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Hi Friends:

I saw the discussion for a long time by people comparing Yamaha N1X and Kawai NV-10. I bought my AvantGrand before joining PW so didn't know much about the existence of Kawai NV-10. I'm always curious on how the NV-10 plays like since a lot of people rave about it. Finally, when I started shopping a used/rebuilt Steinway grand, I decided to try the Kawai NV-10 along with other Kawai grand pianos. After that, I went back home and immediately played the same passage on my N3X. I'm giving my perspective about Kawai NV-10 here. YMMV though.


About Me

I started learning the piano at age 5 and I've played for about 20 years. I would call myself to be a serious amateur piano player. I mostly play classical.


My Experience on Different Pianos

I started on an un-weighted keyboard from 5-8, and then switched to a basic Chinese-made upright until I was 21. I went to a different university at 21 and have played a lot of grand pianos (Steinway, Boston, Kawai, Baldwin, Mason & Hamlin, Yamaha) in the university practice rooms (a lot of them are not serviced well) until I was 24. There were several Yamaha N1s and NU1s at my university and I didn't like them at the time. However, after I got my master degree at 24, I played exclusively on a Yamaha AvantGrand for almost 3 years.


Does Kawai NV-10 have a better action than Yamaha N3X?

First, keep in mind that action feeling is very personal. So if you are a relatively experienced piano player and thinking about these models, just try yourself and compare. Regarding to the question, yes NV-10 does have a relatively better action, by a tiny bit. I've tried about more than 15 used/rebuilt Steinway grands and maybe 50 grand pianos in total, and they all have a different action to a certain degree. It's interesting that regulation plays a key part here than details like pivot points. In general, I found that new pianos, even a baby grand made in China, tend to have a better action than most Steinway grands on the used market. However, a lot of people will still be happy to buy an acoustic piano with an "inferior" action than the new pianos coming out of the factory.

OK, back on topic. I will try my best to articulate the difference between N3X and NV-10 action. For me NV-10 feels a bit easier to play technical passages with a lighter touch (like non-legato runs in classical pieces). I guess it is because of the following reasons:

1. NV-10 has a longer pivot, which will even out the key weight when you play towards the fall board. This may or may not be important to you. However, in some technical passages we are alternating between white and black keys and have to play towards the fall board. More even weight will make the pianist have less effort (thinking about Chopin's Revolutionary Etude).

2. NV-10 action feels a little bit tighter while I can feel a little bit looseness in Yamaha N3X. This may be subjective though but I guess it's because of the different action geometry in these two pianos. Since we are not using real piano hammer here, the "hammer weight" on a hybrid might be different from an acoustic grand so we have to balance that in the key stick. Yamaha seems to have more lead weights in the key which makes the action a little bit sluggish. Again, just a tiny bit that I won't notice it if I'm not paying attention. If I remember correctly, the action in the Yamaha AvantGrand is different from that in any Yamaha acoustic grands (they customize a baby grand piano action for AG). Kawai may just use the complete action from their GL line. When I played octave passages on an NV-10, it seems like I'm not fighting against the piano but the piano is playing automatically.

However, as I said, a mediocre regulation will eliminate these little differences. New NV-10 and AvantGrand play just like a new grand piano in terms of action, which from my perspective are already better than a lot of used acoustic grands that are not maintained well, which includes pianos at teachers' home, on the stage, church, practice room, etc. I also think a good pianist should adjust these tiny differences automatically in the brain so that you may not even notice these things when playing.


How does the action of NV-10 compare to the Kawai acoustic grands?

Well, I tried GL-30, GX1, GX2, GX6 and a Shigeru Kawai SK3 side by side with the NV-10. I would say the NV-10 feels very close to the GL-30 and GX1. The GX2 is a leap and I couldn't notice a difference among the action on GX2, GX6 and SK3. The difference between GX1 and GX2 is noticeable. From my perspective, Kawai grand pianos have the best action in their corresponding price ranges, and Yamaha follows (which also has very good actions). NV-10 and N1X have better action than a lot of used/rebuilt Steinways.


How does the action of Yamaha N3X compare to the Yamaha acoustic grands?

I didn't do a detailed comparison like Kawai. However, I did try a new Yamaha C3X grand in the showroom for 30 minutes and I feel the action is pretty close to my N3X. This is not side-by-side comparison so I may miss something. Again the action on N3X is also better than a lot of used Steinways.


Did playing exclusively on Yamaha AvantGrand action impact my playing on an NV10 in a negative way?

No. These are all grand piano actions so I don't need to adjust. I do need a bit adjustments if switching from upright/digital actions to a grand action, or vice versa.


Did playing exclusively on a digital hybrid impact my playing on an acoustic grand piano in a negative way?

If you are already familiar with acoustic pianos, and you are playing on a digital hybrid with a good VST on headphone, probably negligible negative impact since the only thing missing is the resonance, sonority and tonal palette. The biggest difference is the pedal, which takes me an hour to adjust to. Interestingly, Pianoteq has the most realistic pedal behavior but the most unrealistic tone. Sampled VSTs come the closest in terms of the tone and timbre variation but a lot of them are not well-calibrated in terms of velocity curve. The internal sound engine is well-calibrated, but lacks the complexity of the tone, which makes it a bit unrealistic. The speakers though, still have a long way to go if digital hybrids are being compared with acoustic pianos. Yamaha did a "best effort" on N2 and N3X, which come very close, but still are different from acoustic pianos. If you don't have much experience playing on an acoustic piano but you eventually want to do that, this could be a problem.


How are the speakers and sound engine of Kawai NV-10 compared to the Yamaha AvantGrand lines?

I don't like the speakers on NV-10. It could be loud, but it sounds one-dimensional like other non-hybrid digital pianos. I have never played an N1X (they are out of stock) but I vaguely remember that I like the speakers on N1 much better than those on NV-10. I do think that the 4-channel sample and speaker system on the Yamaha AvantGrands make a difference. The N2 and N3(X) are the only digital pianos that will fool me for a second because they have gorgeous speaker systems. The N2 sounds more like an upright and N3(X) sounds more like a grand. For the sound engine, I can't judge that since I didn't bring a headphone. I played using the Pianist Mode and I think the velocity curves are calibrated right. I do noticed a booming effect in the bass that CyberGene has described, which I don't like either.

Will the NV-10 be a better midi controller for VSTs than the N1X?

Yes it does. Since the action will be the only thing that matters if the piano is played solely for VSTs. Better headphones or monitor speakers can be used for VST purpose. So if I'm buying a digital hybrid for VST use exclusively, I might pick an NV-10. The audio interface on the N1X sounds like a neat feature but I haven't tested it to see how the VST sounds on the N1X speakers.

Did I regret buying an N3X over an NV-10?

Probably not since I'm not using the DP only as a midi controller. I will need to calibrate the velocity curve and settings for every VST, plug in a computer and load the samples, which has been an overhead. Sometimes I just want to sit down and play. Now I already know that I like the speakers of any AvantGrand models than the NV-10, and I will most likely like the binaural sound in Yamaha better than the headphone sound in Kawai.

Well, it's a long post, but it's really great to see competition in the digital hybrid lines. Keep up the good work Kawai!


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Shirley Kristen who is a very good piano teacher on YouTube, had posted a video regarding action regulation 5 years ago. I tested different actions by doing a lot of things that she did in the video:



Piano: 1982 NY Steinway Model B, Yamaha AvantGrand N3X
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I also want to add that I didn't notice the differences regarding a lot of heat debate on the forum, like:

1. Yamaha "adaptive release" by the key sensor
2. Kawai real damper mechanism
3. Repetition speed difference
4. Yamaha TRS and better keytop

I may be able to notice these differences if I was specifically looking for these. I even forgot to test these so it turned out that these were not important to me.


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Originally Posted by Harpuia
Well, it's a long post, but it's really great to see competition in the digital hybrid lines. Keep up the good work Kawai!

Really interesting read, many thanks for posting!

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Harpuia, that's the most informative comparison I've seen so far between the two hybrid actions and it's very balanced and useful. Without even testing the NV10 my intuition and experience with real acoustic pianos told me the vast exaggerations that flourished on this forum lately were just that: exaggerations.

I expect that I will also like a Kawai action slightly better than the Yamaha because of the composite materials used in their actions which would make for better consistency in differing humidity and temperature conditions, as well as for slightly better performance in regards to weight distribution and inertia. Your post confirms that.

Personally for me, I was already stretching my budget too much for the N1X (I started with a NU1X which was my initial limit on a digital piano... and I had to almost double it). The NV10 is a more expensive piano and expectedly it might have a SLIGHTLY better action and I'm OK with that. I only need a grand piano action, that's the quantum leap from the regular digital piano actions. Once there, "better" or "worse" are rather laboratory experiments for the sake of argumentation and fanboyism but I find it laughable that a decent modern grand piano action would be considered insufficient for a serious pianist, as some people have stated. It's about diminishing returns ultimately because one needs to really decide how much better one keyboard action feels compared to the other in relation to the price difference.

Last edited by CyberGene; 02/10/21 08:26 AM.

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Originally Posted by CyberGene
Personally for me, I was already stretching my budget too much for the N1X (I started with a NU1X which was my initial limit on a digital piano... and I had to almost double it). The NV10 is a more expensive piano and expectedly it might have a SLIGHTLY better action and I'm OK with that. I only need a grand piano action, that's the quantum leap from the regular digital piano actions. Once there, "better" or "worse" are rather laboratory experiments for the sake of argumentation and fanboyism but I find it laughable that a decent modern grand piano action would be considered insufficient for a serious pianist, as some people have stated. It's about diminishing returns ultimately because one needs to really decide how much better one keyboard action feels compared to the other in relation to the price difference.

This. I've played both the N1X and the NV-10, and they were both better than the PHA-50 on the LX-17. The Roland has a great action that can be easily controlled, but the grand actions give much more of a "hammer striking a string/something" feeling than the Roland. The tactile feedback is better than that on the LX-17.

The action was the one thing that was NOT the deciding factor. Not even the sound: the Yamaha sound got a lot better since I last tested it in the CLP-585. Even though I like the Kawai sound better than both Yamaha and Roland, I could live with both the Yamaha and Roland sound.

The one thing that was the decidingn factor for me, was the usability of the digital part of the piano.
- I like the touch screen on the NV-10 much better than the N1X's control methods.
- The favorites on the NV-10 are great, because I want to make a setup for the speakers (1-2 versions), headphone (1-2 versions) and Pianoteq (different setup, local control off.)
- I've read that the N1X resets to the default settings every time its turned of and on. That, for me, is a massive dealbreaker.


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Harpuia, excellent review I totally agree with, aptly describes the situation, thank you!

Concerning the action, some others have also noticed the somewhat loose feel in the AvantGrand series. With the copies that I have been able to play so far, I was bothered by the uneven, sometimes loose, sometimes doughy feel. In my opinion, it arises because the keys can rub against each other due to too much lateral play.

The following video initially shows how this problem can be eliminated by piano technicians: the bearing felt is soaked in a liquid that causes it to swell, and the desired extent of the swelling is limited by using templates. After the liquid has hardened/solidified, the felt has the right thickness again and a smoother, lower-friction surface:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pHKdPNCa4aA

However, if the felt is worn out, it must be completely replaced. This shouldn't be the case with new keyboards. But maybe there are series in production at Yamaha where the specifications are not met enough for some reason ... Felt too thin, not enough or not swollen long enough, or something like that. Or bearing pins a little too thin or holes a little too big, and so on, whatever combination... And at least with some copies this may have add up so unfavorably that in the end it leads to a sometimes problematic playing experience, as reported here by some.

Last edited by Kammerklang; 02/10/21 11:09 AM.
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Originally Posted by Kammerklang
Some others have also noticed the somewhat loose feel of the AvantGrand actions. With the copies that I have been able to play so far, I was bothered by the uneven, sometimes loose, sometimes doughy feel. In my opinion, it arises because the keys can rub against each other due to too much lateral play.

The idea that keys can rub together unequivocally points to a fault.

No new AvantGrand (or any other piano) that is 'correct to specification' will suffer from this problem. It's fantasy to suggest otherwise. It seems to me that in this thread, as in others, you are trying to compare a properly made Kawai with a faulty Yamaha. Why you are doing this is anybody's guess but it seems rather strange to me.

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Harpuia, nicely done, and well said. I felt pretty much the same way when I was in the market. There are definitely differences in the actions and it's more than enough to justify a personal preference one way or the other. While it's interesting to see some consensus forming that there may be some objective superiority to the NV action (that, after all was a big goal of Kawai's in designing it), it didn't factor into my decision at all since I'm frankly not advanced enough to notice or utilize it; either is more than enough piano for me, but I do know which I like better.


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Originally Posted by CyberGene
Without even testing the NV10 my intuition and experience with real acoustic pianos told me the vast exaggerations that flourished on this forum lately were just that: exaggerations.
As soon as possible, I will show photos of the exaggerated lateral play of the keys in that N1x I was talking about

Originally Posted by CyberGene
The NV10 is a more expensive piano and expectedly it might have a SLIGHTLY better action and I'm OK with that. I only need a grand piano action, that's the quantum leap from the regular digital piano actions.
Apart from the fact that quantum leaps are something incredibly small, the distance between an acoustic grand piano keyboard and a googd digital action that imitates this is, in my opinion, there, but not nearly as great as some would claim.

Originally Posted by CyberGene
Once there, "better" or "worse" are rather laboratory experiments for the sake of argumentation and fanboyism but I find it laughable that a decent modern grand piano action would be considered insufficient for a serious pianist, as some people have stated.

Conversely, I think it is rather ridiculous to claim that any real modern acoustic grand piano action would automatically be best for pianists, or in any case superior to a good digital action, just because of its "real" design. But I think for that reasion some are more likely to buy these actions: they want to believe it to be the better thing. But the N1x actions that I had under my fingers so far were definitely worse than some good digital action i know, and that has nothing to do with exaggeration...

Originally Posted by CyberGene
It's about diminishing returns ultimately because one needs to really decide how much better one keyboard action feels compared to the other in relation to the price difference.
Agree, how much the difference is worth to you, everyone has to decide for himself. In any case, a number of videos by well-known pianists show that you can also play very well musically on a digital action as well .

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Originally Posted by Kammerklang
As soon as possible, I will show photos of the exaggerated lateral play of the keys in that N1x I was talking about

A defective example of one action compared to a properly working example of another doesn't really tell you anything useful. If there is excessive lateral play, the action needs to be fixed. There have ben users here with defective NV-10 actions too.

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The only time I’ve heard about keys on N1X rubbing against each other is by one and same member Kammerklang who have noticed it on two different N1X pianos. Yet, nobody else have noticed it: owners or testers.

This is just my personal subjective accusation but I think you’re making things up. So, yes, I expect a video where you demonstrate how two N1X pianos have keys rubbing against each other.

Here’s one where N1X is perfectly according to specs. I had just washed my hands and dried them with paper. So they are dry and stick to the front surface of the keys and you can clearly hear the friction in the video. The lateral play is exactly within the standard specification of 0.2mm.

Last edited by CyberGene; 02/10/21 12:38 PM.

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Nice interview Q&A format Harpuia.

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Very informative and nuanced comparison Harpuia, thank you!

I can't agree more on the speakers of the NV10 - in particular the "booming" effect, although I must say I felt that as well on the N1X. Now I'm keen to see if Kawai addresses soon the N3X with a competitor 🤩 (Kawai James is NOT amused when we compare NV10 and N3X).

Originally Posted by Kammerklang
Conversely, I think it is rather ridiculous to claim that any real modern acoustic grand piano action would automatically be best for pianists, or in any case superior to a good digital action, just because of its "real" design. But I think for that reasion some are more likely to buy these actions: they want to believe it to be the better thing. But the N1x actions that I had under my fingers so far were definitely worse than some good digital action i know, and that has nothing to do with exaggeration...

Agreed that it is not automatic and one should decide for him/herself whether the extra cost is worth it 👍. I disagree however that we just "want to believe it to be a better thing". I initially thought hybrids were ridiculously expensive, that I would never spend that much money, as I was looking to upgrade my digital piano. Now I'm ready to sign a check for an N3X (or NV-x0) as soon as I move out to a my new place 😊.

Yes, there is a huge price gap, but as I tried various regular digitals I felt like that the difference in action and feel was negligible once you look from 1k€/$ and up. The real leap was going to the hybrid section, where the feel and pleasure to play matched my experience with acoustic. But again I agree it's not an absolute must to enjoy or learn piano.


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Originally Posted by CyberGene
Harpuia, that's the most informative comparison I've seen so far between the two hybrid actions and it's very balanced and useful.

Amen!


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Originally Posted by Harpuia
How are the speakers and sound engine of Kawai NV-10 compared to the Yamaha AvantGrand lines?

I don't like the speakers on NV-10. It could be loud, but it sounds one-dimensional like other non-hybrid digital pianos. I have never played an N1X (they are out of stock) but I vaguely remember that I like the speakers on N1 much better than those on NV-10. I do think that the 4-channel sample and speaker system on the Yamaha AvantGrands make a difference. The N2 and N3(X) are the only digital pianos that will fool me for a second because they have gorgeous speaker systems. The N2 sounds more like an upright and N3(X) sounds more like a grand. For the sound engine, I can't judge that since I didn't bring a headphone. I played using the Pianist Mode and I think the velocity curves are calibrated right. I do noticed a booming effect in the bass that CyberGene has described, which I don't like either.

Will the NV-10 be a better midi controller for VSTs than the N1X?

Yes it does. Since the action will be the only thing that matters if the piano is played solely for VSTs. Better headphones or monitor speakers can be used for VST purpose. So if I'm buying a digital hybrid for VST use exclusively, I might pick an NV-10. The audio interface on the N1X sounds like a neat feature but I haven't tested it to see how the VST sounds on the N1X speakers.

Excellent review - I agree on almost all your observations - and especially on these two ones.

Thanks for sharing!

Osho


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The old adage of choosing the right piano still applies.

1. Do you like the sound?
2. Do you like the touch?
3. Can you afford it?

People here love to make mountains out of anthills, and that's perfectly normal on a gear oriented internet forum populated by mostly men. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Maybe you don't care about not having the fastest action. Maybe having the fastest action you can afford is the most important thing.

Maybe the sound of a Yamaha just rubs you the wrong way. Or maybe Kawai is just too "one dimensional". Maybe the speakers don't sound good for whatever reason.

Maybe your budget is $5k. Or $10k. Or $20k, or $100k.

Unless you have a lot of money, everything is a compromise. The internet might say X is better than Y or Z. But playing the piano is a personal experience, your budget is your own, so YOU need to try them out, and maybe come away with a very different answer.

I know I did.

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Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts, Harpuia.

Kind regards,
James
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Originally Posted by CyberGene
Here’s one where N1X is perfectly according to specs. I had just washed my hands and dried them with paper. So they are dry and stick to the front surface of the keys and you can clearly hear the friction in the video. The lateral play is exactly within the standard specification of 0.2mm.

That's how my N1X behaves also. No excessive lateral play in my keys.

God Bless,
David


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Agree with most of what was stated, however I'd confidently say the NV10 action is significantly better, and not by a tiny bit as stated by op. I tested nv10 and n1x side by side for a few hours, nv10 is like playing on your dream piano (action wise) it works with you not against you like the AG. Repetition level is significantly better in every way on the NV10.

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