hybrid pianos

Posted by: Dave Horne

hybrid pianos - 06/02/10 07:38 AM

It's probably common knowledge that the GranTouch series and the new AvantGrand (N2 and N3) are hybrid pianos, combining a real (well, slightly modified) grand piano action coupled to a grand piano sample.

Are there any other similar pianos out there? I remember hearing about another one years ago, Kawai ... ?

I got to test drive Bösendorfer's answer to the then GranTouch in Vienna about three years ago. They were working on a hybrid that used the action from their nine footer. I played one of only three prototypes but felt a disconnect from the action and the sound. It was a prototype after all and since then Bösendorfer has been taken over by Yamaha and I'm guessing that hybrid has been permanently shelved.

I've written Steinway encouraging them enter this market but my suggestion fell on deaf ears.

So, does Yamaha have this hybrid market all to itself?
Posted by: spanishbuddha

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/02/10 05:40 PM

In the UK there is Robertson who sell a Digital Grand Piano. http://robertsonpianos.com/ I have seen and heard one in a restaurant, but don't know if the action is a modified acoustic one. Robertson do make acoustics too.
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/02/10 06:24 PM

spanishbuddha, I looked at their site and contacted them to ask them if their pianos are in fact hybrids. I have never heard of them. I'll report back when I hear back from them. (It's 12:25 AM here.)
Posted by: ChrisA

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/02/10 06:36 PM

Originally Posted By: Dave Horne

So, does Yamaha have this hybrid market all to itself?


I think there are several companies who can fit hammer velocity sensors on any acoustic piano. But these are in effect one-off hybrid pianos.

I don't think I'd call a Yamaha N2/N3 a "hybrid" as it is purely digital. It is just a digital piano with a high quality key action.

The acoustic with a sensor would be a true hybrid.

I guess there is a third class that we don't see much of any more, electric pianos. These are 100% mechanical analog pianos that use eletric picups and an amp.
Posted by: NikkiPiano

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/02/10 06:56 PM

Originally Posted By: ChrisA

The acoustic with a sensor would be a true hybrid.


That would include the Bosendorfer CEUS:

http://www.boesendorfer.com/en/ceus-reproducing-system.html
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/02/10 07:07 PM

My personal definition of a hybrid does not include strings. The entire point of a hybrid is to eliminate much of the weight (and construction) associated with having a stringed instrument.

My AvantGrand (as did my GranTouch) has the action (slightly modified) of a real grand piano but ... no strings.

The Bösendorfer hybrid I played looked like a casket, a casket with the action (and no strings) of a nine footer. I really would like the option to play a hybrid with the action from a nine footer.
Posted by: Melodialworks Music

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/02/10 07:18 PM

Originally Posted By: ChrisA

I don't think I'd call a Yamaha N2/N3 a "hybrid" as it is purely digital.


No, it's not purely digital. That's what makes it a hybrid. If you played one, you would realize this, trust me! BTW, Yamaha in fact calls the N series "hybrid".
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/02/10 07:37 PM

Before I posted in this specific section I thought perhaps it might be better placed in the acoustic section.

For my money, these hybrid pianos should be, as long as here are two camps, lumped in the acoustic side and not the digital side.
Posted by: MarcoM

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/02/10 09:06 PM

Originally Posted By: Melodialworks Music
No, it's not purely digital. That's what makes it a hybrid. If you played one, you would realize this, trust me! BTW, Yamaha in fact calls the N series "hybrid".


it is purely digital, the sound generation path does not have any sort of analog component.

The fact that the keyboard has the same action as a grand is immaterial, you could take the sound generation of an avant grand and control it with an unweighted synth keyboard and it would sound exactly the same.

I think 'hybrid' is more marketspeak than anything, AvantGrand instruments are 'just' digital pianos with a more realistic keyboard and higher quality speakers, but they are still DPs, there is nothing 'analog/hybrid' about them.
Posted by: Melodialworks Music

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/02/10 09:43 PM

MarcoM, have you played one? (Didn't think so!) You're "more realistic keyboard" comment gave you away.

An acoustic action is NOT the same as a DP action. The AvantGrand instruments are most certainly hybrids - part acoustic, part digital, not pure at all!

So many comments about the AvantGrand by so many who have not actually played one. Amazing.
Posted by: MarcoM

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/02/10 09:51 PM

Originally Posted By: Melodialworks Music
MarcoM, have you played one? (Didn't think so!) You're "more realistic keyboard" comment gave you away.


I actually have played an N3 a couple of times at the Yamaha showcase store downtown, yes, the action is a lot more convincing than the average DP's (obviously, it having a grand-action keyboard inside) but sound-wise if you take the nice speakers out of the equation and listen through headphones it is still a DP, and it doesn't sound qualitatively different from a P155, CP1, etc. (all of which I have personally tried).

Note I said *qualitatively*, obviously given the presentation (nice cabinetwork, nice speakers, 4-channel sampling etc.) it does sound *quantitatively* better, but it is still a DP, when you turn it on every day it sounds exactly the same (which of course for some customers is a plus) and if you strike a key at the same speed it will always play back an identical note no matter what (it being a 'digital' sampled instrument), there is nothing 'analog' about it, it is purely deterministic.

Originally Posted By: Melodialworks Music
part acoustic, part digital, not pure at all!


please tell me where in the sound generation path of an AG there is anything acoustic and not 'digital'

Originally Posted By: Melodialworks Music
So many comments about the AvantGrand by so many who have not actually played one. Amazing.


you know what they say about assumptions...
Posted by: Volusiano

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/02/10 09:58 PM

In the Larry Fine book, they make a distinction of acoustic-based hybrids (silent piano with sensors on the action to enable it to be used as MIDI controllers) and digital-based hybrids (like the AvantGrand). They discussed and clarified both types at length. I think this should help in the dispute of the definition.

Anybody who doesn't like to call the AvantGrand a hybrid can call it a digital or a digital-based hybrid if they'd like. Anybody who likes to just call the AvantGrand a hybrid for short can just do that, too. Neither of them are wrong, and it's a free country, so why not call it what you like? We need not argue about it if we know exactly what it is. As for me, I'll continue to interchangeably call it either a digital or a hybrid when the different situations warrant which name will help make my discussion a bit clearer. For example, if I'm talking about it in the sense of having all the advantageous characteristics of a digital, I'll call it a digital. If I want to differentiate it from other digitals that don't have real grand piano actions, I'll call it a hybrid.
Posted by: snazzyplayer

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/02/10 10:07 PM

The Avant Grand is a "hybrid" of genuine acoustic grand piano action, and digital sound generation (Spatial Acoustic Sampling) with 256 notes of polyphony.

It is on a whole other level above regular digitals, and a big improvement over acoustic grands that have to be tuned.

In my educated, but humble, opinion, it sounds a lot better through headphones than a CP-1, P-155 and yes, the V-Piano as well...all of which I have personally played.

Snazzy
Posted by: Melodialworks Music

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/02/10 10:09 PM

Originally Posted By: MarcoM

please tell me where in the sound generation path of an AG there is anything acoustic and not 'digital'

you know what they say about assumptions...


I guess you're assuming that the sound generation path, alone, determines the definition, whereas I'm assuming that the mechanical aspects of the grand piano action, soundboard etc. form part of the definition, hence the term hybrid.

I have played both the CP1 and the AG N2 and AG N3 and I would have to disagree that they do not sound qualitatively different.
Posted by: MarcoM

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/02/10 10:21 PM

Originally Posted By: snazzyplayer
The Avant Grand is a "hybrid" of genuine acoustic grand piano action, and digital sound generation (Spatial Acoustic Sampling) with 256 notes of polyphony.

It is on a whole other level above regular digitals, and a big improvement over acoustic grands that have to be tuned.

In my educated, but humble, opinion, it sounds a lot better through headphones than a CP-1, P-155 and yes, the V-Piano as well...all of which I have personally played.


I totally agree it sounds better, that's why I said that *quantitatively* it DOES sound better, but it is still a DP. Let me play devil's advocate a bit more here: if Roland tomorrow came out with a PHA IV that was absolutely indistinguishable from an acoustic grand action (but of course mechanically very different), would you call the DP using it a 'hybrid' or not?

I am uncomfortable with the 'hybrid' moniker as applied to the action, in my opinion for a piano to be called 'hybrid' the *sound generation* path should contain acoustic (some sort of strings likely) and digital components (which would 'process' it somehow in the digital domain), just because a DP has a fancier keyboard from another DP to me it doesn't make it *qualitatively* different, better oh yeah, for sure, but still 'the same thing', just a 'more refined' version of it so to speak.

Yeah, I know, splitting hairs a bit here smile
Posted by: snazzyplayer

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/02/10 11:24 PM

If Roland used an action indistinguishable from an acoustic grand piano in feel, but mechanically different than an "acoustic grand's action", I would not call it a hybrid.

I am quite comfortable with the Avant Grand being called a hybrid, which to me, means the combining of two (or more) contrasting (yet compatible) technologies, aimed at obtaining a particular goal...in the Avant Grand's instance, it is the combining of the acoustic action from a grand piano (slightly modified) and the sound generation of a digital (including the TRS), resulting in an instrument that plays and feels like an acoustic and has the advantages of the digital (no tuning, headphones etc.).

Even through headphones the Avant Grand still gives the tactile feedback that makes one feel they are playing an acoustic instrument.

Snazzy
Posted by: Volusiano

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/03/10 02:23 AM

I think what muddies the water is that the two camps think differently in terms of what technology is. One camp thinks that there are 2 different technologies in the acoustic piano, the keyboard action is one technology (as the input device), and the hammer/string/soundboard is the other technology, as the output device (sound being the output). Meanwhile the other camp views the whole thing as one technology, with the action as just part of the technology and shouldn't be classified as a stand-alone technology by itself. After all, digitals require the action, too, and the action on digitals are also a mechanical input device no less, not any different than the acoustic grand action in terms of classification.

So you can split hair all you want about how to classify things in order to call it a hybrid or not. But to me, the fact that Yamaha decided to implement the traditional acoustic grand action in the AvantGrand at significant R&D and manufacturing cost so that there's no doubt as to whether the action feels like an acoustic or not, that is the undisputed marriage between something old (the old action) and something new (the digital sound) to get the best of both worlds. So it's hybrid to me in the essence of marrying 2 different things to get the best of both worlds, even if it's not hybrid by pure hair-splitting classification.
Posted by: MarcoM

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/03/10 02:53 AM

it definitely is hairsplitting smile

On the other hand I am not sure Yamaha invested much in terms of deciding to use a grand action in the AG, after all the investment was basically done for the GranTouch and/or Disklavier models I would think, the 'new' feature in the AG IMHO is the TRS, which is surely a cool improvement...
Posted by: Volusiano

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/03/10 03:38 AM

I think while the main action is the same (as the acoustic action), I notice that the hammers are done differently and maybe the hammer shank stop is done differently, too. But I admit it shouldn't be too different than the GranTouch (which is the same as the Disklavier line, with Disklavier being the line and GranTouch being the model), except for the TRS and the pedals. However, the significant investment here is not necessarily a complete redesign R&D cost from the GranTouch action. I'm thinking more in terms of the manufacturing cost being the significant investment. Let's say you want to restore an old acoustic and completely pull out the old action and replace it with a brand new Renner action, I don't know exactly how much it'd cost, but I'd imagine it being in the $5K+ range to replace easily.
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/03/10 05:29 AM

Originally Posted By: Volusiano
.... But to me, the fact that Yamaha decided to implement the traditional acoustic grand action in the AvantGrand at significant R&D and manufacturing cost so that there's no doubt as to whether the action feels like an acoustic or not, that is the undisputed marriage between something old (the old action) and something new (the digital sound) to get the best of both worlds. So it's hybrid to me in the essence of marrying 2 different things to get the best of both worlds, even if it's not hybrid by pure hair-splitting classification.

Exactly.

As a pianist I would never want a digital piano action as my primary keyboard having spent so many years playing acoustic grands. I might be in the minority here, but for me, the action of the keyboard always comes first and the sound second, not a distant second, but second.

I guess we will have to agree to disagree on what constitutes a hybrid. The fact that the GranTouch and AvantGrand use a slightly modified grand action was my primary reason for buying. (I also have tinnitus and can now play as hard as I want on a real grand action with a very quiet sound emanating from the beast.)
Posted by: loveofallthings

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/03/10 05:35 AM

What is the best key action on a digital piano for 1000 USD?
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/03/10 05:39 AM

loveofallthings, you already started your own thread asking a similar question and now you've changed the direction of a thread you didn't start.
Posted by: TADutchman

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/03/10 05:43 AM

Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
It's probably common knowledge that the GranTouch series and the new AvantGrand (N2 and N3) are hybrid pianos, combining a real (well, slightly modified) grand piano action coupled to a grand piano sample.

Are there any other similar pianos out there? I remember hearing about another one years ago, Kawai ... ?


Did you already have a look at the new Kawai hybrid upright piano's?
http://www.kawai.de/k5atx_en.htm
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/03/10 05:46 AM

TADutchman, (I see we're neighbors) ... do you change that link?

I now see an upright piano with sensors.

The digital pianos from Kawai seem to use a wooden key but I'm guessing, also from their size, they do not incorporate a real grand or upright action.
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/03/10 05:52 AM

TADutchman, that Kawai upright has strings, right?

Kawai calls it a hybrid but it is the same as any other company that modifies an existing acoustic piano and adds digital add-ons.

For me, since it has strings, it's not a hybrid piano, others will no doubt disagree.
Posted by: TADutchman

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/03/10 06:04 AM

Actually, I don't mind, but here's a Wikipedia definition of hybrid pianos (you might want to change this text according to your own liking):

Digital technology makes possible a vastly more sensitive and flexible version of the old player piano; for instance, the modern digital player piano can record as well as play. These pianos are often called 'hybrid pianos', as they have characteristics of both acoustic pianos (the piano sound is made by hammers on strings) and digital pianos (record/playback capability, as well as synthesizer and audio sound capability). Currently, five major manufacturers compete in this market.

Reference
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innovations_in_the_piano
Posted by: TADutchman

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/03/10 06:12 AM

Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
The digital pianos from Kawai seem to use a wooden key but I'm guessing, also from their size, they do not incorporate a real grand or upright action.


Yes, they do incorporate a real acoustic Millennium 3 action; here's a link to an in-depth review in Dutch (and French is also available) of one of the new Kawai Anytime X series:
http://www.meetmusic.com/NL/archivedetail.asp?id=1184&subrubriek=3
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/03/10 06:12 AM

Since it's Wiki, I can go and redefine it, right? smile

For the purpose of this thread, I'm asking if there are other piano manufacturers, other than Yamaha, that market electronic pianos using a very slightly modified grand or upright keyboard action.

I used the word hybrid assuming my personal definition (and also that of Yamaha) was more or less universal. I see that it isn't.

So, is Yamaha the only company marrying up traditional keyboard actions to grand piano samples?
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: hybrid pianos - 06/03/10 06:19 AM

Originally Posted By: TADutchman
Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
The digital pianos from Kawai seem to use a wooden key but I'm guessing, also from their size, they do not incorporate a real grand or upright action.


Yes, they do incorporate a real acoustic action; here's a link to an in-depth review in Dutch (and French is also available) of one of the new Kawai Anytime X series:
http://www.meetmusic.com/NL/archivedetail.asp?id=1184&subrubriek=3


I just called Van Urk in Rotterdam to confirm what I thought, the Kawai 'AnyTime' upright pianos are acoustic pianos with strings that have to be tuned but also have a digital add-on and silencing system.
Posted by: spanishbuddha

Re: hybrid pianos - 08/31/10 04:12 PM

Slight bump. I played a Roland RG-3 at the weekend. It was very nice, seemed very responsive, nice sound and touch and I quite enjoyed playing it. I've since looked it up and it seems that perhaps it doesn't meet your definition of a hybrid? It's just a grand form factor of a DP.

OT, I actually visited Eastbourne in the UK, and (sad person) walked the seafront and went in every larger hotel looking for a piano. I found 9 or 10, I lost count, that included 4 grands. There was only two playable piano's of them all, a Steinbach upright, and the RG-3 - because it's a digital.
Posted by: Gyro

Re: hybrid pianos - 08/31/10 06:43 PM

The Bosendorfer prototype illustrates the problem with
these hybrids: it was already obsolete by the prototype
stage. A Roland V-Piano gives approximately the same
performance at a fraction of the price.
Posted by: ChrisA

Re: hybrid pianos - 08/31/10 07:23 PM

Originally Posted By: loveofallthings
What is the best key action on a digital piano for 1000 USD?


The Yamaha CP33. It sells for $999.
But the P155 has the same key action and sells for $1,200.
Above prices assume no discount off street prices.

Your $1,000 limit is just below the point where we start to get into the better digital piano key actions. At that price I think there are no with Rolands "none-alpha" keys and I don't think Kawai makes anything at all for $1,000. So the CP33 is the only reasonable answer to your question.

Raise the limit to $2,000 and then there are more options. At the $2K limit aall the big companies have something to offer