Kawai CA48 Review

Kawai CA48 Review – The Best Digital Piano Under $2,000?

Kawai CA48

8.7

Design

8.0/10

Key Action

9.5/10

Sound

9.0/10

Features

8.0/10

Accessories

8.0/10

Value

9.5/10

Pros

  • Full wooden key
  • Realistic touch
  • Rich and natural sound engine
  • Grand feel pedals
  • Bluetooth
  • Wide music rest

Cons

  • Polyphony 192
  • No multi-track recording
  • No USB to device

Kawai has been a very popular brand for its authentic key actions and mellow sound samples. The most professional product line from Kawai is its Concert Artist CA series. The entry level CA48 sits in a sweet spot. Many consider it to be one of the very best digital pianos at its price range. In this Kawai CA48 review, let’s find out what makes this model so wonderful.

DESIGN


  • The Look

The CA48 is a furniture style digital piano. It looks modern and sleek with a minimalism design that would fit in most modern decor styles.

The whole instrument is well built, and there are many places where you can find a premium look and feel.

The key cover slides in and out from the cabinet and has a golden front paint that goes well with the golden Kawai label and the golden pedals.

There are three different colors you can choose from: the Premium Rosewood, the Premium Satin Black and the Premium Satin White. All three finishes have wooden texture and they all look great.

To me, the Premium Rosewood is the best. Not only does it has the wooden textures but it also has lighter shades to mimic the look and feel of real wood.

Overall the Kawai CA48 is a joy to look at.

  • Music Rest

I really like the music rest on the Kawai CA48. Not only does it look great on the instrument with curved edges and matching finish, but the music rest is also really wide. It is probably the widest you can find at this price range. You can comfortably display four A4 papers side by side.

The included music rest of the Kawai CA48

There is also a notch in front of the music rest and it does a good job to hold any books or papers in place.

You can adjust the angel of the music rest to your liking or fold it totally flat if you don’t need it.

You can adjust the angel of the music rest on the Kawai CA48

  • Control

The control panel of the Kawai CA48 is divided on both sides of the keyboard. It is extremely Simple and Clean.

The left part consists of 1 three digit LED display and 6 buttons. On the right, there is the power button and a volume slider.

The control panel of the Kawai CA48

You can easily access the most often used functions with these buttons. More sophisticated settings and functions will require a combination of buttons and keys. Or you can adjust everything on the Virtual Technician app on your smart device through the Bluetooth connection built in the CA48.

  • Keys

The Kawai CA48 comes with a full 88 keyboard. They are well built and evenly spaced. I miss the red velvet lining at the back end of the keyboard. I think that would add to the premium feel and match the red velvet accent around the pedals.

Just like the old CE220, the CA48 has full wooden keys. Both the black and white keys are made from wood. This is a feature that you cannot find on any other models at this price range.

  • Size & Weight

The Kawai CA48 mimics the look of a traditional upright acoustic piano. But it is much more compact and lighter. You can easily put it anywhere in your home, even the hallways.

The instrument comes in a box and will require some assembly. But it shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes to put it together and start playing.

The CA48 weighs about 57 kg (126 lbs).

After assemble, it has the dimensions of 136 x 47 x 89 cm (54” x 19” x 35”)

KEY ACTION


In the digital piano industry, Kawai is famous for its realistic key actions that closely reproduce the feeling of acoustic concert grand. Being on its premium product line, the CA48 is equipped with the brand new Grand Feel Compact from Kawai.

The Grand Feel Compact key action on the Kawai CA48

This key action features 88 keys with actual hammers. Each hammer is individually weighted and graded. The bass keys feels heavier than the treble keys, just like an acoustic piano.

The keys are also touch-sensitive. The volume and characteristics of the sound produced has a close relation to the force of the key press.

The GFC is currently the second best key action across all Kawai’s digital pianos. The main difference between the Grand Feel Compact and Kawai’s very best Grand Feel II is the length of the keys. The compact version, as you would imagine, has keys that are slightly shorter. Other than that, the Grand Feel Compact has all the important features of the Grand Feel II that can be found on Kawai’s top of the line CA98.

The counterweights of the Grand Feel Compact key action on the Kawai CA48

The keyboard on the CA48 features wooden keys, synthetic Ivory key tops, counterweights, triple sensors, balance bar and simulated let off. It has the mechanics that’s designed similar to the key actions on Kawai’s world famous acoustic concert grand pianos. The keyboard feels fluid and responsive with excellent control. It is one of the most realistic key actions I have tried on any digital pianos. The longer Grand Feel II does feel even better but only slightly.

SOUND


On the Kawai CA48, you can find Kawai’s world famous 9 foot acoustic concert grand SK-EX and EX. Every single key of these two extraordinary instruments are individually sampled using Kawai’s Progressive Harmonic Imaging technology. The result is an amazing reproduction with details at every dynamic range from pianissimo to fortissimo. Combined with reverb and resonances, the CA48 sounds rich, natural, dynamic and creates a very realistic sound experience for the pianist.

Shigeru Kawai SK-EX concert grand piano sample on the Kawai CA48

The CA48 has a maximum polyphony of 192. I would like to see 256 at this price range. But 192 is enough to handle maybe 99% of the cases. In other words, probably once every a hundred times would you prefer to have a larger polyphony number. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker for any pianist.

There are two 20 watt amplifiers built in the CA48 and they fire 4 speakers facing different directions. The tweeters for treble notes are firing directly at the play and the bass speakers are facing downwards. This is a very outstanding speaker system on a digital piano. It creates deep bass while maintaining fidelity of mid and high frequency notes. The end result is detailed, dynamic and immersive.

The speaker system of the Kawai CA48

FEATURES


Besides the advanced full wooden key action and the great sound engine, the Kawai CA48 has many other useful features. Bluetooth for one is a very welcome function to have. It’s not only convenient but also expands the functionality of the instrument by use of apps on your smart devices.

Unfortunately, there is no multi track recording on the CA48, nor does it have a USB to device port. Maybe Kawai has decided that these functions are redundant when you have Bluetooth.

Here are some other features that you might find useful:

  • Sound (19 total):
    • Concert Grand × 2
    • Upright Piano
    • Studio Grand × 2
    • Mellow Grand × 2
    • Modern Piano
    • Electric Pianos × 2
    • Pipe Organs × 2
    • Harpsichords
    • Strings × 2
    • Vibraphone
    • New Age Pad
    • Choir
    • Atmosphere
  • Polyphony: 192
  • Key sensitivity:
    • Light
    • Normal (default)
    • Heavy
    • Off
  • Reverb settings: 6 types + off
  • Brilliance:  -10~+10
  • Modes:
    • Dual Mode: two instrument sound simultaneously
    • Four Hands Mode: divide the keyboard into two identical halfs
  • Internal recording:
    • MIDI: 3 songs
  • Connectivity:
    • USB to Host
    • MIDI (IN/OUT)
    • Headphones x 2 (6.35mm 1/4” + 3.5mm 1/8” )

ACCESSORIES


Being a console style digital piano, the Kawai CA48 comes with almost everything you would need. It has the fold-able music rest and the three pedal unit.

The pedals uses Kawai’s brand new grand feel pedal system. They closely reproduce the weight, feel and responsiveness of the damper, soft, and sostenuto pedals on a Shigeru Kawai SK-EX concert grand piano.

The grand feel pedal on the Kawai CA48

Depend on your region and retailer, there might be a bench included in the bundle. Otherwise, you will need to purchase it separately.

A good pair of headphones is always recommended for any digital piano.

Due to its high performance speaker system, you won’t need external monitor/speaker to perform for your family and friends.


WHO IT’S FOR


The Kawai CA48 is recommended for intermediate and advanced players.

It would be an excellent choice for home use because of its design style and build quality.

Thanks to its realistic wooden key action, the CA48 can also serve as a secondary piano for practice at home.

As for beginners, I can only recommend it if money is not an issue for you. The good side is that you don’t need to upgrade any time soon with the CA48 and you start with wooden keys from the beginning. The downside however is that you are paying for many advanced features that you won’t benefit from for at least a few years.

CONCLUSION


Kawai’s Concert Artist CA series is the most premium upright style digital piano line from the world famous Japanese manufacture. The entry level model the CA48 offers the perfect balance between quality and price. It is in my mind the best console style digital piano overall that you can buy in the market right now.


>> Click here to check price and availability! <<


OTHER OPTIONS

CA48 vs. CE220

The CA48 is a lot more advanced than the CE220 by several generations.

The key action on the CE220 is also wooden and it’s called the AWA PROII. This action is then replaced by the RM3II action and that one is again replaced by the GFC action on the CA48.

There are also some gap between the sound engines on the two models. They have the same polyphony number and the same Progressive Harmonic Imaging technology. But the CA48 has the samples from Kawai’s SK-EX and EX concert grand, which is not available on the CE220.

Speaker wise, the CA48 has two more speakers than the CE220. They both have the same power output but due to the extra speakers, the CA48 performs much better.

The advantages of the CE220 sits on the multi-track recording function and the USB to device port. Although these are somewhat mitigated by the Bluetooth on the CA48, it’s still easier to mix pieces together on the piano directly.

Overall, it is obvious that for the same price, the Kawai CA48 is newer and better.


Kawai CA48 vs. Yamaha YDP-184

The biggest advantage of the Kawai CA48 over the Yamaha YDP-184 is the key action. While you get full wooden keys on the CA48, the keys on the YDP-184 are plastic.

There are also counterweights and escapements on the CA48 that you won’t find on the YDP-184.

The keys on the CA48 feels a lot lighter and fluid than the YDP-184. I find myself perform better on the CA48, especially for fast passages.

Sound wise, both are great. While you get Kawai’s SK-EX and EX concert grand on the CA48, you also get Yamaha’s 9 foot CFX concert grand. Kawai sounds more mellow and european while Yamaha sounds a lot more bright. It depends on your personal taste and the genre you are interested in. The YPD-184 does has a bigger polyphony number of 256 compare to CA48’s 192.

The Yamaha YDP-184 has a stronger speaker system than the CA48. The extra 20 watt output makes the YDP-184 much louder. Meanwhile, the Kawai CA48 has two extra speakers to produce clear treble notes.

Recording is another advantage of the Yamaha YDP-184. It can record internally up to 250 songs and each song can contain up to 16 tracks. The CA48 on the other hand can only record 3 songs without multi-track recording capability. This could be a big deal for those who are interested in mixing and composing their own music. To compensate for that, the CA48 does have Bluetooth.

Overall, both are great instruments at around the same price range. If you are more focused on piano play experience, I would recommend the Kawai CA48 for it’s better key action over the Yamaha YDP-184.

For more details about the Yamaha YDP-184, click here for my full review.


Leave a comment to let me know what you think of this review. And if you happen to have some experience with the Kawai CA48, please share with us in the comment below.

Posted in Digital Piano Reviews and tagged , .

23 Comments

  1. Hi, the CN39 is much cheaper than the CA48 in my country. Is the CA48 really worth sacrificing all the extra features for on the CN39 just for the wood action? like 192 vs 256 polyphony, extra piano (SK-5), USB recording etc… Unfortunately I’m not able to try them so I don’t know how big of an upgrade the GFC action is compared to the RH3.

    • Hi Trevor,

      Excellent question! The CN39 is a 2019 model while the CA48 was launched in 2017. A newer model usually packs more advanced features, in this case, even for a lower price tag.

      I guess it all depends on the action. The only possible reason to choose the CA48 over the CN39 would be the GFC key action. Hence to determine if it’s worth the extra price with less features, you really have to try the actions. For pianos at this price range, I would say it’s worthwhile to travel a bit just to try the actions.

      Check out Bonner’s Music Store, they have a pretty good range of pianos in their show room. Here’s a list of their stores and see if you are near any one of them.

  2. Hi! Where I live (Argentina) the price of the Kawai CA48 is almost the same as the Casio GP-300. What would you recommend?
    I currently have a Casio Px-160, but want to upgrade to a better key action keyboard. I’ve been learning/playing piano for 2 years.
    Thanks!

  3. I’ve seen several reviews of Kawai digital pianos lately that report the development of clicking sounds and sticking keys after several years. Also, one of my neighbors has a Kawai hybrid with the sticking keys problem. Have you heard of this on the CA series?

    • Hi James,

      Sorry for the late response. I had some system glitch and just see your comments.

      The CA48 has the Bluetooth MIDI so you can use it as a MIDI controller via Bluetooth.

  4. Does the bluetooth capability of this digital piano allow for the speaker system to be used as a home stereo similar to the Korg G1 Air? In other words, can music from a smartphone or tablet be streamed to the console to listen to music when the keyboard is not in play?

    • Hi Sharon,

      I have to recant my previous answer about the audio streaming capability via Bluetooth on the Kawai CA48.

      I didn’t test this functionality during my review of this model and when I tried to answer your question, I was away and didn’t had access to test it myself. So I provided my answer based on some research online.

      The same question was asked by Nick recently and I went to test it myself this time. I can now confirm that the Kawai CA48 does not support audio streaming through its speakers via Bluetooth.

      My sincere apologies for any confusion I have caused you.

        • Hi Nick,

          The Kawai CA48 can not stream audio to its speakers via Bluetooth. My previous answer to Sharon was inaccurate and I’m sorry if that has caused confusion for you. I sincerely hope that you didn’t buy the CA48 for the streaming capability.

      • I tried one out at a music store and I am obsessed with the action and sounds. However, I also have some soft synths on my laptop that I would like to control with the keyboard. I am concerned with the no-usb. That’s why I ask.

  5. Hi! Thank you very much for this review! It has been a very pleasant read.

    I have been checking out reviews on Yamaha YDP-184, Kawai CE220 and Kawai CA48, because they’re all in the same price range. It’s cool you have made comparisons among them at the end of this post.

    I appreciate you have shared your experience using these digital pianos. The full wooden keys on the CA48, and the fact that they’re lighter and fluid for interpreting fast passages, have made me make up my mind!

    • Hi Henry, welcome and thanks for your comment. I’m glad that my review has been helpful to you. There are certainly many advantages of the Kawai CA48 and I’m confident that you have made the right choice. Come back and let me know your experience with it.

  6. Kawai CA48 is is excellent and one of the best piano in the world. Many music artist love this Piano. But it is costly and  a little bit demerits also. Comparatively it is better than other piano and music artist love this for their music. Moreover it has natural and realistic sound .

    So I think it would be best choice for in house music instrument if there is no budget problem.

    • While it’s true that the CA48 is expensive, its actually an entry level model of Kawai CA series. It is also much cheaper than an acoustic piano. For serious pianist, it’s an attractive choice.

  7. Well it does look like a lovely instrument, especially from a traditional angle, but there are a few concerns that would probably put me off. 

    First of all you point out that there is no multitrack built in – most pianos like this come with their own simple DAW built in these days, don’t they?

    On top of this, I also notice that there is no USB out on it – would I be right in thinking there is only a MIDI out then?

    • Hi Chris,

      Nice to see you again. Welcome back. 

      While many digital pianos do have multi-track recording built in, it should not be a deal breaker if you are interested in the Kawai CA48. With the Bluetooth, you can link it easily to your smart device and mix your music there. I guess that’s why Kawai decides to forego the built in multi-track recording.

      As for connectivity, the CA48 does have a USB to host port as well as MIDI in/out.

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