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Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
#2587603 11/15/16 10:03 PM
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One of my son is going to college next year with a surprisingly large dorm room. Though he could major in music (piano performance) he decided to pursue another major but minor in music instead.

We are looking to get some kind of keyboard for him so that he can play in his room using headphones. Though they have practice rooms, piano has been the primary way for him to unwind at the end of a day so a digital piano/keyboard of some kind in his room would be great.

His greatest priority is a realistic touch for performance practice. Currently we have quite a decent grand at home. I also helped our church pick up a Yamaha Avant Grand N2 which has a nice touch though the sound lags far behind even a good acoustic upright.

We are thinking of getting the Avantgrand N2 for his dorm room but that may necessitate selling off the grand at our home to finance. We rather not do that if possible.

What other electric keyboards that has a realistic touch? He is willing to sacrifice some tone for a better touch and control. The one we had the most experience with was the Roland V which we picked up as a demo some years back for $2750 and then returned. We regret that, given how much Vs are running now. I've just read about the Kawai MP11 which is more affordable.

Anyways, LOVE to have comments/suggestions as to what to get for our son. Piano is so much an integral part of his life and we can't imagine him not having a 'piano' of some type in his room.

THANKS in advance for any help.


Last edited by faulhorn; 11/15/16 10:20 PM.
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Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
faulhorn #2587617 11/15/16 10:55 PM
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Hello faulhorn,

Assuming that you will opt for a portable 'slab' type instrument, I would recommend the following models:

With built-in speakers
- Kawai ES8
- Roland FP-90

Without built-in speakers
- Kawai MP11
- Roland RD-800
- Yamaha CP4

Another option to consider might be a controller-only product such as the Kawai VPC1. This would require your son to use a computer running virtual piano software, however this may not be a problem if he already owns a reasonably modern Mac or Windows PC.

I hope this helps.

Kind regards,
James
x


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Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
faulhorn #2587635 11/16/16 01:38 AM
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It does sound like you have some room to spare for a console sized piano. Action-wise, I would focus the search on:

- Yamaha Avant Grand (you know this already)
- Roland pha-50 in the FP-90, HP605, LX-7 and LX-17 (I haven't tried this action yet but it is supposed to be better than the PHA-IV Concert and Ivory Feel G, both of which I enjoy playing).
- Kawai Grand Feel (and GF2) in the MP11 and a number of their console pianos like the CA-97 and CS-11. This is such a nice authentic grand action, I do feel it is a tad on the light side. Kawai's RM3 in the VPC1 controller feels just as good IMO but is a bit heavier.
- Casio has a nice grand action developed with Bechstein, haven't tried it either but have heard good things about it.
-Yamaha's higher end Natural Wood X actions are supposed to be quite good, particularly on the Clavinova CLP-575 and 585 that have letoff simulation as well as linear 88-key grading.

Everything not Avant Grand won't break the bank but I think it does come down to trying them and seeing if they suit your son's needs.


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Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
faulhorn #2587644 11/16/16 02:27 AM
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Given that this is a college dorm room, perhaps with roommates, I'd second James on a slab without speakers. Stand it on end in a closet when not in use, so it's out of the way and out of danger.


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Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
faulhorn #2587672 11/16/16 07:49 AM
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As stated, 'the N2 sound is far behind even an acoustic upright.' If you liked the V piano, you will love the new Rolands (LX, HP, FP-90, etc..)

The action on the new Rolands is much better than the action on the V series. The PHA-3 action is too light, plasticy, and loud. The escapement simulation is also over-done in comparison to the new PHA-50.

The Kawai action is good, but the sound (dynamics, overtones/resonances, and complex behavior), as with all sampled pianos, is lagging behind Roland's Physical modeling. Try the new Rolands and then get back to us with your impressions.

Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
faulhorn #2587674 11/16/16 08:11 AM
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There have been some great suggestions in this thread. I recommend a slab-type as well. You will have to buy a stand and a bench, I recommend getting a table stand like this one: table top stand

It folds up in case he needs to put it away, but also makes it easy to move. You may not even need to invest in speakers if he will be primarily using headphones, so I wouldn't bother with those at first.

I own the Kawai MP11, and I think the action is a joy to play. The best thing, however, is if your son likes the action. So do have him go and try these different DPs. If you aren't able to find an MP11 in store, then playing the Kawai CA67/97 will be similar, although not the same action.

Also try out the other slabs James mentioned. They are all pretty much in the same price range, and no need to sell the acoustic to fund it. I'm sure there will be something your son likes among these.

Last edited by Morodiene; 11/16/16 08:11 AM.

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Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
faulhorn #2587698 11/16/16 10:29 AM
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Hi faulhorn,

although not anymore in college, I am looking just for the same thing... best key action for practice with headphones; although I will go for a nice cabinet version. My brief background... I have been playing piano from age 6 for about 16 years, thereafter only occasionally during college and not at all during approximately the past five years. I now want to pick up playing again.

I visited two stores last weekend and tried the following digital pianos: Kawai CA-67 (unfortunately they didn't have the 97), Casio GP-300 and GP-500, Roland HP-605 (they didn't have the LX versions, but the action is exactly the same in all of them) and Yamaha CLP 545, 575 and 585 and the AvantGrand NU1 and N1. I played only for a short time, and I will definitely go in again and try them a bit more with better headphones during the next week. Here are some first impressions of the key actions only (based on my personal taste, you may like a different feel) :

I didn't like the Kawai CA-67. It felt too plastic-y and too light for my taste.
I wasn't very fond of the Casios, although marketed as "hybrid" using a GP inspired action, they felt way too light for my taste.
The Roland HP-605 felt surprisingly well, although I played it only very briefly... I will have to give it another thorough try.
Out of the Yamahas, I was really unimpressed with the 545, 575 and I must say also with the NU1 (felt very light; it tries to simulates an upright piano, in my view not very well and I didn't like it at all, although I don't mind playing on normal uprights). The only Yamaha action coming close to a real piano in my view was that of the Yamaha CLP-585. It is a noticable improvement over the CLP-575 in my opinion. The N1 is still slightly better, but the difference is not too dramatic. (I should also mention that I am someone who doesn't like the Yamaha feel in GPs.)

I am not considering buying a silent piano, as the prices are even higher and I don't want to have the hassle with tuning adn weigh... as I will be moving at least once during the coming two years. Moreover, silent pianos are uprights and I would like to have more of a GP action feel. After the first test run with the digital pianos, I think I will have to play the Yamaha CLP-585 and the Roland HP-605 (altough I would probably buy the LX-7; the key action is identical) more thoroughly as I will consider one of these two for purchase.

I will apreciate any thoughts/comments on my first impressions and any tips for a future purchase. Thanks.

Last edited by m1ch4L; 11/16/16 10:32 AM.
Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
faulhorn #2587703 11/16/16 10:47 AM
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Hello,

one real important thing (at least for me) is the pivot point. If the pivot point is further away from the keys, the force to press a keys is more equal (inside the keys much the same as on the edge)
I think the Kawai GF(II) are the only ones (besides Yahama Avant Grands of course), which have the same far pivot distance as a grand piano.

This was one of the main reasons I bought a Kawai CS11 (very happy with it).

Daniel



KAWAI CS11 (sold KAWAI CA 97), KAWAI GX2 acoustic grand piano (sold SCHIMMEL acoustic upright)
Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
faulhorn #2587714 11/16/16 11:23 AM
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FWIW:

As a student, he _will_ have a PC.

A Kawai VPC-1 MIDI keyboard, and a pair of monitor speakers (if desired), and a software piano, might do the job.

I don't know how the VPC-1 action compares to the newer Roland /Kawai/ Yamaha slab-piano actions -- any comment from owners? It was considered to be the bee's knee's when it appeared, a few years ago.




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Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
Charles Cohen #2587722 11/16/16 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
FWIW:

As a student, he _will_ have a PC.

A Kawai VPC-1 MIDI keyboard, and a pair of monitor speakers (if desired), and a software piano, might do the job.

I don't know how the VPC-1 action compares to the newer Roland /Kawai/ Yamaha slab-piano actions -- any comment from owners? It was considered to be the bee's knee's when it appeared, a few years ago.




The VPC-1 feels a bit heavier than the GF in the MP11/CA65/95 (can't compare to the GF II in CA67 etc). So for those who feel the GF is too light, this might be a good solution.

Also, using software piano sound will beat out pretty much any digital piano sound out there, so it's a good idea for a student.

A note about the GF action, I, too, felt it was light, and I like a really heavy action. So I changed the settings in the Virtual Technician to Dynamic voicing, and I use the Heavy touch setting. These two things resolved the problem for me, and it's a joy to play on.


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Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
Morodiene #2587767 11/16/16 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
FWIW:

As a student, he _will_ have a PC.

A Kawai VPC-1 MIDI keyboard, and a pair of monitor speakers (if desired), and a software piano, might do the job.

I don't know how the VPC-1 action compares to the newer Roland /Kawai/ Yamaha slab-piano actions -- any comment from owners? It was considered to be the bee's knee's when it appeared, a few years ago.




The VPC-1 feels a bit heavier than the GF in the MP11/CA65/95 (can't compare to the GF II in CA67 etc). So for those who feel the GF is too light, this might be a good solution.

Also, using software piano sound will beat out pretty much any digital piano sound out there, so it's a good idea for a student.

A note about the GF action, I, too, felt it was light, and I like a really heavy action. So I changed the settings in the Virtual Technician to Dynamic voicing, and I use the Heavy touch setting. These two things resolved the problem for me, and it's a joy to play on.


When I was testing out some Kawai acoustics recently and then ran downstairs to the digital room to compare, there was a CA97 side by side with a Ca17 with the same VPC1 action, so I could literally jump between them, so with that in mind.

My beginners view: I make no bones about saying that the two feel appreciably different to me in touch weight and feel, granted GF 2 is not the same as GF 1 and I never tried GF 1.

I really grew to love the Ca67 for its action having been back to try it several times. Regardless of the sounds which I am less fond of, I will say it is not the first time I have done these tests either.

To me it seems the VPC1 is really for the kind of player that likes a heavier action, is used to that, then, it will undoubtedly be great.

While I have not played acoustics much at all, recently I had some good long hour sessions on them. Thus far, out of the acoustics I tried there wasn't one in there I tried that felt as heavy as the VPC1 to play. I am not saying they don't exist, I am sure they do.

For someone like me with a softer touch I really can't enjoy the VPC1 action quite as much, it feels quite rugged and very manly as it were, for a better a word laugh

A Roland with PHA 50 or GF2, no complaints whatsoever in that department I have now.

Also, coming from the Casio and used to that, not being used to escapement and all that, I had little struggle the last time I was back to get softer tone as well out of the CA67 on a normal touch setting, as well as play "through" the escapement without getting silent notes problems. In fact it almost felt much like a piano where I could say, yes, I know this now to some degree, its familiar. Much more compared to when I first touched it.

Transitioning to the Kawai acoustics felt very natural indeed coming from GF 2, not that it felt exactly the same, but close enough so that the GL series of pianos felt familiar the first time I played them right from the start.

To add, I was in fact amazed on the one steinway Os I played for some length for over an hour, how effortless that was to play, I don't think I ever felt anything like it, getting a softer darker tone out of it wasn't that hard without getting that silent note issue either.

By all means, for added info in this thread, watch the pianomanchuck videos on youtube where he compares the action of the MP11 and VPC1, his voice will be far more an authority than mine,and of course the expert Morodiene above. It is all relative to experience, however, I disagree what pianomanchuck says about how insignificant those differences are, to me the differences are more than just subtle If GF 2 is indeed almost the same as GF 1.

Also, you will hear some say, I couldn't feel a difference between GF1 and GF 2. Others say it has improved considerably, it feels quite different, go figure that one out laugh

I also have a sort of notion in my head, rightly or wrongly, that if one is born to do things in a naturally heavy handed way or a person is just naturally heavy handed, you are also less likely to feel the more subtle differences in those actions, versus someone else who is more inclined to be of a naturally light touch. In other words their respective feelings when asked, how long is a piece of string, long or short, their view will be different.

In the end, The VPC1 action feels heavier, not just the shorter overall pivot near the end of the keys, but overall compared to GF2, to me that is anyway.

It is easier to play rapidly on GF 2 or do a quick trill and again little easier on the Roland for me than the VPC1.

Whatever people say about making a light touch curve that merely just provides an illusion to a lighter touch. I just don't think my brain is fooled that easily, it doesn't change how effortless or how much effort is required to play any given action when I do that test, In the end it really doesn't change my perception of an action and/or how I would describe the ones I experimented with.

In the same way that many say the Casio hybrid is light, I don't entirely agree, What I feel is this, it's static down weight to engage a key is actually quite high, but then the inertia takes over and when in motion and it is quite light so it feels overall fluid. When playing softly the lack of escapement may catch some out that are familiar with playing actions with escapement, that may confuse some ... I speculate.

Now, To back up the last couple of paragraphs in what was effectively a blind test scenario, the first time I tried any Roland at all, it was the LX7 I could feel the key weight, it didn't feel it was too light at all, lovely to the touch, but I was overplaying it by miles. I immediately suspected the touch curve, indeed I went into the setting and found someone had changed it, it was indeed set to 28/100 in touch, probably a synth player had been on it before me laugh.

I changed it back to 50/100 all was fine. That light touch setting didn't at all give the immediate impression to say that action was really light, but I could clearly hear immediately I was overplaying what I was trying to play, producing an unpleasantly loud tone.

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Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
faulhorn #2587844 11/16/16 05:49 PM
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Quote
I didn't like the Kawai CA-67. It felt too plastic-y and too light for my taste.
I wasn't very fond of the Casios, although marketed as "hybrid" using a GP inspired action, they felt way too light for my taste.
The Roland HP-605 felt surprisingly well, although I played it only very briefly... I will have to give it another thorough try.


?? The action of CA-67 is entirely made of wood and significantly heavier than the HP605.

Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
faulhorn #2587925 11/17/16 02:35 AM
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Thank you everyone for your comments. Amazing forum really - post a question and get almost a dozen replies. You have all given us a good list to start with.

Yes, a slab may be the best bet. We already have the bench and rack to put any keyboard on. All we need is a keyboard.

My son does prefer a long pivot like an acoustic grand along with heavier keys as our grand is slightly on the heavy side. He finds it helpful as that makes recitals easier when he gets on other unfamiliar pianos. He finds it easier to go to an unfamiliar piano which has lighter action than heavier than what he normally practices on.

Thanks again everyone - keep the suggestions coming if anyone has more insight.

Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
faulhorn #2588705 11/20/16 08:14 AM
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You need an action that can play deep into the keys without uneven pressure. That should be one of your number one check off lists. So basically you need a DP with a long pivot point which mimics the feel of your Grand Piano at home. Especially on more advance pieces, its bad technique to force the inner notes.

Kawai ca67 (or 97/cs11 for better speakers)
Casio gp500 (or gp300 but lower sound quality)
And the pricier Yamaha N1 with great action.

I don't think Roland has even weightness the further you play into the keys (the last time I checked).

Last edited by lamadoo; 11/20/16 08:21 AM.
Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
faulhorn #2594676 12/14/16 04:11 AM
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Hi. So what did you choose in the end if I may ask. After playing the DPs for a bit more. My preference has shifted toward the Yamaha CLP-585 (as I don't want to invest into the N1).

With the Kawai CS-11 and CA-97, I didn't like the sound, although I really like the action. With the Rolands I am not fond of the keys. The Casios are too light for my taste. With the Yamaha CLP-585, I really like the sound and find the keys good. It does nothing which would bother me.

Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
faulhorn #2594677 12/14/16 04:31 AM
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Hi Faulhorn

If you liked the PHA-50 action, you might want to go and see if you can try eyeball the Roland FP-90
https://www.roland.com/us/products/fp-90/ They also make a console style stand for it.


There is also another style - the DP603, which is a less portable solution but seemed doable to us when we were on the fence about it - We purchased an HP605 recently and like it more and more each day. Very happy with our choice of a modelled over sampled piano but it is definitely not portable ^^

Last edited by Goss; 12/14/16 04:32 AM.

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Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
faulhorn #2594724 12/14/16 09:38 AM
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Lamadoo, the GP500 and N1 have 21.5cm from tip to pivot point, the Roland PHA50 has 22.
Haven't tested the GP500, the N1 is rather good, but at a very high price point, the PHA50 is remarkably grand piano-like - I tested it along side steinways, yammies and boesendorfers and it help up very well. It's a joy to play as far as I'm concerned.

Faulhorn, given that he goes to college, I also think you should go for a slab factor. I just want to add that he might have friends over sometimes, so having a slab with sounds and speakers (not just a controller or a speakerless slab) might prove a plus. It may also be a good resale factor in case that is ever intended.
The action in the FP90 is as good as it gets in slabs, as far as I'm concerned. The one in the MP11 is also very good, also I have a preference for the former. A contender from Kawai with speakers is the ES8 - also a very well rated action, although arguably not as good. Didn't really like the Yamaha actions in this price range. They're ok, but the alternatives are better.
Make the effort to travel to some shops which have these models in stock. Since it's a rather significant purchase, the time and money spent doing this will be a good investment!
Good luck with the purchase!

PS. Indeed, do consider the HP603 - the console style on which you can place speakers/ a display, sheets, the stable stand and fixed pedals, the key cover are all things that come in handy, if you can live with the portability compromise.

Last edited by mcoll; 12/14/16 09:40 AM.
Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
mcoll #2594751 12/14/16 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by mcoll
Lamadoo, the GP500 and N1 have 21.5cm from tip to pivot point, the Roland PHA50 has 22.
Haven't tested the GP500, the N1 is rather good, but at a very high price point, the PHA50 is remarkably grand piano-like - I tested it along side steinways, yammies and boesendorfers and it help up very well. It's a joy to play as far as I'm concerned.

Faulhorn, given that he goes to college, I also think you should go for a slab factor. I just want to add that he might have friends over sometimes, so having a slab with sounds and speakers (not just a controller or a speakerless slab) might prove a plus. It may also be a good resale factor in case that is ever intended.
The action in the FP90 is as good as it gets in slabs, as far as I'm concerned. The one in the MP11 is also very good, also I have a preference for the former. A contender from Kawai with speakers is the ES8 - also a very well rated action, although arguably not as good. Didn't really like the Yamaha actions in this price range. They're ok, but the alternatives are better.
Make the effort to travel to some shops which have these models in stock. Since it's a rather significant purchase, the time and money spent doing this will be a good investment!
Good luck with the purchase!

PS. Indeed, do consider the HP603 - the console style on which you can place speakers/ a display, sheets, the stable stand and fixed pedals, the key cover are all things that come in handy, if you can live with the portability compromise.


I take it, then, that where the main criteria is "feel" (not sound) the HP603 or FP90 will be a noticeable step up from my Kawai es 100??? I find the action on the es is OK, but not in fact very piano-like. No let-off and very, very light.


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Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
faulhorn #2594755 12/14/16 11:26 AM
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johnlewisgrant I would say both feel and sound will be a step up from the kawai ES 100.

The PHA-50 action was for us in the goldilocks zone - not too heavy, not too light white and black feel pleasant

Soundwise I for us best described as no it does not sound like *insert name of well known piano here* but it sounds and behaves like a piano, with a very convincing interaction between notes and looong decays that don't sound canned. The modelling really won us over. The speaker systems on anything below the top end models will not convince in all keys - but that is why we got a good pair of headphones. This was true for all the pianos we tried below 3000€. The LX17 sounded wónderful in this regard, but our bank account said no ^^


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Re: Best digital keyboard for classical practice w. headphone?
faulhorn #2594942 12/15/16 04:33 AM
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I think Goss said it best.

I have never played the ES100, but afaik its action is in the same league with the Roland's Ivory Feel G and Yamaha's GHS (although different, but same league).
The PHA50 and Kawai's GF2 are a big step-up from those and they both feel remarkably like real grands. I liked the feel of the PHA50 even better than the GF2, although I would be very very content with either. IMHO those are the 2 actions to consider if the best feel is your concern. And personally I don't like the avangrand action any better, despite it being the real thing. Never tested the latter with a VST though, maybe I'd feel differently.

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