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I can go down to the local electronic superstore and buy 16gigs of flash memory for 20 bucks, and I can get 8 gigs of top of the line ram for 40 bucks, so why are keyboard manufacturers sticking 256mb in keyboards like its all they got, and also treating 500mb like it costs them a thousand dollars to do it, so, to my original question, what am I missing here? it seems like it should be easy and cheap to make a good synth/workstation/dp, easier than ever, keyboard makers seem to be treating their products like its still 1999 just look at their specs. Its 2012, whats going on?

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Would more memory sell more pianos?

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The type of memory used in a USB stick is different (and more less expensive) to that found in a digital piano. In addition, DP system architecture is completely different to off-the-shelf PC hardware (although this is changing with the introduction of the Korg Kronos and a handful of other niche products).

Furthermore, most consumers do not appreciate the true cost of parts, import tariffs, labour and production, shipping, safety compliance testing, marketing, distribution, sales, etc.

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James
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I believe James actually meant that the memory used inside a piano is actually MORE expensive than a USB Flash drive, not the other way around! smile

Its a combination of very many things. You need to store the sounds, that requires a storage dedicated memory. Depending on the way the sound is created, you may or may not need to load those samples to memory.

Also, for a DP you need a compromise between loading times, versatility, etc. Can you imagine if, to switch patch you would need to wait as long as it takes, for instance, a Galaxy or Ivory piano to load? You would punch the DP every single time!!! smile

There is, of course, the hardware require to actually 'process' those very many sounds. If you need to load many gigabytes of information, that would require a really powerful brain behind it. I don't know if you remember that 32-bit operating were limited to 4GB of memory (all memory included) by default.

It really is not that simple. I do agree that there are options and I'm sure they are looking into them, but its not as easy or cheap as it sounds. If for nothing else, they may need to change the entire production pipe line!

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Not a complete answer, but some thoughts to consider:

Not all kinds of flash chips are the same price, they are not all capable of the same functionality or speed. Maybe you can buy 16 gb flash for $20, but a Yamaha XF flash board is $300 for 1 gig, and it's not because they're ripping you off. Well, not much, anyway. ;-) Not that all piano designs would need this pricey flash either. I'm just pointing out that it's not as simple as flash-is-flash. There are flash configurations between those two price extremes as well, and they are suited to different purposes.

The ability to use memory and flash in certain ways also depends on the rest of the circuitry and the OS being there to support it. Putting more RAM and storage into a Kronos was relatively easy, because the underlying hardware and software needed for it to work was already engineered into the box, as there is essentially a complete Linux computer in there. But without the rest of the infrastructure, memory/storage is only one piece of the puzzle. You can put a bigger gas tank on a lawnmower, it's not going to turn it into a station wagon.

Or maybe the analogy should be that you can put a gas tank on a bicycle, and it won't turn it into a motorcycle, because as I understand it, most DPs do not use RAM or flash at all (except a small amount for storing user settings). They use custom ROMs, and I think high capacity custom ROMs are more expensive to produce than either RAM or flash, especially in small quantities. But no memory management hardware/OS support is needed to shift data around, so other aspects of the design are simpler/cheaper to implement (plus it tends to boot fast and be rock solid).

Finally, keyboards are still somewhat "boutique" items, requiring a lot of R&D and custom fabrication work for something that will sell in relatively low volume. So I think it can sometimes take a while for them to take advantage of newest technologies, both because of development time, and also because, once a model exists, practically speaking, they count on being able to sell it (or mild variants of it) for a number of years.

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I recently had a personal tour of the Johannus Organ company here in Holland.

I made a comment about the very small screens they use in their organs. The response I received was something like this, they bought so many of those screens that it's unlikely they will throw them away and buy something newer and larger.

Just a thought.


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Originally Posted by origen
I can go down to the local electronic superstore and buy 16gigs of flash memory for 20 bucks, and I can get 8 gigs of top of the line ram for 40 bucks, so why are keyboard manufacturers sticking 256mb in keyboards like its all they got, and also treating 500mb like it costs them a thousand dollars to do it, so, to my original question, what am I missing here? it seems like it should be easy and cheap to make a good synth/workstation/dp, easier than ever, keyboard makers seem to be treating their products like its still 1999 just look at their specs. Its 2012, whats going on?

Keyboard manufacturers do tend to party like it's 1999.

Here is a quick back of the envelope calculation I did for common NAND Flash parts. Here is some further commentary. My feeling is they think the average consumer is dumb / can't hear the tiny sample fallout pre-sale / needs to buy the product regardless - or some combination thereof.

Other than an answer to the tiny Flash conundrum, I'd really like to know why these guys keep designing and fabbing custom processors for their DPs. It makes no sense to me. I want to buy a DP from them with a cheap ARM in it or something, and they're off wasting their engineering time trying to compete with Intel. Even for a company that produces entry level things by the thousands, I find it difficult to believe this is economically justifiable in a profit maximizing sense.

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Maybe the customization is meant to keep the Chinese from stealing their designs?

But does it really matter? Their cheap stuff sells. Their expensive stuff sells. They make a profit.

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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
Would more memory sell more pianos?


Of course it would, being able to hold a bigger and better sample would certainly sell more pianos.


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What makes you say that? To all appearances, the piano makers are showing quite the opposite: the old stuff sells well enough. If it were otherwise, they'd make changes. But they haven't, so it doesn't.

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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
What makes you say that? To all appearances, the piano makers are showing quite the opposite: the old stuff sells well enough. If it were otherwise, they'd make changes. But they haven't, so it doesn't.

More memory = better sample, thats why Ivory doesn't take up 256mb, it takes 20gig per sample, my question was relative to this, in light of the inexpensive nature of memory, why haven't we been seeing more of it in the last 10 years, if I were doing a progressive timeline of memory amounts over that last 12 years, pianos would have moved up slightly and then Korg would have jumped off the chart with kronos (no one else finds that strange?) Im simply imagining what a better piano sampler/maker could do with more memory and why they haven't.

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I tend to think that prices are more related to what the buyer is willing to pay than to the actual manufacturing cost.


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Originally Posted by dewster
Other than an answer to the tiny Flash conundrum, I'd really like to know why these guys keep designing and fabbing custom processors for their DPs. It makes no sense to me. I want to buy a DP from them with a cheap ARM in it or something, and they're off wasting their engineering time trying to compete with Intel. Even for a company that produces entry level things by the thousands, I find it difficult to believe this is economically justifiable in a profit maximizing sense.


I think it has to do with cost, power envelope, and noise. Stuffing an Intel chip in there means they're just paying for Intel's industry leading margins. I think most DPs today use under 20 watts whereas a desktop PC might idle at 20 watts total. However I can see within the next two or three chip generations the power and noise issues become moot.

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Originally Posted by dewster
...I'd really like to know why these guys keep designing and fabbing custom processors for their DPs...

Dewster, while I agree with your overall statement, I must say I know with 99% certainty why this is: Patents! frown .

In a world where you can patent a rectangular box with filleted corners, you cannot simply install an Intel processor in your thing. You probably require a contract with them allowing you to use their products, etc., etc., etc.

I wonder who has the patent to rectangular white blocks alternated with rectangular black blocks... maybe I can patent it and charge everyone that wants to build a DP, piano, EP, or any other form of keyboard! smile

No... but seriously, I'm sure it much more expensive to put someone else's product (to which you are paying royalties, profit, shipping, customs, etc.) than to produce your own. I agree that the downside hits the consumers, but these companies are driven by profit (even though some are truly enthusiastic and devoted about their products, they still make most decisions with the wallet frown )

Rafa.


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You don't need a contract to use an Intel processor.

Rather, there are these issues:

1. If people will buy a 1999-era design wrapped in a 2012 cabinet, why change anything?

2. As a corollary ... why bear the development expense of something new when consumers are willing to buy your same-old same-old?

3. Judging by many of the comments here, lots of folks know little about digital pianos. They buy what's on display. They're not clamoring for something better.

4. The bulk of the market is at the low end. There's little room there for newer, more expensive stuff.

5. There IS room for hot-damn new stuff at the high-end. But see #1. If people will buy old stuff crammed into a shiny V or AG, why change?

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Originally Posted by RafaPolit
I believe James actually meant that the memory used inside a piano is actually MORE expensive than a USB Flash drive, not the other way around! smile


Sorry about that (I'd had a long day...). I've corrected my post, thank you.

Originally Posted by anotherscott
Not a complete answer, but some thoughts to consider:

Not all kinds of flash chips are the same price, they are not all capable of the same functionality or speed. Maybe you can buy 16 gb flash for $20, but a Yamaha XF flash board is $300 for 1 gig, and it's not because they're ripping you off. Well, not much, anyway. ;-) Not that all piano designs would need this pricey flash either. I'm just pointing out that it's not as simple as flash-is-flash. There are flash configurations between those two price extremes as well, and they are suited to different purposes.

The ability to use memory and flash in certain ways also depends on the rest of the circuitry and the OS being there to support it. Putting more RAM and storage into a Kronos was relatively easy, because the underlying hardware and software needed for it to work was already engineered into the box, as there is essentially a complete Linux computer in there. But without the rest of the infrastructure, memory/storage is only one piece of the puzzle. You can put a bigger gas tank on a lawnmower, it's not going to turn it into a station wagon.

Or maybe the analogy should be that you can put a gas tank on a bicycle, and it won't turn it into a motorcycle, because as I understand it, most DPs do not use RAM or flash at all (except a small amount for storing user settings). They use custom ROMs, and I think high capacity custom ROMs are more expensive to produce than either RAM or flash, especially in small quantities. But no memory management hardware/OS support is needed to shift data around, so other aspects of the design are simpler/cheaper to implement (plus it tends to boot fast and be rock solid).

Finally, keyboards are still somewhat "boutique" items, requiring a lot of R&D and custom fabrication work for something that will sell in relatively low volume. So I think it can sometimes take a while for them to take advantage of newest technologies, both because of development time, and also because, once a model exists, practically speaking, they count on being able to sell it (or mild variants of it) for a number of years.


Spot on!


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This part is true:
Originally Posted by anotherscott
Not all kinds of flash chips are the same price, they are not all capable of the same functionality or speed.
But this is not relevant:
Quote
Maybe you can buy 16 gb flash for $20, but a Yamaha XF flash board is $300 for 1 gig, and it's not because they're ripping you off.
And this is just a nonsense analogy:
Quote
You can put a bigger gas tank on a lawnmower, it's not going to turn it into a station wagon. Or maybe the analogy should be that you can put a gas tank on a bicycle, and it won't turn it into a motorcycle.

This part is true:
Quote
Most DPs do not use RAM or flash at all (except a small amount for storing user settings).
As is this:
Quote
They use custom ROMs, and I think high capacity custom ROMs are more expensive to produce than either RAM or flash, especially in small quantities.
But they don't have to use ROMs. They could use flash. That would have been untenable ten years ago because of the price. But no longer.

This is the main point:
Quote
Keyboards are still somewhat "boutique" items, requiring a lot of R&D and custom fabrication work for something that will sell in relatively low volume.
And especially this:
Quote
They count on being able to sell it (or mild variants of it) for a number of years.
And they do! Showrooms are full of brand-spanking new 1998 model pianos, manufactured in 2012.

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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
But this is not relevant:
Quote
Maybe you can buy 16 gb flash for $20, but a Yamaha XF flash board is $300 for 1 gig

It's relevant to show just how big a price spread there can be between different flash implementations. So not only are there different kinds of flash, but also saying flash is cheap doesn't mean ALL flash is cheap.

Originally Posted by MacMacMac
And this is just a nonsense analogy

Sorry you didn't like my analogies, but if their relevance is not self-evident, it's not worth explaining. Onward...

Originally Posted by MacMacMac
But they don't have to use ROMs. They could use flash. That would have been untenable ten years ago because of the price. But no longer.

True to some extent, but it's still somewhat pricey (i.e. the kind that can execute in place, like what Nord uses, and what Yamaha uses in the XF boards and Kurzweil uses in the PC3K)... and also, to burn, say, a 500 mb piano into each flash board before it shipped could be pretty time consuming. (Again, I'm talking about using the kind of flash that can behave like ROM... if you've ever worked with it on a Nord or Motif XF, you know how long it can take to write, and I don't know if or how much faster it can be done on a commercial scale... the technology is inherently pretty speed-limited for writing.) So unless a company is specifically marketing something with the idea that the contents are erasable/replaceable, It's possible they may still be better off going with ROM. (I am assuming that mass produced ROMs don't take as long to manufacture per unit, similar to how a read only CD/DVD can be created much more quickly than burning the same data to a re-writable disk.) Though really, even besides that, I don't know the cost difference between that kind of flash and custom ROMs, and I imagine the quantity needed could be another significant variable as well. I guess I'm just saying I'm not sure this is necessarily the benefit you are assuming it to be.

But at least we agreed on most of the stuff. ;-)

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Mac, I started off wondering about your responses, I couldn't quite figure out where you were going with them, meaning, I didn't know if you were upset by my question, or upset by the manufacturers, I now realize we are on the same page and you have answered my question. Im only surprised that out of all the dp makers out there, Korg is the only one who seems to have taken a step forward, granted Im still not buying one due to their keybed action and interface which requires some intense menu diving, but I just found it peculiar that their 4 gig piano sample makes it seem like all these 256mb boards will quickly become obsolete, hopefully.

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origen, I've learned over the years to disregard numbers and just use my ears.

I practiced for 12 years on a GranTouch hybrid piano and the sample was 32 megs I believe. I never once felt cheated.

Thirty-two megs.


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