Piano silent systems

Posted by: Acca

Piano silent systems - 12/07/12 05:19 PM

Hi all,

I'm thinking of buying a piano soon, with the following requirements:
- grand piano key action and touch
- ability to play "silently" on headphones

I know that there is one digital piano that Yamaha makes with a genuine grand piano key action but the price is encroaching on real grand piano territory, hence my consideration of a real grand piano with a "silent" system.

From my limited research, I know of 3:
- Yamaha "Silent" (Simple and SG type), eg Yamaha GB1K
- Kawai AnyTime, eg GM10K
- PianoDisc QuietTime Magic Star (retrofitted on existing piano)

I have had a look at youtube videos of how most of the silent systems work (basically a rod that shifts to prevent the hammers from hitting the string, and a series of switches or light sensors to capture key action and convert them into MIDI)

My questions are:

- How feasible is retrofitting a silent system on a (presumably used) piano? Is it a fiddly thing that requires a good craftsman or will it work just as well as a factory system?

- Do pianos with silent systems "lose value" more than an unmodified piano? Does it matter if the silent system was factory installed?

- Does the silent rod damage the hammers since they get stopped at the stem (which is not in the original design) rather than the head hitting the string?

- Does the silent rod affect piano tuning or key action? (Hammer let-off distances? Heavier key action?)

- Why are silent systems not more popular, since nowadays I can't imagine it is very sociable to play pianos unrestrained for any period of time (akin to cranking up the stereo)?

- Are there any other silent systems out there?

- Which are the better systems? I know that Yamaha's simple silent does not have MIDI out which is disappointing.

Would be interested in any thoughts and insights, thanks!

Posted by: Dave B

Re: Piano silent systems - 12/07/12 06:32 PM

Hi Acca, There are so many set-ups that will meet your requirements that there is no single answer. What features you want to use the most? I.e. , if you plan on using headphones most of the time, an excellent speaker system won't be a high priority.

With some searching I'm sure you will find a piano you enjoy playing. A hybrid system that has the features you want can be added. My only recommendation is to check that the system is designed for quality interfacing with computers.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Piano silent systems - 12/07/12 06:43 PM

The only hybrid with true grand piano action that I know of is the Yamaha Avantgrand N1. I'm just looking at alternatives because Yamaha are making it so expensive in my country (50% more than elsewhere in the world) that a real grand piano is becoming a consideration. However I want the ability to play silently using headphones, hence my question about silent systems.
Posted by: backto_study_piano

Re: Piano silent systems - 12/07/12 10:29 PM

Originally Posted By: Acca
... in my country (50% more than elsewhere in the world) ...


Where are you located (your profile is blank).

I had a Schimmel before this piano, and I think they may have had a silent option. There was a routed groove under the keyboard ready to take it.

There is another way - but it's a bit drastic, but it does ensure silence. http://mit81.com/baker/sites/default/files/images/piano_drop_mit_museum.jpg
Posted by: Acca

Re: Piano silent systems - 12/08/12 02:03 AM

Originally Posted By: backto_study_piano

Where are you located (your profile is blank).


Haha same place you are! Oz wink
Land of the 200% markups. Buy 2 receive 1. And you should be grateful for it! bah

Originally Posted By: backto_study_piano

There is another way - but it's a bit drastic, but it does ensure silence. http://mit81.com/baker/sites/default/files/images/piano_drop_mit_museum.jpg


That won't work for me, it's not a grand wink
Posted by: Cy Shuster, RPT

Re: Piano silent systems - 12/08/12 11:53 PM

Originally Posted By: Acca

My questions are:

- How feasible is retrofitting a silent system on a (presumably used) piano? Is it a fiddly thing that requires a good craftsman or will it work just as well as a factory system?


It depends on the piano and the system. I've retrofitted the QRS system and the MagicStar, and the QRS system was easier for me (which might mean less expensive). Once installed, both of them work fine. The MagicStar sensor rail is bigger, and may require the removal of more keyframe material. Pianos with "plate horns" may need a large hole drilled through the cast iron.

Quote:


- Do pianos with silent systems "lose value" more than an unmodified piano? Does it matter if the silent system was factory installed?



I would say no (it's an extra feature that doesn't take anything away), and yes (it's easier to do during initial assembly, and the piano was designed for it). My customers sometimes send the generated sound out not through headphones, but to external speakers, and make a giant pipe organ out of the piano! (Or just turn a six-footer into a concert grand!)

Quote:


- Does the silent rod damage the hammers since they get stopped at the stem (which is not in the original design) rather than the head hitting the string?



No. The hammershanks are solid maple.

Quote:

- Does the silent rod affect piano tuning or key action? (Hammer let-off distances? Heavier key action?)



Let-off is ever so slightly greater, but not out of range for a typical home piano. The feel of the keys is unchanged.

Quote:


- Why are silent systems not more popular, since nowadays I can't imagine it is very sociable to play pianos unrestrained for any period of time (akin to cranking up the stereo)?



They're expensive on grands, but the felt mute strip has been pretty much standard on new uprights for decades.

Quote:


- Are there any other silent systems out there?



Yes, check out www.qrspiano.com.

Quote:


- Which are the better systems? I know that Yamaha's simple silent does not have MIDI out which is disappointing.



Once installed, the QRS and MagicStar work about the same. The MIDI sensors are an extra cost option, but it does allow you to take the output into software like GarageBand or CakeWalk, where you can do lots of fun stuff.

--Cy--
Posted by: Acca

Re: Piano silent systems - 12/09/12 04:14 AM

Thanks so much for your insights, Cy! Much appreciated. thumb
Posted by: backto_study_piano

Re: Piano silent systems - 12/09/12 07:18 PM

Originally Posted By: Acca


Haha same place you are! Oz wink
Land of the 200% markups. Buy 2 receive 1. And you should be grateful for it! bah


It's one of the reasons I bought Grotrian - they're a great piano, And in Australia, substantially better than other pianos at the same price point. Most brands, you look at PianoBuyer prices and add 50-100%, but Grotrian you subtract 10-15%.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Piano silent systems - 12/10/12 01:14 AM

Originally Posted By: backto_study_piano

It's one of the reasons I bought Grotrian - they're a great piano, And in Australia, substantially better than other pianos at the same price point. Most brands, you look at PianoBuyer prices and add 50-100%, but Grotrian you subtract 10-15%.


Actually I did listen to a Grotrian 6' 10" (I think) grand at one of the stores, it was the benchmark against which the Yamahas were judged.

Sadly I can't afford to spend the price of a small house or luxury car for a piano, nor do I have the skills to do it justice frown
Posted by: Edtek

Re: Piano silent systems - 12/10/12 03:36 AM

Acca,
Story and Clark pianos come standard with a silent system (optical sensors with midi output).
Posted by: Acca

Re: Piano silent systems - 12/10/12 05:38 AM

Originally Posted By: Edtek
Acca,
Story and Clark pianos come standard with a silent system (optical sensors with midi output).


Actually I just found that out today. Made for QRS in China by Samick, right? I just am not sure about the quality. Have you any experience with them?

I have the impression that Yamaha and Kawai entry level grands are better made, even if they come from Indonesia. Kawai's GM-10K especially has a solid spruce soundboard (not laminated I don't think) and the trademark composite key mechanism (not as susceptible to warping and humidity).