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Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
#2097010 06/06/13 01:44 PM
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Hello. I'm the happy owner of a Yamaha CP33 after being many years with a fantastic Yamaha CLP-130.

Now I'm looking for some speaker system to play at home (in a small room) and the main doubt I have is if to buy a pair of monitors or a set of speakers and an amplifier.

I know that monitors give a flat sound and are very good to get all the details of the sounds, but this does not necessarily mean that they sound better/more comfortable for playing piano. Also they have to be placed in a specific position because they are very directional.

Here in the UK I can have a pair of Yamaha HS50M for £240 or for a similar budget an amplifier and a set of speakers like the Cambridge Audio S30.

I guess that I would have more freedom to place these passive speakers and maybe the sound would be more 'natural'. I have thought on putting them under the keyboard at mid height and pointing to the wall trying to emulate an upright piano.

Any experience on this?

Thanks

Last edited by Alfort; 06/06/13 01:48 PM.
Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
Alfort #2097056 06/06/13 02:32 PM
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Go stereo whatever else you decide to do. A stereo amp and speakers; perhaps one which will take more than one stereo input should you decide to get a software piano too . . .


"I am not a man. I am a free number"

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Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
Alfort #2097089 06/06/13 03:06 PM
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Yeah, speakers for a piano are a really hard question. Usually we don't have very good definitive answers. There are too many options are we are mostly players, not HiFi buffs. I've had several studio monitors in my day and I wasn't all that impressed with any of them. My next speaker experiment will be with an amp and Hi Fi. Unfortunately again it's hard to know which are best for the purpose.

Speaker placement and room acoustics are also a pretty complicated subject. There's a pretty clear setup for optimal mixing (two monitors at points of an equilateral triangle not next to the wall with lots of acoustic foam around the room and in the corners) but for optimal playing it may not be the same. In my experience a small amount of change in speaker positioning makes a big difference so you are going to have to try lots of stuff. In my experience:

1. Bigger rooms are better than smaller
2. Away from the wall is better
3. Speakers not to close to the head are better

I would be surprised if facing them away from you worked out, but I'm not an expert. Some of my findings may not even generalize to your space and speakers.

Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
Alfort #2097109 06/06/13 03:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Alfort

Here in the UK I can have a pair of Yamaha HS50M for £240 or for a similar budget an amplifier and a set of speakers like the Cambridge Audio S30.

Thanks


The HS50M are superb but if your piano has any weaknesses it will expose them! Where can you get them for £240? I would like another pair.


willf
Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
Alfort #2097124 06/06/13 03:47 PM
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Hi,

I am a big fan of Definitive Technology. I have the smallest set of their studio monitor series (SM-45). It made a huge difference on my Kawai CA-63. One of the reasons I picked them is they are rated down to 35hz which is about D1. I don't hear much rolloff on the 5 remaining keys below that. I have never played a piece that had any notes that low anyway.

Many other stereo bookshelf speakers don't go that low, therefore you would probably need to add a sub. All I use is an amp and the speakers. I don't raise the piano slider above 2 and it sounds great.

Amateur Jerry


Czar
Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
Alfort #2097130 06/06/13 03:51 PM
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As a newbie I too would be interested in a bit more 'clarity' around the whole monitors vs speakers debate

Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
Hammertime #2097146 06/06/13 04:15 PM
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Stereo speakers don't necessarily have a flat frequency response nor would you really want it. When you hear a speaker and say "wow it has a great bass" it usually because the bass in those speakers are accentuated relative to the mids. The engineers design the speakers to sound good in a home with whatever music you listening too. That music is mixed an mastered to sound good on a wide variety of speakers. Whether it be boom box, auto, home theater or headphones. The producer uses studio monitors that are designed to output a flat, "true" sound. The mids in monitors can be jarring to some because the human ear is sensitive to vocal range sounds (mids). So if the sound is mixed to sound good on those, they in theory will sound the best that they can get on any speaker. For example if you mixed on those speakers with great bass, when you play it through another speaker, you would wonder why the didn't turn up the bass player. So you want a perfectly flat monitor, or as flat as you can get.


Many studio monitors can really point out all the flaws in a digital pianos samples especially the octaves around middle C.

Now if the piano has very good samples, you may like what you hear. If not you might want an equalizer.

Last edited by Kbeaumont; 06/06/13 04:20 PM.

A long long time ago, I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile....
Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
Kbeaumont #2097158 06/06/13 04:41 PM
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This is actually a good point that if the samples of the digital piano have some deficiency you are going to notice them.
In any case I have already played with my headphones and I am very happy with the sound. Just a funny behaviour after G3 where suddenly the keys have a much longer decay...

Coming back to the subject... and what would happen if I go for the monitors and I put them under the keyboard? Is it so important to have this triangle at the height of your ears (and to have to use some stands)? If they are positioned in another way is the sound not going to be reflected the same as a normal piano?

Willf, I have found the HS50M with a good price at:
http://www.gear4music.com/Recording-and-Computers/Yamaha-HS50M-Active-Studio-Monitor-Single/6JH

Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
Alfort #2097161 06/06/13 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Alfort


FYI, This is Yamaha's new version of that monitor, the HS5.
http://www.gear4music.com/Recording-and-Computers/Yamaha-HS5-Active-Studio-Monitor/QSS

Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
Kbeaumont #2097162 06/06/13 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Kbeaumont
Stereo speakers don't necessarily have a flat frequency response nor would you really want it. When you hear a speaker and say "wow it has a great bass" it usually because the bass in those speakers are accentuated relative to the mids. The engineers design the speakers to sound good in a home with whatever music you listening too. That music is mixed an mastered to sound good on a wide variety of speakers. Whether it be boom box, auto, home theater or headphones. The producer uses studio monitors that are designed to output a flat, "true" sound. The mids in monitors can be jarring to some because the human ear is sensitive to vocal range sounds (mids). So if the sound is mixed to sound good on those, they in theory will sound the best that they can get on any speaker. For example if you mixed on those speakers with great bass, when you play it through another speaker, you would wonder why the didn't turn up the bass player. So you want a perfectly flat monitor, or as flat as you can get.


Many studio monitors can really point out all the flaws in a digital pianos samples especially the octaves around middle C.

Now if the piano has very good samples, you may like what you hear. If not you might want an equalizer.



S0 ... my interpretation of what you just said ...

Do not purchase speakers.

Purchase Monitors.

Correct ?



Don

Kawai MP11SE, Focal Professional CMS 40 near-field monitors, Yamaha HS8S Powered Subwoofer, SennHeiser HD 559 Headphones, Pianoteq and numerous other VSTs (Seldom Used), Focus Rite Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface, Mackie MIX 5 Compact Mixer.
Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
Alfort #2097173 06/06/13 05:03 PM
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"Monitor" is a name sometimes given to speakers designed for critical listening while recording. They may be large or small, with an amplifier in the box or requiring an external amplifier. They may have a wide "sweet spot" for listening, or a narrow one. In the cheaper price range, "monitor" is largely a marketing term.

Do you have a hi-fi system? How does the piano sound through it?

Piano is a very dynamic sound. It has a strong percussive attack and a wide frequency range.

It is easier and cheaper to make a good large speaker than a good small one.

Don't buy speakers without hearing them first.

Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
Alfort #2097180 06/06/13 05:14 PM
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I bought a pair of computer speakers for my piano. 5W per channel; it was well powerful enough. Then the crackling began, and - back they went! (Amazon have a good return policy)


"I am not a man. I am a free number"

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Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
peterws #2097269 06/06/13 08:24 PM
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Quote
I know that monitors give a flat sound and are very good to get all the details of the sounds


All "monitors" sound exactly alike. It doesn't matter how big they are, or what they cost, or what company makes them. They all produce exactly the same sound. That is why they get to be called "monitors" by their manufacturers.

Of course if you don't believe that, then you should probably forget about whether something is called a "monitor" or not, and try out a bunch of quality speakers and "monitors" in a variety of price ranges from a variety of manufacturers until you find something that sounds good to your ears with your piano (or something equivalent) in a retail shop. Then ask to take home several models and try them out on your piano in various places in your room at the sound levels you want to use, and then make a final decision. No reputable retailer would try to sell you quality speakers without letting you try their store demo pair at home first.

Unfortunately, you will probably find out that generally the more you pay in $50-$1000 range for speakers from any particular manufacturer, the better they will sound. i.e. in general you really do get what you pay for. But at some price point (wildly different for different people), price vs perceived sound quality is no longer monotonic.








Macy

CVP-409GP, Garritan CFX, Vintage D, Ivory II GP's & American Concert D, Pianoteq, True Keys American D, Ravenscroft 275, Garritan Authorized Steinway, Alicia's Keys, EWQL Pianos, MainStage, iPad Pro/forScore/PageFlip Cicada, Custom Mac MIDI/Audio Software Design, Macs Everywhere
Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
Alfort #2097271 06/06/13 08:30 PM
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I use large floorstanding home theater speakers with my software piano sounds and I'm quite happy with them. I don't think there's a reason to use monitors over floorstanding, except you might need to buy an extra stereo power amplifier for them. It might cost around $50 for an OK amplifier.


1980 Yamaha C7 from Rick Jones (http://imgur.com/a/duLJb)
Kawai MP-10
Previously: 2012 Young Chang Y175, which was quite impressive for the price
Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
Alfort #2097279 06/06/13 08:41 PM
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I'm not saying monitors are necessarily the way to go, but they do have one advantage: Monitors often have balanced inputs. This precludes most cases of ground loops if your piano or audio interface has balanced outs. Very convenient. I'm sure there are amps with balanced inputs but they don't seem to be common.

When I first got started with software pianos I hooked my speakers up to my audio interface at the time (which did NOT have balanced outs) but electrical noise from the computer traveled down the USB cable and then through the audio cable. The latter turned into annoying hums and other noises when I moved my mouse and did other things on the computer. When I changed to a different audio interface and made the analog connection balanced everything was perfect and silent.

I'm a big fan of balanced connections.

Last edited by gvfarns; 06/06/13 08:45 PM.
Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
Alfort #2097392 06/06/13 10:12 PM
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They say there's no difference between a monitor and a speaker. See thread:

http://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-much-gear-so-little-time/608527-monitors-vs-speakers.html

Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
Macy #2097747 06/07/13 10:29 AM
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How can this be???
Originally Posted by Macy
All "monitors" sound exactly alike. It doesn't matter how big they are, or what they cost, or what company makes them. They all produce exactly the same sound. That is why they get to be called "monitors" by their manufacturers.
If they all sounded exactly alike, then everyone would buy the cheapest one.
Why buy a more expensive model that sounds exactly the same?? smile

Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
MacMacMac #2097780 06/07/13 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
How can this be???
Originally Posted by Macy
All "monitors" sound exactly alike. It doesn't matter how big they are, or what they cost, or what company makes them. They all produce exactly the same sound. That is why they get to be called "monitors" by their manufacturers.
If they all sounded exactly alike, then everyone would buy the cheapest one.
Why buy a more expensive model that sounds exactly the same?? smile


PMFJI --

Macy was being sarcastic, there.

His _real_ point was in his second paragraph -- "If you don't believe this . . . " -- which has a good suggestion for what to do, and for how the world _really_ is.

. Charles

PS -- apologies to Macy, if I got this wrong.


. Charles
---------------------------
PX-350 / microKorg XL+ / Pianoteq / Lounge Lizard / EV ZXA1 speaker
Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
Alfort #2097809 06/07/13 11:52 AM
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As someone else said, I'm not a Hi-Fi buff. At home I've got my synths going through a mixer, into a digital 8-track, and out to a pair of Behringer MS-16s (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00181T20O/ref=oh_details_o07_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1)

Between the speakers and my headphones, I can get a close approximation to the type of mix I'm looking for. The sound coming from the speakers works fine for my needs, but may not be the quality you're looking for.

Last edited by Michael Martinez; 06/07/13 11:54 AM.
Re: Monitors or passive speakers to enjoy better playing piano
Alfort #2097816 06/07/13 11:59 AM
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Hi,

It depends what you want to achieve and what your budget is / funds available are. Its easy to commit a lot of cash on upgrades, so my advice would be try to think longer term.

I have a CP33 (an upgrade from a P85 in 2009 when I started learning) and found that the HS10 sub with the HS50s provided quite a realistic sound, with a little bass boost / top cut from a Xenyx 802 mixer. However it didn't stop there as I then went on to install a software piano on the PC and ended up running Garritan Basic Authorised Steinway to get the "best" sound possible at acceptable cost.

When I bought a Kawai K-6 vertical earlier this year I initially missed the "Steinway" tone I had, but the Kawai is close enough in tone, and the touch / dynamics much better.

I've since learned that an acoustic plus a good digital delivers the best of both worlds, but its been expensive, so be aware.

Last edited by ColinH; 06/08/13 04:59 AM. Reason: to correct mixer number
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