The Onkyo A-9150 Integrated Stereo Amplifier and Kawai NOVUS NV10 Hybrid Digital Piano were developed in parallel. Both benefit from specialized expertise unique to each company shared as part of a business alliance formed in 2015. With 90 years’ experience building some of the world’s finest pianos, Kawai Musical Instruments contributed invaluable knowledge when tuning the A-9150, enabling reproduction of piano’s tonal color, vibrancy, and resonance. Onkyo, a company of seven decades standing in hi-fi, developed key technologies to enhance Kawai’s NOVUS NV10 hybrid digital piano design. This exchange of knowledge renews enjoyment of music for owners of both products.
Kawai Musical Instruments unveiled a prototype CS-X1 Digital Piano at Frankfurt Musikmesse 2016. This instrument, which aimed to voice the glorious tone of the Shigeru Kawai SK-EX concert grand piano, bore first fruit of the Onkyo and Kawai collaboration. Aiming at a common goal to “develop new products through the integration of know-how in audio and music technology,” engineers shared R&D facilities and worked together on chassis and circuit design. Exhaustive testing and refinement in Kawai’s listening rooms revealed that Onkyo’s DIDRC Filter—original circuitry that removes high-frequency digital noise from the signal—was crucial to achieving faithful reproduction of tone. The technology was adopted for the CS-X1, and digital piano technology came closer than ever to achieving real acoustic piano sound.
Following an enthusiastic reception for the prototype at Frankfurt Musikmesse, Kawai introduced Onkyo technology to a NOVUS NV10 Hybrid Digital Piano production version. To assure best possible immersion within household spaces, Kawai performed tuning and sound-testing under extremely strict conditions assuming playback in a concert-hall environment. Kawai and Onkyo overcame tough engineering challenges to expand the soundstage, improve muscularity, and clarify detail to deliver “concert quality” sound at home. After testing parts and circuit layouts, Onkyo’s Discrete SpectraModule™ was adapted to enhance the design, delivering instantaneous high voltage and contributing to the instrument’s outstanding performance. With the addition of Onkyo’s DIDRC Filter to remove digital noise—a phenomenon that can compromise timbre, clarity, detail, and fidelity—the NOVUS NV10 emerged with sound reproduction approaching that of a grand piano.
Adapted by Onkyo for Kawai, Discrete SpectraModule™ and DIDRC Filter helped elevate NOVUS NV10 to the same plane as a concert grand. With ideas flowing towards a shared goal—delivering the audio image with utmost fidelity—Kawai and Onkyo were able to design better products. Enriched by the collaboration, Onkyo began to adapt Kawai’s instrument tuning know-how to enhance its own components, starting with the A-9150.
The A-9150 Integrated Stereo Amplifier served as the blueprint model to showcase the Onkyo and Kawai collaboration. While most pre-main amplifiers can amplify and transmit signals from source to speakers, developing an affordable amp capable of conveying emotional punch, as well as the spatial atmosphere of the recording, is extremely challenging. Thanks to specialized know-how gathered during the NOVUS NV10 collaboration project, Onkyo fine-tuned its Discrete SpectraModule™ and DIDRC Filter for peak performance in the A-9150 amplifier. The result was dramatically improved instrument definition and localization on a much wider soundstage. Improved transient response also facilitates nuanced and natural articulation of detail. For the first time, music lovers can enjoy musical and emotionally satisfying sound with all sources, from CDs and vinyl records to Hi-Res Audio and compressed files.
As part of the collaboration project, pianist Ms. Ayano Entani was commissioned to play a piece on the flagship Shigeru Kawai SK-EX Concert Piano. Her performance was captured by a world-renowned engineer. The recording served two purposes—fine-tuning the A-9150 for real-world musicality, and demonstrating how the amplifier allows piano sound to inhabit the room. In the video above, Ms. Entani and Mr. Tatsuya Murakami, a Master Piano Artisan tuner, listen back to the recording through the A-9150 and discuss whether the amp succeeds in scaling audio’s Everest—the reproduction of grand piano sound.