In the categories of pianos under $2000, the Kawai ES8 sure is a wonder in our opinion. It’s easily one of the best portable pianos in the market currently. And it offers such a high level of realism and authenticity that would definitely impress any experienced pianist.
Pianists worldwide praise this keyboard for its incredible sound and fantastic keyboard feel. But besides the praise, we are going to be going in depth to look at this piano for what it really is.
In our review today, we will be taking an unbiased look at the pros and cons of the ES8 and what exactly makes this piano tick. Come with us.
The Kawai ES8 At Glance – Is This Piano For You?
Like we mentioned, the Kawai ES8 is one of the best digital pianos you can get for under $2000 in today’s piano market. And it’s quite easy to see why.
Kawai obviously went to great lengths to produce an instrument that sounds and feels pretty close to the real thing. All the tiny elements that make up an authentic feeling piano have been taken care of here. And digital pianos have hardly ever felt this good.
Of course, this piano isn’t perfect and there are a few things we would change if we could. For instance, this isn’t exactly portable and you’ll find it a bit heavy and awkward to carry. And it also doesn’t come with a pitch bend or modulation wheel too. It doesn’t come with Bluetooth connectivity either.
But when you look at the big picture, you see that the pros far outweigh the cons.
We are talking about an instrument that can double as both a console piano and a gig piano. So, your options are not limited.
Plus, the ES8 also comes with such a beautiful sound. And in addition, there are many ways to adjust the different parameters of your sound to your satisfaction.
Then there’s always the RH3 action which gives the keyboard a fantastic feel always. The resistance and weight too are top notch. It’s exactly what you need to reproduce that classical piano feel.
Now, the attending accessories you’ll need to enjoy this instrument to the max are not included. Plus, they also come expensive too which is a small downer. So, altogether, this is a really high end instrument, no doubt. And, understandably, it might be out of reach for the beginner.
So, in our opinion, this is a pro level instrument for the advanced or experienced player.
Features Of The Kawai ES8
And now we go into the full review of the Kawai ES8. Check out the different aspects of this piano and our honest assessment of each of them.
If there’s one thing we know, it’s that Kawai knows how to make beautiful pianos. We are yet to see a Kawai piano that’s less than elegant in its outlook. And the Kawai ES8 is not an exception. It looks really beautiful and will add a unique touch to your home or studio.
Now, that said, this isn’t exactly portable. We can’t assure you that you’d find this easy to move around because it isn’t exactly what you’d call lightweight.
Let’s check out the overall looks of this thing and the layout too.
The Kawai ES8 comes made of a metal cabinet with a glossy finish that makes this look stunning. And running across the piano’s top panel is the speaker grill. The speaker grill is long and runs across the full length of the top panel.
The sides though are made of plastic. However, the plastic does not, in anyway, compromise the sturdiness of this instrument. You only need to sit at this piano to see that this is a high quality piano.
Now, like we mentioned earlier, this is not as portable as other instruments we have seen. However, those other instruments are also not as packed as the ES8. There’s a lot of fancy here, and so you shouldn’t be so surprised that it weighs in at about 50 pounds.
Be that as it may, though, this is still a piano compact enough for gigging musicians to travel around with. Also, please note that this piano does not come with a stand, although it does come with a good sustain pedal. So if you intend to use this with a stand, then you’d have to purchase that separately.
The control panel here looks quite elegant and easy enough. It comes with 26 buttons plus a volume slider as well. You should find it quite easy to access all the sounds and functions of this piano using the buttons.
And with 26 buttons on the piano, you avoid the “button-key” combo that many digital pianos often come with. Such control panels require quite a learning curve and are therefore, a bit inconvenient.
Furthermore, the buttons all come with an LED light each and so they light up whenever you select a particular sound or function. This helps your interaction with the keyboard so you know what you’re doing per time.
Again, this piano comes with an LCD screen which is another reason this is very interactive.
The Kawai ES8 comes with an amazing feel and touch. And with its Responsive Hammer III action (RH3), this piano offers a highly realistic action. The RH3 offers a Let-off simulation and right now, that is like the best and most realistic plastic action you can currently find in the market today.
By using weighted hammers of different weights, this piano replicates the feel and action of a classical piano. And this makes another reason this piano feels really good to play.
Furthermore, we are also impressed with the triple-sensor system here. This is what makes this keyboard super sensitive enough to capture every nuance of your play. You will find it very easy to play trills, fast passages and pieces that require you to repeat a lot of notes.
And to make the action even more responsive, Kawai added some metal counterweights to the keys. These counterweights balance the weight of the embedded hammers. So, you get a far quicker action and a more enhanced key return.
And that Let-off mechanism we talked about? It gives this clicking sound as the key travel reaches its end. As you may well know, this is a feature that grand pianos only have.
In all, for a non-wood action, this keyboard feels really good to play. And this fact is enhanced by the fact that the keys are finished in simulated ivory.
The sound of the Kawai ES8 is undoubtedly rich, full, and natural. Kawai uses its most advanced sound engine here called the Harmonic Imaging XL. You also find this same sound engine in other pianos from Kawai like the CA-98 and the CA-78.
This piano boasts 10 piano tones, and being so high quality, we’re quite sure you’re going to truly enjoy this instrument. Each of the tones comes with its own unique style and character. So, for whatever style of music you choose to play, there’s a tone to help make that happen.
Kawai recorded each note you find here several times and also recorded them at different volume levels. So, the range on this instrument is huge and dynamic.
And then with its increased sample memory, you can now make use of longer samples and make your sound come out even more detailed. And you can also achieve a more natural resonance and a longer decay as well.
Altogether, the total number of instrument sounds available here adds up to 34.
- 10 Grand pianos: 6 Grand pianos, Upright piano, Modern piano, Jazz clean, Rock piano.
- 4 Electric Pianos: 60’s, Classic, and Modern.
- 4 organs: Church, Jazz, and Drawbar.
- 4 Strings: Warm, Ensemble, and Slow.
- Wood Bass.
- Electric Bass.
- Choir sounds and lots more.
As for the internal speakers here, they are high quality and won’t compromise the quality of sound that the Kawai ES8 delivers. You should be able to comfortably use this piano with a moderate audience even without external speakers.
Now here are more technical details for those who need that bit of information.
Kawai ES8 Specs
- 88 fully-weighted keys with Responsive Hammer III (RHIII) action and Let-off.
- Keys also come with ivory touch keytops.
- Keys also come with touch sensitivity: 5 types, 2 User types, and Off.
- LCD display: 16 x 2 characters.
- Sound Engine: Harmonic Imaging XL with 88-key piano sampling.
- Max Polyphony: 256 notes.
- Built-in tones: 34 with 10 piano sounds.
- Sound effects: 11, with 6 types of reverb.
- Virtual Technician: Voicing, Touch Curve, Damper Resonance, String Resonance, Key-off Effect, Fall-back Noise, Topboard, Hammer Delay, Soft Pedal Depth, Decay Time, Stretch Tuning, Temperament.
- 100 rhythms, with 4-part accompaniment.
- Modes: Dual, Split, Four hands (volume balance, adjustable split point).
- 2-track recorder: records up to 10 songs in WAV and MP3 formats.
- Transpose, Fine-tuning and metronome functions.
- 2 Speakers: 15W + 15W, 8 x 12 centimeters.
- Connectivity: USB to Host, USB to Device, 2 headphone jacks, MIDI In/Out, Line Out, Sustain/Soft jack, Sustain jack.
- Dimensions: 54 x 14.5 x 6 inches.
- Weight: 49.6 pounds.
Pros Of Kawai ES8
- Sturdy instrument build.
- Authentic RHIII keyboard action with Ivory feel and Let-off.
- Superior Harmonic Imaging XL sound technology.
- Max polyphony of 256 notes.
- Comes with 10 beautiful tones with 3 of them sourced from Kawai Concert pianos.
- Comes with a Virtual Technician feature alongside 15 adjustable parameters.
- Piano sound is rich, full, and natural.
- Records both audio and MIDI.
- Many connectivity options available.
Cons Of Kawai ES8
- Quite heavy and so not quite portable.
- Comes with only 34 built-in sounds.
- The optional accessories are a bit pricey.
Of course we could not go over all the features of the Kawai ES8, so we just touched on the major ones. But trust us, there’s a lot more here that we were not quite able to cover.
It’s therefore easy to see why we think the Kawai ES8 is one of the best in its category. We highly commend this piano and if you can afford it, then by all means do! It does cost a pretty penny, no doubt, but it’s every bit worth the money.