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#697837 - 06/06/03 12:41 PM Expansion boards
Ashley Tibbs Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/04/02
Posts: 19
Loc: MS
I am currently familiarizing myself with digital keyboard terms and technology pursuant to buying a digital keyboard sometime in the next 3-4 months. Two questions:

1. What are expansion boards?

2. What kind/level digital keyboard will $3000 get you?

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#697838 - 06/06/03 09:27 PM Re: Expansion boards
SteveY Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/01
Posts: 1820
Loc: NJ
1. What are expansion boards?
Hi Ashley,
Expansion Boards are basically an extra bundle of sounds that can be added to a keyboard at a later date. They usually come in the form of a small circuit board that can be popped into a slot in the keyboard. That sounds kind of scary, but it's really not. You don't need to know anything about anything to do this. It literally just "pops" right into the keyboard. The coolest thing about expansion boards is the that a two or three year old keyboard can play new, state-of-the-art sounds by adding an expansion board. This protects your initial keyboard investment and provides extra longevity. As a professional keyboard player, I used to have to buy new keyboards almost every year. Now, i can stretch a keyboard's usefulness by several years. I reguarly use an eight year old keyboard that is loaded with new expansion boards! Although Roland first introduced this, most manufacturers offer this feature on some of their keyboards.

2. What kind/level digital keyboard will $3000 get you?
That's difficult to answer. It really depends on what features you're looking for, as well as personal preference. If you're looking for something that has furniture appeal, that will add to the price. "Touch screens" and other interactive features also add to the price. But if you're just looking for a great feel and great sound, then $3k should be fine (but then again, that's my own personal opinion).
PianoWorld disclaimer: musician, producer, arranger, author, clinician, consultant, PS2 aficionado, secret agent...

#697839 - 06/09/03 10:28 AM Re: Expansion boards
Ashley Tibbs Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/04/02
Posts: 19
Loc: MS

Thanks a lot for the information. It should sharpen my edge while shopping around.

As to your response to my second question, I'm less interested in touch screens and other so-called "bells and whistles", as useful and interesting as they apparently are, and more interested in a good piano/organ/harpsichord sound(s). If I buy a Yamaha CLP 150 (I believe that's the nomenclature) for example, could an expansion board provide a sample of other pianos (Steinway, Baldwin, etc.), or would the variety of sounds available to me be merely expanded, giving me access to sounds not provided on the CLP?

Again, I appreciate the information. These forums are highly interesting and informative.


#697840 - 06/09/03 11:56 AM Re: Expansion boards
JimM Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/04/02
Posts: 200
Loc: Northern California
Ashley, I don't believe any of the "home digital" pianos (Yamaha CLP and CVP, Roland HP and KR, etc.) accomodate expansion boards. Expansion boards are usually available only for "professional" stage keyboards which don't have nice cases, electronic features like styles, etc. - they're just keyboards with built-in sounds. Most often they don't even include built-in speakers. They are substantially less expensive, however,and usually have the same samples and keyboards as the home models.

If you go with a home digital piano (such as the CLP150) you can add sounds with midi sound modules. These are separate hardware boxes that plug into your piano's midi ports. Most of the big electronic music companies make them. At the very top end, you can interface a computer running software like GigaStudio or Kontakt which use huge samples (since they "play" off the hard disk) and provide the very best quality sounds. Such a setup (which is what I use with my Yamaha CVP900) could cost as much as the CLP! Any of this stuff can be added in the future if you want, since it just plugs in.
Mason and Hamlin BB, Clavinova CVP900

#697841 - 06/10/03 01:23 PM Re: Expansion boards
Ashley Tibbs Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/04/02
Posts: 19
Loc: MS

Thanks for the information. In fact, I just saw an advert for GigaStudio in "Keyboard" magazine. Some of the samples available include a Bosendorfer Imperial, an Estonia, and a rebuilt 1960 Hamburg Steinway. Unbelievable software. I'm saving $$ for such even as I type...



#697842 - 06/10/03 01:48 PM Re: Expansion boards
JimM Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/04/02
Posts: 200
Loc: Northern California
You're welcome. There are at least a dozen very good pianos available for Gigastudio. Ones that I particularly like include:

Bardstown Bosendorfer. A very versatile piano with lots of variations (www.bardstownaudio.com)

Post Audio Steinway and Bosendorfer. He also has some great harpsichords and fortepianos (www.postaudiomedia.com)

Vintage Audio Yamaha C7 and Steinway/Clinton uprights (www.vintaudio.com)

ArtVista Malmsjo (www.artvista.net) "Grieg's piano"

Bigga Gigga Malmsjo. Very different sound from ArtVista's Malmsjo. He also offers a slightly detuned "Rain Piano" that is just splendid for some kinds of music. (www.biggagiggas.com)

More are coming along all the time, and all of the developers post demos on their sites. There are also a few free ones - a Yamaha comes with the software (GigaPiano) and a few musicians have done their own and put them into the public domain.

All of these pianos have very different characteristics - some are best for classical, some pop, some jazz, etc.

A word about Gigastudio - it is indeed powerful software, and with power comes complexity. You need a very fast computer and two very fast hard disks to run it to full capacity. You'll also need an audio card and midi interface. If you're handy with the technology you can probably assemble the hardware for under $1,500 USD. The software will cost another $400 or so (for the maximum polyphony of 160 voices) and the samples run from $100 to $200 each.

A good place to learn about this is the Northernsounds BBS at www.northernsounds.com
The "samples" forum is the most active. Many of the participants are composers, some very well-known, who use these systems in lieu of live musicians for hearing their compositions. You can also learn about competitors to Gigastudio - Halion, Kontakt, etc.
Mason and Hamlin BB, Clavinova CVP900


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