our price range.

Anyway, long-winded answer to how we made our purchase decision.


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How did I balance my decisions about buying a piano? Easy:

Sit down at all instruments of potential interest. Play the music I like. Feel and hear which one I like best, then check whether I can afford it.

Repeat the process a few times. The result, in all cases, was quite obvious, and very strongly based on what my body and soul, and my bank account, told me. Usually body & soul have won, and the bank account has lost.

A few times I made a buying decision based on some kind of abstract reasoning. I always regretted it smile

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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
It can be expensive, though. I've spend $400 on repairs and maintenance over the eight years I've owned the Clav.

I think you've had some bad luck with that purchase. Yamaha is known for reliability and I haven't heard any horror stories with their pianos. I also had a Clavinova many years ago when I started practicing in the States, and played it for nine, almost ten years. There were zero problems.


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Interesting read ADWyatt. I have owned a few electric or digital pianos over the years. My first was a Casio CZ-5000, which was sorta cool in its own way, but certainly not intended as any kind of piano. Later, I picked up an (already old) Yamaha PF-15. I replaced that with a Roland FP-8. That had some components on a board go bad about 10 years out of warranty, so I replaced it with a Yamaha P-80. When I retired two years ago, I had the opportunity to get a Roland V-Grand at a very good price. I decided that, since I was retiring and probably would not be buying another DP, it was good to really get what I wanted instead of always "going cheap". So far, it has been great and I have no regrets.

There are things I am probably not as picky as some here seem to be. The PHA-III keyboard is perfectly fine for me, for example. However, I really like how Roland's modelling handles nice big chords with lots of color tones - much better to my ear than sampled DPs. That is really important when voicing your chords, and probably much less important for those who are strictly reading from sheet music, where every note played is dictated ahead of time.

It seems to me that everybody has their own priorities for what they want in a DP, so I don't think that everybody should or would want a V-Grand. The important thing is for each person to find what works for them - what works for them is really nothing more than what attracts that person to actually PLAY their DP. Nobody can really tell another what combination of features that will be, beyond making people aware of various features and possibilities Ultimately, we each have to do the legwork for ourselves.

Tony



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First thing I do is look in the bank.

This is a very good indicator as to whether I "need" a new instrument. This step may also include selling instruments I own should I find funds in this account are particularly barren.

I then set a budget and make a list of what exists in that price range.

Then I drag my behind to a dealer that has one on the floor to play. Sometimes multiple dealers to compare different models.

Then I buy it and go back to playing.

Eventually I repeat the above.

Endless cycle really.

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Originally Posted by ADWyatt
I believe there are no digital pianos that are top-rate in all categories, regardless of price, and so compromises must be made in choosing a digital instrument. And that leads me to ask a question...What was most important to you in the choice you made?

My priorities were:

1. Price
2. Connectivity (MIDI in/out, audio outputs etc.) for DAW and software instruments
3. Action and pedal options
4. Weight
5. Builtin tones and speakers
6. Looks

I ended up with a Kawai ES100.


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I have done it that way:

1. I chosen the quality of piano that I need - in my case top range
2. Was hearing tchem via internet
3. Went to shop just to realized that digital sound completely different when you play on it (doen't matter is it via phones or speakers), thus I thrown out my thinking what can be good or bad.
4. Test played. Was testing action, sound, playing with sounds, VT, other options and so on.
5. By testing the piano and just playing on it, I realized most of points which are good and bad for me, both for action and sound.
6. At the end, I just put all previous point to a big sack and thrown it through window.
7. The question I asked myself is: do I like like spending time with that instrument. Is it getting me fun and I do want play more and more and do I feel connection and pleasure when playing and being with it.
8. Answering that question I ruled out Kawai and Yamaha pianos. First one, because fir me it's schizophrenic. It has action from which you don't want put off your fingers, but has sound which is not conneting at all with it. I was not understing fully what is was, but I had the plesure to go to the concert of summer pianomasterclass, on a brand new concert Shigeru in a quite new chamber concert hall. Then I understood what's wrong with Kawai (well, for me). It's the sound. I was sitting there, hearing the piano, and I understood that I do not like the sound of Kawai. For me it's too offensive, too straight, lacking some colours and depth. Then I connected it with the digial... and here is the answer:

You will not be happy with your piano if you dislike the sound character.

Take in mind please, that if you like the sound character of Kawai, it may suit you wonderfully, but I do not like it, hence I just ruled out that piano.


So, after you will know and test everything, test virtual technician and all samples to the extent, forget about it all, take a walk, just sit and play and ask yourself that question:
Do I like spending time with that piano? Do I like how it behaves? Am I happy sitting here, or there is something I don't like?
If you are happy than it's pian for you. If not, go to the next one.

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I reckon some amongst us just like a change now and again. . .I swapped from an ensemble board, which I loved, to a piano board just so I could concentrate on piano only. Oh, and get a better action to play on. Took z bit of time, but I'm glad I did.

Could have bought any one of a dozen slabs and been happy with the results. . Aren't I lucky?


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1) Sound and 2) ability to customize as many parameters as possible.

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Well, in my case, I jumped into the digital piano pool at first without really knowing what I wanted. I ended up buying a Yamaha DGX640 at the time mainly because of its many voices and features. It turns out that I almost never took advantage of those voices and features and found that I really didn't have much interest in them. All I wanted was a DP with excellent feel and piano sound.

So, I guess that my priorities were:

1. Touch and Feel (ie - action)
2. Sound
3. Price (to a reasonable extent)
.
.
10. Appearance

So, I sold the DGX640 and got my Kawai VPC-1 and have been very happy with it. Although it does not have it's own sounds, many different VSTs are available so you can, in effect, customize that aspect of it. Of course VSTs, a computer (for the VST software) and speakers (if you want to use something more than headphones) all add to the expense in this case.

And, although appearance was a very low priority, the VPC looks just fine to me. (FWIW, It's not in my living room though.)



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Originally Posted by ADWyatt
I think most of us realize that buying a digital piano to last for the next four or five years can be awfully difficult. A person must take into account overall tone from low to high, key action, the variety and quality of sampled pianos and peripheral instruments, the effectiveness of the pedals, cabinet appearance, and of course, price. And I'm probably not listing even half of the features to consider.

I believe there are no digital pianos that are top-rate in all categories, regardless of price, and so compromises must be made in choosing a digital instrument. And that leads me to ask a question...What was most important to you in the choice you made?

An easy question to answer, for me. grin

I was simply looking for an acoustic piano substitute that I could live with. Or, in other words, the closest electronic instrument to an acoustic piano - not in appearance, not in aesthetics, not in "wow" factor (whatever that is), not in bells & whistles. Cost was not even a factor - I had absolutely no idea at the time (2010) what a "good" digital costed, only that I didn't think it should cost more than a Fazioli wink .

Unlike when I decided to buy my first computer (a laptop) or my first digital camera (when 35mm film became too expensive and too scarce, rendering my Canon SLR film camera system obsolete), where I had to learn as much as I could (and make some effort to understand gobbledegook), and rely on published specifications, reviews, "best buys" in consumer magazines, recommendations from friends and foes etc; with a digital piano, I had one great advantage - I had been playing (acoustic) piano for decades: all sorts of pianos, from the good (perfectly prepped concert grands) to the bad and the ugly (ancient out-of-tune pianos with sticking/missing keys and uneven action). I knew what a good piano could do. I didn't need to read manufacturers' blurbs, nor reviews in magazines or websites, nor listen to any digital enthusiast giving me biased opinions. grin

I just needed to get out into all the DP stores that were within driving (or public transport) distance, and play all the DPs (- OK, I didn't bother with the ones that had less than 88 keys). And that was basically what I did, making repeated trips to re-test the ones that made an impact on first test, bringing my own headphones each time, playing a wide range of music, pushing the digitals to their limits (and disregarding the DPs' own speakers, as I'd be using headphones exclusively when playing at home). Very quickly, one digital stood out - it had excellent key action, excellent tone over the whole keyboard range, great variety of piano sounds (not that this feature was important to me), but most importantly of all, it was the closest thing to a real piano in terms of how it responded to my playing - by far. By its side, all other digitals felt, and sounded "electronic" when I played them. (By that, I mean that they didn't behave anything like real pianos, though perfectly acceptable as practice instruments).

Then I discovered that my choice was uniquely different from all other digitals at the time, because its sound engine was modeled......(though it took me a few more months before I found out the difference between modeling and sampling - thanks to you folks at PW thumb).


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My process was very simple. I had a hard low budget and looked at all recommendations online. There were only two consistent recommendations and the local store only carried one of them so after checking against prices online I went in and picked it up.

Having never played piano or keyboard before the sound or feel was a non-issue as I had no preference. I imagine my next purchase will be much harder and considered now I've been playing for a bit.

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Interesting (and honest) post kapelli, thank you.


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For me, it was balancing out:

. . . cost (I didn't want to go much over $1,000)

. . . action (which I _knew_ would be compromised, at that price, because I tried some more-expensive DP's);

. . . sound quality;

. . . "Features" -- connectivity, customizability of sound, "arrangement piano" features, voice selection,
. . . USB-drive audio recording, sequencer.

_Nothing_ in that price range had adequate amps and speakers; I expected to upgrade eventually, and did.

The PX-350 was ticking a lot of boxes, so I got it. Alternatives were the Yamaha P155 and P105, and low-end Roland (FP-20, I think). As it's turned out:

. . . the action is OK;

. . . I use Pianoteq for piano sounds at home, and I've occasionally used others in the General MIDI set;

. . . It's been connected into PA systems, it's MIDI'ed into my computer;

. . . I haven't used the "arranger" features or sequencer; I have used the rhythms occasionally for practice.

If I had to do it again, I'd make the same choice. Which, I suppose, makes it the _right_ choice.



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Originally Posted by Kawai James
Interesting (and honest) post kapelli, thank you.


Thanks James.
Take in mind Please, that Kawai per se is a wonderful piano. But it's just not corresponing with me. I just need different tonÄ™ character, and that one of Kawai is not making me wanting to spend hours with it.

It's like with women. Are blondes worse than brunettes? No, they just just different, and I want brunette, while Kawai is blond. That's the easiet way I can say about the Kawai sound. If you love brunettes you will never be fully happy with blond - and the oposite of course. In fact they are equal, but different.

I still think it's a great piano, but we just do not go well with each other.

Therefore, at the end, The final question I asked myself was:
do I want spending hours with it or not?
And if that was negative for whatever piano one can buy, regardless of actions, sound and all other things, than buying such piano makes no sense, because it will not be motivating you and giving the pleasure.

Other views may vary, but this is what I found most important (of course, in the price or quality bracket one is interested in).

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Initially I was set on the ES100, but then I tried the FP-30 and I ended up waffling on my purchase for several months. These two keyboards are so similar that the pros/cons tend to cancel each other out. I even printed out the manuals so I could learn to tweak the sounds & keys. That only further diminished the differences between them. For US$600 you get a lot of keyboard for the money, either one would have been the "right choice".

I nixed the Yamahas, for some reason I didn't click with them. I liked the Casio keyboards that I tried, but there were only 2 stores really far away that carried them.


My criteria

#1 I already have an acoustic in the house, the digital just needs to be good enough to accompany it.

#2 It needs to be robust enough for the amateur Latin Band gigs I join. Preferably with "that sound" that cuts through the mix.

#3 After that, I have to be happy with the sound and the feel of the keys.

For #1 It's a tie

For #2 Roland won because of its more aggressive sound. I'm also learning now that the Roland sound needs less tweaking "out of the box" to stand out in a mix or recording. I also learned I prefer the Kawai sound in smaller more intimate settings. (I wonder if Liszt would have preferred the Roland and Chopin the Kawai).

For #3 - On the sound side, both Kawai and Roland have done a bang up job with their Harmonic Imaging and Supernatural Modeling. But on the keyboard side, I feel that Roland out did themselves - for this price point. It's a really, really nice keyboard for the US$600 I paid. Very similar to the keys on the RD-800.

Side Notes:
Bluetooth will be a significant factor for me in future purchases. I didn't realize how convenient it really is until the FP-30. When I setup up the keyboard and didn't have to connect (or buy) any other wires!!! What a treat. I'm getting very, very (Very) comfortable with just walking up with my iPad or laptop and just using it without having to worry about those additional cables.


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It's too bad that pv88 isn't around to post on this topic.
Originally Posted by kapelli
I want brunette, while Kawai is blond. If you love brunettes you will never be fully happy with blond - and the oposite of course.
pv owns lots of pianos. It seems he loves blondes, brunettes, and redheads.

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