YOU HAVE $2,000 to spend on a digital piano. You might be willing to stretch your budget a little if something really strikes your fancy, but not by much. You're primarily interested in the basics: good piano sound and a good action. Rhythms wouldn't necessarily disqualify a model as long as the basics aren't sacrificed. Beyond that, you're pretty open to different possibilities.
When it comes to choosing an action and a sound, anyone can tell you what they prefer, but no one can tell you what's best. To determine what you prefer, you have to play and listen to instruments yourself. For the purposes of this article, then, we'll primarily be looking at specifications. Although one should never buy a digital piano solely on the basis of specifications, they can be very helpful in guiding you toward a selection of models likely to match your needs. Since our readers' needs vary, for the purposes of comparison, I've chosen several specs that are likely to be high on readers' lists: number of voices, number of notes of polyphony, watts of speaker power, number of speakers, number of tracks of onboard recording, and the presence or absence of a USB-to-computer connection. I've also noted the terms of the warranty; although this is unlikely to be of paramount importance, it can serve as a tiebreaker when other specs are close. (Note that stated warranties are for the U.S. market; other markets may differ.)
Let's look at a few different ways of approaching the $1,995 digital piano, beginning with the most common choice: the furniture-style vertical, or console. Realistically, nobody sells a model for exactly $1,995, so we'll consider models priced within about $100 of that figure. Scanning the chart of Digital Piano Specifications and Prices in this issue of Piano Buyer, we come up with six current console models whose Estimated Prices or MAPs fall within this range (see chart for explanation of price terms): Kawai CN32, Korg C-520, Kurzweil Mark Pro TWO SP, Orla CDP10, Roland DP-990, and Yamaha CLP-320.
All of these models share certain features. All have three pedals, with half-pedaling supported on the sustain pedal. Also common to all models are key covers, headphone jacks, and such basic features as stereo audio systems, transposition, and variable tuning. Table 1, below, shows how they compare on the basis of our chosen specifications.
Which of these models is best for you, based on our chosen specifications, will depend on what's important to you (read more about these specs in the "Digital Piano Basics" articles in this publication):
Voices: If you're interested only in a solid acoustic-piano voice, then one voice could well be sufficient for you. On the other hand, if you're in search of maximum flexibility, then the number of voices available—as long as they're quality voices—is of paramount importance.
Polyphony: For ordinary solo playing, 64 notes of polyphony is probably enough. If, however, you're play-ing a multitrack recording through your digital piano with different voices on each track, there's no such thing as too much polyphony.
|Table 1: Console Pianos in the $1,995 price range|
|Kawai CN32||36||96||32/2||2||Yes||5/5, in-home||$2,099|
|Kurzweil Mark Pro TWO SP||64||64||60/4||2||Yes||2/3||1,998|
|Yamaha CLP-320||10||128||40/2||1||No||5/5, in-home||1,945|
SPRING 2010 -- page 149
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Hybrid & Player Pianos