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my own digital piano shoot-out


zephonic

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Went to one of those giant retial-centers today and took about two hours out of my dull and eventless life to compare the current crop of digital piano's out there. I check all the piano's with the same set of headphones, tried to match levels and switched of the internal effects (reverb etc.) Where adjustable, I set the velocity response to "hard". I think of myself as an intermediate jazz-player.

 

* Casio Privia - the sound was very metallic and unresponsive. The action was not bad at all. It's cheap at 600 Euro so it would make sense as a controller.

 

* Korg SP250 - not outstanding, a bit clangy (sound-wise) and the action is a bit too soft. But it is a sensible package, which is actually reasonably rewarding to play. At 750 Euro it is a bargain.

 

* Kurzweil PC 1SE - A disappointment. Does not live up to its manufacturer's reputation. Weak action, and outdated sounds. Don't bother.

 

* Roland FP 4 - Sounds nearly as good as it's bigger sibling the FP 7, in fact, I could barely tell the difference. However, it misses the 7's superb action, but this is still one of the better ones. It just plays nicely, if a bit too light. Recommended.

 

* Roland FP 7 - In typical Roland style, this is a great instrument that sports new features that nobody really wants. This would be my choice, since it sounds the best and has an action that can finally compete with the Yamaha's.

 

* Yamaha CP 33 - In short, great action, rigid sound. But thousands of others disagree, so check it out. I find that Yamaha's sounds do not respond very well to velocity. If this action could have the FP sound, or if the FP 4 could have this action...

 

* Yamaha P-140 - Call me loopy, but I actually found this to be a more engaging instrument that the newer CP 33. And it comes at the same price, with speakers but without bend- and mod-wheels.

 

* Yamaha CP 300 - Again, I may be loopy, but I preferred the P 140 over this as well. As with the other Yamaha's, great action but I just can't get with that sound.

 

* Yamaha P 70 - Very basic, no power switch, no line-out, mini-headphone jacks, but a solid action and reasonable sound for an agreeable amount of cash.

 

Feel free to disagree!

 

 

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zephonic, concise and accurate evaluation.

 

I'd only add that the FP7 sounds a little better because of the internal speaker quality. A/B'ing the FP4/7 closely through headphones, to me, was identical. I think any sound difference may be perception, since the FP7 looks better and feels a little better.

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Technics is history. The Kawai's sound digital to me. The Yamaha actions bother the tendons in my wrists for some reason whereas the Roland's do not.Only the Rolands sample every individual note.

 Find 600 of my jazz piano arrangements and tutorials for educational purposes at patreon.com/HarryLikas Harry was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."

 

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Thanks for sharing your opinions on the models you tried. Different strokes for different folks is what it always comes down to. The Kawai action on their current DP models IMO is the best out there. Their sound is good, not great. One of the things I've started to see and hear more of is people are buying the Kawai's for controllers, due to the action and playing something like Ivory through them. I have a few clients that have gone this route and they've never been happier with their sound and action. I thought it was unusual to have tow seperate clients doing the same thing but more power to them I guess. I've also heard of other people going this route as well. I have a friend who purchased the FP4 but returned it because it didn't cut through enough. He is currently considering the Yamaha CP33 but wants to desperately get his hands on the Kurzweil PC3 or Kawai MP5 before making a final decision. I'm sure many disagree as they have purchased others things which confirms that opinion.

Begin the day with a friendly voice A companion, unobtrusive

- Rush

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It's not just a matter of what the manufacturer's default sounds are like but also what you can do with the editable parameters they give you. I bought a Yamaha CP300 based on it's features and wide variety of parameters and effects... the default sounds were passable but I knew I could work with them and mold them into something I would really enjoy. Same with my Kawai ES4 which I use on stage. Neither of my two DP's sound like they did originally now - they are customized to my touch and tastes (for that matter, so are my other synths). Worth keeping in mind.
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The Kurzweil PC1 sounds are somewhat out of date (the PC3 probably remedies this), however I think that is a selling point for some players. If you are into classic rock from the 60s, 70s and 80s then it has a massive library of sounds from that era. Add the KFM sound bank for real FM synthesised sounds and you can relive the DX7 too. Personally, I think the PC1 with Classic Keys ROM does a much better job on classic keyboard sounds than any other modern keyboard or synth remotely in it's price range. Not just sound, but front panel controls for timbre, pickup, switch and filter settings etc that mimic the controls of the original instruments.

 

You want Clavinets? The PC1 has about 50 different ones, most with front panel sound control. Plus maybe 20-30 Rhodes pianos, and 20-30 different mellotron sounds. And all editable if you want to. Most of the others you tried give you <30 usuable sounds.

 

The Kurzweil PC3 should have a more modern soundset, and maybe the newly released SP2X too, if that is what you want.

 

Michael

 

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Personally, I think the action on the PC1se feels perfect and is one of the best I've played - being a 76 weighted portable board. The varied soundset is great for gigging and for a bottom board (except for maybe the organs, but I have the Electro on top for that). I prefer some of the EPs and clavs on the PC1se over the Nord. Since the thread is about digital pianos, I am very pleased with the PC's piano soundset as well. Cuts thru in the mix and sounds great thru my Motion Sound KP200S. But, like already said - to each his own. :thu:
PC3X, PC1se, NE2 61, DSI P08, ARP Odyssey MkII 2810, ARP Little Brother, Moog Slim Phatty, Doepfer Dark Energy, Arturia MiniBrute, Microkorg, Motion Sound KP200S,
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Speaking of Kurzweil, it will be interesting to see what folks think of the new SP2. If I see it around in the near future I'll check it out and report back.

 

The older SP series (I play an SP76 on occassion) seemed to have the old Micropiano soundset from what, 1992? So this would hopefully be a nice update for the SP series.

"The devil take the poets who dare to sing the pleasures of an artist's life." - Gottschalk

 

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Aethellis

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It's not just a matter of what the manufacturer's default sounds are like but also what you can do with the editable parameters they give you.

Sure thing, if I am shopping for a synth or workstation. But -and you can call me lazy- I want my DP to be just fine straight out of the box. A bit like a real piano, if you will...

 

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The Kurzweil PC1 sounds are somewhat out of date (the PC3 probably remedies this), however I think that is a selling point for some players. If you are into classic rock from the 60s, 70s and 80s then it has a massive library of sounds from that era.

I guess you're right, but I was comparing the piano sound and feel. No contest there.

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here we go again, I think the CP300 and the FP-7 are the best two. The CP300, 'under fire' and on a gig/recording will haul ass! It's the CS80 of DP's in my book. It may not be evident right away but I feel is the best of the lot.

 

After playing the FP-4 on gigs verses the CP33, well I'm digging the more refined Roland samples and feel. Again the Yamaha's under more rigorous acoustic situations hold up sonically....the CP33 is a brillant ax too, I had some great times with it!

 

unfortunately I like them ALL....

 

I have a 'Macy's Xmas Window' mindset with gear, I can find all sorts of ways to use all the great new gear and DP's!

 

Promega, Kawai, Kurzweil...in many ways you can't really go wrong these days. It beats only having a Wurli or a Rhodes as a viable gigging choice like in the late 60's and 70's man I tell you that! The best thing going in 1972 was a RMI and a Hapinstill!

 

lb

 CP-50, YC 73,  FP-80, PX5-S, NE-5d61, Kurzweil SP6, XK-3, CX-3, Hammond XK-3, Yamaha YUX Upright, '66 B3/Leslie 145/122

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I have a friend who purchased the FP4 but returned it because it didn't cut through enough. He is currently considering the Yamaha CP33 but wants to desperately get his hands on the Kurzweil PC3 or Kawai MP5 before making a final decision. I'm sure many disagree as they have purchased others things which confirms that opinion.

 

I also sold my FP-4 because it "didn't cut through enough". I bought a CP-33 that arrived yesterday and is still in the box. I have a gig Friday night and will try it out then. If it doesn't work, I will try the Nord Stage (travel 4 hours to Atlanta to play one, at least). I know the S90es would be fine, but I am trying to find something lighter. If not, I'm going to suck it up and get an S90es.

Jim Wells

Tallahassee, FL

 

www.pureplatinumband.com

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I have a 'Macy's Xmas Window' mindset with gear, I can find all sorts of ways to use all the great new gear and DP's!

The best thing going in 1972 was a RMI and a Hapinstill!

lb

 

We can justify anything...and it's funny you should mention Hapinstill...

 

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&rd=1&item=280138393534&ssPageName=STRK:MEWA:IT&ih=018

Jim Wells

Tallahassee, FL

 

www.pureplatinumband.com

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KEYGUY,

 

There you go..... funny!

 

I think your gonna dig the CP33, after having played both now the FP-4 and the CP33 on many gigs, I think I figured out what it is I like about the CP33 and the FP4.

 

The CP33 and the Yamaha samples in general have a girth and a fortification of that girth/bandwidth of sound and tone that carries through the sustain of the note that the Rolands can't quite get. The Roland sound is thinner but I think the new FP's a re much better for some reason than the RD of past and the SRX boards. I think it may be the oscellators and filters used in the two (FP vs RD).

 

What I'm digging about the FP-4 now is the more refined sample and details in the piano sound and it's playability on especially the FP-4 keybed. I doesn't cut quit as a well but I'm in a band now where the guitarist is a Gretch player and I can get away with a slightly thinner sound. Someone else has said the CP33 is not as responsive as say the FP4 and that is VERY true velocity wise. I found the CP33 to be less responsive to certain velocities than my P120 was. It's is a more balanced action than the P120 though I feel.....it feels very good and moderately heavy in a good way I though

 

But the CP33 will cut very nicely! You'll like it is my bet!

lb

 

 CP-50, YC 73,  FP-80, PX5-S, NE-5d61, Kurzweil SP6, XK-3, CX-3, Hammond XK-3, Yamaha YUX Upright, '66 B3/Leslie 145/122

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It's not just a matter of what the manufacturer's default sounds are like but also what you can do with the editable parameters they give you.

Sure thing, if I am shopping for a synth or workstation. But -and you can call me lazy- I want my DP to be just fine straight out of the box. A bit like a real piano, if you will...

 

It's not a real piano so it's not that simple... no two people play the same, hear the same, or want the same thing (mellow for jazz versus bright for rock for example) otherwise DP makers would not supply editable parameters at all (and on cheaper instruments, they don't!). If you hear me play my CP300 and like the sound but hear another CP300 and don't like the sound wouldn't you want to know why?

 

You are purchasing an electronic keyboard so what controls over the sound are offered is a major factor. It's the number and depth of those controls that determines how well the instrument will fit the player's need. I think you are shortchanging yourself by not looking into the control functions more on the top of the line DP's... if they don't interest you then you could save some money and choose between the less expensive models with fewer options.

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How is the CP33 with regard to the attack of the notes? On my P90 if I just hit a single note on the keyboard I get what I consider to be a really impressive piano tone, but the attack is so prominent that playing a legato line is really hard- each note has to much "spike" at the beginning of it to play smoothly.
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zephonoic,

 

I tweak the heck out of all my gear. All that complexity and programability & options are there for a reason. You really have to I feel tweak weather it's a minor tweak (EQ) or major tweak (Keyboard Scaling). The Out of the box sound that you hear on the Retail floor when you try the instrument will let you know if the instrument is in your ball park, but play/tweak/gig play/tweak/gig etc... is pretty much the rule for of thumb 4 me and I would venture to say alot of other people!

 

lb :thu:

 CP-50, YC 73,  FP-80, PX5-S, NE-5d61, Kurzweil SP6, XK-3, CX-3, Hammond XK-3, Yamaha YUX Upright, '66 B3/Leslie 145/122

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I'm with the Pro on this one. I go in there and adjust layer velocity transition points, filter settings, amplitude bias break points and amounts (which is essential in getting the upper 1 1/2 octaves to match the level of the rest of the piano through PA cabs in my band settings). The most dramatic edits I do are on sampled EPs, which never sound right onstage.

 

But I love programming. I haven't found a sound yet that I couldn't improve on. ;) ...to my ears...

 

The one thing I noticed when playing the CP33 at GC was that the the multisample break points were pretty obvious for a digital piano in this price range today. It would drive me nuts if I played this piano a lot, but maybe I'm too conscious of this. It doesn't seem to be a concern to CP33 fans at all.

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The Kurzweil PC1 sounds are somewhat out of date (the PC3 probably remedies this).....

I'm not optimistic with regard to the PC3 providing any remedy for the grand piano sounds. The following is from Kurzweil's website:

 

"In addition to our renowned Triple Strike Grand Piano, the PC3 features hundreds of new sounds; basses, drums, guitars, and synths suited for every style and taste, along with a collection of flawless vintage keyboard emulations, KB3 Mode and over 250 orchestral and string section programs."

 

My take on this passage is they are still touting the "Triple Strike Grand Piano" as their piano sound, with the "new sounds" being represented in the bass, drum, guitar, and synth categories.

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."

- George Bernard Shaw

 

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Quote by Zephonic:

 

Originally Posted By: The Pro

It's not just a matter of what the manufacturer's default sounds are like but also what you can do with the editable parameters they give you.

 

Sure thing, if I am shopping for a synth or workstation. But -and you can call me lazy- I want my DP to be just fine straight out of the box. A bit like a real piano, if you will...

 

All mfg are giving you what they think is an average piano sound in their presets. But their perception of what that should sound like, and YOUR perception may be different. Jim (The PRO) uses a digital piano, the Yamaha CP300. Having the ability to tweak something to your liking is what weve come to expect out of modern instruments. I use a Yamaha Motif ES8, and I love having the ability to change basic settings, just EQ and FX makes a difference. I can change voice elements too, if Im looking for something much different than a factory patch.

 

Mike T.

Yamaha Motif ES8, Alesis Ion, Prophet 5 Rev 3.2, 1979 Rhodes Mark 1 Suitcase 73 Piano, Arp Odyssey Md III, Roland R-70 Drum Machine, Digitech Vocalist Live Pro. Roland Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-1.

 

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I guess you're right, but I was comparing the piano sound and feel. No contest there.

 

Yeah, I bit into an apple, then an orange, and the apple was WAY more like an apple... no contest. :rolleyes:

 

If you're going to do a "digital piano shootout", then pick appropriate gear to compare... that would be something from the Kurzweil SP line (like the new SP2). :thu:

 

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I have a Roland FP-4 and have to say it's a great tool to have, at least for my purposes -I use it at home only (not in a band), for composing/practicing/playing for my own pleasure. I has great sounds, and the case is made out of metal - feels nice and solid.

 

Compared it briefly to the FP7 - for me, no difference in piano sound (it may actually be the same sample). Key action is different, but since I was after lighter action, I liked the FP4 more. THey are actually very close, FP4,FP7, RD700SX, in terms of key feel.

 

Tried a Korg piano in store the other day. For me, too light. Fatar action is light too (maybe Korg uses Fatar in their DPs?).

 

 

Stage: MOX6, V-machine, and Roland AX7

Rolls PM351 for IEMs.

Home/recording: Roland FP4, a few guitars

 

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Yep, the default, out of the box settings on keyboards are the manufacturer's suggestion of what 'they' think a piano should sound like. Usually it's close to the best the keyboard will offer, but tweaking can make dramatic improvements.

 

But I'd want the default sounds to to be 'good enough' to make me want to tweak it better - otherwise, I wouldn't have much faith in the manufacturer's tastes to buy it in the first place.

 

(In essence, I guess I just said nothing.) :deadhorse:

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How is the CP33 with regard to the attack of the notes? On my P90 if I just hit a single note on the keyboard I get what I consider to be a really impressive piano tone, but the attack is so prominent that playing a legato line is really hard- each note has to much "spike" at the beginning of it to play smoothly.

 

I noticed that too.

 

Also, Yamaha does not sample every note, they transpose their samples across neighboring keys. That makes it sounds monotonous and a little too perfect, the notes lack any individual character. That sounds "digital" and sterile to me. Of course this won't bother you if you are used to it, or play in LOUD band situations.

 Find 600 of my jazz piano arrangements and tutorials for educational purposes at patreon.com/HarryLikas Harry was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."

 

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Jazz+

 

So, what manufactures sample every note and multiple velocities for each note? I believe Roland did that with the RD700SX, but I could be wrong.

 

Mike T.

Yamaha Motif ES8, Alesis Ion, Prophet 5 Rev 3.2, 1979 Rhodes Mark 1 Suitcase 73 Piano, Arp Odyssey Md III, Roland R-70 Drum Machine, Digitech Vocalist Live Pro. Roland Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-1.

 

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How is the CP33 with regard to the attack of the notes? On my P90 if I just hit a single note on the keyboard I get what I consider to be a really impressive piano tone, but the attack is so prominent that playing a legato line is really hard- each note has to much "spike" at the beginning of it to play smoothly.

Thank You! That's exactly what I felt! I guess it loses relevance if you play in a loud rock band next to a stack of Marshalls, but I can't swing on it.

 

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I guess you're right, but I was comparing the piano sound and feel. No contest there.

 

Yeah, I bit into an apple, then an orange, and the apple was WAY more like an apple... no contest. :rolleyes:

 

If you're going to do a "digital piano shootout", then pick appropriate gear to compare... that would be something from the Kurzweil SP line (like the new SP2). :thu:

Sure thing, Sven, but they lined up the PC 1SE as a digital piano in the digital piano department and the SP2 was nowhere to be seen.

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