Yamaha CP88 Stage Piano (Portable! Digital)

This is their stage piano released in early 2019.

1st impressions from listening to Youtube demos, and some time spent playing one through a Yamaha DXR8 PA Speaker/Monitor.

Decently sampled. Best samples of any current stage piano. if you like the sound of the instruments sampled.

A new modern and bright sound (not too sure how much the DXR 8 contributed to the impression of brightness). I think in general the challenge with a lot of audio is the quality of playback however good the samples/programming.

My personal thoughts – many revered speakers, when I hear them, leave a lot to be desired. I did check to ensure that there were no EQ contours on the DXR8 modifying the sound. I do wish I could review this keyboard in my studio.

Acoustic. Direct. In your face, close miked – which is great, definitely preferred to the previous model the CP4 which sounded a bit indistinct and distant. It’s easier to add room sound than attempt to expunge it, from a sample.. The initial patches veer abit too much in the stark presentation of clinical samples, but these need some life, added to them to make them into real instruments, coupling with the air and complementary reflections.

Definitely a great idea – having the one function per control layout, without having to dig into a menu for most things (like their CP1 and CP4). So much more approachable.

A bit scared that the vintage looking rocker switches, for turning on/off each of the three sections (acoustic piano, electric piano, and other sounds) with little metal sticks, poking up from the keyboard front panel, may get damaged in transit – pretty rare to see such switches in modern keyboards../audio kit. Definitely makes them look unique. Retro.

OK Keyboard/Keybed. Hitting the higher velocities on many a Yamaha Keyboard does require some heft/welly/downforce.. and sometimes I wonder – is this a character of the Yamaha acoustic grands – not sure, it does take a bit of getting used to. I think with this keyboard I must admit there is a Yamaha keybed approach which has a thunk at the end of its travel, in comparison to the Roland keybed which has a bit of a bounce at the end of its travel. We are spoiled for choice, and have the luxury to bicker about these variations….I recall the days of lusting after a Yamaha PSR with mini keys which probably had only 4 octaves, and even that was pretty unaffordable…

As sampled, I would have loved a bit more difference in tone between the softest and loudest piano tones on the core CFX patch.. making this patch more multipurpose, a single piano that you could pretty much use for anything. The CFX tone seems a bit skewed towards classical repertoire, and the bright forte end of this spectrum, not my forte.

Sadly it did not take my breath away, and transport me to another world, the beautiful samples kept me rooted in a reality – here and now.

And then it begs the question – why music? I think a lot of music (voices, sounds, melodies, progressions) takes us into another place, away from every day reality. Pretty sure that with some effort one could program as much modulation as needed, using the provided effects, (and or external effects) to take the piano sounds into sonic nirvana land. I recall the 1st time I ever heard a DX7 played live.that electric piano variant…That is what a superb instrument should do, open the door to a new world…

In contrast – the programming on older keyboards like the Motif derived MOX8, have some of this escapism programmed into the DNA of their patches(via a combination of the samples and effects). I recall being able with very little polyphony (fewer fingered chords) to make a joyful evocative sound on the MOX8.

In contrast – there’s a wonderful electric piano patch on the Roland RD2000 which takes you into this other world and until you’ve had your fill and drunk from its excesses, you are imprisoned by its magic, and by the memory thereafter – Just for this one patch the RD2000 is worth it, especially as this sound is so unique – and unobtainable on any other keyboard.

Sadly my 1st encounter with the Yamaha CP88, played back via a Yamaha DXR 8, did not endear it to me as a prime candidate for my daily use. Great sounds, but they did not add up to a superb instrument that captivated me enough to play it for hours…- Something that the Roland LX-17 does…with ease. And which the previous Roland LX-15 oozed with an even grander darker envelope of immersive sound. The LX-15 and LX-17, I could sit and play for hours….with ease and undivided attention.

Digital pianos are definitely getting brighter, the new Roland LX-708 was way too bright, and most of its pianos disappointing, which I auditioned on the same day as the Yamaha CP88… Seriously – who is behind product design in these global businesses – do they actually play piano or love the piano? Value wise, the ROland LX-708 is not great and has only one decent acoustic piano sound, which itself is already a bit too bright, and the other pianos excruciatingly even brighter still…

A challenge with instruments such as the CP88, which need external amplification, with each different speaker you get a new version of the sound, so your impression depends on what you are listening through. What a wonderful idea it would be if Yamaha also designed a very specific monitor for this keyboard, through which you could hear it 100% as intended…removing some of the variability of the sonics.

Part of the challenge is the quality of really well sampled alternatives in software from the likes of Spectrasonics, Vilabs, Synthogy, Production Voices, and others, which subjectively or objectively take sonics to another level in both reality and evocative response, with even greater tweakability and unlimited options for enhancing the sound all in the box, using in-built effects or external plugins. And then there are the various CFX samples by Vienna Symphonic Library, Native Instruments, and Garrittan.

Even with real acoustic pianos of the same model, they do not sound the same. So its now a question of which CFX sample do I like the most – CFX by Yamaha’s or CFX by another sampled product manufacturer?

Is this a consequence of product design by committee, consensus, surveys, obtaining feedback from dealer networks, without speaking to the musicians and aspiring musicians who want to be enthralled by the sound and touch and looks? The Yamaha CP88 ticks all the boxes, yet the sound did not tug at my heartstrings…

Because it’s a Yamaha – another audition is on the cards. We’ll see.

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