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#2697524 - 11 hours ago Kawai CA98...First Impressions  
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Tommy S Online content
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Greetings,

Just got the Kawai CA98 yesterday, what a lovely piano! Wanted to share my initial thoughts in case you're looking towards it. The folks I bought it from (Cordogan's Pianoland in Geneva, IL) tell me it's already very popular, believe they're going to order more already...and it just shipped to them this past week!

Basics:
It ships assembled due to the soundboard. Good news for the most part since no assembly required, however you or whomever delivers is will need to figure out the strategy of moving the 187 lbs to where you want it. I have it about 6 inches from a wall, and there is a Wall EQ setting for that. For planning purposes, the dimension is 57 1/3" (W) x 18 1/3" (D) X 37" (H). I have the Rosewood model, which looks great to my eye. It's a darker wood shade, and I like the red felting that is used with the keyboard. Overall build quality is excellent.

Keyboard:
Of course, key action and feel is subjective. For me, I really like the Kawai approach with the Grand Feel action. Coming from a Yamaha Arius, it's a world of positive difference. I do play a Steinway where I take lessons, so I have some experience from that as well as other acoustics. As expected, I felt the action of the CA98 was very similar to a CA97 keyboard as a comparison. I also really like the key feel and key shaping, the keyboard just feels very good to the hand. Keep in mind I'm just an early intermediate player, so don't have the ability to appreciate the nuances of a spectacular piano that something like a Steinway keyboard has. But for me, the keyboard is exactly what I was looking for.

Overall Sound Quality:
My main comparison at piano stores would be the CA67 and CA97 for the sound quality and my Arius at home. Again, not an expert in this area, but I would say that Onkyo (who I'm a fan of anyway) did a spectacular job with producing a sound system that doesn't color the sound at all and accurately reproduces across the full spectrum associated with a piano. I do like the soundboard too, depending on what piano/keyboard sound model you're using you can definitely feel the sound and resonance.

Also, it can be a very LOUD piano! In fact, after it was delivered I just plowed into one of the demo songs and had to turn it off until I figured out where the volume control was...the delivery guy had turned the piano on, so I initially thought the sound control was on the touchscreen. And really loud was only halfway up the slider! I'm not sure who needs to crank this up to 11, wear ear protection if you do!!

Overall though, really pleased with the quality of sound. If I'm just listening to one of the demo songs, I'd rate the sound production to be equal to a very good to excellent stereo system.

Touchscreen Experience:
There wasn't really any surprise here, since I watched a YouTube on it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Btgx7XIXJW8). Watch that and you're golden.

My experience has been positive with the touchscreen, as in it registers my touch just fine. Easy to read screen. As has been noted, you can set an option to have the screen turn down after a few moments. I initially enabled that, but I found that I ended up preferring to have the screen on. You can adjust the screen contrast, although not the brightness.

The menu system is very intuitive, super easy to follow.

Headphones:
If you're a headphone user, you'll be pleased. The jack is easy to get to and won't be in the way while playing. Sonic dimension in the headphones was very good. I listened with a pair of Audio Technical M40's, which are decent studio monitor headphones, handled the sonic spectrum accurately to my ears.

Bluetooth/USB:
USB works great, literal plug and play. USB folder organization shows up on the touchscreen, although doesn't show the entire file name so you'll need to think about what you name files. I tried with both MP3's and Midi files, worked flawlessly. Keep in mind that you can also adjust the volume of what is playing from the USB drive, appreciated that.

Was able to connect via Bluetooth, but no real experiments there yet. Bluetooth is 4.0, handles Bluetooth Midi and Audio. Definitely this was a feature that I wanted.

Other stuff:
Nice collection of demo and piano songs, although in the US you don't get the actual music either in a book or available for download (really?!). Paper was just a set of exercises (Hanon and other finger exercises). Lots of good lesson and exercise songs built in (Czerny, Chopin etudes, Alfred books).

Music stand works great, and is nice and wide. Several adjustments can be made to the angle.

Piano Models:
Ha, saved the best for last! If you've been reading about the CA78/98, you know that Kawai has two main modes for their sound engines: Pianist and Sound Mode. I'll give you my thoughts on both, definitely this is a subjective view of things, YMMV.

-Pianist Mode: Well, although Kawai markets this as their new modeling engine, it's the setting that I use the least. Keep in mind that I've not used the Virtual Technician to tweak it at all, but at the least it'll need some tweaking! Not sure if this is specific to my Kawai, but the C above middle C has an odd ringing, bell-like harmonic after you let off the key. In fact, most of the octave starting at that C has that quality. As well, while overall the sound of the Pianist Mode sounds good to really good, I do believe it needs some adjustments. Anyway, be sure to check this out and see if it's present for you.

But all is not lost, read on...

-Sound Mode: For me, this is really where the Kawai shines. At present, I have 3 favorite piano models: The SK-EX, the EX Concert Grand, and the Standard Grand. Each has it's own personality and each sounds fantastic to me. Keep in mind that the Pianist Mode is based around the SK-EX; I find that the SK-EX in Sound Mode keeps the same sound dynamic as the SK-EX in Pianist Mode, and also does NOT feature the rogue harmonic on the C above middle C. As well, Sound Mode features a much more extensive collection of Virtual Technician settings, so you can really customize. Build yourself your very own custom grand piano! :-)

I'm very happy with the sonic dimension and quality of the acoustic piano models in Sound Mode. As well, I think some of the other models sounds very good. Particularly some of the electric keyboard models sound great to my ears.

Final Thoughts:
I'm super pleased with the Kawai, I think it's a wonderful piano and I believe it will serve me well for many years to come. I think for the price, it's a seriously excellent musical instrument and would highly recommend to anyone to at least check out. Pianist Mode is something that I believe needs a little more work, probably the next piano software update (no one said that 50 years ago!) may handle and/or some work with the Virtual Technician.

I should also add thanks to this forum for lots of good advice on considering Kawai as the next piano. After I'd come across this amazing lady on YouTube who plays a Clavinova (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTjBY5ea179FvYICyTVw-eQ) I was convinced that a quality digital piano has amazing potential.

In every way, I'm happy with the CA98.

Last edited by Tommy S; 11 hours ago.
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#2697526 - 10 hours ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Tommy S]  
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Congrats on the CA98, Tommy - and thank you for such a thorough report!

#2697527 - 10 hours ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Tommy S]  
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Thanks so much for the early impressions! I’m going to look at one tomorrow. Might I ask what you paid in your neck of the woods? If I decide to pick it up would be useful to have a comparison vs MSRP smile


Instrument: Kawai ES110
Pieces In Progress:
  • Chopin Waltz in A minor Poshumous (almost performance ready)
  • Chopin Mazurka in B flat Major Op 7 (very much W.I.P.)
  • Beethoven "Easy Sonata" 20 No. 2 (just started)
#2697537 - 9 hours ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Tommy S]  
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Thanks, Tommy, for the awesome review! Wish Kawai had a better or more responsive dealer here because the best Kawai digitals which are imported to my country belong to the CN range. I've never been able to convince the main Kawai dealer that high-end digitals have their strong market -- something Yamaha dealers have heartily embraced to the extent that they're now selling the CLP 600 range of digital pianos including the CLP-685.

Last edited by Amirhsol; 9 hours ago.
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#2697539 - 9 hours ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Tommy S]  
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Congrats smile i orderd it too smile

Did you already make the update ? I read here that there is an update avaiable for the sound.

#2697541 - 9 hours ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Tommy S]  
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Congrats! I have the CS11 and lately have been feeling like the amplification could be a little cleaner. I bet the Onkyo electronics make a nice improvement. Despite that little nit-pick, I love playing mine and hope you love yours just as much.

#2697543 - 9 hours ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Tommy S]  
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The fact you preferred the legacy Sound mode over the Pianist mode is something that troubles me smile I am not very impressed with the previous CA-series sounds and was very much hoping the Pianist mode is much better and now there's your review that contradicts that... frown


https://myspace.com/evgenykumanov/music/songs
Currently: Kawai ES7 -> Garritan CFX Lite
Previously: Kawai MP6, Kawai CA63, Roland RD-700SX, Roland FP-5, Yamaha P90, Korg SP-200, Casio CDP-100
#2697545 - 9 hours ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: CyberGene]  
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Originally Posted by CyberGene
The fact you preferred the legacy Sound mode over the Pianist mode is something that troubles me smile I am not very impressed with the previous CA-series sounds and was very much hoping the Pianist mode is much better and now there's your review that contradicts that... frown

Of course, there's every chance that you won't agree with the OP's opinion - I've long since stopped paying much attention to what other people think about sound. If I haven't heard it for myself, I can't make any judgement - such is the subjectivity of sound preference. All other people's opinions can do it bias my mind - which is not actually useful for me. I do read about the features with interest though. It's a good review of the product.

#2697557 - 6 hours ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Tommy S]  
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The only thing i dislike (aside from the awful cabinet style) is the speaker sound which is shallowed in the bassline. No pressure. The cabinet is vibrating and all but for me, it doesn't sound right, similar to a low budget Arius.

Last edited by Tyr; 6 hours ago.

Current: Kawai CA-98B
My History: Yamaha CLP-545 | Yamaha YDP-163 | Yamaha P-115B | Thomann DP-26 | Yamaha EZ 220
#2697569 - 4 hours ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Tyr]  
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Originally Posted by Tyr
The only thing i dislike (aside from the awful cabinet style) is the speaker sound which is shallowed in the bassline. No pressure. The cabinet is vibrating and all but for me, it doesn't sound right, similar to a low budget Arius.


frown thats why i loved the Yamaha 675/685 so much, it sounds so good..
But i ordered in the end the 98, hope that what you described will Not be really a Problem smirk

#2697582 - 3 hours ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Tommy S]  
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Tyr Online content
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To be honest, the Kawai action and features wrapped in the 685 cabinet would be my ultimate DP. 3hearts


Current: Kawai CA-98B
My History: Yamaha CLP-545 | Yamaha YDP-163 | Yamaha P-115B | Thomann DP-26 | Yamaha EZ 220
#2697594 - 2 hours ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Tommy S]  
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Congrats! I just ordered a CA78 yesterday, waiting for it to be delivered. I live in the tropics where humidity level can shoot up to 90%, i’m worried that the sound board in CA98 will warp like my acoustic guitars. In the end i went for CA78 and hope everything will be fine when it comes.


Korg Kronos X 88, Roland DS61, Korg PA600, Kawai CA78, YAMAHA CP33
#2697595 - 2 hours ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Tyr]  
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cocoherz Online content
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Originally Posted by Tyr
To be honest, the Kawai action and features wrapped in the 685 cabinet would be my ultimate DP. 3hearts

Yes i think the same, even the clp 675 cabinet is nicer smile

You already played the clp 545, so how to you compare the sound in the basssline ?
Is the sound from the 98 in the bassline really so terrible ?

Last edited by cocoherz; 2 hours ago.
#2697602 - 1 hour ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: cocoherz]  
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Tommy S Online content
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Originally Posted by cocoherz
Congrats smile i orderd it too smile

Did you already make the update ? I read here that there is an update avaiable for the sound.


I didn't see the update on the Kawai site. Version 1.01 came shipped with it.

#2697603 - 1 hour ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Tommy S]  
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Congratulations on your piano.

Regarding the Pianist mode, I am surprised to find your observations - given it is their latest and great 'most real' Piano sound marketing claim. It is always good to hear real user experiences smile. Do let us know how you feel about it after you fiddle around with the virtual technician some more.

Osho

#2697604 - 1 hour ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Tyr]  
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Originally Posted by Tyr
To be honest, the Kawai action and features wrapped in the 685 cabinet would be my ultimate DP. 3hearts

So, the CS12 then? (or whatever it will be called...)


Kawai CA 97 | previously: Yamaha P-115 | years ago: Roland HP-800
My piano recordings on YouTube
#2697605 - 1 hour ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Tyr]  
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Tommy S Online content
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Originally Posted by Tyr
The only thing i dislike (aside from the awful cabinet style) is the speaker sound which is shallowed in the bassline. No pressure. The cabinet is vibrating and all but for me, it doesn't sound right, similar to a low budget Arius.


Well, coming from a low budget Arius (YDP 163), I can say the sound is much better in every dimension to my ears. Again, realize that sound perception is both subjective and dictated by room/environment but that said in particular to me is how good the bass end sounds. Not just in comparison to the Arius (no surprise there), but overall.

There's a lot of dimensions to sound EQ and sound quality that can also be adjusted, so I've been working with those a bit as well via Settings and Virtual Technician. Lots of sound tailoring options.

Certainly just my opinion on this, realize completely that the sound needs to work for the individual. Good luck in your search!

#2697610 - 1 hour ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: CyberGene]  
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Originally Posted by CyberGene
The fact you preferred the legacy Sound mode over the Pianist mode is something that troubles me smile I am not very impressed with the previous CA-series sounds and was very much hoping the Pianist mode is much better and now there's your review that contradicts that... frown


I was a bit more surprised than less bothered about Pianist mode. I'm moderately confident that the rogue harmonics that I get will be handled by future updates; I did spend some time today working with the Virtual Technical to see about adjusting the individual key volumes and such, but the harmonic issue is there for almost every setting. That said, Pianist Mode is by no means bad and if I didn't have a current holiday tune that I was playing that spent so much time hovering around those specific notes I might not even notice. From my perspective, Pianist Mode provides Kawai a sort of simple "Press and Go" sound model that (should) sound fantastic out of the box with basically no parameter fiddling. Kind of like the "Automatic" setting on a good digital camera. ("Sure, you can buy a Nikon and never have to worry about silly things like aperture and shutter speed with our EZ Mode" :-) ). Yes, there are some Virtual Technician adjustments one can make in Pianist Mode, but definitely a subset.

That said, the specific piano being modeled, the SK EX is also available in Sound Mode. No rogue harmonics at all, and for me I'm happy with all the sound adjustments I can make with the Virtual Technical in Sound Mode. I think that particular model sounds excellent in Sound Mode and in the short time I've had the piano I've played it quite a bit. I just happen to like the EX Grand a little bit more, but that's just personal preference. Either way, I have 0 expectation that Pianist Mode is going to come close to rivaling a $250K Kawai SK EX in sound. I have played some other Kawai acoustic grands and I do think the CA98 does a fantastic job with the actual keyboard action...which is a big factor in why I bought it.

I do plan to follow up with Kawai on the Pianist Mode though. Given the rogue harmonics are not present with other models, nor the SK EX in Sound Mode, I'm pretty confident it's the specific model/engine and not my specific instrument.

Last comment on models: I've used a number of well reviewed piano VST's played through a pretty decent set of studio monitors and I'm really impressed by the Kawai models. I couldn't say with complete surety how closely the Kawai CA98 models sound to the actual instrument, but I just like their overall sound and playability. There are at least 4 that are super high quality to me in the acoustic range and love two of the electric pianos. The other acoustics are fine, just not what I preferred.

All the best.

#2697615 - 51 minutes ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Tommy S]  
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Vadesriux Online content
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Another kawai pianos fan. Just ordered the CA78 from promusica.es, an actual music store in Badajoz, Spain. I live in Portugal. For someone who lives nearby it is a great option, with great online prices.

Anyway, back to the CA78. Extensive online and youtube search, as with almost everyone here. No chance to try it (or the CA98) in Portugal music stores. No one has them and stores simply dont display Kawai digital pianos, go figure it out. Only Yamahas and Rolands.
So I ordered based on online sound listening, video watching and professional pianists advices.
The keys action (Grand feel II), seems to be the big thing that draws professional pianists to Kawai CA's and MP's, so I had no trouble choosing, since I wanted to have a Piano+speakers all-in-one combo.

Cant wait to receive mine and start practising on it.
Great advice from Pianomanchuck (MP11), and also from Duo du Rêve (CA67), both professional pianists and Kawai piano users.

Last edited by Vadesriux; 36 minutes ago.

Eduardo
#2697617 - 45 minutes ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Tommy S]  
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cocoherz Online content
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Originally Posted by Tommy S
Originally Posted by cocoherz
Congrats smile i orderd it too smile

Did you already make the update ? I read here that there is an update avaiable for the sound.


I didn't see the update on the Kawai site. Version 1.01 came shipped with it.


There is an update avaiable on the europe homepage from kawai and Tyr here in the forum told that she has made an update which her dealer has given her.

#2697622 - 40 minutes ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Tommy S]  
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Vadesriux Online content
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No software or firmware update for Kawai CA78 and CA98 as yet.
Only for CA67/CA97 and CA and CS previous versions.

You can check on this link:
http://www.kawai-global.com/support/updates/

Last edited by Vadesriux; 37 minutes ago.

Eduardo
#2697627 - 24 minutes ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Vadesriux]  
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Originally Posted by Vadesriux
No software or firmware update for Kawai CA78 and CA98 as yet.
Only for CA67/CA97 and CA and CS previous versions.

You can check on this link:
http://www.kawai-global.com/support/updates/


Its perhaps only on the german website
https://www.kawai.de/support/downloadcenter/ca98/

#2697634 - 18 minutes ago Re: Kawai CA98...First Impressions [Re: Tommy S]  
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Tyr Online content
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Originally Posted by cocoherz
Originally Posted by Tyr
To be honest, the Kawai action and features wrapped in the 685 cabinet would be my ultimate DP. 3hearts

Yes i think the same, even the clp 675 cabinet is nicer smile

You already played the clp 545, so how to you compare the sound in the basssline ?
Is the sound from the 98 in the bassline really so terrible ?


The thing is, the difference between speaker mode and headphones wasn't that huge on the CLP-545 like it's on the CA-98. The whole experience between both is completely different. If i play the CA-98 with Headphones on (Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro) it sounds crystal clear with a meaty bassline and enormous pressure. Without, it feels like there is something missing. A thing that i haven't encountered on the CLP-545 in that manner. The lower keys produce a well and nice rounded aggressive sharp sound but not bass heavy enough. It's not a sample problem. I think the soundboard can't reproduce the bass like a subwoofer can do. I've searched about that but i haven't found a solution yet. Most people are fine with it so either it's my DP which is acting different from others or it's just me who doesn't like this sound.

Originally Posted by Tommy S
Originally Posted by Tyr
The only thing i dislike (aside from the awful cabinet style) is the speaker sound which is shallowed in the bassline. No pressure. The cabinet is vibrating and all but for me, it doesn't sound right, similar to a low budget Arius.


Well, coming from a low budget Arius (YDP 163), I can say the sound is much better in every dimension to my ears. Again, realize that sound perception is both subjective and dictated by room/environment but that said in particular to me is how good the bass end sounds. Not just in comparison to the Arius (no surprise there), but overall.

There's a lot of dimensions to sound EQ and sound quality that can also be adjusted, so I've been working with those a bit as well via Settings and Virtual Technician. Lots of sound tailoring options.

Certainly just my opinion on this, realize completely that the sound needs to work for the individual. Good luck in your search!


In Pianist Mode, you don't have most settings available and in sound mode there are options for everything but nothing takes effect to produce a more meaty bass. I could use an external amp so the sound is the same like the headphone one, but i just don't like it to use external hardware to achieve this.

Originally Posted by cocoherz
Originally Posted by Vadesriux
No software or firmware update for Kawai CA78 and CA98 as yet.
Only for CA67/CA97 and CA and CS previous versions.

You can check on this link:
http://www.kawai-global.com/support/updates/


Its perhaps only on the german website
https://www.kawai.de/support/downloadcenter/ca98/


This is the equalizer update i got in the past.

Last edited by Tyr; 12 minutes ago.

Current: Kawai CA-98B
My History: Yamaha CLP-545 | Yamaha YDP-163 | Yamaha P-115B | Thomann DP-26 | Yamaha EZ 220

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