When you want a digital piano for performances, it may be a little hard to decide between the big brands. Kawai and Roland both have good reputations for making quality instruments. Let’s take a look at two of their most popular stage pianos to see which one will be the best for you.
Kawai MP11 Professional Stage Piano
Kawai’s MP11 is a portable stage piano controller that doesn’t just play music. It can control or manage other MIDI devices, too. While you’ll need external speakers or at least headphones to hear it, it can replicate the sound and feel of an acoustic grand piano better than perhaps any other comparable product in its price range.
Musicians who give the MP11 a try are astonished with both the sound and the playability. It has 88 black and white keys finished in a synthetic ivory that comes very close to the feel of the real thing. The three-pedal system is so realistic you can do half-damper pedaling.
But, back to the keyboard—each key has three sensors and each has graded hammer weight. When you press the keys, they respond just like ones on an acoustic piano. This feature is what Kawai calls “Grand Feel.” It’s rare on digital pianos at this price range and under. If you only wanted the MP11 for practice sessions at home (because you don’t have room for a grand piano), it would be a great choice.
But imitating a piano isn’t all this instrument can do. The sound chip has 256-note polyphony and plenty of memory so it can play every sound to the fullest. It doesn’t digitally stretch notes. The Harmonic Imaging XL feature uses stereo recordings of concert grands and other pianos to sound as perfect as possible. You can also tweak settings to change options like resonance, brightness, and damper pedal resistance.
Of course, what would an electronic piano be like if you couldn’t use it to play fun rhythms and make other sound effects? The MP11 has 100 preset drum patterns, from jazz and rock to funk and gospel, plus 40 voices and 129 effects. You can also use the metronome to help you practice.
When you want to record your performance use the 1-track MIDI recording or a multi-track overdub recorder that saves to WAV or mp3. The MIDI controller lets you combine other devices like an iPad, for example. As much as you’ll love playing the MP11 at home, it’s plenty of instrument to take on stage for a professional show, too.
More features of the Kawai MP11 Professional Stage Piano:
- Comes with MIDITriple Pedal Assembly but compatible with other pedals sold separately
Roland RD-800 Digital Piano
Roland’s RD-800 Digital Piano is possibly the closest competitor that Kawai’s MP11 has right now. The SuperNATURAL Piano Engine strives to reproduce the sound and feel of an acoustic piano down to the smallest details. You can edit and customize many of those details, like sustain, resonance, timbre, and pitch with the Piano Designer feature. Plus, the keyboard itself has 88 matte-finish keys weighted to feel as real as possible.
But the RD-800 isn’t only able to reproduce the sound of an acoustic piano, it can imitate a wide selection of organs, strings, brass, and woodwind instruments—128 voices and 1100 sounds in all. But you’ll need headphones or an external speaker to enjoy listening to the RD-800. Use the MIDI controller to manage other components like a computer or tablet. It also has USB connectivity to store your recordings in WAV format, but not mp3 like the MP11.
If you decide to take your show on the road, the RD-800 weighs just two ounces less than 48 pounds, and measures 55-1/8-inches long, making it very portable.
More features of the Roland RD-800 Digital Piano:
- Comes with a sustain pedal
It’s a tough choice between these two digital pianos. They both replicate the sound and feel of acoustic pianos and add a lot of versatility. There aren’t a lot of differences between them.
If you prefer to have the ability to record to mp3 and not just WAV, the Kawaii MP11 can do that for you.
If you want more voices and sound effects, you may prefer the Roland RD-800.