Kawai ES8

Kawai ES8 Digital Piano Review

The Kawai ES8 digital piano is one of the best portable keyboards for any musical occasion. It is both a lightweight and compact instrument. So, whether you have limited space or plan to move around with it, the ES8 offers a hassle-free experience.

The piano also comes packed with some of the most premium keyboard features on the market. One of the piano’s main highlight is Kawai’s class-leading Responsive Hammer III keyboard action.

The RH3 keyboard recreates all the subtleties found when playing a grand piano. Furthermore, the keyboard features Ivory Touch key surfaces, let-off simulation, counterweights, and a precise triple-sensor detection system that offers a smooth and natural piano playing experience.

Also, the ES8 comes with the Virtual Technician feature, which allows you to enhance the instrument’s superior tone and customize different aspects of selected piano sounds to suit your preferences.

What follows is an in-depth review of the ES8 to show you what the piano is capable of achieving.

READ ALSO: The Best Digital Piano for Classical Pianists

Features of the Kawai ES8 Digital Piano

Specs

  • Responsive Hammer III action
  • 88 keys
  • Grade-weighted hammers
  • Ivory Touch white key surfaces
  • Let-off simulation
  • Triple sensor key detection
  • Counterweights
  • F-10H pedal unit
  • Damper (with half-pedal support)
  • Harmonic Imaging XL (HI-XL)
  • 88-key stereo sampling
  • SK-EX, SK-5, EX recording
  • 256-note maximum polyphony
  • Damper Resonance, String Resonance
  • Virtual Technician (17 parameters)
  • 34 voices
  • Reverb: 6 types
  • Brilliance
  • Speakers: (8 x 12) cm x 2
  • Output Power: 30 W (15 W × 2)
  • Display: 2 x 16 characters LCD
  • Music Rest: Detachable type (included)
  • Dimensions: Width 54″ x Depth 14.5” x Height 6″ (not including music rest)
  • Weight            : 49lbs (22.5 kg)
  • Functions: Four Hands, Split, Dual, Transpose, Tuning, Registration, Startup Setting
  • 29 Demo songs
  • Internal Recorder: Total Memory of approximately 90,000 notes, No. of Songs: 10 songs and 2 parts
  • Metronome
  • Drum Rhythms:
    • 100 styles (x 2 variations)
    • 4-part accompaniment select
    • 100 preset chord sequences
    • Chord mode: Full Keyboard, 1 Finger, Preset
    • ‘On Bass’ chord detection
  • USB Audio Recorder Format (MP3, WAV)
  • Headphone jacks: 2 x 1/4″ Stereo jacks
  • MIDI: MIDI IN, MIDI OUT
  • Line Out: 1/4″ L/MONO, R
  • Line In: 1/8″ Stereo
  • USB to Host
  • USB to Device

Design

Kawai ES8

The design features a glossy metal cabinet and a long speaker-grill. On its side panels, the Kawai ES8 cabinet is very well designed and made of plastic. However, this doesn’t affect the piano’s robust nature. Weighing only about 49lbs, the ES8 is one of the most portable digital pianos. The dimensions are quite standard for a digital piano, and they look like this; (W x D x H), 54” x 14.5” x 6”.

If you are a frequent gigging musician, then we suggest you get a Kawai ES8 case to protect the instrument from damage during transport.

The front panel consists of a volume slider and 26 buttons, which you can use to access all of the sounds and functions of the ES8. Therefore, this piano is more convenient, unlike other digital pianos that need you to use “button + key” combinations. Moreover, each of the 26 buttons has its own LED indicator that lights up when a particular sound/function is selected.

Additionally, this digital piano comes with a 16 x 2 character LCD that shows you the info about the present functioning settings.

Available finishes of the ES8 include a Gloss Black (ES8B), and a Snow White (ES8W).

Keyboard

Currently, the Responsive Hammer III keyboard action is the best in mimicking an acoustic piano. Therefore, with the RH3 action, the Kawai ES8 digital piano has the most realistic keyboard that you can find on the market today. Just like in acoustic pianos, the ES8 uses differently weighted hammers to reproduce the mechanical movement of the keys.

Also, this piano features a triple-sensor key detection system designed to precisely capture each key-stroke. The feature is a significant benefit, especially when playing fast passages that have many note repetition.

Kawai as well added some metal counterweights to the keys, which makes the keyboard action even more responsive. The counterweights balance the weight of the embedded hammers to give you a quicker response and a more enhanced key return.

And just like in grand pianos, the ES8 features the Let-off Simulation that gives a clicking sound as the key travel reaches its end.

Since the RH3 keyboard is touch-sensitive, it responds differently according to how hard or soft you choose to play. With over six preset touch-sensitivity settings, the ES8 allows you to adjust the sensitivity of the keys to suit your playing preferences.

The piano’s Touch is quite smooth and feels nicely made possible by its synthetic Ivory key surfaces. The synthetic provides you with a tight grip and prevents fingers from slipping when moist.

Overall, the RH3 keyboard, together with the Let-off mechanism, makes the Kawai ES8 digital piano stand out against its competitors.

Sound

Simply put, you can characterize Kawai ES8 sound using three words; full, vibrant, and natural. The piano uses Kawai’s most advanced sound engine – the Harmonic Imaging XL, with 88 key piano sampling. It is a unique technology that creates sounds with the highest level of detail and clarity.

There are ten (10) different piano tones on the ES8, which vary in character and tonal color as well. It, therefore, makes it easy for you to find a preferred sound for your style of music. Kawai sampled the tones several times and at different volume levels from their flagship Shigeru Kawai SK-EX 9’Concert Grand Piano. This makes the range on the Kawai ES8 digital piano very dynamic.

Since the ES8 also comes with an increased sample memory, you can use longer samples and add more detail to the sound. It means that you can have longer decay and more natural resonance.

In total, there are 34 instrument sounds available on the Kawai ES8 digital piano. They include;

  • 10 Grand pianos: 6 Grand pianos, Upright piano, Modern piano, Jazz clean, Rock piano.
  • 4 Electric Pianos: 60’s, Classic, and Modern.
  • Four organs: Church, Jazz, and Drawbar.
  • Vibraphone.
  • Harpsichord.
  • Marimba.
  • Clavi.
  • 4 Strings: Warm, Ensemble, and Slow.
  • Wood Bass.
  • Electric Bass.
  • Choir sounds e.t.c.

To enhance these sounds, the ES8 comes with 6 Reverberation sound effects. Namely, they are; Room, Lounge, Small Hall, Concert Hall, Live Hall, Cathedral. They each give you the option of adjusting both their depth and decay length. Still, on sound effects, the ES8 has 11 more, which have the same customizable possibility as the Reverb.

The piano’s polyphony count reaches a maximum of 256-notes, which is the maximum on any digital piano. It allows you to hear the sound at its fullest without prematurely cutting notes or voice stealing.

The Kawai ES8 comes with 2 x 15W built-in speakers, which gives out reasonably good sound. Additionally, the ES8 has a unique feature called the Wall EQ, which automatically optimizes the sound depending on whether the piano is placed near or far from the wall.

Adding a cherry on the top, the ES8 comes with a Tone Control function to select a particular sound character or emphasize specific frequencies. There is also a User EQ ON the piano that you can use to adjust the frequency bands finely.

Connectivity

Two ¼” headphone jacks: These are located on either side of the ES8, making it convenient, especially during the Four Hand mode.

USB to Device port: This allows you to connect a USB flash drive directly to the piano to exchange files and recordings. You can also use it to record your compositions in Audio format (WAV, MP3) since you can’t store them in the internal memory.

USB to Host port: This port allows you to connect the ES8 to your PC, and it opens up an ocean of possibilities for music production, learning, and entertainment. But for this to be possible, you require an A to B USB cable.

On the rear panel of the Kawai ES8, you’ll also find MIDI In/Out ports, Line In/Out jacks, Damper jack, and Damper/Soft jack.

Unfortunately, the ES8 doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity, so if you want to connect the keyboard to an iPad or iPhone, you’ll need to use the Lightning to USB Camera adapter.

Kawai ES8 Extra Features

Virtual Technician: This is an exclusive Kawai application that gives you the go-ahead to personalize the ES8’s sounds and touch response. There are 15 parameters that you can adjust to get the exact sound you want.

The 15 parameters include:

  1. Keyboard Touch Curve – To adjust the touch sensitivity of the keyboard with six (6) preset settings.
  2. Damper Resonance – Here, you can control the volume of the damper resonance (Off 1, to 10), to give natural ambience to the ES8’s sound.
  3. Voicing – With six preset settings available, the ES8 offers you more precise control to adjust the tonal character of the sound. Additionally, you get to customize voicing for each of the 88 keys individually thanks to the piano’s 4 User settings.
  4. String Resonance.
  5. Damper Noise.
  6. Fall-back noise.
  7. Key-off Effect.
  8. Top-board – Just like in acoustic pianos, the ES8 has four lid positions that you can use to enhance the character and loudness of the sound.
  9. Hammer Delay – You can use this feature to control the delay in between a keypress and the resulting sound.
  10. Minimum Touch – This gives you the option to adjust the minimum Touch within a 1-20 range.
  11. Decay Time – From 1-10, you can adjust the length of the decay to suit your preferences.
  12. Stretch Tuning.
  13. Temperament – Aside from its default Equal Temperament standard, the ES8 also comes with six more tuning settings to choose from.
  14. Halfpedal Adjust.
  15. User Key Volume – This feature allows you to adjust the volume of each note in the piano individually.

Additional features on the ES8 include the Metronome, Transpose, and Tuning functions, also found in many digital pianos.

You can as well use the Dual Mode on the ES8 to layer any two of the 34 voices and play them as a single, sophisticated tone.

The Split Mode on the Kawai ES8 digital piano divides the keyboard into two halves whereby each side can be assigned a designated tone. This makes the ES8 capable of Duets and learning with an instructor.

Benefits of Owning the Kawai ES8

Portable – It might not be the most portable digital piano on the market, but the ES8 certainly offers a hassle-free transport experience.

Premium Features – For a sub-$2000 digital piano, this one comes with plenty of top-of-the-line features found in more expensive digital pianos.

Powerful Sound Engine – If you are familiar with Kawai’s pianos, the Harmonic Imaging XL with 88 key samplings is their most powerful sound engine. It is a unique sound technology with the highest level of authenticity.

Realistic Touch – The ES8 comes with a new class-leading Responsive Hammer III keyboard action that recreates the exceptional Touch found in acoustic grand pianos. Together with a triple-sensor key-detection system to enhance responsiveness and accuracy, the ES8 has the most authentic keyboard actions on the market.

Virtual Technician – With this feature on the piano, you can customize both the Touch and sound options of this piano. Therefore, there is no limitation to the style of music you would want to play with the Kawai ES8.

Reasons You Should Buy the Kawai ES8

If you are looking for the most authentic keyboard action on the market, then the ES8 is what you want. The RH3 action, as earlier mentioned, is the best keyboard on the market, which makes it the number one apparent reason to purchase the ES8.

Built with a metal cabinet, the ES8 assures you of durability and, at the same time, elegance.

The top-of-the-line sound engine on the ES8 gives you high-quality tones sampled from 3 of Kawai’s concert grand pianos.

The Kawai ES8 is also a perfect instrument for live performances with powerful speakers and weight flexible enough for carrying around.

There are plenty of settings on the piano that let you customize it according to your style of music.

Overall, this is a fairly-priced digital piano that comes with plenty of premium lacking in most of its competitors.

Who Is the Piano for?

According to our experience with the ES8, we highly recommend it to the more advanced pianists. The overall features, keyboard, and sound quality are meant for experienced piano players.

As for the beginners, the ES8 would work best in the presence of an instructor.

But for the piano to produce its total potential, it would either have to be an intermediate or advanced level pianist using it.

Buyers Guide

The ES8 comes with the following accessories in the package:

  • Music Rest
  • Kawai F-10H Sustain Pedal
  • AC Power Adapter
  • Owner’s Manual

How to clean the Kawai ES8

  • Have with you a small bowl then add boiled and pre-cooled water
  • Dampen a lint-free, soft, and clean cloth in the solution
  • Make sure it slightly dampens only
  • Use the cloth to wipe back and forth on top of the keys and edges (do not wipe from side to side)
  • Using another fabric of the same attributes, wipe any moisture left on top of the keys

Pros

  • Durable build quality
  • RH3 keyboard action with Let-off simulation
  • 88 keys with Ivory Touch surfaces
  • Harmonic Imaging XL sound engine
  • Polyphony count of 256-notes
  • Virtual Technician feature
  • MIDI and Audio recording features
  • Multiple connectivity options

Cons

  • Limited built-in sounds
  • Lacks Bluetooth connectivity
  • Doesn’t have faders for adjusting parameters

Conclusion

After going over all the features of the Kawai ES8 digital piano, it is our hope that you now have more than enough information to make your decision.

From the build, keyboard action, the sound engine, and the premium features on this piano, it certainly attracts lots of attention. The ES8 is the type of instrument to practice on, perform with, and at the same time, compose music on.

There are plenty of digital pianos within the Sub-$2000 mark, but the ES8 outshines them in many ways. So, this is an outstanding deal of an instrument to get your hands on.

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