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A family member of mine has a music store and wants to gift a Kawai piano to my family, primarily for my young boys to learn to play when they get older. I went and looked at them yesterday, however I am not a pianist myself (aside from some lessons at a much younger age) so the normal advice on this forum about action feel, how it plays etc. doesn't mean much for me. If anybody is able to offer advice, I'd certainly appreciate it.

The options are:
  • New 506N Console
  • New K15 "Continental"
  • New CA67 or CA97 Digital
  • Used (1980's or 90's) 803T Console
  • Used 1990's 503M with the original Anytime feature

Currently, I am leaning toward the CA97 or the 503 with the Anytime feature, mainly so that headphones can be used without disturbing the rest of the house. However, I have read that the first Anytime system uses mechanical switches instead of sensors so it may not sound that great. Additionally, if something goes wrong with the electronics on the CA97 or Anytime piano, I assume it's more costly to repair.

I don't plan on selling the piano so I'm looking for something that will last for 30+ years with minimal issues.

Any help or guidance would be appreciated.

Thanks!

Last edited by joshuaorion; 07/09/16 04:28 PM.
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since your family member is nice enough to gift a piano to you and he owns the piano store...
I am sure he'd be the best person to tell you which piano is best for your son

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I agree with wabbit. What a wonderful gift.

Given what you mentioned about wanting to use headphones, I would lean toward a CA series digital piano. On the other hand, if it's something you want to keep and use for 30+ years, an acoustic piano is preferable, so long as you're willing to invest in the needed maintenance a couple times per year.

Here's a review I wrote not long ago that includes commentary on the CA97:

http://www.pianobuyer.com/fall15/phone/17-review-kawai-digital-pianos-cn25-ca97-cp2.html


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Originally Posted by wabbit
since your family member is nice enough to gift a piano to you and he owns the piano store...
I am sure he'd be the best person to tell you which piano is best for your son


That is solid advice. He actually played every one for me (all sounded good - my ear isn't familiar enough to tell the differences between them), let me know their origin and said a lot comes down to the look we like. Even if I can narrow down to two, then I'll ask him his preference.


Originally Posted by terminaldegree
I agree with wabbit. What a wonderful gift.

Given what you mentioned about wanting to use headphones, I would lean toward a CA series digital piano. On the other hand, if it's something you want to keep and use for 30+ years, an acoustic piano is preferable, so long as you're willing to invest in the needed maintenance a couple times per year.

Here's a review I wrote not long ago that includes commentary on the CA97:

http://www.pianobuyer.com/fall15/phone/17-review-kawai-digital-pianos-cn25-ca97-cp2.html


Thanks for the link! I stumbled across that review a day or two ago and it was a good read. Sounds like the CA97 is quite a machine. I'm still concerned about the expected life-span of a digital compared to an Acoustic. Also thinking that if one of my son's takes a liking to Piano, will he "outgrow" the CA97 and want an acoustic console or upright instead down the road.

One last pondering is the ability to use the MIDI output from the CA97 to a computer or iPad to help "teach" them piano-- any experience with that, or is it even possible?

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Quote
Also thinking that if one of my son's takes a liking to Piano, will he "outgrow" the CA97 and want an acoustic console or upright instead down the road.


This is a definite possibility... I would say go for the acoustic, assuming you live in a house (not apartment) and have the space for it. Although having said that, if you can't put the piano in a room separate from the TV, a digital might be preferable...

Also re using software to teach piano, there may be some things that can be taught, but for the most part it will be limited and no comparison to what can be accomplished with a good (human) teacher. So that shouldn't be the deciding factor on digital vs. acoustic IMO.

Do your sons have an opinion? How old are they?


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Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
[quote]
Do your sons have an opinion? How old are they?


One is 3 and one is 6 months, so no opinion yet smile
The piano will be in a room below the kids bedrooms and the piano room doesn't have a door, thus my current leaning towards something that has headphones.

No doubt a good teacher will help ( and will be introduced when they get older), but things like Piano Tutor and Synthesia seem like they could be good practice aids or different ways to get their mind & fingers thinking other than just looking at sheet music.

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3 years old and 6 months? Um, yeah, you probably don't want them making the decision. laugh

I don't think you'll go wrong with the digital. And the door-less part is another reason too. If someone does take to it (who knows, maybe that will be you!) you can upgrade to an acoustic at that point several years down the road.

Enjoy whatever you decide!


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One last thought - I think that expecting a digital piano to perform for thirty years is probably unrealistic.

My 2 cents,


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Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
One last thought - I think that expecting a digital piano to perform for thirty years is probably unrealistic.

My 2 cents,


Hey Rich, what sort of issues would come up to cause a digital to not last 30 years? Just electronic component failures? How long do you normally see them lasting before issues start popping up?

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If I may add my two cents, I think it very well could "last" 30 years, but chances are that long before then you might almost start wishing that it would die so you could get a newer model. Unlike acoustic pianos, which don't really change all that much from year to year, digital piano development has been pretty rapid, and is likely to continue so.

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The thing is that digital piano manufacturers are unlikely to support their digital pianos for that long, 10 years maximum I'd bet. In case of failure, you'd need a replacement circuit board and mechanical components which would be incompatible from one to another and manufacturers would only be able to supply such parts for a limited length of time.

Acoustic pianos could last over 50 years or even longer because they share more or less the same mechanical structure and there are experienced and skilled piano tuners who are capable of repairing pianos that are a half century year old. It doesn't mean that they can fix any issues, but a lot more likely that acoustic pianos can be taken care of than digitals.

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Originally Posted by Yohei
The thing is that digital piano manufacturers are unlikely to support their digital pianos for that long, 10 years maximum I'd bet. In case of failure, you'd need a replacement circuit board and mechanical components which would be incompatible from one to another and manufacturers would only be able to supply such parts for a limited length of time.

Acoustic pianos could last over 50 years or even longer because they share more or less the same mechanical structure and there are experienced and skilled piano tuners who are capable of repairing pianos that are a half century year old. It doesn't mean that they can fix any issues, but a lot more likely that acoustic pianos can be taken care of than digitals.


I agree. But then i think there also is a psychological marketing factor: dp's somehow are consumer electronics, and thus "outdated" every other year by every brand.

But if you put all subsequent replacement models in a row and play them blindfolded, it needs at least a couple of generations leap to really feel an unmistakable advancement, as tiny as it is, and that already sums up to 4 to 5 years. And fact is, if you're happy with a good piano, you don't necessary compare it with every upgrade on the market.

So dp's last shorter than acoustics, but current trend is too short in my opinion.



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Originally Posted by Bellicapelli
I agree. But then i think there also is a psychological marketing factor: dp's somehow are consumer electronics, and thus "outdated" every other year by every brand.

But if you put all subsequent replacement models in a row and play them blindfolded, it needs at least a couple of generations leap to really feel an unmistakable advancement, as tiny as it is, and that already sums up to 4 to 5 years. And fact is, if you're happy with a good piano, you don't necessary compare it with every upgrade on the market.

So dp's last shorter than acoustics, but current trend is too short in my opinion.



Oh year I wouldn't mind using maybe a 5-7 year old digital piano under certain circumstances so long as it functions without an issue.

I was just talking about product support side of things. I think it's crucial to consider such factor especially when one is about to spend a couple of grand or more as a long term purchase, because once a digital piano goes out of support and fails in any function that affects playing (be it failure in keys or buttons) it could turn into a perpetual issue that cannot be resolved and the piano may become completely useless.

There are beauties in digital pianos such as the ability to play on headphones and make use of software pianos, and I love them. But to expect a digital piano to last over 20-30 years is not very realistic for the reasons with product support. It would of course be great if a DP lasts longer than that without an issue though.

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I just sold an old digital piano very cheaply to a group that wanted it for a chorus that may or may not pan out. The one thing they were concerned about was that one note was much louder than the others. They said that was a characteristic of older digitals. The sensors get dirty or something, and the response is no longer as uniform as it was when the instrument was newer. This was something that had never occurred to me before.

Uneven response happens to acoustic pianos, but it is just a voicing problem, not difficult to fix. I have no idea how difficult it is for a digital instrument.


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I think the digital makes a lot of sense for your situation. If you or your sons play for the next 30+ years, chances are you'll want to upgrade from any of the pianos you have to choose from anyway.

Since your sons are so young, very likely your piano is going to be sitting and waiting for them. For the digital, you don't have to do anything. Maybe put a dust cover on it. For the acoustic, it needs the dust cover and a tuning twice a year whether it gets played or not. Figure approximately 100 USD per tuning. Why not put that money into an envelope (or a savings account; they both earn the same amount of interest wink ) and put that toward an acoustic upgrade at some point in the future?


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I don't know about piano tutor as something to help you play piano, but I what I've seen of Synthesia, that's mostly a crutch that will prevent you from learning how to read real piano music. I'm probably old school and set in my ways, but learning from a teacher is the best and there are no short cuts to lots and lots of disciplined practice.

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Even if the CA97 lasts 20 years it'll just look and feel like old tech and may be uninspiring to play. But an acoustic piano is already old tech so even the new pianos 20-30 years from now will mostly likely be basically the same, just in better condition.

Also I wouldn't worry too much about the volume/noise. Headphones are nice, but I wouldn't get a digital over an acoustic just for the headphones - but if the acoustic had one of those player/disklavier/anytime devices that'd be a plus. Headphones are most useful when someone wants to practice late at night, otherwise someone practicing the piano at home is hardly annoying or too loud. It's not like playing the drums. I like listening to my daughter practice - and I think they like listening to me play.

EDIT: WRT to which Kawai. I don't know those models. Taller is usually better. Newer is usually better. Size might be more important than age assuming it's not too old. If you want it to last 30 more years then probably get something under 10 years old.

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A new Kawai acoustic model would still have the 10 year factory warranty in place by the time both of your kids would be playing it, if that sort of thing matters to you, for what it's worth.

The upright piano "practice pedal", which is a felt mute almost all new vertical pianos have, cuts down the sound volume significantly, though I don't like to practice on it that way for long periods of time, as it's less satisfying.

Speaking as a piano teacher, I usually prefer that parents can hear what young children are practicing during these sessions, so you know they're actually completing their lesson assignments instead of goofing around. This is less of an issue as students mature and develop the requisite concentration skills.


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Originally Posted by terminaldegree

Speaking as a piano teacher, I usually prefer that parents can hear what young children are practicing during these sessions, so you know they're actually completing their lesson assignments instead of goofing around. This is less of an issue as students mature and develop the requisite concentration skills.


This is a valid point - on the flip side, I think back to when I was playing and I think I would have been more inclined to play longer/more if I could practice (and screw up, over and over) without my family knowing that I was messing up.

Regarding the 10 year warranty, do you know how frequently, on a new acoustic, someone has to use the warranty? That is definitely something I need to think about, compared to even a mid-90's Acoustic

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It sounds like the acoustic might be a good choice for your family, at least for a few years.

I took lessons for several years on a Kawai K-15. If you decide to go the acoustic route, it would make a fine starter piano. It's not a great piano by any means, but it is consistent and holds a tuning. When my teacher played it to demonstrate something, she made it sound really nice.


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