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My Kawai CA95 Review

Posted By: chickenlump

My Kawai CA95 Review - 01/20/13 09:07 PM

Hey guys, I’ve had my new CA95 for more than a week now, and I thought I’d share my thoughts here for others. Hopefully some of you find this helpful, if anyone else owns this piano, please feel free to add your opinions on this review! This is coming from a classical piano player converting to a digital piano for the first time.

Tone and Sound
*I’m really only going to comment on the piano sounds as I don’t really have a need for the other sounds.

The sampled sounds of the Kawai are quite beautiful. Many of the default piano sounds are a bit too bright for my tastes, (there may be a way to fine-tune it in the setup I haven’t fiddled with it too much) but overall they are quite lovely. The tonal character changes with different velocities and allows for great expressivity. Occasionally however, I found that for upper mid to high notes, the tonal character change can be quite abrupt from around p to mf - bringing out that bright “twang” when you hit the upper registers with greater force on an acoustic. Also, the sound seems to decay a little more rapidly than acoustics I am used to, but not enough to cause any problems.

The speaker system on the CA95 is powerful and the soundboard gives a wonderful and realistic resonance, as long as the volume is turned up at least 40%. I actually turn my reverb function off as the sound fills the room like a true acoustic. There is no obvious directional sound source (like some other digitals I tried) which helps with the realism at that volume.

I have not tried the previous Kawai DP key actions, but the GrandFeel wooden keys are a joy to play with. They really mimic the action of an acoustic grand – any difference I felt was within the difference I would feel from playing different acoustic pianos of varying brands. The escapement does not feel as obvious as an acoustic grand piano to me, but is definitely there. (Personally, it’s not a huge deal for me, as I’ve varied playing from uprights to grands that I never really depended on it.) The key action sound is pretty soft like an acoustic and does not have those annoying clunking and thumping sounds.

The response is pretty fast, but very rapid trills sometimes are a bit difficult, unless I fully lift my fingers of the keys which then produces a harsher trill than I intend. (This may just be a function of me being out of practice… YMMV)

I have the satin black finish version, which I felt was the nicest of the options available, but it still looks pretty utilitarian. I must say I’m partial to polished ebony cabinets - I’ve always associated the other colours to out of tune old pianos in old churches and retirement homes. That being said, it's well made and not unattractive, and obviously, this is purely subjective.
If there was a CS equivalent of the CA95, I would have picked it up in a heart beat, but the rest of the CA95’s qualities more than makes up for it IMO.

Overall, very impressive piano that is just a joy to play!
Posted By: Kenboi2

Re: My Kawai CA95 Review - 01/20/13 10:52 PM

Good review! Thank you for being honest smile
Posted By: Kawai James

Re: My Kawai CA95 Review - 01/20/13 11:10 PM

Indeed, thank you for posting the review - congrats again on your new piano!

Posted By: Tom Tom

Re: My Kawai CA95 Review - 01/21/13 12:13 AM

Good review Chickenlump! I had my CA95 delivered on Friday and I am absolutely loving it so far. I do agree though that if it was in a polished ebony cabinet similar to the CS9 then it would be just about the perfect DP. In saying that, the satin black finish is very nice indeed!
Posted By: Clayman

Re: My Kawai CA95 Review - 01/21/13 06:41 AM

Thanks a lot for posting this summary, Tom Tom. At least it gives me some hands-on information about the CA-95 I probably won't be able to find out myself before placing a firm order on one.
Posted By: Wuffski

Re: My Kawai CA95 Review - 01/21/13 06:12 PM

Yes, really a nice review! Thanks!!!
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: My Kawai CA95 Review - 01/23/13 10:09 AM

I lurk here more than I post as I'm usually busy in the ABF but I, too, took delivery of a CA95 on Saturday, and extend my gratitude to those on this forum who have extolled it's virtues.

My intention was to choose between a CA65, CLP470 and HP505 but once I got the sensation of the CA95 soundboard there was no turning back and the budget was adjusted to accommodate. I spent the shopping day on all the grands and uprights in the store before I went to the digitals and went back to the best of each before making my fairly easy final decision. After the CA95 none of the other digitals were considered.

The difference between the keyboards on Steinway and Bechstein grands, Yamaha and Kawai uprights and grands and the top end digitals was nothing I couldn't live with or adapt to. The sound was never as important to me as my ability to manipulate it, I'm more concerned with my technique, but playing and hearing the CA95 changed everything. In the showroom the difference between the worthwhile and affordable uprights, U1/K3 etc, and the CA95 was really negligible to me.

Apart from the soundboard there is very little to distinguish the CA95 from it lesser sibling, the CA65, which compares favourably with the best in the HP or CLP range and which would have won the day due to its keyboard. Many here express a preference for the sound or touch of one of the three but I'd be perfectly happy with any of them and adapted rapidly to all of them, though the Kawai action is more satisfying. The range of piano voices offers more than enough to satisfy my tastes and some work better than others though most can be improved using the dual voice feature - very impressive - and the range of options in the virtual technician. I only tried the default piano sound in the shop but there are viable alternatives and the church organ offers an excellent opportunity for slow practise.

But the soundboard in the CA95 makes all the difference in the world. The showroom is too big for it to shine but once it was installed in my own home its real value became much clearer. The volume level is big but not outrageous. At full whack, and I wouldn't play it at anything less, it is no more than an upright acoustic (and probably not much less). It isn't overpowering but it fills the room it's in. And I can feel it.

The soundboard adds an enormous amount of presence. The instrument is solid on the floor at 192 pounds but I can feel the resonance in my hands at the keyboard and in my feet on the pedals. The whole instrument resonates. It's perfectly adequate for the home. The tremelo in the Pathétique allegro or Liszt's La Lugubre Gondola goes right through my whole body, but even in Schumann's Traümerei the resonance can be felt in the fingers and the feet.

There is a very bright attack between B5 and D6 (middle C = C4) on some of the voices when the headphones are taken off but they need something extra to cut through the sound once the lower end of the keyboard sounds. I've already acclimatised to it and there are voicing options for adjustment. Some of the piano voices were lacklustre and faded too soon on headphones and I regarded them as alternatives to scroll through but on speakers their variety and versatility made a lot more sense.

My first day lasted from shortly after 4pm until gone 1am with no more than a half hour interruption for fish and chips and Sunday was little different so time had to be spent on headphones.

My Beyer DT100's are comfortable, still on full volume, and wouldn't aggravate my tinnitus. With ATH-M50's, however, the volume has to be turned down to around halfway though the sound is clearer, more detailed and more staisfying.

With headphones, the default Concert Grand, awash with small hall reverb, transported me back to the auditorium where I regularly performed on a Blüthner concert grand many years ago. But the big surprise for me came when I was messing with the control panel, without headphones, and paired the pop piano and the upright in dual mode and changed the keyboard sensitivity to light. It felt and sounded just like the pre-war straight strung Normelle upright my grandfather bought in the 1920's only richer and more sonorous.

It lived with us from 1968 to 1988. I did my grade 8 with it. I had never seen or heard it with copper coloured strings, they had rusted before I was born so I never heard it at it's best - until this weekend.

The texture of the ivory feel keys is just as I remember and the feel of the black keys, too, though they aren't as smooth and worn. But the way they return with that tiny, almost imperceptible kick was just delightful. On normal settings the keyboard is faster than I am and it's controllable over the whole length of key. I am able to control a trill's volume with my middle finger almost touching the fallboard.

The dynamic range is wide and controllable. The range of selectable voices is more than adequate for me and of good quality; none of them sounded cheap. With the church organ I was able to play my Bach inventions without wanting to rush. It would be nice for the organs and harpsichord to have key sensitivity off without the setting affecting the pianos but if this can be done I haven't figured it out yet.

The initial decay is quick compared to an acoustic (or the sustain in the ADSR envelope is lower). The bass continues to resonate audibly but faintly for about 50 seconds on the default setting, 5. This is far more than I'm used to. It can extend to over two minutes on maximum, 10, but this sounds artificial.

I chose the rosewood finish to match the room it will be played in. The brass pedals and red felt set it off nicely and it looks like a piece of furniture. I thought the black made it look more like part of the hi-fi. The speaker grill cloth looks like an unmatched veneer on the fallboard in photos on the 'net but the real thing shows the texture and it looks just fine.

I play it facing into the room so the soundboard does maximum damage. I had already turned my back on acoustics in a home environment but this is more than I expected.

It's not a portable instrument but I can put one end on a dolly without assistance and manouevre it from room to room wheelbarrow fashion without stress.

If you're considering a high end digital as an acoustic substitute it would be unwise not to seek out the CA95 for a hands on experience.

Posted By: Kawai James

Re: My Kawai CA95 Review - 01/23/13 10:25 AM

Hello Richard,

Many, many thanks for posting your thorough review. I'm delighted to read of your enjoyment when playing the CA95, and the nostalgia you feel when selecting different sounds/combinations of sounds - for me, this is what music is all about.

I loved the line about the fish & chips too...makes me more than a little homesick...

Once again, thank you for your post.

Kind regards,
Posted By: Clayman

Re: My Kawai CA95 Review - 01/23/13 10:46 AM

Richard, thanks a million for such an extensive review. This model is at the top of my list of possible options for my upcoming purchase of a digital piano and I am really glad it's for a good reason.

Thanks very much again for posting this review here. smile
Posted By: FredrikJ

Re: My Kawai CA95 Review - 01/23/13 11:25 AM

Thanks chickenlump and Richard, very good reviews!

The speaker grill cloth looks like an unmatched veneer on the fallboard in photos on the 'net but the real thing shows the texture and it looks just fine.

Interesting, that's what I've felt too! Otherwise I really like the rosewood color on pictures. Any photos of your piano "in action" in your home?

And also, dammit folks, I had just "settled" on purchasing the CN34, now you are making me glare towards the CA65 again (CA95 is not an option though, to expensive and I will not be able to make full use of the soundboard in my apartment). I vote for an CA15 or something at NAMM! smile

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