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#1801416 - 12/06/11 01:47 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: anotherscott]
EssBrace Offline
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Registered: 12/01/09
Posts: 2405
Loc: Suffolk, United Kingdom
Originally Posted By: anotherscott
I did not find the Rolands to be convincing, though they can certainly be nice and pleasing to play. For one thing, the difference in brightness between soft and loud velocities was more exaggerated than I think any real piano would be.


Yes I think I agree with you. The Roland SN pianos become metallic and brittle too suddenly, especially in a couple of clusters of notes in the middle of the keyboard. However, I possess recordings made by another forum member where a RD-700GX with SN upgrade sounds uncannily good and to my ears extremely authentic. On material that doesn't excite the Roland's twanging noises in the mid-range it is an entirely believable representation of an acoustic piano to my ears. And I would suggest the Roland, whilst providing very high sonic quality, also provides the connection between keys and sound that seems so elusive with software pianos.

Originally Posted By: Brent_H
At least the better Roland models' sustain doesn't seem to have that uncanny effect where it sounds very like a piano for the first three quarters of a second and then exactly like someone turning down a volume knob as it decays...


Yes, it's a dead giveaway.
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#1801421 - 12/06/11 01:49 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: anotherscott]
sullivang Online   blank
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Loc: Sydney, Australia
Originally Posted By: anotherscott
For one thing, the difference in brightness between soft and loud velocities was more exaggerated than I think any real piano would be.


Thereby rendering that Roland BETTER than any real piano, because that renders it more EXPRESSIVE than any real piano, and more expression is a good thing. I don't want a digital piano to merely be "as good" as a real piano - I want it to be BETTER than a real piano! ;^)

"Beautiful In My Eyes", by Joshua Kadison is one example of a song in which the (obviously digital - or is it? Is it a processed acoustic?) piano sounds perhaps more expressive than any real piano, and it sounds excellent.

Greg.


Edited by sullivang (12/06/11 01:51 PM)

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#1801424 - 12/06/11 01:51 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: GoodTimes]
Brent H Offline
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Registered: 11/06/11
Posts: 843
I don't anyone was questioning the beauty and expressiveness of the best digital pianos. It just seems if you can do "BETTER" and "MORE EXPRESSIVE" there ought to be a knob you can turn down and get "JUST LIKE" an acoustic. thumb
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#1801425 - 12/06/11 01:53 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: GoodTimes]
sullivang Online   blank
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Posts: 2217
Loc: Sydney, Australia
The Roland SN is highly tweakable, isn't it? Perhaps it can indeed be adjusted to have it's expression reduced to be more authentic. (I've never tried. Anyone?)

Greg.

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#1801445 - 12/06/11 02:18 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: anotherscott]
ChrisA Offline
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Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 3841
Loc: Redondo Beach, California
Originally Posted By: anotherscott
... I have not heard anything from a Roland that I would consider indistinguishable from a real piano when recorded.



Mostly with amateur A/B tests we can tell right away which is the acoustic piano because the acoustic recording is technically of poor quality. Few home recording studios will have the space or the equipment budget to record a grand piano properly.

Today's technology is such that only professional recorded acoustic pianos are better than digital pianos

I think if we limit the discussion to home recording, the digital piano wins.

The obvious case where the acoustic piano wins is for live performance of solo piano music.

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#1801450 - 12/06/11 02:30 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: GoodTimes]
Brent H Offline
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Registered: 11/06/11
Posts: 843
None of my comments were directed at the limitations of bad recordings or out of tune acoustic pianos. But I suspect comments to that effect are indeed why no maker of digital pianos can be bothered to go to the trouble and expense of providing truly state of the art sampled/modeled/whatever acoustic piano sounds. As long as the intended buyers consider the current DP's good enough (because they compare them to bad acoustic pianos or badly recorded ones or to ones used in a mix where you can't tell a Steinway from a Yamaha) there's no compelling reason to do any better.

In a very real sense the target of a digital piano is not the sound of an acoustic piano. It's the sound of a whatever piano filtered through numerous distorting, limiting, compressing and obscuring elements in a finished recording or performance. Which makes perfect sense now that I think of it that way.

So can I assume that MIDI keyboards into software pianos are the order of the day in more sound-quality-conscious recording projects? If you want a track as part of a project that will sound beautiful and expressive in the same way as a Steinway or Bosendorfer piano then you either put a Steinway/Bosendorfer in the studio or you fake it with some high-end software. Makes sense.
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#1801468 - 12/06/11 02:59 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: GoodTimes]
gvfarns Offline
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Loc: Pennsylvania
It makes sense that DP manufacturers only feel the need to make their pianos sound better than bad acoustics because bad acoustic pianos are the real competition for digitals. Almost everyone who gets a digital would get a nasty old upright if digitals were not available.

Very few people say "I'm trying to decide between a mnint-condition Steinway D and a Yamaha P155 and I can't make up my mind." More like, "my friend is willing to give me the 1910 no-name upright that his cat has been living in for some time, but I was thinking a P155 might be better."

DP manufacturers might aim higher if their main clientèle was more similar to many members of this forum...people who actually want them to sound as good as top shelf acoustics and could tell the difference if they did.

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#1801476 - 12/06/11 03:09 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: GoodTimes]
Brent H Offline
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Registered: 11/06/11
Posts: 843
I should take a lesson from the consumer electronics and computer markets. What matters is how many things it does, not how well it does them.

Then again every musical instrument I've ever played my ears have been operating at a budget about 10x larger than my wallet...which in turn is about 10x larger than the budget justified by my ability.
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#1801485 - 12/06/11 03:32 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: GoodTimes]
Gomer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/14/11
Posts: 132
if only there was a "software DP". Take a DP with a good action, and have it directly run with internal hardware to run up-gradable software like Ivory or Gallaxy. Do away with all those silly (imo) frills/sounds and just do piano right.

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#1801488 - 12/06/11 03:37 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: Brent H]
dewster Offline
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Registered: 12/07/09
Posts: 4352
Loc: Northern NJ
Originally Posted By: Brent H
As long as the intended buyers consider the current DP's good enough (because they compare them to bad acoustic pianos or badly recorded ones or to ones used in a mix where you can't tell a Steinway from a Yamaha) there's no compelling reason to do any better.

It's likely not a representative sample, but there are plenty of DP users her at PW who are so dissatisfied with the internal sounds of even the very best DPs that they end up substituting them with external sample sets run on external hardware.

And I imagine recording studios could really use something like an unlooped Kawai MP10, where the performer plays to MIDI on a thumb drive, which is then edited on a PC for mistakes and such, and finally rendered on the instrument so that the nuances and dynamics of the original performance track perfectly.

The industry seems to be completely ignoring both of these groups, and why that is I have absolutely no clue. Surely there is money to be made and prestige to be gained by manufacturing a product such as this, and certainly it is doable.
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#1801495 - 12/06/11 03:45 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: Gomer]
dewster Offline
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Registered: 12/07/09
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Loc: Northern NJ
Originally Posted By: Gomer
if only there was a "software DP". Take a DP with a good action, and have it directly run with internal hardware to run up-gradable software like Ivory or Gallaxy. Do away with all those silly (imo) frills/sounds and just do piano right.

I've been predicting NAMM 2020 for this threshold to be crossed. When the Nord sample sets get about 10x larger we'll be there. Korg could do it right now if the severely pared down the Kronos, used a better action, and made the hardware and software more robust.
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#1801501 - 12/06/11 03:59 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: Brent H]
dewster Offline
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Registered: 12/07/09
Posts: 4352
Loc: Northern NJ
Originally Posted By: Brent H
I'm frankly a bit amazed that for a couple thousand dollars, there are not DP's on the market which, through headphones, are indistinguishable from an excellent recording of a fine piano. I have yet to hear any that are even remotely in the ballpark. It sure seems doable at the price points you're talking about for a performance-grade DP.

Brent H, I'd be interested in your reaction to this recording of our RD-700NX: LINK - particularly the first and third movements. I suspect the MIDI source may have been manually sequenced rather than performed, which makes the result that much more impressive IMO.
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#1801919 - 12/07/11 09:28 AM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: Brent H]
tinknocker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/31/09
Posts: 70
Loc: Key Largo, FL
Originally Posted By: Brent H

The problem is, I can pay a few hundred bucks for a software piano to run on a PC costing at most a few hundred bucks and the simulation of a real piano is terribly close to believable through headphones. Is the storage and CPU capacity needed for that just simply too expensive to bundle into a digital piano?


Apparently, yes. The software piano requires gigabytes of storage and a lot of processing power to do sympathetic resonance and reverb and all. It's probably quite doable to have all that on an inexpensive digital piano, but not with the horde of other voices and functions that are standard on DP's.

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#1801924 - 12/07/11 09:40 AM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: GoodTimes]
Brent H Offline
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Registered: 11/06/11
Posts: 843
dewster,

I took a quick listen this morning and I agree that the piano sound is largely free of the kinds of obviously digital piano-ish artifacts that seem to plague DP's in general. The only part that stood out as very un-piano-like was the very lowest notes especially when they were not played softly. Overall I thought the illusion was quite convincing at soft dynamic levels and better than usual throughout.

That said, this evening I'll give it a play when I have access to my good listening equipment (i.e. the headphone and headamp setup I use when I'm listening to music for pleasure). I'll comment after no how well the illusion holds up to Hi-Fi reproduction.

P.S. For what it's worth I plugged the MIDI file into my rather cheapy software piano (the Basic edition of Garritan Authorized Steinway) and those lowest notes sound more realistic. But overall not particularly so, just that one specific range of notes at certain dynamics.
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#1801949 - 12/07/11 10:17 AM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: Brent H]
Hideki Matsui Offline
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Registered: 08/19/10
Posts: 787
I think I have an excellent acoustic. I also have the Kronos, the Jupiter, Komplete 8, Pianoteq and a few of the EW pianos. The SN pianos on the Jupiter are the only ones I enjoy playing. I feel the way the SN sounds respond are the most natural and the tone is most pleasing to my ear.
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#1801953 - 12/07/11 10:22 AM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: tinknocker]
anotherscott Online   content
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Registered: 02/20/10
Posts: 3283
Originally Posted By: tinknocker
The software piano requires gigabytes of storage and a lot of processing power to do sympathetic resonance and reverb and all. It's probably quite doable to have all that on an inexpensive digital piano, but not with the horde of other voices and functions that are standard on DP's.

Some of the top DP models have relatively little in the way of non-piano voices and functions... i.e. Yamaha CP1, Kawai MP10, Roland V-Piano. But they are not inexpensive.

My guess is that cheap DPs often have lots of other functions because they don't cost all that much to add, and they make the unit more marketable. Certainly most sounds don't require nearly the processing horsepower required for the piano sound itself. Once the processing power is there and paid for, the incremental cost to add some of these other functions is probably negligible.

But to get back to Brent's comment, the horsepower required to run a software piano may seem cheap when you look at a laptop, but a keyboard manufacturer can't build that as cheaply as a computer company can.

And I think it's also worth keeping in mind that computers are a high-volume, low-margin commodity business... keyboards are not. If it costs Dell $300 to build something, they can sell it to you for under $400. If it costs a keyboard company $300 to build something, it's probably over $1,000 at retail.

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#1802019 - 12/07/11 12:07 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: anotherscott]
dewster Offline
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Registered: 12/07/09
Posts: 4352
Loc: Northern NJ
Originally Posted By: anotherscott
My guess is that cheap DPs often have lots of other functions because they don't cost all that much to add, and they make the unit more marketable. Certainly most sounds don't require nearly the processing horsepower required for the piano sound itself. Once the processing power is there and paid for, the incremental cost to add some of these other functions is probably negligible.

I totally agree. The sample size for an instrument that you can semi-realistically do can be orders of magnitude smaller than that for a similarly presented piano. If it doesn't have a decay phase and it isn't too dissonant, you can probably get away with using a single cycle for the loop phase. Drums can be fairly short samples (though I often wish for a worldwide moratorium on looped cymbals). It's not unusual for an AP to consume half or more of the total ROM space in a somewhat piano-centric GM implementation.

Most of these addons don't need complex key/pedal tracking, lots of layers, sympathetic resonance, etc. and they are generally perceived as adding value even if they aren't at the same quality level as the main piano voice.

Originally Posted By: anotherscott
But to get back to Brent's comment, the horsepower required to run a software piano may seem cheap when you look at a laptop, but a keyboard manufacturer can't build that as cheaply as a computer company can.

And I think it's also worth keeping in mind that computers are a high-volume, low-margin commodity business... keyboards are not. If it costs Dell $300 to build something, they can sell it to you for under $400. If it costs a keyboard company $300 to build something, it's probably over $1,000 at retail.

Both very good points. But if you remove the bloated non-RTOS operating system coupled to expensive bloated multi-core processors (up to 2.6 billion transistors!) and other hardware that you typically find on a PC, things get a lot easier and cheaper.

So while the economies of scale work to give you a cheap PC, a lot of fat can be trimmed away to balance the lower sales and higher NRE of DPs and still give you a high performing product for a reasonable retail price. From what I've seen of DP guts there's probably not over $100 of electronics in most high-end DPs, and less than $30 in vast majority of the rest. $100 can buy a heck of a lot of embedded horsepower and memory these days.
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#1802254 - 12/07/11 07:37 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: GoodTimes]
Roger Ransom Offline
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Registered: 01/19/05
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Loc: SouthWest Michigan
From my point of view it's pretty clear that the DP in the OP link doesn't sound exactly like the acoustic piano.

However, if I don't sit down and minutely focus my critical ears to any differences, the Digital piano sounds pretty darn nice. If you ask most people what they think of the sound of a decent DP with decent speakers, I think they would say the same.

I've been in situations where there is a horribly out of tune, miserable old piano to play and the people there think it's just fine.

I enjoyed both instruments.
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#1802297 - 12/07/11 09:04 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: Roger Ransom]
dewster Offline
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Registered: 12/07/09
Posts: 4352
Loc: Northern NJ
Originally Posted By: Roger Ransom
If you ask most people what they think of the sound of a decent DP with decent speakers, I think they would say the same.

Not trying to harsh on your post, but most people aren't in a position to judge this very well. In many cases this can work for you (e.g. sucker born every minute) but it's cold comfort for those who just dropped >$2k on a DP expecting recording quality or sound on par with PC samplers from even 10 years ago.
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#1802303 - 12/07/11 09:17 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: GoodTimes]
gvfarns Offline
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Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 3483
Loc: Pennsylvania
I think that's the point he's making: most people don't actually have that high of standards for piano, so the fact that a digital is in perfect tune and shares some characteristics with really nice pianos is enough to make them sound really good.

And sooo many people have really nasty uprights in their house. You would cry (with pain) if you heard or played the spinet I grew up on. For sure it was never tuned in the 30+ years my parent owned it.

For the most part it's only when you sit down with discriminating headphones or maybe speakers, as an experienced pianist that you really notice deficiencies.

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#1802465 - 12/08/11 05:33 AM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: GoodTimes]
EssBrace Offline
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Registered: 12/01/09
Posts: 2405
Loc: Suffolk, United Kingdom
I agree - most people, even those spending 2,000+, are looking for something that looks piano-like, sounds piano-like and plays in a piano-like way. And they all do this successfully until you commence a forensic deconstruction of what they do and how they do it. Then deficiencies are revealed but to the average DP buyer it doesn't matter.

I mean, people often buy upright pianos maybe because they don't like the idea of a digital, maybe because they have directly compared one to a digital and preferred it. But speaking very personally I wouldn't give ANY upright piano house room - I've never heard an upright I like the sound of - that clunky toneless low bass. I could vomit at the thought. So maybe that is me forensically examining an upright acoustic and rejecting it. I'd rather listen to a looped grand piano bass than any upright bass.

Leaving aside the needs of a gigging pro I think we should accept that for most people the DP is an alternative to an upright piano, not a grand. And at the price of the average console DP it does a reasonable job in my opinion.

Just my thoughts...I'm now ready to be pounced on by AP aficionados that will say despite all its faults that their knackered old upright had/has a better range of expression than any DP. Maybe, but they're only good for fire wood in my opinion.

Steve
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#1802681 - 12/08/11 01:35 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: EssBrace]
dewster Offline
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Registered: 12/07/09
Posts: 4352
Loc: Northern NJ
Originally Posted By: EssBrace
I agree - most people, even those spending 2,000+, are looking for something that looks piano-like, sounds piano-like and plays in a piano-like way. And they all do this successfully until you commence a forensic deconstruction of what they do and how they do it. Then deficiencies are revealed but to the average DP buyer it doesn't matter.

The forensic analysis isn't to show that a given DP sucks (because all of them do in one way or another and in varying degrees) but rather to explain why and how they suck. The average person knows when a console DP has woefully inadequate speakers due to missing bass, gross distortion, etc. and past that maybe can't put their finger on exactly why it doesn't sound 100% convincing even through good headphones (if they bother to do that and really listen). People who aren't interested in paying much attention to the sound of their DP will become much more familiar with it over time if they play it enough, and even with the most recent crop that can breed free-floating discontent.

The DP buyers I feel most sorry for are those who believe (due to slick and often deceptive advertising) that by buying the most expensive model they are getting uncompromised sound, a sound on par with the expensive realistic key actions, expensive polished cabinetry, etc.

Originally Posted By: EssBrace
Just my thoughts...I'm now ready to be pounced on by AP aficionados that will say despite all its faults that their knackered old upright had/has a better range of expression than any DP. Maybe, but they're only good for fire wood in my opinion.

Let me be the first to pounce! wink There is obviously some upright AP quality threshold below which I would prefer something like the SN sound, but that threshold for me is really low. And nothing but sampled sympathetic resonance can come close to the sound of real strings humming away on a wooden board.

It's not that I have any romantic attachment to physical pianos, DPs just haven't managed to capture the full resonant abilities of even the cheapest upright yet (though I suppose special pleading could be made here for the V-Piano or the Kronos).
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#1802705 - 12/08/11 02:13 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: dewster]
maurus Offline
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Registered: 05/21/11
Posts: 819
I am with you, dewster. Keep up your good work, and keep reminding producers to improve their piano sounds - good bye stretching, good bye looping, good bye cheap layering. Welcome subtle resonances of all kinds and welcome other noises... and don't forget full tuneability.
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#1802713 - 12/08/11 02:30 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: dewster]
Hideki Matsui Offline
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Registered: 08/19/10
Posts: 787
Originally Posted By: dewster


It's not that I have any romantic attachment to physical pianos, DPs just haven't managed to capture the full resonant abilities of even the cheapest upright yet (though I suppose special pleading could be made here for the V-Piano or the Kronos).


As an owner of the Kronos, I'm not overly impressed with the pianos. The EPs are another story.
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#1802758 - 12/08/11 03:44 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: maurus]
spanishbuddha Offline
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Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 2380
Loc: UK
Originally Posted By: maurus
... and welcome other noises .....

Your opinion. My opinion - as long as they can be turned off. smile

To counter slightly Dewster's opinion, I don't want my DP to sound like a piano, well most or all pianos you find in homes. Maybe a concert ready tuned piano, and without some of the 'noises' you mention above. But I do support the principle he is driving at.

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#1802773 - 12/08/11 04:17 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: spanishbuddha]
maurus Offline
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Registered: 05/21/11
Posts: 819
Originally Posted By: spanishbuddha

Your opinion. My opinion - as long as they can be turned off. smile


Absolutely.

Some of the noises of an acoustic I'd like to turn on in my DP's:

- the quick dampening of the strings when I release a key, you can actually control the noise
- the complex sound produced by strongly pushing down the sustain pedal
- the noises of quickly or slowly releasing the sustain pedal
- full and varied attack noises

plus some imaginations: various modes of picking the strings of a piano, with felts released and with felts on the strings, various ways of 'drumming' on the piano, etc. - think experimental music... cool
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#1802776 - 12/08/11 04:31 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: GoodTimes]
Roger Ransom Offline
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Registered: 01/19/05
Posts: 1262
Loc: SouthWest Michigan
Maybe it's in the expectation level. When I bought my DP I did not in any way expect it to sound and play as good as my old Yamaha G7 that I spent $9,000.00 restoring.

But, with good speakers/headphones, it sounds pretty nice. I bought it so I can take it with me to places that have NO piano or a piano I cannot make myself touch, or play at night, or experiment with arranging, or play with MIDI stuff or various other reasons.

I just think they both have pretty well defined purposes and I still think a good DP sounds very good as long as I don't get too analytical.

They're both REALLY, REALLY fun and they make me smile.
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#1802800 - 12/08/11 05:19 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: Roger Ransom]
sullivang Online   blank
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/05/09
Posts: 2217
Loc: Sydney, Australia
Originally Posted By: Roger Ransom
... and I still think a good DP sounds very good as long as I don't get too analytical.


This is my opinion too. However, I seem to more easily impressed as a listener, as opposed to when I am actually playing.

Greg.

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#1802957 - 12/08/11 10:00 PM Re: Listen to Real Grand Piano vs. Digital Grand Piano [Re: sullivang]
Roger Ransom Offline
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Registered: 01/19/05
Posts: 1262
Loc: SouthWest Michigan
Originally Posted By: sullivang

This is my opinion too. However, I seem to more easily impressed as a listener, as opposed to when I am actually playing.

Greg.


Yes, this is definitely true. I have stored songs in the keyboard, played them back later and was surprised how much better it was than when I was playing it. I'm not sure what's going on there in my brain (no surprise there), but it sure is true for me.

All very interesting.
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The 2 Most Common Questions Conundrum
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