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Touch, Tone & Tweaks

Downbeat Magazine • September, 2012– Kawai has incorporated the distinctive touch and tone of its best acoustic grand pianos into a portable, 256-note polyphonic digital keyboard that you can tweak to the nines and take with you just about anywhere. The new Kawai ES7 digital piano has the best sound and feel of any of the company’s portable boards to date, and its potential for fine-tuning and editing/storing personalized settings is vast.

Sounds and polyphony are important to me as a keyboardist, but it’s a digital piano’s touch that appeals to me the most. The ES7 has a relatively new kind of weighted-key action that Kawai calls Responsive Hammer 2. Highly stable with realistic movement, the RH2 action accurately mirrors the heavier bass hammers and lighter treble hammers of an actual grand piano. Combine that with Ivory Touch key surfaces—made from a synthetic material that could easily pass for the real thing—and you’ve got a virtual piano under your fingers.

Kawai ES7 Digital Piano

The tones of the ES7 are beautiful in their complexity and realness. Kawai uses Progressive Harmonic Imaging technology to record and reproduce all 88 keys of its best concert grands at different dynamic levels. Several different piano types are preset into the ES7ís sound banks, including concert grands, studio grands, mellow grands and modern/rock pianos. The imaging process also does a remarkable job of taking string resonance into account.

One of the coolest parts of the ES7 is the instrument’s built-in Virtual Technician, which gives you the tools to shape various piano characteristics to your liking. These include touch sensitivity (from very light to very heavy, and also constant), voicing (from mellow to bright, plus a “dynamic” voicing that changes tone depending on the strength of a key strike), damper resonance, string resonance, and subtle hammer and key-release noises. The Virtual Technician can also tune your piano any way you want.

The ES7 is by no means limited to acoustic piano sounds. It has a strong selection of electric pianos and organs, complete with the appropriate amp simulations to go with them. “Having a variety of acoustic piano sounds is very beneficial for all types of jazz music,” said Tom Love of Kawai. “But there’s also a new collection of vintage electric piano sounds. Call up one of those, lay an amp simulation on it, and you’re ready to crank out some classic fusion.” Mallet instruments, basses, strings and choirs sound great when layered with the piano sounds in Dual mode. In Split mode, you can get a fairly real-sounding wood bass going with your left hand while playing piano lines with your right. And Four Hands mode divides the keyboard into two equal parts so two people can play at the same time—great for teachers and students.

Other highlights include a selection of 100 full rhythm-section accompaniments, MP3 and WAV recording capabilities, an abundance of connectivity options for easy access to computers and MIDI devices, and a built-in sound system that will fill a room without needing an external amp. A couple of foot-pedal options are available (including a three-piece setup) as well as an optional designer stand and a soft road case on wheels. The ES7 comes in Elegant Gloss Black finish, and an Ivory White version will become available this fall.
Ed Enright    (Download PDF)

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