Digital Pianos - Determinants of Quality & Price (With Reference to Kawai)

In evaluating digital piano options, the main factors in pricing and quality are:

1. Touch. The degree to which a mechanism feels like an acoustic piano is an important element of digital value. The reference point is generally a grand piano feeling, where the weight of the hammer can be felt at the back of the key and gives a sense of direct control of the tone. This page provides an excellent overview of Kawai digital piano action designs.

2. Tone. Reproducing the authentic sound of an acoustic piano is a major goal for good digital pianos. There are a few main contributors to this:

  • Polyphony measures the number of notes that sound simultaneously. This represents an indicator of how complex and full the tone is in comparison to the benchmark of an acoustic piano.

  • Sampling techniques vary between manufacturers. Kawai always sample every note individually, whereas many digital pianos use notes spaced apart and extrapolate the notes in between. Sampling techniques also vary. Kawai uses a propriety method called Harmonic Imaging. The aim is to provide a real sensitivity to the way a note sounds in different types of touch from the pianist.

  • Projection. As digital pianos don’t have strings and a soundboard (although various Kawai Hybrid technologies integrate these as well) the design, quality and placement of the speaker system are critical to the quality of the sound. When playing with headphones, their quality dictates what you hear. For this reason Kawai offer Spatial Sound headphones manufactured in partnership with Onkyo, the leading Japanese audio company. Read more about the Onkyo partnership here.

3. Features. This includes functions such as adjustment of tone and touch, recording capacity, interface with other devices and the number of sounds other than piano. For most of our customers, piano sound is the most important, and this is what Kawai focus on. However, the Kawai instruments offer an excellent range of other sounds and they are all of high quality and authenticity.