Speakers for High-End Digital Piano


I have a high-end digital piano (Kawai MP8II). The keyboard is in a dedicated living room with a hardwood floor, couch, chairs, windows (no drapes) and high-ceiling. The room (approx 800 sq ft) can seat about 15 people. Uses: for solo piano playing (classical, some jazz/contemporary) and classical chamber music. Requirements -- speakers that would produce warm acoustic realism to hypersampled piano sounds (i'm using Ivory II American Concert Steinway D & Kawai EX Pro). I have tested several active/powered speakers (Mackie, JBL, Yamaha) and have not found them satisfactory.

Two questions:

1. Which mid to high-end floor-standing speakers would you recommend (budget is $4,000).
2. What kind of peripherals would I need (e.g., cables, amplifier, etc) to connect the digital piano to the speakers. The piano outputs have "R, L/mono" and fixed XLR R & L.
Adam powered monitors are very high quality and much less than your price range. I dont think a warm hi fi system to power the kawai will sound the way you want - they arent made for the type of dynamics you will likely produce playing live and the texture of the sound may be off - as much as we talk dynamics in the forum, the audio engineer who mixes or masters the recordings we hear on hi fi systems does level out the sound quite a bit. Give some good powered monitors a try and you may be surprised.
This is a tough one. I have a Kawai digital piano, too (really nice keyboard feel) and I've used Carver cinema ribbons run full range with a sub for the bottom end. The Carvers roll off naturally at about 90 cycles in my room and are IMHO one of the few speakers that hands off nicely to a sub without an active crossover. I ran the RCA outs to the subwoofer and the full range output from the sub to the Carvers. I also used a corner bass trap between the piano and the corner it straddled.

This isn't a set-up I'd use for hi fi reproduction, but it worked very well for this application. OTOH....

While the sound is "crisper" and more dynamic than the internal electronics in the Kawai, you lose the resonance of the piano's "box" and the feel that comes back to you thru the instrument. These days, I generally use the internal set-up, although the external system is still there. On the rare occasions that my wife or daughter play for an audience (something I'd never do) we may activate the external system.

Good luck.
Can you say in what way the active speakers you tested were not satisfactory?

And can you provide what models of active speakers you tested?
Maybe the active pro monitors just needed to be bigger? Those brands are popular for your application.
Is considering a refurbished acoustic piano out of the question?

With a $4K budget (plus the $600-$800 you could add by selling the Kawai) you should be able to obtain a nice instrument.

I would not purchase hifi speakers to amplify a sampled piano. Check out Barbetta keyboard amps. They sound like high-end studio monitors and reproduce keyboard sounds incredibly well. The secret is to use two amps, which will give the piano a spacious, realistic sound. Trust me on this one.

Thanks for your responses.

The digital keyboard is my second keyboard (i think it's a keeper; no plan to sell it). I actually own a fabulous Mason & Hamlin 7' BB, too. So, i don't need another acoutic piano. I'd like to give the Kawai keyboard an upgraded speaker (primarily because I wish to enjoy the full potential of the Ivory II sampled Steinway and Kawai EX Pro that I got. I was able to test out 3 brands (not remembering the exact model name) that my friends loaned me -- a Mackie, a JBL Eon, and a Yamaha XDR. I think they're appropriate for a 'different' space (not my living room) and for pop/rock music genre, in my opinion. I am looking for speakers that would give me a rich, elegant, room-filling sound (but not harsh or heavy loud or sterile/canned piano sound especially when i play in the high registers). I am aware that it's impossible to fool the ears completely when listening to sampled piano sounds, but i'm curious to know which brands/speakers could actually come close to what I'm looking for.

I have received some suggestions from other forums -- Genelec, Event Opal, Legacy Studio HD/Expressions, Aperion audio, Dynaudio and Focus. Any thoughts on them? I'm not familiar with them, but I suppose i have to actually hear them first (when i find local dealers).

This is an interesting question.

I have a Steinway M, but with a MIDI strip, so it can also be used with a synthesizer as a "high end digital piano."

Over the years, I have experimented with a lot of things, including Audio Research and Levinson into my Tympanis, thinking it would be wonderful, warm, room filling and more natural to hear the digital piano this way.

In the end, however, this was not satisfying at all and I used active Genelec monitors sitting on top of the piano for best results.

Although a bit forward relative to my usual hi fi taste, there was something about 1) the active configuration, 2) clarity of the biamping and 3) the ability of those speakers to attack and sound dynamic that made them more fun to play with the digital synthesizer.

This was true whether for acoustic piano sounds or for more contemporary synthesized sounds.

Also, on top of the piano gave a better illusion that the sound was actually coming from the piano, rather than from a stereo in the room. For me, this proved to be as or more important than the actual sound.

So I would agree with Chayro and others!

Enjoy your pianos, but you could spend your money on other things.
The twin Barbettas will give the piano the weight of a real piano, which is substantial. You know this, as you actually know the sound and feel of the live instrument. Yes, you can reproduce the sound of a piano or a drumkit though a set of studio monitors, but they will never reproduce the acoustic weight of the real thing.
Chayro is right on target. I don't think you could do much better.
In my earlier post I didn't mention that I've also tried 3 way M-Audio powered monitors with the piano. They didn't work as well as the Carver/sub set-up, so the powered monitors went back to my studio where they do yeoman's work. I agree that both external systems I tries sounded too forward for my taste, hence (along with the "feel" issue) my decision to generally use the Kawai's internal system, it's deficiencies notwithstanding.

Chayro's suggestion re: Barbetta intrigued me, so I visited their web site. Yikes! that be some really bad web design, right there. The good news is that the company appears to be reasonably close to my home, so maybe I'll be able to visit and check the products out. I'll report back with my impressions if that happens.
The JBL Eon is a live event speaker. I assume the others are as well. I've only heard the Eon once, in a live situation, and I would not describe that event as rich or elegant. It was quite punchy and lively.

I don't think Genelec would be what you're looking for. Dynaudio or Focal would be more in line with your description. I would also suggest the Neumann KH 310A http://www.neumann-kh-line.com/neumann-kh/home_en.nsf/root/prof-monitoring_studio-monitors_nearfield-monitors_KH310A

You can read a review here: http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/oct13/articles/neuman-kh310a.htm
I am very familiar with the Eon as a stage monitor and FOH PA. The ridiculous max SPL of the system (1000 watts behind 15" woofers, IIRC) is impressive, but....

I'd guess that it would be a very bad solution for amplifying solo piano. It's all punch and bark - a rock band will sound like a rock band - but it sure ain't designed with piano in mind. I suppose that, in a rock band setting - with much of the the left hand passed off to the bass player - it might work okay, but for solo piano, I personally wouldn't go there. Just the wrong tool for the job, IMO.