What’s improved on the CLP-700 series compared to the CLP-600 series Clavinovas?
Find out from "one of the guys" that has introduced almost every Clavinova ever made: Craig Knudsen.
Craig has played an integral part in the Clavinova series development since the brand name’s inception in 1983, and the upgrades he describes below makes it easy to understand why we’ve arrived at a uniform conclusion: we can’t believe this thing is digital!
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A BEAUTIFUL CHANGE OF KEY for CLP-700
Clavinovas come in three different overall series: CLP, CVP, and CSP. Every few years they are re-introduced in a staggered fashion, and in 2020, it’s CLP’s turn. I’ve got to say, in all my years of working with YAMAHA Clavinvoas and introducing them to the US market, this is the most significant number of changes I have ever seen for CLPs. Let’s get right to it!
Years ago, I remember sharing with the audience at a Clavinova introduction event that 67% percent of all Clavinovas end not in the den or the family room, but in the living room. This means that the cabinet of the Clavinova is important to people as a piece of furniture. The new CLP-700 series now features curved legs on all models, making their placement a little less “boxy” looking wherever you place the piano in your home. They’ve also introduced a beautiful white finish to the CLP 735/745 models.
Speaking of cosmetic updates, the upper echelon of the series feature a new Touch Sensor Control Panel that only displays text when it is touched. Once you’ve finished selecting your voices, the control panel automatically turns off and disappears into the cabinet with the smooth finish of a piano keyblock.
In keeping with aesthetic and traditional appearance, even the little red glowing “pilot light” (indicating that the piano is “ON”) has been removed from the front cabinet so that the piano looks more like an acoustic instrument when placed in any room of your home.
ALL NEW WORLD CLASS PIANO SAMPLES
The CLP-700 series boasts all-new samples of the all-important main piano sound (CFX Yamaha 9-foot concert grand) and the Bösendorfer Imperial (YAMAHA purchased Bösendorfer in 2008). Amazingly, the last generation CLP-600 series also had new samples of these pianos, so I was pleasantly surprised they did it again on the 700 series. This was necessary because the process of sampling was highly improved to include more levels of samples per note for higher resolution expressiveness in each new model.
BETTER DISPERSION OF SOUND
There is a reason Clavinovas are the best-selling digital piano in the world: YAMAHA is always looking for ways to push the innovative envelope further, and they are never content with “good enough.” That being said, there has always been an issue I have been aware of that has been difficult to address: the sound is somewhat different for the person sitting on the bench than for someone in the room listening.
Now, let's face it: there is going to always be a difference in the sound experienced, whether up close or far away. However, engineers recognized that the energy center of most of the speakers was below the keyboard, thereby somewhat bypassing the ears of the person sitting at the bench. Through a variety of different methods (changing speaker positions, adding transducers above the keyboard to increase spatial projection and more), the energy center on the new CLP-700 series is raised higher in the instrument. This allows everyone to hear a more balanced and similar sound, whether you are on the bench or listening in the room. (In case you’ve ever wondered why YAMAHA got into the Home Theatre and speaker business years ago, now you know why! It helped them improve the sound systems for their electronic and digital keyboards. Oh, and yes, it was YAMAHA who came up with the name “Hi-Fi” to describe a new audio product in 1954.)
To top it all off, YAMAHA added a 3-Band Graphic Equalizer to the CLP-700 series. Combining this feature with all of the other updates to the sound system means that the expanded customization options at your fingertips will be experienced at the same, high-quality level for all.
HEADPHONES versus SPEAKERS
As you may know, you can either listen to the Clavinova with headphones or through its own speaker system. What many people don’t know is that the Clavinova automatically switches to a different set of piano samples when you plug in headphones. In the previous series, the pianos were sampled at different times under different conditions, resulting in a slightly different character of piano when listening through headphones versus speakers. Now, on the CLP-700 series, it is the same piano recorded at the same time, but with different microphones.
The sampling process used for recording the piano for headphones is called “binaural sampling.” Binaural sampling is a method of recording sound that uses two microphones, arranged with the intent to create a 3-D stereo sound sensation for the listener that emulates actually being in the room with the performers or instruments. At YAMAHA, binaural sampling is captured by using a microphone in the shape of a human head, with stereo microphones in the positions of the ears to get these samples. The result is an image of sound that feels like you are sitting at the piano. I’ve often noticed the sound is so natural to people trying out the headphones on a CLP that they will take off the headphones and ask if I am also hearing them play, and then they play a few notes on the keyboard with headphones off to make sure they weren’t playing out loud. Instances like this are always good for a chuckle but are also a powerful testament as to how real it sounds!
WHERE THE ACTION IS
The action on a piano is like a sea-saw with a fulcrum in the middle; when you push down the front of the key with your finger, the back of the key goes up. On previous CLP models (CLP-635/645) the fulcrum point was the same length for the short black keys and the longer white keys, resulting in the black keys being harder to push down. (Imagine a shorter sea-saw.) The new CLP-700 series features the new GrandTouch-S Keyboard, where the fulcrum point has been separated between white and black keys to make them feel more balanced like an acoustic piano. There is also a new “key stop” position as well as material that gets rid of the “thud” sound you often hear on digital pianos when playing with headphones. As if that wasn’t enough, there is even a new escapement design so that you can produce that authentic feeling of the “jack slipping off the knuckle” that you experience in the action of an acoustic piano.
The CLP-700 series also has improved “key release” samples -- if you release the key slowly, the sound lingers a little longer than if you release the key quickly. For comparison, all other manufactures pay attention to the ATTACK of the notes, switching to different samples when you play at different velocities. Meanwhile, while YAMAHA does pay close attention to the initial ATTACK of the note, they also pay attention to the release of notes, switching to different samples depending upon how quickly you release the keys. Absolutely amazing! And again, just like an acoustic piano.
KEEP ON PEDALLING!
Possibly the most exciting update I see in the new CLP Clavinovas is something I have never heard a digital piano do EVER! Imagine walking up to ANY acoustic piano and depressing the sustain pedal quickly (without hitting any keys). You will hear what might be described as a “whoosh” sound, which is the sound of the pedal rod hitting the bottom of the keybed. The CLP-700 series recreates this exact experience with an improved Virtual Resonance Modeling (VRM) system. (The best way to explain VRM is this: YAMAHA samples the piano sounds because they MAKE acoustic pianos, and then YAMAHA uses computer modeling to reproduce all the authentic resonance and effects. It’s really the best of both worlds.)
Speaking of pedals, the higher end models in the CLP 700 series have what is called a “GP response pedal” on the right pedal (which I refer to as a “variable resistance” pedal), that changes its resistance throughout its range. On an acoustic piano, when you first push down the damper (sustain) pedal, it is easy to push down because you aren’t lifting any dampers yet. A little farther down, you get more resistance as you lift all of the dampers in the piano. Finally, at the end, you go back to little resistance on the pedal. This is because once the dampers have reached their top position, you aren’t doing any more lifting. All of this to say that once again, YAMAHA is simulating this very feeling on the pedal on a DIGITAL piano. Very authentic.
THESE PIANOS ARE “HISTORICAL”
Have you ever played Mozart, Beethoven or Chopin, and wondered what it sounded like when the composers themselves played these songs on their pianos? Well, now you can hear for yourself! In addition to the new piano samples of the CFX and Bösendorfer pianos, there are some new built-in historical pianos included in this series. Excitingly enough, the CLP-700 Series is Yamaha’s first instrument to be equipped with actual samples of a fortepiano--the predecessor to the modern piano! Lower models have the Mozart piano and the Chopin piano, and then the top models add the Scarlatti piano and the Beethoven piano. It’s sort of like going back in time when playing the preeminent compositions on these historical instruments. Talk about authenticity!
OTHER COOL FEATURES
A BAND IN THE HAND
Like the CLP-600 series, all CLP-700 series come with a built-in metronome for practice. However, the new CLP-700 series has improved rhythms (rhythms are like elaborate metronome sounds) making it more fun to practice with a well-timed drummer rather than “click-click-click”.
But even COOLER is that for the first time in history, the CLP has a built-in full keyboard style fingering mode (like the CVP and CSP) that will automatically figure out what chords you are playing on the keyboard, and will then add a bass line as you play. With this new feature, YAMAHA is simulating a PIANO TRIO: piano, bass and drums. I am absolutely blown away that YAMAHA added a modified version of this popular style feature from the CVP and CSP to the new CLP-700 line.
BUILT-IN BLUETOOTH AUDIO and MIDI
This is a first for any Clavinova: Bluetooth AUDIO and MIDI are built-in! The previous CLP-600 series had Bluetooth AUDIO, but not Bluetooth MIDI. Don’t get them confused--one is SOUND data (AUDIO) and one is PERFORMANCE data (MIDI). The new CLP series can send MIDI performance data wirelessly without the use of an extra device. This means that all those really cool MIDI apps can now play from your smartphone (iOS or Droid) wirelessly to your Clavinova. YAMAHA’s SmartPianist app will even display sheet music for a MIDI file and stream it to the piano, allowing you to change sounds with an iPad or an Android device.
Hands down, this new series of Clavinovas is the most feature-packed CLP Series YAMAHA has ever introduced. While they have long maintained the lead as the world’s most sought-after instrument in their class, the in-depth examination of these new features of the 700 Series show just how far out in front of its predecessor CLP 600 series these instruments have evolved, in what is turning out to be a beautiful change of key for the Clavinova CLP.
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If you'd like to chat more about these pianos, feel free to text Josh at 480-479-7701. He's a pro and a big fan of the new 700 series.