Yamaha Clavinova CLP-685 Review
Yamaha Clavinova CLP-685 is one of the first in the 600 series to feature the GrandTouch Keyboard! Each individual key features the same counter weights found in a grand piano for unmatched realism and a smooth transition from digital to acoustic practicing.
The Yamaha Clavinova CLP-685 is leading the CLP-600 digital piano series. In addition to a nobler design, close to the traditional look of a piano, the new CLP top model lays a good deal on sound, keyboard and equipment. This new piano comes out in the well-known matt black version and high-gloss black version but also in the newly announced high-gloss white.
Yamaha’s Clavinova series – especially in the form of the CLP models – is regarded by many as a reference class in home pianos. This is also because the name “Clavinova” has established itself well since its introduction (1983): Many retailers report that customers do not ask for a home piano, but for a Clavinova and mean a digital piano in general. So, when six new Clavinova CLP models go on sale, it not only attracts a lot of attention, it also raises high expectations. We had the opportunity to try out the instruments already and introduce the performance of the new on the top model Yamaha digital piano clp 685.
The CLP-685 Real Grand Expression sound generator provides 49 Panel Voices, 14 Drum / SFX Sets, and 480 XG Voices (for playing MIDI files) with 256-fold polyphony. Central timbres – and therefore equipped with direct access buttons – are a Yamaha CFX concert grand and a Bösendorfer Imperial. The CFX is the flagship among the Yamaha grand pianos and excels in sound with its brilliant highs and full bass. The sound of the Bösendorfer Imperial is known worldwide for its strong bass and its treble treble, which shows no metallic hardness even in fortissimo. The timbres were already in the CLP-500 series, but were again optimized and improved according to Yamaha.
New additions in the CLP-600 series are samples of a piano (Yamaha SU7). The timbre is built in from the CLP-635. Especially the shorter bass strings of the piano provide for the changed sound impression and are supposed to make it easier for piano students, who are taught on an acoustic piano, to experience comparable sounds at home. The honky tonk sound is redesigned and rounds off the sound offer from the CLP-635.
The only model of the Clavinova series, the CLP-685 brings a third wing from the Yamaha family into the game: As “Studio Grand”. Its overtone-rich, somewhat wiry sound is well-known and is used in many studio recordings worldwide – especially in pop music.
The CLP-685, like all Clavinova CLP-600 series home pianos, has Yamaha’s smooth-release technology. There are variants for each of the 88 sampled tones with different length of release phase (decay phase). If you play staccato, the samples are played with a short release phase, but if you play legato, the sample with a longer release phase is used. This creates livelier and more authentic sounds. In addition, key-off samples are used that contain sounds that arise when you release a wing key: hammer and damper sounds. The technology has been used for some time and has already proven itself in tests.
A piano sound without resonances sounds mechanical, almost dead. Yamaha has therefore equipped the CLP-685 with a technology called Resonance Modeling (VRM). In this case, housing resonances and resonances resulting from strings are virtually modeled. Compared to older methods with resonance samples, this has the advantage that more interacting parameters can be taken into account, making the sound more vivid and more authentic. It does not feel like you have heard all the sound variations before.
The rest of the panel and XG voices are at the high level expected and appreciated by Yamaha. For the new CLP-600 models, they have been revised and improved again. First-class playback of MIDI files is guaranteed in this way.
The tonal colors are enhanced by the effect section of the CLP-685: For the piano sounds already the functions Smooth Release, Key-off-Samples and VRM belong to this effect section. In general there are six reverb types, three chorus variants, seven brilliance types and 11 other effects. The surround sound optimization through the DSP and the intelligent acoustic control IAC, which adapts the EQ setup to the volume, can also be counted among the effects department.
The design of the CLP-685 has slightly refreshed Yamaha over its predecessor, the CLP-500. New is, for example, the rounding on the gaming table front; the legs of the console are now slightly curved. The design as a whole stays close to the look of a piano as usual – slim and raised, even though it’s actually only 103 cm high. The footprint was reduced according to the manufacturer; but this is likely to play only a minor role in European homes.
The Clavinova CLP-685 is available in the following colors: black walnut (= black matt), black high gloss polished and white high gloss polished. In all three variants it looks noble and modern. The pedals and the piano band on the keyboard cover are silver-colored; The felts above the buttons and around the pedals are red (for the black home pianos) and black (for the white model). The music rest is incorporated in the keyboard cover. A part of the lid and the upper part of the body serve as a back wall. So that pages do not collapse or slide down, retaining clips can be folded out of the shelf.
The control panel is discreet and located to the left of the keyboard. The central element is the SW-LC display. Among them are navigation and function keys as well as some direct access buttons as for the main grand piano sounds “CFX Grand” and “Bösendorfer” as well as recorder, metronome, rhythm section or “Piano Room”. Compared to the predecessor model, the control panel is more pleasing due to its round buttons and the new arrangement and appears more accessible.
Below the gaming table are located on the left side of the connections: Here you will find the CLP-685 two headphone sockets (each 6.3 mm jack), an aux input (mini jack, stereo), two aux outputs (L / R ), a connection for an aux pedal, the obligatory MIDI trio (in / out / thru) and two USB ports (1 x to host, 1 x to device). The Bluetooth interface is not visible: it allows the streaming of audio signals from computers or smart devices (smartphones or tablets) to be played back via the loudspeaker system of the CLP-685.
The Clavinova 600 series also features a new keyboard: the CLP-675 and CLP-685 home pianos are equipped with the new GrandTouch keyboard, and the CLP-685 even has the more sophisticated version of the two. It features a synthetic ivory coating on the white buttons and synthetic ebony on the black buttons.
It also features a pressure point simulation, a wood core in the white keys, linear graduation and counterweights. In the latter case, it differs from the GrandTouch keyboard in the CLP-675. It goes without saying that all Clavinova keyboards incorporate three sensors for fast repetition.
Many of the points mentioned also offer the established Yamaha GH3X and Natural Wood X (NWX) keyboards, but the GrandTouch keyboard differs in terms of playing technique: the key front length has been extended here to 250 mm. For the GH3X / NWX it is 210 mm. With this front length in front of the fulcrum, the GrandTouch keyboard is in the company of acoustic wings.
The appropriate measure is the Yamaha wings between 230 and 325 mm. The advantage of the longer version is a more natural, more balanced feel when a button is pressed down in the rear area. As a result, the player has more control and can better dose his game. Concert grand piano keyboards with a larger button front length also have a draft that is one to two millimeters more deep than small grand pianos.
As a further improvement of the keyboard Yamaha leads, inter alia, the key-stop stabilizer. This prevents the rocking of the keys after pressing down. So the player feels a solid key-stop, which should provide a safer feeling, for example, when playing a forte. The pressure point on the GrandTouch keyboard is simulated by a mechanical element under each key. This ensures that the pressure point feeling actually changes – depending on whether one strikes a key slowly and easily or quickly and strongly.
When auditioning, you feel directly comfortable on the keyboard of the CLP-685. Of course, there are differences to the manufacturer’s hybrid piano keyboards. That’s a good thing and finally expresses itself in the price. Still, the GrandTouch keyboard is much more than a compromise. It offers the best possible feel of a Clavinova home piano and can also fulfill pianistic requirements.
Keyboard partners are the pedals: All Clavinova digital pianos are equipped with three piano pedals. In the case of the damper pedals, the pressure depth is continuously measured and the so-called half-pedal effect is enabled. This simulates the situation with the acoustic wing when the strings are still vibrating, but are already slightly touched and dampened by the damper. The sound is initially lower harmonics, before it fades away with increasing damper pressure.
The CLP-675 and CLP-685 are also equipped with the so-called GP-Response damper pedal. There is no linear relationship between the pressure depth and the necessary force. According to Yamaha, the force required to pedal is, instead, in a curved line, which is based on the conditions of a wing. The feel of the CLP-685’s pedals can be rated as positive after the review.
According to the standard for a top-of-the-range digital piano, the Clavinova CLP-685 does not have the loudspeaker system. Three loudspeakers are installed for each left and right stereo channel. They each measure 16, 8 and 2.5 cm (cap) in diameter twice, the amplifiers provide 50 watts of power per driver. A special feature of the bass speakers is their structure: Yamaha speaks here of Spruce Cone speakers. The membrane is not made of simple cardboard, but of hardened spruce wood pulp. According to Yamaha, it is spruce wood, which is also used for the production of soundboards for pianos and grand pianos. The manufacturer promises this a more natural, piano-like sound. After the first hearing in the test, it would be presumptuous to just confirm this. But what can be said:
The housing constructions also contribute to this. According to Yamaha, all Clavinova models are acoustically optimized, so the response should be natural and responsive to the sound. The surround sound is very nice, and you do not really have the impression to be sonicated from a speaker.
Not part of the speaker concept, but essential to the listening experience, is CFX Binaural Sampling, which is used in all CLP 600 Series models. If you play your new Clavinova over headphones – a decisive argument for a digital piano for many – and adjust the CFX piano sound, binaural samples are automatically played back. These were taken with a dummy head. So you get the exact sound in the player position in front of a concert grand presented. The spatial sound impression dissolves – assuming a good headphone – from the head. You do not get drunk and you do not tire so fast.
Through the menu you can also disable the samples and make the AB comparison. While the Stereophonic Optimizer of the digital piano already does a pretty good job with each of the other timbres, the CFX Binaural samples add another extra portion of quality. This makes practicing with headphones even more fun.
The Yamaha Clavinova CLP-685 is equipped with a whole host of extras, of which only a few are to be singled out as an example: From the Clavinova CVP series, the so-called “Piano Room” has found its way into the CLP series. In the Piano Room, graphically processed key characteristics of the piano sound can be adapted to your own wishes and ideas. For example, you can open or close a virtual wing lid to make the sound lighter or darker. The strength of resonance effects can also be controlled or the overtone spectrum can be changed by varying the virtual grand piano hammer.
The Bluetooth audio interface has already been addressed. It lends itself, for example, to play easy to playalongs. Unfortunately, Bluetooth wireless MIDI connections require extra accessories such as the Yamaha MD-BT01 or UD-BT01 adapters.
Lush equipped with all new Clavinovas is the recorder function: 250 songs with 16 tracks each can be recorded and managed. Such a song in MIDI format can be about 500 KB in size. Even standard MIDI files can be played back. USB sticks can also be used to record audio data. A maximum of 80 minutes of recording per song is possible. The resolution corresponds to the CD-PCM format.
In addition to the genre-typical built-in metronome, the CLP-685 offers a rhythm section with 20 preset rhythms. This makes practicing as well as improvising much more fun. Transposition and vocal options are standard on digital pianos.
For practice, the CLP-685 has a collection of 50 “Classical Masterpieces” programmed into the memory for playback and enclosed with the instrument as a Gradebook. Such a collection has been around for a while with the CLP models. Now the selection of the pieces has been revised and added to the currently popular classics. In addition, there are 303 so-called lesson songs in the memory of the home piano.
The CLP-685 also works together with apps, as befits a current digital instrument. An iPad can be integrated via the aforementioned wireless Bluetooth adapter MD-BT01 / UD-BT01, the WiFi adapter UD-WL01 or Lightning USB adapter. In addition to Yamaha apps such as “Piano diary” or “My music recorder”, which can assist in practicing, is the whole fund of music apps ready. Facilitated operation via App is so far only intended for the CLP-625 with its reduced user interface via the app “Digital Piano Controller”.
Yamaha CLP-685 Specs & Price
|Number of Keys||88 with progressive graduated hammers (Linear Graded Hammers)|
|Type of Keys||Weighted, GrandTouch linear graded keys (wooden white keys) with Escapement and counterweight|
|Touch Sensitivity||Fixed, Soft1/2, Medium, Hard1/2|
|Presets||14 drum/SFX kits, 480 XG voices, 49 voices – Yamaha CFX, CFX Binaural, Bosendorfer Imperial|
|Effects Types||6 x Reverb, 3 x Chorus, Brilliance, Intelligence Acoustic Control, Sterephonic Optimizer|
|Song Playback||50 preset songs, 21 voice demo songs, 303 lesson songs (SMF format)|
|Recording||16-track, 250 songs (1.5MB total, 500KB per song, SMF format), WAV recording/playback (USB)|
|Storage||USB Flash Drive|
|Amplifier||2 x 50W low, 2 x 50W mid, 2 x 20W high|
|Power Source||IEC C7 AC cable (included)|
- Great design
- First-class keyboard
- Very good speaker system
- Excellent sounds
- Bluetooth-Audio an Bord
- Bluetooth MIDI only via accessories
The Yamaha CLP-685 is a home piano in a class of its own. The new keyboard plays very well and the sound – not just the piano sounds – can convince all along the line. If then the design is right – and here, too, the CLP-685 collects plus points – you would like to put such an instrument in the apartment. As top model of the series, the digital piano is equipped with numerous extras.