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#664546 - 08/28/04 02:23 AM digital purchase advice needed
sinequannone Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/06/04
Posts: 15
Loc: California
I am looking for digital piano that sounds and feels closest to acoustic piano. I've been playing on acoustics for 10 years now and would have bought an acoustic if I wasn't living in the dorm. I don't care about the bells and whistles. Only need it to be a piano replacement. I was considering Yamaha P60, P90, P120, P250 and Roland FP2, FP5 and RD700. What are the differences between the P series. I heard that the actions in all the P series are all the same. If that's the case, I should just get the cheapest among all...will that be correct? And which has a closer acoustic feel? Yamaha or Roland? Since, I only need it as a piano, I don't want to pay more just because the keyboard has more of those fancy stuff. I've only tried rd700 so far and like the feel and sound, but I feel that I'm paying more for the "extra fancy stuff" that I will end up not using and hence find it a waste of money. Any suggestions?

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#664547 - 08/28/04 07:11 AM Re: digital purchase advice needed
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
you should look at the polyphony on each Yamaha model. Yamaha P60 only has something like 32 polyphony which is not enough at all (especially for one with acoustic experience). most better/high end digital pianos should have 128 polyphony. Roland might have different standard for polyphony.

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#664548 - 08/28/04 09:22 AM Re: digital purchase advice needed
sinequannone Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/06/04
Posts: 15
Loc: California
I'm looking into something with 64 polyphony. I think it should be sufficient.

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#664549 - 08/28/04 10:20 AM Re: digital purchase advice needed
Michigan Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/25/04
Posts: 14
I'm not experienced with the differences among the pianos. Probably just a matter of features. If you're just aiming for as similar to an accoustic as possible, who cares about many features, right? Of course besides polyphony. Anyway, have you tried to Yamahas? I personally felt that the Yamahas were too "spongy" (in the feel of playing the keys) and not as near to an accoustic as other brands. Just my experience. But of course, it's all up to your individual touch...

I was most impressed with the Technics brand for being as close to an accoustic as possible.

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#664550 - 08/28/04 10:28 AM Re: digital purchase advice needed
Dave Horne Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5277
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
I'll add my two cents re polyphony. I practice on a Yamaha GranTouch piano (a real grand action with a sampled sound). My piano has 32 note polyphony and I _never_ felt I was in any way limited. I'm sure someone can came up with one or two musicial situations where 32 note polyphony is not enough but I am hard pressed to come up with even one example.
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#664551 - 08/28/04 12:24 PM Re: digital purchase advice needed
SteveY Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/01
Posts: 1820
Loc: NJ
I dunno Dave. I've played the GranTouch. The sound was mediocre, as was the action. And the polyphony situation was almost unworkable. It's no wonder Yamaha quit marketing in the US.
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#664552 - 08/28/04 12:42 PM Re: digital purchase advice needed
sinequannone Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/06/04
Posts: 15
Loc: California
Frankly, I don't know much about the polyphony stuff. I just heard that with less polyphony, you run out of notes when you play fast songs. So, for fast songs like the flight of the bumble bee by Rimski Korsakov, how many polyphony do you need to play it? Because, given my skill now, I don't think I can play any songs faster than that. As long as the piano has sufficient polyphony to be able to play that song, I'm satisfied. Aside from the polyphony stuff, what's the difference between the P series. And any opinions on which is better, yamaha or roland?

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#664553 - 08/28/04 02:12 PM Re: digital purchase advice needed
Dave Horne Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5277
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
 Quote:
Originally posted by SteveY:
I dunno Dave. I've played the GranTouch. The sound was mediocre, as was the action. And the polyphony situation was almost unworkable. It's no wonder Yamaha quit marketing in the US. [/b]
Did you listen to the sound through headphones? I can honestly say the sample in the GranTouch is the _best_ sample I have ever heard. (I also just bought the P250 and I still prefer the sample in the GranTouch.)

Re polyphony and your claim that 32 note polyphony was 'almost unworkable' I really wonder how honest you are being. I have __never__ encountered a situation in real live playing where 32 note polyphony posed any limitation. (Perhaps you could pass on which specific measures in which specific pieces caused you to use the 'almost unworkable' comment re 32 note polyphony.)

The action in the GranTouch is the same action from (as I've been told) their six foot model. I have had the key dip made greater on mine as I prefer a key dip that is greater than regulation. (The key dip on the GT1 is regulation.)

The sound through the internal speakers (in the GT1) is OK but there is no EQ whatsoever. I run my GT1 through my home stereo and turn up the bass for a little extra bass support. The piano sounds excellent through headphones.

Re the marketing of the GranTouch in the US, I've exchanged e-mails with a top Yamaha guy in the US re just that. I was informed that a great percentage of buyers of pianos (in the US) do not actually play the piano (amazing, huh?) and the souped up version of the GranTouch (adding the disklavier\electronic player piano) was more to their liking and generated more sales. The 'basic GranTouch (GT1 and GT2) offer no bells or whistles - just a piano sound.

So, what are the pieces where 32 note polyphony poses a limitation for you?
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#664554 - 08/28/04 02:18 PM Re: digital purchase advice needed
Dave Horne Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5277
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
<<>>

Use the sustain pedal and play _33_ notes to see if you can hear 1 note drop out ... or play 35 notes to see if you can hear 3 notes drop out.

You will have a time limit as after about 7 or 8 seconds the initial note will fade to below audible level. Also, your choice of notes will matter - if you choose the 32 notes poorly (with the sustain pedal down) the cacophony will be worse than the 32 note polyphony limitation.

OK gentlemen, start your engines .....
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#664555 - 08/28/04 03:16 PM Re: digital purchase advice needed
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
Dave,

You are the proof of my earlier arguments. The more time you spend playing your Gran Touch the less objective you are about it's limitations. Try playing nothing but real pianos for the next 6 months. Then I might have more respect for your opinion.

Ryan

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#664556 - 08/28/04 03:34 PM Re: digital purchase advice needed
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
i used to have a keyboard with 32 polyphony and the sound sometime cut off easily because of it. i wouldn't consider anything with polyphony less than 64!

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#664557 - 08/28/04 04:35 PM Re: digital purchase advice needed
jazpianizt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/22/04
Posts: 411
Someone correct me if I'm wrong but it seems to me that polyphony is an even greater issue with the type of keyboard that has an accompaniment feature, such as the CVP models, or where you have a recorder feature. All the notes, drums, etc. being played while you were playing could quickly use up your polyphony.

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#664558 - 08/28/04 10:53 PM Re: digital purchase advice needed
RandomThoughts Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/04
Posts: 106
Loc: Canada
Poor poster getting lost in the flames!

To answer the original question:
Yamaha action is heavier than Rolands, but both are pretty realistic, so go with whatever you're used to.

64 voice polyphony is probably the lowest you want to go. The P90 and up have it. I'm not sure about the Rolands, but certainly all the higher level ones will have it.

Even though I thought I wouldn't use any bells and whistles, I almost immediately started layering piano with slow strings - which is fun for some songs and as simple as pressing 2 buttons at once.

My favorite sound was the P250, but I only compared it to the P120 and the Roland FP-5. Nothing compares exactly to a true acoustic (even a crappy one - the idiosyncracies add something undefinable), but I'm enjoying the P250 immensely regardless and would recommend it without reservation.

But the P90 sounds like it would meet your needs (no speakers, though)

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#664559 - 08/28/04 10:59 PM Re: digital purchase advice needed
RandomThoughts Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/04
Posts: 106
Loc: Canada
Er, missed poster's second post.

Yamaha's P series
-all the same action
-P90 upwards all have 64 voice polyphony
(P250 has 128, but that's probably not necessary)
-P90 and P120 are almost identical except that the P90 has no speakers. (There seems to be a consensus that the P90 might have a slightly better sound, but I can't verify that personally)
-P250 sounds slightly better than P120, IMO

The only Roland I compared to was the FP-5. The piano was more mellow/duller/not-as-bright (trying to find neutral adjectives) and the touch was lighter. Some people prefer it, but I didn't... so try both before making your choice.

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#664560 - 08/29/04 12:55 AM Re: digital purchase advice needed
Dave Horne Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5277
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
 Quote:
Originally posted by ryan:
Dave,

You are the proof of my earlier arguments. The more time you spend playing your Gran Touch the less objective you are about it's limitations. Try playing nothing but real pianos for the next 6 months. Then I might have more respect for your opinion.

Ryan [/b]
I bought a Yamaha 48" upright in 1971 and sold that about 20 years later. I rehearsed on a seven foot Steinway for 20+ years (1975 - 1995), bought a six foot Yamaha around 1990 and traded that in about six years ago when I bought my GranTouch 1. Have I earned your respect now? Have I logged in enough time on acoustic pianos?

I'm still waiting to hear the specific pieces and the specific measures where you feel 32 note polyphony is not adequate.

tick, tick, tick, tick.....
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#664561 - 08/29/04 02:55 AM Re: digital purchase advice needed
Dave Horne Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5277
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
 Quote:
Originally posted by jazpianizt:
Someone correct me if I'm wrong but it seems to me that polyphony is an even greater issue with the type of keyboard that has an accompaniment feature, such as the CVP models, or where you have a recorder feature. All the notes, drums, etc. being played while you were playing could quickly use up your polyphony. [/b]
If you're going to layer a piano sound with strings for example, you will double the number of notes you play (from the computer's point of view).

Just playing a piano sound, it seems to me that 32 note polyphony is more than enough. Polyphony becomes an issue when you start layering sounds or sequencing other parts to sound at the same time you are playing.

(In real time piano playing I'm still waiting for 32 notes _not_ to be enough. You have to hold the sustain pedal down for quite a while or gliss a lot of notes. I think some people get caught up in numbers and lose track of what happens in the real world.)
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#664562 - 08/29/04 09:46 AM Re: digital purchase advice needed
lesecret Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/18/04
Posts: 39
Apparently, some 32-note polyphony keyboards will only produce half that number of notes if the sound is in stereo, although this by no means apply to all keyboards. Please correct me if I am wrong.
I think 32 notes is enough for almost all solo piano pieces I can think of. Sinequannone, your example of the flight of the bumble bee will not go anywhere close to 32-note or even 16-note polyphony because although the notes are played very quickly they do not overlap. When I try keyboards with 32-note polyphony, I use the the passage involving a white-keyed glissando from Ravel's Ondine. One puts the damper pedal down and glissandos from the lowest C to the top A of the keyboard, more than 32 notes in all. I admit I cannot think of many other passages like that in the piano solo literature. However, if you start layering with strings, and adding accompaniments, then 32-note will run out pretty quickly.
If the keyboard is only capable of sounding 16 notes at any of time (in stereo), then that's pretty insufficient. I can think of many passages in Debussy, or Rachmaninoff, or Liszt that requires more than 16 notes to be sounded at any one point in time.

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#664563 - 08/29/04 10:16 AM Re: digital purchase advice needed
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
 Quote:
Originally posted by Dave Horne:
I bought a Yamaha 48" upright in 1971 and sold that about 20 years later. I rehearsed on a seven foot Steinway for 20+ years (1975 - 1995), bought a six foot Yamaha around 1990 and traded that in about six years ago when I bought my GranTouch 1. Have I earned your respect now? Have I logged in enough time on acoustic pianos?

I'm still waiting to hear the specific pieces and the specific measures where you feel 32 note polyphony is not adequate.[/b]
Nope, in fact you lost it even more. You have been logging most of your time on your Gran Touch for the past 6 years. Switch back to the grand piano for 6 months and then we can talk.

I already answered your question about which pieces 32 notes were not sufficient. I cited some specific works (Chopin's Etudes and Rachmaninoff's Preludes), but as I think back this was a severe limitation in everything I played.

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#664564 - 08/29/04 12:33 PM Re: digital purchase advice needed
Dave Horne Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5277
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
Ryan, I didn't get the exact measures where you were severely limited with 32 note polyphony. Perhaps you answered and I skipped over your answer.

(To put my ... attitude in perspective, I have made my living in music as a performer. I don't sit behind a desk during the week and play as a hobby, it's been my primary source of income for most almost all of my adult life. I, of course, am not diminishing those who sit behind a desk and approach music as a hobby, I'm just putting it perspective from _my_ point of view. I retired at 44, 10 years ago, am still perform several times per month and, interestingly enough, have never felt limited with 32 note polyphony.)

I have worked through a handful of Chopin etudes and have never come across any situation where 32 note polyphony was inadequate. I would love to hear which specific measures in which specific etudes you are referring to. Is it possible for you to be specific?

So, which specific etudes and which specific measures? Indulge me.

>>>> I already answered your question about which pieces 32 notes were not sufficient. I cited some specific works (Chopin's Etudes and Rachmaninoff's Preludes), but as I think back this was a severe limitation in everything I played.<<<<

My eyesight must be failing me ... just provide a link ... or CTRL + C and repeat the information for my benefit.
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#664565 - 08/29/04 12:38 PM Re: digital purchase advice needed
Dave Horne Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5277
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
<<>>

You wrote 'apparently' ... which pianos are you referring to?

32 note polyphony means just that ... 32 notes.
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#664566 - 08/29/04 01:34 PM Re: digital purchase advice needed
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
Well, you could pick just about any Etude that has pedalling in it. Op. 10 No 11 or 12, for example. No need to point out measures, it is a problem all the way through.

You know, though, I never did decide that 32 notes was the only limitation. The pedalled sound is thinner than a real grand piano and does not build up to nearly the same extent, but that might be partially due to notes dropping out and also due to the clinically clean pedal.

Not to make too fine a point of it, but I also
have been performing in public. I started playing at 5 and gave my first public perfance in front of 300-some people when I was 7. Too bad you aren't in my neck of the woods - I will be performing Brahms Bb concerto in in 3 or 4 months, as soon as the date is finalized.

BTW, when keyboards are advertised as 32 notes of polyphony that almost always refers to mono voices. Stereo voices half that. For example, the old CLP123 advertised 32 notes of polyphony but when you played the stereo piano it was only 16. The 32 notes on the Gran Touch were frequently note enough, but the 16 notes on the CLP123 was horrible!

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#664567 - 08/30/04 12:22 PM Re: digital purchase advice needed
SteveY Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/01
Posts: 1820
Loc: NJ
 Quote:
I'm still waiting to hear the specific pieces and the specific measures where you feel 32 note polyphony is not adequate.
Sorry for the late reply, Dave. Some of us work for a living. ;\)

I've already answered this question several times on this board. A search through the archives will give you more detailed results. But I'll answer it one more time:

Different manufacturers rate their polyphony in different ways on different products. Roland, for example, rates their polyphony in "stereo voices". So in other words, a single note played uses up only a single voice of polyphony. On some keyboards made by other manufacturers, a single note uses two voices (one for stereo left, one for right). Some keyboards utilize a layered approach to acoustic piano sound design. One sample might just be the attack, while another layer handles the sustain. Thus a single note actually uses 4 voices of polyphony. I'm sure you're familiar with "velocity switching" (different samples that are triggered based on how hard a key is pressed). Some keyboards allocate polyphony based on the number of tones in a patch -- even if those samples are not actually triggered due to the velocity in which the key is pressed. In other words, even if only the loudest sample in a 4-sample velocity-switched patch is played, some keyboards actually operate as if the other 3 patches have been played. If this patch is a stereo sample, we're now talking up to 8 voices of polyphony for a single note. And remember, we're not talking about layers like strings/piano, etc. These are simply piano patches. Now consider the sustain/hold pedal: Many less expensive keyboards are unable to "reset" fast enough to free up polyphony EVEN IF the pedal is reset. It's an issue of RAM and processor speed.

I'd normally just ignore your posts, Dave. It's obvious that you're not well-informed about technology. And this being the internet and all, you're certainly entitled to your opinion. But your tendancy to put your status as a "professional" (although you also say you're retired) in the forefront in order to give authority to your posts is troubling, as you're misleading people about technology you obviously know very little about. Your desire to educate people on the importance of technique is admirable. Keep doing it. Your enthusiasm for the GranTouch is great -- you're entitled to your opinion. But be careful about universalizing your own experience when in reality, you're a little out of the technology loop. I suspect that's what is sticking in Ryan's craw as well (although I'll let him answer for himself).
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#664568 - 08/30/04 01:29 PM Re: digital purchase advice needed
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
SteveY, great lecture on polyphony! couldn't thank you enough for it.

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#664569 - 08/30/04 02:26 PM Re: digital purchase advice needed
Dave Horne Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5277
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
SteveY, thanks for the explanation.

Let's put this way, if an _acoustic_ piano were suddenly limited to 32 note polyphony, would anyone notice? At what level of polyphony would the polyphony police start knocking on doors and making arrests? (My argument uses one note played equals one note polyphony, OK?)

(Thirty-two notes in real playing come with playing a four note chord in the left hand while the right hand plays a scale for four octaves while the sustain pedal is depressed. Also bear in mind that a note will sustain for seven to eight seconds or less depending on how hard the key is depressed. When a note is no longer heard it gets removed from the total count. As an aside, my P250 has 128 polyphony which I will never exhaust unless I decide to sequence a Mahler symphony; I suspect even then, 128 note polyphony will be more than enough just as 32 note polyphony is just fine for piano playing, well, for at least my playing.)
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#664570 - 08/30/04 07:00 PM Re: digital purchase advice needed
80k Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/14/04
Posts: 126
Loc: Portland, OR
 Quote:
Originally posted by Dave Horne:
<<>>

You wrote 'apparently' ... which pianos are you referring to?

32 note polyphony means just that ... 32 notes. [/b]
the original poster is quite correct. it is very normal for a keyboard to only have half of the total polyphony when using stereo patches. This includes the Korg Trinity (which i owned), and many other keyboards. This is very very common.

32 note polyphony means 32 unique voices at the same time. If it's designed so that a stereo patch uses 2 unique voices per note played, then that is 16 notes.

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#664571 - 08/30/04 10:12 PM Re: digital purchase advice needed
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
 Quote:
Originally posted by SteveY:
[QUOTE]I suspect that's what is sticking in Ryan's craw as well (although I'll let him answer for himself). [/b]
Nice explanation of polyphony. It was probably good to step back to discuss how polyphony numbers are derived (and frequently fudged!). One of the big selling points of Yamaha's Motif ES synths was that voice layers did not eat polyphony so that you can use all four layers in a voice and still have 128 notes.

Also, nice explanation of what was sticking in my craw. That was certainly part of it. The other part was my own astonishment that a pianists would claim to not hear a difference between real grand pianos and a digital. And worse, I (and you) were called dishonest because we do hear a difference, a significant difference! I tripped all over my own words trying to explain the differences between digital and real pianos and how they couldn't possibly sound the same, especially to the human ear which is still the best frequency analyzer in existance.

As an aside, both you and I know there are ways around many or all of the limitations I threw out, but most of these were not implemented in the Gran Touch to my knowledge. They are implemented in my fairly expensive Steinway sample library, however. And even with the best technology my ear can tell in 2 seconds whether a recorded piano is real or not. Hope I'm not accused for being dishonest again, but it's true. Honest! \:\)

R'yan

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#664572 - 08/31/04 03:05 AM Re: digital purchase advice needed
Dave Horne Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5277
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
//The other part was my own astonishment that a pianists would claim to not hear a difference between real grand pianos and a digital.//

An acoustic piano can be heard without amplification so in order to level the playing field, as it were, we would have to record acoustic pianos and then compare them to a recording of a sampled piano, fair enough? I would also be willing to bet that ambient room noise (pedal sounds, squeaking chairs, coughing, etc.) plays a role as well in influencing people's ears.

I think many 'golden ears' might have a difficult time telling an acoustic piano recording from a sampled piano recording if ambient room noise were added. If the piano were in a 'mix', it would get even more difficult.
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#664573 - 08/31/04 11:02 AM Re: digital purchase advice needed
SteveY Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/01
Posts: 1820
Loc: NJ
 Quote:
32 note polyphony means 32 unique voices at the same time. If it's designed so that a stereo patch uses 2 unique voices per note played, then that is 16 notes.
Correct. That's why some manufacturers have changed their vocabulary from defining polyphony in terms of "notes" to other terms like "voice" or "tone". For example, Roland uses the term "voice" instead of "note" as the latter seems to indicate a specific pitch or key being played, and the former speaks more to the specific "sound" that is being played. I know -- still confusing, but at least the companies are trying to simplify things.
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#664574 - 08/31/04 11:06 AM Re: digital purchase advice needed
SteveY Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/01
Posts: 1820
Loc: NJ
 Quote:
I think many 'golden ears' might have a difficult time telling an acoustic piano recording from a sampled piano recording if ambient room noise were added. If the piano were in a 'mix', it would get even more difficult.
It's true that there are many tricks that can be used to make a digital sound like an acoustic on a recording. But most of the tricks depend on the piano being neck-deep in a rhythm section, a style of music that is highly compressed, and an uneducated listener. That's not to say that there aren't some amazing samples out there. But at the end of the day, it takes an enormous amount of work to fool an expert!!!
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