5

I am looking at purchasing a digital piano for a young student. We do not need it to be mobile.

From pictures, many of the digital pianos in our budget (sub $3000) look like they have the same form-factor as a small upright piano (e.g. the Kawaii CA- range). But on close observation of assembly/unboxing videos, I notice the bottom part below the keyboard isn't actually a box/cabinet, but just a simple board.

               | <-- sheet music stand
              _______________ <-- top of piano
keys -->   --/               |
           \_\______________ |
                            ||
                            ||
                            ||
                            ||
                            || <--back wall is just a piece of wood
                            ||
                            ||
                            ||
                            ||
================================= <--floor

When purchasing a digital piano, is there some advantage gained if the piano actually has a cabinet space below the keyboard?

5
  • 1
    None. It's purely to make it look more like an acoustic piano.
    – Aaron
    Jan 11 at 19:42
  • 1
    I'd add that the price difference is more on the actual mechanics parts (how they are, behave and feel similar to an actual piano), and less on the electronic components that are responsible of synthesizing the sound (both hardware and software), and, finally, the PA system, which is usually way less considered than the above aspects. Jan 11 at 19:48
  • One minor point: if your young student uses a pedal stool, consider the position of the piano pedals relative to that back wall. If it's not the same as the position of the pedals on an acoustic piano relative to the cabinet, you may have trouble finding a stool that works well with your piano...
    – Micah
    Jan 12 at 5:54
  • My digital doesn't even have a back wall, just 2 legs on the sides and a bar across the bottom for the pedals. The sound is nearly as good as the acoustic one in the other room - better in some cases since it never needs tuning. (And 1 person can transport it without assistance in a regular car, while the acoustic requires at least 4 and a moving van.) Jan 12 at 14:46
  • If that were a desk, the "back wall" would be termed a modesty panel. I leave it to other readers to consider whether that makes players of grand pianos immodest. Jan 12 at 21:14
9

Not really.

Most of the resonance in a digital piano is "faked" - that doesn't mean it can't be good, just that it doesn't rely on actual cabinet resonance to make it sound "real". Some pianos have really complex algorithms to make up this virtual space; others don't. A lot of this is dependant on price point. Three grand ought to be getting into the realms of 'pretty darn good'.

Having said that - there are many degrees of realism provided by different models & manufacturers and ultimately you need to go play them & hear them to see which you prefer.

3
  • Most of the resonance in a digital piano is "faked"? This confuses me--what resonance is meant here, and what parts of that are fake and what real?
    – smcs
    Jan 12 at 17:11
  • MDF doesn't have much useful resonance when it comes to piano bodies. These instruments are all dependant on getting the piano sound pretty much directly from a set of samples played over speakers, so all the "real" piano resonance must either be sampled or calculated on the fly. The more you pay, the better it's calculated.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 12 at 17:15
  • Agreed. I think your answer would be much clearer if it started with "no, all the resonance in a digital piano is fake".
    – smcs
    Jan 12 at 18:36
9

I'm going to post a counter-opinion and say it does matter. Not because that fake structure makes any difference to the sound of the piano - it doesn't. But...

We do not need it to be mobile

I'm not sure that's necessarily a good call. If your young student is going to grow up and might want to take the piano with them, a digital piano with all the fake woodwork is not very practical to move around. And if your reason for buying a digital piano instead of a real one is to save space in your house, it's way more convenient if you can fold the piano down and stash it under a bed if you've got guests.

A stage piano without all the fake woodwork bolted to it, and with a good collapsible stand and collapsible piano stool, is likely to be a better call generally in both those cases. By all means leave it assembled and ready to play, most of the time. But it gives you options which the "cabinet" one doesn't.

For a young student, a stage piano also has a massive advantage ergonomically. The piano and stool can be lowered to their height - they don't have to perch on a too-high stool with their feet dangling in mid-air. Don't underestimate the impact of simple physical discomfort on how much someone wants to practise.

And lastly of course, with a stage piano you're only paying for the actual instrument. With digital pianos in cabinets, a significant chunk of your money is paying for the cabinet. If you're looking for a musical instrument and not a piece of furniture, spend the money on the musical instrument.

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  • 1
    By sacrificing the large non-portable case, you are also sacrificing sound quality. A stage piano is designed to sound its best over a PA, not in a living room. Second point, a stage piano set up in a living room will attract the "when are you going to put that away?" mother-questioning. It's not furniture that suits the environment, it's a piece of work machinery best out of sight.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 12 at 17:29
  • 1
    @Tetsujin You actually made me laugh imagining that situation.
    – Clockwork
    Jan 12 at 17:54
  • 1
    @Clockwork - as a result of which [partner rather than mother at my age] I have a portable in the workroom & a 'piece of furniture' in the living room ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 12 at 17:56
  • 1
    Adequate doesn't seem to be what the OP is looking for. The OP wants a piece of furniture & stated it didn't need to be mobile. I'd be pretty sure the OP's pupil's mother will want a piece of furniture too. Add a combo to the stage piano & X-frame combination… & see how long it stays in the living room.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 12 at 18:59
  • 1
    @Tetsujin As for the second point, that was where I intentionally asked whether they wanted an instrument or furniture. TBH though, if their mother sees an instrument as just clutter then the kid likely has bigger obstacles to learning than just the choice of instrument. My own house is full of guitars and other instruments though, so perhaps I'm not your typical parent. :)
    – Graham
    Jan 12 at 19:01
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If the space is just a void, then as per Tetsujin's answer, there's unlikely to be a major benefit to it. However, some pianos with the same form-factor as a small upright piano will have speaker systems with some drivers in the body of the instrument below the keyboard - Pictured below as just one example is the Roland LX708. It's possible that you may like the sound of some of the instruments with this kind of speaker configuration.

lx708

lx708 speakers

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  • 1
    The space being “just a void” doesn't really imply that it's unlikely to matter. Jan 12 at 5:21
  • @leftaroundabout maybe we need another answer explaining why..?
    – topo morto
    Jan 12 at 7:56
  • Some of these "acoustic upright" alike actually have speakers integrated to a soundboard too, if I remember.
    – Clockwork
    Jan 12 at 15:18
0

I have a Kawai CE-200, it doesn't have a cabinet but it sounds and plays amazingly. It's very stable and I've never had a problem with it!

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