Extensive testing of Avantgrands

Posted by: Acca

Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/23/12 07:28 PM

I just had the opportunity to test the Yamaha Avantgrand pianos for the very first time (had to fly out of my country to do it...) I was able to test extensively for more than an hour, and I thought I would share the experience for those who are interested in the Avantgrands.

The generous Yamaha dealer was happy to accommodate me comparing the N1, N2, N3 and a complement of their new grand pianos: GB1, C1X, C2X, C3X, C5X, C7X. I did not play the grands as much, mostly because I was wary of subjecting the other shoppers to my playing, and also because I was not meant to be considering them for purchase... (one of the greatest things about digitals for a not-confident player is the headphone feature!!)

Here are my impressions:

General Avantgrand:
1) The keyboard touch is surprisingly heavy. Now I know that volume response makes a big difference in the perception of heaviness (getting a louder sound from a lighter touch), but I actually got that impression even before turning it on. In my opinion it is heavier than the Kawai GrandFeel keyboard, and far heavier than the real grands I tried there.

2) It certainly FEELS like a grand piano action, down to the little "notch" at the bottom 1/4 of the key travel, and the slight lightness you get once the hammer is lifted off the jack.

3) You cannot play "off the jack". In a real grand, you can depress the key down to where the notch starts, and if you press the key to the bottom from there, the hammer will hit the string, albeit at a lighter-than-ordinary force proportional to your movement (not as much mechanical leverage). However on the Avantgrand, it acts just like a lot of other DPs (like the Kawai CA series). Unlike in a real grand, the notch is independent of the sensor which determines when the key has been "released". In fact, the release is surprisingly high up, about 1/3 of the way down from the top. So actually, pianissimo trills with small finger movements are not as easy as on a grand. (In a real grand you can repeat a note just by lifting the key 1/4 of an inch, not so with the AG)

4) Sound (on headphones) is not great but I already knew that from what others have said. I was using good quality in-ear headphones. I normally play using the Vintage D VST, and this was definitely a far cry from that. It was not as sensitive to independent finger voicing. Admittedly, there are probably adjustments in the settings I could have done, but I forgot to read the manual before going to the dealer. (And the salespeople didn't know anything about these pianos, probably because they don't sell too many)

5) It's probably just my unfamiliarity with the pianos, but I could not seem to stop overpedaling the damper. I also tried to gauge if the damper was continuous or just had 3 positions (full, half and off), but I couldn't really come to a conclusion. At a certain point in the pedal, the damping would stop quite abruptly, and at another point, the sounds would decay faster, but I couldn't tell if I could control the rate at which the sounds would decay.

6) The Una Corda pedal does not shift the keyboard to the right. It also only adjusts the volume, it does not change the timbre.

N1:
7) The N1 is actually longer than the N2. However it does not have the vertical speakers down to the pedal board. I did not test any sound through the speakers on all 3 pianos, only on headphones.

N2:
8) Tried the TRS (tactile response), and it really does make a difference. You need to specifically turn it on every time you plug in the headphones.

N3:
9) The damper actually feels like it is shifting some sort of mechanism, so it simulates the damper on a real grand more authentically. (I looked underneath and it's actually just pushing on a pad) The N1 and N2 do not do this.

10) TRS on the N3 is MUCH stronger than on the N2, and feels much more authentic. I even felt the vibration in the pedals which does not happen on the N2. Overall the TRS is a much more convincing effect on the N3, however, before trying the N3, I thought the TRS on the N2 was pretty good... wink

11) There is a definite progression in "authenticity" as you go up from the N1 to the N3, but I'm not sure that the price points justify the progression...

I was feeling pretty good about the Avantgrands, THEN I had to go and try the real grands... Err... I'm sorry, there is just no comparison to the real thing. shocked Touch was buttery soft, dynamic range was huge (softest softs, loudest louds). You can shape the sound with subtle changes in your action. It's like the difference between playing a driving game and driving a real car...

I have to say though, my inexperience with grands means that I could not tell the sound differences between the different models. I mean, obviously the timbre for bass notes was richer on the CX7 vs the CX1, but I couldn't tell a CX1 from a CX2 or 3. I didn't think even the GB1 (which is so derisively dismissed by some people) was that bad. I guess when you are dying of thirst, any real water is like nectar and you won't distinguish if it's Evian or tap water. ( The salesguy offered to let me try the Bosendorfer in the other room, and I stupidly declined confused )

ARGH! Before I tried the real grands, I was pretty confident about purchasing the N1, but now I'm not sure frown But I think I need to just resign myself to a simulation for the time being in my circumstance...

I would be interested in other opinions about the heaviness of the keys... especially people who play on the Avantgrand AND lots of other accoustics. Is this a normal range of variation among grands? Are the Avantgrand keys adjustable mechanically for touch, and is that easy to do?
Posted by: kippesc

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 01:27 AM

The AG default touch is too heavy IMHO. The RD-700NX is too light. Nonetheless, I generally just turn them on and play, adjusting my own playing to the piano's default settings. I figure Richter took those horrible Soviet instruments as he found them, who am I to behave like the princess and the pea?

If you figure out the adjustment that allows you to voice interior lines more effectively, please pass it on. There aren't too many adjustments one can make on the AG. There is certainly no Brahms intermezzo/Chopin nocturne interior voicing mode button.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 02:03 AM

Originally Posted By: kippesc
The AG default touch is too heavy IMHO. The RD-700NX is too light. Nonetheless, I generally just turn them on and play, adjusting my own playing to the piano's default settings.


Wow kippesc, you have a Steinway AND an N2... I'm so jealous.

So you *do* find the Avantgrand heavy, it's not just my imagination. I'm just trying to find out if that heaviness is within a "normal" range of differences between all the different types of grands. It's strange that they said the action is straight from their grands, yet none of the ones I tried had an action anywhere near as heavy.

Originally Posted By: kippesc
I figure Richter took those horrible Soviet instruments as he found them, who am I to behave like the princess and the pea?


Haha good point, I guess the mark of a good player is the ability to adjust.

Originally Posted By: kippesc
If you figure out the adjustment that allows you to voice interior lines more effectively, please pass it on.


I just had a read of the manual, you are right, not too many adjustments that can be made. The interesting thing about one aspect of touch is, when I first connected up my current DP (Casio Privia) to the Vintage D software sound library, suddenly the keyboard felt lighter, and I really was able to hear all my emphasized notes with less effort (using the built-in sounds, I needed a much larger effort differential between the fingers). (Vintage D has more levels of sampling at different velocities, so it differentiates between more levels of force on the keys). I wonder if I would get the same result hooking an AG up.

Also, with any digital piano, the louder the volume level, the softer the touch seems to get, since less effort is required to produce sound.

What would be interesting to know is if a piano technician can actually adjust the mechanical friction levels of the action like in a real grand.

One thing I noticed is that the TRS strength level can be adjusted. So maybe the N3 I tested was adjusted to a stronger TRS level.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 02:09 AM

Originally Posted By: Acca
What would be interesting to know is if a piano technician can actually adjust the mechanical friction levels of the action like in a real grand.


I recall that one of the forum members had a technician come in and do a big regulation on his N3 and likes the result a lot more (hopefully that's not the placebo effect). He posted a list of what was done, but now I don't recall what things got changed. I'll dig around and see if I can find the thread. If the person who had this done reads this, please chime in.

Edit: I think it was Melodialworks_Music in this thread. Apparently there were friction issues that needed solving and the tech was able to do it.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 04:29 AM

Very interesting, gvfarns! Thanks!

The guys talked about a "lethargic" feel, and that's a much more accurate description. I think the actual force needed to press the key is not that hard, but it doesn't seem to move and bounce back as fast. Hmm having to get a tech to regulate it sounds like a bit of an expense, not to mention most techs would be unfamiliar with it...
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 04:46 AM

For those of you who feel the action of the AvantGrand series is too heavy, you can change the velocity sensitivity from the default setting of 2 to 1. Press Voice while pressing the highest 'B'.

I think many of you need to go out and play more acoustic pianos so you can make more real world comparisons. The action of the N series is not heavy and if anything, it could be made substantially heavier.

When Yamaha introduces a hybrid using the action from a nine footer I'll be in line to trade in my N3.
Posted by: EssBrace

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 05:10 AM

Dave is right in that changing the velocity curve (there are three) helps a lot to make it feel more responsive. Piano 2 is also a bit more lively in that regard - although tonally it is brighter and more metallic.

The action is a bit syrupy in my opinion but I personally found it within the normal range of pianos. They may all be a little different, just like acoustics. In fact it would be odd of there wasn't a unit to unit variation. The down weight on my N3 was almost identical to the Roland PHA-III action (approx 50 grammes). Maybe mine was lighter than the ones you've played? But once you've overcome that initial down weight on the Roland (and other DPs), that's it. On the AG there is a sense of a lot of mechanical goings-on throughout the key travel and I think there is some additional inertia on the AGs when compared to any other DP. But generally I found it a very realistic (as it should be) feeling.

I also think the psycho issues are there. OP talks about the louder it being the lighter it feels. Well, I think there's definitely some truth in that. Did you turn the AG up to comparable volume levels to the acoustic grands and compared directly then?

The "strength" of the TRS has nothing to do with it in terms of changing the feeling of heaviness. Remember the N3 also has a soundboard resonator and as you've found out the TRS extends to the pedals on the N3, it all adds a little something.

But they are indeed expensive. I stop short of saying overpriced but maybe they are. But there's nothing like them in the market.

But to anyone who doesn't REALLY NEED the ability to play quietly I would now always say, buy an acoustic. There's so much more to the experience.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 06:04 AM

Originally Posted By: Dave Horne

I think many of you need to go out and play more acoustic pianos so you can make more real world comparisons. The action of the N series is not heavy and if anything, it could be made substantially heavier.


Well Dave, I had the opportunity to basically try 3 Avantgrands against 6 or 7 new grand pianos side by side, and all 3 AGs were similarly "lethargic" in my opinion. Different people will have different preferences, there are many stories about concert pianists who request for pianos to be regulated to what they are used to (heavier or lighter). There is no "one right way".

In this case I really felt the difference between my regular DP and the AG, and I definitely felt the difference comparing it with all those other grand pianos.

It seems a few people have also confirmed what I felt, in that thread posted by gvfarns.

Don't get me wrong though, it is still a lot more authentic than any DP I've played, including the Kawai GF keyboard. I just can't help feeling it could be even better.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 06:09 AM

Originally Posted By: EssBrace

But to anyone who doesn't REALLY NEED the ability to play quietly I would now always say, buy an acoustic. There's so much more to the experience.


Well there are also silent options even for acoustics... I guess for me personally, I'm just lacking a proper space that can do a grand justice right now, so might just have to get an AG for now to tide me over...

Agreed with your other points, EssBrace.
Posted by: Gigantoad

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 06:22 AM

Sold my N1 last summer for pretty much these reasons. Sound isn't too great, and action too heavy, for me anyway. And I came to the conclusion that I want more than just a practice instrument at home. I want something that is enjoyable and makes me want to play music. The N1 didn't do that, at least not for long.

But I'm also not a pro player and have no plans whatsoever to ever perform outside my own four walls. So surely my requirements differ from others here. I now have a FP-7F which I use with whatever VST I like. Sometime soon I will have an acoustic upright (grand not an option because of space issues in my apartment) to complement it.
Posted by: Karnevil

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 07:43 AM

I actually like to practice on the heavy AvantGrand action, it's a very good "woodshedding" instrument. There is still something lacking there, so if you only practice on the AvantGrand for a certain period of time, and then go to a real acoustic, you'll be a bit thrown off at first.
Posted by: ando

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 09:44 AM

Acca, despite your relative lack of playing experience, you pretty much nailed it in your review, IMO. The AGs are just ok for me. They don't make the grade for me in terms of an instrument that I am inspired by, musically. For me, every argument in favour of AGs is pure a practical one. ie. it can be played silently, is always in tune, has a grand action. Everything else points me toward the acoustic, even an upright, over the AG. The lack of true rapid repeats and playing off the jack are major oversights that should have been addressed.
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 10:10 AM

Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 11:45 AM

Originally Posted By: ando
The lack of true rapid repeats and playing off the jack are major oversights that should have been addressed.


It's a disturbing thing, and I don't know that I'd classify it as an oversight. When we hear about instruments like this, we expect that the velocity is sensed around where the string is, so that any strike that throws the hammer up to string level should sound. But if that were the case, we wouldn't be having these issues with playing off the jack and rapid repeats (I haven't tried the latter). This apparently means that the two velocity sensors are not placed very close together. Perhaps it's just not possible to get the tolerances tight enough to be able to sense velocity in a small region near the end of the hammer movement? If so that is sad, and means we may need a completely different sensor technology than is used in the AG (which I had thought would have been an improvement over the switches used in regular digitals).
Posted by: EssBrace

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 12:06 PM

Well watching that Cyprien Katsaris video that Dave has posted again rams an unarguable truth home - if this guy can play some of this very demanding stuff on the AG then some of our criticisms (of the action and sensors) seem a bit churlish and frankly irrelevant. He certainly doesn't seem to be having problems with fast repetitions (watch @ 7:53!).
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 12:13 PM

Point taken. The questions is, though, how good could he make one of our normal digital pianos (even two-sensor versions) sound? How fast a repetition is a two-sensor action capable of if it's played by an uber-pro? It may be pretty fast, but that doesn't mean we can't feel a problem with it.

I am hesitant to draw any conclusions based on videos produced by the manufacturer for advertising purposes. They always make the product look amazing.
Posted by: ando

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 12:16 PM

Originally Posted By: EssBrace
Well watching that Cyprien Katsaris video that Dave has posted again rams an unarguable truth home - if this guy can play some of this very demanding stuff on the AG then some of our criticisms (of the action and sensors) seem a bit churlish and frankly irrelevant. He certainly doesn't seem to be having problems with fast repetitions (watch @ 7:53!).


Actually, it still doesn't do repeats properly. He's doing mostly two-handed repeats, which any piano can do - even an upright. And he's actually struggling to get the piano to do them. Can't you guys hear that he's on the edge of not being able to do them? Some of the repeats don't actually sound.

But what I was referring to earlier was the fact that the dampers are supposed to stay off when you do rapid repeats - letting them blend together somewhat. Those repeats in the video are excessively separate and staccato sounding. Now either he is intentionally letting the key rise enough to activate the damper, or the piano itself can't do it. Either way, I haven't heard undamped rapid repeats on an AG - but I have heard many people complain that they can't do it on their AG. They aren't pleasant and flowing, they are jarring. To be honest I found the piano sound in that video really insipid and totally lacking in resonance and colour. All that video shows is that the guy can play - but we already knew that. For me, it's just not an inspiring musical instrument. The way Cyrprien waxes lyrical in the video only proves that he was sponsored to do it. None of it rang true to me - comparing AGs to a relationship with a woman...please.
Posted by: EssBrace

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 12:43 PM

I agree it doesn't sound very good. Judging it by the standards of YouTube audio is perhaps not giving a fair picture - but the main problem is that the AG has four channel sound and no conventional recording can convey that. Through headphones I find the AG okay but nothing very special. Through the onboard sound system - particularly N3 and N2 - it is much better.

Comparing it to a woman reminds me of the Fast Show character Swiss Tony...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBw-aEixWuo
Posted by: 36251

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 01:10 PM

For me the AG was going to be it, cause I wanted a grand action and I don't have the room. The sound had to have a minimum requirement that these videos helped me decide. I like the Randy Waldman ones which are the final set.

http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid53923107001
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 01:18 PM

Originally Posted By: ando
None of it rang true to me - comparing AGs to a relationship with a woman...please.


Well, you know, not all pianos are very responsive. Sometimes they are downright sluggish or don't have a lot of tonal color. And not all pianos can do rapid repeats, especially if the player is only mediocre. So...
Posted by: ando

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 01:43 PM

Originally Posted By: EssBrace
I agree it doesn't sound very good. Judging it by the standards of YouTube audio is perhaps not giving a fair picture - but the main problem is that the AG has four channel sound and no conventional recording can convey that. Through headphones I find the AG okay but nothing very special. Through the onboard sound system - particularly N3 and N2 - it is much better.

Comparing it to a woman reminds me of the Fast Show character Swiss Tony...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBw-aEixWuo


They manage to record acoustic pianos which have infinite "channels" of sound. Might as well put a couple of piano mikes over it, in places more or less equivalent to where you'd put them on an acoustic piano. Mikes should be able to hear what's there.
Posted by: dewster

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 02:11 PM

Originally Posted By: ando
The way Cyrprien waxes lyrical in the video only proves that he was sponsored to do it. None of it rang true to me - comparing AGs to a relationship with a woman...please.

I cringe with embarrassment every time I see that video. I wonder if Yamaha payed him per compliment.
Posted by: EssBrace

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 02:35 PM

Originally Posted By: ando
They manage to record acoustic pianos which have infinite "channels" of sound. Might as well put a couple of piano mikes over it, in places more or less equivalent to where you'd put them on an acoustic piano. Mikes should be able to hear what's there.


I agree. And the better AG videos are mic'd - not from line-outs.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 03:00 PM

Well, I'm confused. There have been prior reports in here that the A.G line DOES emulate double-escapement. (i.e - repeats for relatively shallow key releases, and without damping)

Acca: have you actually tried carefully to do a repeat, releasing the key to a point JUST BEFORE the point at which the note is damped? I.e, do it very slowly and carefully. (obviously not too slowly, because the note must still be audible when you try the repeat) If you can make it pass this test, then that means that it does emulate double-escapement, however it may well be that the double-escapement repeat height is too high for your liking. That's a seperate issue.

If you really did have to release the key two-thirds of the way up, then that's absurd IMHO.

Greg.
p.s Don't fly out of the country again just to repeat this...repeat. ;^)
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 03:35 PM

Yeah, I think as we look at repeating ability and how high a key must be lifted before playing, we should first do it with acoustic grands and uprights in order to determine that our testing methodology is sound. The effect of the double escapement (in acoustics) is subtle enough that you have to be real careful in order to detect the effect.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 04:04 PM

I remembered having discussed this not that long ago. Here is a post from a user who initially thought that the N1 did not emulate double-escapement, but after carefully testing, admitted that it does. However, the release height was felt to be higher than a C1 acoustic grand.

Re: Promised to write a review of my new instrument:N1

Greg.
Posted by: Acca

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/24/12 09:00 PM

Originally Posted By: sullivang

Acca: have you actually tried carefully to do a repeat, releasing the key to a point JUST BEFORE the point at which the note is damped? I.e, do it very slowly and carefully. (obviously not too slowly, because the note must still be audible when you try the repeat) If you can make it pass this test, then that means that it does emulate double-escapement, however it may well be that the double-escapement repeat height is too high for your liking. That's a seperate issue.


Double escapement seems to mean different things to different people and even manufacturers.

I think it is quite clear from the mechanism of a grand piano that double escapement means the mechanism by which the hammer doesn't return all the way down but is above the back check, ready for a repeat note. See this link.

What is not explicitly shown there is how far the key has to be lifted before the hammer is released from the back check. The animation in that link says "release half-way", but it's not really half way, it's just above the "notch" in the key travel. That's usually the last 1/4 of key travel.

Bottom line is, the AG's double escapement point is not at the notch like in a real grand. It's not a case of the repeat height being too high for my liking, it's about how the AG is different from what it is trying to simulate, which is a grand piano.

HOWEVER, I also think it's probably not as big a deal as I am making it out to be. The only time it may be a factor is in pieces like the Scarlatti K141, where there are fast repeats of the same note. Even then, good finger technique involves striking each note with a different finger, which allows time for the key to bounce up high enough. In fact, good finger technique will overcome most limitations, but obviously the higher escapement height will be less tolerant to sloppiness, and may affect the ultimate achievable speed.

I agree with Ando above... Cyprien was struggling to do those fast repeats, and he is an accomplished pianist, so it's not his ability that's the problem.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/25/12 05:08 AM

Originally Posted By: Acca

Double escapement seems to mean different things to different people and even manufacturers.


I have a piano tuning & rebuilding book, and it describes the double-escapement mechanism in detail - both how it works, and the benefit to the player. One of the behaviours is that it allows repeating notes without the notes being damped, and thus, one test for double-escapement is the test I gave - to see whether a note can be repeated by releasing the key to a point just before the note is damped. I.e - the note should be able to be repeated whilst the previous note is still sounding.
In an upright piano, the notes cannot be repeated before the damping point. (although someone reported here recently that they could in fact get an upright to repeat without damping, but only intermittently) Now, I said "behaviour", because I don't really think that being able to repeat before the damping point is very advantageous per se. It's the fact that the note can be repeated for small key releases that is the main advantage. (as you already know)

Now, when you tested to see how far the key had to be released in order to be able to repeat, did you try repeating BEFORE the note was damped? If not, you did not take into account double-escapement repeats at all. The correct way to determine the minimum release distance is to play a note, lift the key a tiny amount, press down again, and see if it repeats. Keep lifting off a bit more each time, until you hear a new note.
If you simply lifted off until the note was damped, that will definitely not tell you the minimum release height.

If you really, really could not repeat unless the key was lifted two-thirds of the way up, again, I think that is very bad indeed, because that's how I would expect an upright piano to behave - not a grand piano. (the book says that an upright cannot repeat unless the key is returned all the way to the top, although I don't think they really mean ALL the way - just "near" the top)

Maybe someone could actually take some measurements. A tire tread depth gauge works well, if a proper key-dip tool is not available. (a standard ruler can of course be used, with a bit of care)

Greg.
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/25/12 05:15 AM

You know, I'm reading all this semi technical stuff about double escapement and I've never felt at any time, either on my GranTouch or my AvantGrand N3, that I was in any way limited. I have a fair amount of technique I should add.

Sometimes I have the feeling this is a audiophile forum and we're discussing esoteric aspects of sound. When we finally meet in person to listen to music on our host's $7,000 turntable, $19,000 tube amplifier, $40,000 speakers, along with the requisite gold plated connectors, we settle down and listen to Sousa marches. smile
Posted by: EssBrace

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/25/12 05:26 AM

Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
When we finally meet in person to listen to music on our host's $7,000 turntable, $19,000 tube amplifier, $40,000 speakers, along with the requisite gold plated connectors, we settle down and listen to Sousa marches. smile


Who says I'm hosting?! But since you've described my hi-fi system in uncannily accurate detail when are you all coming over? I've got mince pies and an audiophile pressing of How Much is that Doggy in the Window to assess before moving on to discuss double escapement and its irrelevance to 99.9% of players.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/25/12 05:47 AM

David: Do you ever do very rapid AND soft trills? We have at least two people now that seem to think the repetition behaviour of the A.G is not ideal, so maybe there is something a bit awry.

FWIW, I am reasonably confident that I'm occasionally triggering double-escapement repeats on my Casio PX-330, although I should prove it by analysing the MIDI. I'm "only" playing pop at the moment, but I feel that the ability to do repeats for shallow returns is acting as a safety net on occasion. I.e - it's not as if I'm intentionally invoking that kind of repeat, but I think I do accidentally sometimes, and if I'm right, it means that my performances are slightly better than they would have been without it. (although of course if it didn't have double-escapement, Casio may well have positioned the top sensor a bit lower to compensate)

The other aspect is that I may have simply learnt the the minimum release distance, and adapted to it. If that is so, it means that I am sometimes playing with a bit less effort than I would have otherwise. (i.e - not lifting my fingers up as much)

Greg.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/25/12 07:02 AM

According to Touch and temporal behavior of grand piano actions the grand piano key has to be released about half way up before it can be repeated again:
Quote:

For a fast
repetition, the jack slides back under the roller when the key
is only released half-way, and the action is ready for another
stroke Askenfelt and Jansson, 1990b; Fletcher and Rossing,
1998, pp. 354–358.


My old Kawai MP9000 meets this spec, despite the fact it doesn't actually emulate "double-escapement". I.e - the damping point is positioned at half way.

BUT, according to this web page: http://www.speech.kth.se/music/5_lectures/askenflt/timing.html the key only needs to be released A THIRD of the way up:
Quote:
In order to use the double-repetition feature, the key is let up only about a third of its travel after a stroke.


Confusion reigns.

Greg.
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/25/12 07:04 AM

Greg, I owned a GranTouch for 12 years and my N3 is two and half years old. I have never encountered anything where I thought the action was not behaving as I expected it to.

There are times when I have played something and a note didn't sound. I've experienced the same exact thing on an acoustic piano and each time that happens, and this happens very rarely, I assume the problem is with me and not the acoustic piano or my N3.

If there is an issue, it does not affect me and I'm assuming it wouldn't affect most of the posters here. This is a remarkably silent bunch in some respects. smile
Posted by: ando

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/25/12 07:30 AM

Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
Greg, I owned a GranTouch for 12 years and my N3 is two and half years old. I have never encountered anything where I thought the action was not behaving as I expected it to.

There are times when I have played something and a note didn't sound. I've experienced the same exact thing on an acoustic piano and each time that happens, and this happens very rarely, I assume the problem is with me and not the acoustic piano or my N3.

If there is an issue, it does not affect me and I'm assuming it wouldn't affect most of the posters here. This is a remarkably silent bunch in some respects. smile


It totally depends on the type of music you play, Dave. I have been working on some classical pieces that involve rapid, undamped repeats. I wouldn't want to try practising that on the AG. Even Cyprien Katsaris wasn't able to do rapid repeats very well when he was using two hands! That means the piano struggles in that department. On the other hand, when I play modern stuff and jazz, the AG is just fine. So it's horses for courses really. I suspect the reason you are so happy with your AG and unaffected by its shortcomings is because you play a certain style of music/technique that works well with it. If they had the repeat thing under control, I would definitely consider one for late night practice. I still think they are really slack on the tone quality too though. Sustain is poor, loops are audible. They could have invested much more into the sample size. Resonance is not great either. I'm sure each successive AG release will address one or more of these issues, but the real AG I'd like to own is still a few more generations away, I suspect.
Posted by: 36251

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/25/12 07:34 AM

Posted by: Acca

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/25/12 07:47 AM

Just found this thread...
Avantgrand action thread

Interesting that some advanced classical music players (fredericch for instance) have already encountered some of the limitations years ago. However, like I said before, I don't think it's a showstopper. I was just merely curious what the action differences were between the AG and a real grand.

But I am somewhat reassured that they still think it's a pretty good substitute for practicing. I am confused about comments that say they can't tell the difference between the AG and acoustic grands though... I'm pretty sure I would have been able to tell the difference purely on touch between those new Yamaha grands and the AGs, even blindfolded with no sound.

I think I will need to head into the store for another test... grin
Posted by: ando

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/25/12 08:04 AM

Originally Posted By: 36251


Wouldn't that really be what you are doing? You are so defensive of your baby, you can't acknowledge its shortcomings. What is the point of a thread or a forum if we are only allowed to say things are great and there are no limitations to the player?

The AG has some strengths, but also some obvious weaknesses. The main reason people hold the AG to a high than average standard is because of what they cost and what they promise. I think it's fair enough to hold them to a very high standard. We do the same with the Roland V-piano.
Posted by: 36251

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/25/12 10:43 AM

Originally Posted By: ando


Wouldn't that really be what you are doing? You are so defensive of your baby, you can't acknowledge its shortcomings. What is the point of a thread or a forum if we are only allowed to say things are great and there are no limitations to the player?
Hey give it a rest guy. Don't they have humor in Australia? I just thought it was time for some levity. Damn!

The AG is not my Monolith. I don't worship it or think it's replacing a grand piano. I wish Yamaha used as much memory as the best VST and was able to mimic every nuance of real grand action. I wish they used the action from a real 9' grand and sold it at their cost.

I'm glad I own a instrument that gets talked about more than politics and that I can add to the discussion first hand. And from what I've read here, more people think it's a better instrument for wood shedding than an upright. Although if someone wants to put on concerts in their house and can't fit a worthy grand, then of course, an upright makes more sense.

Do me a favor and just ignore my posts if you can't take a joke.
Posted by: ando

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/25/12 11:10 AM

Originally Posted By: 36251

Do me a favor and just ignore my posts if you can't take a joke.



Sure thing buddy, you don't say much of any consequence anyway.

And yeah, you really sounded light-hearted in that last post...
Posted by: Acca

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/25/12 11:12 AM

Originally Posted By: 36251
For me the AG was going to be it, cause I wanted a grand action and I don't have the room. The sound had to have a minimum requirement that these videos helped me decide. I like the Randy Waldman ones which are the final set.

http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid53923107001


Very interesting series of videos, although the sound was terrible, very heavy distortion at high volumes, and they were doing something to the equalization, probably to optimize for the piano sound (but if so, why was the sound distorting??)

I found it interesting that one of them (Nicholas Pike) listened to the decay on the AG and concluded that there was no looping happening, yet it's obvious from spectral analysis that there is. Just goes to show, perception is never 100% accurate. But at the end of the day, if you think it sounds right to you, then it is right for you. (But others can still disagree, just like with any other subjective preferences.)

Of course, most relevant to our discussion here, Randy Waldman (the most impressive pianist of that bunch) picked up immediately that it was "sluggish on the repeateds" (although he was doing stacatto, full key release repeateds), and he also commented that the action was a little tight but was assured by the marketing guy it would loosen over time... Anyway he still seemed quite impressed.

Originally Posted By: ando
Originally Posted By: 36251

Do me a favor and just ignore my posts if you can't take a joke.



Sure thing buddy, you don't say much of any consequence anyway.


Geezus you guys lighten up ok? We are just trying to find out the facts about this piano so that some of us can make a purchase decision. There are going to be all kinds of opinions but there is no need for any of it to get personal. Do you chew someone's head off for liking strawberry ice cream if you personally don't?
Posted by: ando

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/25/12 11:23 AM

Originally Posted By: Acca


Geezus you guys lighten up ok? We are just trying to find out the facts about this piano so that some of us can make a purchase decision. There are going to be all kinds of opinions but there is no need for any of it to get personal. Do you chew someone's head off for liking strawberry ice cream if you personally don't?


I didn't mean to derail your thread, Acca. I was sticking to the discussion until that last post. So I apologise for that. I'll apologise to 36251 for that last crack too. Sorry 36251.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/25/12 12:38 PM

Originally Posted By: Acca
I found it interesting that one of them (Nicholas Pike) listened to the decay on the AG and concluded that there was no looping happening, yet it's obvious from spectral analysis that there is. Just goes to show, perception is never 100% accurate. But at the end of the day, if you think it sounds right to you, then it is right for you. (But others can still disagree, just like with any other subjective preferences.)


Yeah, you know, looping isn't that easy for some people to hear. I, for example, can't really hear looping. I feel like I can very easily tell the difference between a crap sample and a good one, but as far as distinguishing a well-done looped sample from an unlooped one, I basically take dewster's word for it. In fact, I think I'm an anomaly in that I prefer a looped Yamaha decay to a synthesized SuperNatural (Roland) one. Different people are sensitive to different things, I guess.

When I was demoing the AG's in person I was actually reasonably happy with their sound. It might be the best onboard sound I've heard anywhere. I don't consider it up with VST's (which is where it could and one could argue should be) but in my opinion it's by no means poor.
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/25/12 12:51 PM

My irritation is only with those who knit pick on issues they will never encounter in their playing. There are so many silent profiles that it is impossible to give any opinion relative weight.

But that is the joy of the internet ... and on that note, a Christmas carol from Tom Lehrer ...




Posted by: sullivang

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/25/12 02:08 PM

gvfarns: Regarding being able to "hear looping", note that you don't need to hear the detail of the loop in order to hear that the sound "is looped". If you notice that the timbre becomes sort of unnaturally static at a certain time after playing that note, but you can't hear any bothersome "warble", you are still hearing that the sound "is looped".

If the evolution of the note has a natural warble right from the outset (e.g due to a bit of unison detuning), and the loop is able to retain that same warble (but not the overall gradual mellowing of the timbre), that can be quite an acceptable outcome - not terribly bothersome at all, IMHO.

If OTOH the loop warble is obvious, and there was no such warble before the loop, that's a big no-no IMHO.

Greg.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/25/12 03:10 PM

Makes sense to me.
Posted by: CarloPiano

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/26/12 08:07 AM

.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/27/12 12:08 PM

Originally Posted By: ando


It totally depends on the type of music you play, Dave. I have been working on some classical pieces that involve rapid, undamped repeats. I wouldn't want to try practising that on the AG. Even Cyprien Katsaris wasn't able to do rapid repeats very well when he was using two hands! That means the piano struggles in that department. On the other hand, when I play modern stuff and jazz, the AG is just fine. So it's horses for courses really. I suspect the reason you are so happy with your AG and unaffected by its shortcomings is because you play a certain style of music/technique that works well with it. If they had the repeat thing under control, I would definitely consider one for late night practice. I still think they are really slack on the tone quality too though. Sustain is poor, loops are audible. They could have invested much more into the sample size. Resonance is not great either. I'm sure each successive AG release will address one or more of these issues, but the real AG I'd like to own is still a few more generations away, I suspect.


+1
The AG initially feels great to play on, once you've adjusted to its rather heavy action, but you soon realize that its sound engine is no different to that of other Yamaha CLPs, with similarly restricted timbral, tonal and dynamic ranges. And its key action makes classical music that requires very fast and rapid key action and repeated notes (like Ravel's Gaspard and Alborada del gracioso and Scarlatti's Kk141 and some Liszt) impossible to execute properly at anything approaching decent tempi.
Posted by: ando

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/27/12 02:34 PM

Originally Posted By: bennevis

+1
The AG initially feels great to play on, once you've adjusted to its rather heavy action, but you soon realize that its sound engine is no different to that of other Yamaha CLPs, with similarly restricted timbral, tonal and dynamic ranges. And its key action makes classical music that requires very fast and rapid key action and repeated notes (like Ravel's Gaspard and Alborada del gracioso and Scarlatti's Kk141 and some Liszt) impossible to execute properly at anything approaching decent tempi.



I suspect the repeat speed issue on the AG is mostly to do with the sensor design. If they got the sensors worked out, it probably could do true rapid repeats. I say that because if it is a true Yamaha grand action with double escapement, there is no reason why it couldn't. I'm sure any of you AG owners could confirm that the action itself can do it by simply turning off the power and doing some really fast repeats without releasing the key more than 1/2 of its travel. If you can hear the hammers doing these repeats, then it's onto the sensors for the source of the problem.

It seems to me that to get the most out of a real acoustic action, the best solution would be to have pressure sensitive pads that the hammers hit. I'm sure there are associated difficulties and possibly reliability issues with this sort of technology, but I think that is the only way to truly get the control that a real action can get, with regard to repeats. This whole triple sensor thing still seems troublesome with regard to trying to couple it to a mechanical double-escapement action which works on a different principle.

If they could get the pressure sensitive pad thing going, it would be pretty easy to get the samples to trigger rapidly - all you would have to do is make sure there is no damping going on with these rapid repeats. For this to happen, there would still need to be some key position sensors so that it can mimic the dampers being on or off, or partially on. It's still a pretty big challenge. I think they will could there eventually with the AGs but they are still a few generations away. The repeats thing will only be solved if the demand from customers is there however, and going by the various threads on PW, I'm not sure it is. Most AG owners seem unconcerned with the repeating behaviour of their AG. It's hard to quantify whether more many more people would have bought an AG if this had been addressed. I am certainly one person who might consider it if it had been addressed - provided they also improved the resonance and sample size alongside it. They really need to move on to unlooped full-length samples to really make it for me - just like the current PC piano VSTs.

We'll see where it goes in the next 5 years or so. I certainly haven't given up on the AG concept eventually getting to the point where I might buy one. I hope it does.
Posted by: EssBrace

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/27/12 05:01 PM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
but you soon realize that its sound engine is no different to that of other Yamaha CLPs, with similarly restricted timbral, tonal and dynamic ranges.


Completely wrong. The sound engine is nothing like the Clavinovas.
Posted by: Kos

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/28/12 12:53 AM

Originally Posted By: ando

It seems to me that to get the most out of a real acoustic action, the best solution would be to have pressure sensitive pads that the hammers hit.

If I'm not mistaken, the only digital piano on the planet that uses pressure sensors is this thing. And it's not even out of the prototype stage yet. So as much as I'd love to see this technology introduced in more affordable models, I don't think it's gonna happen in our lifetime smile
Posted by: 10fingers

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/28/12 03:35 AM

Originally Posted By: gvfarns
Originally Posted By: ando
None of it rang true to me - comparing AGs to a relationship with a woman...please.


Well, you know, not all pianos are very responsive. Sometimes they are downright sluggish or don't have a lot of tonal color. And not all pianos can do rapid repeats, especially if the player is only mediocre. So...


The same can be said of some women - perhaps that's what he was driving at smile

I think it's striking how much better Yamaha could have done if only they had paired the action with a couple of really good (and huge) sample sets with more depth and sparkle.
Posted by: 36251

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/28/12 07:49 AM

Originally Posted By: EssBrace
Originally Posted By: bennevis
but you soon realize that its sound engine is no different to that of other Yamaha CLPs, with similarly restricted timbral, tonal and dynamic ranges.


Completely wrong. The sound engine is nothing like the Clavinovas.
What hasn't been discussed here is the technique Yamaha used to sample the AG. I'll differ to the experts here who can hear samples that have been stretched, but the method of sampling each note at four different spots and then having those samples reproduced by individual amps and speakers with low distortion must add to the sound of the AG. Either I've drank the punch or I do notice this as an improvement over other DP's. I never use headphones, so I'm always experiencing this and I think it's pretty damn good. That coupled with perfect tuning, and its action, has given me great inspiration and longer sessions when I practice.

I'm also saving at least $250 in tuning costs each year and I don't sweat the low humidity I can't control in the winter even with a humidifier. (I used to worry to much in winter, when I owned my Steinway.) I also have taken back some space in my small house, since the N2 has a smaller footprint.

Sure, it's far from perfect and agree with owners who have lived with their AG everyday and still find fault. I do still question the comments of those naysayers who only gave the AG a few hours in a music store and think they are now qualified on the subject.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Extensive testing of Avantgrands - 12/28/12 08:16 AM

Originally Posted By: 36251
What hasn't been discussed here is the technique Yamaha used to sample the AG. I'll differ to the experts here who can hear samples that have been stretched, but the method of sampling each note at four different spots and then having those samples reproduced by individual amps and speakers with low distortion must add to the sound of the AG. Either I've drank the punch or I do notice this as an improvement over other DP's. I never use headphones, so I'm always experiencing this and I think it's pretty damn good. That coupled with perfect tuning, and its action, has given me great inspiration and longer sessions when I practice.

I'm also saving at least $250 in tuning costs each year and I don't sweat the low humidity I can't control in the winter even with a humidifier. (I used to worry to much in winter, when I owned my Steinway.) I also have taken back some space in my small house, since the N2 has a smaller footprint.

Sure, it's far from perfect and agree with owners who have lived with their AG everyday and still find fault. I do still question the comments of those naysayers who only gave the AG a few hours in a music store and think they are now qualified on the subject.



I mentioned several times before that I believe the only way to hear any DP's inherent sound picture is to use your own headphones, not the DP's speakers, and that's the way I tested all DPs when looking for my own. The N3 sounds better than the N1 because of its great speaker system, and certainly miles better than any other Yamaha DP - again because of its speakers. It's only when you use your own headphones that you realize that it sounds no different to the CLPs, and that's when playing one immediately after the other. Of course, that's just my opinion from several repeated playings in the DP store over the past two years or so.

But if you only use the AG using its speakers, then you'll likely think the extra cost is worth it. From my experience, many DPs from several companies would benefit from better speakers, but of course there's the cost and bulk factor involved......