Kawai VPC1

    Virtual Piano Controller

    This piano MIDI controller is probably the crown of the Piano-MIDI controllers. It's the first time in my life that I do not feel insulted and betrayed by every touch, every stroke of a MIDI keyboard. No grand piano - but: this keyboard is really "playable". Chapeau, Kawai!

    The "Ivory Feel" coating feels good and the pressure points of the keys are clearly noticeable (a bit later than with acoustic instruments). Its own velocity curves make the instrument easy to adjust. Thanks to a mechanism with triple sensor technology, a piano-typical playing style is also better implemented electronically - thus the repetition mechanism with half the key height is emulated for the repetition. Here is the only weakness of the VPC1 call: the repetition speed is somewhat limited, super fast repetitions are not so easy to implement. It feels more like a mechanical problem - maybe it will be better if the keyboard is operating well together...

  • The VPC1 is different, it also has no Fatar (On/Off) keyboard [in fact, there are a lot of different Fatar keyboards in different qualities that are built into most keyboards]. This keyboard is from the house of the piano maker Kawai. It has three sensors and uses weighted hammers.

    Now only half as expensive as the market introduction price, the excellent Kawai VPC1 has become much more affordable.




    Two "little things" are usually negatively discussed: on the one hand, the really unfortunate On / Off Knob and on the other hand, the curved surface, reminiscent of the problem of the Fender Rhodes MkI - but much less extreme. If e.g. a synth is to be placed on the VPC1, it is advisable to tinker something, for giving the synth a stable grip. I think with very little foam and non-slip rubber coating, it's relatively easy to make something.

    The VPC1 comes with a 3-pedal, which is very praiseworthy, but it is unfortunately a lightweight construction - therefore it also slips away - it actually moves permanently. For me (shoe size 49), the pedals are also a bit small and way too smooth. Maybe there is a better somewhere ... (standard TS and TRS connections). Strange that the pedal drops off in quality so much to the keyboard.

    Nevertheless, everything was done right, Kawai! It's the top - and there's still some room for improvement! Ok - there's the Ravenworks Kawai VPC1 (like AMG-Mercedes), a completely redesigned, modified VPC1, but with over € 6000.- not quite in my focus. It would be nice ...


    Of course, the VPC1 has no controls, pitch bend, pads or something like that - it's a piano controller. Also, there are no built-in sounds (thanks!) - Instead, Velocity presets for many popular software pianos here. This is really hospitable. Very, very well done, Kawai.

    The instrument is made of wood and metal - it feels really good on the whole - much like a piano - even better: almost like a (very smooth) grand piano. The own touch can be easily adjusted - in this process, the Velocity curve is a great help. The wooden keys and the fainted sound of the returning keys - all that is just wonderful!

    The Kawai VPC1 has completely changed my assessment of MIDI keyboards. It's a pleasure to play on it. In conjunction with contemporary software, there are far more nuances to play out than on conventional MIDI keyboards.



    Kawai VPC1 Website



    Two more experiences

    1. It is very hard to figure out which keyboards are installed in which instruments. An example: The Nord Stage 3 (4000.-) simply has the "best" keyboard, say one. The Doepfer LMK4 + 88 (1500.-) is even better, write the next - I found out that both the Nord Stage 3 and the LMK4 + 88, as well as the "cheap" PK88 GH (850.-), use the same keyboard - which is, namely the TP/40GH from Fatar. It was evaluated only because of the aesthetic stimulation and the electronic implementation of the velocity values - so only about electronics and their own reaction to the design (!) - It was all about the keyboard! This is a complete failure on the entire test front (magazines not excluded).

    I recommend to anyone who wants to buy a new keyboard and is working with Max, to program his own layers and creating Velocity curves, exploring exactly which keyboard is installed inside the desired instrument - you'll pay the difference just for the electronics and design!! After all, in this case, a range of 3150.- Euro. For the price of a Nord Stage 3 you can buy 5 Doepfer PK88 - it has the identical keyboard. Then you can deposit the 5 PK88 at your 5 favorite places and don't need to transport them!!

    _______________________

    2. I bought my Kawai VPC1 as a "return" for 1150.- (instead of 1300.-). Not only that the cardboard and the Styrofoam were extremely damaged and partially broken - there was also a (electronicly) broken key. Packing up and sending back a 140cm/30kg keyboard is no real pleasure (child coffin) - even on pickup. I was lucky and got a new exchange model.

    With such heavy instruments, "return" is more than with smaller devices. Every shipment is a critical load and many customers are unmerciful at unpacking and - especially with large instruments - untrained. There is a threshold. Maybe the savings are not worth it.

    Editor-Software


    On the right is a look at the included VPC Editor. Also the firmware of the connected instrument is recognized (and updated?). The software is available for Mac and Win. A second program called VPCPedalCalibration is also included.

    For me, "the package" has been absolutely successful! There is nothing that I do not need or do not want, like sounds or stub-plastic controllers. Such things have bothered me a great deal in building a personal relationship to many instruments in the past. Fortunately, there is no complicated MIDI architecture! If I want to program layers, I do that with software - preferably Max. I hate programming these mini panels in most instruments, and I'm glad the VPC1 spares me those kinds of things. Also, omitting these things should have affected the selling price (positive for customers).



    VST Instruments

    Pianoteq 6 Stage

    First I played the VPC1 exclusively with Pianoteq 6 Stage. Even if Pianoteq does not sound as perfect as some sample libraries, the dynamic game is very appealing - it behaves largely like an acoustic instrument. Also the "Electric Instrument Pack" is very good. A strange (but good) experience playing Rhodes sounds on such a good keyboard. The software takes up very little space and resources.

    Pianoteq offers a lot of setting options and with a bit of patience one can work through it. Unfortunately, since version 6, the microtuning for the cheaper stage version is no longer there - but I do anyway with Max.



    Ravenscroft 275

    Finally, I also bought the Ravenscroft 275 from VI Labs. It is a sample library of the large (acoustic) Ravenscroft 275 grand piano - the top model of that very piano maker, who also offers the perfected version of the VPC1.. This piano consists of 17,000 samples! There are also countless ways to vary the sound. 5.8 GB are needed on the hard disk.

    The sound is actually more balanced and simply better than Pianoteq, but playing does not provide as much fun right now as Pianoteq does - the "keyboard" connection does not feel so natural. Everything is a bit static. The dynamic transitions are still unsatisfactory. So I'll have to worry about the velocity curves first. More soon.


    Transport



    The Kawai VPC1 weighs 29.5kg and is already at the upper limit of what a person can move. The dimensions reinforce this aspect (... 30kg power amplifiers in 19 inches are there unproblematic). That's why I think an Ata case, such as the model offered by RavenworksDigital for a mere $ 2000.-, only makes sense when roadies and trucks with ramps are involved. The filled box should weigh well over 60 kg!

    I prefer a softbag with wheels for 200.-. Ideal for solo transport. Sufficiently padded and not unnecessarily heavy. With the soft bag, the question of transportability is answered for me: better 30kg for the best keyboard available, than 20-25kg for an "average" keyboard - that also have weighted wooden keys.

    Stand



    If the VPC1 is to be transported, the (mobile) table plays an essential role! It is not easy to find a stand that is wide enough, safe, not too complicated, or looks awful.

    Even after browsing the VPC1 forums it was not better - most stands are visually a disaster and also expensive. In the basement, I still had an ancient "T"-stand and it turned out to be one of the best available solutions. If the legs are put in a distance of 33cm, the table reaches a width of 124cm. (The VPC1 is 138cm wide.)

    It's a Quiklok WS-550.



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