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Joined: May 2022
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Paos Offline OP
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Dear all,
First time posting here, eager to hear your advice. I'm on a quest for the most realistic feel of a grand piano in a keyboard under ~$5k. FWIW, some specifics that may help:

  • Former professional piano player, both classical and jazz.
  • Grand pianos I'm most familiar with are 20-30 year old Bosendorfer, late 19th century Bechstein, and modern Steinway (but prefer the first 2, esp. the Bosendorfer).
  • All I care for is the piano action being as reminiscent as possible of a real grand piano.. I do not care, at all, about the built-in sounds, as I intend to use the various software instruments.
  • Mobility matters to some extent, as does price, thus not going for the Kawai NV5/10S or similar.


Looking online I identified 6 candidates, and was curious if you have feedback or additions to this list:
1. Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII
2. Kawai MP 11 SE
3. Kawai VPC1
4. Nord 5 Stage
5. Roland RD-2000
6. Studiologic Numa X Piano GT

Thanks a lot,
P

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you said mobility matters to some extent. If 34 kilos is no issue, I'd get the Kawai MP11.
The Arturia and Nord Stage do not fit your criteria of top key action / piano like.

Roland RD-2000 is a solid board action wise. Sounds is a matter of preference as always.
No actual experience with the Numa X GT.

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MP11SE, hands down. I bought that DP (the predecessor MP11 with the same action) specifically because it was as close to a well regulated Bosendorfer grand as I could find in a digital đź‘Ť


Bosendorfer D214VC ENPro
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As others have said the Nord and Arturia can be eliminated -- they're just not in the same class of action. There's always a chance those actions might fit your individual tastes you, but objectively they are their key beds are two and three tiers below Fatar's (which makes the actions for many companies) best, respectively. Feel aside, neither has graded keys, with heavier keys at the bottom and lighter ones at the top. May or may not matter to you.

I've been doing a ton of research on this lately, so I hope you don't mind the wordy response.

From there it gets a little more subjective subjective, but the MP11SE is generally regarded as the best action you can get in a slab-type piano, although I have seen people mention a preference for the RD-2000, VPC-1, and most recently, the Numa x Piano GT on at least a few occasions in this forum.

The MP11SE has an unfolded lever action with pivot points and weighting similar to those in a grand piano, so it's barely any more difficult to play toward the back of the keys. The black keys also have a pivot offset like on a grand piano, which all the non-kawai actions on your list do not.

I'm only an early intermediate player so take my playability impressions with a grain of salt, but it is the action that feels closes to my teacher's grand I've tried. So it's the one I just bought myself.

However, some people have complained that the keys feel a little 'mushy' at the bottom of the travel, and that it's not the best controller (hard to achieve the lowest and highest velocity layers). I felt the latter issue too initially, as I struggled to find the right touch curve, but I'm not mostly satisfied with it. I can achieve all velocity levels, it's just a little harder than on my previous instruments.

Lastly, it seems older models with this action were prone to developing 'sticky keys' that wouldn't return fully after a few years, bit according to Kawai James on this forum, this has been addressed with newer models. In any case, it only seems to affect a minority of users, and the repair is not very complicated(plenty of guides).

The pedals on the mp11se are also excellent, using optical sensors with a nice solid feel.

The VPC1 a similar wooden design with offset black keys but a shorter overall pivot. I've seen at least a couple of people say they prefer it as a controller to the MP11SE, but I do think most who have used both generally believe the mp11se to be better.

I haven't used it, but I've seen some people say the VPC1 has a firmer bottoming out. It also offers more control of of the velocity curves via PC software, including some premade velocity curves made in collaboration with a handful of VSTs.

Some users have had issues with their triple pedal after a while (it's an older model than the mp11se's).

The RD2000 is really nice. To me it feels like a nice upright action, and it's easy to play toward the back of the keys. I find it a generally convincing action that always feels pretty darn good to play, but I do rank it below the mp11se.

The Studiologic Numa x Piano GT is an interesting one. It is Fatar's latest and most advanced action, the TP-4000W and so far all the impressions Ive seen have been quite positive, although here have only been a few. In fact, the two members on this forum who I've seen share impressions of the action both ranked it above the Grand Feel in the MP11SE, despite it having a shorter folded action.

It seems the key travel, weighting, and key tops feels pretty authentic.

The Numa X Piano GT doesn't currently have a compatible sheet music rest, which I find pretty annoying.

It's worth noting this action is also available in the Dexibell Vivo S9. It's not clear if the actions are 100% identical, as the dexibell has been out for a few years now, but I haven't seen anything to indicate otherwise.

The studiologic is significantly cheaper at about half the price new, and I know you said you plan to use VSTs, but if you don't mind paying more, Dexibell has some of the best built-in sounds out there imo. Sometimes it's nice to just sit at the piano without having to turn on your PC (the dexibell can take a long time to turn on, but I always just leave my pianos on all the time).

TL;DR: The MP11SE is your safest bet, don't get the Nord or Arturia, and the rest are all roughly competitive with one another.

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Roland FP-90X has the same action as the RD-2000, and costs $450 less.

You might want to try to lay your hands on a Yamaha P-515, too.

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Timely topic, for me. Anyone care to opine on how the Fantom-8 PHA50 compares to the RD-2000 PHA50? Seems from specs they are identical, but I'm also aware some manufacturers like to tweak things for different models. Looking to replace my aging K2500XS (I actually really like the action on this board, but that may be down to having had it for so long and just growing used to it, you know?) and the Fantom-8 seems to be leading.

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Of those mentioned, the Kawai MP 11 SE, no doubt, if action is the main and sole criterion.

The player should decide these things her/himself. They will undoubtedly form an opinion very quickly. To prepare the decision, the higher quality actions from Roland and Yamaha should certainly be compared as well.

If other criteria such as portability and sound do play a role after all, even if only a secondary one, things get much more complex...

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Originally Posted by Paos
1. Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII (Cheaper lighter controller with onboard sounds)
2. Kawai MP 11 SE -Studio stage (heavy, use Roadies)
3. Kawai VPC1-Soundless piano controller with no knobs (also fairly hearty, stylish)
4. Nord 5 Stage - manual knob/slider stage piano with limited functions
5. Roland RD-2000 - Multifunctional stage piano
6. Studiologic Numa X Piano GT -Cheaper lighter controller with onboard sounds

Thanks a lot,
P

You don't seem to have identified a market segment you're decided upon. All these mostly operate in a different market segments.

Nord are expensive, but if you go that way, the Nord Grand has a Kawai RHIII action that is nicer to play.


If action:
MP11SE
VPC1
RD2000
MP7SE
ES920
FP90X
P515

Top two are designed to give top action on a slab (the USP)

RD2000 and MP7SE/ES920 both have great actions, along with the P515.

RD2000 has 1400 sounds and lots of stage functions.


Instruments......Kawai MP7SE.............................................(Past - Kawai MP7, Yamaha PSR7000)
Software..........Sibelius 7; Neuratron Photoscore Pro 8
Stand...............K&M 18953 Table-style Stage Piano Stand
Piano stool.......K&M 14093 Piano stool
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The fp-90x has the same pha-50 keybed as the rd2000

Not sure why it would be listed farther down on the list.

One nice thing the Yamaha p515 and fp-90x have is an onboard speaker and a usb audio input capability.

That can simplify your setup using an external program, just a single usb cable.

The Kawai mp-11se would likely offer the most realistic feel compared to a grand piano of the above options.

I have personally not tried one,

It would not surprise me to see a Roland rd-4000 or such in the next few weeks. This is Roland’s 50th anniversary.


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Originally Posted by Purdyd
It would not surprise me to see a Roland rd-4000 or such in the next few weeks. This is Roland’s 50th anniversary.

That would be neat. I just trolled the NAMM show directory (it starts in 10 days), and Roland isn't even listed as an exhibitor! All the other major DP manufacturers will be there, though.


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Originally Posted by kreinhard
Timely topic, for me. Anyone care to opine on how the Fantom-8 PHA50 compares to the RD-2000 PHA50? Seems from specs they are identical, but I'm also aware some manufacturers like to tweak things for different models. Looking to replace my aging K2500XS (I actually really like the action on this board, but that may be down to having had it for so long and just growing used to it, you know?) and the Fantom-8 seems to be leading.

Hello kreinhard,

I have both, the RD2000 as well as the Fantom-8, and an acoustic Baldwin 9ft grand. The action of the RD2000 and the Fantom-8 feel to me pretty much the same. I am happy with the PHA50, but also always curious to learn about other actions. I do know that the Fantom-8 has the "after-touch" feature which the RD2000 does not. For me the RD2000 as well as the Fantom-8 actions are somewhat similar to the acoustic Baldwin feel. But then my piano playing skills are only beginner/intermediate so take that with a grain of salt. One curiosity about my Fantom-8 is that the MIDI values for black keys are approximately 13 MIDI values different from the white keys. I have googled that and turns out that I am not the only one. I am compensating for this black/white key MIDI difference in a python script in FL studio. Also maximize acoustic range in that script. I hear good things on this board about the Kawai MP11SE. Would love to try it it someday.

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Originally Posted by MandM
Originally Posted by kreinhard
Timely topic, for me. Anyone care to opine on how the Fantom-8 PHA50 compares to the RD-2000 PHA50? Seems from specs they are identical, but I'm also aware some manufacturers like to tweak things for different models. Looking to replace my aging K2500XS (I actually really like the action on this board, but that may be down to having had it for so long and just growing used to it, you know?) and the Fantom-8 seems to be leading.

Hello kreinhard,

I have both, the RD2000 as well as the Fantom-8, and an acoustic Baldwin 9ft grand. The action of the RD2000 and the Fantom-8 feel to me pretty much the same. I am happy with the PHA50, but also always curious to learn about other actions. I do know that the Fantom-8 has the "after-touch" feature which the RD2000 does not. For me the RD2000 as well as the Fantom-8 actions are somewhat similar to the acoustic Baldwin feel. But then my piano playing skills are only beginner/intermediate so take that with a grain of salt. One curiosity about my Fantom-8 is that the MIDI values for black keys are approximately 13 MIDI values different from the white keys. I have googled that and turns out that I am not the only one. I am compensating for this black/white key MIDI difference in a python script in FL studio. Also maximize acoustic range in that script. I hear good things on this board about the Kawai MP11SE. Would love to try it it someday.

Thanks for the input, MandM. The biggest challenge I have is that there are no stores within a couple hours driving distance that have a selection of boards available for me to try out. That is interesting about the MIDI values; wonder what their thinking was there.


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