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#697902 - 07/31/07 07:38 PM How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
MrsG Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/01/07
Posts: 22
What I mean is termed "Digital Convergence." The point where we say, forget about acoustic pianos, digital pianos are just as good. How close are we to that?

For instance, I have read about the new Kawai MP8 and other Kawai models that are more traditional in their piano looks (such as the CA71) that feature wooden keys and piano action, for instance... it seems like digital pianos are coming very close to being as playable and possibly as enjoyable as acoustic pianos.

What do you think? I have been looking for an acoustic piano since November, but it is to the point that I am about to abandon my search for an acoustic piano and head over to digital piano land.

The reasons for my frustration...
1) I can't seem to afford a proper new acoustic piano.
2) Lack of new acoustic pianos to try in my area.
3) Frustration at the poor selection of used acoustic pianos.
4) Realization that I won't be able to afford to maintain an acoustic piano properly over its lifetime.

Your thoughts??

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#697903 - 07/31/07 07:53 PM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21431
Loc: Oakland
They each have their pluses and minuses. There just comes a point when they do not do the same things.

Digital plusses:
1. Smaller and lighter.
2. Lower initial cost. Lower recurring maintenance.
3. More sounds.

Acoustic plusses:
1. Greater longevity.
2. More easily repaired.
3. More resonant, such as resonance between individual notes.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#697904 - 07/31/07 09:05 PM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3854
Piano maintainance over 50 years is going to be cheaper than buying a new digital every 5 years. Digitals are not going to replace pianos anytime soon. I think everyone should own one, learn to play it, then buy a real piano.
_________________________
www.PianoTunerOrlando.com






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#697905 - 07/31/07 09:24 PM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
Reaper978 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/08/05
Posts: 1326
I think people are kidding themselves if they think digitals will not soon be able to emulate nearly perfectly everything an acoustic can do, in smaller, cheaper package that never needs to be tuned and always sounds like a 9' concert grand.

Considering the price and snobbery associated with acoustics, I'm all for the change.

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#697906 - 07/31/07 09:45 PM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
Tony V Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/14/07
Posts: 354
Interesting topic.

Digital pianos are really getting more accurate and accurate to an acoustic.

My question: Will acoustic pianos also be improving, therefore offsetting the progress of digital piano advancement to a broke-even state? Won't digital pianos always be one step below an acoustic?

Of course, honestly, I don't know anything about acoustic pianos. Can someone clarify for me whether companies are improving piano sound and action? Or are all acoustic pianos the same in sound (in respect to the individual brand of course)? o_0

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#697907 - 07/31/07 10:07 PM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
DigitalPianoMan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/21/07
Posts: 33
Loc: NYC
Maybe we already have the technology but just don't want to hurt sales of pianos. Who knows...

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#697908 - 07/31/07 11:42 PM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
WhiteBear Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/18/07
Posts: 161
Loc: Ontario, Canada
 Quote:
I think people are kidding themselves if they think digitals will not soon be able to emulate nearly perfectly everything an acoustic can do, in smaller, cheaper package that never needs to be tuned and always sounds like a 9' concert grand.

Considering the price and snobbery associated with acoustics, I'm all for the change.
I second this opinion in a wink.

Longevity of the acoustic pianos may probably the last myth for the piano industry to cling for.

If needed (and there was some good discussion of whether it is needed at this point in a different forum: Another piano forum discussion ) what would prohibit to make digitals with appropriate replaceable parts??

My subjective perception that we are at the point where DPs are about to outcompete uprights.

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#697909 - 07/31/07 11:49 PM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
WhiteBear Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/18/07
Posts: 161
Loc: Ontario, Canada
 Quote:
Maybe we already have the technology but just don't want to hurt sales of pianos. Who knows...
Fortunately, we have Roland which has no vested interests in acoustic piano sales \:D

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#697910 - 08/01/07 12:22 AM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1520
We are talking about virtual reality. Current digital pianos are far from simulating the acoustic reality and response of a Steinway grand. It may never happen, probably not in our lifetime. Current speaker technology alone does not permit equality in the foreseeable future.
_________________________
1966 Mason & Hamlin piano.

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#697911 - 08/01/07 12:30 AM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
Tony V Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/14/07
Posts: 354
How about this?

http://www.steinwaylyngdorf.com/

Speakers are pretty refined nowadays. There is software that can emulate real piano sound. I bet if you combined the two, blindfolded the skeptics, played a song on piano and then on software + high-end speakers, then I bet you can fool many people.

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#697912 - 08/01/07 12:34 AM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1520
Not impressed. Current speaker technology is not sophisticated enough to produce waveforms with the same acoustical properties[/b] as a real piano.
_________________________
1966 Mason & Hamlin piano.

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#697913 - 08/01/07 12:52 AM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
Tony V Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/14/07
Posts: 354
Can you go more in depth about acoustical properties? And can you also explain what are the flaws of speaker technology?

I'm not trying to start anything here. I admit that I don't know much if anything on this subject and would love to hear what you have to say on the technical limitations of speaker technology.

As far as I know, everything is just sound waves and I am under the impression that we have the technology to emulate these sound wave patterns. I'm also under the impression that we might be capable of great sound projection seeing we have great sound systems in our movie theaters and such.

Also, I'd like to hear your opinion on this:
http://kawaius.com/main_links/digital/new_cp/cp207.html

Is that a step towards acoustic properties for digitals?

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#697914 - 08/01/07 01:29 AM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
crusadar Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/30/07
Posts: 670
Loc: Middle England
It would be interesting to find out if there are statistics which show how many people who, like me, returned to, or started, playing piano because digital pianos were now available and if there were still only acoustics around probably wouldn't have bothered. Someone in Piano retailing would have an idea if they sell more digitals than acoustics, to newbies or experienced pianists. Perhaps the average pianist, who plays just for their own amusement, is quite happy with something that sounds close enough to the real thing. As far as digital piano technology goes I fear we may be suffering from planned obsolesance, similar to the personal computer industry, the technology is there but it is released little by little in order to get us to constantly buy the latest models.

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#697915 - 08/01/07 02:06 AM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21431
Loc: Oakland
If you cannot hear or feel the difference between an acoustic piano and a digital piano, then either will do. For those of us who can, they are two different instruments, and there is nothing wrong with that.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#697916 - 08/01/07 03:44 AM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
Pumucky Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/04/06
Posts: 30
Loc: UK
Somebody pointed out somewhere in this forum that DPs should be considered as instruments in their own right; similar to electric guitars. The point was that they shouldn't be "compared" to acoustics but rather evaluated for what you could do with them as instruments.

I think that's an interesting thought.

However, many of us look at DPs as replacements for acoustic pianos. If we were not looking to, at least, emulate the sound and feel of an acoustics we would be considering synthesizers. So, in theory, the ideal DP should be indistinguishable from an acoustic from the player’s and the listener’s perspective.

Having said this, I can’t help wondering what would the acoustic piano feel and sound like if inventors and manufacturers had had a different set of technologies at hand. Would they have preferred a good amp-speaker set to a wooden soundboard? Is the former actually better at reproducing sound waves without altering them?
Obviously, now the soundboard is an integral part of the instrument and has an essential role in shaping the actual sound of the instrument: nobody sees it as an extraneous element that is only there in order to magnify the vibrations of the strings (this is an oversimplification, though).

Just thinking aloud…
_________________________
And do they do.

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#697917 - 08/01/07 06:17 AM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
DigitalPianoMan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/21/07
Posts: 33
Loc: NYC
 Quote:
Originally posted by WhiteBear:
 Quote:
Maybe we already have the technology but just don't want to hurt sales of pianos. Who knows...
Fortunately, we have Roland which has no vested interests in acoustic piano sales \:D [/b]
Touché lol


The speakers that could replicate an acoustic piano exactly would probably cost so much that it'd be less expensive to buy a grand piano (or 2 for that matter). I really like the idea of digitals being their own instrument but mainly so that I don't feel bad for not owning a "real" piano

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#697918 - 08/01/07 06:58 AM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
ZeroZero Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/07
Posts: 220
Loc: UK
I have just bought a RP 700 gem. I must say I am pleased with it. On the minus side the bass is a little too heavy (not too bad though) but I assume that a real piano could be this way. Also I can't get a really ppp sound out of it.
On the plus sign I will never have to tune it, worry about central heating, the tone is excellent, and unlike other digitals there is a blend between velociy layering where I cannot detect a change. I do find I can sensitivity from the instrument - though perhaps not the full range - ppp - fff of the piano maybe just pp-ff
On the whole I am delighted

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#697919 - 08/01/07 10:36 AM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
Digitals ALREADY have acoustic pianos beat in
regards to: purchase price (grand piano-like
sound and touch for less than 1/10
the price of an acoustic grand piano);
maintenance (no tuning or maintenance
of any kind needed, ever--this compares
with $150.00 tunings at least twice
a year for an acoustic, and other
repairs); durability and reliability
(a digital should last indefinitely without
maintenance or repair of any kind--
my neighbor now owns my first digital,
a Korg C-800 console that I bought
new in 1989; it is still in perfect
condition and has never needed any
kind of maintenance or repair);
features (digitals have volume control
and a headphone jack so that you can play
them anytime, anywhere; they also have
things like instant record and playback,
computer connectivity, etc.);
enjoyment (digitals are more fun to
play than acoustic pianos); and so
forth.

The sound and touch of digitals is of
course not exactly the same as an
acoustic, but it is close enough for
all practical purposes.

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#697920 - 08/01/07 10:54 AM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
4sCompany Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/12/07
Posts: 18
Loc: San Francisco
What Gyro said.

I was looking at spending 10k on an acoustic piano, looked for 6 months. I love the acoustic instrument and one day, when circustance change (larger home), I have an acoustic in my home with a DP. But I recently came to realize with 3 piano players in the house a digital would be better. See my post on the CA91 I just bought. I imagine if you blind folded an average piano hack like me, it'd be challenging to tell the difference btwn an acoustic and CA91, at least initially. Good topic!
_________________________
Kawai CA91

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#697921 - 08/01/07 11:08 AM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
Jon J. Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/17/02
Posts: 17
Loc: Michigan
Good discussion here!! Per my understanding, it takes an acoustic instrument to generate the sounds for the digitals. As the electronic/mechanical technology improves for accurately reproducing these sampled sounds, the lines of "distinction" between the two will undoubtly blurr. But we all know the answer here. It is marketing. Since no one piano will satisfy all players equally - the industry gives a choice. Hooray for that!!

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#697922 - 08/01/07 11:16 AM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
Reaper978 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/08/05
Posts: 1326
Pianos are actually being fully modeled with technology like Pianoteq. It's a bit disappointing they haven't put this technology in more mobile stage instruments.

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#697923 - 08/01/07 11:39 AM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
 Quote:
Originally posted by redcoat:
It would be interesting to find out if there are statistics which show how many people who, like me, returned to, or started, playing piano because digital pianos were now available and if there were still only acoustics around probably wouldn't have bothered. Someone in Piano retailing would have an idea if they sell more digitals than acoustics, to newbies or experienced pianists. Perhaps the average pianist, who plays just for their own amusement, is quite happy with something that sounds close enough to the real thing. As far as digital piano technology goes I fear we may be suffering from planned obsolesance, similar to the personal computer industry, the technology is there but it is released little by little in order to get us to constantly buy the latest models. [/b]
I think that this is an excellent point. Being able to mess about on a keyboard with headphones on at 1 in the morning without worrying about family, housemates or neighbors, low purchase price and maintenance costs, portability, little space taken up in the house, fun of playing around with other voices. I know digitals initially got me playing again!

I wasn't satisfied after a while though and did buy an acoustic, and I intend to keep buying digitals as new, improved ones come out as digital has benefits for practicing over acoustic.

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#697924 - 08/01/07 01:02 PM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
ge_lw Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/04/06
Posts: 10
I'm a PhD candidate on electronics. I’d like to say some technical stuff.

What we hear are analog sound waves. In theory, sound recorded on analog tapes ALWAYS contains more details than digitally recorded sound, because sampling and representing each sample’s amplitude by finite bits, 16/24/32, introduce distortion. However, as sampling rate and bit-width increase, distortion can be undetectable by human ears. Therefore, in practice, DPs will replace acoustics bit by bit, just like digital camera replaces film camera. But high end acoustic and film camera will always exist.

Digital recording can achieve high fidelity, as long as the memory is sufficient. The bottleneck is more at the playback. It is like this: the speaker generates sound by vibrating a surface at certain amplitude and frequency. Even if a versatile speaker can generate each individual note accurately, when multiple notes sound simultaneously, the vibrations of different frequencies and amplitudes on the same surface will interfere with each other. The notes will not be ‘pure’ any more. Possible solution is using 88 speakers, one for each key. In fact, strings of acoustic do interfere with each other. But the interference is hard to emulate.

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#697925 - 08/01/07 02:05 PM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
FogVilleLad Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/02/05
Posts: 4680
Loc: San Francisco
At the end of the day, when playing a digital you'll always be listening to the sound of a recorded piano and that sound will not have the richness of an acoustic.

You can increase the satisfaction of a digital by listening thru studio-quality headphones, such as Sennheiser's HD-580's or their newer 600's, and by buying third party samples or pianoteq's modelled piano (which to my ears sounds synthetic when chords are sustained), but you'll still be listening to recorded sounds.

Digitals do allow you to expand your piano universe. I currently play Art Vista's sampled Steinway B. Proaudiovault sells a sampled, company authorized Bluther Model One and Gary Garritan will soon release a company authorized Steinway D. The Garritan Steinway will included samples which can be triggered by an una corda (soft) pedal.

Playing any of these requires connecting your 'board to a computer. It's not complicated, but it's something to consider.

If you're considering a digital because of frustration re finding an acoustic that's within your budget, it might be worthwhile to make a piano shopping trip to a city which has a number of dealers.

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#697926 - 08/01/07 05:18 PM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
Tony V Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/14/07
Posts: 354
Great explanation, ge_lw. That is exactly what I wanted to find out.

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#697927 - 08/01/07 11:05 PM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
Reaper978 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/08/05
Posts: 1326
For the record, if I had the means, I probably always will prefer to have an acoustic concert grand than even the finest digital.

It's an emotional thing.

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#697928 - 08/01/07 11:26 PM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
WhiteBear Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/18/07
Posts: 161
Loc: Ontario, Canada
Reaper978,
I second your sentiments very much.
While I (wrongly or not) largely dismiss uprights considering current advances of DPs, there is a lot of sentimental value and charm in grands plus the sound!!
So far, I did not have a chance to test a DP imitating/approximating grands fully satisfactory to me.

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#697929 - 08/02/07 12:08 AM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
Happy Birthday Stephen Hazel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 734
Loc: Seattle-ish, WA
this is the digital forum, so I've got to root for digital. That's why i'm in this forum \:D

We all know the answers.
you want pure piano sound? You'll always need an acoustic.
you want more than that? You'll always need a synth.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
I like synths better.
Pianos are beautiful.
But a piano isn't enough for me.

Someday if I ever get rich, I'll cram an acoustic into the livingroom (somehow!).
But my first love will always be the synth.
_________________________
...Steve
http://PianoCheetah.com - writing my own piano practice program ...yeah, I'm crazy like that

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#697930 - 08/02/07 12:16 AM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
ge_lw Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/04/06
Posts: 10
Different people perceive the same sound differently. The ultimate DP should be as this:

An individual strikes each key of a desired acoustic at different velocity, duration, etc. Record the corresponding electric signals his/her ears transmit to the brain through nerves. This profile defines the acoustic perceptual space of that individual. Based on this profile, adjust a DP, so that the DP arouses the same nerve signals when it is played at the same velocity/duration as on the acoustic. After the profile extraction and the DP adjustment, the DP will be the same as the acoustic for that individual.

The reason why some people like a DP while others don’t is because they have different acoustic perceptual profiles. DP should be adjusted to correct the profile difference.

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#697931 - 08/02/07 07:19 AM Re: How close are we to digital beating acoustic pianos?
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1520
 Quote:
Originally posted by ge_lw:
I'm a PhD candidate on electronics. I’d like to say some technical stuff.

What we hear are analog sound waves. In theory, sound recorded on analog tapes ALWAYS contains more details than digitally recorded sound, because sampling and representing each sample’s amplitude by finite bits, 16/24/32, introduce distortion. However, as sampling rate and bit-width increase, distortion can be undetectable by human ears. Therefore, in practice, DPs will replace acoustics bit by bit, just like digital camera replaces film camera. But high end acoustic and film camera will always exist.

Digital recording can achieve high fidelity, as long as the memory is sufficient. The bottleneck is more at the playback. It is like this: the speaker generates sound by vibrating a surface at certain amplitude and frequency. Even if a versatile speaker can generate each individual note accurately, when multiple notes sound simultaneously, the vibrations of different frequencies and amplitudes on the same surface will interfere with each other. The notes will not be ‘pure’ any more. Possible solution is using 88 speakers, one for each key. In fact, strings of acoustic do interfere with each other. But the interference is hard to emulate. [/b]
That's right.

Now tell us the differences between how an acoustic piano projects it sound waves and how electronic speakers directionally project their sound waves. We will need a large number of computer controlled speakers to simulate the acoustics of a grand piano. It's not economically practical for home users in our lifetime.

How will they accurately manage to produce the hundreds of millions of combinations of potential sympathetic vibrations that modulate the waveforms when different combinations of notes are played together on a real piano? And factor in that the varying dynamic levels of every note within a group of notes (vertical or linear) produces different waveforms. Millions of possible interactions occur. As Mr. Spock would say these digital pianos are like trying "to construct a mnemonic circuit using stone knives and bearskins." It's like trying to get a robot to have feelings. It's way off in the distant future. we'll all be gone by that century.
It's not economically practical in our lifetimes.

Digital pianos are sort of like photographs, they capture a note in still life, it's very artificial, there is no felt hammer hitting strings strung across a metal bridge and a wooden sound board, AND the notes do not interact with each other the way they do in the acoustic world.
_________________________
1966 Mason & Hamlin piano.

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