Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be?

Posted by: JPM

Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be? - 09/26/03 01:38 PM

This is a follow-on to the thread on technological innovations in pianos.

Last night I ran across the website of a firm named Stemco located in the Netherlands. It produces a Crystal Soundboard.

Stemco claims that:

"A piano with a glass soundboard has the following assets:

A glass soundboard makes the piano insensible to temperature (fluctuations), atmospheric humidity and pressure;
The sound stays warm, but is more homogeneous and has a higher clearness;
The sound does not distort;
The tones keep sounding on longer;
Almost 25 seconds (compared to 15 seconds with a wooden soundboard);
The application of a glass soundboard instead of the laborious wooden one, makes the production of pianos and grand pianos easier;
Glass is environment-friendly."

See http://www.stemco.nl/index.html .

I'm posting in hope that some of you have had experience with glass soundboards and can comment on their advantages & disadvantages.

I apologize in advance if this topic has been discuss before.

Thanks,
JP
Posted by: Googlism

Re: Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be? - 09/26/03 03:39 PM

Very interesting... I wonder if the piece played on the page is really the sound you get out of a glass soundboard..

PS If you refresh the main page you will get different pieces in the background
Posted by: Googlism

Re: Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be? - 09/26/03 03:44 PM

Nevermind! Just checked out the audio clips and they are played with a crystal soundboard! I'm very impressed..very very impressed..I wonder if crystal soundboards will soon replace wooden ones...
Posted by: JPM

Re: Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be? - 09/26/03 04:56 PM

I meant to post this to the Piano Forum. I tried to move it but only the site administrator is allowed to do that. Frank ... help please.

JP
Posted by: kenny

Re: Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be? - 09/26/03 05:55 PM

Amazing
Posted by: Piano World

Re: Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be? - 09/26/03 06:07 PM

Very cool.

I wonder if they could apply the crystal soundboard to this crystal piano (also located in the Netherlands):
http://www.pianoworld.com/fun/crystalpiano.htm
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be? - 09/26/03 06:27 PM

Really interesting. I wonder what Del thinks?

What about downbearing? Moving? Effects of different shaping (i.e. tapering)?
Posted by: Eileen

Re: Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be? - 09/26/03 07:14 PM

GMTA: great minds think alike. My first thought was durability. How well would they handle being dropped?

Of course humidity would still effect the action of the piano so it wouldn't be immune to humidity.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm............very interesting.

I also wonder if there is a reason why the selections on the site are "popular music", broadway musical tunes, a beatles tune and such as opposed to featuring a classical piece?

Just the curious sceptic in me coming out I guess.

Eileen
Posted by: Bernard

Re: Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be? - 09/26/03 10:17 PM

Ooh. I have some nice crystal from Waterford... I wonder if they can do that piano in the Lismore pattern!?
Posted by: David Burton

Re: Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be? - 09/27/03 01:10 AM

Why do I think that it canít really be glass or crystal? Glass is brittle, difficult to work, would not hold up to the stresses placed on it. It canít really be glass.

Plastic? Now thatís another story. Much easier to control the color, lack of same. Clear plastic is easier than clear glass. Much easier to make to a pre-determined density, tensile strength, elasticity of motion, hardness, etc. Iíd be surprised if the bridge wasnít made of a slightly different kind of plastic.

They donít call it a ďplasticĒ soundboard because obviously it doesnít sound as good as it is. This may be part of the breakthrough Iíve been hoping for. Much nicer that itís done in a crystal clear form too. Sound has no visible color, perhaps that which amplifies it shouldnít either.

I can hardly wait to meet one first hand. May have to go to Holland next year to find out.
Posted by: RKVS1

Re: Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be? - 09/27/03 01:13 AM

Glass soundboards from Holland. Wooden shoe know it.
Sorry, hope I didn't get in Dutch with anyone.

Actually, these are very intriguing. I suspect the speed of sound is quite a bit higher in the glass than in wooden soundboards, and I suspect the weight would quite a bit more too.......just guessing at 2 or 3 times more, but since we don't know the thickness its just a guess.

Down Bernard's path I'd be curious if the glass is leaded or at least how closely they must control its consistency.

The grand they showed top and bottom views of had VERY wide cheek blocks and looked like (using the keyboard width as a 48 inch ruler) it was about 8 ft- 8 inch. A soundboard that large could add considerably to the total weight.

Some of their newly visible parts look nicely designed, others probaly would best stay hidden. I'm wondering if cleaning the glass (at least the inside surface) would become an issue in those chosen to be displayed with the transparency as an effect. The photo showing the upright placed right in front of the pulpit made me wonder about this. (wonderful pulpit though, I think)
Getting ahead of myself before I just figured out why the men's group would readily volunteer for the Windex squad, it occurs to me that transparent panels on the front AND the back of this piano might give rise (oh golly, strike that) \:o cause concern within the GOFCP (Guild of Female Church Pianists). :rolleyes: \:D

Bob
Posted by: ChickGrand

Re: Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be? - 09/27/03 02:16 AM

The web site says it's "hardened" glass 10 mm in thickness. "Tempered" glass, I would guess, by their description as "hardened". I would be particularly curious if it's indeed some sort of leaded crystal--if it isn't, perhaps it should be. I'd think that might make a good "board". I have a set of crystal glasses that are about 10 mm. I've dropped them numerous times. I've never even chipped one of the 36. They're extraordinarily tough. When they hit the tile floor in the kitchen, they just make a pleasant ringing sound. Also, my car has optional leaded crystal glass throughout--specifically for the advantage that it's less prone to cracks and breakage. They are in fact still "crystal" clear after many years of use. Not so much as a scuff or scratch or chip anywhere. Breakage doesn't have to be much of an issue with leaded crystal. Stemco indicates the board does not need curvature and that it is installed with a glue that retains flexibility and that the bridge is glued similarly to the glass with flexible glue. I would be curious what effect that flexibility of the glue holding the bridge to the "board" would have--like, would you perhaps lose some of the highest harmonics? Perhaps not if it's a highly dense glue even while remaining flexible. They claim longer sustain, purer tone and longer tuning stability as glass is not affected by humidity and temperature. They even say they will make glass soundboards for any piano. All in all, an interesting approach. I'd been wondering about the potential for high-strength carbon-silica composites for soundboards myself for some time, so I find it refreshing that a company has been willing to try glass (silica). My own thinking is that after the soundboard (and bridge), the strings and hammer felt are the only materials that significantly contribute to tone, and I'm perfectly willing to consider glass boards or ABS for action or anything else that provides durability, stability and close manufacturing tolerances. Maybe "The Golden Age" of piano manufacturing hasn't yet arrived.

Stemco also says they can make the glass transparent, semi opaque, opaque, colored, or reflective. I'll take mine in Hope Diamond blue lit underneath for polished ebony, and ruby red for bubinga. \:D
Posted by: JPM

Re: Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be? - 09/27/03 02:18 AM

 Quote:
Glass soundboards from Holland. Wooden shoe know it. Sorry, hope I didn't get in Dutch with anyone.[/b]
:D
Posted by: Del

Re: Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be? - 09/27/03 02:26 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Steve Cohen:
Really interesting. I wonder what Del thinks?

What about downbearing? Moving? Effects of different shaping (i.e. tapering)? [/b]
This piano has been around for a while. I've never heard one up close and personal and I don't make judgments about pianos based on recordings. Too much can happen between the original instrument and the speakers on the way out.

It is interesting. Glass is particularly a particularly stiff material. Downbearing with the conventional piano soundboard is simply a method by which the piano builder is able to increase the stiffness of the soundboard assembly without adding any more mass to the system. I would assume the builders of the glass soundboard have decided they don't need much. On the other hand, glass is a relatively heavy material compared to spruce so I would expect the volume in the treble to be some subdued. Whether this could be overcome with hammers and string scaling is a good question. As well, if the bridge layout is more-or-less conventional I would expect that the bass would be fairly thin. I canít see there would be much bridge/soundboard mobility enabling the development of much fundamental. But, as I say, Iíve not heard the instrument. It could well be the designers have overcome all of these problems. Were I assigned the task of building one of these things I can think of a few techniques Iíd at least try.

Iím not sure how prone to breaking or cracking the glass soundboard might be. Treated properly glass can be a pretty tough material. Consider the side windows in your car. Or the glass doors at the local department store. Or your Pyrex glass mixing bowl. Iíd want to be sure my insurance was up to date before moving it but Iím not sure it would really be needed.

The problem I have with all of these efforts is the tendency to claim or imply this new technology will replace the conventional materials and/or methods. It wonít. It will simply be an interesting alternative.

Del
Posted by: pianomanrsn

Re: Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be? - 09/27/03 02:30 AM

For what it is worth, glass does not form crystals. It is considered a very viscous liquid. Glass is a very strong material both in terms of compression and tension but it is obviously brittle. Tucked into the piano case, it is realatively safe from breakage. In a soundboard application, I don't see any reason that it could not work as long as it produces the desired tones.

Robert in Dallas
Posted by: Jeff Bauer

Re: Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be? - 09/27/03 08:09 PM

A good player can make most pianos in tune sound good - especially when it's a properly recorded and transimitted as a 16 bit recording.

However, listening on my work computer it sounded thin and frail.

I copied the file to to a CD and played it through my stereo system at home. Sounded OK, but it sounded less warm than a wood soundboard (if the problem is with the soundboard in the first place.. ).

I was hoping that the examples would be single struck/sustained tone in multiple sections so the entirety of the tone could be heard better: without the use of pedals/back ground music/ reverb processors.

It would be nice to hear one up close.
Posted by: ChickGrand

Re: Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be? - 09/27/03 09:09 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Angelino Jazzer:
A good player can make most pianos in tune sound good - especially when it's a properly recorded and transimitted as a 16 bit recording.

However, listening on my work computer it sounded thin and frail.

I copied the file to to a CD and played it through my stereo system at home. Sounded OK, but it sounded less warm than a wood soundboard (if the problem is with the soundboard in the first place.. ).

I was hoping that the examples would be single struck/sustained tone in multiple sections so the entirety of the tone could be heard better: without the use of pedals/back ground music/ reverb processors.

It would be nice to hear one up close. [/b]
I just listened to the clips. I have my computer connected to a high end all digital amp running 1000 watts per channel and studio quality loudspeakers. The sound did not sound thin to me, but rather a little less "muddied" in the tenor and bass than sometimes is the case in some pianos. The upper tenor and treble sounded particularly good to me. Reminded me of a good Malmsjo grand, clear and sweet. I agree that I would like to hear single-struck sustained tones minus reverb and background. None of the clips got into the lowest bass in any powerful manner. I'd be particularly interested in hearing that end more. The clips were good enough that I'm itching to hear one in person now. It sounds quite promising but only live can prove its value.
Posted by: pianoexcellence

Re: Crystal Soundboards: Are they all they're cracked up to be? - 08/29/07 12:47 AM

If anyone goes to see one of these in person, Please Please let us know your thoughts. I was suprised that the webpage has not tried to gain endorsement from a well known classical pianist.

If I played at profesional concert level, and was invited to come see, i would jump at the opporitunity. If a Big name pianist were to endorse it, and go on tour with it, it would generate huge publicity.

My guess is that the Pop piansts like it more than the classical pianists, but then again, I may just be a skeptic...

Jeremy RMT