I'm a digital piano/keyboard reviewer from Bangkok, Thailand. I have an access to just about every new DP, ranging from prototypes to actual production units. However, personally, I only have one DP (ES7)at the office and one old grand piano (Yamaha CFIII from 80s) at home.
There were times that I needed to practice at night and the CFIII is far from being an ideal choice for that. I was absolutely in need of a very high quality DP BUT didn't wanna spend more than $1,000 for that
. As a reviewer who has tried and become acquainted with some of the world's best and priciest DPs, my tolerance for mediocre quality DPs is very limited.
The most important question was "How the heck was I supposed to get a very high quality, uncompromising DP in every aspect for under one grand?
". The question itself seemed impossible, but still I wanted to gave it a try. In Thailand, with this budget, you can only get a Yamaha P105, Casio PX350, Korg SP-250, Kurzweil MPS-20 or Kawai ES-100. Yes, they are all good pianos, but as I mentioned earlier, I'm a little picky when it comes to this so I wanted something MUCH BETTER than those.
OK, so now that one possibility (getting a new DP) was completely eliminated, another possibility was to get a used DP for a fraction of its original price. Unfortunately, in Thailand, DPs depreciated very little in value. So with this this budget, choices were extremely limited: Roland RD-700 Classic, Yamaha P200 (Not even P250...which still goes for something like $1,500 in Thailand), Kawai ES1 or ES3,
very old clavinova (older than CVP 10X). Still not good enough.
Now the very last option, which was VERY UNLIKELY that I was gonna be able to make it with this option, GO SEARCH FOR SOME DECENT DPS AT JUNK SHOPS!
Depending on your luck, you can sometimes find gems at this kind of store although they are very rare. In Thailand we have quite a number of shops that sell junks mostly from Japan. So my goal was very simple- I would go search for DPs at every junk shop within 100 miles distance from my place.
Visiting stores after stores, I have only found what its name suggests - JUNKS! most of them are old Clavinovas and Kawais from the 80s which I think are completely unusable in today's standards. But just when I was about to give up, I realized that I still had 20 more miles to go.. I was already out of Bangkok, hopes started to completely fade away.
I drove pass by another junk store and decided to stop, this store didn't look like a place to carry decent EPs, it didn't
even look like a place to buy any musical instruments.
And guess what I found.... The Yamaha GranTouch GT-1 in near-mint condition!!!
, very lightly used, very minor scratches and blemishes, keys still feel firm and balanced all across the range. I really didn't expect to find this kind of thing in this kind of store. The seller who is also the owner of the store said "This one is an old Yamaha Clavinova... the difference from other Clavinovas is that it looks a little better and is in very good condition so the price has to be a little higher..... $1,100 last price... ok?". After some negotiation, trying to convince her that this model could have a very high running cost and transportation cost, the price went down to $750
.... with concert bench and step-down transformer.
I was very happy with the purchase.... a grantouch for $750... the touch is almost perfect... it feels like a real fine grand. However, it still leaves something to be desired. The 30MB CFIIIS sample was very good back then, it sounds fairly authentic despite the fact that the dynamic is visibly limited and the tone is too boxy and muddy- like some old English pianos (which I hate). However, compared to today's standards,
it sounds shitty. But the good news is, I still had $250 left in my pocket.. guess what I'm gonna do... $199 for Ivory II American Concert D and $51 left
. I already have everything it takes to run it, an i3 computer with SSD drive, focusrite interface, UM-ONE USB midi interface and iLok. This is the piano software that I use most of the time in my studio and I am very family with it.
Hooking up the GranTouch with computer is fairly simple. However, I wanted to use GranTouch's internal speakers- i like the feeling of speaker vibrations being transmitted to the fingers, it just makes the whole thing more connected and authentic. The problem is there is no "Local Control function" so you cannot turn it off. There is also no input gain volume control knob, it is supposedly always at the maximum so you have to control the volume using your source (in this case, audio interface).
The whole connection diagram looks like this:- GrandTouch -> Volume turned all the way down -> MIDI IO connected through UM-ONE -> Computer & Ivory -> Audio Outs from an interface to GranTouch's Audio-INs.
The result was a real nightmare. The sound and the keys just didn't go together, the dynamic was hugely suppressed. It was so darn hard to play delicate pianissimos like ppp,in fact, it couldn't be played at all. The pressure required to press down the key and generate the sound far surpasses the pressure required to play ppp. This means that by the time the piano starts to make any sound, it's already pp or p. The same applies with fortissimos. In short, the piano was absolutely unplayable.
I tried to change the curve presets, curve types, hardness and etc but it didn't get any better, until I found out these settings (see image below). The MIDI dynamic range transmission
of the GranTouch is somewhat limited, it didn't go from 0 all the way to 127 so you'd have to compensate it. These are what I've found to be the best and most natural curve settings for the GranTouch: Vel Min = 18, Vel Max = 102, Arc Type = Mild, Hardness = 0.0%. After that I panned a little bit to the right,
for some unknown reasons it just didn't feel right with "center" panning which always worked in most cases, it sounded as if it was left-panned so panning a little to the right helped compensate this. All of these make the whole thing feel as natural as it gets.
The piano was very playable after I changed curve settings to the above values. However, it still sounded muddy and muffled. I think the speaker placement wasn't right. Speakers are mounted upside down so they are facing towards the floor. When the sound hits the floor it bounces back, repeating like this again and again making it sound boxy and lack clarity. This is perhaps why Yamaha changed the speaker placement design in later models. I think it is safe to say that this design is flawed, what you hear is basically what's bounced back from the floor!
Nevertheless, I think the speakers kinda have the potential, they are big, they have lots of power. They are just not clear, not because of themselves but because of the design. Remember that I still have $51 left? With the remaining budget, it means that something can be done! In order to make it sound better, and clearer, I realized that reverbation needs to be subdued so I tried placing pieces of acoustic foams under the piano, right where the sound gets bounced back. This helps reduce reverbation. As a result, the sound gets much cleaner and clearer!
Now that I know this works so my last $51 will go into beautifying this, will show you pictures as soon as it's done!