The chip crisis is in the headlines almost daily, and by now almost everyone knows at least one family member or friend who is affected by it: Months and months of waiting times for new cars in particular – but of course also PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, smartphones, washing machines, tumble dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, branded bicycles, printers, PC cards, even lawnmowers. Since I’ve been car-free for a few years now (in Berlin, that works pretty well), this wasn’t an exciting topic for me until now. But then it hit me! Or let’s say: almost hit me … Namely when I bought a new digital piano.
After a careful selection process with auditions, sound checks and the like, I had clearly decided on the KAWAI CA-59 from the Concert Artist series. Actually, the word “decided” doesn’t quite hit the mark: It was rather love at first sight. I was ready to fill out the order form. However, my consultant in the flagship store of www.justmusic.de didn’t pull out the order form beaming with joy, but explained somewhat contritely that KAWAI had been hit by the chip crisis. In short: Unfortunately, I could not expect a delivery until spring 2023 (!). – Oh my God, are you serious!!
Waiting an entire year for an instrument I had just fallen in love with?! – No way!! For the time being, I was willing to be flexible on the color. Purple, pink – it was all the same to me. But a look at the stock showed: Nothing. Totally sold out! – I was shattered. It had started so well, my consultant was really great, very competent, I had learned a lot of exciting details about Digital Pianos. And then he became the bearer of bad news. But, let’s be fair, it was certainly also incredibly frustrating for him to sell something that doesn’t really exist (anymore).
Once I was out of the 4-story music store, my hopes rested on the World Wide Web, which can theoretically put me in touch with anyone who might still have a KAWAI CA-59 in storage. It may be that Just Music no longer had the model in stock, but somewhere there was certainly still one in stock. It turned out, that search wouldn’t be easy: In most online stores it said: “not available”, “on request”, “ordered”, etc. But that wouldn’t discourage me, I wrote to a dozen music stores. In the course of the afternoon, the rejections came in, but my tireless search was rewarded in the end: A music store in Hamburg had just received one more Piano (un almost unbelievable coincidence) Bam! Happy end. In the meantime it’s in my living room. Love has triumphed after all!
Digital pianos versus acoustic pianos
The development dynamics of digital pianos is really impressive. A good digital piano in the price range from 2,000 EUR is now a good (to better alternative) to entry-level acoustic pianos. Why? The KAWAI CA-59 for example offers the sound spectrum of three grand pianos (Shigeru Kawai grand SK-EX, Kawai EX and Shigeru Kawai SK-5), on ONKYO premium audio technology. Added to this is a touch response that is almost indistinguishable from a “real” piano: KAWAI does not only simulate the touch dynamics on this model, but actually uses real wooden keys. In KAWAI marketing-speak, it sounds like this:
“The CA59 is the latest Kawai digital piano to utilise the superb Grand Feel Compact wooden-key keyboard action. As its name suggest, the GF Compact action has been designed to reproduce the authentic touch weight characteristics of the industry-leading Grand Feel keyboard actions, within a smaller form factor. This action retains the long wooden keysticks used for all 88 black and white keys, and the familiar ‘seesaw’ mechanism employed by acoustic grand piano actions for centuries. However, despite its smaller unit size, GF Compact features an extended key pivot length, providing a more consistent touch weight when playing towards the rear of the keyboard. This crucial detail, along with various other acoustic piano-like characteristics, ensures the CA59 delivers the most realistic playing experience in its class. “
Will digital pianos replace acoustic pianos in the foreseeable future? In the field of photography, the digital camera has indeed displaced the analog camera in niche areas (enthusiasts, art). Around the year 2000, digital cameras became established. In the home user sector, digital cameras became established from around 2003 onwards; a few years later, digital devices also became established in the SLR camera sector. But one thing is clear: such a displacement will not happen with the piano / grand piano. Photography is 2D, sound is a highly complex 3D phenomenon. A Steinway grand piano cannot be replaced by a digital grand piano in the foreseeable future.
But there are of course many reasons for digital pianos: Especially for beginners, the financial entry hurdle is significantly lower. While high-quality models can be found in the 2,000 to 2,500 EUR price range (sound, touch dynamics), entry-level models of acoustic pianos cost in the order of 3,500 EUR and more (example: Yamaha b1 PE: approx. 3,700 EUR). If you want the sound of a grand piano: the entry-level Kawai GL 10 E/P Grand Piano is about 11,000 EUR, the entry-level Yamaha C 1 X PE Grand Piano is about 23,000 EUR.
Other factors are at least as decisive as the purchase price: If you have an acoustic piano, you have to pay attention to the temperature and humidity in the room, it needs a piano tuner from time to time. Moving the instrument from one room to another is a feat of strength, moving from apartment to apartment is unthinkable without piano packers and special forwarding agents. And perhaps most importantly, I currently enjoy playing late at night when the kids are in bed. With the digital piano, it’s easy: earphones, and off you go. Ideal for good neighborly relations.
Last but not least: The following video (23 min) gives an interesting insight into the world of digital pianos. Here, for example, the difference between the entry-level model KAWAI CA-49 and the pricier model CA59 is explained: This gives a feeling for the direction in which the development dynamics of digital pianos continues. The term “polyphony” is also explained here in a comprehensible way, an important aspect in terms of sound quality and fidelity in digital instruments. Have a listen!