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Kawai ES520 Review: Best Mid-range digital piano

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Kawai ES520

8.1

DESIGN

7.0/10

KEY ACTION

8.5/10

SOUND

9.0/10

FEATURES

7.0/10

ACCESSORIES

8.0/10

VALUE

9.0/10

Pros

  • Portable and gig friendly
  • Fully weighted RCH II action
  • Great sound project
  • Simple controls
  • Great connectivity options

Cons

  • Very basic display function
  • Stand or bench not included
  • Keys are not long play friendly

An excellent addition to Kawai’s digital portable piano range, it offers high specification with a lightweight feel. Here is why I feel that the Kawai ES520 deserves its spot as the best mid-range digital piano.

Most mid-range pianos come with limited features. For the price and the features, this Kawai new model is the best in the market right now.

It offers high-quality flagship instrument features unlike other entry-level models without breaking the bank.

I believe that you will not find a better bargain. It offers fantastic sound and functionality without overwhelming control features.

Don’t believe me yet? Stick around for this complete review of the Kawai ES520. I am sure by the end of this article it will blow your mind.

DESIGN


The look

The new Kawai ES520 spots a new flat panel style with curved edges almost similar to the Kawai ES110.

Kawai ES520 Review - the looks

The ES520 hasn’t changed much in terms of appearance. It’s still a fairly lightweight and portable digital piano with a simple yet stylish design. It is great for small spaces and great to carry around and set up.

The piano has a small display, which is not that great if you have limited vision. This makes interaction with the piano a bit more challenging. Other than this, the look is simple and not overwhelming at all. Models are available in smooth black or white matte finish.

Music Rest

The music rest compliments the minimalistic design of this digital piano. It is wide and transparent, adding to the clean smooth line style of the whole piano.

Kawai ES520 Review - music rest

The design of the music rest is sturdy enough to support a heavy music book or two. It gives unhindered access to the player, which is a bonus in my view. 

Control

The control panel on this ES520 is simple. The design is not complicated and some important controls are placed on the right side.

Kawai ES520 Review - controls

This is a great thought because most standard digital pianos heavily concentrate their control buttons to the left side.

The piano is very straightforward with only a few buttons, so it reduces the possibility of confusion. This makes it a great piano for beginners, who will benefit from not having a lot of bells and whistles. 

Keys

The piano comes with a full set of 88 fully weighted keys and the Responsive Hammer Compact II (RHC) action mechanism.

Kawai ES520 Review - keys

This makes it light to the touch and duplicates an authentic acoustic piano quite well.

The keys offer a matte finish that aids in a player’s grip whilst you play.

Size & Weight

The Kawai ES520 is very portable for a mid-range digital piano. It weighs only 14.5 kg (32 lbs.) and it measures 134 cm(52.75 inches) wide, 14.5 cm(5.7 inches) high and 37.5(14.7 inches) deep.

Kawai ES520 Review - size and weight

KEY ACTION


We know Kawai for producing high-quality keyboard actions that feel like the real thing. The ES520 is no exception.

Kawai ES520 Review - key action

It offers 88 graded and weighted keys with hammer action. The weight of the keyboard is graded to mirror the heavier bass and lighter treble hammers of acoustic pianos.

Digital pianos are designed to reproduce the feel of an acoustic piano. The more accurate the key action, the better.

In this digital piano, Kawai uses a triple sensor responsive hammer compact II action. This makes the keys more responsive when notes are repeated, allowing for better control of any dynamics.

The piano has in-built real hammers that create a movement similar to an acoustic piano action.

This provides consistency of movement. The keys of the ES520 have a matte finish, whilst this is great, the finish has a diminished capability of absorbing moisture, so it’s not so great for longer playing periods.

This piano is among some of the most realistic and impressive digital pianos currently on the market.

The key action has just the right level of lightness, though if you prefer your key action to be stiffer you might have a challenge with this piano. 

Overall, the key action is smooth and bouncy, definitely a bargain for its price.

SOUND


One of the best features of the ES520 is its sound. The 88 key piano sampling captures the rich sound of the Kawai SK-EX and EX grand pianos because of the use of Kawai’s Progressive Harmonic Imaging sound technology.

Kawai ES520 Review - sound

From the strongest fortissimo to the softest pianissimo, this piano can accurately recreate the sounds of an original grand piano.

The nuances of the piano are further enhanced by the addition of reverb and resonances to create an authentic grand concert sound.

Complementing this technology is the inclusion of 34 high-quality voices. Sometimes less is more and the Kawai ES520 is proof of that.

The Virtual Technician feature kicks things up a notch when it comes to what you can get out of the sound.

This feature allows you to manipulate and change the whole sound curve according to your preference. Do you want the sound to be warmer or brighter?

This feature gives you that choice all at the touch of a button. This personalization of the piano sound is what I love the most about the ES520. You can be so much more creative with your playing.

Speaking of creative playing, the dual playing allows for two sounds to be played simultaneously, and the split and four hands mode splits the keyboard into two independent halves.

Kawai definitely had the student/teacher relationship in mind when designing the ES520.

Another reason why I love the ES520 is the speaker’s sound quality. Featuring two (8 x 12cm) 20 watt speakers, this piano can project quite well.

The speakers are quite accurate at amplifying the sound. Combined with the high-quality piano samples, you have here an extremely clear and rich projection from Kawai.

Of course, there is always room for improvement, but the sound quality is pretty decent on this model.

FEATURES


There are some awesome features built in the ES250. Wireless Bluetooth connectivity which helps you to use various piano apps, dual, split, and four hands keyboard modes, USB audio record/playback, and a rich variety of instrumental voices are just some of the few features available on this piano.

Kawai ES520 Review - features

I have listed down some major stand out features that make it a magnificent instrument below:

Sounds:

  • 34 including acoustic pianos, electric pianos, organs, strings, bass, etc.

Polyphony:

  • 192 notes

Drum Rhythms:

  • 100 patterns

Virtual Technician:

  • (17 parameters)
  • Touch Curve (incl. User Touch Curve)
  • Voicing (incl. 88-key User Voicing)
  • Damper Resonance
  • Damper Noise
  • String Resonance
  • Key-off Effect
  • Fall-back Noise
  • Hammer Delay
  • Top board
  • Decay Time
  • Minimum Touch
  • Stretch tuning (incl. 88-key User Tuning)
  • Temperament (incl. User Temperament)
  • Temperament Key
  • Key Volume (incl. 88-key User Key Volume)
  • Half-Pedal Adjust
  • Soft Pedal Depth

Reverb: 

  • 6 types

Modes:

  • Dual-mode (layered): allows two instrument sounds simultaneously
  • Split mode: splits the keyboard into two different instruments
  • Four hand mode: enables adjustment of the octave/pitch of each section to create two separate 44-key instruments with the same playing range

Internal recording:

  • Up to 3 songs

Connectivity:

  • MIDI in and out
  • Line out: 1 R+L/mono
  • Line in: 1/8″ Stereo
  • USB to Host
  • USB to Device
  • Damper (for F-10H)
  • Damper/Soft/Sostenuto (for GFP-3)
  • Pedal (for F-302)
  • 2 Headphone jacks: on the front side

ACCESSORIES


The Kawai ES520 comes with a music rest, power adapter, and a Kawai F-10H sustain pedal. This sustain pedal is high quality and supports half-pedaling.

You will get a very realistic feel. Alternatively, you can opt for the GFP-3 triple pedal unit for higher-level performers.

The GFP-3 triple pedal provides full damper, soft, and sostenuto pedal functionality within a sturdily built portable unit.

The HM-5 designer stand and the F-302 Grand Feel pedal bar are compatible with the Kawai ES520, but they are not included with the instrument.

So you might need to purchase any one of the two alongside the piano.

The ES520 is a portable instrument that is great for gig performance. It is relatively easy to move around, but if you want an extra layer of protection, Kawai offers the SC-1 padded gig bag.

As always, a pair of good quality headphones is recommended for any digital piano.

WHO IT’S FOR


Kawai really focused on ease of use with this model, so naturally a beginner will be relatively comfortable with this piano.

However, it does offer outstanding features even for professional musicians who like to keep things simple.

I would recommend it for intermediary or professional players. They will get the best out of the piano at a very competitive price.

CONCLUSION


This is a brilliant piece of machinery from Kawai. They focused on user-friendliness and piano play.

By removing a lot of unnecessary features and improving sound projection and quality Kawai gave us an awesome mid-range digital piano.

It ticks a lot of boxes for me and the price is the perfect icing on the cake.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY



Feel free to leave us a comment; we can’t wait to know what you think about this Kawai ES520 review. And if you have used the ES520 before, we would really love you to share your experience with the instrument.

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