Kawai MP7 Review
Kawai has slowly but steadily cemented its place among musical instrument manufacturers for making some of the best digital pianos at great prices. The $1000-plus segment is a highly competitive one where musicians expect a digital piano to do more than just provide a reliable piano sound and feel. The Kawai MP7 falls under this category and we checked it out to see how it stacked up against the competition. It promises to be a worthy successor to the MP6 and is designed to offer musicians with a powerful keyboard that can produce a variety of sounds all in a portable form factor. Here is the impression that the Kawai MP7 left on us.
The Kawai MP7 has a very unique yet eye-catching look. The first thing that will catch your eye is the use of wooden accents on the left and right side. The combination of black and brown colors lend this digital piano a very distinguished look. It has a classic old-world charm to it that you will either love or hate. Some might see this as an instrument that feels dated compared to modern keyboards while others might find it possessing a distinguished look in a world populated by digital pianos that all look the same.
The other aspect that stands out is the top half of the keyboard. Most digital pianos are usually bare and have minimal real estate above the keys but the MP7 comes with a plethora of buttons, knobs, wheels and a rather large screen by digital piano standards. It gives this digital piano quite a complicated look and can seem intimidating to some. It also gives a clear indication that this digital piano is more than just an attempt to replicate a grand piano.
It manages to pack all of this in a form factor that is easy to move by digital piano standards. It has the full 88-key configuration and is not the kind you can carry around in a backpack but is quite portable for a full-sized keyboard.
Kawai has mastered the art of making authentic sounding pianos and the MP7 is no different. As it is a digital piano, special emphasis has been given to the grand piano sounds. They are some of the most authentic ones in this price range. Everything from the timbre of the sound to the way they respond to different key velocities is quite authentic to a real acoustic piano. Kawai’s trustworthy and now legendary Harmony Imaging sound capturing technology has been used to full potential in the Kawai MP7.
It is when you switch from the piano sounds and move on to the other sounds that the quality dips quite considerably. At least that is the case in their default settings. If you have the patience and the knowledge to fiddle with the settings then you can make pretty much any sound sample feel as authentic as you need it to be. This proves that Kawai didn’t intend the MP7 to be an user friendly digital piano if one ventures beyond the piano sounds. In all, there are 256 Harmonic imaging sounds and almost all of them are pretty usable if you take the time to set them up just right.
Special mention has to be made of the amp simulation. If you love the vintage sounds of some classic amps then you will love this feature. The Kawai Mp7 does not have inbuilt speakers but it can sound really great when connected to a good sound system that is set up appropriately. If you are using one of the amp modulations then it can require quite a bit of tinkering for the sound to feel just right which can be a pain sometimes.
This is one aspect where we have no complaints. The Kawai MP7 uses the reliable Responsive Hammer II weighted action with an authentic let-off feel. That coupled with the ivory-feel keys produce one of the closest grand piano feel not just in this price segment but something that rivals the more expensive digital pianos. While this is definitely helpful for a pianist, this can sometimes be a hindrance when trying to emulate a different musical instrument like a pipe-organ.
That would, however, defeat its primary purpose of providing an authentic piano feel that can also double up as a keyboard that can produce other amazing sounds as well. The action itself isn’t very hard which makes playing for long durations quite bearable. Just like the sound, the various parameters affecting the feel can also be modified and we recommend doing that if you want to use the sounds of other instruments. It is quite versatile when it comes to the way it feels but it is all about finding the right settings to suit your style and the style of the music that you are playing to.
Effects and additional features
One of the biggest selling points of this digital piano is the loads of effects that it comes with. There are 6 reverb effects and 129 other effects including stuff like tremolo and chorus. For once we have a digital piano with usable effects. At least 4 of the 6 reverb effects are really good and even the other 2 aren’t that bad. Obviously, all of the 129 of the other effects aren’t top-notch but you could find use for them in different scenarios. It makes this digital piano quite versatile. Keep in mind though that this comes at the cost of simplicity. In an endeavour to make this a digital piano that can used in a wide variety of musical styles, the efficiency of being able to find a specific effect has been reduced. Finding stuff on the fly can be difficult.
That brings us to the interface. The presence of a physical screen is a huge boon and makes editing the various parameters quite easy and intuitive. The presence of so many buttons and knobs is a very subjective issue, however. It depends on you and you could either find it complicated or simple. The layout of the buttons is done neatly and while you will struggle at first to find something specific, with time you will get a hang of where things are.
A special mention has to be made of the 9 adjustable drawbar features, all of which work in real time. The same applies to the effects that can be modified in real time as well. The presence of the 4-band EQ feels more like a way of cost-cutting as a few more bands would have felt more suited to all the other settings found on the Kawai MP7.
It also comes with a an auto-percussion system and you can play the keyboard in split or combined modes where you can play more than one instrument sounds at the same time.
This is one area that left us pleasantly surprised. We didn’t expect the MP7 to be such a great MIDI controller. Normally, 88-key digital pianos feel like overkill when used as a MIDI controller. This is mostly because you hardly need all 88-keys for most MIDI applications. The MP7 has added a very neat feature that uses this to enhance the usability of the MP7. You can split the keys into 4-zones, with each of the zones basically functioning as a separate MIDI keyboard. This allows the MP7 to be used as a really powerful and versatile MDID controller and can stretch most DAWs to the limit.
It does work well with most DAWs and connects in a plug and play manner as you would expect from most modern keyboards. Even the pitch wheels and some of the knobs can be configured to control sound parameters of your choice. Connectivity and its MIDI capabilities is really good on this digital piano. It even has a MIDI-in feature that is starting to die out in the digital piano industry. It allows you to input MIDI data and play along to it.
This is a digital piano for the consummate professional. That is not to say that amateurs will find it unappealing. It is just that this digital piano has a steep learning curve. If you are looking for something that you can unbox and start using to its full capabilities then this isn’t the digital piano for you. However, if you are willing to invest the time and effort to learn all the tricks that can be achieved with this digital piano then it can be an incredibly rewarding instrument. The MIDI capabilities are a huge bonus and while there are more capable and better sounding digital pianos, few can do that at this price. This targets the traveling musician who does not mind getting his hands dirty. It gets our vote of approval as it is quite powerful for its price and the quirks are things that you can either live with or find easy fixes to.
– Quite a unique look
– Great piano sounds
– Amazing level of micro-editing possible
– Huge bank for sound storage
– High-quality effects
– Excellent connectivity and MIDI capabilities
– Somewhat complicated
– Other instrument sounds are not up to the mark on default settings
– Quite a bit of tinkering required to get it to sound just right
– Some of the settings can be difficult to change when performing live
- Rated 3.5 stars
- Very Good
- Kawai MP7
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