Kawai ES100 Review

A digital piano offers an authentic piano sound in a more portable and affordable package. They’re suitable for players of all skill levels, including beginners. Generally, digital pianos are geared more towards practicing and recording instead of performing live for large audiences.

While Yamaha is arguably the most popular digital pianos manufacturer, Kawai is another major brand with a well-established reputation for quality. Founded in 1927 in Japan, the Kawai Musical Instruments company has grown into an international leader in acoustic and digital pianos. They operate showrooms in Germany, Russia, France, the US, and more.

The ES100 is one of their most popular models. It’s an affordable keyboard with an authentic sound and feel due to a unique hammer system and many notes. It’s especially popular among beginning to mid-level students.

Pros:

  • Keys have an accurate weight
  • High level of polyphonic memory
  • Excellent internal speaker system

Cons:

  • No USB connectivity
  • Not the most recent Kawai model

Interested in learning more? Your complete Kawai ES100 review starts right now:

Things to Consider Before Buying a Kawai ES100

When considering a digital piano, you want to focus on two main features:

  • The Sound
  • The Feel

A digital piano doesn’t produce sound in the same way as an acoustic one. An acoustic piano uses a hammer to strike a string, making a sound as it vibrates. With a digital piano, the sound played is a digital audio file.

A digital piano should have 88 keys to replicate the entire range of an acoustic piano. This is the key distinction between a digital piano and an electronic keyboard, which usually has fewer keys. Most digital pianos offer a wide selection of tones (called “voices”) beyond piano, including organs, stringed instruments, and more.

For the best sound, you want samples recorded at different levels of velocity, often called multi-samples. It gives you accurate replication of sound levels as you press each key, so a light press results in a soft sound, and a heavy press creates a deeper, louder tone.

Digital pianos use hammers to add weight to the keys. Although the hammer doesn’t transmit sound in the same way as an acoustic, the weight adds an important element to the feel of the keys.

In addition to these features, you will also want to pinpoint what your usage will be. If you are looking to practice or learn, this can be a great keyboard for you.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a keyboard to make and record music easily, you should search for a keyboard with USB capability.    

Features & Benefits

Let’s rundown the major features found in this digital piano.

Key Feel

The keys on a digital piano should look and feel as close as possible to those on an acoustic piano, and the ES100 does an admirable job in that regard. It uses the Advanced Hammer Action IV (AHAIV-F). A hammer component underneath each key adds a mechanized weight to increase the authentic feel.

With a graded weight scale, the left-hand bass keys are heavier than those on the right, just like in a traditional piano. Additionally, the pivot point is on the back of each key, not the middle. Kawai is the only company that uses this placement, resulting in a far more authentic feel.

The ES100 has 88 keys, which is standard for a digital piano. 

Polyphonic Memory

A digital piano’s polyphonic memory is its ability to produce different sounds simultaneously without interruption or drop out. The ES100 has a polyphonic memory of 192 notes, which is the highest in its price class.

It includes 18 different piano tones. Eight acoustic piano tones, additional string, organ, harpsichord, and electric piano tones are also available.

Song Recording

You can record up to three songs on the built-in recorder. While it’s not an overwhelming amount of storage space, it’s still suitable for capturing melodies and hearing yourself play without having to use a separate recording device.

Photo by Kawai

External Jacks

The ES100 focuses mainly on live piano playing, so you won’t find too many extra electronics such as a USB drive input, multi-track recording, and automatic accompaniment. However, it does have a MIDI input and output along with two headphone jacks. A MIDI connection is a standard way to connect your piano to a computer for digital composition purposes.

Photo by Kawai

Volume

If you’re looking for a piano that you can play in front of a small to medium-sized audience, the internal speaker system of the Kawai ES100 is loud, clear, and produces a clean sound. It uses 14 watts of total power to deliver sound through two speakers located on the underside of the keyboard.

The speaker does an excellent job avoiding distortion, even at high volumes. However, its highest volume isn’t quite enough to fill a large-sized room, so if you plan to play to bigger crowds, you want to invest in an external sound system.

Social Proof

When shopping for any digital piano, it’s always a good idea to check out how current buyers feel about their purchase. We scoured the internet for real Kawai ES100 reviews from users. Here’s a look at what they had to say:

Alternatives

The Kawaii ES100 isn’t the only option if you’re looking for a digital piano. Consider the following popular alternatives:

Yamaha P125

The closest direct competitor to the Kawai ES100 is Yamaha’s P125. Both have 88 weighted keys, 192 voices, and a MIDI interface. However, they do have some key differences.

The ES100 has the AHAIV-F hammer system, which does create a unique and authentic feel to the keys. While the Yamaha P125 has a quality keyboard feel, it’s not quite as well-balanced as the ES100.

The P125 has a USB port, which you won’t find in the ES100. If you want the ability to hook your piano to a computer with a USB cord, instead of through a MIDI port, the P125 is the only option.

Finally, note that Yamaha P125 is an upgraded version of the Yamaha P115, another popular model from the manufacturer.

Compared to the ES100, the Yamaha P125 has:

  • Similar size and weight
  • Lighter key weight
  • USB connectivity

You can find more information on the Yamaha P125 here.  

Casio SA-76

Casio is another top manufacturer of digital pianos and electronic keyboards, with their SA-76 one of their top sellers. Similar to the Kawai ES100, the SA-76 is also an excellent option for beginners learning the basics.

The biggest downside of the SA-76 compared to the ES100 is the polyphonic memory. Casio’s option only has an eight-note polyphony, which is significantly less than the industry-leading 192 options found in the ES100. It also has 100 tones, 50 rhythms, and ten integrated songs.

However, the Casio piano has a built-in LCD screen. You can easily select different settings and options. Although selecting features in the ES100 isn’t especially difficult, it’s far easier with the SA-76.

Compared to the Kawai ES100, the Casio SA-76 has:

  • A smaller polyphonic memory
  • Built-in LCD screen
  • Beginner-friendly features

You can find more information on the Casio SA-76 here.

Korg LP-380

Another Japanese-made option, the Korg LP-380 creates authentic piano sounds. Over 30 different acoustic and electronic options are available to faithfully reproduce a variety of tones.

Both pianos offer keys with weighted hammers and an authentic feel. While the keys on the LP-380 feel great, the unique weight placement on the ES100 does feel more like a real piano.

The LP-380 offers 30 demo songs, including 20 piano demos and ten sound demos. They’re a valuable teaching aid, making Korg’s piano an excellent choice for new players.

Compared to the ES100, the Korg LP-380 offers:

  • Similar weighted keys
  • 30 demo songs
  • Authentic acoustic sounds

You can find more information on the Korg LP-380 here.  

Conclusion

A digital piano delivers a rich, full sound in a compact package. While many high-quality options are available, the Kawai ES100 stands out from the competition in a few ways. Players of all experience levels typically praise the ES100’s:

  • Advanced Hammer Action IV weighted key system
  • Expansive polyphonic memory with 192 notes
  • Clear internal speakers that resist distortion

After reading the above Kawai ES100 review, are you now interested in filling your home with the sounds of an authentic acoustic piano? Check out their official site to learn more about the Kawai ES100.



Michael Southard

Michael is a multi-instrumentalist with extensive knowledge of audio production. He loves trying new gear to discover gems to create unique sound.