The term “hybrid piano” is not yet precisely defined by the piano industry. PianoBuyer.com notes that “hybrid typically refers to digital pianos that contain actual acoustic-piano elements in their sound production and/or action design, and to acoustic pianos that contain digital technologies to enhance their functionality.
Buyers of digital-piano hybrids tend to occupy one of two categories: digital-piano enthusiasts who are looking for the ultimate piano but would never consider the purchase price or space and maintenance requirements of a fine acoustic grand; and professional pianists and teachers looking for a space-saving, headphone-capable alternative to an acoustic grand, without sacrificing playability.”
Commentators typically break down their reviews of hybrid pianos into three categories;
1) The action or feel of the instrument.
2) Its sound production via speakers and amplifiers.
3) Its modes and voice features.
Historically in each of these areas there has been a trade-off with hybrid instruments. The most notable criticism about hybrid pianos is their feel; the fact that they feel distinctly different from acoustic pianos. The reason for this difference is understandable if you consider the key and action designs are materially different between the two types of instrument. It is in this area that the Kawai Novus NV10 hybrid is a game changer – apart from the lack of felt hammers required to strike grand piano strings, the carbon fibre action found in the Kawai Novus NV10 is the same Millennium III grand piano action found in their top end acoustic grand pianos. This results in the most realistic feel of any hybrid piano currently on the market. Read more about the ground-breaking Millennium III action here.
Another notable advancement of the Kawai Novus NV10 action compared to other hybrid pianos is that the action weight changes when the damper pedal is depressed, in the same way as an acoustic pianos action weight feels lighter when you depress the damper pedal. This attention to detail adds to the authenticity of the playing experience and reduces the perceived differences when switching between hybrid pianos and acoustic pianos. This is critical as it makes the hybrid a viable practice and learning instrument without worrying about the need to adjust when playing an acoustic piano.
From a sound production perspective, the PianoBuyer.com review of the Novus NV10 written by Dr. Owen Lovell provides an excellent overview of its capabilities. To quote; “Like some of Kawai’s other new high-end offerings, the Novus uses amplifiers and speakers designed through a recent partnership with Onkyo, the well-regarded Japanese maker of consumer electronics that specializes in home theatre and audio equipment. The NV10 has seven speakers, three amplifiers, and a specified maximum output power of 135 watts. (Pet Peeve: Unlike the audio industry, digital-piano manufacturers usually don’t specify if their products’ power specs are peak or continuous, or the frequency bandwidth of the measurement.) Dome tweeters and midrange drivers are within the player’s line of sight, while the 6.3" woofer is hidden inside the rear-support pedestal leg of the piano, which has been designed to function as a bass-reflex box to enhance the low-bass performance.
The Novus’s speakers were powerful enough to re-create any dynamic levels I could desire from an acoustic grand piano. In fact, with the volume turned up all the way, the Novus produced more sound than the acoustic grand next to it, at least from the player’s perspective. When I played bass notes at forte, the bass driver and its enclosure excited the case of the NV10, transmitting resonance vibrations through the keys to my fingers—perhaps even more than with an acoustic grand.”
Of course, many pianists will spend considerable time playing the Novus NV10 through headphones, and Kawai have developed their discrete SpectraModule headphone amplifier and Spatial Headphone Sound again in partnership with Onkyo to improve and optimize this playing experience.
The Novus NV10 touchscreen control panel is located next to the keyboard and allows access to its settings, modes and voices. The scope of settings and features, including Bluetooth and significant recording capabilities, is beyond the scope of this article but you can read more about them here.
The Novus NV10 make it much harder to choose between an acoustic and hybrid piano, but it’s a welcome difficulty as it means the quality of the instruments on offer and the enjoyment potential has increased significantly. Please contact the team at Ian Burgess-Simpson Pianos to ask any questions about the Novus NV10 or any of our other range of acoustic and digital pianos.