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Yamaha or Kawai; digital or acoustic? Couldn’t decide, so...
#2845043 05/04/19 10:09 AM
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... I got one of each!

Warning: Very long posts ... shorter version is the title of this thread.

Part 1: I returned to the piano after 40 years away with a Yamaha DGX-660, bought around Thanksgiving 2017. It has served me very well and, with two hours of practice every day, has brought me back to a decent intermediate level over the last 17 months. Though not quite my level as a teenager after 10 years of lessons, numerous exams and recitals.

The 2018 launch of the Yamaha P-515 tempted me into looking at an upgrade, and I visited my local dealer last year to try out its NWX action on the Yamaha CLP-645. I liked NWX better than the GH3 action on lesser CLPs, but didn't love it. What I did love was the GF II action on the Kawai CA78 that I tried the same day, but that was out of my price range. So I took a break from looking, until a few months ago.

Returned to the dealer with a higher budget and tried out every Yamaha and Kawai digital, but couldn't make up my mind after numerous visits. The firm action of the CLP-685 appealed once, but most of the time it was the Kawais that I preferred. Didn't like the boomy bass of the CA78, so perhaps the CA98 with its soundboard was the one for me. Though the sound of the CA98 didn't exactly shine in the showroom; it was in too big a space and felt weak. It would sound better at home, but ...

All the talk of hybrids on this forum made me wonder about them, though there were none within three hours drive for me. My dealer, sensing a flexible budget, tried to tempt me into a Yamaha N1X he could order, but that seemed too much. I did drive three hours round-trip to check out Roland’s PHA-50 action, which I preferred to the Yamaha’s NWX, though still felt Kawai’s GF II was the best. But then ...

I made the mistake of trying an acoustic grand on my way out of the dealer one day. Just an entry level five-foot Pearl River, it blew away the digitals in terms of control and color. The dynamic range was impressive and the sound swirling around me lovely. Oh my, life was about to get more complicated!

Re: Yamaha or Kawai; digital or acoustic? Couldn’t decide, so...
Lotus1 #2845044 05/04/19 10:09 AM
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Part 2: I started wondering why I was looking at higher-end digitals. I live in a detached house, a good distance from any neighbor, and never use headphones. The attraction of digitals was their lower price, the lack of need for tuning and regulation, plus their recording and learning features, but ... perhaps I could keep the DGX that I loved and add an acoustic?

So I checked out Larry Fine's The Piano Book from the library and read it cover-to-cover in a couple of days. An incredible book, with its free supplements online, taught me everything I needed to know. Were acoustics really that scary to maintain, how did a grand action work, scale design, soundboards, bridges, hammers, pricing, all of it sunk in over the next few weeks. I checked out Arthur Reblitz's book on Piano Servicing as well.

Back to the dealer, an old friend by now, and played many of his acoustics. The shortcomings of the uprights were clear, so it was only grands for me, the entry-level ones from Pearl River, Kawai and Yamaha. I leaned towards ordering a Ritmuller, after another three-hour drive to play one owned by a friend-of-a-friend. Kawai's ABS actions appealed for their more consistent long-term performance, but their prices were twice that of the CA98 digital, so I hesitated.

Kept looking at Craigslist for used grands; surely there would be one for me, a few years old, nicely discounted. But no, many of them were in bad shape, unrealistically priced, or scams. If there wasn't a nice used Kawai locally, perhaps a PianoMart ad would have one not too far away? So I refreshed my online searches and waited. And then ...

IT showed up! 10 miles from me, a Kawai grand "rarely used and in excellent condition", at a price less than half that of a new CA98. I moved quickly to try it, paid the asking price in cash, and asked the new piano dealer to move it for me. Though their quote to do so was high, it was the least I could do after all the time I had spent in their showroom.

Re: Yamaha or Kawai; digital or acoustic? Couldn’t decide, so...
Lotus1 #2845045 05/04/19 10:10 AM
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Part 3: My Kawai GM-10, a bit dusty but otherwise in great shape, arrived home this week. Lightly used, the hammers barely indented, and in relatively good tune, the piano dealer said I’d beaten them to a good deal. After a couple of hours cleaning, the piano looks brand new. And it still has two years of the Kawai transferable warranty left.

I can’t quite believe that I now own a grand piano. Its action is heavier than my DGX, but consistent, and I will get used to it. The sustain pedal has a nice weight that makes it easy to add nuanced half-pedaling. I usually remove the music desk assembly to open up the soundboard to my ears. And what a wonderful sound it is!

Here is a link to the original brochure: http://kawaius.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/GM-10LE-Brochure.pdf

As for the DGX-660, it will always remain with me. I am sure that no other instrument would have brought me so far in so little time, a tribute to Yamaha’s excellent design. It has capabilities that no acoustic piano can offer, from multiple instruments to learning help and recording capabilities. Its GHS action was fine for someone with years of experience on an acoustic, albeit many decades ago.

The DGX helped me progress from simple solo pieces to perfecting their timing with orchestral accompaniment via MIDI files. I moved on to intermediate pieces, and when testing pianos played several from Bach (including Gavotte BWV 816), Mozart (including Fantasia K 397), Beethoven (Bagatelle “Fur Elise”), Chopin (Nocturne Op 9-2), Clementi and Schumann from memory.

I know that I got the Kawai grand at its low asking price, despite a lot of interest from others, partly because the sellers liked the way I test-played their piano. They said that after little use in their house -- another case of kids losing interest after a year -- the piano deserved to go where it would be played like that. But would I have been able to play these pieces before the DGX arrived? Definitely not! It was the right way back into the piano world for me, and I thank Yamaha for that.

So when the question is asked: Yamaha or Kawai; digital or acoustic? My reply will be: I couldn’t decide, so I got one of each. Best wishes to all of you on your piano adventures!

Re: Yamaha or Kawai; digital or acoustic? Couldn’t decide, so...
Lotus1 #2845050 05/04/19 10:26 AM
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So many thanks for this story. Fantastic to hear your experience and wish you joy with your new Piano.

Re: Yamaha or Kawai; digital or acoustic? Couldn’t decide, so...
Lotus1 #2845060 05/04/19 10:55 AM
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There are digitals and digitals and still more digitals. But pit any of them against a grand and the winner is always the grand. smile

I'll bet you're now glad you spent so much time making your choice, eh?

Re: Yamaha or Kawai; digital or acoustic? Couldn’t decide, so...
Lotus1 #2845139 05/04/19 02:04 PM
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It is heartwarming, KevinM. You did all the things we would wish to see people who come down with a touch of piano fever, do, except they usually don't. Your post deserves a sticky, all three pieces of it. And you deserve congratulations from all of us, and thanks for who knows how many piano shoppers who will be saved from their more rash behavior.

Alas for the impulse-driven life, where piano fever strikes and people rush out to acquire something on impulse, which it will cost as much to get rid of as it did to get. The dreadful hangover after the fever lifts; the bitter buyer's remorse; that final humiliating post to PW. It is heartbreaking, in a way... but I have long learned that attempts to intervene are a waste of electrons. My sympathy is genuine, but it has become limited.

There is no reason at all to think that having both a real piano and a DP is excessive. They are completely different instruments, with different capabilities; the complementarity is good, but there is not all that much crossover. Your ears will tell you; your fingers will tell you. Your oscilloscope will tell you, too, if you have one. Your neighbors would tell you, if you cared.

I ended up with a Kawai grand and a Kawai DP as well. Not that there aren't other excellent makes and marques out there, well regarded, well deserved, and well loved. But, I still say your story is just a little bit heartwarming.

Best of luck to you!


Clef

Re: Yamaha or Kawai; digital or acoustic? Couldn’t decide, so...
Lotus1 #2845197 05/04/19 06:00 PM
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The GL10 retails at £8.5k. Didn't you do well? So glad you got a lot of good use out of the DGX. I've had 3 of them, and loads of fun.
You'll be polishing it as much as playing it . . .


"I am not a man. I am a free number"

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Re: Yamaha or Kawai; digital or acoustic? Couldn’t decide, so...
Lotus1 #2845243 05/04/19 08:12 PM
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Thank you, all, for your kind words. Returning to the piano has been the best decision I've made in retirement, and I needed to get the purchase decisions right. A little patience and a lot of luck led these two pianos to me.

Jeff, I sat at my Yamaha digital today for the first time since getting the Kawai grand, and was reminded how complementary they are. I played Bach's Siciliano using the pan flute and Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus using the chapel organ, both with MIDI orchestral accompaniment. Try doing that on an acoustic grand! But solo piano pieces like Mozart's Fantasia K 397 and Chopin's Nocturne Op 9-2 come to life on the grand; my neighbors came over to listen and were amazed at the difference.

Peter, another neighbor just offered to buy the DGX from me, and was surprised when I said I’d never sell it. In addition to what I’ve written above, I had this reason (and I quote myself from a post in March 2018):

Originally Posted by Lotus1
cphollis, you did well. Your kids will come back to it and thank you.

I studied the piano for over 10 years as a child, with a lot of encouragement from my parents. Progressed to an intermediate level, completing several levels of the British music exams. Though sometimes it wasn't fun, as I would have rather been outside playing cricket or football. I gave it up as academic pressures increased in high school, over 40 years ago.

I bought a Yamaha DGX-660 last Thanksgiving and have been rediscovering the fun. Practiced a lot to get Fur Elise to a decent level, recorded it on a USB stick, and took it with me when I flew thousands of miles to see my old mother in January. She listened attentively and when the piece was over, turned to me with tears of joy in her eyes. This will be a lasting memory for me, as she passed away a few days later.

My thanks are also due to:

* Miller Piano (Charlotte, NC): A family business that welcomed me to their showroom when I wandered in looking for a Kawai ES110 two years ago, though that is priced far below anything they carry. I returned numerous times this year for three-hour test sessions of their digitals and acoustics, and was always treated with patience and kindness. And when it came time to discuss price, they were right on target for an informed buyer with their first quote. After I decided to buy the used Kawai from a private seller, they responded with class, congratulating me on a good deal and asking me to come back and play for them some day.

* Nick Mauel (Ft Myers/Naples, FL): A distant piano dealer and occasional Piano forum poster who knew I could not buy from him, but nevertheless took the time (lots of it!) to talk to me. When I considered ordering a Ritmuller grand sight unseen through my local dealer, Nick even arranged for me to try one owned by a client who had moved closer to me. If you are a piano buyer located anywhere near Nick, you are fortunate, indeed. He is a pianist, technician and dealer, in that order.

* Pianoworld forum members, too numerous to name, whose posts I have read with interest and from whom I have learned. The friendship of a few via private messaging has been a bonus. Thank you!

Last edited by Lotus1; 05/04/19 08:19 PM.
Re: Yamaha or Kawai; digital or acoustic? Couldn’t decide, so...
Lotus1 #2845442 05/05/19 12:36 PM
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Congrats on your new piano.

Well played Sir.


When you play, never mind who listens to you. R.Schumann.

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