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is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice #2671593
08/30/17 04:26 PM
08/30/17 04:26 PM
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Raphalation Offline OP
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I am going to music conservatoire in a week and I want to purchase a digital piano so I can practice in my room (in the evenings or when practise rooms are busy).


I initially was tempted to buy the CA67, but came across the VPC-1 which is a lot cheaper and has a similar action. My only concern with getting a Virtual Piano Controler, instead of a digital piano, is that I am worried the latency will be a lot higher making playing less enjoyable and practice not as effective.
Can anyone tell me if latency is really higher with software pianos, and if there is a way of reducing it to digital piano levels (e.g. using a sound card)?


Thanks in advance for any responses!


Raphalation.

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Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: Raphalation] #2671603
08/30/17 04:54 PM
08/30/17 04:54 PM
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karvala Online content
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Yes, latency is higher; you have the latency of the midi interface and the audio drivers to contend with. Is it a problem for classical practice? Not really, in my opinion. It depends on your hardware, but with the right ASIO drivers and a decent usb-midi interface and reasonable sound card, you can achieve a low latency (<20ms) that is scarcely noticeable in everyday practice, and does not significantly affect how you play.

Far greater classical practice issues relate to the choice of either an unrealistic piano sound from physically modelled instruments, or unrealistic dynamic feel from sampled instruments. That choice, however, applies equally to digital pianos themselves, so it's not unique to VSTis.


Broadwood, Yamaha U1; Kawai CA67; Pianoteq Std (D4, K2, Blüthner, Grotrian), Garritan CFX Full, Galaxy Vintage D, The Grandeur, Ravenscroft 275, Ivory II ACD, TrueKeys Italian, AS C7, Production Grand Compact, AK Studio Grand, AK Upright, Waves Grand Rhapsody; Sennheiser HD-600 and HD-650, O2 amp
Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: Raphalation] #2671639
08/30/17 08:31 PM
08/30/17 08:31 PM
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MacMacMac Offline
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I think you have your numbers wrong, karvala.
I wouldn't refer to 20 msec latency as "scarcely noticeable". I'd call it "almost intolerable".
Perhaps you meant 2 msec?

Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: Raphalation] #2671642
08/30/17 08:51 PM
08/30/17 08:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Raphalation

Can anyone tell me if latency is really higher with software pianos, and if there is a way of reducing it to digital piano levels (e.g. using a sound card)?


I find the latency intolerable and would never contemplate using any software piano, based on my one short experience with Pianoteq (the free trial) via my MacBook Pro. It manifests as a 'disconnection' between my playing and the sound that I hear (via headphones), which doesn't occur with any of the native piano sounds in my V-Piano.

However, I've played on acoustics all my life until I bought my digital a few years ago, and use it only as my practice instrument at home for my monthly performances on an acoustic grand. You may - or may not - have greater tolerance for the latency than me. Or you might find a friendly techno geek to help you reduce the latency......


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: Raphalation] #2671646
08/30/17 09:06 PM
08/30/17 09:06 PM
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You need a pretty kickass computer and audio interface to get latency down low on software pianos - depending which you pick. Ideally if the software lets you set the buffer to 32 and it can handle it, it's decent. As you need to raise buffer to get the software to run properly (free or pops and clicks/audio drop out), that's when you start to feel latency. Buffer of 64, 128, 256, etc. each progressively worse feeling. Latency at 5ms - 10ms is tolerable. It starts to annoy at 15ms and up. 20ms and higher feels like total carp.

People will say that an acoustic piano does have latency - but it's only in the time it takes for sound to travel from the resonating strings to your ears. We're talking negligible, like 3ms or less. We don't feel that at all. On an acoustic piano the hammer hits the string as the key bottoms out, so it just feels/sounds right. Very similar to if you had plucked or picked it. Software pianos have this sound/distance latency added on as well (speaker to your ears). It might be slightly quicker with headphones.

Point being, if you can get a modern computer, i7 with 8gb or more of RAM and SSD with good audio drivers (for whatever card you use, internal or USB/Thunderbolt) you can get latency down low enough to practice, sure. Any digital piano, including the Kawai CA's is going to have some latency. It won't be quite as snappy feeling as an acoustic. But if you don't notice it, then you are compensating and it doesn't bother you. How sensitive you are to it is a personal thing. Church organists are used to compensating for latency because obviously there's quite a bit of crazy distances with pipe organs in a sanctuary.

Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: Raphalation] #2671647
08/30/17 09:07 PM
08/30/17 09:07 PM
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I have practiced and performed on acoustics, DP's and Midi-slabs running outboard software. My criteria for each piano was touch. I have never been bothered by the slightly increased latency of the software. On my iPad running CMP Grand Piano, the latency is between +5 and +11 ms, depending on the size of polyphony I choose. I find 128 voices adequate for most classical rep and that requires +11 ms, IIRC.

Latency on an acoustic grand runs from -4 ms to +5 ms according to published research cited on this forum.

Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: Raphalation] #2671693
08/31/17 02:36 AM
08/31/17 02:36 AM
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eclectic Offline
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What ElmerJFudd said. What computer are you talking about using?

Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: Raphalation] #2671698
08/31/17 02:58 AM
08/31/17 02:58 AM
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I am using Galaxy Vintage D on a 299 € Asus notebook connected to my Pianodisc silent system. The software (Kontakt Player) had a default latency of 20 ms and that was intolerable, indeed. I could not play well with that annoying latency. I then plugged in Asio (freeware, "Asio4all") into the Kontakt Player and reduced latency to 12 ms. That works on my notebook and is acceptable for classical music. Not yet ideal, but polyphony decreases dramatically on my cheap notebook when I reduce latency further.

Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: Raphalation] #2671702
08/31/17 03:11 AM
08/31/17 03:11 AM
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Raphalation Offline OP
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My main dilemma really is if it's worth paying extra for the MP11 or CA67 so as to have the better (?) latency of Digital Pianos. I have a fairly decent PC (core i5, 8gb ram, SSD).

Does buying a soundcard have any impact on latency or are they mainly for recording purposes? Also are the sound quality of VST's comparable to that of digital pianos? I've listened to the demos of Ivory 2 (Steinway Model B Grand) and it certainly sounds impressive.

Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: Raphalation] #2671706
08/31/17 03:34 AM
08/31/17 03:34 AM
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The advantage to buy the MP11 or the CA67 (the best choice for me) is to have the best possible keyboard.
If you are going to study music, go for the best keyboard.

Your pc is good.
With your pc and a good soundcard (Focusrite Scarlett, Steinberg UR, Roland Quad....) with good ASIO drivers, you can achieve the same level of latency you will get from a DP. You will not feel it.

The most difficult point is the OS optimisation for realtime audio if you are under Windows. Some processes can disturb the system stability causing audio dropouts. It is not easy to fix.
On Macs, there are much much less complaints.
On Linux, there are some audio oriented distributions totally stable, but the only virtual piano running on Linux is Pianoteq. If you like it, you can chose this option.

Anyway, I recommand you to use this pc only for music.

Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: Raphalation] #2671709
08/31/17 03:43 AM
08/31/17 03:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Raphalation
Does buying a soundcard have any impact on latency or are they mainly for recording purposes?


It does. You would not find the latency of an amateur soundcard tolerable.

Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: prout] #2671711
08/31/17 03:48 AM
08/31/17 03:48 AM
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Originally Posted by prout
Latency on an acoustic grand runs from -4 ms to +5 ms according to published research cited on this forum.


I couldn't follow the minus 4 here...(typo?)

Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: Raphalation] #2671724
08/31/17 04:56 AM
08/31/17 04:56 AM
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He means the hammer can reach the string faster than key bottoming out. Hence the negative value.

Otherwise there's a lot of BS talk right here about latency. I have intentionally increased buffer size (hence latency) to 128 on my Mac although lower values work without problems. I find 128 more realistic whereas lower values are too fast and direct, compared to a real piano. And I play mostly classical music. But hey, that's IMHO, so might be wrong.

Last edited by CyberGene; 08/31/17 04:57 AM.

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Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: Raphalation] #2671726
08/31/17 05:06 AM
08/31/17 05:06 AM
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karvala Online content
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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
I think you have your numbers wrong, karvala.
I wouldn't refer to 20 msec latency as "scarcely noticeable". I'd call it "almost intolerable".
Perhaps you meant 2 msec?


No, I really did mean 20ms, but bear in mind this refers to the *total* latency, not just the latency figure you see in something like Pianoteq's hardware setup box, which is actually just a measure of the buffer length. Ableton Live 9 has a handy tool for reporting actual input and output latencies (because of course you have both with a VSTi), which vary not only with buffer size, but also different ASIO drivers.

If I have a sample rate of 48Khz and a buffer length of 128, which is the longest I can use without it bothering me, using the ASIO4ALL driver, I will have an overall latency of 14.3ms (because the driver is not actually all that efficient). That sounds fine to me. If I increase the buffer size to something like 512, it obviously gives a very noticeable delay that creates problems with serious playing and the overall latency is over 30ms. So, I figure that something around 20ms is acceptable to me, although maybe 15ms would be more accurate. That equates to what Pianoteq would report as 2.7ms, so if you're taking figures from there, then I would agree.

Last edited by karvala; 08/31/17 05:07 AM.

Broadwood, Yamaha U1; Kawai CA67; Pianoteq Std (D4, K2, Blüthner, Grotrian), Garritan CFX Full, Galaxy Vintage D, The Grandeur, Ravenscroft 275, Ivory II ACD, TrueKeys Italian, AS C7, Production Grand Compact, AK Studio Grand, AK Upright, Waves Grand Rhapsody; Sennheiser HD-600 and HD-650, O2 amp
Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: karvala] #2671727
08/31/17 05:10 AM
08/31/17 05:10 AM
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Raphalation Offline OP
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And how similar is this to a digital piano? What kind of latency does they experience?

Last edited by Raphalation; 08/31/17 05:10 AM.
Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: Raphalation] #2671728
08/31/17 05:10 AM
08/31/17 05:10 AM
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karvala Online content
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Originally Posted by Raphalation
My main dilemma really is if it's worth paying extra for the MP11 or CA67 so as to have the better (?) latency of Digital Pianos. I have a fairly decent PC (core i5, 8gb ram, SSD).

Does buying a soundcard have any impact on latency or are they mainly for recording purposes? Also are the sound quality of VST's comparable to that of digital pianos? I've listened to the demos of Ivory 2 (Steinway Model B Grand) and it certainly sounds impressive.


As stamkorg says, the better action on the CA67 is worth it alone in my view; the slightly reduced latency isn't a big deal but you can call it a bonus if you like. Good VSTi sounds are better than any current DP sounds in my view; certainly better than the CA67 (which is not bad, in fairness), or the high end Casio, Roland and Yamaha offerings.


Broadwood, Yamaha U1; Kawai CA67; Pianoteq Std (D4, K2, Blüthner, Grotrian), Garritan CFX Full, Galaxy Vintage D, The Grandeur, Ravenscroft 275, Ivory II ACD, TrueKeys Italian, AS C7, Production Grand Compact, AK Studio Grand, AK Upright, Waves Grand Rhapsody; Sennheiser HD-600 and HD-650, O2 amp
Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: Raphalation] #2671729
08/31/17 05:18 AM
08/31/17 05:18 AM
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Raphalation Offline OP
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Would it be crazy then to get the CA67 but still hook it up to a PC to get the better sounds?

Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: Raphalation] #2671730
08/31/17 05:23 AM
08/31/17 05:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Raphalation
Would it be crazy then to get the CA67 but still hook it up to a PC to get the better sounds?

That is precisely what you should do. Buy the Garritan CFX lite, use your existing laptop without buying an additional audio interface - you only need the free Asio4all driver. Relatively, the cost is peanuts.

Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: Raphalation] #2671731
08/31/17 05:29 AM
08/31/17 05:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Raphalation
I've listened to the demos of Ivory 2 (Steinway Model B Grand) and it certainly sounds impressive.
Oh yeah, Ivory 2 sounds great, but that software really does require a powerful computer since enormous quantities of data need to be handled. To give you an impression of the software's size: it is on 12 CDs and the installation takes about 2 hours. SSD certainly is a prerequisite for that software. The PC you have might handle it, but there is no guarantee, by chance you may find out after buying it that you need to invest in a more powerful PC as well.

Bear in mind, that your idea involves placing your computer next to the instrument, connecting it via an extra cable and having an extra device (your PC) to switch on.

I do not know the VPC-1 and wonder if it has a good keyboard with piano-like action. A good sound is not worth very much if the action of the instrument is bad. If I were a piano student like you and needed a professional solution, I would rather opt for the CA67 or an even more high-end instrument like CA-97, Casio GP500 or Yamaha AvantGrand. Trying to save money does not always pay out.

Last edited by Pianist685; 08/31/17 05:57 AM.
Re: is Software Piano Latency an issue for Classical Practice [Re: Pianist685] #2671732
08/31/17 05:36 AM
08/31/17 05:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Pianist685
Oh yeah, Ivory 2 sounds great, but that software really does require a powerful computer since enormous quantities of data need to be handled. To give you an impression of the software's size: it is on 12 CDs and the installation takes about 2 hours. SSD certainly is a prerequisite for that software. The PC you have may handle it, but there is no guarantee, by chance you may find out after buying it that you need to invest in a more powerful PC as well.

Not only is that a riotously pessimistic view, it's also false to equate the processing demands made by the software with the physical size of the library measured in gigabytes. There's no correlation at all. Bigger library, bigger disk - that's all there is to it... (and yes, an SSD is always a good idea).

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