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I have narrowed down my options to these 4 digital pianos but they all seem to have something that prevents me from going ahead with the purchase.

CN29 (£1000) -- affordable, but it's very bare bones. It's got just two speakers and there's no line in/out. It's also lacking in basic functionality unlike the CN39.

CN39 (£1200) -- has all the features I need but at this price point I'd rather spend a little more and get wooden keys instead of plastic ones since I want this upgrade to last many years.

CA49 (£1600) -- has wooden keys, which is great, but it's pretty much like the CN29 in that it's very slim on features. Kawai's business model here is pretty obvious but it's disappointing that they strip functionality from these pianos (the cost to add the ability to record more than 3 songs or use more voices is negligible).

CA59 (£2000) -- nothing wrong with this except I can't justify spending so much on a digital piano when a used acoustic isn't too far off this price range.

So that's my dilemma. I'm leaning towards the CA49 at the moment but given that it's almost the same as the CN29 except the keys and speakers it seems pretty silly to spend an extra £600 just for that. The CN39 is the next on the list but the plastic keys put me off because I know I'll regret it in the future.

Any suggestions?

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I don't think wood vs plastic keys matters so much. But it is important how they feel to you. Have you tried them? And some Roland PHA50, Casio GP etc for comparison?

Bare-bones models are fine if you can work around the missing features over midi. You can even replace the sound engine with a VST piano and external speakers.

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Originally Posted by _sem_
I don't think wood vs plastic keys matters so much. But it is important how they feel to you. Have you tried them? And some Roland PHA50, Casio GP etc for comparison?
By wood vs plastic I meant Grand Feel Compact vs Responsive Hammer III. I've tried them both and the wooden keys have better action for sure in my opinion, felt better than both Casio and Roland.

Quote
Bare-bones models are fine if you can work around the missing features over midi. You can even replace the sound engine with a VST piano and external speakers.
This is a viable solution for portable keyboards (I've done this in the past when recording) but I'm not sure if I want to be using this setup with a cabinet, which I expect to be a complete unit. It's a bit of a hassle needing a laptop/speakers and doesn't look too good either, which is why I'm hesitant.

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Hello Turbulent,

You may be aware of this already, but just in case, there is product comparison function on the Kawai Global site that will allow you to compare the specs of all four models easily.

https://www.kawai-global.com/product_comparison/detail.php?n=ca59,ca49,cn39,cn29&ct=36

One important distinction is that the CA49/CA59 can use the PianoRemote app for iOS/Android, while the CN29/CN39 cannot.

Originally Posted by Turbulent
Any suggestions?

Have you already visited a retailer to play-test the four models under consideration? I think this is really the best advice I can give anyone considering different models, regardless of brand.

Regarding the £600 premium for the CA49 over the CN29, keyboard action and sound quality are really the most important characteristics of a digital piano. And while it may seem like quite a lot extra to pay, when you break it down over the lifetime of the instrument, the amount is perhaps easier to justify.

Best of luck with your decision.

Kind regards,
James
x


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Do you need many tones, midi sequencer, audio recording with overdubbing on a USB stick? Go with CN39. I have personally tested it, it has a very decent action and good acoustic piano sound - even if the sound engine is the old one and not the new one put, for example, in the ES920.

You don’t need such features? Go with CA49 or, if you can afford to spend £2000, with CA59.

Unluckily, no Kawai model offers audio over USB, and this is a very negative point.

Last edited by WTF Bach; 11/02/21 09:31 AM.
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Originally Posted by Kawai James
Hello Turbulent,

You may be aware of this already, but just in case, there is product comparison function on the Kawai Global site that will allow you to compare the specs of all four models easily.

https://www.kawai-global.com/product_comparison/detail.php?n=ca59,ca49,cn39,cn29&ct=36

Hi James, thanks for the info. I've had a look at your link and as I suspected, the CA49 downgrades almost everything from the cheaper CN39 so it ends up resembling the CN29, other than the keys and speakers. But you are correct - they are the most important aspects and I have indeed tried all these pianos and the CA49 sounds and feels better than the rest. It just sucks that it's missing USB-to-device connectivity and other functionality.

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And while it may seem like quite a lot extra to pay, when you break it down over the lifetime of the instrument, the amount is perhaps easier to justify.

Haha yeah I'm trying to justify the expense to myself too!

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Originally Posted by WTF Bach
Do you need many tones, midi sequencer, audio recording with overdubbing on a USB stick?

Still trying to figure out how crucial these are for me. They're definitely features I'd get a lot of use out of, but not absolutely necessary...

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... Go with CN39. I have personally tested it, it has a very decent action and good acoustic piano sound.

Yeah the action is decent I agree. How does the sound compare to the CA49 in your opinion? I tried them both and found the CN39 to lack a bit of depth in comparison, with some notes having a bell-like texture (if that makes any sense). Although this was in a busy shop and the layout may have affected the sound...

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What does your dealer actually have in stock?


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Just another couple of elements:

- if I am not wrong, CA49 comes with 192 notes of polyphony, no EX5 tone and a less articulated resonances setup. This points to the hypothesis that, even with the same sound technology - progressive harmonic imaging - the sound engine is not exactly the same.

- CN39 enjoys the new Onkyo ampli/speakers system, while CA49 doesn’t.

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Originally Posted by Turbulent
Originally Posted by WTF Bach
Do you need many tones, midi sequencer, audio recording with overdubbing on a USB stick?

Still trying to figure out how crucial these are for me. They're definitely features I'd get a lot of use out of, but not absolutely necessary...

Quote
... Go with CN39. I have personally tested it, it has a very decent action and good acoustic piano sound.

Yeah the action is decent I agree. How does the sound compare to the CA49 in your opinion? I tried them both and found the CN39 to lack a bit of depth in comparison, with some notes having a bell-like texture (if that makes any sense). Although this was in a busy shop and the layout may have affected the sound...

IMHO CN39 sound experience is slightly better (more detailed resonance setup, Onkyo speakers), but of course the better control you get by the wooden CA49 action could have a physical impact on the overall sound - and certainly it does have a psychoacoustic one.

Last edited by WTF Bach; 11/02/21 10:30 AM.
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Originally Posted by terminaldegree
What does your dealer actually have in stock?
My local piano shop where I tried them had all of them in stock. Why?

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Originally Posted by WTF Bach
Just another couple of elements:

- if I am not wrong, CA49 comes with 192 notes of polyphony, no EX5 tone and a less articulated resonances setup. This points to the hypothesis that, even with the same sound technology - progressive harmonic imaging - the sound engine is not exactly the same.

- CN39 enjoys the new Onkyo ampli/speakers system, while CA49 doesn’t.

Originally Posted by WTF Bach
IMHO CN39 sound engine is slightly better (more detailed resonance setup, Onkyo speakers), but of course the better control you get by the better CA49 action could have a physical impact on the overall sound - and certainly it does have a psychoacoustic one.

Interesting! This has made me reconsider that the sound may not have been as bad as I thought. Could well have been a placebo-like effect, which I didn't think about. I will have to try them both one more time.

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Originally Posted by Turbulent
Originally Posted by WTF Bach
Just another couple of elements:

- if I am not wrong, CA49 comes with 192 notes of polyphony, no EX5 tone and a less articulated resonances setup. This points to the hypothesis that, even with the same sound technology - progressive harmonic imaging - the sound engine is not exactly the same.

- CN39 enjoys the new Onkyo ampli/speakers system, while CA49 doesn’t.

Originally Posted by WTF Bach
IMHO CN39 sound engine is slightly better (more detailed resonance setup, Onkyo speakers), but of course the better control you get by the better CA49 action could have a physical impact on the overall sound - and certainly it does have a psychoacoustic one.

Interesting! This has made me reconsider that the sound may not have been as bad as I thought. Could well have been a placebo-like effect, which I didn't think about. I will have to try them both one more time.

Could I offer you a suggestion? Go to the store with a friend of yours and perform a blindfold test. This will solve any doubt and perplexity.

Stand with your shoulders to the instruments and let her/him play some notes, chords ad runs on both the pianos…

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Originally Posted by Turbulent
My local piano shop where I tried them had all of them in stock. Why?

A significant percentage of customers and shops are experiencing wait times of months for new digital piano stock.


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Originally Posted by terminaldegree
A significant percentage of customers and shops are experiencing wait times of months for new digital piano stock.
Hmm strange. The sales assistant did say they were low on stock with some models but were getting more next week. No hints of supply shortages. I've also just checked a few big online retailers (Bonners) and they seem to have pretty much everything available. Could be an issue particular to USA shops?

But thanks for pointing this out, helps me put some urgency on my purchase!

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CA49/59. You'll likely spend more time playing than using any other bells and whistles. And their actions are some of the best, most comfortable, you can get on a digital piano at this price range.

I think you can't go wrong with the C49. And if recording becomes an issue then a cheap mini pc/laptop setup will complement it very nicely.

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My goodness, how to decide?

Whatever feelings you have now, will not go away because you saved a few bucks. The features are nice, but playing it is also important. For me, having the ability to record something and then transfer it to a USB stick is important. Having the Kawai wood keys is important. I do not use so many of the marketing features. At first, yes, now, not so much. I have no issue with the sound nor speakers.

You know what you want to do. You will have this piano for a while. Sort out what regrets you might have over saving some money.

And ...

Have fun ...


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CA 49/59.

Go for the wooden action.


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Originally Posted by Kawai James
Best of luck with your decision.

Kind regards,
James

I think the most fundamental advice to give about Kawai products is wether they are available or not. And this information is not easily obtained from Kawai sites.

As a would-be client having paid a large deposit when ordering a NV5 one year ago at the largest Kawai dealer in France, I feel somewhat frustrated by the silence: the dealer, Kawai France, or Kawai Europe knows nothing, or won't say anything.

As a businessman, I can perfectly understand the unfavourable supply and shipping circumstances. But as the former CEO of a large international advertising firm, I would also advise Kawai, if it were my client, to address their prospects' frustrations, and give them something I would call "Delivery Guidance". Today, the best they can get are snippets like cryptic remarks on Thomann's site, changing often. (Currently: "Available in several months". Ha.)

So instead of worrying wether Fatar actions are made in Tunisia or Italy, tell us the true story, James (like when and where and in what numbers deliveries are currently made). You and Kawai would certainly earn my respect.

Last edited by Vikendios; 11/07/21 03:57 PM.

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I hope it's not too late to chip in on this conversation. I've tried the CN29 and the CN39. They were OK (I even marked the CN39 as "nice") but I didn't detect enough advantage on the CN39 to justify the extra price. If you're strapped for cash, just get the CN29. But try to get something better.

There are other brands available, which might give you what you want. And if the home piano furniture aspect is unimportant to you, you might consider a portable piano (not the ES520) or even the MP-7SE stage piano.

I hear that the CA49 action is a lot better than on the CA39, and this matters. It's a shame that it's feature poor and lacks the EX patch. Anyway, I have not been able to try one yet. I have also heard that the speakers are a bit disappointing, and since there's no line-out, you can't add extra speakers too easily. For the same price you can buy a Yamaha CLP-735, which has a much better spec. If I had to buy a home piano for myself, this is the one I'd try first, but I must admit to being a Yamaha fan.


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