You’ve seen Yamaha’s new CVP Clavinova models – the CVP805 and CVP809 – and you’re wondering whether it’s worth paying more for the top-of-the-range CVP809. I will explain the differences to help you decide which one is for you.
Imagine you’re sitting in our showroom and you’re looking at the Yamaha CVP805 and CVP809. The first difference you’ll notice is, although they’re roughly the same size, the cabinet designs are very different. The CVP805 has a box-style cabinet that incorporates its front legs with a full backboard, and a pedal unit that stretches along the whole length of the piano. It looks quite traditional for a digital piano. The CVP809 looks sleek and modern in comparison. It has a minimalist tripod stand with the pedal unit suspended neatly on the rear section. It looks pleasingly um, aerodynamic. Cabinet design alone, of course, is not something that justifies the bigger spend, but these next differences might…
The thing that Yamaha’s CVP pianos do better than any of the competition is to give you a virtual band or orchestra to play along with and actually make it feel like the real thing. The technology is cutting edge and the result is a very immersive experience. For example, when I’m playing “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John, there are times when it’s actually hard to distinguish between what’s coming out of the piano’s speakers and the actual recording of the song that I’m so familiar with. The metallic sounding bass guitar, the 80s-era synth keyboard, and the thump of the drums are all wonderfully authentic. The attention to detail is seriously impressive and playing it instantly brings a huge smile to my face! Whilst convincing sounding backings like this are present on both CVP805 and CVP809, the bad news with CVP805 is that you’ll be missing out on most of them. Accompaniments of this quality, which are clearly made with passion, take time, technical skills, and a bag full of musical talent to perfect. CVP809 hosts the vast majority of them (150 more than CVP805!) and it’s with the CVP809 that you’ll feel the true value of Yamaha’s technical and musical prowess that I speak of above. Unfortunately, CVP805 only gives you a taste.
Can you remember the sound of Acker Bilk’s clarinet? Louis Armstrong’s trumpet? James Last or Andre Rieu’s orchestras? – You probably do because they all have something very important in common – the instruments they use have character. In both the Yamaha CVP805 and CVP809 there are some brilliantly realistic instruments (termed ‘voices’) to play with, mainly, of course, the two featured pianos. But what won’t be obvious to you when you first sit down to compare these two pianos is exactly how many other ‘premium spec’ voices are only available on the CVP809. Voices like the Aker Bilk clarinet (which really does sound characteristically breathy and reedy), the gorgeously smooth muted trumpet, the phenomenal Andre Rieu solo violin, and so many others are reserved for the CVP809 only. That tingling down your spine – that feeling of being transported from the moment into the past when you hear these famous instruments being played is part of the magic of music, but again, I feel like the CVP805, with its limited selection of voices, only offers you a sample of what’s available. The CVP809, with several hundred extra voices than CVP805, offers you the chance to create some real musical magic.
Addressing the question of whether the CVP809 justifies your extra money, I absolutely must mention a pet-subject of mine: Percussion. It doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? Not one likely to justify the extra spend right? Well, I have a challenge for you: Clap your hands together 10 times in a row. Go on, do it right now. Don’t worry about who’s listening, you can explain why you’re doing it afterwards! Okay – now answer this question: Did every clap sound exactly the same? Try it again and listen carefully to each clap. You’ll notice that no two claps sound the same. In fact, it’s practically impossible to make them do so. Now, consider this. The CVP809 uses new digital percussion technology called ‘REVO’ drums which sampled drummers/percussionists hitting various parts of their drum kits at least 27 different times each. This means that when you’re playing a song on the CVP809 and hearing percussion in a backing band or orchestra, the sound of each snare drum, crash cymbal, bass drum, timpani or triangle, does not get repeated until the 28th time that it plays. The result? – An incredibly natural and realistic sounding performance. In comparison, the CVP805 seems somewhat underwhelming as it only uses a single sample for each drum piece that plays on a loop during your performance. Imagine recording yourself clapping once and then playing it back on a loop. It would sound terribly robotic, wouldn’t it? For me, this difference between CVP805 and CVP809 is a major one.
Controlling the multitude of options available on these pianos is made very easy with a full-colour touchscreen display located at the centre of the front panel. The CVP809 has another advantage here as the screen size is 9 inches, rather than only 7 inches on CVP805. Again, on the surface, this seems like an incremental difference. But when you consider that this is your main interface with the pianos’ many tools e.g. music scores, multi-track recording, tutorial games for children, etc – a significantly larger display is much more practical and will hopefully save you from many squint-induced headaches! Naturally, for very elderly players with sight-related issues, the larger screen is very welcome indeed making even basic operations like changing sounds and settings very clear and easy.
The other big difference between the CVP805 and CVP809 is the speaker and amplifier setup. Don’t underestimate the importance of this, and don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s all about extra volume or that you “don’t need to play very loudly anyway”! Having a better amp/speaker configuration means that you have a wider aural range. On this subject, I like to use the analogy of painting. Imagine you are buying a set of artists’ paints rather than a piano. The CVP805, with its amp/speaker setup, will give you 3 shades of red, green, and blue. This is perfectly adequate for painting a nice colourful picture of a tree. And if you’re a total beginner you’ll have room to grow by using the extra shades available in your pallet. At first sight, this option seems attractive. However, something will happen to you along your journey of learning to paint/play – you will improve, and hopefully rapidly! The crucial way you will improve is in expressing yourself using light and shade, and as you do you’ll begin to realise that having only 3 shades of each colour is actually limiting your ability to express yourself in this way. Sure, you can paint a convincing green tree with only 3 shades, but why limit yourself? You might guess what is coming next. The CVP809, in effect, gives you 20 shades of each colour. This will allow you to paint using light and shade without an artificially imposed limit. Your ability to express yourself in this way will inevitably grow as you improve, and the CVP809, with its high-spec speakers and amplifiers, can accommodate that growth.
Weighing up the differences between these two pianos should not just be about comparing specification and price. For a true evaluation, you must go deeper and consider what you want from your playing and what each piano will allow you. I hope my explanation has been helpful to you.