Kawai is a name often associated with luxury pianos, and rightly so. However, they also produce some affordable instruments that still carry that Kawai name well.
In this review, I’m taking a look at the ES110, an 88-key stage piano that looks to deliver the sought-after Kawai sound in a lightweight and affordable package.
About the author
- 88 weighted keys
- 192-note polyphony
- built-in speakers
- 19 voices
- dual headphone jack
- damper pedal
Final verdict on the Kawai ES110
I love the ES110; it’s simple. There are a few minor complaints, but that’s to be expected with most keyboards in the price range. If you buy the ES110 for the grand piano experience, you won’t be disappointed at all. It sounds exceptional, feels excellent, and it’s portable.
What I like
- Stunning Kawai concert grand sound.
- Realistic graded hammer-action keys.
- Three song recorder.
- Two headphone jacks.
What I don’t like
- No USB.
Note: Newer model
The ES110 portable digital piano has been discontinued by Kawai. The new ES120 comes with some slight enhancements, including USB MIDI. Read the full Kawai ES120 review for more information on the successor.
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If there is one prominent reason for buying the Kawai ES110, it’s the sound quality. Before I say how great it is, I should say that it’s normal for players sometimes to prefer pianos from a specific manufacturer. So, in that sense, it’s hard to say that Kawai, Yamaha, or any single manufacturer does it best.
However, there is something special about the sound of a Kawai stage piano. The way it captures every nuance of your performance is inspiring. The grand piano tones are some of the most detailed, articulate, and expressive around.
There are 19 voices in total, eight of which are pianos. The other voices are lovely, but for me, it’s all about the pianos. The ES110 has a max polyphony of 192 notes.
Dual 7-watt amplifiers power the stereo speaker system. Despite not being the most powerful speaker system in its class, it’s amongst the most articulate. To be honest, that’s the most important thing because the grand piano sound is so good, you don’t want to lose any of it through an inferior speaker system.
The ES110 has graded hammer-action keys, which means different keyboard zones have different weights. The keyboard’s feel is very realistic and helps get the most out of the beautiful piano sounds. It could be even better with a synthetic ebony and ivory feel, but it still feels premium enough.
More importantly, it’s incredibly responsive, which means you can play with greater control of dynamics. Kawai has done a stellar job in getting just the right weight for the keys, too.
The ES110 has some attractive features, most of which are centered around enhancing the grand piano experience.
Harmonic Imaging technology
As I mentioned above, Kawai is known for luxury grand pianos, and Harmonic Imaging technology helps deliver that luxurious sound to the ES110.
This technology is exclusive to Kawai, and it captures and recreates the sound of a hand-made concert grand in stunning detail. It’s one of the reasons that Kawai stage pianos are known to be some of the most expressive.
Dual and Split modes
Dual mode is a common but valuable feature found on many stage pianos. When active, it creates two equal ranges on the keyboard for student/teacher playing.
Split mode also creates two ranges on the keyboard, but each has a different voice, and it’s a great way to practice playing basslines.
The ES110 comes with an F-10H damper pedal. Half-damper support means you can more accurately control the sustain you apply by increasing or decreasing how far you press the pedal.
Built-in reverb types
The ES110 doesn’t have much in the way of built-in effects, but it does have several reverb types, including Room, Small Hall, and Concert Hall. All three types are pretty convincing, with none of them being overbearing.
As part of the realistic grand piano experience, the ES110 mimics the mechanical noises that come from a real acoustic piano. It mimics damper resonance/noise and fall-back noise.
It’s a pretty standard feature these days, but you’ll find it’s too intrusive on some cheaper keyboard pianos and can’t always be turned down. The ES110 does it in a way that you don’t always notice it, and begin to take it for granted, which means it’s more natural.
Kawai has included some onboard classical music lessons to help you progress from beginner to intermediate. Even if classical music isn’t your focus, these pieces will dramatically improve your technique.
The onboard recorder is a slight step up from a lot of keyboards in the $1000 price range. With many offering just one song, the ES110 lets you record three songs at up to 15,000 notes. It’s ideal for laying down ideas without a computer or recording more complex performances.
The ES110 has a pretty minimalist layout that makes it easy to use for players of all levels. Like many similar pianos, you have to cycle through voices, but there aren’t too many, so it’s not a big deal.
A very slight complaint is the horizontal volume control. It might not bother some players, but vertical sliders are usually more intuitive when controlling levels. As a practice piano at home, it’s faultless, although not having USB connectivity may bother some home studio users.
I covered a few slight negatives there, but other than that, it’s faultless. It’s a perfect practice piano at home and the ideal stage piano for anyone who doesn’t need lots of sounds. If using it on stage, you can even leave the built-in speakers on for monitoring while you send audio through the stereo outputs.
Because the ES110 is so slim, it doesn’t have the appearance of a robust instrument. Until you see the depth of the case, it looks similar to an 88-key keyboard controller. Everything feels much more secure than a cheaper keyboard controller on closer inspection; no significant concerns.
The only consideration is that, like all lightweight keyboard pianos, it’s not built like a tank. You won’t need to wrap it up in cotton wool, but don’t chuck it in the back of the van without care, either.
Connectivity is a mixed bag with the ES110. It has two 1/4-inch headphone jacks, two 1/4-inch audio outputs, Bluetooth, and MIDI in/out. That’s all great and more than some similar pianos offer.
There is a but, and it’s that it has no USB connectivity. It won’t bother everyone, but many users will miss the ease of USB MIDI.
Compared to other keyboard pianos
The Kawai ES110 is a great-quality keyboard piano. It sits right around $1000, which means you aren’t short of options. Here are a few of my favorites.
Kawai ES110 vs Yamaha P-125
The P-125 is a very popular choice for bands, students, and performers. It’s a close call; it might lack a little magic of the Kawai concert grand sound, but it’s a personal preference.
Kawai ES110 vs Casio PX-S3100
The PX-S3100 wins hands down on versatility with over 700 voices. It’s also super-stylish, but it doesn’t quite match the Kawai piano sound.
Kawai ES110 vs Roland FP-30X
Roland FP keyboards have been around for a long time because they are affordable and reliable. It’s not better than the ES110, in my opinion, but if you prefer the Roland sound, it’s a viable option.
Who is the Kawai ES110 best suited for?
It suits professional pianists as a practice instrument or stage piano, and it’s also great for beginners who are serious about learning piano. The lack of USB means it’s not the most convenient choice for home studio (DAW) producers.
Note: The ES110 is discontinued and is out of stock in most places, so be sure to check out its successor here.