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Joined: Aug 2020
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Hello everyone,

I'm in the market for purchasing a new digital piano. The last piano I purchased was a Kawai CL20, which was almost a decade ago. At the time, I thought it was quite impressive compared to the weightless keyboards I had grown up. It obviously didn't feel like a grand piano, but it also didn't feel like a toy. The sound quality was lacking, though. But I liked it, and I guess that's all that mattered.

After spending several years away the piano, I would love to play it again and have the budget to afford one worth one or two thousand dollars. I've been looking into the highly acclaimed Yamaha P515 and the Kawai ES8.

However, I'm not sure what has changed over the years. Both companies claim to have remarkable depth, expression, and realism with "top-of-the-line" action. Which is exactly what I recall reading when I purchased the Kawai CL20 a decade ago.

So what has changed over the years? Or is the digital piano industry a case of the phrase: "the more things change, the more they stay the same"? Looking at the details for the supposed upcoming ES9 (ES920, perhaps), I don't see much in difference from its predecessor. Is there value in waiting around the corner for the next
big technological advancement, or has the industry improved to the point where we are seeing consistent high quality products. Would it be wise to purchase something like the P515 or ES8 in 2020?

Thanks!

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I too am looking forward to some insight on this subject from the veterans on this forum!


In the market for a new digital piano
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Instruments at Home or Office | Pianos: Wurlitzer baby grand, Winter & Co. baby grand, Everett studio | Keyboards: Roland Fantom X7, Yamaha PSR-275 | Organ: Lowrey Prestige
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I bought my first DP just about 10 years ago. From my limited, anecdotal experience, I'd say there's been significant but not overwhelming improvements. I suppose that's the natural diminishing returns on tech development over the decades.


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I had a Yamaha P-80 which I bought for around $1000 USD back in 2000.

I think Yamaha still sells basically the same piano as the P-45 today, for around $500.

In some sense the market hasn’t moved much: short sound samples with looping, folded actions with short pivots, etc.

In other sense it has moved a lot: high end wooden actions, longer sound samples with resonance modeling, etc.

The inflation calculator says that $1000 is now about $1500. So you do get more for the money these days.

At the very high end, you have the AvantGrand and the Novus. These are very nice.

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Things have definitely changed in the past decade. In terms of key action and the “feel” of the keys, regular digital pianos have evolved and advanced incrementally. Hybrid pianos like the Avant Grand from Yamaha, and the Novus from Kawai, have blended new technology with the old to give you a true acoustic piano feel. Better acoustic piano sample recording and methodology, plus better sound systems and speakers make them sound more lifelike than ever, but still not like real acoustic pianos. I’m in your situation and still doing a lot of research, but I can say that advancements in the past 10 years have definitely distinguished today’s models from those a decade ago. After much research, I doubt that next years model is going to make this years models completely obsolete. It all boils down to how much you want to spend right now, and what you are looking for. Get in front of the instrument and try it out. That’s the real test. I might still buy a cheap baby grand. Still testing! 😃


In the market for a new digital piano
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Instruments at Home or Office | Pianos: Wurlitzer baby grand, Winter & Co. baby grand, Everett studio | Keyboards: Roland Fantom X7, Yamaha PSR-275 | Organ: Lowrey Prestige
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I agree with TexasBear and Redfish. We are in a digital/hybrid piano forum so most of us have probably owned one or more non-acoustic pianos and are constantly looking ahead to what's new and improved.

I play a friend's 7' Steinway and another friend's 9' Steinway pretty regularly. I also play another friend's like-new 5'3" Young Chang that I can buy for $2k. I love the look, sound and feel a good acoustic grand piano.

I tested the Yamaha and Kawai digitals/hybrids pretty extensively last year and liked the NV10 best out of all of them but at the time I could have bought a gorgeous used but in perfect condition 7'4" Kawai (almost $50k new) for $6,800 so the idea of buying something that's trying very very hard to come close to a real grand for $10k-$15k didn't make sense to me. Even the 5'3" sounded and felt better than the hybrids to me.

I think the bottom line is: if you cannot or choose not to have an acoustic grand for whatever reason, then a hybrid is wonderful and very justifiable. But just knowing these are just as much new technology as they are instruments kinda scare me because there will be a new (and possibly improved) model coming out every couple of years. Being new technology, even a 2-year old model can be hard to sell.

Companies are constantly working on making electronic pianos sound and feel more like an acoustic piano. Some may say they're getting and some may say they're not even close. I think they are definitely moving forward but inch by inch, not feet or yard, and these inches are very expensive!

Even with a grand piano in my house, I'd always also have some kind of electronic piano, arranger keyboards, synthesizers. In my thick skull, there's the beautiful acoustic grand piano then all the electronic stuff. They all serve their purposes but don't necessarily take the place of one another.

Having said all that, if I were to retire next year and move into an apartment or smaller house and an acoustic grand is no longer an option, I'dbe force to think quite differently smile

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I agree with redfish, action wise the current crop is very good, not so as far as sound is concerned

I have both a dp and a Yamaha acoustic and I have use for both

Dp is for silent practice and recording to a daw with a vst

Acoustic is for the real thing, careful expression

It is surprising though how bad the sound of a dp is, not much progress there compared to the best vst around, like cfx or ivory or Vsl

Enjoy!

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I also think the two main factors pro-DP are silent practice and space constraints. In all other cases I would prefer an acoustic 100% of the time.


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Originally Posted by marklings
I agree with redfish, action wise the current crop is very good, not so as far as sound is concerned

I have both a dp and a Yamaha acoustic and I have use for both.

Agree, and same here, dp and yamaha acoustic.

Originally Posted by CyberGene
I also think the two main factors pro-DP are silent practice and space constraints. In all other cases I would prefer an acoustic 100% of the time.

Agree.

I practice mostly on my dp, and play pieces I have learned on the acoustic. It just doesn't feel right to practice small bits(repeated mistakes included) on my acoustic, living in a townhouse with neighbors. Actually, I would be nowhere without my dp, so that makes it my most important piano.

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A lot has changed, and a lot has stayed the same.

ACTION
At the high-end the grand-action pianos are a dream. The feel is superb.

In the mid-range the improvements are marginal. New action names and acronyms have been paraded before us time and again.
The names seem wonderful. But the actions aren't much better than before.

At the low-end it was crap ten years ago, and it's the same today.

SAMPLES
Samples have improved a lot. I can't speak about the high-end pianos. I hadn't touched one as of ten years ago.

The current mid-range pianos and the few high-ends that I've tried are much improved.
But the improvement is incremental. The sound doesn't knock my socks off.
My take is that today's piano seem better mostly because those of 10+ years ago were so bad, witness my CLP240.

Caveat: In the showroom it's hard to know whether the sound will be suitable at home.
Will I need a VST with my new piano next year? Or will it stand alone?

I'm hopeful for the latter because:

1. I was recently in contact with a long-lost PW member gvfarns.
He bought a CS series piano a while back and he's happy with the sound as-is. He has dropped the virtual instruments.

2. Several people here seem content with the native sound from the N1X.

So I'll know next year whether I can say that the sounds have improved greatly. Or just marginally.

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This is a great subject! And of course it has no simple set of answers. I’ve been playing piano for about 45years, on stage with digital pianos or synths trying to be pianos! For about 35years.

In recent years I.e. the last 15! I’d say things have moved forward considerably. In that time I’ve owned a Yamaha P250 two Roland RD700SX, an RD700GX, an RD800 and an RD2000, a Kawai MP7SE, a Casio Privia PX5S a Nord Stage 2 HA88, a Kurzweil Forte and A Korg Kronos.

The best changes have been keybeds the Roland PHA50 is way better than anything that was around 10 years ago. For me this is about how the machine interprets my playing. Back when I owned a Yamaha KX88 or even the later P250 the feel wasn’t bad but the machines ability to accurately read what I was doing with my fingers was grim. This is something that Nords have suffered with and still do, because those Fatar keybeds just don’t articulate your playing properly.

Yes I think the Casio PX5S is a wonder because not only is it really quite a pleasure to play, it is small, light in weight and will run on batteries. At last you can be a wondering pianist have a pretty decent instrument and compete with guitarists! That’s a big step forward.

Sound wise sampling has gone crazy! Just look at the Kronos! Clearly great piano is not simply about having gigabytes of samples and many velocity sample layers. It still plays like a Mechano piano! Yes each note sounds wonderful but these instruments do not sing and vibrate like the real thing once you start playing chords and intervals sample based pianos loose their homogeneity. Whereas although it’s not yet right the Vpiano is a move in the right direction and a real glimpse of the beauty that could be.

So for me we’ve moved forward mostly in the ability of the digital piano to read what you’re doing on the keyboard more accurately and second we have pretty much shown sampling isn’t ever going to produce a great instrument. And finally virtual piano technology has finally begun to show where the future will lie.

Maybe in the next 10 years Roland and PianoTeq will finally produce a virtual piano that is actually indistinguishable from the real thing.

Last edited by Steve Rose; 08/16/20 07:37 AM.

Piano Journey: 1930's Upright> Rhodes Mk2 73> Wurly EP200> Gebauhr 1905 6' Grand> Yamaha P250> Roland RD700SX,RD700GX> Nord Stage 2 HA88> Roland RD800> CASIO PX5s & Kurzweil Forte & Kawai MP7SE> Kronos 2 61, Roland RD2000
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Decade, obviously alot, we have much faster processors for pennies a piece today.

Remember Nintendo game cartridges, their internal boards were Co-processors, and they were massively expensive to manufacture.

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IMO the answer, if there would have been progress in the digital piano industry during the last decade, is:

- The DPBSD-Project:
http://forum.pianoworld.com//ubbthreads.php/topics/1365103/the-dpbsd-project.html#Post1365103
... ... meaning, not very much to none, also caused by cost-cutting behind the scenes.


and on the positive side:
- PianoTeq !

Consider PianoTeq with an USB/MIDI keyboard featuring a qualtiy action and good warranty service.
(ranging from the P-45, FP-30, via the A-88 to FLKeys Lachnit MK22 and Ravenworks VPC).

HTH

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Originally Posted by Labtech
Hello everyone,

I'm in the market for purchasing a new digital piano. The last piano I purchased was a Kawai CL20, which was almost a decade ago. At the time, I thought it was quite impressive compared to the weightless keyboards I had grown up. It obviously didn't feel like a grand piano, but it also didn't feel like a toy. The sound quality was lacking, though. But I liked it, and I guess that's all that mattered.

After spending several years away the piano, I would love to play it again and have the budget to afford one worth one or two thousand dollars. I've been looking into the highly acclaimed Yamaha P515 and the Kawai ES8.

However, I'm not sure what has changed over the years. Both companies claim to have remarkable depth, expression, and realism with "top-of-the-line" action. Which is exactly what I recall reading when I purchased the Kawai CL20 a decade ago.

So what has changed over the years? Or is the digital piano industry a case of the phrase: "the more things change, the more they stay the same"? Looking at the details for the supposed upcoming ES9 (ES920, perhaps), I don't see much in difference from its predecessor. Is there value in waiting around the corner for the next
big technological advancement, or has the industry improved to the point where we are seeing consistent high quality products. Would it be wise to purchase something like the P515 or ES8 in 2020?

Thanks!

Hi Labtech,

I'll have a go by comparing the intermediate range of portable pianos, 2010 vs 2020.


The main improvements since 2010:

Action:

Roland's main action then: PHAIII
Roland's main action today: PHA50 (not including new LX models)

I would say, the PHA50 is an 7.8/10 action whereas, the PHAIII is a 7.0 action.

Kawai's main action then: AHA3 action
Kawai's main action now: RHIII

I would say, the RHIII action is an 7.9/10 action; whereas, the AHA3 action is a 7.0

Let's say for comparison's sake, the 10/10 is the Kawai Grand Feel III action (top digital action), as comparing to Acoustics is still not reasonable.


Sound wise:

Roland's sound engine in 2010 = SuperNatural hybrid
Roland's sound engine in 2020 = 3rd gen full modelling.

Kawai's sound engine in 2010 = Harmonic Imaging Technology
Kawai's sound engine in 2020 = Harmonic Imaging™ XL, 88 Key Sampling

Now, IMO, sampling/modelling has probably out-improved action improvements.

I would say that within the field of digital pianos, sound and action have improved incrementally; further, I would certainly recommend a 2020 digital over anything produced in 2010 (perhaps with the single exception of the Roland V-piano, which is great to play and a one off).

Kind regards,

Doug.

P.S. I chose to compare Kawai and Roland just to make it quicker to answer. Yamaha have improved too. It's worth noting that I think all 3 big manufacturers make very credible digital pianos and what you prefer will be a subjective choice mainly.

Last edited by Doug M.; 08/16/20 02:30 PM.

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See how subjective this is. For I would give the PHA-50 a slightly higher score probably an 8.1/10 and the RHIII action a 7.8. For me there was something about the Roland action that I connected with when I tired it.

Peace


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Originally Posted by EPW
See how subjective this is. For I would give the PHA-50 a slightly higher score probably an 8.1/10 and the RHIII action a 7.8. For me there was something about the Roland action that I connected with when I tired it.

Peace

Totally agree, viz the subjective choice on which is best.
Think though that there has been a marked improvement in all the major action designs since 2010.


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From what I found about CL20 over the Internet, it has 32 notes of polyphony, and 7x2 watt amplifier.
You can now find 128 notes of polyphony in keyboards under $1000, and 256 notes of polyphony in pianos such as ES8 and P515. Unlimited polyphony if you choose Roland FP 90.
Not to mention better amplifier and speakers.

I can also weight on my experience, I purchased 2 digital piano over 6-7 years.
My first one was Roland HP 507, premium console piano with 6 speakers, around 100W total power output.
It had PHIII hammer action and Roland Super Natural sound engine, and 128 notes of polyphony. It was in late 2013 as far as I can remember.
It was mid-range, premium piano, which cost around 3.5-4k.
High-end pianos at this point of time cost 10K and had 256 notes of polyphony.

The second I purchased recently, as I moved for a contract, and I wanted something to play, could not bring my old Roland.
I purchased Roland FP-90, site unseen, it has PHA-50 hammer action with wooden keys, and Roland Super Natural Modeling sound engine with unlimited polyphony.

Even given this is late 2016 model, it is quite significant upgrade to the older Roland HP-507, mid-2012 release date.
Roland HP 507 sounds very nice, but it was frustrating if you tried to play some complex pieces - you just cannot get the same dynamics out of it as from the acoustic piano, but the sound was very nice.
Roland FP90 behaves more like an acoustic piano, I can get more nuanced expressions out of it, although there are still some limitations, they are not frustrating and the instrument overall is much nicer to play.

32 notes of polyphony is not enough, the instrument will be dropping notes if you play fast pieces, or if you use sustain, 128 is minimum, and 256 is much better. The more notes of polyphony, the richer the sound. 256 vs 128 allows modeling instrument resonance, which also leads to richer sound.
I am not also sure if the action in your piano had triple sensor, probably not, it allows for more expressions and now basically standard even in 1-2k range.

In terms of cost, FP-30 which cost under $1000, has PHIV hammer action and Super Natural engine with 128 notes of polyphony, which is same sound engine and updated action as on my Roland HP507 which cost significantly more.
10k instruments from 6 years ago had 256 notes of polyphony, or modeling like Roland v-piano.
Now you can find the same technologies in the instruments below 2k, if not similar speakers or hybrid actions. 10 years will give even more drastic increase.

So in short, you should see pretty significant improvement if you switch from your piano to something like Kawai ES8 - Yamaha P515, or Roland FP-90 if you include it on your list.
But you should try on your own, and decide on your own if you want to wait instead for the next generation - the upgrade could be more incremental, like between Roland HP307 and HP507, or more drastic, like with FP90 vs FP80 (FP-80 was analogue of lower model Roland HP503 with weaker speakers and less advanced action than HP507).


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I own a p515 and p155 both at least 10 years apart. I have to say sound is way better , but acoustic is an acoustic and No comparison. But digitals still feel like a real instrument .

The hard choice is at what price point does make getting an acoustic better than digital ..

Like I would take 3 k digital over 3k acoustic (usd) but after that around 5-6k I’m not sure anymore


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I usually try to think as Digital as there own entity. In my situation I play/practice with headphones so it would be a waste of money on a acoustic piano. Now if I lived in a nice big house with room for a baby grand piano and I could play it anytime I wanted to. Sure I would be on board smile But alas not in the cards. So digital it is.

We have a forum member TonyB that brought a Roland V-Grand and has praised it for his needs being a digital living in a Condo. I do think the DP's have made progress but most of us here would like the manufacturers to pick up the pace.


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Originally Posted by Jitin
I own a p515 and p155 both at least 10 years apart. I have to say sound is way better , but acoustic is an acoustic and No comparison. But digitals still feel like a real instrument .

The hard choice is at what price point does make getting an acoustic better than digital ..

Like I would take 3 k digital over 3k acoustic (usd) but after that around 5-6k I’m not sure anymore
Interesting to note on the Piano forum (acoustics) a guy had bought his daughter a nice new Kawai GX2, 5'11" which by all accounts, ran rings round his old GM10, a 5 footer. One sang, the other didn't.
Dammit, with this amount of snobbery around, (not snobbery really, just his perception) whatever you buy can be bettered, or worse, trashed by someone who could and does afford better.
It's just so, so nice to go into a shop and play a £50k Steinway and think to myself "I just . . .don't like it!"
If I could only have one piano, it'd have to be a digital.


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

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