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I am torn between the CA79 and CA99. For about 1.5k more, the CA99 comes with a soundboard but I can also use that money to setup a really good speaker system that, in my uneducated opinion, may sound much better than the smaller cabinet of the CA99. What do you think? Has anyone setup a speaker with VST samples? How close can you get to the sound of acoustic pianos?

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Good question. I don't know the answer but would love to see a frequency response experiment of the two situations. Quite a few posts about brands using transducers and a soundboard complain of some degree of muddiness or boom in the sound. I have heard this for myself. It puzzles me how the higher frequencies available from a tweeter can be obtained via a transducer and soundboard, and yet on an (trans) acoustic it works, so something is going on. Have you in person tested and listened to the CA99?

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Do you even have the space to properly setup a highend sound system?

Upgright pianos typically get shoved quite close to the wall to save space - that's the entire point of them.


A good sound system properly setup in a stereo triangle will eat up as much room as a grand piano.


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I opted for the one with soundboard (some number earlier than the present 79 and 99). I often practise with a good headset, which also tells me what my recording will sound like. But sometimes I have it play into the room. Oddly enough, one of the things I enjoy is feeling vibrations in the keys, esp. for louder passages with bass. I didn't realize how much I miss the physical sensations of an acoustic piano. I made the decision (pre-covid) by actually visiting a store and testing back and forth. There may also be something about how the sound is transmitted physically across the soundboard (not sure.)

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Originally Posted by steamrick
Do you even have the space to properly setup a highend sound system?

Upgright pianos typically get shoved quite close to the wall to save space - that's the entire point of them.


A good sound system properly setup in a stereo triangle will eat up as much room as a grand piano.

This isn't actually true -- being far from the wall is not at all a requirement nor even necessarily worse. In fact, I'd argue that if set-up properly, having your speaker close to the wall is better than having them far from the wall in most homes.

The primary reason having your speakers away from the wall is recommended is to prevent boominess from the bass, but this is very easily rectified with EQ, especially if your speaker has EQ controls built-in. There are
a few speakers that benefit greatly from wall distance, but these are super rare (dipoles, mostly). For your typical monopole speaker (forward-firing), being close to the wall has acoustic benefits.

To try to explain it briefly, placing your speakers far from the wall behind them will create large nulls and peaks that show up in your speaker's frequency response in the bass area. This is because the vast majority of speakers are omnidirectional at low frequencies, so the sound will bounce back from the wall and constructively and destructively interfere with the forward radiation.

However, the closer the speaker is to the wall, the higher the wavelengths of the reflections. As speakers are far more directional at higher frequencies, there's less sound reflecting backward in the first place, so resulting interference becomes way less audible.

That is part of the reason high-end studios will embed speakers directly into the wall itself.

So basically, you just need enough distance from the wall to prevent port turbulence, if the speaker has a port. Usually, a distance of 1-2x the port diameter is fine for this, so just a few inches is fine.

Genelec, makers of some of the best speakers in the world with a science-backed approach to audio, explains the matter succinctly in this 1-minute video:


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I don’t have ports in my speakers. I believe sealed speakers are more accurate than ported speakers. My speaker manufacturer recommends room width x .447 for the distance to the front of the speaker from the wall.

I find it hard to believe that Genelec produces some of the best speakers in the world. Maybe for a cheap price, they do, ok.

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Originally Posted by LarryK
I don’t have ports in my speakers. I believe sealed speakers are more accurate than ported speakers. My speaker manufacturer recommends room width x .447 for the distance to the front of the speaker from the wall.

I find it hard to believe that Genelec produces some of the best speakers in the world. Maybe for a cheap price, they do, ok.

Objectively speaking, Genelec is at the forefront of acoustics research and publish more papers on loudspeakers and acoustics than almost any manufacturer. Subjectively, I like them a lot =], better than some 5 and 6 digit speakers I have heard (which really aren't as much about great sound as about status. That's okay too). I test and review speakers in part for a living, and while it's fine to have preferences, there's also some level of objectivity for what makes a good speaker. Speakers aren't instruments and I believe their primary task, unless stated otherwise is to reproduce the recording convincingly. Certainly, that should be your goal if you're trying to create a realistic piano sound, which I believe is the goal for most here.

Hi-Fi manufacturer recommendation of distance from the rear wall generally assume symmetrical placement, that the listener isn't going to do anything to EQ or take other measures to tame the bass. The recommendation for 0.447x room width for distance from the rear wall is a boilerplate number to minimize the effect of standing waves if you are in a perfectly rectangular room with your speakers centered in the room (this is not the case for most piano setups). I don't disagree with the recommendation if you don't plan to EQ or use a subwoofer and can achieve symmetrical speaker placement. I was simply pointing out that it is not at all a problem to have speakers near the wall if you are able to do some EQ (which in the case of some active speakers, might be as simple as flipping a switch or control via an app).

Also note that the 0.447x recommendation only addresses standing waves, but not the equally relevant (or arguably worse) problem of SBIR (speaker boundary interference response), which is what the genelec advice addresses. Unless you are able to have completely control over your room setup, room nodes are hard to completely avoid, but SBIR is more manageable.


--------

More on topic, to NavH, I think both are viable options. My guess, without having tried a soundboard piano myself is that the soundboard option is going to more realistically radiate sound into a room by emulating the directivity of a real piano. This might be important if you like to perform for others. Overall, it should behave more like a 'real' piano, as you'd expect, and it's very well possible that Kawai's custom application of its sound samples for its own soundboard would sound better out of the box than even high-end speakers would.

However, I do believe good speaker setup could going to give you similar (or better) sound quality at your listening position. The primary disadvantage for you as a player would be the change in tonality as you move your body away from the speakers' 'sweet spot'. This can be somewhat mitigated by either buying speakers with very wide directivity or using the cross-firing method of aiming speakers (toe-ing them so that they aim at a point slightly in front of your ears).

The latter might reduce the perceived width of the soundstage a bit in playing music, but for piano specifically, it should help broaden the sweet spot without much of an adverse effect otherwise.

Long story short, speakers can emulate the timbre of a real piano just fine, it's the spatial qualities that are hard to get right.

Last edited by napilopez; 01/20/22 06:37 PM.
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Originally Posted by keystring
I opted for the one with soundboard (some number earlier than the present 79 and 99). I often practise with a good headset, which also tells me what my recording will sound like. But sometimes I have it play into the room. Oddly enough, one of the things I enjoy is feeling vibrations in the keys, esp. for louder passages with bass. I didn't realize how much I miss the physical sensations of an acoustic piano. I made the decision (pre-covid) by actually visiting a store and testing back and forth. There may also be something about how the sound is transmitted physically across the soundboard (not sure.)
This is very true! Honestly, even the Kawai NV10S didn't excite me that much probably because it doesn't have a soundboard. It sounded pretty good but it didn't feel real.

And my Kawai NV5S doesn't sound muddy at all IMHO. It's plenty bright if you wish but also can have I nice warm sound (configurable). I also think that the soundstage is really good.
I haven't tried the CA79 but I did try the CA99. While being a very nice instrument with a great action I thought it sounded a little bit muddier and with more cabinet resonance if that makes sense. The NV5s sounded "cleaner" by comparison. Both had the same vibrations in the keyboard and pedals while playing which definitely adds to the experience!


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The tiny speakers of the DGX650 and above, also the P515, have ported bass speakers. Little ones, but they give a decent uumph to the mix. I've found out that the louder your piano (any piano) is, the more impressive and immersive it becomes.
I've also found out that the more I have to drink, the better I sound.


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Originally Posted by napilopez
Originally Posted by LarryK
I don’t have ports in my speakers. I believe sealed speakers are more accurate than ported speakers. My speaker manufacturer recommends room width x .447 for the distance to the front of the speaker from the wall.

I find it hard to believe that Genelec produces some of the best speakers in the world. Maybe for a cheap price, they do, ok.

Objectively speaking, Genelec is at the forefront of acoustics research and publish more papers on loudspeakers and acoustics than almost any manufacturer. Subjectively, I like them a lot =], better than some 5 and 6 digit speakers I have heard (which really aren't as much about great sound as about status. That's okay too). I test and review speakers in part for a living, and while it's fine to have preferences, there's also some level of objectivity for what makes a good speaker. Speakers aren't instruments and I believe their primary task, unless stated otherwise is to reproduce the recording convincingly. Certainly, that should be your goal if you're trying to create a realistic piano sound, which I believe is the goal for most here.

Hi-Fi manufacturer recommendation of distance from the rear wall generally assume symmetrical placement, that the listener isn't going to do anything to EQ or take other measures to tame the bass. The recommendation for 0.447x room width for distance from the rear wall is a boilerplate number to minimize the effect of standing waves if you are in a perfectly rectangular room with your speakers centered in the room (this is not the case for most piano setups). I don't disagree with the recommendation if you don't plan to EQ or use a subwoofer and can achieve symmetrical speaker placement. I was simply pointing out that it is not at all a problem to have speakers near the wall if you are able to do some EQ (which in the case of some active speakers, might be as simple as flipping a switch or control via an app).

Also note that the 0.447x recommendation only addresses standing waves, but not the equally relevant (or arguably worse) problem of SBIR (speaker boundary interference response), which is what the genelec advice addresses. Unless you are able to have completely control over your room setup, room nodes are hard to completely avoid, but SBIR is more manageable.


--------

More on topic, to NavH, I think both are viable options. My guess, without having tried a soundboard piano myself is that the soundboard option is going to more realistically radiate sound into a room by emulating the directivity of a real piano. This might be important if you like to perform for others. Overall, it should behave more like a 'real' piano, as you'd expect, and it's very well possible that Kawai's custom application of its sound samples for its own soundboard would sound better out of the box than even high-end speakers would.

However, I do believe good speaker setup could going to give you similar (or better) sound quality at your listening position. The primary disadvantage for you as a player would be the change in tonality as you move your body away from the speakers' 'sweet spot'. This can be somewhat mitigated by either buying speakers with very wide directivity or using the cross-firing method of aiming speakers (toe-ing them so that they aim at a point slightly in front of your ears).

The latter might reduce the perceived width of the soundstage a bit in playing music, but for piano specifically, it should help broaden the sweet spot without much of an adverse effect otherwise.

Long story short, speakers can emulate the timbre of a real piano just fine, it's the spatial qualities that are hard to get right.


Ok, great, you review speakers, so you can check out the owner’s manual for my stereo speakers, a pair of Gryphon Cantatas from a while ago:

https://www.manualslib.com/manual/629088/Gryphon-Cantata.html?page=9#manual

and here is some information about the designer:

https://duelundaudio.com/about-steen-aa-duelund/

and let me know what you think.

I tried them with a digital piano but could never get the listening position right with regards to the playing position, so, I gave up and bought an acoustic piano, lol.

There are a lot of speaker manufacturers in the world and I don’t recall anybody raving about Genelec on any audiophile forums. I suppose most people with two channel systems aren’t looking for near field monitors.

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Originally Posted by Pianico
And my Kawai NV5S doesn't sound muddy at all IMHO.


The NV5S has better design and materials of cabinet than CA series.
I remember Kawai James said, Novus is the same as their AP.
On my CA98, I can feel it. The cabinet panel is a little thin.

In addition, all soundboard has 180-degree surface sound , but cone speakers as spot-shaped, So the sound field and feeling are different.

Last edited by robinlb; 01/20/22 11:09 PM.

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I prefer MP11SE played through my pair of Genelec 8250 any day over CA99. not even a comparison.

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I'd say the slab with separate speakers would also be much more versatile than the soundboard too.


I'd be a far better pianist if I spent the time I'm on this forum playing my piano instead.
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Originally Posted by pnokeys
I prefer MP11SE played through my pair of Genelec 8250 any day over CA99. not even a comparison.
To be fair, a pair of Genelec 8250 isn't far short of the cost of the CA99 all on their own...


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I’ve always thought the soundboard was a really nice touch toward authenticity. I wonder how effective it really is though with the sound, especially as it’s only powered by transducers. I sampled a CA99, but not well enough to really get a feel for it.

Does it really give a good sound/add something to the sound, or is it a marketing ploy like Yamaha’s ““spruce cone speakers made out of the same wood as a soundboard”. I’m not a Kawai owner, but I have a healthy respect for their CA79/CA99.

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Ideally, you could try them all out in your house, or at least at the piano showroom.

Per the Kawai documentation, the audio systems of the CA79 and CA99 are significantly different. One difference is the soundboard which probably took some effort to combine with regular speakers. The CA99 is the flagship, so it should sound better regardless. The real question is not soundboard but the holistic audio design, IMHO.

Separate monitors are ugly and require some set-up/tweaking, plus require a small start up ritual every time you play. The CA99 looks nice and you can just sit down and play; don't underestimate the value there.

Positioning of the piano/speakers & room dimensions/decorations have a huge impact on sound. An acoustic piano will sound more realistic, regardless of your set-up.

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This is a question that I also wrestled with. The problem was that in my case there wasn't anyway to test out using separate speakers and a VST. Just wasn't possible. I also got hung up on the specs. In the end I went for the one that was last on the specs (compared to the Yamaha CLP 685 and Kawai CA 78, 98) but sounded best to me, the NU1X.


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Originally Posted by peterws
… I've also found out that the more I have to drink, the better I sound.

This pleases me greatly.

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I own CA99 and tbh i think I'll eventually get an mp11se successor as i dont rate the speaker system at all on it, the soundboard speaker is only noticeable for bassier keys and it's more of an effect that you can live without, the only thing i like is the action of the CA99, i probably should have got the CA79, especially as i hardly ever play with the volume that high to appreciate the bloody soundboard lol. If kawai release a new mp12 that's loads lighter I'll actually ironically trade my CA99 in for one... As odd as that sounds, i simply think the speaker system is too muddy, it's not good enough period. At least with a slab piano you can buy some much clearer speakers. I tested iloud MTM pair out with my kawai es920 i also have, they were brilliant. But i couldn't live with the action on es920.

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