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Suggestions for a top notch digital piano?

ein fisch

Dreamer
Im tempted to buy the Nord Stage 3 as my new go-to piano. To me its piano preset sounds great and it also offers tons of other sounds.

But before i buy it i would like to hear some other suggestions aswell to compare. Price doesnt matter, i'd be glad if it doesnt cost more than 5k
 

styledelk

Active Member
For touring or for home?

I have a Kawai CA-95 and it's about the greatest thing I could find. There's newer, better, and also lesser versions of it available.

When you get tired of its samples, it has stereo line ins to pump your VIs into its speakers and soundboard.

Fairly realistic touch and key carry, and even the onboard samples are pretty convincing when run through everything. You can tell when you've got headphones on, but otherwise it's as authentic as I've found in digital.
 
OP
ein fisch

ein fisch

Dreamer
I need one for studio usage only, to play in nice and realistic pianos.

I thought about getting a real piano first, but its a pain to transport it around and im restricted to only piano. So i'm looking for something digital but qualitative and real sounding
 

Lee Blaske

Senior Member
I really don't care for the Fatar actions in Nord products. I'm happy with Korg and Yamaha products (Kronos and Montage, these days). The actions are great. If portability isn't an option, and playing a plug-in is possible, the Kawai VPC1 is really nice. But, it's very heavy, and you wouldn't want to think about moving it without an Anvil style flight case. Just too easy for it to be damaged, otherwise.
 

Fleer

Feeding the Trolls
Don’t care for that Nord hammer action either. Personally prefer Roland’s PHA-50 (on their RD-2000 and Fantom 8).
Also, you can find most of Nord’s pianos (and more) at Sampletekk (www.sampletekk.com) as its developer (Per) is responsible for many of Nord’s fine piano samples.
 

Dewdman42

Senior Member
I personally love the action on the Nord which is a modified Fatar. You can't get quite exactly that action any other place. If it wasn't so expensive I would get one for sure. But its also not on par with true digital pianos that have much more sophisicated weighted key mechanisms inside to mimic a real piano. The Nord is more like an action that is very good but also a bit on the light side so that it can work with other sounds too. I personally really really like it as an all around keyboard, but if you're looking for just mimicking a piano, I would not choose that one.

Kawai stuff is great, I have an older MP-9500 and its quite good, but there is newer stuff out now that is better. I would never be able to gig with this thing though...way too big. Yamaha has some really nice digital Pianos, with superb action, but they are the price of a real piano. Anyway, you'll just have to try stuff out in the end.... nobody will know what works for you except you. Even different real pianos have different feels...
 

lumcas

Active Member
As always, buy what YOU like and not what prefers a random guy on the internet like me :).
I don't care for Nord's hammer action either, it feels kinda springy, spongy to me. I really like Roland RD-2000 and higher end Yamaha models like AvantGrande series. I also had a chance to play Kawai VPC1 piano controller and the action is up there among the best I've tried. Actually, now that I think of it, what's your piano skill level should be the question to answer, and again, only you can answer that... If you're ready to spent 5k or more on a digital piano, you really want to do your research and play a few. Hope you'll find the right one.
 

Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
If you need a hybrid, go with al_net77's recs.

If a Digital Upright is sufficient, due to excellent keybed action (better than a standard acoustic upright actually, and almost as good as an acoustic grand!), and really good digital sounds will be used from the digital piano vs. triggering (or re-tracking later) a computer based piano source, then the top-end Clavinova and Kawai CA-series are the best bets.

I'm torn between them myself, having just played Yamaha's CLP685PE recently. It sounded great on headphones but I frankly didn't care for its built-in speaker sound, so I want to re-try the Kawai CA-98 and if possible compare side-by-side, as I was VERY impressed by what Kawai had done with the soundboard and Onkyo electronics on their top model.

The CFX in the CLP685PE is really good and quite versatile. For some reason, the Bosondorfer sounded muffled, dark, and inarticulate to me, which is kind of weird for a brand known for being super-bright and aggressive. The keybed felt like a high quality grand piano. Can't remember if Kawai's is as good.


The Shigeru samples in the Kawai's are unique, not found anywhere else (even software), and also top-of-the-game, but I don't have a strong enough aural memory to compare as there was a six month gap in trying them at different stores. I think the Kawai dealer also carries Yamaha, but not the other way around, so I'll return to the Kawai store soon.


Prices are fairly similar. Yamahas are on sale right now, which may mean new models soon, as it seems the Clavinova have often been updated near end-of-year. Probably also true of Kawais.

You may also find the MP11SE from Kawai to be sufficient. Probably exactly the same sounds as in the CA98, very similar keybed (if not the same, in the revised SE version), but missing the specially designed wooden soundboard that helps with realistic three-dimensional sound in the room (if that matters; not sure if you're miking or going direct).
 

Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
There are certain things that you can ONLY do on a high-end keybed, for technical reasons. Although there are some playing tricks to eke a bit more performance out of cheaper stuff like the Fatar actions used by so many vendors.

I play a lot of latin styles, which require rapid-fire succession on the same note (and other styles that also demand this). This requires escapement; either physically realized (ideal, such as in the top-end Yamaha and Kawai digital grands but not necessarily in the acoustic uprights!), or a fast enough software engine that if you try some of the side-to-side and front-to-back tricks with a Fatar then you might achieve some level of key repeat but not with all of the accompanying sound characteristics.

The Kawai VPC-1 is a nice keybed but a step down from the MP11SE and CA-series. Yet it might be enough for you. Similarly, Yamaha's CP-4 and related gig-friendly keyboards are quite good compared to standard ROMpler keybeds (which aren't bad) such as on a MONTAGE or a Korg or Roland model.

Within the past few years, competition has pushed ALL manufacturers to adopt "textured" keys with "ivoroid" white keys and often "ebony feel" black keys, on some models. An increasing percentage of models sport these enhanced textured surfaces, with each passing year.
 

dsblais

Active Member
The Kawai VPC-1 is very nice, but if you are looking for the mechanism rather than the sounds, the StudioLogic Studio Grand 88 has a wonderful action and is still fairly portable.
 

Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
One thing to be aware of with the Fatar/StudioLogic stuff though, is that the MIDI spec is usually quite sparse, and often there is uneven response. This won't matter to some people, but it's why I sold mine, as MIDI Monitoring tools proved what my ears were telling me, regarding weird jumps in MIDI values vs. smooth transitions from 0-127 for all MIDI CC's and other parameters (Note On Velocity, Pitch, etc.).

On the Keyboard Corner Forum, those with more recent models have stated that this situation has not improved over the years. It's not that vendor's focus. Also, splits were limited, as were setups. But that's more critical for live work than studio projects.
 
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dsblais

Active Member
One thing to be aware of with the Fatar/StudioLogic stuff though, is that the MIDI spec is usually quite sparse, and often uneven response. This won;t matter to some people, but it's why I sold mine, as MIDI Monitoring tools proved what my ears were telling me, regarding weird jumps in MIDI values vs. smooth transitions from 0-127 for all MIDI CC's and other parameters (Note On Velocity, Pitch, etc.).

On the Keyboard Corner Forum, those with more recent models have stated that this situation has not improved over the years. It's not that vendor's focus. Also, splits were limited, as were setups. But that's more critical for live work than studio projects.
Interesting. I'll have to keep an eye out for that, thanks. What do you find to be the gold standard for a keybed?
 

Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
For weighted keys, the controller-only keybeds are always inferior to a high quality Digital Piano, and often aren't all that much less expensive anyway. There have been really good ones in the past, but they're hard to come by used, so I won't bother mentioning them, especially due to maintenance costs.

Unless you're gigging (and I no longer do this on keys; just bass and clarinet), it makes more sense to buy a Digital Piano than a weighted MIDI Controller. But the Kawai VPC-1 comes the closest (yet also isn't much cheaper than an MP11SE).

Often, controllers and ROMplers have balanced vs. graded hammer action. Some feel the difference is minute, and I would agree that it can be less than the difference between competing brands of acoustic grand pianos. Graded action, means that it takes less strength to play the highest notes, and more to play the lowest notes. This difference in resistance can feel more intuitive, but also may require slight timing differences in striking the keys -- easy to adapt to.

It's much easier to make recommendations for semi-weighted: Moog Synths, and Arturia Controllers. There are a few others that are less consistent from model to model, and year to year, so I continue to recommend those two brands as the most robust and as provably the most complete and smooth MIDI specs and response.

I am not a fan of unweighted keys. Semi-weighted keys are more like what organs have (especially Hammond electronic organs), and have just enough heft that a trained pianist is unlikely to make mistakes or get ghost notes.

Some people feel you can get good piano takes from semi-weighted keys; I am not one of them. But right now, it's all I have, as I sold my Fatar-based Kurzweil PC3X and never replaced it. I end up having to edit my parts due to less controllable velocity, but at least I can get fast repeated notes, making for better performances than on a substandard weighted action.
 
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Michael Antrum

Only the good die young....
Well, I have a Nord Stage II EX and I love it. However, the keybed is not great. If the keybed is an issue for you I would look art:

Kawai MP11se which has a wooden keybed though it is a big beast and is around £ 1800.00. Also there is the Kawai VPC-1 which is designed for using piano VST's (no internal sounds) and has a nice flat top on it for your laptop or monitor and is around £ 1000. These are the closest you'll get to the real thing.

Also don't forget the new Nord Grand. Nord piano with a Kawai keybed (though not the wooden one). Its only a little more expensive than the Stage III. I'm going to see one soon, but a couple of guys I know have played one and really rate it.



Roland RD2000 has a good keybed too and is around £ 1600.00.

I still love my Nord though. I've got a bit of cash coming my way soon and have been wondering whether to upgrade to the III or the Grand.

Also The new Nord Piano 4 has a better keybed than the Stage 4 if you don't need the synth stuff.

I have an Electro 6d for taking out and about, so I don't really need to cart the Nord Stage around anymore, so I think the next one will be either the Kawai MP11se or the Nord Grand for me.

You should definitely try and play them all though.
 
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Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
Oh, I didn't know the Nord Grand is using a Kawai action vs. their usual choice of Fatar keybeds! Good to know! That's worth considering alongside the MP11SE, which currently is my own likely pick if I don't go whole-hog with a CA98 or Clavinova.

The Roland has not worked for me once I have sufficient time on it. It's all personal, of course. And it's not just due to the sounds (Roland tends to "bake in" their reverb to the core samples). I was getting fatigued very quickly, as the action felt less sturdy to me from front-to-back and side-to-side than either Kawai or Yamaha.

But kudos to Roland for adding true tri-pedals (rare on gig-friendly units), and the first with textured keys. I do try the newer ones when they come out. Escapement still is not as good as the other two top brands (ignoring for now that Korg has also been gradually improving).
 

Michael Antrum

Only the good die young....
Amazingly, although it's a physically much bigger unit, the Nord Grand only weighs a few 46lbs, only a little more than the Stage 3 which weighs only 4lbs less. (Thats probably why they went for the non wood keyed.)
 
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