The ability to vary a piano's voice isn't solely dependent on the number of voices available. Another way of expanding the number of tonal options is through controlling the tone of a given voice. All three instruments discussed here are capable of altering various components of the piano samples, including string resonance, sustain, and key-off sound. In addition, the Roland can modify the amounts of damper and hammer noise, and the degree of duplex scale resonance in the sample. (Duplex scale is an element of acoustic-piano scale design that adds sympathetic resonance to the treble tone.) The Kawai also has the ability to switch between four different hammer-voicing options.
Beyond altering parameters specific to the piano voices, equalization offers additional tonal control. The bass and treble controls on your home or car stereo are, in essence, equalization controls. They allow you to increase or decrease the prominence of the lower and higher frequency ranges to suit your taste or the recording, or to adapt to the acoustical environment. The equalization (EQ) controls on these three digital pianos go even further. Instead of controlling only two frequency ranges, as your bass and treble controls do, the Kawai and the Roland divide the entire frequency range into four bands, and the Yamaha divides it into five bands. The Roland and Yamaha also allow you to control the widths of the center bands, effectively moving them higher or lower in the frequency range. This allows you to adjust narrow frequency bands without adversely affecting nearby frequencies. For instance, the Roland's EQ control allowed me to easily overcome what I perceived to be a slightly weaker bass in its default piano voice.
Of course, having all these adjustments is of little use if you have to reset them every time you change voices. To alleviate this potential frustration, all of the stage pianos reviewed here include the ability to memorize the setting of every control on the instrument, making it a simple matter to recall all your favorite combinations. The Kawai stores up to 256 combinations, the Roland 100, and the Yamaha 64.
Besides the sound of the instrument, the other major consideration is the action. The MP8II uses Kawai's AWA PRO II action with wooden keys. This is a great-feeling action with nicely textured black keys, and is the quietest of the three. Roland's RD-700GX is outfitted with their PHA II action; its Ivory Feel keytops provide a noticeable improvement in grip over most digital pianos, including the others tested here. The PHA II has a slightly lighter touch than the other two actions, but also produces more mechanical noise. In its intended role as a stage piano, this is completely irrelevant, but when played quietly or through headphones, the extra noise can be a bit troublesome. The CP300 uses Yamaha's midrange GHE action, a comfortable action with a touch slightly heavier than the Kawai's.
FALL 2009 -- page W5
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Hybrid & Player Pianos