At a prestigious press event in Berlin this morning, Casio announced their first ever collaborative product launch: the Celviano Grand Hybrid GP-500BP and GP-300 Digital Grand Pianos, developed in partnership with world-class piano makers C. Bechstein. Until now, Casio's digital pianos (such as the Privia, Celviano and CDP series) have been at the affordable end of the spectrum, so this marks a leap for the company into the premium instrument market.
Casio have aimed with the new Celviano models to combine the advantages of digital pianos with those of acoustic pianos. The most striking feature of the Grand Hybrid GP-500BP and GP-300 models is the Natural Grand Hammer Action Keyboard. This combines spruce wooden key material as used in C. Bechstein grand pianos, and a new, unique action mechanism that delivers the right hammer movement, having a big impact on the playing response of the grand piano. Having had a brief chance to play the keyboard at the press event, I can confirm that it is a big step up from previous Casio keyboards.
Another feather is Casio's collective hat is getting virtuoso pianist and rising star Ben Grosvenor to be the brand ambassador for the Grand Hybrid range. Grosvenor wowed the press corp with a piece by Ravel played on the new GP-500BP. He says of the new digital piano "it is very satisfyingly weighty under the keys but it also has a wide range of colour and of dynamic range." He also praised the tone of the instrument saying it has a "lovely singing tone in the middle register."
This tone is thanks to the newly developed AiR (Acoustic & Intelligent Resonator) Grand Sound Source that has been created to enable realistic sound and rich reverberation just like a grand piano. It provides the sound profiles of three grand piano styles with a long history: the Berlin Grand, which is known for its clear sound and a reverberation that gives each performance rich melodic color; the Hamburg Grand, which delivers power and strength with plenty of string resonance; and the Vienna Grand, which provides a calm and stately sound with rich bass and beautiful tones when the keys are played softly. Of the three, the Berlin Grand sound was developed in collaboration with C. Bechstein, a piano maker with a history of over 160 years.
Another key development is that of the Grand Acoustic System that is said to faithfully represent the sound of a grand piano, using six speakers positioned both above and below the soundboard. The system delivers three-dimensional sound with tonal elongation, expansion and depth, claim Casio.
When it comes to exploiting digital, the new models do just that. The Scene feature offers 15 preset types for different composers such as Chopin and Liszt, as well as musical genres such as jazz and easy listening. The presets combine the best optimal tones, reverberation, and effects for the type of piece being played. Naturally, users can also create and save their own presets. With the GP-500BP and GP-300, the Hall Simulator allows the pianist to recreate the sound of venues such as an Amsterdam church, or a classical concert hall in Berlin. They also allow you to switch between the player's position, which provides a sense of playing a real grand piano, and three types of listener's positions, which gives the pianist the effect of listening to the performance from the audience, should that be desirable.
Finally, on the topic of leveraging the benefits of digital, Concert Play is a feature that lets the user play along with an orchestral backing, recorded in a high-quality digital format. This technology can also be used for practice where the tempo can be slowed, fast-forwarded, rewound, and the ability to repeat playback of A-B sections.
If you like the sound of the Grand Sound Source, but the two flagships are out of your price range, Casio have also launched the Celviano AP-700 which lacks the natural hammer-action keyboard and Grand Sound Source technology.
The new models will be available from October with RRP ranging from 1,499 to 2,999.