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Re: Any news about a Kawai CA-97 successor? [Re: gvfarns] #2679576 10/03/17 09:29 PM
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Kawai James Offline
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Hello gvfarns, good to see you again!

Originally Posted by gvfarns
Anyway, that GF and GF2 action (I couldn't tell the difference between them as I went back and forth between them) really is a significant advancement over RM3 and very much worth it based on my experience today. This suggests that an old CA65 or something would be a very good deal. However I also find the SK-EX voice that is the new default to be much more pleasing than the EX that Kawai has been using (in various levels of fidelity) for years. For me, it was good enough for regular use and for my kids to practice on, so I bought a CS11. The incremental cost of the CS11 over the CA65, for example, is very large, but it looks really, really nice and has much better speakers. I fully expect that a replacement will come out soon, but I don't expect a lot of buyer's remorse when that does happen.


Sorry, I somehow missed this post amid the horse-based TV drama nostalgia trip provided by EssBrace and toddy. wink

Anyway, I just wanted to pass on my congrats for your recent piano purchase - I hope you and your family are enjoying it. I'm understandably biased, but I strongly believe that the CS11 is among the best digital pianos (in terms of overall touch, sound, and appearance) available today. I appreciated your comments regarding the SK-EX sound vs the EX too.

Kind regards,
James
x


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

"I agree that the User Manual is very good." - arc7urus, March 2019
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Re: Any news about a Kawai CA-97 successor? [Re: Kawai James] #2679587 10/03/17 10:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Kawai James
Anyway, I just wanted to pass on my congrats for your recent piano purchase - I hope you and your family are enjoying it. I'm understandably biased, but I strongly believe that the CS11 is among the best digital pianos (in terms of overall touch, sound, and appearance) available today. I appreciated your comments regarding the SK-EX sound vs the EX too.


Hi James. Glad to have you back after your (rather shorter) hiatus.

Yes, this piano is very exciting. I've been playing it a lot, as have my kids.

These are my initial comments on this piano:

Sound. For many years I felt that you can't have a really satisfying playing experience using the onboard sounds of a digital piano. In particular I had critical things to say about Kawai's Harmonic Imaging (I owned an older Kawai MP8). However, with the CA97, I haven't yet felt the need to plug in my VST's. I probably won't either. The latest generation of sounds is much better. Interestingly, the way you listen has a big effect of which sounds you like. Through headphones and through speakers in the showroom, the SK-EX had a sweeter and much more pleasant sound while the EX was a little rough. However, in my living room, on thick carpet, the EX is actually my preferred voice. I think it cuts through the absorptive acoustics in the room better. With high quality open headphones, the advantages of high-end sampled libraries are (still) clear, but not through the speakers and in my living room. This piano is for the family, not my personal tinkering. So I'm satisfied with the onboard sounds. You can even lengthen the decay dramatically through the settings, which is one of my major criticisms of onboard sounds in general--short decay teaches people to mash the petal too much.

Touch. While I was at the shop I spent some time playing the VPC1. It feels a lot like my old MP8 did. RM3 is, indeed, very similar to the previous AWA PRO. It's smooth and quiet, but it can be exhausting for me to play because it's heavy and sluggish, especially if you play deep into the keys. I played GF piano and some GF2's. I couldn't really tell the difference between these two actions, but there was a clear difference between them and RM3. Playing deep in the keys is much less exhausting and more satisfying. I went back and forth between GF and some grand pianos that were in the showroom. The major difference is that the acoustics bottom out in a much more abrupt and harsh manner. I'm sure Kawai could make this aspect more realistic, but people probably don't want it. My tendonitis is certainly glad GF bottoms out a little more gently. I'm still not a fan of including the letoff simulation but it is something you feel in acoustics, so I can't complain too hard. I'm tempted to get in and remove the little silicone tabs that provide the letoff simulation. Too bad the piano was so expensive--otherwise I would. For my own tinkering and fun I may buy an MP11. I played one while I was there. Great action, but I don't care for the onboard sounds or the interface. I just want a GF-based VPC2 for myself. Actually, I do think GF is sluggish when compared with an acoustic. An acoustic returns more quickly after playing. The triple sensor doesn't seem to completely mitigate this--probably should add a little spring or something. Still, it's acceptable as is. Lastly I still consider this a heavy action. Within the range of what is normal on pianos you run into, and perhaps typical of concert pianos, but heavier than most typical uprights you play. At least, that is my impression.

Form Factor. I paid the big bucks to have a family piano. This means furniture value and the speaker setup. It looks and feels and sounds like an acoustic. Not a $200K grand, but a nice acoustic upright. The MDF the CA family is made of would be in danger from my rough children and the look wasn't that my wife wanted. The speakers are nice too, by digital piano standards. One reason to buy a digital is to use headphones (or rather, make your kids do so) but it is awfully nice to sit down and play a no-hassle piano and have my family sing along or something. Was the cabinet and speaker setup worth the probably $3,000 I paid extra? If I was single or still living on a grad student income, I would say no. But I'm a grown up now (sigh) with a wife and a home to think about.

Annoyances. This is a full size and weight upright case (weighing over 200 pounds). Yet it lacks a couple of niceties that I expected. For example, the key cover doesn't have a soft-fall mechanism. What the heck, Kawai? I thought every acoustic made in the last decade would have that. All of the Kawai acoustics in the shop seemed to have them. And how about a little felt cloth to lay on the keys? Don't cheap out on the little things. The LCD isn't real nice either. How about a nice OLED display like we have on our phones? They can't cost that much at that resolution. The menu system is only "meh." I may change my mind on this when I'm more accustomed to and familiar with it. The piano overall is a crazy fingerprint magnet, but that's exactly the look I was seeking so I can't exactly call it a deficiency. Lastly, the black keys are textured too much. I've never thought it made sense to try so hard to emulate ivory on white keys, but at least the final white key texture is fine. Making these black keys feel like they need a good sanding is just silly. It's wood. We get it. All piano keys, white or black, should have the same texture and none of them should absorb sweat. Yuck. All these annoyances are small, but they are also easily fixed as well.

Competing Products. I could have bought myself a Yamaha AvantGrand N1 or N2 instead, but I have played these and I don't like the action (believe it or not). I actually think the AvantGrand sounds are pretty good, as are the speakers. I played a bunch of plastic action Kawais while I was there and didn't care for any of them in the least. If I was going plastic I'd get a Yamaha or Roland (still never played a recent-action Casio). The high-end Rolands in nice cabinets are outstanding and would have done very well, but I've played for many, many years on Kawai (acoustics and digitals) so I guess I have some brand loyalty at this point, though I hate to admit that bias.

Last edited by gvfarns; 10/03/17 11:03 PM.
Re: Any news about a Kawai CA-97 successor? [Re: gvfarns] #2679591 10/03/17 11:13 PM
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Thank you very much for your detailed feedback.

Please allow me to comment on a handful of your points.

Originally Posted by gvfarns
Through headphones and through speakers in the showroom, the SK-EX had a sweeter and much more pleasant sound while the EX was a little rough. However, in my living room, on thick carpet, the EX is actually my preferred voice. I think it cuts through the absorptive acoustics in the room better.


Ah, that's interesting. This could explain why some customers prefer the EX to the SK-EX...although these things are obviously subjective.

Originally Posted by gvfarns
I played GF piano and some GF2's. I couldn't really tell the difference between these two actions, but there was a clear difference between them and RM3. Playing deep in the keys is much less exhausting and more satisfying.


Yes, I have heard similar comments from players who have tried both types of action. I believe it would be preferable for the differences in touch between RM3 and GF to be reduced, especially as in the US the former action is only available in the VPC1 - a product that is typically sold online rather than in brick and mortar stores.

Originally Posted by gvfarns
For example, the key cover doesn't have a soft-fall mechanism. What the heck, Kawai? I thought every acoustic made in the last decade would have that.


Yes, that's a valid criticism. Definitely a strong feature request for the next generation model.

Originally Posted by gvfarns
The LCD isn't real nice either. How about a nice OLED display like we have on our phones?


We'll see about that too. wink

Originally Posted by gvfarns
The menu system is only "meh." I may change my mind on this when I'm more accustomed to and familiar with it.


This may not be a solution for everyone, however if your family own an iPad, you could use the Virtual Technician and Sound Museum apps to adjust settings and select sounds. The apps support Bluetooth MIDI too, which should be possible using a $50 interface like the Quiccosound mi.1 or Yamaha equivalent MD-BT01.

Originally Posted by gvfarns
I've played for many, many years on Kawai (acoustics and digitals) so I guess I have some brand loyalty at this point, though I hate to admit that bias.


I appreciate your honesty.

Thank you once again for your comments.

Kind regards,
James
x

ps. My apologies for referring to you by your Christian name in my previous post. I realised that you may not want this revealed online, so have edited my post.


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

"I agree that the User Manual is very good." - arc7urus, March 2019
Re: Any news about a Kawai CA-97 successor? [Re: Schuberto] #2679595 10/03/17 11:20 PM
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Kawai James Offline
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By the way, I'm curious as to where you were able to play-test the VPC1.

Kind regards,
James
x


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

"I agree that the User Manual is very good." - arc7urus, March 2019
Re: Any news about a Kawai CA-97 successor? [Re: Kawai James] #2679597 10/04/17 12:19 AM
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No worries about using my name. Not a big deal nor a secret.

Originally Posted by Kawai James
By the way, I'm curious as to where you were able to play-test the VPC1.


The Kawai shop here is big. They had every Kawai instrument you could want, including ones you often don't see in brick-and-mortar like the VPC1 and MP11. They had the one that has concert magic and the CE220. Had some deprecated models as well. It was over an hour's drive from my home but well worth it. They had a large selection of acoustics too (every size of the GL, GX, and Shigeru lines) and I was the only customer there most of the time. Plenty of time to play everything for a long time. I didn't notice an EX but I wouldn't be surprised if they had one. I'll PM you the name of the place.

I do wish we had shops like Bonners in the US. Then we would be able to demo the various brands without having to travel from one store to the other. This was great for demoing the whole Kawai line, though.

Re: Any news about a Kawai CA-97 successor? [Re: Schuberto] #2679616 10/04/17 06:19 AM
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I saw a VPC1 at Maus Piano here in Raleigh. But it was not "hooked up". No computer or VST. I can see why it's mostly sold online.

I also saw a CS11. Great piano. I was tempted. I only had a lunch break so I had little time to try all of the available pianos. But I was instantly pleased even with the short time spent with the CS11. Nice choice, gv.

Re: Any news about a Kawai CA-97 successor? [Re: Schuberto] #2679685 10/04/17 01:44 PM
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The VPC1 I demoed was also not hooked up. But it only took about 10 seconds playing it silent to know that it was extremely similar to my old MP8 in terms of feel.

What's with these stores not providing a computer and VST? One wonders if they actually wanted to sell it. Possibly not.

Re: Any news about a Kawai CA-97 successor? [Re: gvfarns] #2679704 10/04/17 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by gvfarns
The VPC1 I demoed was also not hooked up. But it only took about 10 seconds playing it silent to know that it was extremely similar to my old MP8 in terms of feel.

What's with these stores not providing a computer and VST? One wonders if they actually wanted to sell it. Possibly not.


I've played a VPC-1 in-store with a computer/VST before (iirc, it was a tiny netbook running PT5, but both the speakers and headphones provided were extremely small/cheap).

I think the added effort needed (computer, software, speakers, setup, occasional reboots/etc.) make it hard for a typical piano store to go to the trouble to show off what the VPC-1 can do. I almost feel Kawai needs to step in and create a "demo kit" or kiosk if they want it auditioned in a store, though it's probably so niche/low-volume that it would hardly be worth the logistics/money, if they could instead use that to show off the ES-110/ES8...


Yamaha P-85, P-105, CP50, Kawai MP11 || Kawai NV-10
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