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#696006 - 10/11/08 03:50 PM Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Geof175 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/01/08
Posts: 36
Loc: Be
Hi,

I was just wondering why so many of you are using softwares such as Ivory, Pianoteq instead of the internal piano patches of your DP ?

No experience with these softwares ... Do they sound far better than the main piano sounds of high end DP (CV409, CLP380, HP207, 700SX/GX, ...) ?

If yes, do you know why ? I mean why can't we find better piano sounds with high end DP ? Is this related to fact that high level libraries require a strong CPU ?

Regards.

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#696007 - 10/11/08 09:00 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
dettch Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/29/08
Posts: 55
Loc: Idaho
I think many of us simply need a new toy now and then. We are compelled to try new things.... but that's just a guess because I'm not one of those who've tried the "software piano".....but I would like to experiment with some of them.
Bob

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#696008 - 10/11/08 09:50 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Orez Eno Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/23/08
Posts: 179
Loc: New England
The following two recordings represent the same piece being played by me. It is Clementi Opus 36 Sonatina 1.1, which of course is a practice piece. Also, I am a beginner (can’t you tell from my slow playing?).

Virtual (Software) Piano - Akoustik Piano

Resident Clavinova CLP-230

The computer is a DELL XPS with 3GHz dual core processor that cost me $1900. The external audio interface unit is a $130 EMU 0202 (to record the CLP-230).

My own opinion is that for a beginning player like me it is not worth the expense of a virtual piano. Perhaps when my playing improves the differences will seem greater. But at my current level it is hard for me to even tell the difference between the two. I usually play with the resident sound of the CLP-230 and keep the computer in its recording configuration, rather than switching various connecting cables to use in virtual piano configuration.

I needed a new high end computer for recording purposes anyway, so I don’t regret that. But the $300 Akoustik Piano software was in my opinion a waste.

You be the judge.

I may in future purchase different software, perhaps Ivory, but not for a while due to recent economic downturn.
_________________________
Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.

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#696009 - 10/12/08 03:20 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Eternal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/06
Posts: 1285
Loc: Posts: 80,372
Software libraries are hands down better than the ones that come built into your piano. Storage, CPU, RAM it all comes into play and a $500 computer far exceeds specs on a $2000 DP.

Consider 40GB Ivory samples to a measly 20MB built into a low end digital. That's 3 orders of magnitude of difference. That's why digital pianos need to use tricks - like looping of sustained sounds, and interpolating between keys to squeeze everything in. The end product is piano audio that sounds artificial.


Orez Eno:
For future computer purchases, depending on your familiarity with computers - you may want to save yourself hundreds of dollars (in your case almost $1000), and build your own machine (you can buy parts really cheap from tigerdirect.com). On top of that you won't have to rely on proprietary dell hardware.

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#696010 - 10/12/08 05:19 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Orez Eno Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/23/08
Posts: 179
Loc: New England
Eternal,
As a retired electrical and software engineer I feel reasonably qualified to select the model of computer that I need, although I refrain from calling myself an expert. The computer industry changes so fast there are no experts. Depending on processor and a wide variety of configurations, the DELL XPS series is considered by many in the industry to be the best for high end applications, and they can cost in excess of $5,000. The system I purchased has phenomenal speed and I am very satisfied with it for the price I paid. Indeed I have never heard anyone who has invested in such as system ever complain about it.

I’d much prefer my XPS to any “Rin-Can, Crash-If-You-Can, Guaranteed Nameless, Third World Reject”. Did you know that most motherboards from places like tigerdirect.com fail to meet their advertised specs for speed? Oh sure, you can put a 3 GHz processor on them, but their motherboards are so poorly designed that the processor must go into multiple wait states before the address and data buss’ settle during the execution of each op code. Rather than take the exact number of clock cycles advertised by the processor for a standard op code, like perhaps a memory fetch, the system takes a few more. So the computer operates slower, but the speed reported in the “System Information” window still says 3 GHz. Of course you would never realize these defects if you didn’t run known benchmark software. I test every system I buy with benchmarks that I wrote myself in C++. Each benchmark is designed to test a different aspect of the system. I am very impressed with the performance of my XPS. Thanks, but no thanks to tigerdirect.com.

Of course prices and system capabilities change almost weekly in the computer market. I paid extra for an E8500 processor. I notice that I can buy that processor from tigerdirect.com today for just under $300, which sounds a bit less than I remember. So, if I bought the same system today it might cost $1800 instead of $1900? Or, perhaps even much less. I haven't returned to the DELL site to check. I bought the computer 6 months ago. At the time it was in my opinion very price competitive considering its performance capability and robust construction.

But the point of my post was to compare two recordings. You didn’t even comment. Of course the Ivory samples are larger than the resident samples on my piano, and Ivory supports dynamic sampling, which means the computer must keep more recorded notes in active memory. My Akoustik Piano software also has large samples and also supports 16 level dynamic sampling. The computer must keep in memory 16 separate recordings for each key. My system memory (RAM) is 4 GBytes in order to handle such software.

But what difference does it make to the sound of an average beginner's playing? Both recordings are very high quality. What you hear on your end (please use studio headphones) is what I hear when I play. Plus I am using 4 three-way speakers, two per stereo channel, and each speaker has a 12 inch woofer. Yes, the actual sound in the room sounds like an acoustic.

Again, I ask you to be the judge.
_________________________
Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.

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#696011 - 10/12/08 07:45 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Kawai James Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/06/07
Posts: 9047
Loc: Hamamatsu, Japan
Orez Eno, which 64bit OS are you using?

Kind regards,
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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#696012 - 10/12/08 09:50 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Othello Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/07
Posts: 121
IMO, after going soft piano, there is no going back to the original sound, though the investment cost is much larger (PC, software and sound system).

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#696013 - 10/12/08 09:57 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Orez Eno Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/23/08
Posts: 179
Loc: New England
Hi JAWAI James,
Thank you for your response. I’m using XP Pro, Version 5.1, SP-3. Please advise if you feel I should be using a different operating system.

I chose that operating system because it was recommended by Native Instruments, the company that publishes the Akoustik Piano software. I had already decided on that software before I purchased the computer, and luckily at the time DELL was still building some machines (just the high end ones) with XP Pro. After installing and using Akoustik Piano, I suspect that Ivory would have been a better choice, but not for the quality of the sampled sounds, which is what everyone raves about. My immediate complaint was that Akoustik Piano did not support partial pedaling (half pedaling). My piano does, and I got used to it. Akoustik Piano doesn’t and I noticed it immediately. But that is a whole other discussion.

I have played various recordings of myself to enough unbiased people to know that the tonal difference between the Akoustik Piano virtual piano system and the native sounds of a CLP-230 are almost imperceptible, at least for a beginner's playing like mine. And, the CLP-230 does not even support dynamic sampling. I have also had several people listen to my playing live with the same results. When I play live the virtual piano software outputs to a $300.00 PreSonus FireBox external audio interface unit, which feeds a HiFi system with four three-way speaker units (two per channel), each unit having a 12 inch woofer. Most people are amazed at the quality of the sound. But they notice little difference between the virtual piano and the resident sound of the CLP-230. The difference is noticeable, but so slight that it hardly seems worth it.

When I first set up the virtual piano system I was posting often here at PianoWorld and I had promised to submit a complete technical review of my experience. But I never did because I knew everyone would disagree with my perception of it. So I didn’t bother. I decided to post less often and spend more time practicing piano.

I intend to submit in the next PianoWorld recital. Perhaps I will submit an Akoustik Piano recording rather than a Yamaha Clavinova CLP-230 native sound recording. I haven’t really decided. But I do admit that in the last month I have not even fired up the virtual piano. It does not even seem worth switching the cables around for.

I keep my computer in a configuration that runs Finale notation software into the piano, as well as into my other instrument, a Yamaha YPG-625, with very good results. In that case the computer is controlling the instrument, rather than the other way around when it is set up as virtual piano. That explains why I have to switch a few cables.

One thing I am disappointed about is that none of the software that I use is compiled to take advantage of the dual core processor. I use the System Task Manager and see that only one core is active. In contrast, if I execute a system operation, like searching all files for a test phrase, both cores are used. My understanding is that that is because the operating system was compiled to take advantage of both cores. But software like Finale and Akoustik Piano are not.

Indeed, I just upgraded my Finale software to the latest 2009 version expecting it to use both cores, but it still uses only one core. This is frustrating because I know from being a programmer that all they need to do is select a different option in the compiler when they produce their executable. My experience is that most companies know very little about compilers like Microsoft’s Visual Studio. They just accept its default configurations. Often, they do not even upgrade it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the company “MakeMusic”, who publish Finale, are still using Visual Studio version 6. It is silly that they are using only half my computer. When I ask Finale to play back a score the software pushes that one core to its limit while the other is idle. The Task Manager reports 50% CPU use. I even have to shut down my internet/network connection and virus protection to give the software the most CPU power as possible, otherwise I hear occasional spikes in the sound. With the network shut off the software still uses one core full bore, but there are no spikes. Well, maybe in the next release they will upgrade their compiler? I hope so.
_________________________
Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.

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#696014 - 10/13/08 12:53 AM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Kawai James Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/06/07
Posts: 9047
Loc: Hamamatsu, Japan
Orez Eno, am I correct in assuming that you are using the standard 32-bit version of Windows XP? If so, the following information (quoted from Wikipedia) regarding Windows XP x64 Edition may be of interest to you:

 Quote:
The primary benefit of moving to 64-bit is the increase in the maximum allocatable system memory (RAM). A single process on a 32-bit Windows operating system is limited to a total of 3.2 GB, which is typically equally divided between kernel and application usage. Windows XP x64 can support much more memory; although the theoretical memory limit a 64-bit computer can address is about 16 exabytes, Windows XP x64 is limited to 128 GB of physical memory and 16 terabytes of virtual memory.
As piano sample libraries continue to grow in size, the 3.2 GB memory barrier of 32-bit operating systems will become more of a factor, thus I expect that the major virtual piano software developers will provide native x64 versions of their software in the near future - if they have not done so already.

Finally, I believe it is a little unfair to assume that professional computer programmers do not wish their software to perform as efficiently as possible. Without viewing the program source code, it is very difficult to predict the optimisations that can be achieved through adjust compiler settings, however it is almost certainly true that such alterations may lead to hardware incompatibilities for certain customers.

On a separate point, I would be rather interested to test your benchmarking software - may I ask if it is fully 64-bit aware?

Kind regards,
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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#696015 - 10/13/08 02:38 AM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Orez Eno Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/23/08
Posts: 179
Loc: New England
Hi Kawai James,

My system has 4 GB of physical memory and it is all visible. I found out about the typical 32 bit memory limitation after I had ordered the system and I was worried that I might have made a configuration mistake. But when the system arrived the full installed memory was visible. I guess that is the advantage of purchasing a high end system directly from DELL. They wouldn’t allow the customer to configure a system in such a manner unless it really worked, whereas a local computer store, like CompUSA or Circuit City would just throw it together and ship it. Those consumer grade computers are typically build by 18 year old kids who work part time and who don’t really understand what they are doing. Not that I would understand either. These configuration issues change so often it’s hard to keep up with them. Also, when I specified the system I could have chosen much more than 4 GB of physical memory if I had wanted to. I stopped at 4 GB because at the time I suspected that higher than that was a foolish expenditure. When I retired from my last job we had servers that did not have half as much memory. But at the rate that the footprint of software is increasing, perhaps it would not have been so foolish after all. Well anyway, the amount I have does seem to be plenty at this time.

I still wonder if it is possible that my operating system is not really 64 bits but can still access more than 3.2 GB. After all, the 64 bits refers to the data buss, not the address buss. Although typical 32 bit systems have limited memory capability, there is no reason theoretically why one cannot be redesigned to have a wider address buss (assuming the processor can support it), in which case it could use more physical memory. Or am I wrong about that? System design has changed so much since my time perhaps I am too much out of touch to know what I am talking about.

Sorry, but my benchmarks were compiled for 32 bits using version 6 of Visual Studio, which is what my company was using at the time I retired. They will run on a 64 bit system if in fact my system truly is 64 bits like I think it is (so I guess they are 64 bit aware if that is all that the term means), but they would be more informative recompiled for specifically 64 bit systems. I did upgrade my compiler, but I never did any serious work with it, like I thought I would. I found out that retirement caused me to lose my competitive edge in programming very quickly. And now, so much time has passed that it would be too difficult for me to install the compiler on my 64 bit system and recompile the source code of my benchmarks. Still, I find the benchmarks very useful for making comparison tests between systems. When I got my system I made comparisons with similar clock speed systems at various computer stores and my DELL XPS beat them all out. I was very happy.

My opinion that many programmers are unfamiliar with their compilers comes from first hand experience, and I'm just as guilty as anyone. In addition, I worked on many systems that would not compile on new releases of Visual Studio. For example, my company had several projects that were stuck in Visual Studio version 5 and could not be upgraded. It was always caused by the way the source code was written. This happened most often with large pieces of software that had teams of software writers who didn’t talk much to each other. It is especially typical of Windows Win32 API or MFC projects that also use a lot of generic standard library underlying code. Programmers typically don’t understand the intricacies of connecting underlying generic C++ code to the hundreds of system functions that these Windows APIs provide, particularly those of the user interface. Some projects used GUI wrapper software that the company paid thousands of dollars for, but these were even more problematic than allowing the programmers to use Win32 directly, and they were especially difficult to upgrade to new versions of Visual Studio. My comments may have sounded a bit disrespectful, but they weren’t intended to be. It’s just the way it is.

My benchmarks are not publishable pieces of software. Like most home made utilities, their interfaces are not clean or professional looking. But they do provide accurate timing for various standard operations, like drawing random lines or filled rectangles to test the video processor, or calculating fractals to test the floating point processor. If you give me your address I’ll mail them to you on a CD, but I’m sure you will find them a bit dated. For example, I do not provide for the user to enter the number of filled rectangles that the program will draw. I believe it is fixed in code to be 100,000 rectangles. With today’s clock speeds I wish I had designed them to draw 1,000,000. You might think it would be simple to modify them, but it’s been so long since I touched the source code, and also since I used the compiler, that I don’t feel motivated enough. I prefer to spend my time practicing piano, which for me is a new hobby that I started after retirement.

The reason I found my benchmarks useful is because they contained such a limited number of operations. I knew exactly what the programs did and how they did it. Running professional benchmarks, like Wheatstone (I hope I spelled that correctly - it’s been a long time) involve such wide varieties of operations that it is difficult to evaluate different aspects of a system, or even to compare different systems against each other.

I hope all of my rambling has been useful to you. It wasn't my intention to talk so much about computers. I really wanted people to listen to my recordings to help them realize the difference in sound between a virtual (software) piano and the resident sound of a standard model, which is what this thread is supposed to be all about.

Once again, send me your address and I’ll dig out a few of my benchmarks and put them on a CD for you.
_________________________
Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.

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#696016 - 10/13/08 03:41 AM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Kawai James Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/06/07
Posts: 9047
Loc: Hamamatsu, Japan
Orez Eno, thank you for your informative post - you make some very good points there.

With regards to how much memory the computer 'sees', I believe that the amount displayed by the BIOS may differ to that displayed in Windows XP (the 'System' applet, for example), however as my laptop is only equipped with 2 GB of memory, it is impossible for me to confirm this.

Regarding your benchmark tools, while I appreciate the offer of receiving a CD, I do not wish to trouble you with the postage cost etc. However, if you are willing to make the files available online (I can provide means if necessary), I would gladly test the programmes.

Kind regards,
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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#696017 - 10/13/08 10:19 AM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Orez Eno Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/23/08
Posts: 179
Loc: New England
 Quote:
Othello wrote:[/b]
IMO, after going soft piano, there is no going back to the original sound, though the investment cost is much larger (PC, software and sound system).
Thank you for your reply. However, do my recordings reflect your experience?

If they do, you have a better ear than myself and most of my friends.

If not, perhaps my recordings are incorrectly done? What do you think?
_________________________
Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.

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#696018 - 10/13/08 12:20 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Eternal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/06
Posts: 1285
Loc: Posts: 80,372
Orez - our professional background seems to be similar. I'm also an electrical engineer, doing a lot of Visual C++ programming these days, but plenty of embedded projects sprinkled in as well.

I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree as far as Dell/tigerdirect. From my experience you'll pay much more for the same hardware from Dell. You are of course getting something in exchange for the extra money - like a peace of mind (warranty), and no headaches when it comes to setup. In my case, the extra cost is not justified. I enjoy playing with the hardware, and being able to customize everything that goes in, and I'd much rather spend the extra money on upgrades.

But going back to the original question. I'm at work right now, and I doubt my tiny speakers will do your recordings justice. I'll listen to your files tonight on my home piano setup and give my opinion then. Better yet - can you post the midi file so I can sequence it through my Ivory setup and add another file to comparison.

By the way I noticed you said you have to switch cables around - that definitely can be a pain and take away from your enjoyment of your virtual piano. Perhaps you can modify your setup so nothing needs to be switched around? It's definitely worth it, even if it means you have to build a custom box. All I need to do is turn my PC on and within 1 minute Ivory pops up and I'm ready to go, without even turning my monitor on. I also run Finale (2008), so I guess the fact that you have 2 pianos hooked up makes it an issue of sorts?

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#696019 - 10/13/08 12:42 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
dettch Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/29/08
Posts: 55
Loc: Idaho
Orez Eno
I liked both samples very much but I could definitely tell a difference in favor of the software piano, richer and less brittle in sound. I've been playing acoustic piano for over 70 years so I think I have pretty good auditory discrimination. But your digital piano sound is also very good. By the way, I think both samples sounded better than most of the acoustic pianos I've had. I hope my new Yamaha CP300 will sound as good.
Bob Dettloff

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#696020 - 10/13/08 12:44 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
dettch Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/29/08
Posts: 55
Loc: Idaho
By the way Orez Eno, you are a pretty darn good "beginning" pianist.

Bob

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#696021 - 10/13/08 02:11 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Orez Eno Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/23/08
Posts: 179
Loc: New England
 Quote:
Eternal wrote:[/b] I enjoy playing with the hardware, and being able to customize everything that goes in, and I'd much rather spend the extra money on upgrades.
I certainly would NOT want to discourage anyone from an activity that they enjoy. Myself I haven’t had the best of luck building systems. And, I guess you can sense that I am more anxious to actually use the system than to build it. Even my programming experience has always been at a level far removed from the hardware or system configuration level. Another problem I have, which you have probably read in one of my previous posts, is that since retirement I have lost a lot of my technical edge. I wrote those C++ benchmarks many years ago when I was a competitive programmer and knew what I was doing. It’s easy for me to run them on new systems that I buy out of curiosity. But I could never write those programs from scratch again, or even modify them for that matter. Perhaps it’s best that I let other, more skilled people build my systems. The truth is, I suspect that some of my beliefs about my system are actually not what I think. But I’m not too concerned. My hobby now is piano, not computer science. And the system does a pretty good job in my opinion. I try not to let computer work interfere too much with my practice time.

Sorry, I don’t have any MIDI files. The links I provided are for mp3 audio recordings. My Yamaha CLP-230 will allow me to copy MIDI files from the computer into piano memory and play them from the instrument, but the recording features of the piano do not allow me to transfer the recording in MIDI format to the computer. I don’t have access to the section of memory where the piano’s recordings are saved. And, I suspect that the recordings would be in a proprietary format anyway. I believe the CLP-240 has that feature of exporting recordings in MIDI format, but the CLP-230 does not. I have noticed that the new CLP-330 also has the feature. But my piano does not. So after working on a performance and getting a recording that I consider acceptable, I must then record the audio output of the piano using Audacity software.

In the case of my Akoustik Piano software, from what I can tell they also save recordings in a proprietary format. The idea is the same as MIDI in the sense that they are small instruction files. But they don’t seem to be in MIDI format. The recorded files have an extension called .APS, and the files cannot be played using Media Player, which can indeed play MIDI files. I have tried loading them into Media Player, but the software complains that it doesn’t recognize the format and cannot play them. So I assume the files are not MIDI. The software does allow recordings to be exported to .WAV format, which I have used. I then use a utility to convert them into mp3. But I haven’t noticed any provision for exporting to MIDI format from the Akoustik Piano software. The software will load and play MIDI files, but it seems it will not save my performances in MIDI format. Perhaps I don’t know what I am doing here, but I’m not too concerned because I am primarily interested in the audio recording anyway, not a MIDI recording.

As far as cable switching is concerned, yes I can set it up so that all cables are connected to run the system in any configuration. But as often happens with audio systems, if I do that I get a lot of noise pick up. For example, the digital MIDI signal between the piano and the computer can be heard in the HiFi set. I also get noise pickup due to ground loops between the various interconnected units. You may have noticed that the noise performance (hum and noise) of my recordings is very good. To achieve that I must disconnect all stray, unused cables from the system.

Sounds like you have your Ivory system working pretty good. I realize that I accidentally chose the wrong piano software. At the time people here at PianoWorld said it was the absolute best. Now it seems popular opinion has switched its allegiance to Ivory. I will probably eventually get Ivory.
_________________________
Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.

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#696022 - 10/13/08 02:41 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Orez Eno Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/23/08
Posts: 179
Loc: New England
 Quote:
dettch wrote:[/b]
I could definitely tell a difference in favor of the software piano, richer and less brittle in sound. … But your digital piano sound is also very good. … I think both samples sounded better than most of the acoustic pianos I've had.
My point, and I think you are confirming it, is that both recordings are high enough in tonal quality that either is acceptable for a beginner’s playing. I say “for a beginner” because I suspect that an accomplished pianist would be able to draw greater difference between the two systems.

You can see that my entire experience setting up a virtual piano has been a bit of a disappointment. Yes there are differences, but they tend to be exaggerated by pointing out technical differences, like sampling rate and levels of dynamic sampling, rather than comparing the actual sound. I don't regret purchasing a rather expensive, high end computer. I need that anyway. And I may in the future go back to using the virtual system, perhaps with different softare, like Ivory. But for at least another year I feel I should concentrate more on practicing and building playing skill, rather than building computer systems.

Naturally, one person’s ear might be better than mine. I wouldn’t fault anyone for setting up a system themselves and raving about it, if the raves are really authentic. In my case I openly admit that Akoustik Piano software is not worth it. My CLP-230 is fine enough.

 Quote:
dettch wrote:[/b]
By the way Orez Eno, you are a pretty darn good "beginning" pianist.
I appreciate very much your kind assessment. I bought my piano three years ago but suffered from severe pains in my hands and arms. This was a big surprise to me. I had to give it up completely for five months, and then reintroduce myself to it in only very small increments. If I played more than three days a week the pains would return. For another year I played only occasionally and did not progress at all. I was beginning to think that I had wasted my time trying to play piano. I even took up guitar for a short while. I also did a little strength training with weights and squeeze exercisers. Then about a year ago I began to realize some significant improvement in strength and stamina. I was both surprised and pleased. These days I can practice three hours at a stretch. I’m so happy I stuck with it. I am also intrigued at how the human body can adapt if you are patient enough to give it enough time.

When people ask how long I have been playing I answer one year because the first two years were not really about learning to play piano. They were all about strength training.
_________________________
Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.

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#696023 - 10/13/08 02:56 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Eternal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/06
Posts: 1285
Loc: Posts: 80,372
Don't feel bad about Akoustik. I've bought Ivory almost 2 years ago, and the opinions were split down the middle. In fact Akoustik has one advantage over Ivory - with use of Kontakt and some script files you can set it up to reproduce sympathetic resonance. That's something that Ivory can't do, and it can add a lot to realism to the sound.

I got Ivory because of a few reviews that claimed it's more playable than Akoustik - but quite frankly you can find people claiming otherwise. There isn't much difference between the two if you ask me (and in fact Akoustik may have an edge due to the resonance feature I mentioned).

Also - the pedal on Ivory plain sucks. I usually just hold it throughout the whole piece - it acts more like a reverb effect, than a real pedal (I use Pianoteq for pedal practice).

Let me ask you about your setup - what audio card are you using? One of the main advantages of software pianos is that you can end up with studio quality (noise free) recordings, because obviously only the MIDI signal is traveling over the cables, while the actual sound is being generated/recorded right on the sound-card.

You also should consider recording to MIDI and then rendering. There are so many advantages to that method. You can render to different instruments, adjust gain, sampling rates, filters, fix possible mistakes - everything right on the raw MIDI file stage. And if one day you upgrade to a better software piano, you have your raw MIDIs right there ready for upgrade rendering.

I'm pretty sure you can set up Finale to record your MIDI. I use Sonar Home Studio myself. Here's my Braveheart submission from last year's recital - rendered in Ivory:
http://www.box.net/shared/4b9xp4hkfq
If you want I can post MIDI file for that piece, so that you can compare with Akoustik. Also - I'm a beginner myself, so clearly this should not be the benchmark for Ivory/Akoustik quality.

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#696024 - 10/13/08 04:14 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Orez Eno Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/23/08
Posts: 179
Loc: New England
Eternal:
Wow! That is a fantastic performance. I am downloading the file into my MP3 player, which I call my active listening repertoire. It’s what I listen to every day. Your playing is truly inspiring to a person at my level. Your dynamic expression is impressive. If I could play like that I would consider features like dynamic sampling more important.

My playing is just now reaching a level where I am beginning to accomplish some dynamic expression. But since as you can see that I am still working on Clementi skill building pieces, I have a long way to go.

I hear you about the MIDI files, and yes, using Finale to listen to my playing is an acceptable way of doing it. It would be an advantage today to give you the file and then listen to it rendered on your system. I will look into this. Perhaps on my next recording I will make a point to put it in MIDI format.

You asked about the audio of my system. I’m using a PreSonus Firebox, external audio interface unit. I had the experience some time ago using a different computer where the internal sound card was picking up noticeable EMI (electromagnetically induced) noise from a wide variety of signals within the case, most of which might have been from the switching power supply, but some possibly from the motherboard. I switched to a low cost, USB controlled, external interface unit and the difference was phenomenal. Since then I have aspired to the practice of having external units based on the argument that they can be physically placed sufficiently far away from all those switching signals and possible EMI pickup. On my new computer I didn’t even bother to try the internal sound card. I simply connected an external audio interface unit immediately out of principle. At first I had an E-MU 0202, but just recently I purchased the Firebox. I get noticeably better noise performance with the Firebox, I think partly because of its balanced audio inputs for both stereo channels. On the E-MU 0202 only one channel was balanced and the other channel had some barely perceptible noise. With the Firebox both channels are completely clean as far as I can tell.

Note that the recordings that I posted earlier were made using the older E-MU 0202.

I’m glad you told me that the pedal performance of Ivory is not very good. You are the first to admit that to me. That’s a bit of a turn off for me since my CLP-230 has such excellent half pedal performance, which I have grown so used to. I have to admit, I recently played on the new CLP-330 and I am sufficiently impressed that perhaps I will remain with resident instrument sounds rather than virtual, software sounds. I won’t really be upgrading to the CLP-330. Although it is noticeably better than my 230, it is not sufficiently better to warrant an upgrade at this time. But perhaps in a few years, when my playing is sufficiently skilled to take better advantage of dynamic sampling, I could upgrade to something like a CLP-370 or even CLP-470 if it’s available at that time. I could also choose equivalents from other manufacturers. At least by purchasing a complete instrument I can be sure that the pedals will work correctly.
_________________________
Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.

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#696025 - 10/13/08 07:51 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Eternal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/06
Posts: 1285
Loc: Posts: 80,372
Thanks for the compliment Orez - the Braveheart piece is not that hard but sounds great, even in inexperienced hands (I've been self taught for 1 year when I learned it). I just listened to your two files, and they do sound great. I did a blind test on myself and I could tell which one was done by Akoustik (slightly richer sound) - but I have to admit the difference wasn't what I would expect. It's also possible some of the extra frequency information from Akoustik recording was attenuated by mp3 compression.

But at the same time - you are starting off with a much better instrument. I am playing on a $500 Casio Privia - so listening to Ivory was like night and day - I remember I started spending much more time at the piano after I got it.

It's funny you mention external cards, because I have the exact opposite bias. I hate any piece of external hardware. I view it as another communication layer in-between, where things can bottleneck or go wrong, because good driver programmers are hard to find. Things did change from the days where USB drivers were just plain horrible, so maybe I should start looking into those solutions again.

Your point about the advantage of audio interface separation from the rest of the system is well taken. Luckily I haven't ran into those problems just yet (even with my current Shuttle system where things are really crammed. I just don't like the mess and prefer when things are out of sight. It's bad enough with a dozen audio cables running between the Piano, Speakers, Headphones and PC.

Do record a MIDI version of your piece, and we'll see if there's a significant improvement in Ivory.

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#696026 - 10/14/08 10:03 AM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
mafagafo Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/13/08
Posts: 7
Loc: Montenegro - RS, BRAZIL
Orez Eno, I have some words about your recordings.
First, I think the difference between quality of piano sounds is evident. Sample library pianos are recorder from real stuff with much more quality and variation. Of course it comes at price, and your computer setup has to be improve proportionally to your library's size. Although I really don't like Akoustik Piano, this one sounds still better than any built-in samples of any DP, simply because of the refinement of the work involved with sampling the sounds.

Second, I've been struggling for years with plastic keys and equally plastic sounds of Digital pianos. Now, with the always-improving quality of Hammer-Action keyboards, I think I have found a reasonable resort while I can't cover the burning hole in my wallet and go out there buy a Grand.
Software pianos will never replace the real thing, but we have guys making great job at stuff like Pianoteq and Ivory (different approaches to different tastes), and we can really have some pleasure between all those plugs and leds.
The argument that you are "just a beginner" does not justify the choice for a poorer sound solution, having in mind that you should expand your experiences and explore all of your feeling to improve your playing (you are doing really well, I liked that Cementi). I hope you can try many alternatives and not be held into toy pianos.
I've been just a beginner for years while I was close-minded about technology. Even with a starving bank account (welcome to Brazil) I'm currently able to do nice job with software and a simple Casio PX-100.

Best regards!
_________________________
I promise I'll never promise anything...

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#696027 - 10/14/08 11:46 AM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
RodDaunoravicius Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/06/08
Posts: 57
Loc: Paris, France
Well I'm an engineer too, and yet nothing appeals less to me than having to depend on running a laptop plus monitors plus cabling when I'm trying to focus on my piano playing.

However limited the DP's memory and CPU may be, the boys at Roland did a fine job on packaging it all up on my HP-207, string resonance, half-pedalling and all, and I'm pretty sure that it won't BSOD* on me 20 minutes into my Waldstein**!


*Blue Screen of Death
**It's not like I have[/b] a Waldstein, but you get the idea.

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#696028 - 10/14/08 12:05 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Orez Eno Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/23/08
Posts: 179
Loc: New England
Hi mafagafo[/b]

Thanks for listening to my recordings and giving your opinion.

My difference of opinion with many people here at PianoWorld on this subject is not whether or not a difference can be perceived, but whether the amount perceived is worth the expense. That’s a subjective evaluation that everyone if free to make for themselves. My motivation here was to provide comparative recordings to allow people to do that with a beginner’s playing rather than with an accomplished pianist’s playing. Such a comparision might provide the opportunity to develop a more pratcical and realistic opinion on the subject, and to help decide if it is worth further depleting your starving bank account. I hear you.

Naturally, I’m as curious as anyone, and based on advice I received here about nine months ago, I took the plunge and set up a system using a high end computer, a high quality audio interface unit, and what conventional wisdom here at PianoWorld claimed at the time was the best software. I see that that opinion has since change slightly, people now seem to prefer either Ivory or Pianoteq, but I think that is natural. Opinions do evolve over time.

My emphasis on comparing the playing of a beginner, like me, is not because my playing is very bad, but let’s be honest, it is not good either. Yes, I can hit the notes in the correct order, and I believe my playing is smoother than it was a year ago. But I feel I have a long way to go. I’m not depressed about that. Indeed, I am excited about it. I look forward to further improvements in my playing skill. But at my level I am not fooling myself about drawing out the full potential of any instrument, electronic or acoustic.

Specifically, at my level I have not yet developed the dynamic expression skill that I see many people here at PianoWorld possess, dynamic expression that would really take advantage of such features as dynamic sampling. I have listened to demos of the various sampled libraries, and they are all very impressive. And, those demos were all created by very accomplished pianists. However, I admit that when I finally got a virtual system up and running and I started to play it myself, I felt that the difference between it and the resident sounds on my CLP-230 were so marginal that it was not worth the trouble and expense of setting it up. I submitted as proof two sample recordings of my own playing and of course it is up to anyone here to form their own opinion about whether or not the difference is significant enough for them.

And, it is not as if I don’t appreciate high quality sound. I have enough to perceive that the speakers that are installed in my CLP-230 are marginal, and I have improved on them. I have installed an external audio amplifier and four three-way speaker units, two per stereo channel. Each speaker enclosure is 3 feet tall and each has a 12 inch woofer plus midrange and tweeter with proper cross-over networks. Everyone who has listened to my system agrees that it sounds as good as any top-of-the-line acoustic grand piano. Many are surprised that they can even feel the sound on the floor, just like they would from an acoustic grand in a residential living room. And I respond, “Of course, the speakers are on the floor, just as an acoustic would be.” Yes, of course there are better instruments and better sounding virtual systems. But the question is, "Is a virtual piano system like Akoustik Piano good enough for me to warrant the expense?" The published demos certainly suggest that it is. But my experience after listening to my own playing is that it is only marginally better. And, several friends who have listened to me switch between systems feel exactly the same way. The conclusion is that for my level of playing skill it is hardly worth the expense and trouble of setting it up.

I am not bitter about what I have done. Indeed, I welcome the opportunity to educate myself on this subject. And as far as the expensive computer I bought is concerned, I needed that anyway for other reasons. But now that I have been through the experience I feel that it is only fair, since it is here at PianoWorld that I first received the advice to do this, that I report the result. And my recordings speak for themselves. I feel I owe it to others who are contemplating investing in a similar system the opportunity to hear my recordings. If I had heard similar recordings before I had set up my virtual system, I would not have done it.

 Quote:
Eternal wrote:[/b]
But at the same time - you are starting off with a much better instrument.
I think this is the most valid point that I have heard in this thread. Many people here graduate to virtual systems from keyboards that are worth less than $1000. Hence the improvement in sound that they perceive is significant. I have a $2,500 instrument, so it is only natural that it’s higher quality sound narrows the gap between resident instrument sound and virtual (software) system sound.

I will be posting again in this thread soon. Eternal[/b] has asked me to provide a MIDI file of my playing to allow him to evaluate the tonal quality of my playing on an Ivory system. Perhaps that will be informative. Stay tuned. I’m a bit busy this week. I should be able to submit the MIDI file in this thread by the weekend.
_________________________
Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.

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#696029 - 10/14/08 01:26 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Eternal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/06
Posts: 1285
Loc: Posts: 80,372
One also has to remember about the price being an issue here. What's better:
$2500 for a high end digital piano,
or
$500 for Casio Privia + $300 for Ivory + $500 for computer = $1300?

You end up paying half the price for a (slightly) better sound (but admittedly worse action). And most of the time - people already own a cheap digital piano, and a computer - so the final cost is much less.

I was in that boat - I didn't know if I would enjoy piano - so I bought the cheapest instrument I could get that had a good enough action. Only after I really got into the whole piano thing, I decided to upgrade the sound.

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#696030 - 10/14/08 02:31 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Orez Eno Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/23/08
Posts: 179
Loc: New England
Eternal:[/b]
Good news. I have the MIDI file. Here it is.

MIDI file for Orez Eno playing Clementi

I recorded a new performance on my YPG-625, which unlike my CLP-230, does support exporting saved performances in MIDI format. Since it is a more recent performance (10 minutes ago), my playing has improved. It is a bit faster, and I think a bit smoother with better dynamics. Please feel free to disagree if you feel my progress is not very noticeable.

There are also a few other issues about MIDI file recordings that I want to elaborate on, but I do not have time right now. Perhaps Thursday I will submit an audio recording of my CLP-230 playing the same MIDI file, and I will also submit a separate performance of the same piece played directly on the CLP-230 and using its internal recording features. You will see that the sound quality of the two are not the same, and I’ll elaborate on that on Thursday.

Getting back to our discussion, which I hope others are finding interesting, you advise a good strategy for a person who has already purchased a $500 keyboard. But I had already purchased a $2,500 instrument. So for me, I had less to gain by setting up a virtual piano system.

I do admit spending more for my computer than many other people would. I had my reasons, as we have discussed. That is why I have openly admitted that I needed the computer anyway for other reasons. But do you really think a $500 computer will do the job? Also, is that quote based on having to build the computer yourself from basic parts? If so, not everyone has the skill, time, patience, or love for building computers to succeed with that.

After all that has been said, and after what I have experienced myself, I actually feel that even if I was to start over again from scratch, I would still take the same route that I did and purchase the CLP-230 for $2,500. Today I could do even better. I saw a CLP-330 at my local dealer for $2,450. It has dynamic sampling, which mine does not. It has the ability to save MIDI files directly, which mine does not. And I think its tonal quality is a bit better. I spent considerable time at the CLP-330 using studio quality headphones. I really like it. But of course it would be foolish to upgrade. My CLP-230 is still very good. The differences are only marginal, just like the differences I am finding between my Akoustik Paino and CLP-230.

Then, there is the subject of keyboard action. You yourself admit that the keyboard action on an inexpensive keyboard is marginal. The keyboard on my YPG-625 is certainly not as good as on the CLP-230. Keyboard action is something that was very important for me as a beginning student. The keyboard action on the CLP-230 is fine. I have no complaints.

Finally, you admitted yourself that the pedal action of Ivory was not to your satisfaction. And Akoustik Piano doesn’t even support partial pedaling. In contrast, I find the pedal action on my CLP-230 to be very nice. I have had the opportunity to play for extended periods on several very good acoustic pianos, and I have found the pedal action to be very similar to my CLP-230. Of course a more accomplished player might not agree. But that’s the way it seemed to me. However, when I play my Akoustik Piano system, that has no partial pedaling, or when I play a sub $1000 keyboard at a music store, I find the pedal characteristics upsetting.

Again, I hope people are finding this discussion interesting. I hope we are not beating a dead horse to death. If you think so, just let me know and I will stop.

See you Thursday with results of the above MIDI file on my CLP-230, and possibly even on my Akoustik Piano system.
_________________________
Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.

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#696031 - 10/14/08 02:47 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Orez Eno Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/23/08
Posts: 179
Loc: New England
One last comment: I would have prefered making the MIDI file from the same instrument (CLP-230) that I used to make my previous recordings. But I had problems doing that. So the YPG-625 will have to do for now. I feel that I play a bit better on the CLP-230 due to its better keyboard action.
_________________________
Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.

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#696032 - 10/14/08 03:52 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
mafagafo Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/13/08
Posts: 7
Loc: Montenegro - RS, BRAZIL
Indeed, I'm right now looking for a better piano, since my Privia does not fill my needs anymore. Of course a Clavinova or a Roland will bring dramatic improvements to sound quality, due to its action. I only think that there is no DP to beat high-quality sample libraries.
Now I understand your point, Orez Eno, about the "beginner / expert" difference of needs. Perhaps a huge and expensive sound library could be an extravaganza right now.
But thrust me: in a few years, you will want that "plus" sensitivity, that magical response of a grand, and you will want it more and more.
Then, you will look with better eyes towards libraries and modelling software. I cpuld bet that.

Oh, by the way, great topic, best regards to you all guys!!!
_________________________
I promise I'll never promise anything...

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#696033 - 10/14/08 04:04 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Geof175 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/01/08
Posts: 36
Loc: Be
Orez Eno,

Regarding your last post and the pedal action.

I can't imagine a beginner who learned on a DP (no matter the quality) being able to switch to an acoustic piano and feel comfortable.

The most important problem will be, from my point of view, the pedal action.

On most DP's (even high-end), you can play a whole piece with the sustain pedal "on" without making it sound terrible.

What do you think of piano softwares regarding pedal action ?

Pianoteq approach vs Ivory approach vs CLP230 ?

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#696034 - 10/14/08 04:52 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Orez Eno Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/23/08
Posts: 179
Loc: New England
 Quote:
Geof175 wrote:[/b]
I can't imagine a beginner who learned on a DP (no matter the quality) being able to switch to an acoustic piano and feel comfortable.
Well, I am definitely a beginner who learned on a DP, and I have had the experience of playing a Baldwin Concert Grand acoustic piano at a community college. In the spring semester I was able to practice twice a week, three hours each time. To do that I had to get up at 5:00AM. Practice time on the grand is permitted only at certain times when there are no other activities in the concert hall. This current semester I am doing it again, only this time three times a week. That’s nine hours a week! So, you can see by the investment I am making that I consider this experience very valuable. However, I do this for educational purposes, not necessarily because the Baldwin is better than my own CLP-230. I made some posts about that earlier this year.

As far as the transition from electronic to acoustic, speaking for myself, it was the keyboard action of the Baldwin Grand that I found most different from my own electronic piano, and it was quite difficult to get used to. The action of my CLP-230 is a lot smoother and I still prefer it to the Baldwin. The pedal action was stiffer on the Baldwin. Yes, I admit that. It took more force to depress the damper. However the transition from damper off to damper on was very much the same as on my CLP-230. This is not the case when I play using my Akoustik Piano system, my YPG-625 keyboard, or when I play a sub $1000 keyboard at a local music store.

Last semester I was introducing myself to syncopated pedaling with a waltz rhythm. I practiced the technique extensively on both the Baldwin Grand and my own CLP-230. I found the performance characteristics of both instruments to be very equivalent. And, I would hope they would be. My impression is that the whole emphasis of the Clavinova line is to accurately simulate an acoustic grand.

Of course acoustic pianos differ a lot from each other. Just visit any acoustic piano store, and I have. Perhaps a different acoustic might be more difficult for me to get used to. But the Baldwin Concert Grand that I am currently practicing on has been very highly praised by the faculty, by the more advanced students, and as well as by visiting performing artists.

 Quote:
Geof175 wrote:[/b]
On most DP's (even high-end), you can play a whole piece with the sustain pedal "on" without making it sound terrible.
If you keep the damper fully depressed on my CLP-230 it sounds terribly muddy, just like any acoustic piano that I have tried. If you play a scale with the damper held down the whole time it sounds very dissonant, again, just like on any acoustic.

Your comment got me curious. I tried the same experiment on my YPG-625, a sub $1000 keyboard. It was the same. The sustain characteristics of both my instruments seems to me exactly the same as an acoustic. The sustain on both of my instruments is very long. Is it as long as an acoustic concert grand? I don't know. Perhaps I will measure the two out of curiosity. But the sustain on my CLP-230 is certainly long enough that you cannot get away with just holding the damper down. That sounds terrible.

Note that I feed both my instruments into high quality audio systems. Perhaps if you repeat my experiment yourself using the internal, very small speakers, you will not hear the sustain as long as I can.

I find that the transition between damper off and fully on does not feel as good on the YPG-625 as it does on the CLP-230. I assume that’s because the CLP-230 supports partial (half) pedaling and the YPG-625 does not. But the length of the sustain of both instruments is about the same in my opinion. To be sure, if I stop syncopating the pedal each measure and just hold the pedal down, the piece sounds very muddy. It's very irritating to listen to.

My Akoustik Piano virtual system does not support partial (half) pedaling at all. I don’t like that. I prefer a transition over a small range in position of the damper, just like on an acoustic. I don’t like Akoustik Piano’s instant transition at a particular position. It sounds too abrupt to me.
_________________________
Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.

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#696035 - 10/14/08 08:48 PM Re: Piano Soft vs DP Internal sound
Eternal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/06
Posts: 1285
Loc: Posts: 80,372
As far as pedaling goes - I only use Pianoteq now. It sounds horrible if you keep the pedal pressed for longer than needed.
My Privia supports half pedaling as well - and the firmware simulates the way it should behave much better than Ivory.

Orez - regarding your question about a $500 dollar computer, I actually am using one that cost just that much (if not less). It's not my main machine, and is dedicated only to the piano, so I didn't bother buying an expensive graphics card. Here's the price break-down of something very similar with what I ended up with:

Shuttle Barebone Kit (case + motherboard + supply)- $240
500GB Hard Drive (7200) - $70
Intel Dual Core E2200, 2.2MHz Processor - $70
4GB RAM (PC6400 DDR2 800MHz) - $40
M=Audio 2496 Audio card - $80.

That's $500 right there, and most of the cost went into getting that fancy tiny case (I plan on mounting it right underneath actual piano bench, so you won't even see the computer. You could easily get a regular case with motherboard for $150, and spend the savings on a CD Drive, a monitor and shipping, or a processor upgrade.

I do have another computer meant for video processing and gaming - where I spent twice as much on as on this, but as far as audio editing this is more than enough for my needs.

I'll sequence your MIDI file when I get a chance later on this week.

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