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Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review #2235945 02/22/14 12:08 PM
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jarosujo Offline OP
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Hello,
I just received Intel NUC mini PC few days ago and would like to share my experience using it with Pianoteq.
It is model DC3217BY, which has i3 CPU inside. It costs new 140€ as barebone system (no RAM, SSD, wifi). I bought it one month old (so basically new) with 4GB RAM, 32GB SSD and wifi/BT card inside for 190 €.

Installation:
When I saw it first, I was shocked how small it was. Installation of Windows 8.1 Pro from USB drive went smooth and fast, 10 minutes and system was ready. After that I installed Pianoteq and drivers for my external usb sound card Kontakt Audio 2. That was all, I decided to use it as pure "sound module" for PT, I even disabled wifi/BT card. Boot time is excellent, it takes 13 seconds from pressing power button to desktop screen with icons on Win 8.1.

Usage:
The way I use it is very simple - no mouse, no keyboard, no monitor. All I do is I press the button on the top to wake it up or put it back to sleep state. It takes about 2-3 seconds from pressing to button until I can play. It is about the same time it takes my Kawai CL36 to start after pressing power button. You can even keep it idle 24/7, as the power consumption is very low (more below). In case of some problem (power shortage...), I set PT to start automatically after reboot. You can also use remote desktop from other PC/phone/tablet in case needed.

Sound quality:
Thanks to external usb sound card Kontakt Audio 2 it is excellent. This sound card is so small that you can wear it in your jeans pocket. Connecting is very easy, usb cable to NUC, one stereo jack to headphones and other one to powered monitors. It has also power connector, but it is not needed with NUC. NUC doesn't have separate audio output connector, sound output goes through hdmi or thunderbolt (I think). I am not sure about sound quality/latency when using on-board audio, but these are quite good these days.

Latency:
I set sample rate to 48000 Hz, process buffer 64 samples, USB buffer 1 ms. Total latency is 5.8 ms, which is very good, basically I can not feel any delay at all. Kontakt Audio 2 drivers are rock solid, I never had any issue with them.

PT performance regarding CPU:
CPU used in my NUC is Core i3 low power 3217U version, frequency 1,8 GHz. It runs at 800 Mhz when idle. In PT I use D4 bright preset, stereophonic sound and small hall reverb.
First I just played myself few easy songs - no problems. Then I downloaded Moonlight Sonata midi and played it with pedal down all the time. Polyphony usage reached about 80 and CPU usage was about 50%. Than I tried He is a Pirate midi and played it again with sustain pedal down all the time - polyphony usage reached 223, CPU usage at about 80-90% and again no problems (no red lines) at all. No dropouts, nothing. I am really surprised how well CPU handled even that last crazy midi test.

NUC Power consuption:
Sleep state - 0W (well, other reviews state about 2.5W)
Idle in Win 8.1 - 11W
Me playing with PT - 14W
Midi played in PT (crazy one) - 18W
Not sure why my device didn't measure anything in sleep state, I just guess it was really really low :-)

Final conclusion:
Yes, you can buy laptop for about 350€, which has display, similar CPU, 500GB HDD, keyboard, touchpad... But I don't need any of that.
I just need something cheap, small, noiseless and power efficient, which delivers Pianoteq sound to my Headphones/Monitors in 2-3 seconds after pressing power button.
And NUC delivers all of that.

P.S. Sorry for poor quality pictures, my hdmi-dvi cable is damaged, so there are strange colors and other artifacts.

NUC and Kontakt Audio 2 - both of them are very small.
[Linked Image]


Total latency 5.8ms means no noticeable delay at all.
[Linked Image]


No dropouts when playing crazy midi with sustain pedal down all the time(223 polyphony). Audio load (CPU usage)about 80-90%.
[Linked Image]


11.7W power consuption when idle in Win 8.1 (about 14-15W when playing with Pianoteq)
[Linked Image]


Yamaha NP-V80 (sold)
Yamaha DGX640 (sold)
Kawai CL-36
Pianoteq Standard + Intel NUC DC3217BY + Sennheiser HD598 + Fostex PM0.4n + NI Audio 2
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Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: jarosujo] #2236185 02/22/14 11:32 PM
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Kawai James Offline
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Thanks for the review!

I'm very interested in this kind of tiny PC device - I think it would be ideal for modding and placing inside a VPC1 to prepare a standalone, all-in-one instrument.

Cheers,
James
x


Employed by Kawai Japan, however the opinions I express are my own.
Nord Electro 3 & occasional rare groove player.

"I agree that the User Manual is very good." - arc7urus, March 2019
Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: Kawai James] #2236201 02/23/14 01:43 AM
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Charles Cohen Offline
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Thank you for all this useful information!

The most interesting thing (to me) is that a straight Intel PC -- no special hardware, no DSP chip, no special O/S -- has enough computing power to handle a full-scale, high-polyphony piano simulation.

And that you built it without any problems with latency, and no problems with drivers.

Perhaps Pianoteq should be selling those boxes, pre-programmed and pre-packaged ?

. Charles

PS -- I saw my first Intel NUC a week ago. I was impressed. A friend is using them in a fleet of tugboats, replacing all the laptop PC's.


. Charles
---------------------------
PX-350 / microKorg XL+ / Pianoteq / Lounge Lizard / EV ZXA1 speaker
Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: jarosujo] #2236224 02/23/14 03:09 AM
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Dwscamel Offline
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Props to Intel! The NUC shows how far we've come.


Beethoven - Op.49 No.1 (sonata 19)
Czerny - Op.299 Nos. 5,7 (School of Velocity)
Liszt - S.172 No.2 (Consolation No.2)

Dream piece:
Rachmaninoff - Sonata 2, movement 2 in E minor
Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: jarosujo] #2236424 02/23/14 03:26 PM
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CountSmith Offline
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I dedicated an old small desktop pc to my piano. One thing that is annoying is that the midi usb cable is not recognized in reaper or kontakt when I turn on the computer from sleep. In reaper I assign a keyboard short cut which resets the midi device so I at least need a keyboard connected to the computer. It's still awesome though. Like your set up, it only takes 2-3 seconds to go from sleep to being able to play.

Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: Kawai James] #2236433 02/23/14 03:49 PM
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James, that's an excellent idea, one that had not occurred to me as yet.

Originally Posted by Kawai James
Thanks for the review!

I'm very interested in this kind of tiny PC device - I think it would be ideal for modding and placing inside a VPC1 to prepare a standalone, all-in-one instrument.

Cheers,
James
x

Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: CountSmith] #2236459 02/23/14 05:09 PM
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jarosujo Offline OP
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Originally Posted by CountSmith
I dedicated an old small desktop pc to my piano. One thing that is annoying is that the midi usb cable is not recognized in reaper or kontakt when I turn on the computer from sleep.


I believe similar problem happened to me few times on Win7. I think disconnecting usb cable from PC and connecting it back helped.


Yamaha NP-V80 (sold)
Yamaha DGX640 (sold)
Kawai CL-36
Pianoteq Standard + Intel NUC DC3217BY + Sennheiser HD598 + Fostex PM0.4n + NI Audio 2
Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: jarosujo] #2236731 02/24/14 10:44 AM
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Thank you for all the information provided in this thread. I'm planning a similar build with a NUC i5 but running vintage d. Could you try to test your rig with vintage d or a similar VSTi?

Thanks in advance smile

Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: Kawai James] #2236796 02/24/14 01:20 PM
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lolatu Offline
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Originally Posted by Kawai James
I'm very interested in this kind of tiny PC device - I think it would be ideal for modding and placing inside a VPC1 to prepare a standalone, all-in-one instrument.

Or just maybe, a piano company could produce and sell such a thing ready made! (I know, crazy!)


Kawai CA95 / Steinberg UR22 / Sony MDR-7506 / Pianoteq Stage + Grotrian / Galaxy Vintage D / CFX Lite
In the loft: Roland FP3 / Tannoy Reveal Active / K&M 18810
Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: lolatu] #2236983 02/24/14 07:14 PM
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Kawai James Offline
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Originally Posted by lolatu
Or just maybe, a piano company could produce and sell such a thing ready made! (I know, crazy!)


Well, we already tried that several years ago with the DP1 (modern-looking grand piano shaped DP with a Linux-based OS running custom piano libraries). It was very expensive.

Unfortunately, it's impractical for digital piano companies to include off-the-shelf PC hardware inside their DPs. However, I believe a half-way solution could be found, whereby the DP manufacturer provides the ability for a small motherboard to be added by the user and/or dealer.

Cheers,
James
x


Employed by Kawai Japan, however the opinions I express are my own.
Nord Electro 3 & occasional rare groove player.

"I agree that the User Manual is very good." - arc7urus, March 2019
Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: jarosujo] #2237072 02/24/14 09:18 PM
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khopin Offline
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Hi jarosujo
Very interesting review.
Just a very easy question, how do you connect your CL36 to the NUC, I suppose throughout a MIDI to USB interface?
In that case, what model do you have? I got one but a note sounds every time I press the sustain pedal.
Thank you


Working on:
Chopin Impromptu Fantasie Op.66
Chopin Mazurka Op 33 No 4

DP: Kawai CA65
Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: Kawai James] #2237122 02/24/14 10:31 PM
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lolatu Offline
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Originally Posted by Kawai James
Unfortunately, it's impractical for digital piano companies to include off-the-shelf PC hardware inside their DPs. However, I believe a half-way solution could be found, whereby the DP manufacturer provides the ability for a small motherboard to be added by the user and/or dealer.

I agree that having a slot-in solution would be much better, not least because the virtual pianos would go obsolete very quickly and that would a waste of all the other hardware.

The controller side could be a keyboard + power supply + USB audio interface + MIDI controller type knobs for adjusting the virtual piano (VP) parameters. I'm in two minds whether you need a big screen, or whether it would be enough to just have knob labels like on the Novation Remote range.

The VP cards, produced by third parties, would consist of the motherboard + SSD + preconfigured software. I guess it would be Linux-based, but the conroller can be agnostic about that, because the only connections it needs are power and USB (audio + MIDI). The controller knobs would communicate with the VP via MIDI.

Unlike the DP1, I'm thinking more of a slab-type controller that is affordable by anyone. The keyboard you use doesn't need to be as expensive as the VPC1, but you could have two versions like with the MP6 and MP10. It would be cheaper than those, because I guess what you have in the controller is something pretty much like those except without the sounds.

Most of the components are already available fairly cheaply, and I think the main work is in polishing the system up and making it as simple to use as possble. Instead of 7 or 8 components that you have to join up and configure, you'd just need the controller and a VP card, which plug together in a seamless and easliy luggable whole. The whole selling point would be the tidiness and ease of use.


Kawai CA95 / Steinberg UR22 / Sony MDR-7506 / Pianoteq Stage + Grotrian / Galaxy Vintage D / CFX Lite
In the loft: Roland FP3 / Tannoy Reveal Active / K&M 18810
Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: jarosujo] #2237128 02/24/14 10:46 PM
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Kawai James Offline
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Totally agree. wink

James
x


Employed by Kawai Japan, however the opinions I express are my own.
Nord Electro 3 & occasional rare groove player.

"I agree that the User Manual is very good." - arc7urus, March 2019
Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: jarosujo] #2237221 02/25/14 03:49 AM
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Qbert Offline
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Originally Posted by jarosujo

Final conclusion:
Yes, you can buy laptop for about 350€, which has display, similar CPU, 500GB HDD, keyboard, touchpad... But I don't need any of that.
I just need something cheap, small, noiseless and power efficient, which delivers Pianoteq sound to my Headphones/Monitors in 2-3 seconds after pressing power button.

Laptop or tablet (Surface?) gives you also the ability to change PT sounds and parameters. With your solution it must be a bit uncomfortable to achieve that! Maybe, an external midi control surface (iCon?) could be useful but still you miss any visual feedback.

Last edited by Qbert; 02/25/14 03:50 AM.

GEM Promega 3 (sold) - Yamaha CLP 170 (sold) - Acuna88 (sold) - Kawai VPC1 + BK7m
Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: khopin] #2237234 02/25/14 05:42 AM
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jarosujo Offline OP
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Originally Posted by khopin
Hi jarosujo
Very interesting review.
Just a very easy question, how do you connect your CL36 to the NUC, I suppose throughout a MIDI to USB interface?
In that case, what model do you have? I got one but a note sounds every time I press the sustain pedal.
Thank you


I have this MIDI-USB cable:
http://www.alza.sk/premiumcord-usb-midi-d249597.htm#popis
It's in Slovak language, but at least you can see the picture :-) Price 19€, works without problems. No drivers needed.




Yamaha NP-V80 (sold)
Yamaha DGX640 (sold)
Kawai CL-36
Pianoteq Standard + Intel NUC DC3217BY + Sennheiser HD598 + Fostex PM0.4n + NI Audio 2
Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: karlosserio] #2237476 02/25/14 02:30 PM
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jarosujo Offline OP
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Originally Posted by karlosserio
Thank you for all the information provided in this thread. I'm planning a similar build with a NUC i5 but running vintage d. Could you try to test your rig with vintage d or a similar VSTi?

Thanks in advance smile

Sorry but I don't have any sampled library anymore. Once I tried Pianoteq, there is no way coming back for me smile


Yamaha NP-V80 (sold)
Yamaha DGX640 (sold)
Kawai CL-36
Pianoteq Standard + Intel NUC DC3217BY + Sennheiser HD598 + Fostex PM0.4n + NI Audio 2
Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: jarosujo] #2237558 02/25/14 05:35 PM
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What settings are you using in Pianoteq? I just bought it myself.


Kawai CA95 / Steinberg UR22 / Sony MDR-7506 / Pianoteq Stage + Grotrian / Galaxy Vintage D / CFX Lite
In the loft: Roland FP3 / Tannoy Reveal Active / K&M 18810
Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: jarosujo] #2237637 02/25/14 07:59 PM
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sullivang Offline
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Originally Posted by karlosserio
Could you try to test your rig with vintage d or a similar VSTi?


It'll work, but if it doesn't, I'll eat my own hair

Greg.

Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: lolatu] #2237807 02/26/14 05:32 AM
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jarosujo Offline OP
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Originally Posted by lolatu
What settings are you using in Pianoteq? I just bought it myself.

I prefer brighter sound, so I use D4 Bright preset. Small hall reverb, stereophonic. Pedal and hammer noise -4 dB. Velocity curve similar to default, just slightly moved "up", specially in 100~127 range. Once I upgrade to Standard version, I will play more with setup, specially with Hammer hardness and Resonance.


Yamaha NP-V80 (sold)
Yamaha DGX640 (sold)
Kawai CL-36
Pianoteq Standard + Intel NUC DC3217BY + Sennheiser HD598 + Fostex PM0.4n + NI Audio 2
Re: Intel NUC + Kontakt Audio 2 + Pianoteq - mini review [Re: jarosujo] #2237812 02/26/14 05:49 AM
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Oh... frown
I think Vintage D will work with the NUC i5 or even i3, I was just curious to see the limitations.

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