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#658399 - 07/12/05 08:49 PM My first topic
C#minor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/11/05
Posts: 71
Hi everyone, this will be my first topic in this great forum, and I have an interesting question for you.
How well do you think a midi controller + a piano software would compare to the digital pianos available today on the market?
What I have in mind is something like CME UF8 , the recently available midi controller that seems to grab a lot of attention specially to its weighted hammer action. Connect this controller to a Mac running Ivory . Total cost (without that of a Mac) would be $1130. That beats a lot of the top offerings from Roland and Yamaha with surpassed quality.
For home or studio use, which one do you think is a better choice?

Best.

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#658400 - 07/12/05 09:21 PM Re: My first topic
SteveY Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/01
Posts: 1820
Loc: NJ
 Quote:
That beats a lot of the top offerings from Roland and Yamaha with surpassed quality.
Welcome C#minor.
Your proposed set-up will sound great. But, I don't know what you mean by it beating "top offerings from Roland and Yamaha". The CME is unproven at best. I wonder who makes their actions? Fatar? That wouldn't beat either Roland or Yamaha. Have you played it?
_________________________
PianoWorld disclaimer: musician, producer, arranger, author, clinician, consultant, PS2 aficionado, secret agent...

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#658401 - 07/12/05 10:26 PM Re: My first topic
C#minor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/11/05
Posts: 71
Sorry I wasn't clear. Pricewise is what I meant.

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#658402 - 07/12/05 10:30 PM Re: My first topic
C#minor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/11/05
Posts: 71
Thanks Steve in joining this discussion. To answer your question, no, I haven't played or tried the suggested combination. Actually, that is why I am posting this question to get answers from people who tried it or at least have an experience with the (midi controller + piano software plugin) setup.

Best.

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#658403 - 07/12/05 10:59 PM Re: My first topic
C#minor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/11/05
Posts: 71
As far as the sound quality, it is in my humble opinion, that Ivory is in a category by itself above many (if not all) commercially available digital pianos.
I have heard the samples they have on the company's website, but I think to listen to a fair comparison you could try Purgatory Creek digital piano shootout
Would still like to hear everyone's opinion and experience on the matter. Thanks.

Best.

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#658404 - 07/12/05 11:08 PM Re: My first topic
ghostclaws Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/20/05
Posts: 382
Loc: Canada
C#minor:

Are you using to setup for home use or live gigs?
If it's the latter, I would worry about the robustness of such a system (especially if it's run on a PC).
Steve: I know you run Ivory on a G5 system, have you experienced any freeze-ups or crashes? I have always wondered about that. With the Ivory, do you have to store the samples on a separate hard-drive?

GC

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#658405 - 07/13/05 12:31 AM Re: My first topic
C#minor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/11/05
Posts: 71
I am talking about home practising/studio use only. I don't have the guts to take a computer for a gig \:\)

My whole point of this post is that I have the impression that although digital pianos have very small sample sizes in comparison with software, they have dedicated DSPs that make them very experessive still, e.g. the Roland RD 700sx with only a 64MB rom, Gem Promega 3...etc.

Would a piano plugin + a midi controller acheive the same degree of expression? Which midi controller would you recommend?

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#658406 - 07/13/05 10:14 AM Re: My first topic
Rodney Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/04
Posts: 735
Loc: Caledon ON, Canada
Hi C#minor,

I don't have any experience specifically with Ivory (waiting for a Windows version) but I have just about every Giga piano library going as well as several ROMplers to compare.

Here's what I've found:

When recording sequences, I'll use Gigastudio and one of the many piano samples. When I feel like playing around with voices other than piano, I'll almost always turn to a Yamaha Motif, but when I'm playing/practicing piano, I'll always go to the Yamaha CLP-170. I have another setup of a midi controller tied to a Roland XV-3080 with an SRX-02 piano sample board but I've found that the sound just doesn't compare to the Clavinova.

When I try to play the Giga samples live, there is a barely discernable delay (latency) and I can never quite get past the feeling that I'm playing a recording (albeit a VERY GOOD recording), that I don't get with the 170.

My 2 cents,

Rodney

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#658407 - 07/13/05 11:38 AM Re: My first topic
SteveY Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/01
Posts: 1820
Loc: NJ
 Quote:
When I try to play the Giga samples live, there is a barely discernable delay (latency) and I can never quite get past the feeling that I'm playing a recording (albeit a VERY GOOD recording), that I don't get with the 170.
Rodney is onto something here. I have many friends in the industry, and they tell me that this is THE reason that we're not seeing huge piano samples in hardware instruments (yet). There is a disconnect between the player and the sound when using virtual instruments -- particularly pianos. And in terms of an integrated digital piano with large samples, the streaming technology just isn't quite there yet to create the same kind of response and connection between player and instrument. When I use Ivory, I usually track with my favorite sound on my XV88 or FantomX8. I then assign the MIDI output to Ivory. I rarely perform on Ivory itself. It just doesn't feel right to me. I have very low latency on my system, yet I can still sense it. With other types of sounds (strings, organ, etc.), the latency is less of an issue. But perhaps my own standards as a player are higher on a piano sound? I'm not sure. I just don't like the feeling while performing.
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PianoWorld disclaimer: musician, producer, arranger, author, clinician, consultant, PS2 aficionado, secret agent...

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#658408 - 07/13/05 11:57 AM Re: My first topic
C#minor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/11/05
Posts: 71
Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate it.

Best.

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#658409 - 07/13/05 12:04 PM Re: My first topic
palley Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/05
Posts: 708
Loc: Binghamton, New York
Yes, Thanks Steve! A great explanation of something we have been dancing around about here for months (and probably years b4 I showed up)!
_________________________
Phil

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#658410 - 07/13/05 02:10 PM Re: My first topic
FogVilleLad Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/02/05
Posts: 4680
Loc: San Francisco
C#minor,

Two things: that controller almost certainly uses a Fatar keyboard. No way does a small manufacturer have the resources to develop their own.

Digital pianos' included sounds, especially from the Roland 700SX, are much better than they were even two years ago. Somewhere in Roland's menu system there's an option that turns on sympathetic resonance---could be One Touch. That's well worth exploring.

I still prefer controler+sampled piano. There's a depth to good samples that just jumps out at you. That said, latency is *the* issue. You need some CPU horsepower and a good soundcard. Most folks---of whom I'm one---won't sense the delay if it's 3 milliseconds or less. They will begin to sense it if it exceed 6 milliseconds. (I get 2.9.)

DavidH

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#658411 - 07/13/05 03:03 PM Re: My first topic
C#minor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/11/05
Posts: 71
Hi David,
The reason I mentioned the CME is that it seems to receive favorable reviews from many people. There was a review by Keyboard magazine not long ago, and they said it was quite nice. Thing also is that it started to ship, so I thought maybe more people have tried it.

If you don't mind David, could you tell us what is your setup that you use to acheive this remarkable 2.9 ms latency? I've read an article in Sound On Sound magazine and it mentioned that keeping the latency below 6 ms is not bad at all. Actually a guitar player playig on a big stage will experience a 10 ms delay if he is standing just 11ft. away from his stack. Just simple physics!

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#658412 - 07/13/05 04:17 PM Re: My first topic
SteveY Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/01
Posts: 1820
Loc: NJ
FYI: A MIDI connection adds at least 3ms of latency. That's before any added latency from your computer set-up.
_________________________
PianoWorld disclaimer: musician, producer, arranger, author, clinician, consultant, PS2 aficionado, secret agent...

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#658413 - 07/13/05 04:57 PM Re: My first topic
C#minor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/11/05
Posts: 71
Wow! 1st time to know about this, thanks Steve. Does the length of the midi cable play any role in this, or do you get this kind of latency anyway as long as you are using midi?
Also, would it make any difference to connect to the computer by a fast USB 2.0 cable, or firewire?

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#658414 - 07/13/05 05:04 PM Re: My first topic
FogVilleLad Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/02/05
Posts: 4680
Loc: San Francisco
C#,

Re the reviews, last year it was the Doepfer! Reviews are great, but it's a good idea to keep in mind that publishers are in the business of, shall we say, headlines. New products generate interest. Only rarely do you see full fledged comparison tests. (You can locate them, but most reviews are single-product ones, which don't refer to other products, or refer to them only in passing.)

The latency figure I listed is the one that shows within Cubase SX. Your number uses a different yardstick. (And Steve Y knows his stuff.) For most people---of whom, again, I'm one---the sequencer's laency figure is a workable baseline. Your ears---and Steve's---may vary.

I have a dual Xeon box (got it used from an IBM tech guy for 1/3 retail) with 2 gigs of RAM and an RME 9632 soundcard. Latency in Cubase is 2.902ms.

The guy who set up my apps teaches computer-based recording. He says that 1 processor is enough for audio, and that dual processors don't become necessary until you're also doing video.

Personally I'd be happy with 1 P4, but the dual Xeon box was sitting there when I went to buy a flat panel monitor from the same guy, and since the price was right...

DavidH

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#658415 - 07/13/05 07:53 PM Re: My first topic
ghostclaws Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/20/05
Posts: 382
Loc: Canada
My local music store just brought in a CME. I think it lists around CA$700 so it is a real bargoon. The guy told me it's made in China.
In the store, it was midi'ed to one of the Roland digital pianos (don't remember the model). I just was not too keen about the action (it felt kind of sloppy) but I only played on it for a few minutes.

On the issue with software pianos. I have no experience with the Ivory. My setup consists of Kontakt (software sampler) and the software piano is the Bardstown(sp?) Imperial Bosie. I do find a discernable latency while playing it(very subtle but it's there); I think the best way to describe it is the feel is not very "solid". I tend to concur with SteveY that current hard-disk streaming technology is still imperfect. Personally, I much prefer to play on a hardware based digital piano.

Just my 2 cents.

GC

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#658416 - 07/13/05 09:16 PM Re: My first topic
SteveY Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/01
Posts: 1820
Loc: NJ
Lots of good input here!!!

I do want to clarify (not sure if it's necessary) that I'm not down on virtual instruments. It should be obvious that I own several and use them all the time. It's entirely possible that others might find my exact set-up completely satisfying in terms of the player/instrument connection (that I find a little bit lacking). It's all very personal.

That said, I'm a bit two-faced on this anyway. I've played many, many gigs on horrible sounding keyboards with horrible sounding PA systems. I've played and toured with 61 or 76-key synths and played piano parts on them. Even though it's not optimum, most gigs aren't perfect situations. You make the best of it -- you try and be musical, and often, great things happen. But when I can, I buy the best. I obsess about finding the right microphones and preamps for any project I work on. I spent a boat-load of money on a high-end piano because I wanted to have the best sound possible.

So I guess what I'm saying is that if I'm looking for the perfect solution, virtual instruments aren't it. But if I'm looking for a great tool that gets the job done, virtual instruments are great!!! I think each person ultimately has to decide where their standards lie on these kinds of issues (latency, sonic character, etc.).
_________________________
PianoWorld disclaimer: musician, producer, arranger, author, clinician, consultant, PS2 aficionado, secret agent...

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#658417 - 07/14/05 06:31 PM Re: My first topic
SIS Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/30/05
Posts: 20
Loc: Sweden
I use Ivory on a G4 with a CLP230 as MIDI controller and if I set the buffer on RAX to 128 (latency 3ms) or less then I do not sense any latency. This is the set up I use:

Apple G4 dual 1GHz, 1Gb RAM, Julia@ internal sound card, dedicated SATA HD for Ivory samples, Synthogy Ivory, RAX host, Speed Freak PCU accelerator (I have no idea if this gives me any benefits but I use it anyway), Behringer Eurorack UB1002 mixer, Yamaha CLP230 MIDI controller.

Cheers

Paul

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#658418 - 07/14/05 08:10 PM Re: My first topic
C#minor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/11/05
Posts: 71
Thanks Paul for sharing this information. If you don't mind me asking, what is a RAX host?

Best.

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#658419 - 07/15/05 02:43 AM Re: My first topic
SIS Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/30/05
Posts: 20
Loc: Sweden
C#

Ivory is not a stand alone program, it is a plug-in. Therefore you need a host sequencer to run it. RAX is a free and simple sequencer. You can pay a few dollars to get the full program with multi-instrument play and true sequencing but the unregistered download allows live playback for a single instrument. Latency is mostly affected by the host sequencers buffer. All sequencers will allow you to manually set the buffer size. Buffer size, as I understand it, is like the sequencers own RAM for your samples. However a high buffer (>512 mb) will give you a noticeable latency (the piano keys feel somehow unfocussed). Setting the buffer to a very low level will give you less latency. Below 128 mb I do not sense any latency. The piano feels 'crisp' and 'in phase' with the sounds (it feels in short like the source of the sounds). The downside is that low buffer settings leave you very dependant on your hard disks ability to find and read your sample quickly. Obviously if your hard disk is too slow for your buffer setting then you will get problems with dropped notes etc.. I use a single internal SATA hard disk (180GB) which I've partitioned into one 35GB and one 145GB volume. The Ivory samples are on the smaller volume (i.e. they are all close together on the hard drive which lowers the search time). The read speed of the SATA is 1.5GB/s. I could, if I needed even more efficiency, install a second SATA drive and RAID the two drives (striping) to get an effective read speed of 3GB/s (the G4 has four internal HD bays so I could theoretically use up to 4 HD's giving me upto 6GB/s). I have not as yet had any problems with this set-up. However, I am a beginner and therefore I do not play passages that really test its limts. I do have a colleague though who is a very experienced pianist and I'm sure he will test the system for me at some stage. Hope this helps.

Paul

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#658420 - 07/15/05 03:30 AM Re: My first topic
C#minor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/11/05
Posts: 71
Thanks Paul, that was very informative.

Best.

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#658421 - 07/18/05 04:59 AM Re: My first topic
SIS Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/30/05
Posts: 20
Loc: Sweden
Hi,

I've been looking into this latency thing for a few days now. I felt somehow I wasn't really on the ball when I wrote the last couple of posts and it turns out that I WAS a little off course. It turns out that (for users of Ivory at least) latency is due to a combination of the host sequencer's buffer setting AND the soundcard's sampling rate. A low buffer setting and a high sampling rate can reduce latency significantly. If I use RAX, which is a simple and free live playback host, and set the buffer to 64 (the lowest setting) and I set the soundcard's sampling frequency to 96KHz (see subnote) then the latency is 1ms. In this circumstance I find it difficult to distinguish between Ivory and the clp230 on it's own (through headphones) in terms of latency. There IS a difference, and you have to work hard to sense it, and I would describe it as an ever so slightly greater sense of 'in phase-ness' with the clp230 alone. However, I think the level of latency is small enough to NOT be disturbing. In addition, the increased sense of playability gained by using Ivory outweighs this ever so slightly increased sense of 'in phase-ness' with the clp230 alone.

Subnote
When I used higher sampling rates, which ought to have given me even lower latency (indeed, a sampling rate of 192KHz and a buffer setting of 64 has a latency of effectively zero), all I heard on keystrokes was distorted broken up noise. I wasn't quite sure what the reason for this was. Later when I was testing 96KHz I had the same problem when I had a second RAX instrument file opened. Closing this file caused the distortion to go away. I am still not quite sure what the reason for this is, whether it's cpu load, RAM load, or load on the soundcard itself. If anyone has any ideas then I'd be glad to hear from them.

Paul

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#658422 - 07/18/05 10:41 AM Re: My first topic
C#minor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/11/05
Posts: 71
Thanks for the update Paul, but just to clarify with what you mentioned in previous posts, are you suggesting that the size and speed of the HD does NOT play a role in lowering the latency with Ivory?
I kind of had the impression it does, due to the continuous streaming that is taking place.

Best.

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#658423 - 07/18/05 01:19 PM Re: My first topic
SIS Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/30/05
Posts: 20
Loc: Sweden
C#

the HD doesn't affect latency per se. A slow HD will lead to poor performance in terms of the quality of the notes you are playing. What I was saying earlier was that a low buffer setting on the host sequencer (to obtain low latency) results in a increased load on the computer when it comes to getting the samples off the HD. On reflection, I'm not sure this is entirely true. According to the Ivory manual, the trade off for a low buffer setting in the host is an increased load on the CPU. It may be that the HD is important with regard to the plug-in (Ivory) itself and not the host at all.

Let's see if I can work it all out.

I'm guessing a flowchart would look something like this:

finger to key(MIDI), key(MIDI) to soundcard, soundcard tells sequencer, sequencer tells Ivory, Ivory to HD to find and read samples, samples (through Ivory) to sequencer, sequencer 'samples' samples on soundcard, sequencer sends samples through soundcard to mixer, mixer to headphones

Assuming this is somewhere close to correct then as long as Ivory can get the samples from the HD at a fast enough rate then the bottleneck is the sequencers ability to 'carry' the samples to the soundcard for 'sampling' and then send them on to the output channel. I'm not sure now, and I may be wrong, but it may be that the buffer size determines the amount of samples the sequencer can 'carry' at any time to the soundcard to be sampled. A high buffer means that the sequencer is 'carrying' large numbers of samples to the soundcard for 'sampling' and a low buffer setting means it is 'carrying' small numbers of samples to the soundcard. Clearly, if it is 'waiting' to gather large numbers of samples before going to the soundcard then latency will result. The positive side is that it won't have to make so many journeys, thus saving CPU power. On the other hand if it going to the souncard more often with smaller numbers of samples then latency will be lower. The downside though is that the greater number of journeys creates a greater load on the CPU.

Putting it simply then:

If you want low latency then you will have to make your sequencer 'carry' fewer samples to the souncard more often. This process is CPU intensive but lighter on RAM load.

If you don't care about latency then you can make your sequencer 'wait' whilst is loads up greater numbers of samples for fewer journeys to the souncard. This saves on CPU power but is heavier on RAM load.

The rate at which the samples are 'sampled' by the soundcard also effects latency. According to the Ivory manual a higher sampling rate reduces latency. Maybe someone else can offer some light on why this is so.

Clearly then, if you want low latency, then you need:

fast HD search and read
lots of CPU power to faciliate a low sequencer buffer setting
high sampling frequency on your soundcard

Thank God, I think I've understood it all now!

Paul

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#658424 - 07/25/05 10:27 AM Re: My first topic
RandomThoughts Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/04
Posts: 106
Loc: Canada
Whoa. Sigh... I think I'll just continue using the included sounds. When I tried using uh... can't remember, a 1GB sample, anyway... the latency was waaay more than that - should try again. Then again, Finale by itself stresses out my laptop.

Even though I'm a hardcore computer geek (programmer by trade), for some reason when I'm at the piano I suddenly have absolutely NO patience for any technical problems. Different side of the brain or something. So my computer-music knowledge is limited.

Anyway, back on topic. I'd just like to note that in the review cited by the site, the reviewer was comparing the controller to a 5 octave, unweighted plastic key setup. So of course it would be leaps and bounds better than that...

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#658425 - 07/25/05 10:35 AM Re: My first topic
kidblast Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/25/05
Posts: 258
Loc: Leominster Mass.
"I suddenly have absolutely NO patience for any technical problems."

I can relate,, when I get out of work, the last thing I want to do is go back into dealing with this PC/Networking/Technical stuff...

My home PC can be a mess, and it will take me weeks to get motivated to fix it.

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