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Newly acquired Kawai MP9500: Tips on my own servicing #2848051
05/14/19 11:10 AM
05/14/19 11:10 AM
Joined: Apr 2019
Posts: 20
France, Nantes
A
Alan LJ Offline OP
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Alan LJ  Offline OP
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Joined: Apr 2019
Posts: 20
France, Nantes
Just bought a fine example of a used one-owner Kawai MP9500 last month for 550€ (would be around 620$) to serve as a serious master keyboard, mainly for playing classical repertoire with VSTs.

[Linked Image]

Found this beast in rather mint condition inside & out and I'm having an absolute blast with it. The AWA Grand Pro action of this era, although improved upon later on throughout the years, is still nowhere near obsolete and still constitute to me one, if not the finest action in any mass-produced DPs unless going hybrid (that is unless you go MP11 or VPC1 of course).

[Linked Image]

No wonder it manages to be pretty close to a grand action, it's more or less half of what is now known as hybrids, and that was more than a decade before hybrid even appeared on the market with Yamaha NU1.

So yes, as good and ahead of its time the action was, it is now almost two decades old and it somewhat showed and felt on mine. The keys being pretty much real wooden piano keys needs just as much servicing as on a real acoustic over time. Namely, there was quite a big deal of sideway motion on just about every keys:

So first thing first, got my hand on a MP8 service manual (it shares the very same action and is pretty much the same beast save for the electronic) and proceeded to open up the DP in order to get access to the keybed and one thing stroke me:

[Linked Image]

Kawai remained well aware that just as a real piano, the action would need a bit of servicing now and then and made the MP9000/9500/MP8 the easiest keyboard to open up I've ever seen. 8 of the same screws on the bottom board, and voila! the entire front panel is mounted on hinges and simply swing back and you get full access to everything in less than 2 minutes. GENIUS! Used to take me an hour and countless different screws to get full access to my previous DP.
Bloody brilliant.

First thing was to check the action on every keys. Some felt inconsistently heavier than other and although it is my first time using an MP9500, and I subsequently don't know how it was suppose to perform brand new, the overall action felt heavier to me than it should (despite the AWA grand pro having a reputation of being heavy in the first place). All in all, the action remains pretty simplistic: an unusually long wooden key (for a DP) mounted just like a real piano on a balance rail and its balance pin and a front adjustable keypin for guiding purpose (definitely what really makes the difference in this action). At the far end of the key, there's a patch of smooth material on which a capstan screw mounted on the hammers (as opposed to the keys on an acoustic) will glide back and forth which will then raise the hammers and hit the sensors.

[Linked Image]

The other step was to remove each and every keys plus the hammers and check for the mortises as I proceeded. As one would expect, there was plenty of dust and whatnot. Obviously the keybed was in for a nice ride with the vacuum cleaner later on!

[Linked Image]

Now the bushings on the mortises were all in pretty good condition, save for the expected wear of course, where the guiding pins would slide. But I was happy to discover that they definitely didn't need a replacement (which is time consuming, somewhat tricky and potentially very expensive given the price of my MP9500, if you don't do it yourself) and that I would just need to adjust the keypins to fill the gap between the keypins and front mortises (or "mortaise d'enfoncement" as we say in french). So I adjusted each and every keypins on the front rails by turning them counter-clockwise to about 15-20° using pliers covered with a dual layer of cloth so as not to damage and scratch the keypins until every key exhibited no lateral motion and that all pins were sliding properly on the bushings whilst not being hindered by them. When the result was satisfactory, I proceeded to the next step.

I then started to check the hammer capstan screws that makes contact with the keys. Due to the aging, the rounded top of the screws were definitely not as smooth as they could be. There was even some rough spikes here and there on most, and on overall it exhibited some resistance when sliding on something. Either this was due to oxidation over time, dust, traces of a past lubricant long solidified or the spikes may have always been there due to poor quality control. This much I don't know.

Either way I polished the rounded top with care and love ^^ using Restom: a french liquid like polishing compound normally used to polish aluminium, chromes and different kind of alloys and which is especially designed to take part in classic cars restoration to attain a mirror like finish on chromes and the like all the while avoiding any scratches during the process. It worked wonders and I patiently polished each of the 88 capstan screws until they felt silky smooth on the back of my hand. Whilst I was at it, I proceeded to equally polish each and every keypins and balance pins.

[Linked Image]

It was then time to reassemble everything whilst correcting the balance rail paper/cardboard punchings (some were completely upside/down). Keytops were carefully washed while I was at it. Made myself 4 different gram weights out of piling up different coins up untill I achieved the four different weights of the graduated hammers according to Kawai specs. The keyboard showed consistency and showed a resistance according to the specs with very minor deviations, so I left it at that. Did not try evening the gap between the keys as I don't have the tools and I thought this could be risky for the keypins (I'm not and far from a professional piano tuner after all!).

[Linked Image]

CONCLUSION

With the capstan screws back to silky smooth, the polishing work and the adjustments on the keypins, not only has the action definitely gained in fluidity substantially but has also lost some of its heaviness, keys repeats and returns back slightly faster (to a minor degree), and is more even. Overall the action feels definitely smoother and more precise (the difference was fairly noticeable right away).

I'm slow and meticulous, so it took me tens of hours, but it was worth it all the way!

I'm confident it's back to its former self, if not slightly better!

[Linked Image]

Last edited by Alan LJ; 05/14/19 11:16 AM.

Kawai MP9500
Edirol UA-25
VST: NI Noire mainly, Pianoteq 6, Garritan CFX, Production Grand 2, NI The Grandeur
AKG Headphones K240 Studio
Occasionally plays on THULE Audio Hi-Fi amp + Dynaudio Contour speakers.
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Re: Newly acquired Kawai MP9500: Tips on my own servicing [Re: Alan LJ] #2848054
05/14/19 11:16 AM
05/14/19 11:16 AM
Joined: Dec 2015
Posts: 31
NC
NightTrain77 Offline
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NightTrain77  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2015
Posts: 31
NC
I had an MP9000 which I loved. This brings back memories ...


Kawai ES110 --> Ivory II American Concert D

"This train got the disappearing railroad blues." -- Steve Goodman
Re: Newly acquired Kawai MP9500: Tips on my own servicing [Re: Alan LJ] #2848058
05/14/19 11:34 AM
05/14/19 11:34 AM
Joined: Feb 2018
Posts: 230
PA
puremusic Offline
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puremusic  Offline
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Posts: 230
PA
Really enjoyed reading this and all the photos. I appreciate seeing how it's put together. It's a beautiful piano!


Roland FP-90 - Touchkeys - TEC BC - MIDI Expression
Kontakt - Arturia Piano V - Sonivox Eighty-Eight - Spitfire Symphony Orchestra

whitepianos.blogspot.com
Re: Newly acquired Kawai MP9500: Tips on my own servicing [Re: Alan LJ] #2848065
05/14/19 11:46 AM
05/14/19 11:46 AM
Joined: Apr 2019
Posts: 20
France, Nantes
A
Alan LJ Offline OP
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Alan LJ  Offline OP
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Joined: Apr 2019
Posts: 20
France, Nantes
I wholeheartedly agree! From the MP9000 and onward they're fantastic DPs!

The greatness of it is that they're fairly "old" now and consequently much cheaper. And since no one that I know of did produce such authentic action that early on, you can still have on a "budget" an action that is as serious as nowadays highest range of DPs. They should have been much more sought after back then.

So for people looking for a top tier master keyboard at home who cannot afford a VPC1 or more, look no further. Those MP9000/9500/MP8 blows everything away that you could find in that price range, used or new. There's no debate here.

It has it all: greatest action of its time on mass-produced DPs and still very relevant today, it's very sturdy, well built, and very cleverly designed to top it all that! Servicing it yourself is even a joy with its accessibility.


Kawai MP9500
Edirol UA-25
VST: NI Noire mainly, Pianoteq 6, Garritan CFX, Production Grand 2, NI The Grandeur
AKG Headphones K240 Studio
Occasionally plays on THULE Audio Hi-Fi amp + Dynaudio Contour speakers.
Re: Newly acquired Kawai MP9500: Tips on my own servicing [Re: Alan LJ] #2848206
05/14/19 09:52 PM
05/14/19 09:52 PM
Joined: Sep 2007
Posts: 15,165
Hamamatsu, Japan
Kawai James Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Kawai James  Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Joined: Sep 2007
Posts: 15,165
Hamamatsu, Japan
Hello Alan LJ, thank you for your detailed post, and for sharing your servicing procedure.

Congrats on the MP9500!

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: Newly acquired Kawai MP9500: Tips on my own servicing [Re: Alan LJ] #2848555
05/15/19 07:32 PM
05/15/19 07:32 PM
Joined: Jun 2008
Posts: 345
England
P
propianist Offline
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propianist  Offline
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England
Hi Alan LJ,

I've done pretty much the same job on my Kawai MP8, which has lasted me 14 years and counting.
The white hammer parts on mine use 4 different grades of weighting with metal weights riveted on, and they are labelled on the side...

Labelled W1 (white keys) and B1 (black keys) for heaviest weights used for lowest bass range first 15 keys from A-1 up to B0
Labelled W2 (white keys) and B2 (black keys) for medium heavy weights for tenor range next 17 keys from C1 up to E2
Labelled W3 (white keys) and B3 (black keys) for medium light weights for middle range next 31 keys from F2 up to B4
Labelled W4 (white keys) and B4 (black keys) for lightest weights used for highest treble range next 25 keys from C5 up to C7

The white hammer weights are slightly more silver coloured metal, but black hammer weights are slightly more gold coloured metal.
They must be slightly different design between the white and black due to length.

Only issues I've found are, with very extreme wear (due to years and years of repetition) on a given key the PTFE adhesive cover on the foam rubber rectangle at the furthest end of the wooden keystick (which pushes against the dome screwhead), the PTFE can slightly slip out of position, migrating a few millimetres. These PTFE covers can be peeled off and re-applied back into their correct position if you find any that are bad. Mostly they are okay, and the adhesive is still quite strong. I think that it's accumulated dirt on the dome head of the screw that adds friction, rather than sliding smoothly over the PTFE, and that's what eventually drags it with slight lateral force. (Accumulated dirt is far more likely if you're taking keyboard out on the road to gigs every weekend! If it stays in your house, indoors, nice and clean, and nobody puts their beer on it, it probably doesn't get so dirty!) Polishing the metal domes super smooth again with a mild abrasive cleaner, and getting them dry and clean afterwards fixes things, as you've already described.

Other problem is that the plastic hammers can possibly ALL shift sideways together to the left or right by a millimetre or two (presumably along the whole back rail, maybe being jolted hard - maybe if the keyboard was stood up vertical on its side wooden end cheek edge, or dropped, and received a hard jolt or shock, or maybe they migrate slightly over the years????) Then, if the hammers and rail have all shifted slightly sideways from their original factory positions, the hammer's dome screw is not quite dead centre to the wooden keystick which is pushing it from underneath, nor is it absolutely dead centre as it strikes the squishy grey rubber sensor contact above.
In any case, the hammer strike still operates mechanically, and plays the note okay, but over many years, once a particular hammer dome screw has migrated too far off-centre from it's central position above the wooden keystick it belongs to, even though it still operates as desired, the wide dome screwhead has a nasty habit of protruding slightly out from the side of that keystick, encroaching into the airspace of the neighbouring wooden keystick which may occasionally rub its own wooden edge against that rogue protruding metal screwhead when being played, giving you a slight feeling of extra friction and perhaps a mild squeak or scraping noise from inside - the "good" key that is rubbing against the "bad" key with the sideways protruding dome screwhead. If you've got any squeaky or sticky keys, after many years of use, this is most likely the culprit cause.
Solutions to this might be, (1.) globally to shift ALL the hammers back to their original position by re-aligning the whole guiderail mount bar assembly (a massive job to dismantle everything and get to the necessary screws deep inside) or (2.) to just file down the edge of your one rogue protruding dome screwhead to a flatter narrow profile so it doesn't rub anything (but obviously spoils that screw's roundness - should you ever need to rotate it for adjustment of mechanism contact height, etc.) or (3.) use an electric sander to shave a millimetre of wood off the relevant side edge at the end of the keystick in question, tapering it slightly narrower, so it has more breathing room to play and move freely without danger of rubbing any neighbouring screw domes that have migrated over. I've used method (3.) and it worked a treat to fix a tiny squeak between two adjacent keys.

On the subject of physical deign - the MP9000 / MP9500 / MP8 / MP8ii all have the great advantage of the sloping control panel and the flat top panel. Inside a soft carry-case (where band musicians travelling together often laying guitar cases or bags on top of a keyboard case - usually the heaviest item, keyboard, is at the bottom of the pile) and the older Kawai's blank flat top panel of this sloped design can take all the pressure, while its delicate keys and control knobs are naturally protected from excess weight bearing down on them from above, because they're on the sloped surface, which is well below the ceiling of the case.
When Kawai changed the design for the MP10 / MP11 / MP11SE / MP7 / MP7SE they've put the protruding knobs, buttons and sliders on the uppermost top panel, with nothing to physically protect them from getting crushed under the weight of anything heavy laying on top of the keyboard - especially while it's in its case during transit. Most people gigging with heavy keyboards like this do use soft cases, in order to save overall weight. (My MP8 and Stagg KTC150 soft case weighs about 45kg combined.) Unless somebody has a very heavy-duty hard-shell metal flightcase with thick sponge padding above - that might protect an MP11 design - but that would be well over 50kg+ and very cumbersome.

It's a shame Kawai have done that! Style looks pretty on the VPC1, for sure, where there's NO buttons on the top, but for the MP10 / MP11 / MP11SE it is a serious backwards step in practical design for a gigging stage piano, putting buttons on the absolute top sticking up like that is a bad choice. Let's really hope they wisely go back to the sloping front (MP8 style) for the forthcoming MP12 model.


Re: Newly acquired Kawai MP9500: Tips on my own servicing [Re: Alan LJ] #2849903
05/19/19 09:41 AM
05/19/19 09:41 AM
Joined: Apr 2019
Posts: 20
France, Nantes
A
Alan LJ Offline OP
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Alan LJ  Offline OP
Full Member
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Joined: Apr 2019
Posts: 20
France, Nantes
Many thanks Propianist for taking the time to share all your experience and insights! It's always greatly appreciated and I made this thread for future/new owners of that fantastic DP that are the MP9000 up to the MP8.

I can see that we pretty much done the same job and reached the same conclusions. All in all, it's a DP that is easily serviceable by anyone, provided you take your time. And I must add that given how it's well built and sturdy, I've no concern that it will stand the test of time for many years to come.

Now I have to agree that the action is a bit on the heavy side. While it's perfect to control pianissimo nuances, it's a bit more of a fight when you need to bang big chords fast, like in Addinsell Warsaw Concerto for example.

I too agree with the merits of the sloping front vs flat, for the moment it's not a problem for me as I'm not giggling outside (but you never know in the future).

Out of curiosity, which VSTs are you using best with your MP8 in terms of both sound and more importantly playability? I recently discovered NI Noire which works both really well with complex pianissimo and forte songs or classical pieces. A solid all-around piano, which is pretty rare. I used production grand 2 a lot too. Beautiful sound and well recorded, doesn't work as good pianissimo though. Some things will sound great with it, others not. Not as versatile. Pianoteq is great too in terms of playability since its a V piano.

I'd like to adress my thanks to Kawai James for being very present here, being very helpful regarding Kawai for whom he's working for with a passion. I have a history with Kawai since when I was younger my parents had a very nice Kawai acoustic KG-3C. A very nice piano from the end of the seventies (if memory serves me right) with a very nice action and sound. That thing held the tune like crazy over the years, very well built. Regrettably, although I started to learn the piano with it, I couldn't play a lot on it (was too far away most of the time). I can testify that the feel of the action on the MP9500 is pretty close to that of my memories on the KG3C. Precise and a bit on the heavy side of things. Brings back memories to me which is a nice addition

Last edited by Alan LJ; 05/19/19 09:47 AM.

Kawai MP9500
Edirol UA-25
VST: NI Noire mainly, Pianoteq 6, Garritan CFX, Production Grand 2, NI The Grandeur
AKG Headphones K240 Studio
Occasionally plays on THULE Audio Hi-Fi amp + Dynaudio Contour speakers.
Re: Newly acquired Kawai MP9500: Tips on my own servicing [Re: Alan LJ] #2850012
05/19/19 01:56 PM
05/19/19 01:56 PM
Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 96
Zurich
S
Smaug Offline
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Zurich
I've also done quite a bit of work on my trusty MP8. I used much information about the PTFEe sheets migrating from the thread:
http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/2272103/lolatu.html#Post2272103

I've been looking seriously at the Yamaha N1X to replace my MP8, but whenever I return from the shop and play Noire through my MP8, I'm satisfied I have something that feels and sounds just as good. This is after owning a Yamaha G2 grand for over 20 years.

Re: Newly acquired Kawai MP9500: Tips on my own servicing [Re: Alan LJ] #2850239
05/20/19 05:10 AM
05/20/19 05:10 AM
Joined: Apr 2019
Posts: 20
France, Nantes
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Alan LJ Offline OP
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Alan LJ  Offline OP
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France, Nantes
I too used this thread to get a bit of intel prior to start my work wink a great repository.

Kawai really found the right balance with the AWA Grand Pro action, despite there certainly room for improvements, it does feel pretty close to a grand.

I see you use Noire also smile I've been trying countless piano VSTs... so far it's a perfect match in term of sound of course, but more importantly in terms of playability AND versatility (after all, a real grand will be just equally at ease whether you play pop music, jazz or demanding classical so IMHO, a real good VST should be able to do the same). Noire is a great combination working with the MP8/MP9500


Kawai MP9500
Edirol UA-25
VST: NI Noire mainly, Pianoteq 6, Garritan CFX, Production Grand 2, NI The Grandeur
AKG Headphones K240 Studio
Occasionally plays on THULE Audio Hi-Fi amp + Dynaudio Contour speakers.

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