Kawai KDP75 Review: An Affordable Gateway to the KDP Series

As longtime readers should know, Kawai’s expertise is not just limited to expensive acoustic pianos. In recent years, Kawai has managed to prove themselves in the digital piano sphere, releasing instruments at multiple price points that manage to hit all of the right spots.

Today, we’ll be covering one of Kawai’s most affordable console-style offerings, the KDP75.

This is a refresh of Kawai’s prior KDP70 model. Since the original KDP70 sold very well, it’s understandable that Kawai would want to bring it up to par with other modern digital pianos.

Let’s find out if the KDP75 stacks up to the competition.

Check the availability and current price of the Kawai KDP75 in your region:

US: ( What Retailer to Buy From )
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Design

The KDP lineup from Kawai is focused primarily at home-based use.

The large cabinet design and furniture-like stylings are more well-suited for the living room than anywhere else. If you’re looking for something more portable, I’d recommend looking into Kawai’s ES120 as an alternative.

In terms of dimensions, the KDP75 is 53.5” (W) x 16” (D) x 33.6” (H). In terms of weight, it is 79.5 lbs (36 kg).

The KDP-75’s heft primarily comes from its wooden body construction. The wooden surface comes with a textured finish, which hides fingerprints well, though a little less ‘premium’ than the KDP-120’s slightly reflective sheen.

The KDP-75 comes in 2 color variations, Embossed Black and Embossed White. My local store didn’t have the white variant in stock, but from photos online, I’d say the white variant is the way to go if you can find it.

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While not a lot has changed from the preceding KDP-70, Kawai did make a minor change to the key cover. The prior model had a cool accent color, and that was removed in the refreshed KDP-75.

The main downside of the KDP-75’s design is its over-simplified user interface. The KDP-75 uses the same button/key control scheme featured on the original. This means you need to press a button and the corresponding key in order to access most of the functionality.

Some people might consider this control scheme to be a plus, as it keeps the user interface clean and simple. A real acoustic piano does not have a ton of buttons after all, which makes a minimal user interface all the more desirable.

On the other hand, people like me might find the lack of controllability to be an inconvenience that harms the overall usability of the digital piano. Considering that most features aren’t documented outside of the manual, there will be a learning curve that you need to overcome early on.

Do, however, note that these gripes really only come into effect if you want to utilize the KDP75 as something more than just a digital piano. The default piano sound and settings you get on startup is gorgeous, even without any additional tweaking.

With all that said, there is a workaround for these complaints. Kawai has the PianoRemote app, which can be linked up to the KDP75 via the USB to Host port, giving you a touchscreen interface for easier control.

Usability aside, the KDP75 does have buttons that feel surprisingly good. The buttons that are present feel tactile, and the volume slide can be fairly precise thanks to its resistance.

All in all, the KDP75 is well designed. It’s sturdy, clean, and overall quite minimal. The same control scheme was featured on the KDP120, and we did find our experience there to be quite pleasant (albeit somewhat marred by the control scheme).

In fact, the KDP75 doesn’t really differ that much from its more expensive sibling product in the design department.

The one notable difference, apart from the wooden texture, is the KDP75’s pedal system, which does not include Kawai’s Grand Feel Pedal System, though the difference in feel is minimal, with the KDP120 feeling more realistic, as it has different weights for the soft, sostenuto and damper pedals.

Keyboard

The KDP75’s keybed uses Kawai’s Responsive Hammer Compact (RHC) action, which is the same key action found on the original KDP70. Do note that this is not the same as the Responsive Hammer Compact II (RHCII) action found on the KDP120.

Despite being one of Kawai’s most affordable actions, the RHC keys are fairly competent. There are naturally a few compromises here and there, but it manages to emulate the essentials of how an acoustic piano should feel.

The RHC action is a dual sensor action, which means the KDP75 uses two sensors to track how hard each key is pressed down, before then triggering a recorded piano sample of the corresponding intensity.

In terms of the tracking accuracy, 2-sensor systems have been superseded by 3-sensor systems, such as the KDP120’s RHCII. Whether or not this becomes a deal-breaker for you will depend on your playstyle.

If you’re a seasoned pianist who plays challenging pieces that require precision in the fast repetitions, you’ll likely find the KDP75 inadequate. However, it works well enough if you’re using it for casual playing.

The RHC keys generally lean towards a lighter touch, but they do manage to feel natural. The main differentiating factor, apart from the sensors, is the lack of the new cushioning which was newly featured with the KDP120.

While the added padding might sound insubstantial, it does make quite a difference to the perceived quality of the keys. With the KDP120, the keys bottom out softly, whereas the KDP75 feels harder in comparison.

The KDP75’s keyboard is also graded, which means keys at the lower registers feel weightier than those at the higher octaves, which is something that further emulates how a real acoustic piano would react.

While I might have seemed a bit harsh in comparing the KDP75 to its counterpart, I do want to make it clear that the KDP75 still has a good keybed, and manages to deliver a natural-feeling experience at an affordable price point.

The KDP120 just clearly had more put into it, making it a superior digital piano in terms of feel.

Sound

The KDP75’s included sound set is easily its greatest asset. This features 15 sounds powered by Kawai’s Harmonic Imaging (HI) sound engine, which includes the following sounds.

  • Piano: 4 variations of the SK-EX concert grand
  • E.Piano: Classic and Modern
  • Organ: Jazz and Church
  • Harpsichord
  • Vibraphone
  • Strings: 2 variations
  • Synth Pad: 2 variations
  • Choir

You might realize that these are the exact same sounds as those found on the KDP120, and from what I can tell (through testing via headphones), the samples used are also identical.

This is definitely a huge plus in favor of the KDP75’s value, as these SK-EX piano samples were initially sourced from some of Kawai’s older top-of-the-line instruments.

Do, however, also note that these are the same samples from the KDP70, but that’s more of a situation of “it ain’t broke, so don’t fix it.”


Concert Grand Sounds

The KDP75’s HI sound engine is fairly basic. Instead of focusing on modeling technology like other piano manufacturers, Kawai places their emphasis on their recording techniques, aiming to reproduce the best representation of their flagship concert grands.

The default ‘Concert Grand’ preset on the KDP75 comes from Kawai’s SK-EX (Shigeru Kawai – EX) piano. These concert grands are among Kawai’s most sought-after instruments, being the piano of choice for many concert halls across the globe.

Kawai even calls the SK-EX the ‘The Premier Piano of Japan’.

The SK-EX sounds are a stripped down version of the samples featured on Kawai’s high-end CA99 digital piano, made to work within the limitations of the HI sound engine.

Despite the apparent downgrades, the SK-EX samples still manage to impress. I’ve long been a fan of the SK-EX piano sound, and the KDP-75 manages to capture the versatile sonic signature that makes the SK-EX so popular.

The default piano preset is also mixed to be versatile. The bass is present but not overpowering, and the highs are more ‘airy’ than ‘bright’.

While some might prefer Roland’s brighter tones, or Yamaha’s ‘studio-like’ sound, I’d consider the SK-EX samples to be best in terms of versatility.

To me, the KDP-75’s piano sound is best described as ‘natural’. Whether listening through speakers or headphones, the KDP-75 manages to make you feel like you’re sitting in front of a real concert grand.


Virtual Technician 

The KDP75 also features Kawai’s Virtual Technician, a tool that allows users to add their own personal touch to the piano sounds.

For example, if you prefer the darker sound better suited for classical pieces, you can change things using the built-in Smart Mode, accessible using the button/key combinations.

There are 10 available Smart Mode presets, ranging from a super-clean Noiseless preset that neuters the rich sympathetic resonances, to a Full preset that does the opposite, giving a larger-than-life sound that borders on unrealistic.

If you’re someone who wants even more control, you can make even more detailed edits by utilizing the PianoRemote app on a compatible smart device.

These include 13 parameters:

  • Touch Curve
  • Voicing
  • Damper Resonance
  • Hammer Delay
  • Topboard Simulation
  • Decay Time
  • Release Time
  • Minimum Touch
  • Stretch Tuning
  • Temperament
  • Temperament Key
  • Half-Pedal Point
  • Soft Pedal Depth

Overall, I’d consider the Virtual Technician to be a nice feature. While the options are quite daunting, the Smart Mode presets make it a lot more accessible, even for beginners.


Other Sounds

Unfortunately, the KDP75’s non-piano sounds do not hit the same highs as the concert grands.

The E.Piano sounds are decent. You get a Fender Rhodes-like sound, and a DX7-style FM synth piano. These are good, and should serve nicely for practice, or even recording purposes.

The Organs are a bit mixed. The Jazz organ sounds authentic, and even has a simulated rotary speaker emulation that further adds to the authenticity. The Church organ unfortunately just pales in comparison, and should only be relegated for practice purposes.

The rest of the sounds are unfortunately cut from the same cloth as the pipe organ. They should be fine if you need a practice instrument, but you probably won’t be using these for live or recording situations.

There is also a noticeable lack of bass sounds, though I can understand their absence, considering the KDP75 lacks a split mode. However, this does make the KDP75 less suitable for keyboardists who need to practice left and right hand splits.

Overall, these extra sounds should primarily be considered a bonus, as the SK-EX samples are undoubtedly the star of the show.


Effects

The KDP75 comes with 2 effects, the Reverb unit, and the Brilliance effect.

A reverb unit can be used to add a sense of space to your sounds, and the KDP75 comes with 5 algorithms, ranging from small rooms to large halls. Even if you prefer to take a more hands-off approach, most sounds do come with a default reverb tuned to best suit them.

The brilliance effect serves as a basic equalizer, focusing on the high-end treble response of the KDP75’s outputs. There are 20 different levels of brightness, which should allow you to fine-tune the KDP75 to taste.

The KDP120 also comes with the Spatial Headphone Sound (SHS) effect when using headphones. This allows you to ‘move’ the virtual placement of the piano to be closer or further.

Similarly, there are also custom EQ settings designed for different headphone types, such as closed, in-ear, or open. These are accessible through the Phones Type settings.


Speakers

The KDP75 comes with dual 9W speakers, a minor upgrade over the stereo 8W speakers found on the original KDP70.

These downwards-firing speakers sound alright, delivering a clean sound as long as you don’t push the volume too high, making them perfectly fine for home-based use.

The speakers do struggle a bit at higher volumes, with the lows becoming a little bit muddy, though it does not distort.

My only problem with these speakers is that they’re not as good as the KDP120’s stereo 20W setup. While sound quality doesn’t differ significantly, the most noticeable difference for me was the dynamic range.

The KDP75’s volume difference between their loudest peaks (think fortissimo) and quiet parts (think pianissimo) is less pronounced, which ends up making the KDP75 sound less ‘expressive’.

Using the headphone outputs shows that this is a limitation of the more basic speaker setup, rather than being a symptom of the expressivity of the keys. When listening through headphones, the KDP75 sounds just as good as the KDP120.

Regardless, the KDP75’s speakers manage to do the SK-EX samples justice. There’s just a slight bit of personal preference creeping in, as we reviewed the superior KDP120 first.


Polyphony

Polyphony

What is Polyphony?
Polyphony is the number of notes a digital piano can produce at the same time.

Most contemporary digital pianos are equipped with 64, 128, 192 or 256-note polyphony.

You may wonder how it is possible to have 32, 64, or even 128 notes playing simultaneously, if there are only 88 keys and we never play them all at once.

First of all, many of today’s digital pianos use stereo samples, which sometimes require two or even more notes for each key played.

Furthermore, using the sustain pedal, sound effects (Reverb, Chorus), dual-mode (layering), and even the metronome ticking sound take up additional notes of polyphony.

For example, when you depress the sustain pedal, the earliest played notes continue to sound while you’re adding new ones and the piano needs more memory to keep all the notes sounding.

Another example of polyphony consumption is when you’re playing along with a song playback (can also be your own recorded performance) or auto-accompaniment.

In this case, the piano will need polyphony not only for the notes you’re playing but also for the backing track.

When you reach the polyphony cap, the piano starts to drop the earliest played notes to free up memory for new notes, which in turn affects the quality and fullness of the sound.

You’ll rarely need all 192 or 256 voices of polyphony at once, but there are cases when you can reach 64 or even 128 note limits, especially if you like to layer several sounds and create multi-track recordings.

It’s desirable to have at least 64 notes of polyphony.

The KDP75 has 192 notes of maximum polyphony. This is easily enough to handle any song you’d throw at it.


Conclusion on Sounds

The KDP75 sounds good, and its sonic properties are one of its strongest aspects.

The SK-EX piano samples are great, and from what I could tell, these are the same samples you’d get from the KDP120, which already hit well above its weight class. If you’re looking for a piano emulation first and foremost, the KDP75 should have you covered.

On the flipside, the KDP75 does lag behind the competition with its other sounds. 15 sounds is a bit anemic, and you might find yourself feeling a bit limited in terms of variety, especially if you’re a keyboardist who needs to practice with specific sounds.

With all that said, the KDP75 isn’t setting out to be a jack of all trades, instead, it focuses on being a good sounding, affordable piano, a goal it manages to achieve.

Features

As with most modern digital pianos, the KDP75 includes a few features that help extend their functionality beyond being a simple digital piano.

Functions

Here are a few notable settings present on the KDP75:

  • TUNING. The central tuning of the middle A can be modified in increments of 0.5 Hz, in the range of 427.0 Hz to 453.0 Hz.
  • TRANSPOSING. This allows you to change the played key within a 12-semitone range.
  • METRONOME. Plays a steady rhythm for practice purposes, tempo and time signature can be set.
  • TEMPERAMENT. Available through the Virtual Technician app. Includes Equal, Pure Major/Minor, Pythagorean, Meantone, Werckmeister and Kirnberger temperament types, with a modifiable temperament key.
  • DAMPER RESONANCE. Separate from the Virtual Technician, allowing a modifiable intensity rate for the damper resonance effect.

Most of the features on the KDP75 are accessible through the onboard controls, though I’d recommend using Kawai’s PianoRemote smartphone app instead for a more pleasant editing experience.


Modes

The KDP75 includes Dual mode and Four Hands mode.

Dual mode is commonly referred to as ‘layer mode’, and allows two sounds to be triggered simultaneously with each key press. For example, you can layer an acoustic and electric piano sound to get an otherworldly, rich tone well-suited for ballads.

Four Hands mode splits the keyboard into two equal halves, sharing the exact same octave range. This is a mode primarily used for teaching purposes, where an instructor sits alongside their student, facilitating more convenient demonstrations.

One mode that is notably absent is split mode, which allows two different sounds to be assigned to the left- and right-hand sides of the keyboard. However, I am willing to accept this compromise, as the KDP75 does not come with any bass sounds.


Song Recording

The KDP75 includes 15 demo songs, which show off each of the included presets with professionally played pieces.

There are also 5 lesson books and 40 concert magic songs included.

For your own compositions, the KDP75 allows you to record up to 3 different songs into the internal memory, each song storing approximately 10,000 notes.

To access these functions, all you need to do is hit the dedicated button on the front panel.

The KDP75’s recording is rather basic. There is no overdubbing or left- and right-hand parts, which means performances need to be nailed in a single go.

Similarly, you cannot edit recordings. For example, if you decide that you’d rather go with a concert grand instead of an E.Piano after completing a recording, you’ll need to start the whole process over.

Also, there’s no way to transfer your recordings. The KDP75 doesn’t have a USB flash drive port, so there’s no way to move things onto more permanent forms of storage.

Despite the limitations, the song recorder does serve its purpose as a scratchpad for ideas, and you can also use the KDP75’s USB MIDI functionality to do more in-depth recordings through a PC or laptop.


PianoRemote App

Kawai’s PianoRemote app is available on iOS and Android, and serves as the company’s main control app for their digital instruments. This allows you to replace the key/button combo interface with your smart device’s touchscreen.

While the app itself has bad reviews (with a 1.9/5 stars on Google Play at the time of writing), my experience wasn’t all that bad.

The app’s user interface is well-designed, with most controls being placed in conveniently accessible locations that don’t necessitate a lot of menu diving. The aesthetic looks are also pretty nice, which gives off a more welcoming feel.

Personally, I’d consider the app to be a great, free add on that helps sidestep one of my biggest gripes with the KDP75’s design, though I can definitely see how requiring a connected smart device could be considered a hassle.

Connectivity

The KDP75 also includes a few analog connections that make it possible to integrate the KDP75 into more conventional recording or performance environments. Note that there is no Bluetooth connectivity on the KDP75. It’s only available on the KDP120.

The KDP75 includes two headphone jacks to the bottom left of the keybed. The jacks are of different sizes – 1/4″ and a mini 1/8” jack, meaning most conventional headphone types are supported.

Note that the KDP75 lacks dedicated stereo outs, which means you’ll need to use the headphone jacks as an output source if you want to use external amplification.

The KDP75 also comes with a USB to Host port. This can be used to use the KDP75 as a MIDI controller for your PC, laptop or smart device. If you require more in-depth recording functionality, I’d highly recommend using this over the built-in recorder.

Do note that this does not support USB Audio, so there’s no convenient way to access the SK-EX samples during recording unless you purchase a separate audio interface.

Finally, there is a pedal jack, which is where you’ll need to plug in the triple pedal setup.

The KDP75 doesn’t have a lot of additional connectivity options, but that’s honestly fine, as it’s an all-in-one product that should work without requiring any other bells and whistles.

While I would have liked to see dedicated stereo outs, an AUX in port, or USB audio, those aren’t exclusions that affect the KDP75’s main use case.

Accessories

The default Kawai KDP75 package comes with the following accessories:

  • Owner’s manual
  • Matching bench
  • AC adaptor

The complementary bench is similar to the KDP75, it’s simple and well-built, without any extraneous bells and whistles. While it isn’t adjustable, I did find it quite comfortable during my playtest.

The KDP75 really does come as a complete package, and you don’t really need anything else to get started. However, we recommend investing in a decent pair of headphones, just in case you decide to do some late-night practice without disturbing the neighbors.

Summary

Pros
  • Affordable price
  • SK-EX concert grand samples are really good
  • RHC keybed is decent
Cons
  • Not much of an improvement over the original KDP70
  • Minimal sound selection
  • Control scheme could be better

The KDP75 isn’t a huge upgrade over the original KDP70, with most improvements coming in the form of minor design changes. That’s not necessarily a downside, as the original KDP70 sold very well thanks to its combination of competitive pricing and great sounds.

Despite Kawai’s attempt at modernizing a winning formula, I don’t think the KDP75 is as easy to recommend as the KDP70 was back in 2020. While sticking to what works tends to be a good strategy, I can’t shake the feeling that the KDP75 feels a bit outdated.

Kawai’s digital pianos have always been excellent value propositions, thanks in no small part to their beautiful piano sounds, which are some of the best piano samples you can get at the budget to intermediate price brackets.

However, other manufacturers have been catching up in this field, using the same trick of putting piano sounds from their high-end instruments into their budget instruments, managing to bridge the gap in sound quality.

The KDP120 which we reviewed recently added a few upgrades that made it more competitive in the marketplace, with a subtle change to the cushioning of its RHCII keys that made it even more comfortable to play with, making an already solid piano even better.

Meanwhile, the KDP75 only benefited from some minor quality-of-life changes, such as the upgraded speakers. However, from the perspective of being a piano replacement, nothing much has changed. This makes it harder to give the KDP75 the same glowing recommendation I gave the KDP120, which did innovate.

With all that said, the KDP75 does have one major upside, and that’s its price.

If you’re in the market for a furniture-style digital piano, the KDP75 is one of the rare options that manages to somewhat consistently be priced below the $1000 mark. This is easily enough to make me overlook some of my gripes.

All in all, the KDP75 isn’t the most exciting digital piano, but it gets the job done. It sounds good, plays well enough, and looks decent. While it’s a bit basic, it ticks all the necessary boxes to get a solid recommendation from us.

If you like the KDP75, and don’t necessarily want to be limited by price, I highly recommend checking out the KDP120, which is the same instrument, but better. It has a superior keybed in terms of feel, and its speakers are more powerful, solving my gripes about dynamic range.

Check the availability and current price of the Kawai KDP75 in your region:

US: ( What Retailer to Buy From )
Sweetwater Guitar Center Amazon

Alternatives

Kawai KDP75 vs  Yamaha YDP-145 (Full Review)

Yamaha is another piano manufacturer from Japan that has a notable pedigree in the acoustic piano space. Amongst their product lineup, the YDP-145 is the closest contemporary to Kawai’s KDP75.

The YDP-145 utilizes Yamaha’s CFX concert grand sample set with VRM Lite modelling. These sounds were ported down from Yamaha’s high-end instruments, and it definitely sounds very good, though I personally still prefer the natural tone of the KDP75’s SK-EX by a slight bit.

The YDP-145 also includes a USB audio interface, which makes it easier to use the excellent CFX samples in a recording context without requiring extra gear.

However, there are a few caveats that make the YDP-145 a bit harder to recommend.

The main complaint we had in our review was the Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) keybed. This is Yamaha’s entry level action, and it is much overdue for an upgrade. These keys feel a little sluggish compared to the KDP75’s RHC action, requiring some getting used to.

Similarly, there’s also the tiny selection of sounds. The YDP-145 only comes with 10 sounds, which is even less than the already miniscule 15 of the KDP75.

With all that said, the YDP-145 still has its merits. It sounds good, and the GHS keys are perfectly workable once you’ve gotten used to it. Its chassis design also feels a slight bit more premium than the KDP75’s basic finish.

Whether the YDP-145’s strong suits manage to sway you might depend on your own personal preferences. Sound and feel are ultimately subjective, and I’d highly recommend checking out the YDP-145 if you’re interested in the KDP75.

Note: The YDP-145 does come with a higher MSRP, and the YDP-105 might seem like the more direct competitor. However, the YDP-105 lacks the CFX sounds with VRM Lite modelling, which ultimately disqualifies it from competing with the KDP75’s SK-EX sounds.


Kawai KDP75 vs  Casio PX-770 (Full Review)

Casio is yet another digital piano manufacturer from Japan. However, unlike Kawai and Yamaha, Casio made their name in the digital piano space specifically, leveraging Casio’s expertise in electronics engineering and design.

The Casio PX-770 came out around the same time as the KDP70, but it’s still a very compelling product. It also happens to be one of the rare furniture-style digital pianos that comes in at a lower price than the KDP75.

Sound-wise, the PX-770 uses Casio’s Multi-dimensional Morphing AiR Sound Source engine, which is a decent sound engine that delivers a clear piano tone, while also including a total of 19 sounds (including a bass sound for split-mode use).

The PX-770 uses the Tri-sensor Scaled Hammer Action Keyboard II keybed, and it is a triple-sensor action, which means it’s a bit more accurate than the KDP75’s 2-sensor RHC keys, particularly with fast repetitions.

While the spec sheets might paint a picture of the PX-770 being superior, I’d say the devils are in the details.

While the PX-770 has more accurate key tracking, the key action doesn’t feel as realistic as Kawai’s RHC. They’re a bit lighter, and the rising action after you let go of a key just feels more natural with the KDP75.

Similarly, the PX-770’s piano sounds are a bit ‘narrower’ and tend to have the close-mic’d studio sound. I personally prefer the SK-EX samples for their rich tone and natural air, though sound is ultimately subjective, and some might prefer Casio’s direct sound for practice.

There’s also the price. The PX-770 has a lower MSRP, and it being older might mean units are more likely to go on sale. If you’re attracted by the KDP75’s low price tag, I’d say the PX-770 should be on your radar.


Slab-style Digital Pianos

Most of the alternatives described above assume that the price and furniture-like stylings of the KDP75 are essential to you. These following short recommendations attempt to highlight an alternative form factor.

Specifically, we’d like to highlight excellent, similarly priced slab-style digital pianos, which don’t come with piano stands or key covers, but still manage to pack a whole lot of bang for your buck in their leaner form factors.

The Roland FP-30X is a digital piano that I consider to be the baseline. Its PHA-4 Standard keybed feels excellent, managing to capture the heft of real keys, and it even comes 56 instrument sounds courtesy of the SuperNATURAL sound engine.

There’s also Kawai’s own ES120, which is basically the KDP120, but in the leaner form factor. This fixes my main issues with the KDP75, providing superior keys with Kawai’s RHCII, and even expanding the sound palette to 25 sounds (including bass sounds with a split mode).

One Response

  1. Avatar Jamie June 16, 2023

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