Kawai has an illustrious history as a builder of fine pianos since 1928. Their first digital piano was introduced in 1986, and they now have a diverse catalog of instruments for every musical situation.
So which model is the best Kawai digital piano for you?
That depends on what you want! In fact, Kawai produces different families of digital pianos. We’ll look at some representative examples of each type.
Portable digital pianos (or stage pianos) are ideal for studio or onstage use, or when you need to pack it away when not in use. They’re designed to sit on a keyboard stand or tabletop and are compact and lighter in weight.
Console digital pianos more closely resemble a traditional acoustic spinet piano is shape, and are ideal for a home living room or classroom.
For this review, we’re ignoring Kawai’s “keyboard controllers.” These have a digital piano action but no built-in sounds. They’re meant to control a synthesizer through a MIDI interface.
So let’s first see what Kawai digital pianos have in common. Then we’ll look closely at the different models to help you choose the one that’s best for you.
All of Kawai’s digital pianos draw upon the superior craftsmanship of their flagship EX concert grand piano, widely regarded by professionals as one of the finest instruments in its class. These instruments are hand-built in Japan and subjected to a rigorous regulation and refinement process in an anechoic chamber.
The Kawai Piano Action
Kawai has drawn upon its experience building acoustic pianos to develop a family of mechanical actions that accurately emulate the playing experience of the EX grand piano within a compact enclosure.
Lower-cost models utilize their Responsive Hammer Compact (RHC) action design. It has no springs, employing sensors to automatically regulate hammer movement for optimum touch. And just as an acoustic piano has heavier hammers in the bass and lighter ones in the treble, the RHC keyboard action has different hammer weights. The user can adjust certain variables, including the velocity response curve, damper resonance and noise, and hammer fall-back noise.
Higher-end instruments employ the Responsive Hammer III (RH III) action. Like the RHC design, graded-weight hammers provide a heavier touch in the bass. Also, a triple-sensor key detection system and counterweights embedded in each key enhance the feeling of realism. RH III can reproduce the aftertouch “let-off” that is typical of acoustic grand piano actions.
Kawai’s finest digital pianos include their latest Grand Feel and Grand Feel Compact wooden-key actions. These provide an exceptionally realistic playing experience. The Keys are created from long pieces of wood that pivot on a central balance pin. The Grand Feel keys are also longer than any other digital piano keyboard action, and the pivot point distance is equal to a Kawai grand piano.
Most Kawai digital piano keyboards have Ivory Touch key surfaces. This is a smooth but not slippery matte finish which can absorb fingertip moisture to improve playing feel and control.
The Kawai Sound
To accurately emulate the sound of the EX and other acoustic pianos, Kawai digital pianos use individual audio samples of each of the 88 keys. These are recorded at multiple dynamic levels and reproduced using Kawai’s proprietary Harmonic Imaging technology. This ensures smooth tonal transitions from one end of the keyboard to the other, and from the softest to loudest notes.
Many models incorporate Kawai’s Harmonic Imaging XL standard. This extends the attack portion of piano notes up to 120 percent.
But Kawai goes even further!
Additional digital processing simulates the sonic subtleties of sympathetic strings, dampers, and soundboard resonance. Users can also retune the entire piano and set a temperament. Equal temperament is the default, but Meantone, Pythagorean, and several other options are available.
Finally, you can add several types of reverberation to provide the realism of a room, stage, or concert hall. Many models offer additional digital effects like chorus that enhance the sound.
As an added bonus, most Kawai digital pianos also provide realistic sounds of other instruments. Some also include a drum machine.
The Best Kawai Digital Piano For Education?
Kawai digital pianos usually include built-in education features. Aspiring pianists can study classical piano using a variety of famous piano etudes, or learn standard songs from the popular Alfred Basic Piano course.
Kawai instruments have additional functions that can be useful for piano students. These include a four-hands mode so a teacher and student can play together, plus a built-in metronome.
With these common features in mind, let’s look at some real digital pianos Kawai has to offer!
Top 7 Best Kawai Digital Piano You Should Buy 2020 Reviews
1 ES110 Portable Digital Piano
The ES110 Portable Digital Piano is an excellent introduction to Kawai digital pianos. It offers the sound and playability of a grand piano is a slim, compact package at a very attractive price. Its Responsive Hammer Compact action provides the realistic feel of real piano keys in a portable instrument that weighs just 26 pounds. System software lets you adjust several parameters of the ES110’s touch response.
Included is Kawai’s high-quality F-10H damper pedal, capable of progressive half-pedaling. A triple pedal bar is an optional add-on. Other options include a designer wooden music stand and a padded gig bag.
The ES110 gives you 19 instrument sounds with 192-note polyphony. These include pianos, electric pianos, organs, strings, acoustic and electric bass, and vibraphone. The Dual and Split playing modes will allow two different instruments to be played together.
An internal song recorder can store three songs with up to 15,000 notes. Built-in Alfred piano lessons and 12 built-in demo songs are included.
The ES110 comes with a 7 watt-per-channel power amp and a pair of 1”x5” (2×12 cm) oval speakers. Also included are stereo line out jacks to connect the ES110 to a mixer or PA system, plus a pair of headphone jacks.
In addition to standard MIDI In and Out ports, the ES110 has integrated Bluetooth MIDI for wireless communication with smart devices.
- Great price for a high-quality keyboard.
- Small amp and speakers.
- Song recorder can save only three songs.
2 ES8 Portable Digital Piano
Like the ES110, the ES8 Portable Digital Piano comes with a Responsive Hammer III keyboard action. It also features Kawai’s Ivory Touch key surfaces. Virtual Technician enables you to adjust touch weight, hammer and key release noises, and string and damper resonance.
This instrument includes the sounds of two Kawai instruments, the EX concert grand piano, and the midsize SK-5 studio grand. Taking advantage of its larger sample memory, the ES8 uses the Harmonic Imaging XL standard.
Plenty of sound and rhythm options…
The ES8 features a total of 34 instruments. In addition to the excellent piano sounds, there are vintage electric pianos, tonewheel organs, harpsichord, electric bass, mallet percussion, strings, choir, and synth pads. In addition, a Rhythm Section provides 100 accompaniment patterns in a variety of styles.
It includes six different reverb settings to simulate different performance environments. Other available effects subtly sweeten your sound, including chorus, tremolo, delay, and auto-pan. And the Amp Sim speaker models can add realistic bite and distortion that’s perfect for tonewheel organ and electric piano presets.
Special performance features include keyboard Dual, Split, and Four Hands modes. It also includes an internal two-track recorder that lets you record and save ten songs.
The ES8 has a 16 x 2 character LCD. Its USB interface means you can connect the ES8 to a computer or save and recall data from USB memory devices.
If you want to find out even more, please take a look at our in-depth Kawai ES8 review.
- Two sampled pianos included.
- Small LCD display.
- Significantly higher price than ES110.
3 MP7SE Stage Piano
As the name implies, this instrument is designed for onstage use.
The MP7SE employs the same Responsive Hammer III keyboard action and sound engine as the ES8. At 46 pounds, it’s nearly the same weight. The 128 x 64 pixel LCD display is a little larger.
But there are some important differences…
For one, the MP7SE includes 256 built-in sounds (the ES8 has 34) and comes with more effects. Also, the MP7SE is meant to be run through an instrument amp or PA system, so it doesn’t include a built-in amp and speakers. It also provides stereo line level audio inputs for a mixer, microphone preamps or other instruments, and a 4-band graphic equalizer.
The keyboard can be split into up to four zones, each with its own voice. The maximum polyphony is 256 notes. It includes a detachable music stand.
Just like the real thing…
Finally, the MP7SE includes Kawai’s new GFP-3 triple pedal unit. It’s designed to work exactly like a set of pedals on a grand piano, including progressive pedaling.
- A large selection of instruments.
- New triple pedal included.
- Requires a heavy-duty stand.
4 MP11SE Stage Piano
The MP11SE uses Kawai’s Grand Feel action. This more complex and realistic-feeling keyboard is the primary reason the NP11SE is more expensive than the MP7SE. It comes in a sturdy metal chassis with wooden sidearms. It also weighs more – a hefty 74 pounds.
Its control panel is clearly laid out, with related functions grouped together with a large LCD display. Four assignable control knobs allow you to adjust multiple parameters simultaneously in real-time.
Plenty of instrument choices…
The MP11SE comes with 40 instruments: 12 acoustic pianos, 12 electric pianos, and 16 other instruments: strings, synth pads, basses, and other sounds. The maximum polyphony is 256 notes.
In addition to a 10-song note recorder and built-in drums with 100 patterns, there’s a USB audio recorder. The line inputs include a level control, and both XLR and 1/4-inch TRS output jacks are provided.
Like the MP7SE, the MP11SE includes the GFP-3 triple pedal unit.
- Incredibly realistic keyboard feel.
- Amazing sounds.
5 KDP70 Digital Piano
The KDP70 is Kawai’s entry-level offering in the digital console piano market. For a very affordable price, you get Kawai quality in a sleek black cabinet that takes minimal space and looks great in any room. It includes a sliding keyboard cover and a collapsible music desk, plus a matching bench.
RHC keyboard action provides the natural feel of an acoustic piano. Harmonic Imaging sound technology with 88-key sampling and 192-note polyphony gives you the realistic sounds of Kawai’s EX grand piano.
Atmospheric synth pads…
You also get electric pianos, tonewheel and pipe organs, harpsichord, vibes, strings, choir, and atmospheric synth pads. Dual Mode lets you play two sounds together and adjust the volume balance between them. And you can enhance the sound with three types of reverb.
The KDP70 includes an adequate 8-watt per channel amplifier and a pair of 8 x 12 cm speakers. It’s missing line outputs to connect to an external amp. Fortunately, the two headphones jacks provided will give you plenty of volume.
Piano students – and teachers – will appreciate the KDP70’s Four Hands mode, which is superb for learning and improving your technique. A selection of Alfred or Burgmüller and Czerny lesson songs (depending on location) is also included to get you started.
Or maybe you’re interested in the KDP70’s bigger brother; if so, please check out our in-depth Kawai KDP90 review.
- Outstanding value for the price.
- Amp output not very loud.
- No line output.
6 CA48 Digital Home Piano
The CA48 has an overall shape like a traditional upright piano quality. It has a modern-looking cabinet with curved legs and minimalist toe blocks, available in three cabinet finishes to match your décor. Yet it’s only 18 inches deep, making it suitable for even a small apartment. You can adjust the angle of the included music desk for optimum viewing, or lay it flat for notating musical ideas.
It is also the first Kawai digital piano to incorporate the new Grand Feel Compact keyboard action for a very realistic response. Also included is the Grand Feel Pedal System, accurately replicating the position and weighting of the damper, soft, and sostenuto pedals of Kawai’s SK-EX concert grand piano.
The Virtual Technician “Smart Mode” offers ten presets that adjust various characteristics of the piano to match different musical styles.
With the CA48, you get the sound of two world-class pianos in one instrument. First is the sound of Kawai’s flagship SK-EX concert grand piano, widely considered one of the finest instruments in its class.
Also included is the highly acclaimed EX concert grand piano, which has been selected by professional pianists for many international piano competitions. Both are faithfully reproduced using 88-key sampling and Kawai’s Harmonic Imaging technology.
You also get a modest selection of additional instruments, including electric piano, tonewheel and pipe organs, strings, choir and synth pads, and 192-note polyphony.
The CA48 includes a 20-watt per channel amp, with a pair of 2-inch treble speakers and 5-inch bass speakers. Headphones outputs use Spatial Headphone Sound technology to enhance the realism of the instrument when listening through headphones.
For students, the CA48 includes built-in classical piano etudes by Czerny Burgmüller and Beyer, or selections form Alfred Basic Piano course books (depending on your location). A song recorder enables you to record and save three songs.
Of course, standard MIDI In and Out, and USB ports are provided. It also includes integrated Bluetooth connectivity, enabling it to communicate with your smartphone or tablet.
Notably missing are line outputs, which would make it possible to record it straight into a mixer or interface.
- The ultimate is realistic piano sound and feel.
- Amp and speakers could be bigger.
- No line out.
7 CA58 Digital Home Piano
In a nutshell, the Kawai CA58 Digital Home Piano does everything the CA48 can do and more. It has the same remarkable Grand Feel action and the same samples of Kawai’s best acoustic grand pianos.
So what else does it offer?
First, the CA58 has 256-note maximum polyphony. And the Virtual Technician provides a few more action and tuning adjustments.
It also has a larger lesson library. It can include Bach Inventions and Chopin Waltzes, or a much wider selection of Alfred Premier Piano Course lessons. The internal song recorder has a capacity of 10 songs and 90,000 notes.
A big convenience that the CA58 offers is a pair of Line In jacks and a stereo and Line Out. Both have built-in volume adjustment controls. And it has a more powerful playback system. The amplifier has 50 watts per channel, and the speakers are bigger: a 3 x 5-inch treble speaker and a 5-inch bass speaker.
Finally, it’s also heavier, weighing in at 161 pounds, but this is still a lot lighter than a real piano
- The ultimate full-featured digital piano.
If you haven’t quite found what you’re looking for, please take a look at our reviews of the Best 88 Key Keyboards, the Best Portable Keyboard Pianos, the Best Digital Piano with Weighted Keys, the Best Digital Piano reviews and the Best Cheap Keyboard Piano currently available.
So, Which Is The Best Kawai Digital Piano?
As we explained earlier, there’s no single right answer. It’s really up to you and what you want.
But here are a few thoughts…
If budget isn’t an issue, the CA58 gives you virtually everything you could want in a digital console piano. It will provide endless hours of enjoyment in your home.
For concert situations, the MP11SE is ideal. Its sturdy construction, multiple inputs and outputs, and programmable real-time controls make it the perfect choice.
Finally, if you’re looking for a budget-priced instrument that still delivers great performance, the ES110 is a great choice.
Whatever Kawai digital piano model you ultimately choose, we think you’ll be more than satisfied with its performance and will want to keep it around for a long time.