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Kawai 53-Inch K-800 - Best Upright Piano Available Today?

The Kawai K-800 is one of the few “true” upright grands made today. Built in Japan entirely by Kawai, the K800 has full sostenuto, premium hand-selected spruce soundboards, premium double-felted mahogany hammers, oversized music desk, and grand-like key sticks for a super high level of accuracy and speed. With an enormous and expansive soundboard and string length longer than some baby grands, the incredible 53" Kawai K-800 Upright Piano. This is the largest in Kawai’s K professional series including the latest Millennium II action with carbon fiber components. It’s hard to find large uprights like this and we are happy to show you this awesome sounding instrument that is in a league of its own in today’s piano landscape.

The industry-leading K-800 Professional Upright Piano embodies Kawai’s long legacy of combining old-world craftsmanship and bold innovation to provide ultimate piano performance. The revolutionary Millennium III Upright Action delivers an ultra-responsive touch and feel that offers pianists extraordinary dynamic range and control. Plus, its stately cabinet design features sleek lines and delicate accents that will enhance any room. Built with performance in mind, the K-800 K Series Upright Piano will satisfy every musical requirement of the professional teaching studio or smaller performance venue.

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Kawai K-800 Upright Piano Dimensions

SPECIAL FEATURES
  • Exclusive Millennium III Upright Action with ABS-Carbon Composites
  • Agraffes ensure accuracy in string alignment, spacing and angles to produce greater uniformity, enhanced tone, smoother tuning and consistent “speaking length” for each note.
  • Full Duplex Scale (upper and lower) enhances harmonics in the treble range, adding brilliance and richness to the piano’s tone.
  • Royal George Hammer Felt
  • True Sostenuto Pedal
  • Grand-Style “Hard Finish” Music Rack
  • NEOTEX™ Key Surfaces
  • Double Felted, Mahogany Core Hammers
  • Height Adjustable Bench

Kawai K-800 Upright Piano Review Video Background:

The K800 is a 53-inch upright piano, which makes it one of the larger upright pianos available on the market regardless of what price point you’re looking at. The typical maximum size of uprights from most manufacturer’s are often 52 inches. The K-800 sits at the top of Kawai’s K-series of professional upright pianos, and it starts right at the K-200, goes through the K-300, K-400, K-500, and finally the K800 (with a K-600 and K-700 available in Europe and Asia but not North America.)

By every definition of the word, this qualifies to be called an upright grand piano. Not only is it well over 600 pounds, which means it’s heavier than quite a few of the baby grands that are on the market, but the string length, particularly in the bass, puts it in a longer bass string category than most baby grand pianos. It’s actually closer to a 5 foot plus grand in terms of the clarity that you get out of the bass. There’s also a grand piano-style music desk, which is great for composers who still prefer to work with pencil and manuscript paper as opposed to a laptop when composing.

The soundboard surface area is also larger than the vast majority of 5-foot class grand pianos. As a result of these various factors, it does put the price point well above what you would typically be thinking about for a Japanese upright piano. 

Piano Tone:

The K-800 has a robust, powerful tone. One big reason is the presence of duplex scale. Duplex scale is not common in upright pianos. The K-500 has it in the top section, while the K-800 has in the top two ranges of the keys on both the front of the string length, as well as on the back of the string length. The addition of duplex scale here in the K-800 results in all kind of extra richness in tone coming off of the treble range.

The K-800 also has full agraffes, which ensures greater uniformity of string alignment and smoother tuning over a long period of time, also not very common among uprights The overall thickness and projection of the tone is similar to that of the Kawai GX grands, such as a GX-1 or a GX-2. If you’re looking for a nice upright because you don’t have space for a grand, getting similar sounds to a grand, in the form of an upright is a pretty strong selling feature. 

Due to the large tapered, solid spruce soundboard surface area, there is a huge amount of volume coming off of this piano. Behind the grand style, hard finish music rack are tone holes, which allows some sound to travel through the front. There is also 6 back posts and 12 ribs attached to the soundboard, giving a strong responsive sound to the whole piano.

Going beyond the overall tonal power, there’s also a level of nuance and control you get when you’re playing quietly, and even without the quiet pedal it is excellent. Most large upright pianos are notorious for being a little more difficult to control in the really low volume dynamic ranges, much more so than what you see on a grand piano. This is one of the reasons why traditionally, teachers and performers generally have preferred to be in front of a grand when they get to a high level of playing because the level of control doesn’t really seem to get sacrificed as you get further down into the dynamic range as you’re pianissimo or you’re triple pianissimo. Kawai has clearly regulated and set the geometry of the action up so that everything is speaking regardless of what dynamic range you’re playing in, so you’re not having to do a lot of compensating with the soft pedal for more control in the lower ranges.

Piano Action:

Like the other models of the K-Series uprights and many Kawai pianos, the K-800 features the Kawai Millennium III upright action. This action uses a combination of natural materials as well as abs-carbon fiber-reinforced synthetic materials. The exclusive NEOTEX key surface resists cracking and fading over the years of use and is used for both the sharps and the naturals for a consistent feel across the entire keyboard.

This is a very fast action. We know that due to the presence of abs-carbon composites definitely there are some arguments to be made that this will be a lower maintenance action than some of the all-wood actions out there. The K-800 has the full sostenuto. Sostenuto is, just like the full-duplex scale we mentioned earlier, is another feature usually found exclusively on grand pianos. The true sostenuto pedal, for those who don’t know what that is, is essentially a selective sustain pedal. If I want a B flat to sustain, but only the B flat to sustain, I’d press the B flat, and then press the middle pedal. The B flat will sustain, but nothing around it will. regardless of what other notes you play. Whereas if I was using the normal sustain pedal, everything I play would sustain.

This is not common to find this on a Kawai upright. There are other uprights out there with sostenuto, and obviously, most high-end models can be special ordered with a sostenuto, but it’s really nice to have this as kind of a standard feature, at least here in Canada. The middle pedal, as some viewers might know, on an upright is usually the mute pedal. Since the middle pedal here is a sostenuto, there’s a lever underneath the left side that acts as the mute pedal, so you’re not sacrificing that function with the addition of a sostenuto.

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