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Thread: There's no convincing digital piano out there

  1. #1
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    Default There's no convincing digital piano out there

    I've been researching because I wanted to have a digital piano.
    The first question that surely will come to your mind is "Why digital, why not accoustic"?
    Well, there are some advantages with digital pianos, the first one (I hate) is the possibility of headphones, as where I live I wouldn´t be able to freely practice... neighbours...
    The other main thing is that a decent upright is very very expensive for my budget, and I don't want a potato piano, I really don't want it.
    It seems that I'm too demanding in matter of sound... so I started my research on the affordable digital (stage pianos) and the result was a TREMENDOUS disappontment!! Those "pianos" (if you can call them so) are toys in matter of sound!! You can't make any nuances in those instruments, the color doesn't change at all, the dynamics are ridiculously poor... the only good thing I've found is the hammer action on some models, pretty much like the real thing (because they actually have the real thing inside, mechanically speaking)
    So, I understood the budget would be higher than expected (finally unaffordable)
    The digital piano wasn´t an option either.
    And just for morbid curiosity I started to pay attention and listened to the top notch grand digitals such as this beauty:

    and I found that this stunning digital grand was awful as well as the cheaper ones!!!
    I couldn't understand why someone would pay a fortune for that!
    I continued my research and I found that the basic problem of these instrunments (devices) is the polyphony, even the extremely expensive ones have less tahn 300 notes of polyphony.
    That's what make those pianos uncapable to reproduce the extreme resonances taht occur inside the real piano, which are extremely complex to calculate for a convincing emulation.
    If you listen to that Yamaha N3, you´ll perceive only the clean notes that each key triggers, but nothing else is there, nothing else at all!
    So when I understood the core of the problem I found a solution, the VST pianos. You can add any polyphony you want and the older notes you play will never be killed by new notes.
    I installed Fazioli by Imperfect Samples.
    The result was better, the color now changed properly, and the dynamics were much better... but it still wasn´t completely satisfactory. Something was missing there.
    Even with the symphatetic resonances, I found the mass of the sound was really poor, specially while stressing the instrument with extreme performances.
    I started to learn about the cosntruction of the virtual instruments and i really got amazed about the infinite flexibility of those instruments. You can really do whatever you want in matter of customization.
    First of all, I colored the dynamics of my piano with some enrichment process that were managed by the velocity parameter (the force you play with). That made a very obscure pianissimos and very open and stressed fortissimos.
    And I added four systems of resonators (symphatetic) that are triggered when the damper pedal is down in combination with stressful performances.
    The result is this:

    Now I really can express my emotions in my digital piano
    I hope you like my story, and my piano!

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  3. #2
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    Interesting story, though I have to admit some of the technical stuff went a little over my head. I've played one of those Yamaha grands too and, like you, was distinctly underwhelmed by it. The Fazioli does sound great and you play it very well. My personal preference would always be for an acoustic (are you sure you could only get a "potato piano" - good phrase, that - for your budget?) but I have to admit I struck lucky with my upright, a 1925 Bechstein which I bought far too cheaply from a music shop which didn't know its true value. Happy musicmaking.
    Last edited by Animal the Drummer; Nov-14-2017 at 19:26.

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    Hi! Thanks for your reply
    I'm so glad that you've found a piano that makes you happy!
    Well, I wasn't that lucky, and here the upright (a decent one) is TOO expensive and you´ll have to choose a very very good one in order it to be good enough for concerts and delicate nuances. You know most upright don't...
    Well what I did was to buy this digital piano (for 420$):
    Stage piano.jpg

    Then my father and me built a wooden cabinet and insert it like this:

    Insert.jpg

    Of course there is much more than that, hidden inside, this is only a schematic. It has also a computer inside, a Steinberg sound card, big speakers and all powered by big gel batteries, so you can play anywhere for hours regardless the power source.

    And the result is this upright, the piano you heard in youtube:

    My piano.jpg

    The sound that you heard in my post is the Fazioli Grand by Imperfect Samples. It has also available a Schimmel Braunschweig Upright, a Brasted Upright, a Bosendorfer Imperial by Synthogy, and other pianos like those.
    Now I have several pianos in my piano

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    try Yamaha P-115 & P-215

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    Quote Originally Posted by redracer View Post
    try Yamaha P-115 & P-215
    I tried those
    BTW, did you mean Yamaha P-255?
    Anyways, if you compare them (or any digital piano, even the top notch ones) to the Fazioli I've posted, you'll see what I'm talking about.
    The lack of deep resonances in digital pianos is so noticeable. The problem is always the lack of polyphony. They cannot sustain the immense amount of overlapped notes that a TRUE piano resonance involves. Only with a software piano you can hold the extreme resonances at about 2500 notes of poly, while the most expensive digital piano only holds 256 notes max, which means nothing regarding true resonance.

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    Senior Member eugeneonagain's Avatar
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    You're right about the polyphony, which is really about having that genuine mass of struck strings resonating in a real cabinet. I don't think that problem is easy to overcome.

    I've had a few digital pianos and they have improved a lot over the years. The one I really wanted was a real piano with built-in digital piano which is engaged by slipping the sostenuto pedal to one side - too expensive though.

    I'm satisfied with what I currently have for the price. Like you I run a VST (several actually) to get the sounds I want. The Fazioli, a Steinway from a huge bank of samples, Clavinova's grand piano sound, a sampled Walter piano and a lovely 1973 Rhodes. My main issue is the hammer action, it lacks that feel of a weighted pivot and can sometimes feel a tad "sticky".

    The maker is a local builder and I chose it for the price and very robust case and the reasonable action. A lot of the makers of generic digital pianos lie about the sounds they use. They often use a standard midi instrument bank and simply limit access to the keyboard instruments of the bank. In my case they had this spiel about saving all the memory to dedicate it to the piano sound quality.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eugeneonagain View Post
    Like you I run a VST (several actually) to get the sounds I want. The Fazioli, a Steinway from a huge bank of samples, Clavinova's grand piano sound, a sampled Walter piano and a lovely 1973 Rhodes. My main issue is the hammer action, it lacks that feel of a weighted pivot and can sometimes feel a tad "sticky".
    Well, regarding the VST my fazioli has been deeply modified. What you hear in my video is not the original Fazioli.
    I've colored it a lot with several techniques, special sampling treatment that work differently according to the velocity level (each note calculated individually).
    Plus, I've added five resonators (five independent coworking instruments) based on the Steinway Walnut sample library (by Imperfect samples as well)
    These resonators have their specific task based on velocity and based on the key zone, and also based on the polyphony (that causes the piano stress in the real thing)
    Actually that piano you hear is an inteconnected group of five pianos working together at the same time, so when you press a key (depending on the way you do it) you can be triggering 20, 60 or 100 notes sometimes (just for one single key).
    That makes a richer sound that approaches to the accoustic pressence that occurs in the real thing.
    That forced me to use a supercomputer and a super audio card in order to comnpute the extreme amount of polyphony and the intense FX that are calculated note by note.
    For example, if you play a note very soft, it will sound clear, clean, alone and intimate.
    But if you press it hardly, you'll obtain a reverberation of itself, and a forced (but subtle) symphatetic resonance (even though the dampers are not released). And if you press that same key again, hardly, but with damper pedal down, you'll obtain a strong symphatetic resonance mainly in the strings that are multiples in length, but slightly in all strings also. And subsequentlyu you'll obtain a messy reflection of the sound of all strings.
    And all these factors are stronger in lower notes and less noticeable in higher pitch.
    If you listen carefully at the Warsaw Concerto I've posted, you'll notice the different behavior of the piano according to the performance, you'll feel the stress on the strong notes (and specially chords) versus the intimacy and closeness of the softer notes.


    Regarding the hammer action, you won't believe that I've found a very very natural action in a very cheap piano! I've bought a Ringway Artesia, because of the distant fulcrum of the keys and the free hammered system (it's not sticky at all)
    Some of the most important brands are gradded hammer and such, but still sticky... Surprisingly, this Artesia has a very natural and free action. I'm very happy with it.
    Very close to the real thing indeed!

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    Years ago the late Virgil Fox was in Pasadena for an organ concert on his newly acquired Allen organ. I worked for the Allen dealer that was sponsoring the concert; we had moved part of his road organ into the back of the store for him to practice on late one night.

    He arrived early at a time when I was playing an organ concert of my own in the performance room of the store. He was up front in one of the practice rooms working on his repertoire on a Wurlitzer spinet organ.

    I expressed amazement and his reply was very simple "It matters not what the sound is like, what matters most to me is being able to work on my fingering . . . the repetition of playing the notes without regard to the sound quality.

    I think people can achieve the same with digital pianos. For certain nothing replaces the sound of an acoustic piano, but for practice purposes isn't it more about learning and playing the notes as opposed to the sound quality of the instrument?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Krummhorn View Post
    For certain nothing replaces the sound of an acoustic piano, but for practice purposes isn't it more about learning and playing the notes as opposed to the sound quality of the instrument?
    Well, I think my piano is very close to the real thing. I don't think it is only usable for practising purposes, its sound is capable to perform the direct and subtle moods of the piano concerto requirements (while a digital piano can't)
    BTW did you listen at it in the video?
    If you listen to it carefully you'll find that a digital piano (note even the top notch ones) can't reproduce the natural resonances as my Fazioli does.

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