Decisions on Buying a new keyboard

Given the many new models of keyboards coming out, I recently visited a Kawai showroom and tried out:

  • Kawai novus 10S
  • Kawai ca901 hybrid piano
  • Kawai MP11SE stage piano
  • Kawai DG30 mini digital grand piano

The action on these models has certainly improved as well as the price range.

Tried Roland RD88 sometime ago but found the action not to my liking.

The decision and choice of these pianos is hard given that I’m also finding that refurbished acoustic grand pianos are also relatively cheap and many models in the market here in Malaysia.

I’d be interested if others have tried out any of these models and their thoughts. I’d like to stay away from VST’s as while my use has been limited, it just adds another layer, etc.

I’m in the process of upgrading but the decision is getting hard

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Hi Paul,

I’m somewhat familiar with the Kawai line—I have an mp10, an mp7se, and almost had a GL30/Aures2, purchased when I wanted to upgrade to an acoustic (but eventually decided to go with a full acoustic that was a little bigger, and skip the silent system altogether).

I believe the DG30 action (RH3) is the same as in my mp10, while the Novus has a full (Millenium) grand action. Of course, none of the models have strings and hammers. I notice a significant difference between the RH3 and the Millenium action—RH3 is really great for a digital piano but it’s just not the same as a real grand action.

The other axis to consider, of course, is the jump from digital to acoustic; in my opinion, that’s a much bigger difference than the jump from a good weighted action with wooden keys (RH3) to a real grand action (Millenium).

In the US, I think you would be looking at a price range of 5K - 12K, and if that were me, I might also consider an acoustic upright fitted with a silent system. I’ve played both the K300 and K500Aures and they’re great.

Of course, if you have room for a grand, even a small one, that would be my first choice. My upgrade was a 7’ Brodmann (Chinese copy of a Steinway); I was concerned about quality of construction but reassured after having it inspected thoroughly and later regulated and voiced by a really good technician.

Hope this helps.

Hi Paul,

I bought my current digital piano (Kawai ES920) just a couple of years ago. I bought it without trying it out, and luckily I’ve been really happy with it. The keyboard action suits my taste really well. I’ve always been a Roland fan when it comes to keyboard action, but I have to say that the ES920 keyboard suits me really well.

I was just wondering if the MP11SE stage piano doesn’t have speakers? Is the weight or portability of the instrument an important feature for you?

You mentioned that you want to avoid unnecessary hassle with VST plugins. They can be extra work when you just want to quickly practice playing. I like that nowadays I can just press the power button and the instrument is ready to play. Of course, an acoustic piano is even faster to get ready to play, if space allows for it.

Thanks Guys

gregb - appreciate the feedback as I know you have been through the sort of queries that I’ve raised. Agree with your comments. The only two digital keyboards that seem good are the Kawai ca901 with soundboard and the Kawai Novus 10s, both hybrid digital pianos.

In Malaysia there are many sellers of refurbished Japanese Grand pianos that are on the market and the challenge is to find someone that is reputable. For example, yesterday I received from one seller the following acoustic grands currently refurbished and available: Kawai (Ge1, no 750 (7’6") about USD $5K), 500), Diapason 183, Kaiser G2, Kawai RX2 and Yamaha (G3E, G2E, G5E, C3, G2). Prices probably in the range between USD $5,000 to $15,000. Given the high humidity in Malaysia all acoustic pianos need a heating rod and in some cases a humidifier as well to protect the soundboard and tuning (twice yearly).

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Where I live, the piano would be located on the 1st floor and given there is a staircase probably the largest size would be 6’1".

I’ll keep you in the loop of my adventures.

MikeS - appreciate your feedback as well. Havent tried the Kawai ES920 and may try to find one to play. The MP11SE needs external monitors which adds further costs and messy cables.

I agree, the ideal situation is an acoustic with no distractions and awesome action, touch and sound!

I think the nord piano has a kawai keybed. I tried one in the store and it felt pretty good. If you can find the original now they are on sale because they just came out with a new one. They are a bit pricey though.

Thanks Tim. I haven’t tried a Nord keyboard yet. I have read that it has a Kawai key bed action which makes it nice, I’m sure. Have seen them advertised online here in Malaysia and you’re right to say they are expensive.

You might want to consider the Yamaha CK88. I’ve played it for an hour at the store and am considering it as a replacement for an older Yamaha keyboard. It has a wide array of piano, synth organ and other tones, has GHS action, and is comfortable to play (in my opinion). Very lightweight and portable (in the sense that any full-size keyboard is portable). You can even play it with AA batteries! And it’s only $1500. Admittedly the speakers in it are pretty weak, so you would probably want to get an amplifier, which is more cost. But it offers the most I’ve seen for that price.

Thanks Dan for your thoughts on this topic. Will check out the keyboard you mentioned. It’s definitely a challenge given the advancements in digital keyboards and the new soundboards in some of these models like the Kawai ca901.

Many challenges also if looking for a second hand grand piano, as most are imported into Malaysia from Japan aged anywhere between 25-40+ yeasts and then refurbished with 5-6 years warranty. Baby grands around 5’ (Yamaha GBK1) are relatively cheap but the sound isn’t that good compared to larger sized grands as Greg highlighted and aren’t cheap.

On the digital side I was impressed with the Kawai Novus 10s (though expensive) and ca901. Both have had good reviews. The MP11SE was good but unsure about its longevity. Played a couple of Roland and Kawai portable keyboards but wasn’t impressed with the actions.

Thanks again for everyone’s input.