Yamaha and Kawai pianos are equally well made. Both companies have their best pianos made in Japan and their budget lines made in cheaper labour factories elsewhere.
So in general terms Yamaha and Kawai pianos are very similar in build quality and price but when it comes to comparing their touch and tone it becomes a matter of opinion.
In my experience (grade 7 pianist) playing various pianos for the past 30 years I’ve always found that Yamaha pianos have a more comfortable touch and a “better” tone. I use the word “better” lightly because this is only based on my own preference.
I don’t like my fingers to work too hard so I don’t like heavy keys but I also want to feel like I have control over the keys so I don’t want them too light either. For my tastes, and in my experience, I’ve always found that Yamaha pianos are more enjoyable to play.
I’ve had a piano shop since 2002 and have always focused mainly on Yamaha pianos but every couple of years I order a batch of reconditioned, high-end Kawai piano because I know they have a good reputation here in the UK and I feel that I should keep some in stock.
But each time I stock Kawai pianos I end up having to sell them at a loss because they take so long to sell and I have to crash the price to make them sell.
This isn’t necessarily a direct reflection on brand new Kawai pianos because I’ve only ever stocked reconditioned Kawai pianos so I have to allow for the possibility that new ones are amazing and reconditioned ones are lacking. That is entirely possible.
When I was a teenager I came home one day to find that Mum had bought a Kawai piano to help us get through our grades. It did an OK job but I never enjoyed playing it. The keys felt OK and the tone was OK (that’s being generous) so we were very happy when, a few years later, it disappeared and was replaced by a Yamaha U1 which feels and sounds wonderful by comparison.
So which is better, Yamaha or Kawai? Well, neither. It’s entirely down to your own tastes so the very best advice is for you to get out and play as many pianos as possible and buy the piano that you have the most fun playing.
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