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#2325394 - 09/08/14 02:26 PM Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!!
ChefJumbo Online   content
Junior Member

Registered: 08/12/14
Posts: 11
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!

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#2325404 - 09/08/14 02:44 PM Re: Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!! [Re: ChefJumbo]
dewster Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/09
Posts: 4343
Loc: Northern NJ
Good luck on your project!

It's sad that it's nearing the end of 2014 and people still have to revert to DIY to get a decent sample set.
_________________________
The DPBSD Project!
THE RD-700NX Thread!
DPs Exposed! (nekid pichures!)

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#2325414 - 09/08/14 02:59 PM Re: Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!! [Re: ChefJumbo]
Marcos Daniel Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/07/13
Posts: 161
Loc: Punta Alta, Buenos Aires, Arge...
I wonder if there is space enough to put the PC inside the piano...

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#2325459 - 09/08/14 04:41 PM Re: Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!! [Re: ChefJumbo]
dewster Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/09
Posts: 4343
Loc: Northern NJ
That Yamaha sure is nice looking. Can you lift the lid and get the backwave reflected to your face? If so that's the best way to go. If not, I'd put a couple of small sealed full range speakers on top, wired in parallel with the internal speakers.

http://www.parts-express.com/dayton-audio-pa130-8-5-full-range-pa-driver--295-010
_________________________
The DPBSD Project!
THE RD-700NX Thread!
DPs Exposed! (nekid pichures!)

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#2325499 - 09/08/14 07:45 PM Re: Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!! [Re: ChefJumbo]
Kawai James Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/06/07
Posts: 9149
Loc: Hamamatsu, Japan
Great story!

You were very lucky to find a GT-1 in good condition at such a low price.
I wonder what the story is behind this instrument? Was it imported from Japan? When new, this instrument would have been very expensive...

Cheers,
James
x
_________________________
Employed by Kawai Japan, however the opinions I express are my own.
Nord Electro 3 fan & occasional rare groove player.

"Richard, none of us could forget you have a CLP-990." - EssBrace, 2014

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#2325513 - 09/08/14 08:42 PM Re: Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!! [Re: ChefJumbo]
36251 Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/12/10
Posts: 742
Nice! I almost bought one of those 10 or more years ago. At that time I didn't think the technology (sound,) was worth the $10,000 +, but still loved the action. What a price! I'm hoping for a better return on my N2, if I ever decide to sell it (Yamaha would have to blow me away with the next incarnation of the Avantgrand.)
_________________________
AG N2, CP4, GK MK & MP

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#2325602 - 09/09/14 05:13 AM Re: Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!! [Re: ChefJumbo]
sullivang Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/05/09
Posts: 2207
Loc: Sydney, Australia
Bloody awesome, and I am reminded of the Infinite Improbability Drive, from The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. smile

Greg.

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#2325620 - 09/09/14 07:42 AM Re: Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!! [Re: Marcos Daniel]
ChefJumbo Online   content
Junior Member

Registered: 08/12/14
Posts: 11
I think the PC can be put inside the piano, but the problem is I'm gonna need a remote power switch. Besides, in order to mount it inside the cabinet the piano will need to be drilled. -_-!

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#2325627 - 09/09/14 07:56 AM Re: Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!! [Re: ChefJumbo]
ChefJumbo Online   content
Junior Member

Registered: 08/12/14
Posts: 11
Originally Posted By: Marcos Daniel
I wonder if there is space enough to put the PC inside the piano...


I think the PC can be put inside the piano, but the problem is I'm gonna need a remote power switch. Besides, in order to mount it inside the cabinet the piano will need to be drilled. -_-!

Originally Posted By: dewster
That Yamaha sure is nice looking. Can you lift the lid and get the backwave reflected to your face? If so that's the best way to go. If not, I'd put a couple of small sealed full range speakers on top, wired in parallel with the internal speakers.

http://www.parts-express.com/dayton-audio-pa130-8-5-full-range-pa-driver--295-010


Unfortunately, the lid cannot be opened for this model. Regarding your suggestion on speakers I will give it a try! But I'll first put a custom diffuser on the floor and see if it helps reduce the excessive reverberation smile

Originally Posted By: Kawai James
Great story!

You were very lucky to find a GT-1 in good condition at such a low price.
I wonder what the story is behind this instrument? Was it imported from Japan? When new, this instrument would have been very expensive...

Cheers,
James
x


Yes it was imported from Japan. I think the ex-owner didn't even sell it, he or she might have paid the moving company to get rid of this piano (space is always at a premium in Japan). Despite its very good condition, it was treated as "junk" and sold to me as "junk" as well, this explains why no one recognizes its real value. Many junks from Japan have been exported to developing countries.

Originally Posted By: 36251
Nice! I almost bought one of those 10 or more years ago. At that time I didn't think the technology (sound,) was worth the $10,000 +, but still loved the action. What a price! I'm hoping for a better return on my N2, if I ever decide to sell it (Yamaha would have to blow me away with the next incarnation of the Avantgrand.)

As long as it is not treated as "Junk" its resell value should be ok.. small production, high demand smile

Originally Posted By: sullivang
Bloody awesome, and I am reminded of the Infinite Improbability Drive, from The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. smile

Greg.

Thanks smile It's not over yet, let's see what it's gonna be like in the next few days. This involves some more mods laugh


Edited by ChefJumbo (09/09/14 07:56 AM)

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#2325637 - 09/09/14 08:17 AM Re: Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!! [Re: ChefJumbo]
ChefJumbo Online   content
Junior Member

Registered: 08/12/14
Posts: 11
UPDATE: 9/9/2014
Budget Changed! I have decided to increase budget for this project to $1,100 because the result, although not fully completed yet, is very well worth it!

Today I got a 7" inch HD LCD Monitor for 50 bucks... so $1 left.. budget increased to $1,100 so altogether I still have $101 left in my pocket for beautifying everything...

This monitor's got VGA and HDMI connectors so it's perfect for space-saving purposes.




The last thing that I want to see after completing this project is messy cords and lots of fancy gadgets so I'm gonna need to put everything into one box, including the PC, the screen, the interface, AC cords and Adapters and everything. I'm working on the sketch. The case will be made of MDF since it's the cheapest material and with wood laminates it's gonna look really cool.



Now the floor diffuser made of MDF and acoustic foams, the standard size of MDF is 1.2m * 2.4m so it will take only one MDF board for the whole project (floor diffuser and pc case). The cost of MDF cutting + MDF board itself is roughly $30.

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#2326022 - 09/10/14 12:48 PM Re: Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!! [Re: ChefJumbo]
ChefJumbo Online   content
Junior Member

Registered: 08/12/14
Posts: 11
UPDATE 10/09/2014
FLOOR DIFFUSER IS DONE! After installing the floor diffuser the sound gets much cleaner and clearer, it's less boxy now, the excessive reverberation and dirty/boomy bass were significantly reduced. No, the speakers do not sound as clean as those in P-250, CP-300 or PF-500 but it no more feels like playing piano in the closet.

Total spending for today: $30 for MDF panel, MDF cutting (both floor diffuser and PC case) and $15 for glue, spray paints and everything











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#2326228 - 09/11/14 12:27 AM Re: Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!! [Re: ChefJumbo]
lolatu Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/01/13
Posts: 458
Loc: UK
Good effort OP, and interesting thread! If it were me, I'd have put the whole thing on a small rug. It would look better, though perhaps not as effective as your acoustic foam. I look forward to seeing your integrated computer box and top speakers.
_________________________
Kawai CA95 / Pianoteq Stage / Sony MDR-7506 / Steinberg UR22
In the loft: Roland FP3 / Tannoy Reveal Active / K&M 18810

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#2326241 - 09/11/14 01:10 AM Re: Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!! [Re: ChefJumbo]
peterws Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3605
Loc: Northern England.
You've definitely gone to a lot of trouble here. I'd have altered the cabinet to resite those speakers internally and engineered the lid for opening purposes. And not been afraid of drilling. . .but it does look really good.


Edited by peterws (09/11/14 01:11 AM)
_________________________
"I'm playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order." Eric Morecambe

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#2326419 - 09/11/14 12:59 PM Re: Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!! [Re: peterws]
ChefJumbo Online   content
Junior Member

Registered: 08/12/14
Posts: 11
Originally Posted By: lolatu
Good effort OP, and interesting thread! If it were me, I'd have put the whole thing on a small rug. It would look better, though perhaps not as effective as your acoustic foam. I look forward to seeing your integrated computer box and top speakers.


Originally Posted By: peterws
You've definitely gone to a lot of trouble here. I'd have altered the cabinet to resite those speakers internally and engineered the lid for opening purposes. And not been afraid of drilling. . .but it does look really good.


Small rug is a good idea, but will need to see how much reverberation/boomy bass it can reduce smile Regarding speaker relocation and lid opening modification, I believe that this would involve some serious cabinet mods, in other word, this means rebuilding the whole cabinet. The space between the action and the lid is insufficient for speakers at this size, meaning that the whole action will need to be repositioned or the lid will need to be lifted up so there's a room for the speakers. Both ways need some serious cabinet mods and, if not done properly and professionally, will result in an ugly-looking instrument. While thinking about all of this, I'm wondering why the engineers at Yamaha didn't get it right in the first place. The GT-1 was once a very high-end, top-of-the-line and bloody expensive instrument. People who spent this much for the instrument were surely not expecting compromises....

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#2326422 - 09/11/14 01:10 PM Re: Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!! [Re: ChefJumbo]
ChefJumbo Online   content
Junior Member

Registered: 08/12/14
Posts: 11
Time for today's update. Spent the whole day building the integrated PC box so things progressed quite a lot today.

Pictures say it all... now it's approximately 80% done, however, the box needs more beautification including wood laminates, wooden trims. The front and the back of this integrated box can be open so it can be serviced if needed.
















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#2326449 - 09/11/14 02:35 PM Re: Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!! [Re: ChefJumbo]
Clumsy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/01/12
Posts: 60
Loc: Bangkok, Thailand
Hi Chef! A fellow Thai member in here. Great project!
_________________________
- Anirut J.
Out-of-tune mid 70's acoustic Bentley upright and Casio Celviano AP-450

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#2326468 - 09/11/14 03:54 PM Re: Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!! [Re: ChefJumbo]
Strat Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/07
Posts: 577
Loc: Toronto, Canada
Fantastic! Too bad we can't go shopping together. lol!
_________________________
Started playing in mid-June 2007. Self-taught... for now. :p

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#2328369 - Today at 11:20 AM Re: Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!! [Re: ChefJumbo]
ChefJumbo Online   content
Junior Member

Registered: 08/12/14
Posts: 11
IT'S FINALLY DONE!
This is truly something that feels like a grand piano (you can't go wrong with the real grand action only offered by the GranTouches and the AvantGrands) and sounds like a Steinway D, well, CD121 to be exact... This is why it deserves the Steinway Badge... The Poor Man's Steinway ahaha

So far, I have spent $1.1k on this project.. This is almost like a steal. I'm extremely satisfied with almost everything:- looks, sound, and feel. The only thing that bugs me is that I don't know how long it's gonna last. Despite its very good condition, the piano is like 16-17 years old already and it is all about the mechanics, the electronics and the optics. Anyway, let's stop thinking about that for a while, I'm possibly the happiest guy on earth now :-)



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#2328400 - 43 minutes 15 seconds ago Re: Project: The Ultimate Digital Piano for Under 1 Grand!!! [Re: ChefJumbo]
Vid Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/01
Posts: 837
Loc: Vancouver, B.C.
Congrats! It looks great - love the Steinway badge.
_________________________
Kawai VPC1, Pianoteq, Galaxy Vintage D

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