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James New Review of Kawai ES110 "Stunning"


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I purchased the Casio PX-S3000 when it came out in March 2019. The action was fatiguing (short pivot) and the sound was somehow artificial. So, I performed an extensive side by side comparison test between the PX-S3000, a Kawai ES110, a Yamaha P125, and a Roland FP30. I invited two other professional pianists to also join me in playing the four models. We all concluded without hesitation that the Kawai ES100 had clearly won in the category of superior action response, ease of playability, and for having the most realistic piano sample implementation.

 

Go to 4:00

The Kawai has a "wider range in dynamics" "and timbre."

"The Kawai sounds a little thicker and it sounds a little more complex; it seems the sample quality on the Kawi is slightly higher."

 

[video:youtube]

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." 

Harry teaches jazz piano online using Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, or Google Meet.

 

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I did a similar test and the Kawaii ES110 keybed of the unit that I tried was very, very noisy.

 

Easily it was the worst of all the DP"s that I tried in this price range and so noisy there was no way I would have lived with the very intrusive sound.

 

To say this was very disappointing should be taken as given since the reviews and personal comments about the quality of the keyboard that has been posted so many times. I was looking to buy one and had to settle for a Yamaha when I really would have preferred the Kawai based on the reviews that I had read.

 

The Roland FP30 had the better action imo, but its connectivity and method of changing tones was and still is poor.

Col

 

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Other than the noise, how was the action (feel-wise)? I'm typically on headphones and away from the rest of the house so noise isn't an issue for me. Mostly looking at this as a controller for software pianos, but also potentially as a gig board down the road (midi port, light weight). Ironically I'd prefer this didn't have speakers at all but they could come in handy for quick practicing.
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Just getting around to watching the video in the first post, excellent so far! It did remind me that I always need to check transpose on gigging keyboards--we tune down one half step and no way I'm going to learn and play everything in a different key from the rest of the band. I need a global transpose, preferably one that can "stick" (my Nord would) but if not as long as I have a way to do it before each show ONCE, I'm good. If I had to do it every time I change patches--and granted, not sure I'd be changing patches often on this, it would be for piano mostly--that is a major PITA.

 

Nothing quite as interesting as forgetting to re-transpose after say a power outage before the show, and then launching into a big two-hand chord to start the show! "It's the jazz version!"

 

Edit, nothing like reading the manual!

 

* Any changes made to the Transpose setting will remain until the power is turned off.

* The Transpose setting cannot be stored to Registration or Startup Setting memory.

 

 

I'd prefer the latter, but at least I'd only need to do it once per power-up, so not too bad. My Modx is the same way.

 

I like what he said about the action, I'm used to light actions and prefer them.

 

Edit again: a bit leery of the reverb options. Seems like you can pick None, or a type, and also can turn on/off effects. No mention of reverb *amount*. Not a show stopper I guess, for really "live" joints I typically turn down reverb, probably best to turn it off completely. (I wish I could get through to our guitarist that the reason his monitor mix is "muddy" is all the verb he has on his patches, and that multiplies out front in a place with wood or tile etc.)

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I actually like that he has opinions, as opposed to most other vids that are unwilling to criticize anything. Granted his opinions only apply to him.

 

I can tell he's better than I am, probably in any style :D but my impression is that he's primarily a classical player.

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I've seen a couple vids with more playing and he seems like a trained classical guy. I think his parents own a piano store so he grew up around the instrument.

 

He's got strong opinions, and that can be refreshing in a forest of uncritical product commercials. But his conclusions about certain keyboards being able to "cause injury to players" is at the very least provocative without data to irrefutably support the contention.

 

Personally, I'm glad the young man has strong opinions, and I also tend to take the most serious consideration of hardware recommendations from players who have deep experience understanding the demands I have as a gigging player.

..
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I have played my ES110 for over 200 hours and the action is quiet. I have also played the ES110 at a nearby store and at a friend's place who also has one. All the actions are quiet.

The ES110 comes with a handy double-sided cue card diagram for every push key function for editing, so you don't have to dig into the manual. It's easy.

 

There is an easy fix to turn the jumpy Rhodes into a superb well-behaving clean tone Rhodes. Simply set the Touch Setting to Heavy and then it won't be jumpy. It's a great Rhodes sample. I don't know what Kawai was thinking to set the Rhodes touch setting so light as the default, it pings and barks too easily, you can't control it.

Also, turn off the spacy Vibrato Chorus Effect on the Rhodes. Then save it as a Registration. It's amazing to me that they could be so stupid in how they set the Rhodes in factory default.

 

Also, turn off speaker EQ for an overall cleaner and fatter sounding EQ. I like Studio Piano 2 for live soloing, I can play a more legato bebop line with it, it's less clunky than Piano 1, and has less stereo spread (it's more focused) and better clarity.

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." 

Harry teaches jazz piano online using Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, or Google Meet.

 

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I found a video of the ES110's action sound with the piano turned off. It's certainly no worse than my PX-5s, which doesn't bother me at all when I'm playing it.

 

[video:youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhgjbuJZot0

 

I think (and this is speculation) what's bothering some people is it's fairly lively key return, which causes the keys to bounce a bit when you trigger them like in the video, or lift your fingers really fast. That's something I actually appreciate in an action. But YMMV...

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There are some people who obsess over key noise and bounce. I say think they are being neurotic, pulling at straws, and suffering from the Princess and the Pea syndrome. It's not a problem! Just turn the sound up and play it. It's a very responsive and dynamic action, much nicer than an FP30, P125, or PX S3000. The ES110 weights are further back in the action, thus better leverage. It's not as fatiguing like some other short pivot, or sluggish, digital piano actions are. Kawai makes great digital piano actions in all their current models!

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." 

Harry teaches jazz piano online using Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, or Google Meet.

 

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Go to 4:00

The Kawai has a "wider range in dynamics" "and timbre."

"The Kawai sounds a little thicker and it sounds a little more complex; it seems the sample quality on the Kawi is slightly higher."

[video:youtube]

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." 

Harry teaches jazz piano online using Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, or Google Meet.

 

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What I see as a disconnect or contradiction is that he's a classical player, a pianist whose work involves only real â and quality â acoustic pianos. When was the last time you went to a classical concert and saw the pianist playing a DP? Right, never. IMO he has zero perspective on what 98% of us do. What got me at first was how he would play his classical pieces to demonstrate the sound of the DP, playing it in mono through an amp, and miked! He did this in a recording studio â WTF! I mentioned this in a comment, then saw another video where he actually took the line out of the DP â in mono! Well, he's 19 years old? And a classical pianist? I guess we shouldn't expect him to know much about the tech side of things, but there's right and wrong ways to listen to the sound of a digital piano â and IMO he was pretty much in the wrong. Makes it harder to take any of his criticisms seriously.

 

As to what he claims about the Casio's action, I remember trying one of those PXs very briefly at a Guitar Center and didn't notice anything off regarding white vs black keys' feel. However, I defer to his evaluation; I'm sure he's more tuned in to the subtleties of a piano's touch since his work entails playing a repertoire of pieces that demand a very high degree of dynamic control. Which is why anyone in his position would never be playing them on a Casio PX (or any other DP for that matter) in the first place!

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At least that Shawcross guy can play to a decent level. There is one stage piano reviewer who seems to appear an awful lot and he has such terrible technique, that I really struggle to watch those videos, so generally switch off. I find this Shawcross guy has at least been properly taught. And, as others have said, it is good that he at least makes his views known. The viewer can then do their own research and reach their own conclusions.

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Just to make sure: ES110: what is the Bluetooth, streaming for music playback on the keyboards speakers?

 

So, with either of the top contenders, ES110 and P125, any layering? Splits?

 

Given the small number of sounds and that they do have 1/4" outs, it's disappointing to me that they don't have line ins to help compensate with an ipad for more sounds.

 

These must really be top sellers, both Kawai and Yamaha offer them in black and in white, which is something that'd only happen if they were a top seller.

Kawai ES110 & ES920 /// Casio CT-X5000

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I did a similar test and the Kawaii ES110 keybed of the unit that I tried was very, very noisy.

 

Easily it was the worst of all the DP"s that I tried in this price range and so noisy there was no way I would have lived with the very intrusive sound.

 

To say this was very disappointing should be taken as given since the reviews and personal comments about the quality of the keyboard that has been posted so many times. I was looking to buy one and had to settle for a Yamaha when I really would have preferred the Kawai based on the reviews that I had read.

 

The Roland FP30 had the better action imo, but its connectivity and method of changing tones was and still is poor.

Noisy shmoisy, I don't judge DPs based on their action noise, doesn't matter. I've always

liked Kawai DPs and if I had budget to spare I would get it just to lighten the load.

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Just to make sure: ES110: what is the Bluetooth, streaming for music playback on the keyboards speakers?

 

I have an ES-110, and the Bluetooth enable me to play my softsynths wirelessly. I have to connect every time using the Audio Midi Setup app, but that just takes a few seconds. Having to option to play with a weighted or synth action is great. Super fun to layer the Kawai with another piano, electric grand or epiano, and with the sound coming from different speakers (internal Kawai/ Mackie 824s) it's even better. I've had my Kawai for a few years now and love it.

 

And yes, you can split and layer the board.

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I did a similar test and the Kawaii ES110 keybed of the unit that I tried was very, very noisy.

 

Easily it was the worst of all the DP"s that I tried in this price range and so noisy there was no way I would have lived with the very intrusive sound.

 

To say this was very disappointing should be taken as given since the reviews and personal comments about the quality of the keyboard that has been posted so many times. I was looking to buy one and had to settle for a Yamaha when I really would have preferred the Kawai based on the reviews that I had read.

 

The Roland FP30 had the better action imo, but its connectivity and method of changing tones was and still is poor.

Noisy shmoisy, I don't judge DPs based on their action noise, doesn't matter. I've always

liked Kawai DPs and if I had budget to spare I would get it just to lighten the load.

 

Really? In a loud band setting and with the volume cranked using headphones, it wouldn't matter much. But for sensitive partners who have to endure you playing while using headphones it could be a deal breaker. And, headphones or using the keyboards speakers, it can be distracting and off-putting for you as the player to have too much key noise, as in irritating and possibly influence the buying decision.

 

It seems evident that not all keybeds will be the same even when coming from the same model. It's possible that the one Biggles heard was defective compared to the majority of ES110s.

Kawai ES110 & ES920 /// Casio CT-X5000

Yamaha Melodica and Alto Recorder

QSC K8.2 // JBL Eon One Compact // Klipsch KMC 3 // Win10 laptop i7 8GB // iPad Pro 9.7" 32GB

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Just to make sure: ES110: what is the Bluetooth, streaming for music playback on the keyboards speakers?

 

So, with either of the top contenders, ES110 and P125, any layering? Splits?

 

Given the small number of sounds and that they do have 1/4" outs, it's disappointing to me that they don't have line ins to help compensate with an ipad for more sounds.

 

Yes to both (layer and split) on the P-125. I believe it's the same with the ES-110, but I'm not sure.

 

What I see as a disconnect or contradiction is that he's a classical player, a pianist whose work involves only real â and quality â acoustic pianos. When was the last time you went to a classical concert and saw the pianist playing a DP? Right, never. IMO he has zero perspective on what 98% of us do. What got me at first was how he would play his classical pieces to demonstrate the sound of the DP, playing it in mono through an amp, and miked! He did this in a recording studio â WTF! I mentioned this in a comment, then saw another video where he actually took the line out of the DP â in mono! Well, he's 19 years old? And a classical pianist? I guess we shouldn't expect him to know much about the tech side of things, but there's rght and wrong ways to listen to the sound of a digital piano â and IMO he was pretty much in the wrong. Makes it harder to take any of his criticisms seriously.

 

As to what he claims about the Casio's action, I remember trying one of those PXs very briefly at a Guitar Center and didn't notice anything off regarding white vs black keys' feel. However, I defer to his evaluation; I'm sure he's more tuned in to the subtleties of a piano's touch since his work entails playing a repertoire of pieces that demand a very high degree of dynamic control. Which is why anyone in his position would never be playing them on a Casio PX (or any other DP for that matter) in the first place!

 

The micing the KC amp thing really bugged me. I tend to ignore his information on sound quality, there are other videos where I can hear that. It's the other parts of his videos that I find useful sometimes.

 

With regards to the Casio, you won't notice it until you've played it for about an hour continuously. Over time it gets hard on the wrists, something that I've not experienced on any other keyboard. It's not just the weighting of the black keys, the bigger issue is the pivot point IMO. Combined it's something I wouldn't choose to play unless absolutely necessary. I have a slight issue with my left wrist from a severe break some years ago and the PX-S action makes it flare up like nothing I've ever felt. Heck, I can play ragtime on a heavy-action old upright for five hours straight with no breaks, but I can't play the PX-S for more than an hour before the burning in the wrists starts. I don't have carpal tunnel either.

Yamaha: Motif XF8, MODX7, YS200, MX61, CVP-305, CLP-130, YPG-235, PSR-295, PSS-470 | Roland: Fantom 7, JV-1000

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Looked it up, both the Yam Kaw have split and layer.

 

One feature, which I'm surprised Yam didn't include, the aux ins. Just that one feature would make either of these boards so much more useable / desirable.

 

Bluetooth MIDI is supported on the ES110

Bluetooth MIDI on ES110

for use with iOS and Mac/PC, no streaming of audio mentioned. Also doesn't say anywhere if there's an iOS mac/pc app included for setting of parameters.

 

App for setting up the P125 are included.

Kawai ES110 & ES920 /// Casio CT-X5000

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The sub $1k digital piano market, hell- it"s become a sub $700 market, is always getting better. Could never get a weighted action for less than a grand years ago. So our expectations in this price range have to take that into account. Personally I find the feel and playability of the ES-110 better or at least on par with everything else in this price range. I"d take a Yamaha P or Roland FP over this compact Casio action - no matter how quiet, the weighting and swing are strange and the dead area at the fall board is a deal breaker for me. But as always - go play them and decide for oneself.

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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Given the small number of sounds and that they do have 1/4" outs, it's disappointing to me that they don't have line ins to help compensate with an ipad for more sounds.

With the P-125, you can play back audio from an iPad through the USB connection

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So with the 'light-touch-for-weighted' action on the 110, does that translate to it being half-way decent for organ/synth? Some weighted actions are dreadful for organ/synth.

Kawai ES110 & ES920 /// Casio CT-X5000

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QSC K8.2 // JBL Eon One Compact // Klipsch KMC 3 // Win10 laptop i7 8GB // iPad Pro 9.7" 32GB

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I have a lot more experience with the Casio PX-S3000 and the Kawai ES110 than James does. I have played each for around 200 hours, memorized the manuals, and gigged with both. I've been playing blues, jazz, Latin, and pop professionally since the 1970s. Maybe I could have more insight than James.

I like the other reviewer that compares the ES110 and the P125 in the Merriam Piano video I posted above.

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." 

Harry teaches jazz piano online using Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, or Google Meet.

 

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None of these low cost digital pianos are great for organ. For synths, personally I like a quality semi weight like we get on high end synths like the Montage 7 or Jupiter-80. ;) Entirely opinion.

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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I have a lot more experience with the Casio PX-S3000 and the Kawai ES110 than James does. I have played each for around 200 hours, memorized the manuals, and gigged with both. I've been playing blues, jazz, Latin, and pop professionally since the 1970s. Maybe I could have more insight than James.

I like the other reviewer that compares the ES110 and the P125 in the Merriam Piano video I posted above.

 

Yes, great. So what do you think:

? Compared to other weighted actions, does the 110 do a better job with its fast action than most so that playing synth/organ is at least tolerable/decent?

 

I keep on hearing people mention reverb, the lack of control? As someone who enjoys sweetening the sound of an AP with reverb:

? Reverb on the 110 gets the job done? How much can you customize it to your preferences?

Kawai ES110 & ES920 /// Casio CT-X5000

Yamaha Melodica and Alto Recorder

QSC K8.2 // JBL Eon One Compact // Klipsch KMC 3 // Win10 laptop i7 8GB // iPad Pro 9.7" 32GB

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I have a PX-S3000 and, since buying it, have played an ES110 in the store. The ES110 action is nice; noticeably better than the PX-S3000. I thought it was on par with the P125 in terms of my ability to express myself (that's pretty much my sole criteria when evaluating instruments). The ES110 action is lighter than the P125 or S3000. So if lighter action is the preference, I think the ES110 is the right choice.

 

I've heard James play on some of his videos. IMHO, he knows how to play the piano; he's clearly classically trained. But as mentioned previously, I don't think his world and our worlds overlap enough to take him too seriously. I saw him playing through a Roland amp...'nuff said!

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Given the small number of sounds and that they do have 1/4" outs, it's disappointing to me that they don't have line ins to help compensate with an ipad for more sounds.

With the P-125, you can play back audio from an iPad through the USB connection

 

If you want to use an ipad, Yamaha (and I think Roland too) have done it right--use the usb connections to both send midi and get the audio back in via one cable. At least that is what my MODX does, and it has a separate control for the volume. Basically then the MODX becomes a submixer for its own sounds and the IOS sounds. Not sure the P125 does it exactly like that, but it seems Yamaha is commited to supporting IOS instruments in a robust way. This is what I'd like to see in more instruments moving forward and actually now I need to research the P125 a bit more, as I find that a possible game-changer (again if it is done as well as on my MODX).

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The ES110 manual is online. Reverb choices are either Off, Room, Small Hall, or Large Hall.

 

https://www.manualslib.com/manual/1219892/Kawai-Es110.html?page=27#manual

 

 

? "Compared to other weighted actions, does the 110 do a better job with its fast action than most so that playing synth/organ is at least tolerable/decent?"

 

It's fast and less sluggish than many others, so I would say maybe... But it's really designed for effortless piano playing and not organ which my Mojo 61 action is.

 

"I keep on hearing people mention reverb, the lack of control? As someone who enjoys sweetening the sound of an AP with reverb:"

? Reverb on the 110 gets the job done? How much can you customize it to your preferences?"

 

It has nice reverb, it has all I need: small, medium, big, or none

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." 

Harry teaches jazz piano online using Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, or Google Meet.

 

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