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mucci Offline OP
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Yesterday, after quite some time, I got the opportunity to visit my favourite music store in town with my own noise cancelling headphones. I had the whole afternoon to test all kinds of DPs.

First thing I discovered: They reorganized the whole DP section, so at first I couldn’t find the DPs I wanted to test play. The Yamaha section is of course the most prominent section and had the biggest selection of DPs. But since there was actually nothing new I completely ignored this section… as I did with the second biggest section, the Casio part! I have absolutely no intent to go into this direction after having played several Casio models a year ago, although I must admit that the price tags of these models are really competitive.

So I finally found the location of both Kawai (the third biggest section) and Roland. To my surprise there were only few Roland models available, less than Kawai. That was different a year ago.

First thing I did: I played the HP-307. Last time I played the HP-307 I was not overly impressed, but due to all the very positive reviews of many well known and reputable pianoworld users (including dewster and theJourney) I felt I should give it another try.

Especially the repetition speed was something I wanted to check: And indeed this is one of the big advantages of the HD-307: Compared to my own CA63 it is easier to get fast repetition. It was difficult for me to tell if you can’t really get faster repetition, but it’s definitely easier because of the shorter release distance (I would estimate 50% compared to about 70% of the CA63). The other advantage is, that HP-307 acts exactly as a grand in this respect, the sound will not be stopped because you don’t fully release the key, it still sounds when you hit it a second time. But this is not such a big issue with the CA63 as you might expect, because even when the sound of the CA63 key begins to stop it takes its time and does not immediately stop, so after repressing the key the former key sound is still there. But still: If you need high repetition speed with the same behavior as a grand then in fact this is indeed a big plus for the HP-307

Besides of that I wanted to revisit the SN sound of the Roland. I really tried hard to really like the sound. But for me it’s a mixed bag: Pressing single notes (with or without damper pedal) produces very nice sounding long and nicely resonating decays. The dynamics is also very nice. The problem starts in my eyes when you play a music piece. I don’t know how to describe it: Sometimes I think it sounds a little dull, but then there are resonances to hear, so maybe a little overprocessed as many suggest here on the forum might be the right description. If the sound signature of the Roland would be more in the Kawai direction this would be surely my favorite DP, but…

The keyboard action is in my eyes quite good, significantly different than the RM3 actions I’m used to, but also very good. I got used to it quickly. Maybe it’s because of the sound signature, but I preferred to play with the “very hard” action setting. That way I could get more dynamics out of the sound, otherwise the dynamic was quite limited because of quickly achieving too high sound volumes. But I’m sure that one could get much better settings, but I guess this takes its time.

Regarding the SN piano settings: Yes, there are lots of settings, even more than the CA63. I tried them all, and it’s partly identical to CA63, partly different. At the end, I think both are on par regarding tweakability of the sound.

I also tried the Roland V-Piano again. And I must say, I really like the sound and playability of this beast, maybe even better than the HP-307! I also recognized the a little bit thin mids, but that’s much better bearable than the overall processed sound feeling (in my ears) of the HP-307.

Next model was the CA63 wink Yes, I love the keyboard feeling and the sound signature! Wonderful. I also tried the CA93, regarding keyboard action I honestly could almost detect no difference (the letoff was barely noticeable). I didn’t play it through loudspeakers since there were too many people in the showroom playing and testing, in this environment I was sure not to detect any differences in sound compared to the CA63.

Other DPs I tried (for a quite short period):

Kawai CA13: Very nice, feels exactly like the CA63, couldn’t detect any difference in sound quality.
Kawai CN43: This one is a very good product: The keyboard itself is surprisingly good (not as good as the RM3 but very close), sound is almost like the CA63. Same applies for the CN33 which I also tested shortly. They felt and sounded actually identical, I don’t know that the difference is, maybe additional feature set in the CN43.

Yamaha CLP340: I couldn’t believe that 1,5 years ago I almost bought this one instead of the CA63 I discovered later… Too bright in my ears, and the keyboard is okay, but it’s no comparison to the RM3. I will revisit Yamaha once they release their new CLP400 lineup.

Kawai MP10: Very playable with the same RM3 action as the CA93. I couldn’t detect any of the issues that were reported here lately. The piano sound seems the same as the CA63/93, but there are some additional effects added which adds to the realism of the piano, and the sound is much more tweakable than the piano sound on my CA63. Also incorporated is a great and easy to use EQ. I would slightly prefer the sound of the MP10 over the sound of the CA63.

Then I made an experiment: I tried the only noname DP in the store, is was called “Classic Cantabile DP-60”. Boy, this was an awful experience!! I switched the unit on: There was a loud hissing noise clearly audible with my headphones. Then the keyboard: Extremely wobbly. There was no chance to get a stable volume sound out of this beast, the sound was first too quiet, and then there were some very loud pieces shooting out of the song… Completely unusable. The sound quality is not worth mentioning… As a comparison I played a Kawai CL25 which had the same price tag (about 650 Euro). This was night and day. Well, the CL25 is by no means comparable to a 2000 Euro DP from either Yamaha, Roland or Kawai, but compared to the Cantabile it was just a high-end DP.

My last one I tested was a silent grand: The Kawai GE 20 AT2. This one really impressed me. It has the same real grand piano action as the Yamaha N3 (which was also there but I didn’t try it because of lack of time), but it is a real acoustic grand which a lovely expressive sound! It was great to play this one. Then I tried the silent function. Didn’t know how to do this, so I asked a sales rep, and it’s very easy: Just pull a trigger under the piano action and move the otherwise hidden digital display so that you can enter the DP you want to hear by headphones. Wonderful sound, with using a real and very playable action. I would really love to have such an instrument at home! The only drawback is that it costs 11.500 Euro…

My conclusion: Its worthwhile to visit a music store from time to time to check what’s there. But it also became obvious that unlike the computer world the DP world doesn’t change quickly. There is not much progression since the last 1 to 1,5 years regarding sound and keyboards.
But maybe the next SN models will be improved regarding sound signature so that the really great SN technology also meets my sound taste!


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Great post.

Kawai grands are indeed a pleasure to play and the Kawai dp sound coming from their own instrument has the advantage of being more transparent and European sounding than that of the super-processed Roland sound.

Although dps are a niche product with tiny shipment volumes and things in the music market are not moving as fast as the MP3 player and personal computer/tablet part of the consumer electronics market, the game is being brought lately to a higher level faster than during a number of the years before in my opinion.

I don't think that it is a coincidence that Roland introduced their new 3-sensor PHA-III keyboard and their continuous input pedal unit at the same time they introduced their V-Piano with its completely new (modelling based) sound engine. It makes sense that the increase performance provided by the hardware (keyboard and pedal) can only be taken advantage and translated into truly higher results by a more complex sound engine. Even the very expensive but sample based Yamaha Avantgrand does not offer the same performance you would expect on a Yamaha C3 grand piano.

I own a HP-307, but if Roland were to come up with a V-Piano based cabinet model in the same price range, I would trade in my HP-307 in a minute. The responsiveness between the HP-307 and the V-Piano is in my mind huge. Although, perhaps, like others, I would tire of the basic sound signature. Perhaps the answer is to continue to refine the balance between samples and manipulation such as on the HP-307. If so, then any manufacturer can take this road.

Yamaha and Kawai are truly at an important crossroads. Their digital piano brands serve as an extension of their acoustic heritage branding by only offering samples of their own top of the line instruments. Would a move to a modelling approach be even something they would consider? How about a hybrid approach that retains the basic sound signature but brings the decay and dynamic resonance alive? How about going as far as the VPiano or Pianoteq?

Perhaps instead of thinking about moving to a Roland SN piano, we might all soon be thinking of moving to the latest, greatest Yamaha or Kawai offering that takes off from the pioneering direction of the VPiano but corrects the annoying shortcomings, ups the game to a higher level and makes it affordable too.

Imagine a 3000 euro cabinet mounted Kawai RM4 wooden/ Neotex surface keyboard and continuous pedal unit that provides high performance RX Millenium III performance, driving a sophisticated, dynamically modeled sound engine that features a user-modifiable CFIIIs concert grand that allows you to articulate and paint with sound indistinguishable from an acoustic as well as scratch based pianos, with optional sound reproduction modules available to fit different budgets. Dealers would be falling over themselves and breaking down doors at Kawai begging to be allowed to sell them.



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What I get from your comments on Kawai CA13, CN43, CN33 is that there is no great difference between PHI and UPHI...

Last edited by Qbert; 03/30/11 08:05 AM.

GEM Promega 3 (sold) - Yamaha CLP 170 (sold) - Acuna88 (sold) - Kawai VPC1 + BK7m
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mucci Offline OP
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Qbert, at a first glance I couldn't detect much difference. I would say if you're in for a budget and you don't feel you need the RM3 keyboard then go for the budget solution. I still think the keyboard is the most important thing.


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mucci Offline OP
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Originally Posted by theJourney

Perhaps instead of thinking about moving to a Roland SN piano, we might all soon be thinking of moving to the latest, greatest Yamaha or Kawai offering that takes off from the pioneering direction of the VPiano but corrects the annoying shortcomings, ups the game to a higher level and makes it affordable too.


I think the V-Piano and Pianoteq approach is the future of all DPs. They will get it right in the future, and then it's of unprecedented flexibility and sound quality! I'm eagerly awaiting this!


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Originally Posted by mucci
Qbert, at a first glance I couldn't detect much difference. I would say if you're in for a budget and you don't feel you need the RM3 keyboard then go for the budget solution. I still think the keyboard is the most important thing.


Me too... infact I'm considering CA13 as a good deal. I found it new at around 1200 euro.
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mucci, thank you for your post - it's interesting to read your thoughts about the various Kawai models, especially the comparisons with Roland's 3-sensor action.

I'm just curious if the store stocked any of the portable/stage instruments from Roland, Yamaha, or Nord? The Nord Piano has been receiving some very positive reviews in recent weeks/months.

Cheers,
James
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Originally Posted by Qbert
Me too... infact I'm considering CA13 as a good deal. I found it new at around 1200 euro.


That's an excellent price for a new CA13!

James
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mucci Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Kawai James

I'm just curious if the store stocked any of the portable/stage instruments from Roland, Yamaha, or Nord? The Nord Piano has been receiving some very positive reviews in recent weeks/months.


Holy sh**! I totally missed the Nord Piano! That would have been interesting to test! I'm actually only interested in DPs, but there were plenty of portables, and I only played the V-Piano and the MP10 due to the fact that they are frequently discussed in this thread. I totally forgot about the Nord... cry Next time...


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Sorry for the OT, just for your information, since I was in the market for a cabinet piano in the last weeks:

Finally, I've just bought a Yamaha CLP 170 grin

I've just trade my Promega with this. Maybe the sound is not as good as GEM but GH3 keybed looks a big step forward, IMHO!

And I think it's a better deal than CA13: 600 euro and looks new.

Last edited by Qbert; 03/30/11 01:51 PM.

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Congrats!

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