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How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos? (Read 7490 times)

Offline edbogie

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How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
« on: March 15, 2016, 05:33:35 AM »
Greetings Klavier Straße!

After many months of pain-staking research put into deciding whether to sink my current budget into an acoustic upright or a quality digital, I'm finally 99% convinced I'll be ordering myself a Kawai VPC-1.

That said, there was something that is still nagging me that never seemed to be discussed among the many threads I scoured, and that is the question of durability, or, "life expectancy," as it were.

I'll admit, I play heavy stuff. I love me some Prokofiev, and Rachmaninov, and I'm working my way through all of Chopin's ballades, etc... Would a digital be able to withstand fortissimo passages perpetually pounded into it on a day to day basis? Can anyone here who owns one or a similar model/action (Kawai MP11, CA-67, etc...) testify?

Thanks!

Offline hfmadopter

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #1 on: March 15, 2016, 11:20:28 AM »
To me a non issue, an acoustic piano will in time require expensive voicing and regulation, not to mention possible hammer replacement, the sum of which you could meanwhile buy three VPC-1s with and keep on playing. Meanwhile the digital never goes out of tune where the acoustic slowly beats itself out of tune every time you play it. No , in that regard, IMO, digital has it all over acoustic. plus you have virtually unlimited piano sounds and tones and regulation/touch curves you couldn't dream of without hiring a professional for the acoustic and then he may or may not get it right.

Now on the flip  side, if someone has their heart set on "the perfect" acoustic piano then in that case a digital will always be a compromise to that goal. But if you want versatility and several instrument styles in one then the digital makes sense. I own an acoustic grand, my music style in self composition and feeling mood by the sound change of the piano puts me on the digital, not to mention recording ability. I rarely play my grand anymore for those reasons. Changing piano makers tones can set a mood up in me I may never find on my acoustic with it's one tuning sound, it's one touch etc... The digital for me broadens my musical creativity possibilities sometimes simply by changing from say a C Bechstein to a dreamy or echo/hollow sounding Steinway D. That change can set up a whole new composition in me and that wouldn't happen with my acoustic piano. Those for me are the benefits of a good digital, I don't even think much on longevity, so far I've been pounding this Kawai for three years. An acoustic played this much ( enough to put some wear in the key tops) and the acoustic would have been tuned at least three or four times by now if not more, been voiced and maybe regulated once. Some of my music finds me with a heavy touch, some very light and the digital has done very well. Say in a 3 more years I spend $1800 to replace it, would I have put $1800 into the acoustic in 6 years time playing as hard and long as I have on the digital ? Tuning alone would have driven me nuts! I'm one who notices almost immediately a slight drop in tune in the piano when I have a sound going on that I like. It's why I learned to at least touch up my own tuning on the acoustic piano and eventually to do the full tuning. When I touch the keys I'm expecting a certain sound or have come to expect a certain sound, it drives me up the wall when it starts changing. Digitals don't change unless you change it.

Just Sayin. But it's just my view, some others share that view with me and some don't LOL !
Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.

Offline iansinclair

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #2 on: March 15, 2016, 01:19:20 PM »
Interesting question.  And interesting comment from hfmadopter.  Much of which I'd have to agree with, but only up to a point.  Over a span of a few years or a decade or two -- yes, the digital will require less maintenance and so on.

However... my main piano is going on for 120 years old, and while it has had routine maintenance (tuning, a new set of pins and strings about 20 years ago), that's all it has needed -- and there's nothing in there that isn't fixable or maintainable with simple tools.  If the digital blows its brain -- which it will at some point -- it's pure junk.

There are points to be made both ways.
Ian

Offline indianajo

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #3 on: March 15, 2016, 01:24:13 PM »
Good acoustic pianos are good for xxxxx hours before all that voicing ****.  And tuning, I do it myself, ***** the tuner who was tuning it 1/4 tone flat for his $$.  I had to be here in the house for him to visit, why sit there not using my hands?  I quit calling him and bought a tuning fork.  I did the first 30 years of tuning without an official tuning key, just a 1/4 socket and a long arm allen wrench.  Top octave, a reference tone helps, like from my hammond H100 organ.  
I play 70-100 year old acoustic pianos all the time; usually all they need is tuning. Nobody ever voices any piano around here.  The only acoustics I see with hammer damage are Steinway inmates from the music school at the college across the river.   Funny people want to pay $2000 for those beat to death specimens, like music school use gave the piano a degree or something.    I have a home use Steinway from 1941; the hammer surfaces are fine.  Some pivots are dodgy, but I can deal with that, no $$$$ for an "expert" from another state.  
I never see 20 year old electrics on stage or television.  Everybody was playing DX7 25 years ago, now everybody on TV is playing Yamaha something newer or Nord.  What does that say about rubber keys?  I own an electric keyboard, I got 4 years out of it before the disk drive rusted up in the garage. You can't let one of those portable pawn shop denizens sit in your house while you are away on vacation.  We did lose some jewelry that vacation the sampler was in the garage.    Who is going to steal a 300 lb piano?    
What is really tragic, great 70-100 year old pianos like Baldwins, chickerings, wurlitzers, sohmers, gulbransen, knabe, go to the dump all the time after no offers at $100, or for 400 lb uprights, free.  Just because there is no guy in a suit with "beautiful green eyes" to tell the women how superior this instrument is.  And the finish has accrued some dings over the years.  I can't play the Baldwin at my church except in the gym; I have to listen to that dull lifeless Yamaha console on the stage because the salesmen convinced the leaders how great it was.      

Offline hfmadopter

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #4 on: March 15, 2016, 03:03:51 PM »
There is no question that a quality acoustic with decent maintenance will last a very long time . Mine was built in the late 1800's. It's still playable, it had a partial rebuild in the 1970's and really it needs it again plus more at this point. It just depends how fussy one is. If someone is happy with just a tuning and original unvoiced hammers so be it ( mine is better than that). I'm certainly not here to argue about it even though I personally would find that unacceptable.. But if someone is interested in more than that then in due time it will cost money, period. Depends on ones skill level and willingness. Indianajo without question has proven his uniqueness in that area over the years here. I'm probably another but not everyone is that interested in piano maintenance. They just want to learn and play and maybe own a nice quality sounding and looking piano.

I think a VPC1 will last a long time mechanically, it's built for professional on stage work and the keys are crafted in a similar way as acoustic keys. And yes indeed some day it could " blow  it's brain". And an acoustic could crack it's sound board, blow ( over time ) it's regulation etc etc. The general flavor is rebuild an acoustic vs toss and replace the digital at some point down te road. The VPC1 is a decent choice if you want a quality controller ( no on board sounds) and want computer based sound libraries. Kawai modeled the action based off their acoustic grand pianos, FWIW. It is probably what I would replace my MP6 with if need be. The only action that interests me even a bit more is that of the MP11 for it's longer balance/fulcrum point. But I don't need the added expense of its on board sound libraries and implementation there of.

Now if the world has a reverse polarity situation/event you will most assuredly be best off with the acoustic, because anything digital won't work from that day forward ! But you might be intent on more important matters anyway.
Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.

Offline iansinclair

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #5 on: March 15, 2016, 08:41:48 PM »
One item I neglected to add -- and it applies to both my comments and the comments of others.  It's the term "quality" acoustic piano.  An inexpensive acoustic piano may not last all that well!
Ian

Offline kawai_cs

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #6 on: March 15, 2016, 09:15:42 PM »
I currently play a kawai cs6. I think it can be considered quality digital piano. For what it cost I could have gotten a quality acoustic but acoustic is not an option for the time being. I have had it for more than a year now so not so long and it is being played a lot. I think my repertoire taste is pretty similar to yours:-) I am still quite happy with it. It feels better and closer to an acoustic piano than my old kawai ca5.
However when I first recorded a video for my teacher he asked me "What the heck is this old, rickety piano you are playing?" :o ;D He said he considers digitals more of a toys that don't last long and suggested a Yamaha silent would be a good option.
My concern with digital is that it really does not hold its value. When you are buying a quality digital new it cost a lot and when you wish to resell it - forget it.
Chopin, 10-8 | Chopin, 25-12 | Haydn, HOB XVI:20

Offline quantum

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #7 on: March 16, 2016, 01:26:54 AM »
With the advances in digital, I somehow think that the balance may be found with a combination digital/acoustic solution.  IMO, the imperfection of the acoustic is also its trademark of desirability: it is what makes that instrument sound "alive."  The slightly off unison tunings, the variability in voicing, the effects of atmospheric conditions on sound... all of these things while undesirable on paper - make music dance. 

The resourceful diversity of a digital cannot be ignored.  You have the ability to play many instruments within a single physical interface.  Sampled pianos from distinguished makers, non-piano sounds, alternate temperaments, pitch adjustment, the world of MIDI, silent practice, and the list goes on. 

Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline briansaddleback

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #8 on: March 16, 2016, 05:08:27 PM »
Maybe dcstudio can jump in here with me to not endorse Casio Privia line.

 I have a Casio Privia PX860 I got last year brand new and since then it does not handle my pounding practice very well. It has a sort of flimsy build quality, if you ever practice etudes or czerny studies regularly every day, it does not hold up. I am wondering how long I will have my piano until I need to use the warranty (trust me their warranty is a hassle and a run around) or just never buy Casio again and just go w Yamaha (Built like tanks)

The casio has a definite better sound and feel for playing over P155 Yamaha (older model) but the solidness is not there if you play anything more than light play or if youre just a beginner student of piano who wants to play bach 2 part inventions little preludes.

Something about the casing and the keyboard module itself, I dont know how to explain it, there is no reinforced type of support or buffer between the keys and the particle board it is on top of. A good range of my upper register keys create a hollow 'knocking ' sound when played anything forte in that range...as if the keys are knocking on a door.
If you play FF , (or just turn off the piano and play FF on the keys) you will hear serious knocking on a particle board. I dislike it.
Work in progress:

Rondo Alla Turca

Offline hfmadopter

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #9 on: March 17, 2016, 11:38:02 AM »


Something about the casing and the keyboard module itself, I dont know how to explain it, there is no reinforced type of support or buffer between the keys and the particle board it is on top of. A good range of my upper register keys create a hollow 'knocking ' sound when played anything forte in that range...as if the keys are knocking on a door.
If you play FF , (or just turn off the piano and play FF on the keys) you will hear serious knocking on a particle board. I dislike it.

I hate to tell you but a lot of acoustic pianos knock in the upper register too !! LOL.  In fact some of that sound may be modeled into the sound engine ( obviously not the part with the  instrument turned of).

I wouldn't put Casio in the "Quality Digital Piano" class being asked about in this thread either though. Nor would I put the P series Yamahas in it either, not till you get to the CP would I begin to compare Yamaha with Kawai stage piano in terms of action and case build and even then not to a VPC-1. Nothing wrong with a P series Yamaha but not in the same league as a pro stage piano even from the same maker. At that the VPC-1 is really a controller, a very well crafted, pro level, realistic playing controller. Casio makes nothing like it or even close to it in quality.
Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.

Online timothy42b

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #10 on: March 17, 2016, 12:31:12 PM »
My P500 was discontinued in the mid 90s, I have no idea how old it is.

It still works fine.
Tim

Offline edbogie

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #11 on: March 17, 2016, 03:28:00 PM »
Thank you all for your responses! I can gleefully state that I'm fully convinced now.

Long term resale value isn't a concern to me. As a composer and pianist, I will likely be spending the lion's share of every day in front of the keys, so if it lasts me five years and completely bites the dust, I'd say it was a most worthwhile purchase. I just feared purchasing it, only to find that a few months (or even weeks) later, the keys are falling apart because it wasn't designed for that kind of "abuse."

I suppose I should have also added that I most definitely plan on getting a quality acoustic down the road, but this shall serve as a great alternative until I live in a place on my own that is more conducive to non-silent practice.

Thank you!

Offline hfmadopter

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #12 on: March 17, 2016, 04:52:10 PM »
Let us know when you get it and what you think !
Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.

Offline reiyza

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #13 on: March 17, 2016, 06:17:52 PM »
Very interesting viewpoint on yamaha's durability hfmadopter well said, my clavinova tolerates hanon exercises pretty good. (well for at least 2 months straight)

I'd like to share my opinion on the touch of digitals, they are somewhat fixed, my clp has the touch ranging from very soft-soft-medium-loud-very loud but it has nice action indeed. Due to it's heavy action, it allows me to play fast passages on acoustic pianos with similar action, and I can go much better with light action acoustics. It's very hard to practice proper dynamics on a digital piano then shifting to an acoustic. It'll either become very soft or very loud. It's very frustrating to adjust(for me, maybe different for you.)

Though the thing about digitals that I really love is its ability to silent play, so I can work on trashy passages without embarrasing myself. :)

Goodluck on choosing.!
Yup.. still a beginner. Up til now..

When will a teacher accept me? :/

Offline edbogie

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #14 on: March 17, 2016, 11:30:58 PM »
Let us know when you get it and what you think !

Will do! I've decided to wait until May and give it to myself as a graduation present, but I'll resurrect this thread when it finally arrives. Thank you for all of your input!!

I'd like to share my opinion on the touch of digitals, they are somewhat fixed, my clp has the touch ranging from very soft-soft-medium-loud-very loud but it has nice action indeed. Due to it's heavy action, it allows me to play fast passages on acoustic pianos with similar action, and I can go much better with light action acoustics. It's very hard to practice proper dynamics on a digital piano then shifting to an acoustic. It'll either become very soft or very loud. It's very frustrating to adjust(for me, maybe different for you.)

One of the many things that attracted me to the VPC-1 is that it has a fully ajustable/customizable velocity curve, which, from what I gather, is very effective. Of course, it then depends on the quality of your samples to do the heavy (and soft, as it were) lifting, but given the demos I've heard from some of the higher end libraries, I trust that it will work itself out quite nicely. :)

Offline hfmadopter

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #15 on: March 18, 2016, 11:55:00 AM »
Velocity curves are huge in how the piano responds to touch, as are other adjustments to any given modeled instrument. I don't use Kawai's touch response personally and if I owned a Yamaha I probably wouldn't use theirs either but Pianoteq's instead. Pianoteq is also the only VST software that I am aware of that builds the samples in real time according to how you touch the key, something that to my knowledge Kawai doesn't do nor any other VST software. But then my Kawai is older too now. I just know that  Pianoteq makes for a very realistic playing experience and custom made to my taste. I also bought into the Klemsegg instrument package with the C.Bechstein series of instrument sounds included amongst other Vintage instruments. I then worked on one C. Bechstein modelling it for my touch in terms of reverb and attach of the keys and key dynamics, making it feel very personal and saved that under an index of My Instruments ( I have about 6 saved instruments in that index, custom built to my taste, 3 Steinway D's called D4 among them). So, the physical key weight and obviously the mechanics of the keys are Kawai but everything about the response in these instruments is mine and built by Pianoteq. Even the condition of the instrument played is mine, I have 75% of perfect condition in the C. Bechstein as I recall because 100% was too sterile. Sympathetic resonance of strings is mine, how much resonance occurs when depressing the sustain pedal is mine and how much case noise resonates is mine, according to my taste. I can't begin to create all this on an acoustic piano. Each acoustic being different at each but also it's own.

Interesting, to me anyway, Using that C. Bechstein instrument I did my only ( to date) "one off" piece of music. I had just recorded a couple of pieces of my originals and started playing and this piece just came to me . Pianoteq records everything you play at the top of a list and the list drops off the bottom of the screen in due time, so I just saved that one piece and let teh rest eventually fall away unsaved. I played it exactly once, never played it before or since. But I was mesmerized by the C. Bechstein sound and it just came up out of my innards. This is a newly acquired Gift for me, I've played piano for a long time but this ability to create my own music is only about 3 years old now and the Kawai and Pianoteq are a part of it.

Digital piano today, when taking the extra step or two, is not what we knew 10 years ago. Oh you can still go buy a relatively inexpensive digital piano, plunk it down in the living room and hook up some sound to it or play the on board speakers if it has them and say digital sucks. That's still around. But when I speak of digital piano's I'm not talking about that.
Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.

Offline briansaddleback

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #16 on: March 18, 2016, 10:01:16 PM »
I hate to tell you but a lot of acoustic pianos knock in the upper register too !! LOL.  In fact some of that sound may be modeled into the sound engine ( obviously not the part with the  instrument turned of).


I know a lot about pianos.  You don't know what I m referring to perhaps you misunderstood.
Work in progress:

Rondo Alla Turca

Offline hfmadopter

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #17 on: March 19, 2016, 12:42:50 PM »
I know a lot about pianos.  You don't know what I m referring to perhaps you misunderstood.

Probably !
Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.

Offline pianoplunker

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #18 on: March 19, 2016, 10:28:44 PM »
Interesting question.  And interesting comment from hfmadopter.  Much of which I'd have to agree with, but only up to a point.  Over a span of a few years or a decade or two -- yes, the digital will require less maintenance and so on.

However... my main piano is going on for 120 years old, and while it has had routine maintenance (tuning, a new set of pins and strings about 20 years ago), that's all it has needed -- and there's nothing in there that isn't fixable or maintainable with simple tools.  If the digital blows its brain -- which it will at some point -- it's pure junk.

There are points to be made both ways.

Iansinclair's point  is true. We will probably never see a 120 year old digital. Also a myth that digitals "never" go out of tune. Not only can they go out of tune, but they can have a host of other problems that acoustics never have- like potentiometers going wacky. As far as the op question about durability, avoid plastic as much as possible. Cant really give a specific model/brand but I always narrow it down to Roland or Yamaha for what I do which includes packing it up and taking to a gig to play rock, bring it home and play classical. I dont have any non-portable keyboards, you might not need portability for what you do. Nonethe less if you can find out where plastic has been applied you might find some of the "durable" models are actually not durable if they use plastic in the action somewhere.

Offline hfmadopter

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Re: How Durable Are Quality Digital Pianos?
«Reply #19 on: March 20, 2016, 12:18:19 PM »
Iansinclair's point  is true. We will probably never see a 120 year old digital. Also a myth that digitals "never" go out of tune. Not only can they go out of tune, but they can have a host of other problems that acoustics never have- like potentiometers going wacky. As far as the op question about durability, avoid plastic as much as possible. Cant really give a specific model/brand but I always narrow it down to Roland or Yamaha for what I do which includes packing it up and taking to a gig to play rock, bring it home and play classical. I dont have any non-portable keyboards, you might not need portability for what you do. Nonethe less if you can find out where plastic has been applied you might find some of the "durable" models are actually not durable if they use plastic in the action somewhere.

Yes in time I could see dirty or worn electronic contacts becoming an issue. There may come a point where one asks should I service it or replace it , with "it" being the whole instrument. I think we established or maybe assumed ( I do anyway)   that we probably won't keep a given digital model for a century or more, maybe not even a decade. The cost of which may or may not be wise to compare with a similar time period of acoustic ownership with proper maintenance ( a lot of people never maintain their acoustics). Though some do keep digitals and have D pianos 20 years old now, according to this thread anyway. I'm personally thinking 6-8 years for my MP6 and then probably move to a controller like the VPC-1. Meanwhile I will still have my acoustic bought used back around 1980. It's well over 100 years old with original action.

In terms of plastic and durability, that totally depends on the nature of the plastic used. Some more nylon ( have some flex and give) or graphite or Carbon  in nature are very strong. Jet aircraft use both structural and cosmetic plastic, space craft use plastics and some acoustics use plastic or carbon fiber these days, for light yet strong assemblies. So it's not so much if it has plastic but what grade of plastic. You can be pretty sure that a keyboard costing under $1000US probably doesn't have the top grade in it and one under $500 maybe even a lesser grade. Korg had a time there with their sub $700 range where the keys were breaking if pounded on. I'm sure they weren't alone. I didn't get the impression we were discussing this class of instrument though.

I'm sure as a person who gigs a lot and a person who probably doesn't have a crew to move your equipment you are looking for the best compromise between quality and weight in a portable digital piano. I'm sure that introduces it's own set of circumstances too.
Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.