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How do you deal with volume over headphones?
#2779701 11/10/18 05:51 AM
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Hi all

Since trialing pianoteq ive become aware that i am struggling with volume issues over headphones.

Basically the crux of the issue is that to play over the full dynamic range of the piano, forte should be loud right. If it was a real accoustic, forte would fill the room with sound. Also playing loud would make the piano sound brighter.

However over headphones I cant achieve this, because having the earphones directly over the ears I cant have the volume high enough.

How does one deal with this issue? I played a real accoustic for a few minutes the other day and immediatly noticed this as the main difference.

In practice it means that i generally play at one volume all the time over headphones. Because even playing quietly on a real piano is quite loud, but over headphones playing quietly is too quiet. So I turn the volume up to properly hear quiet play, which prohibits loud play even more.

Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
danlightbulb #2779705 11/10/18 06:06 AM
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It sounds like you are experiencing the dynamic range to be too wide with headphones. Have you tried to decrease the dynamic slider in pianoteq? You could also try to set the velocity to a lighter touch. That will make you reach the brighter end of the sound more easily. Another option is to experiment with the hammer hardness at the softer dynamics (p, mf)

Last edited by johanibraaten; 11/10/18 06:07 AM.

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." - Albert Einstein
Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
danlightbulb #2779708 11/10/18 06:24 AM
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I practice exclusively wearing headphones (AvantGrand N3) and I never encounter the issues you have.

I'm inclined to think you have the dynamic range setting greater than what it should be.


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Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
danlightbulb #2779758 11/10/18 10:37 AM
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I just read a paper on MIDI dynamic range calculations in DPs. Very interesting. The average dynamic range available is about 60dB, which is vastly greater than what a typical pianist playing an acoustic grand uses, which is about 25dB. This data can be confirmed by checking dynamic range databases for uncompressed recordings available on the internet.

Remember that a range of playing of 25dB requires 316 times the ‘energy’ input from you from softest to loudest.

I suggest, as others have, reducing the dynamic range to the level that mimics, to your ears, what you heard when playing the acoustic piano.

Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
prout #2779769 11/10/18 11:31 AM
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Originally Posted by prout
The average dynamic range available [from a digital piano] is about 60dB, which is vastly greater than what a typical pianist playing an acoustic grand uses, which is about 25dB. This data can be confirmed by checking dynamic range databases for uncompressed recordings available on the internet.


This is quite surprising and very interesting to know.


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Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
prout #2779789 11/10/18 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by prout
I suggest, as others have, reducing the dynamic range to the level that mimics, to your ears, what you heard when playing the acoustic piano.


I suppose manually "adjusting dynamic range" most effective if the average "volume" is set to replicate that of our grand piano.

If we decide to play the headphones at lower "volumes" things get more complicated as we don't hear the same way (e.g. bass would need to be boosted re Fletcher Munson Curve). Maybe just running a bit of EQ bass boost at lower volumes makes things a bit more realistic.

Of course the VI recording mics are not so perfect and the VI producers likely use some compression to make the VI more usable. And the headphones are not so perfect. So nailing down dynamic range is tough. Regardless, headphone simplify a lot of acoustic & electronic issues so pretty good results are relatively easy (vs. loudspeaker setup).

Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
danlightbulb #2779854 11/10/18 04:22 PM
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Thanks for the replies.

The issue lies in the fact that even when played quietly, a piano is still a loud instrument - sound still resonates around the room. You feel it in your body not just in the ears. I can't replicate that through headphones, so for quiet playing I still want the sound to feel quite loud. This then prohibits playing loudly because it would damage my ears.

Also Ive noticed that the high notes played loudly, sound louder than the bass notes played loudly. So to get bass resonance 'feeling' the volume needs to be higher, but then the treble is too loud. Can't seem to fix this with EQ because it doesn't apply at lower volumes, where the treble is then not loud enough.

Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
danlightbulb #2779860 11/10/18 04:39 PM
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Well you could take another tack:

- Get some closed-back headphones that emphasize bass fq response. Some are designed with huge bass humps

- You could also run a transducer to vibrate the digital piano case a bit on lower frequencies

- You could run a dynamic EQ. That will adjust emphasis based on "volume". I think this free plugin does that but can't remember. There are other plugins that do the same :

https://www.tokyodawn.net/tdr-nova/

Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
danlightbulb #2779873 11/10/18 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by danlightbulb
Thanks for the replies.

The issue lies in the fact that even when played quietly, a piano is still a loud instrument - sound still resonates around the room. You feel it in your body not just in the ears. I can't replicate that through headphones, so for quiet playing I still want the sound to feel quite loud. This then prohibits playing loudly because it would damage my ears.

Also Ive noticed that the high notes played loudly, sound louder than the bass notes played loudly. So to get bass resonance 'feeling' the volume needs to be higher, but then the treble is too loud. Can't seem to fix this with EQ because it doesn't apply at lower volumes, where the treble is then not loud enough.
There are several factors involved in perceived dynamic levels. As newer_player mentioned, our hearing frequency response changes as the volume changes. In one respect, this should have no effect on how we hear an acoustic or a digital piano, if they both produce frequency matched acoustic output. Your ears evolved to have a a peak response between 3000 and 4000Hz, or about G7 to C8.

The other factor is that a piano, even a concert grand, produces very little energy below 100Hz, and next to no energy at all below 60Hz. An S&S D concert grand soundboard has a low frequency resonant mode of about 60 Hz, or C2. Below that the soundboard is incapable of producing significant response to the low frequency strings, so most of the lower frequency energy is lost to vibration and a little directly to the air from the string. This is easily shown on an FFT of a low note.

So, any attempt to EQ the DPs output will be unrealistic. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it however. The result may be more satisfying, even if unreal.

Additional physical vibration is something, I gather, that some DPs are starting to offer.

Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
prout #2779896 11/10/18 06:30 PM
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Originally Posted by prout
[quote=danlightbulb]The other factor is that a piano, even a concert grand, produces very little energy below 100Hz, and next to no energy at all below 60Hz.


Indeed. A grand piano produces just a bit of these low frequencies, which I suppose we perceive with our ears and maybe feel with our body also. Headphones can't reproduce those low frequencies and "visceral sensations".

A transducer vibrating the case is used in some Yamaha AvantGrand pianos to provide some of those "visceral sensations" but I am not sure how much that really helps. You can DIY one with a little amp for the cost of a few light bulbs to see if it works for you.

A good loudspeakers/subwoofer setup can run pretty flat to 20Hz. It improves the piano experience but is expensive and requires a lot of set-up. Frankly, that effort makes a more meaningful difference for recorded music or action movies.

These days I just use some Japanese headphones with big 70mm drivers for good low fq response.

Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
danlightbulb #2779914 11/10/18 07:32 PM
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Just been messing around on the piano again.

I think the problem i have underpinning all this superficial stuff is that I dont know how I want my piano to sound.

I was just playing two pieces. I giorni which should sound very beautiful and warm, and The Entertainer which should sound old and western.

Ive been trying my hardest to find a pianoteq sound which makes I giorni sound good and I cant. Even the piano presets labelled as warm dont seem to sound right, because it sounds muffled, as if the piano has a blanket wrapped round it. But if i go for a brighter piano then it loses all the warm undertones and beauty that it should have.

With the ragtime piece ive been experimenting with the honky tonk sounds but as im not familiar with those types of pianos i dont know how it should sound. With a standard piano it feels like the ragtime is missing something.

Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
danlightbulb #2779921 11/10/18 08:03 PM
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Dan ... you're hearing in Pianoteq what I've been hearing for years.

You describe it as being wrapped in a blanket.
I describe it as a piano that's just not "here". It's somewhere else.

I've never liked Pianoteq. I've had great hopes, but they've been dashed time and again.
Meanwhile I have a BIG bunch of sampled VSTs that sound better. Those are what I use.

After being disappointed with versions Pianoteq 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 I no longer expect anything good from it.

So ... have you tried any of the many sampled VST libraries?

Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
MacMacMac #2779926 11/10/18 08:23 PM
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Originally Posted by MacMacMac


So ... have you tried any of the many sampled VST libraries?


No because they dont seem to be available as demos, and are expensive. Do you know of any I can get in demo/ trial mode?

This is the kind of sound id like for ragtime:
https://youtu.be/EEfsLzwTCxM
Skip to about 1:20.

Last edited by danlightbulb; 11/10/18 08:26 PM.
Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
danlightbulb #2779937 11/10/18 09:21 PM
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I have the exact same issue and it’s why I finally bought a grand. At lessons I could never properly translate dynamics to the grand without a lot of practice on it after solely practicing on digitals. I’m playing more complicated classical works so this may not be a problem for everyone.

Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
danlightbulb #2779969 11/11/18 03:04 AM
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Well, most VSTs are no more expensive than Pianoteq. I don't know of any with a demo, but there are gobs of videos online to give you a feel for the sound quality.
Originally Posted by danlightbulb
Originally Posted by MacMacMac
So ... have you tried any of the many sampled VST libraries?
No because they dont seem to be available as demos, and are expensive. Do you know of any I can get in demo/ trial mode?

Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
newer player #2779989 11/11/18 05:15 AM
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Originally Posted by newer player
Originally Posted by prout
[quote=danlightbulb]The other factor is that a piano, even a concert grand, produces very little energy below 100Hz, and next to no energy at all below 60Hz.

Indeed. A grand piano produces just a bit of these low frequencies, which I suppose we perceive with our ears and maybe feel with our body also. Headphones can't reproduce those low frequencies and "visceral sensations".


Naturally HPs can't make your body shake (though sometimes the HPs shake on your head. :D).
Mine can play frequencies down to 25Hz w/o much problems and the DT880 aren't even expensive high end.

As for the volume issues: yeah, if you have sensitive ears and good headphones, the high notes are going to sting at higher volumes. There is no way around that, because these notes sting on a real grand too. When my teacher digs into her grand, it is completely and entirely too loud for comfort.

Still not as bad as a piccolo in octave 2+ though... that's one mean S.O.B. mandating earplugs. >.<

IMHO, you have to do a translation in your head. Be aware that you are practicing on HPs and that they are quieter than the real deal and then adjust accordingly when playing the grand.

Only other options I see would be
a) get a good speaker setup
b) get an acoustic


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Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
danlightbulb #2780252 11/11/18 11:47 PM
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Does anyone else get a rather harsh overtone around the range of a couple of octaves above middle C?

I hope it's nothing wrong with my ears. I get it off my acoustic a bit, I'm just thinking - is this what you describe as "sting"? That's a good description.

I don't get it from all pianos, but some recordings and pianos it is most prevalent. Sometimes even with just one or two particular notes. It kind of makes me want to roll off that particular frequency with a notch filter or something.

Other people don't seem to be able to hear it when I ask them, so I was worried it was something wrong with my hearing.

Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
Zaphod #2780305 11/12/18 07:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Zaphod
Does anyone else get a rather harsh overtone around the range of a couple of octaves above middle C?

I hope it's nothing wrong with my ears. I get it off my acoustic a bit, I'm just thinking - is this what you describe as "sting"? That's a good description.

I don't get it from all pianos, but some recordings and pianos it is most prevalent. Sometimes even with just one or two particular notes. It kind of makes me want to roll off that particular frequency with a notch filter or something.

Other people don't seem to be able to hear it when I ask them, so I was worried it was something wrong with my hearing.

Yes, I also hear some "stinging" overtones on the CA98 (especially on the 5th octave and with headphones) and even on PianoTeq. Some overtones sound "stronger" on the acoustic grand I play in lessons, especially when the main lid is partially open (I usually play it just with the front lid folded back)...

Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
prout #2780487 11/12/18 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by prout
The other factor is that a piano, even a concert grand, produces very little energy below 100Hz, and next to no energy at all below 60Hz.


Yes, but we do hear something when we press keys in the lowest couple octaves -- we hear the overtones.


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Re: How do you deal with volume over headphones?
JohnSprung #2780491 11/12/18 08:15 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung
Originally Posted by prout
The other factor is that a piano, even a concert grand, produces very little energy below 100Hz, and next to no energy at all below 60Hz.


Yes, but we do hear something when we press keys in the lowest couple octaves -- we hear the overtones.


Absolutely, and it is precisely the relative amplitudes of the partials (overtones) that allow us to identify the notes as being C1 or B0, and not C2 and B1, even though the fundamental frequency is essentially missing in C1 and B0.

The point in this discussion, is that the neither the speakers nor headphones need to have extended low frequency response, because there is nothing to reproduce. I say that, but my headhones used for my DPs have good low frequency response.

Nevertheless, I clearly hear, with effort, the fundamental of C2 (~65Hz) and feel the fundamental vibration of C1 on my 7’ AG.

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