The Japanese piano maker, Kawai, is a well respected and established brand name when it comes to both digital and acoustic pianos. Their pianos are known to be high-quality products which are a favourite with both piano teachers and expert professionals, as well as with students who are just beginning to learn the nuances of playing a piano. Historically, Kawai has not been known to offer a digital piano under $1,000 but with the launch of the ES100, they have finally changed the pattern.
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The new Kawai ES100 is the latest addition in the ES-series of digital pianos by Kawai, which comprises digital pianos that are highly portable and yet built to deliver powerful performances both on stage or indoors. Currently priced at $799.00 at Amazon, the new ES100 promises to deliver authentic piano quality sound for a much lesser price than its competitors. For a more complete review and detailed specifications of the Kawai ES100, please read on.
The ES100 combines an 88-note piano sampling tone with a high quality graded hammer key action, to deliver a realistic piano experience in a low cost, portable instrument. There are 19 sounds including acoustic pianos, electric pianos, strings, organs etc which can be mixed and matched to deliver a more complete musical experience while playing. Also featured are a 192-note polyphony, dual and split modes, built in Alfred Piano lessons, built in speaker systems and a recording function. The piano is also relatively small and lightweight (about 35 lbs) , and hence is portable enough to be moved almost anywhere in the house or outdoors.
1) 88-key Individual Sampling – Each note of all the 88 keys has been individually sampled from an acoustic grand piano; most of digital pianos at this range and even beyond sample groups of notes at a time, which is a cheaper way of sound reproduction. Using individual sampling technique along with its Harmonic Imaging technology, the Kawai ES100 is able to deliver an incredible rich and realistic piano sound, which is only found in the pianos of a considerably higher price range.
2) AHA IV-F Key Action – The ES100 boasts of a top quality graded hammer action key action (termed as AHA IV-F aka Advanced Hammer Action IV by Kawai), which feels both superior and sturdy, and yet is smoother and quieter than most of the other low priced models of various brands ( Yamaha DGX and Arius models). With its large tonal range, the ES100 rather skilfully balances the key weight properly too, and is able to produce a much better sound quality than most of the under $1,500 Yamaha pianos.
3) 192-note Polyphony – This particular feature is the reason why Kawai ES100 beats all other competition hands down, when it comes to digital pianos that offer a huge polyphonic memory at under $1,000. The 192-note polyphony is not offered in any other digital piano of any brand in the below $1000 cost price range, and combined with a smooth, quiet hammer key action in a sleek, little portable cabinet, the Kawai ES100 emerges as a clear winner!
4) 19 sounds, including 8 Acoustic Piano sounds – It has 19 different sounds including 8 excellent acoustic piano tones, (eight acoustic tones are a lot really) considering the other sounds (strings, organs, electric pianos, harpsichords and other tones) which are also there. The ES100 also features a 100 Drum Rhythm section offered along the Metronome feature, which sound exceptionally realistic for such a low price model. As opposed to the usual Metronome feature on digital pianos, the ES100 also allows you to vary the tempo and volume levels while playing the piano with the background drum rhythms.
5) Buil-In Alfred piano lesson library – Kawai ES100 is the only digital piano under $1,000 which offers a built-in piano lesson library consisting of the very popular Alfred’s basic library of song books 1A and 1B, along with Burgmuller 25 Etudes. This is especially helpful for beginners, who can use the built-in lessons to practice while listening to the lessons playing in the backdrop, and sort out and work on the left and right hand parts separately.
6) MIDI controller and Headphone jacks – The ES100 comes with two headphone jacks which can be used to connect to headphones as well as external speaker systems, if you are to play the piano in a large hall or any other outdoor place. There is also a very convenient option of allowing the built-in speaker systems of the ES100 to stay on, even when you plug in the external speakers or headphones! Additionally a MIDI connector is available to allow it to connect to other electronic devices and computers/ipads (using a low cost MIDI-to-USB converter/adapter).
7) Built-in Digital Recorder – It offers an easy to use 3-song built-in recorder which can help players to evaluate their own performances. The ES100 though lacks the option to do a 2-track piano recording – it has only one full track piano recording, unlike some of its competitors. The 2-track recording feature allows you to record while playing the piano with left and right hands separately, and is a very useful tool for a better self evaluation.
8) Additional Features – A piano-like Damper Sustain Pedal is available, which activates an ability to have a medium amount of sustain decay time while pressing the pedal half way down (half-pedalling). This feature is mostly lacking in other budget pianos and helps while playing the legato passages of musical pieces, which makes it more appealing to the advanced players and students. Also, available is the “Pedal Resonance” function which gives the piano a much more realistic sound effect of “virtual strings” as in a real acoustic piano, when you hold down the pedal. This is lacking too in most of Kawai ES100’s competitors.
- Easy to Use, Lightweight;
- Exceptionally Realistic Sound Quality;
- High Quality Key Reponse and Action (lighter than Casio’s PX, but heavier than Yamaha’s GHS and much quieter than Casio’s models);
- Touch Sensitive Keys;
- Great Value for Money;
- Limited Sound Selection;
- Built-in speakers sound a bit muffled;
- Customers were found to report a considerable delay time when using the pedals, concerning the Initial batch of the ES100. So it is advisable to purchase the latest models on the ES100 where this issue has been fixed.
The Kawai ES100 is a piano for the beginners and even experts who are looking for a budget piano, filled with all the essential features and more. This might also be the best digital piano out there for under $1,000, as it scores over most of its competitors such as Yamaha P35, P105 and Casio’s low end models. Smooth key action and a realistic piano sound quality are the benchmarks for judging any digital piano, and the ES100 delivers at both fronts. Combined with its large polyphonic tone range, and a low price of $799, the Kawai ES100 emerges as a clear winner among portable digital pianos under $1,000!