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... Or are they barely noticeable, and more a product of marketing hype?

Until I can get to a brick & mortar store that has, say, a CP4 or a CA65, all I can do is read overviews & specs, and don't have a real sense of what I'm missing by playing the P120 with plastic keys, two sensors and GHE. I would be interested in hearing comments from anyone who has owned or played both low/mid-range DPs and the higher-end NW, tri-sensor key actions.

How do they really compare? Is my P120 95% as "realistic"? 40%? Is it worth plunking down all of this cash should I be able to put the financing together?

I don't really care about the onboard sounds since I'd mostly use VSTs anyway, but want the best key action & response possible within the limits of what I can afford. Thanks.



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Wooden Keys & Triple Sensors

Neither of those things is very important, imo, no - except if you play a lot of 20th century virtuoso music (Ravel etc) where a third sensor comes in handy.

Having said that, the Yamaha CP5 keyboard is one of the best I've ever played - but I doubt that's because of the wood.

More important than either of those things is a good mechanism - GH is much better than GHS in terms of feel & control.....but, for me, Roland PHAIII is better than either of those.

So, apart from the subjective response of players, the other - little mentioned - factor which is very important is durability of the design and build quality.


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I`m not the best guy to answer; my views are not mainstream but I`ve tried `em all in the shop. Not exhaustedly, mind. Just enough to register (hopefully not to others) distaste and move to the next in search of The Perfect Action. Roland PAIII came out tops. The piano attached to it cost £2600 ($4K) so I tries out my Complex Piano Keyboard Testing Music.

Marginally better than my GHS Yamaha action. This would probably grow on me, but I haven`t tried anything which really inspired me to part with my smackeroos. I have a single sensor keyboard with a darned nice tone. And until anything better comes along, she stays . . .I was looking at a Casio AP450 today which was darned good. Wifey was happy with the price and size. Maybe in a couple o` years . . .but not now.


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The distributed mass of a wooden key may be noticeable to players, but fulcrum distance from the played end is likely more important. Triple sensors, if done well, are generally an improvement over two. Otherwise, key action "feel" is one of those things you'll have to make up your own mind about by physically playing them, sorry to say.

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I can't comment on wood keys.

But I think the third-sensor is quite important for repetition.

It wasn't a consideration when I bought a piano five years ago because I didn't know anything about the sensors. But today I'd insist on a three-sensor action.

Looking at your needs it seems that the Kawai VPC would be a top choice.

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Originally Posted by Psychonaut
... Or are they barely noticeable, and more a product of marketing hype?

In theory, they are arguably beneficial to at least some players, but in practice, it is very possible that you may find some keyboard with neither of these features that feels better to you than some other keyboard that has both of these features. Go with what your fingers tell you, not the spec sheet.

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They are both nice to have. Wooden keys feel different than plastic, but is that difference important to you? Not necessarily clear. It's also not 100% the case that everyone prefers wood actions. I know more than one person who prefers RH2 over RM3, at least. Three sensors is also a good thing. I have only owned 2 sensor pianos and they seem pretty good. I've played 3-sensor pianos in stores but not long enough to really detect the difference. It's not the kind of thing that jumps out right away.

As dewster mentions, action geometry is probably more important than either of these. You basically need to find an action you like. Other people can't really say how important the features I just mentioned will be for you, much less what type of action geometry you will find pleasing. All the pianos we typically talk about here have actions that are reasonably close to those of an acoustic, so if you are really on a budget you can probably go with one of the cheaper models.

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I notice a difference with the triple-sensor because it does make rapid passage work and repeated notes possible. I think its an important innovation rather than simple marketing hype.

I prefer wooden keys myself but that aspect of the action is subjective. I agree with the point made about the fulcrum distance.


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As they have already said, you really need to try it, because only then will you be able to decide whether or not is something that -for you- is worth the expense.

I was happy with my CL25 as a beginner piano and even preferred this action to many other more expensive pianos, then and even now, but at the end of the day I only had a couple plastic not weighted keyboards before this one. I tried several models and makers while hunting for my new piano. For instance I found that the AP450 had a very nice touch, but not so good sound -for me-, but many people use software to improve this, so if you are thinking in using sound software it is a good budget option. I simply prefer a piano I'm happy with both the touch and the sound, at a good price, so I went back to Kawai.

At the end, I would have been happy with a CN24 for beginner-intermediate, it's got a very nice touch with 3 sensors, but needed a CN34 because I wanted USB to device. But being able to try the CA series and compare the wooden keys to the plastic ones I could really feel the difference, and it was a good difference for my taste. It could equally have been possible that I preferred the CN34 keys, I found the action of that piano very nice to my fingers too.

I only went for the CA65 because I had the same connection issues with the CA15 and I got a good deal, otherwise I would have happily got the CN34 and then see what's available in 3 years or so. But I'm very happy that I managed to get the CA65, I do love the touch, action and sound of this model.

So yes... bottom line... go try it by yourself! smile



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Thanks for the responses. Yes, I do need to try some out before blindly spending money, especially since I'm happy with what I have.


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Originally Posted by Vid
I notice a difference with the triple-sensor because it does make rapid passage work and repeated notes possible. I think its an important innovation rather than simple


Same here.


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Originally Posted by Manolios
Originally Posted by Vid
I notice a difference with the triple-sensor because it does make rapid passage work and repeated notes possible. I think its an important innovation rather than simple


Same here.

There is no doubt that rapid passages and repeated notes are easier on some actions than others, but I would not attribute that simply (or in some cases, at all) to a third sensor. You have to evaluate the action as a whole. There are two-sensor board where I found that rapid passages and/or repeated notes were more easily facilitated than they were on some other three sensor board. So again, if this is your concern, I would tend to ignore it on a feature list, and just go play the board.

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Originally Posted by anotherscott
There is no doubt that rapid passages and repeated notes are easier on some actions than others, but I would not attribute that simply (or in some cases, at all) to a third sensor. You have to evaluate the action as a whole. There are two-sensor board where I found that rapid passages and/or repeated notes were more easily facilitated than they were on some other three sensor board. So again, if this is your concern, I would tend to ignore it on a feature list, and just go play the board.

I kind of wonder if putting all the switches on the hammer is bug rather than a feature if one were designing the easiest to play and most intuitive key action. I suppose the velocity sensing is best done on the hammer because it is the thing that is weighted and isn't connected 100% of the time to the key. But then sensing key up position for repeats and key up velocity for damping rate is likely less distinct / reliable. Sensors on both hammer and key would likely be better.

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Originally Posted by anotherscott
Originally Posted by Manolios
Originally Posted by Vid
I notice a difference with the triple-sensor because it does make rapid passage work and repeated notes possible. I think its an important innovation rather than simple


Same here.

There is no doubt that rapid passages and repeated notes are easier on some actions than others, but I would not attribute that simply (or in some cases, at all) to a third sensor. You have to evaluate the action as a whole. There are two-sensor board where I found that rapid passages and/or repeated notes were more easily facilitated than they were on some other three sensor board. So again, if this is your concern, I would tend to ignore it on a feature list, and just go play the board.


Can any two sensor boards sound a note without the key hitting the keybed? As someone who spent their whole life playing acoustic grands I miss this feature a lot on my current (well, dated) p200: good feel for most stuff but I just can't play trills or other rapid accidentals quietly on it.

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Originally Posted by NormB


Can any two sensor boards sound a note without the key hitting the keybed? As someone who spent their whole life playing acoustic grands I miss this feature a lot on my current (well, dated) p200: good feel for most stuff but I just can't play trills or other rapid accidentals quietly on it.


Sounds similar to my P120. I can play a rapid, say, two note trill and there is no drop off as long as the notes are hitting the keybed, and I am maintaining sufficient force. But trying to play this at pp doesn't quite work. as not all of the notes sound.

This is one of the things I'd like to check out and compare on a tri-sensor board when I get a chance. For blues or pop rock it makes no compelling practical difference to me (though I have certainly noticed it on occasion), but now that I'm trying to learn formal, classical piano, I can see where this can become an issue quite quickly.


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Originally Posted by NormB
Can any two sensor boards sound a note without the key hitting the keybed? As someone who spent their whole life playing acoustic grands I miss this feature a lot on my current (well, dated) p200: good feel for most stuff but I just can't play trills or other rapid accidentals quietly on it.


Yes, they pretty much all can, and it's not really related to the number of sensors. Your P200 should be able to do this, for example.

However, it seems to be much less easy to do this in digitals than it is in acoustics for some reason. Perhaps there is relatively less mass in the hammer vs the key in digitals? I'm not sure. Looking at the mechanics it seems possible and I have done it in testing, but I'm with you in the sense that it doesn't seem as easy as it is on an acoustic and I wish it was.

Not being able to play trills as quickly as you would like probably has more to do with not being able to repeat a note without lifting the key to the point that the dampers enggage, which is related to the number of sensors.

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Originally Posted by Psychonaut


Sounds similar to my P120. I can play a rapid, say, two note trill and there is no drop off as long as the notes are hitting the keybed, and I am maintaining sufficient force. But trying to play this at pp doesn't quite work. as not all of the notes sound.

This is one of the things I'd like to check out and compare on a tri-sensor board when I get a chance. For blues or pop rock it makes no compelling practical difference to me (though I have certainly noticed it on occasion), but now that I'm trying to learn formal, classical piano, I can see where this can become an issue quite quickly.


So I guess there are in fact two questions to ask:

1. Can any two sensor board play a note without the key hitting the keybed (and how can this be accomplished)?

2. Can a three sensor board play a note without the key hitting the keybed (and if so, how does it measure velocity)?

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Originally Posted by gvfarns

Yes, they pretty much all can, and it's not really related to the number of sensors. Your P200 should be able to do this, for example.


My p200 absolutely cannot sound a note without grounding the key on the keybed. That's the only place on it where there are sensors to indicate a strike!

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Originally Posted by anotherscott
There is no doubt that rapid passages and repeated notes are easier on some actions than others, but I would not attribute that simply (or in some cases, at all) to a third sensor. You have to evaluate the action as a whole. There are two-sensor board where I found that rapid passages and/or repeated notes were more easily facilitated than they were on some other three sensor board. So again, if this is your concern, I would tend to ignore it on a feature list, and just go play the board.


I fully agree. Of the actions I've owned Kawai's three-sensor action in the VPC1 suits me best (by a margin), and I like it better than the similar two-sensor action in the MP10. Perhaps there is a similar advantage wherever more or less the same action exists in 2 and 3 sensor versions. But this doesn't mean that actions don't vary widely. Some two-sensor actions are better than other three-sensor actions. There is no other way to find out for yourself than playing the actions in person.

Whether or not wood is a good thing is a similar issue, most probably of less importance though.

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Originally Posted by NormB
My p200 absolutely cannot sound a note without grounding the key on the keybed. That's the only place on it where there are sensors to indicate a strike!


I should be more specific. In order for a note to sound without bottoming out the key, at least one of two conditions must be satisfied:

1. The sensor measures hammer position and the hammer is able to continue moving if the key is stopped.

2. The sensors are not placed at the very bottom of travel.

Condition 2 is true for all digital pianos using electromechanical switches (all the common ones). It needs to be because this type of switch triggers when the hammer or key (whichever is measured) passes a certain point. It is just on/off. If that point was also where motion stops, then we would have lots of problems with notes not triggering because of machine tolerances. Of course, the distance between the second (or third) switch triggering and physical bottoming out of the key is very small so I suspect it is difficult to achieve this while playing. So it's probably not relevant.

Condition 1 is the met for many pianos. I can tell you from experience that it is true of Kawai's wood actions. Also if you look at the diagrams of their RH actions, you will find the same thing. In the past, Casio had two sensors associated with the hammer and one with the key, but their updated action (found in the PX150 and family) uses three sensors, all associated with the key. So they don't qualify. They probably cannot do what you request.

Some time ago (a few of years?) I asked this question and forum members pointed out that for both Roland and Yamaha's actions (which haven't changed in a long time) the sensors measure hammer position and hammers are free to swing past where the key goes. That is why I mentioned that your Yamaha can do it. Unfortunately I can't find the thread and I haven't owned a Yamaha in years, so I guess what I said is now heresay. The diagrams of GH online are not as clear as I would like so I can't really confirm my initial assertion. I guess it could be wrong.

Of course, even if condition 1 is met so that it is possible to trigger a note without bottoming out, as I pointed out earlier it may be difficult--much more so than with an acoustic. Thus it may be possible but you, as a player, might have the impression that it is not possible.

Last edited by gvfarns; 10/25/13 01:05 PM.
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