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#1969397 - 10/06/12 10:35 AM AP vs DP vs SP
sandalholme Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/31/09
Posts: 758
Loc: Dorset, UK
Warning: long post ahead. I am an AP person, having owned instruments from straight strung upright to 9' grand. Owned a superb harpsichord for 20 years and was a church organist in various places. Have played a number of instruments over the years including fortepianos. Classical repertoire only. Current instrument, Kawai RX2. So, why this thread?

On an earlier thread I indicated that I will probably have to go digital due to downsizing. After a stage piano that I can use outside the house. I have now started the search and would like to report on progress and raise a few questions. I have so far tried the Roland FP4F, RD-300NX and FP7F with a brief try of the Yamaha CP5. The FP4F is a no-no, (just poor sound) but I could live with the other 2 Rolands, however there are reservations I will outline below. The CP5 sounded more AP-like, some sense of space around the notes, but the controls defeated me totally so I never got off the default piano/settings. The other 2 Rolands sounded good, except for a lack of space around the notes, in other words, somewhat artificial sounding and, the real problem (probably another facet of one problem) is the lack of sympathetic resonance. I was happy playing the Rolands and fiddling around with the settings, but on getting back home realised the extra complexity of the AP sound. With that comes the issue of taming the AP beast: DPs do seem easier to play: pointing up the fugal entries in Bach for instance. I was surprised by the sensitivity of the (single at this stage) pedal: having been led to believe that DPs need lots of sustain I found the 4th Schubert Impromptu (1st set) needed delicate flutter pedalling as with an AP.

Next week the Kawai ES7 is in the frame. (Could Kawai UK get their act together? Very few stockists in the whole Southampton/Portsmouth/Bournemouth/Poole/Winchester/Salisbury area.)

When I commented on the lack of, for want of a better phrase, instrument resonance, the sales person (excellent service at Absolute Music in Poole btw) pointed me in the direction of software pianos. SPs I knew about but had not considered. I spent some time playing on the Time+Space demo machine. Back home I listened to a demo from the site and compared with the DP demos it was like comparing a concert grand with my original straight strung upright. So, a few questions.

1. What sort of keyboard is necessary for hooking up to the pc? Any essential facilities?
2. Is it overkill to hook up a relatively high end DP? (the DP can always be used standalone of course, but my guess is that once I get used to the SP sounds.......... Or do DPs lack essential facilities?
3. I have yet to discover any DP which has a built in pc with SP capability, which I would have thought is a natural extension to the market. Any reasons why? (other than Yamaha and Kawai swallowing their pride and having software-based pianos from their competitors in the AP field) I would have thought a DP/SP combo wouldn't exceed V-piano, Avant Grand prices.
4. I want to be able to record whilst playing. Any pc-based reasons (processor speed for example)why the pc can't record, say to a USB memory stick, whilst processing the midi output from the keyboard?

A few other thoughts. I wonder if the acoustic feedback into headphones or via speakers create the positive or negative reaction to a DP? In other words, how important is the action in fact? Let off may be important, together with the ability for fast repetition, but what else? Am I attributing to the keyboard itself influences that are in fact spurious? Is it possible to get the subtlety and sensitivity from a basic keyboard by listening to the output and adjusting/learning accordingly, which is what we do with APs.

For those with experience in the AP and SP fields these questions may be very basic, but I would appreciate any help in getting to grips with the SP world, because I suspect I may well go in that direction.

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#1969415 - 10/06/12 11:26 AM Re: AP vs DP vs SP [Re: sandalholme]
dewster Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/09
Posts: 4332
Loc: Northern NJ
Originally Posted By: sandalholme
1. What sort of keyboard is necessary for hooking up to the pc? Any essential facilities?

MIDI out, either DIN into a MIDI=>USB adapter, or MIDI over USB.

Originally Posted By: sandalholme
2. Is it overkill to hook up a relatively high end DP? (the DP can always be used standalone of course, but my guess is that once I get used to the SP sounds.......... Or do DPs lack essential facilities?

Higher end DPs tend to have better keyboards, so it's probably not overkill. They might give you fewer spurious notes as well.

The new Casios kick out higher resolution MIDI which facilitates manipulating the velocity curve on your PC. Not sure if any other DP does this. Note off velocity might be a good thing to have (to control string damping time).

Originally Posted By: sandalholme
3. I have yet to discover any DP which has a built in pc with SP capability, which I would have thought is a natural extension to the market. Any reasons why? (other than Yamaha and Kawai swallowing their pride and having software-based pianos from their competitors in the AP field) I would have thought a DP/SP combo wouldn't exceed V-piano, Avant Grand prices.

I've got a better one: why aren't high end DPs at, or at least near, the same sound quality levels as software pianos? It's a complete mystery.

Originally Posted By: sandalholme
4. I want to be able to record whilst playing. Any pc-based reasons (processor speed for example)why the pc can't record, say to a USB memory stick, whilst processing the midi output from the keyboard?

Shouldn't be any problem with recording, though it might be easier to record to a file on the PC hard drive and transfer it to the thumb drive afterwards.

You might want to find an RD-700NX and try the "Studio Grand" voice with the reverb off and the sympathetic resonance turned way up. It's kind of there in terms of intimate playing, solo recording, key/pedal interactions, etc.

You should use good headphones when auditioning DPs.
_________________________
The DPBSD Project!
THE RD-700NX Thread!
DPs Exposed! (nekid pichures!)

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#1969451 - 10/06/12 01:24 PM Re: AP vs DP vs SP [Re: sandalholme]
sandalholme Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/31/09
Posts: 758
Loc: Dorset, UK
Many thanks. Nothing between DP and pc, only a midi link? Re headphones, my trusty ancient Sennheiser HD540s still deliver the goods. Understand at a basic level note off velocity but I guess there's a whole lot of concepts and tinkering possible. (My family tell me I'm a compulsive tinkerer and I've been involved with computers for decades, so SPs are probably made for me)

Re high end DPs not approaching the sound of SPs, that's what puzzled me. The 70GB, if I remember rightly, for IvoryII may have something to do with it. If I go the SP route my other hobby, photography, will take a hit, as my 500GB HD, plus a couple of external drives, are stuffed full of images. And I know the SP s/w will need to be on the resident drive.....

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#1969460 - 10/06/12 01:47 PM Re: AP vs DP vs SP [Re: sandalholme]
voxpops Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/20/07
Posts: 3019
Loc: Oregon
Sandalholme, you may want to check out Crumar Baby Grand
Semi-portable, has a core2duo processor, and you can load your own VSTs. Surprisingly, it's about the only product of its kind at the moment.
_________________________
Occasional author and inveterate ivory tickler:
http://www.amazon.com/author/richardspanswick

https://soundcloud.com/richards-recordings/sets/strange-charm-waiting-for-the/s-ppGuy

"can hardly wait to hear what voxpox has to say..."
[HisKidd, May 2014]

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#1969464 - 10/06/12 01:52 PM Re: AP vs DP vs SP [Re: sandalholme]
gvfarns Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 3480
Loc: Pennsylvania
Software pianos are a great thing. Unfortunately, there are only a very few manufacturers making the physical keyboard part and they don't make high quality MIDI controllers. As a result, if you want a high end action, you have to buy a high end digital piano, which will come with expensive (notice that I didn't say "good") sounds, which you will then ignore when using a software piano.

If you intend to use a software piano and can tolerate a cheaper action, then inexpensive pianos like Casio's PX line are great options. I haven't tried the latest PX150, which apparently has a new and better action.

Almost without exception digital pianos have either MIDI out or MIDI-over-USB. The latter is exceptionally common in the current generation. You just plug that in to your computer, install your software piano, and you are good to go. Many people will also get an external audio interface (m-audio fast track pro, presonus audiobox, etc.) because they have better audio and often better ASIO drivers so you don't suffer from audio buffering latency.

People sometimes make a bigger deal of the hardware requirements of software pianos than is necessary. When software pianos first came out, hard drives were slower and smaller than they are now. There have also been improvements in the streaming technology. Vintage D, which is one of the more popular pianos around here, is only like 4 or 5 GB I think, and it can be played off of your regular hard drive on any reasonably recent computer (mine is a cheap old core 2 duo from like 2004).

As for why hardware pianos can't compete with software, I think it comes down to the fact that it's an oligopolistic market with relatively uninformed customers and barriers to entry so the manufacturers only make very small incremental improvements each year. That way they don't have to spend a lot of R&D. The market is small enough that customers can't really comparison shop well.

Of course the software piano market is small too, but buyers are much more informed and willing to comparison shop and drop poorer products. And software pianos can't easily lock you in because they all work on the same computers.


Edited by gvfarns (10/06/12 01:54 PM)

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#1969479 - 10/06/12 02:59 PM Re: AP vs DP vs SP [Re: sandalholme]
Vectistim Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/10
Posts: 315
Loc: Reading, UK
Can I hijack this a little:

With virtual organs there is (essentially) one main programme but then anyone can produce and then sell or give away organ samples, is the same true with software pianos, or if you have the ACME virtual piano can you only use ACME piano samples in it?

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#1969480 - 10/06/12 03:01 PM Re: AP vs DP vs SP [Re: sandalholme]
spanishbuddha Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 2319
Loc: UK
Also check out the Nord Piano 2. Downloadable sounds, but don't think they are VST's. The keyboard action gets mediocre reviews though for serious piano players.

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#1969504 - 10/06/12 03:56 PM Re: AP vs DP vs SP [Re: sandalholme]
Macy Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/09/10
Posts: 600
Originally Posted By: sandalholme
... I was surprised by the sensitivity of the (single at this stage) pedal: having been led to believe that DPs need lots of sustain I found the 4th Schubert Impromptu (1st set) needed delicate flutter pedalling as with an AP.

1. What sort of keyboard is necessary for hooking up to the pc? Any essential facilities?
2. Is it overkill to hook up a relatively high end DP? (the DP can always be used standalone of course, but my guess is that once I get used to the SP sounds.......... Or do DPs lack essential facilities?
3. I have yet to discover any DP which has a built in pc with SP capability, which I would have thought is a natural extension to the market. Any reasons why? (other than Yamaha and Kawai swallowing their pride and having software-based pianos from their competitors in the AP field) I would have thought a DP/SP combo wouldn't exceed V-piano, Avant Grand prices.

...

For those with experience in the AP and SP fields these questions may be very basic, but I would appreciate any help in getting to grips with the SP world, because I suspect I may well go in that direction.


Most of your questions have been answered already, but FWIW I'll add a few comments.

Related to your comment about sustain pedaling and your question #1, be certain whatever DP you choose has a sustain pedal that outputs a range of MIDI levels, not just on/off signals. That shouldn't be a problem with a higher-end DP, but it is essential to use the better software pianos.

IMO, if you want realistic AP sound, a SP (virtual piano) is the only way to go. No DP, IMO comes close, and that includes the most expensive Yamaha Clavinova or AvantGrand, or the Roland V-Pianos. Some folks that own those models may disagree and it's not my intent to stir up debate, but rather to simply add my agreement to what you were already told. If your budget allows by all means try those higher-end DPs standalone and decide for yourself if you find their internal piano sounds sufficiently convincing.

In any event, to directly answer your question #2, I don't think its overkill to use a high-end (such as those models) or a "relatively high-end" DP with software pianos for at least three reasons. One, is the appearance/form factor (sometimes called the wife factor). Some people want the "baby grand" appearance in their homes, and models from Yamaha (CLP-465GP/CVP409GP/CGP-1000/N3), Roland (V-Piano Grand), and Kawai (CP209) provide that, although conversely some people find their looks (especially the smaller models) fake and objectionable. Secondly, some of the higher end DPs, especially those with the "baby grand" form factors, provide excellent speaker/audio systems that can be used for a SP without external speakers, which reduces room clutter (that wife factor again), and some people believe more closely emulates the sound distribution patterns of an acoustic piano to the player. (However, there is a problem with using the internal audio/speaker system of the AvantGrands that has been discussed in this forum before.) Third, the wood keys/key surfaces and keyboard actions of the higher-end DPs tend to be more AP-like. The AvantGrand series is unique in having what is close to an actual AP grand action. For those reasons, I went with a high-end DP even though I knew I would never be satisfied with its internal piano sound and that I would use software virtual pianos.

In answer to your question 3, I don't think putting a PC in a DP to use off-the-shelf software virtual pianos is going to happen. Computer technology simply advances too fast and whatever was built into a particular model will be obsolete very quickly. SSDs have already rendered hard drives obsolete (and are particular advantageous for software pianos) as one example. Conversely, any DP with a good keyboard and sound system can be used for years as a MIDI keyboard/sound system as external PCs are upgraded. But moreover, DP companies wouldn't want to get involved in supporting built-in PC issues or providing support for issues with 3rd party software pianos. And most obviously, they wouldn't want their built-in piano sound technology to be so easily demonstrated as inferior.

If you do decide to use software pianos, I would highly recommend you try the Vintage D or the Ivory II series. The latter is much more demanding on computer resources however. We can be very helpful here about specific software piano issues and recommendations if you decide to pursue that path.
_________________________
Macy

CVP-409GP, Vintage D, Ivory II GP's & American Concert D, True Keys American D, Ravenscroft 275, Garritan Authorized Steinway, Alicia's Keys, EWQL Pianos, MainStage, iPad/forScore/PageFlip Cicada, Custom Mac MIDI/Audio Software Design, Macs Everywhere

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#1969671 - 10/07/12 04:00 AM Re: AP vs DP vs SP [Re: sandalholme]
sandalholme Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/31/09
Posts: 758
Loc: Dorset, UK
Many thanks for all your help and suggestions. I'm pretty sure I will get a reasonably high end DP and add on SP. I didn't realise there are different midi implementations, so I will do my research on what each DP I'm seriously considering puts out and what the software needs.

One further question: in recording from the DP, is it the midi data that gets copied into a file on the pc - meaning it can be re-run with different virtual pianos - or the audio generated by the software? Or both? If audio, presumably the quality/format can be specified. (CD/mp3 etc)

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#1969685 - 10/07/12 05:26 AM Re: AP vs DP vs SP [Re: sandalholme]
MacMacMac Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/24/09
Posts: 3776
Loc: North Carolina
You can record MIDI, and you can record audio. Your choice.

You can record the piano's native sound. But given that the sounds coming from a piano library are so much better than those from the piano, it makes sense to record audio from the former rather than the latter.

If you record the MIDI, you can play it back through any library (or even several libraries at the same time). You can take a MIDI recording of a Bach piece and play it through a piano library. Then, for authenticity, you can play it through a harpsichord library. Or, for un-thenticity, play it through a choir library. Or a guitar library. Your choice.

As for multiple MIDI implementations ... this is not relevant for piano playing. You can use any piano with any piano library.

So choose a piano with an action (and form-factor) that suits you.
Choose any piano libraries that sound good to you.
Choose any modern PC ... they're all more than adequate for the task.

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#1972375 - 10/12/12 04:07 PM Re: AP vs DP vs SP [Re: sandalholme]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: sandalholme
Many thanks. Nothing between DP and pc, only a midi link? Re headphones, my trusty ancient Sennheiser HD540s still deliver the goods. Understand at a basic level note off velocity but I guess there's a whole lot of concepts and tinkering possible. (My family tell me I'm a compulsive tinkerer and I've been involved with computers for decades, so SPs are probably made for me)

Re high end DPs not approaching the sound of SPs, that's what puzzled me. The 70GB, if I remember rightly, for IvoryII may have something to do with it. If I go the SP route my other hobby, photography, will take a hit, as my 500GB HD, plus a couple of external drives, are stuffed full of images. And I know the SP s/w will need to be on the resident drive.....


You can selectively install synthogy's pianos if memory serves. Just the german d sets me back only 13.4 gb (though it's synth 1)


Edited by Bobpickle (10/12/12 04:07 PM)

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