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New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
#2812953 02/10/19 12:31 AM
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So, I have been thinking some interesting stuff lately regarding the future of digital pianos and how it relates to our hobby and the classical music world at large.

Some quick background on me - attended conservatory that was a Steinway school (so I played on a lot of nice acoustics) and have a piano degree. I own a Hallet and Davis 5'7 instrument that I have had for 14 years, so a mid-low end acoustic grand. I owned a Kawai CA51 digital for years, and recently got a Kawai NV10 hybrid (which has had some reliability issues, but the action is absolutely out of this world good).

Needless to say, I learned how to play on many different acoustic grands. When in college, I got a CA51 - which at the time had one of the best actions for a digital piano. But it was very obviously still a digital piano action despite the wooden keybed. Too light, and there were a few technical things I could not really do with it when it came to the most difficult passages in certain concertos. That being said - it was an excellent workhorse instrument for learning notes and getting the basics down. But the problem was, it was not an instrument that I could polish a piece on and have it translate to an acoustic. You couldn't execute the same kind of phrasing, and you couldn't develop your technique. I got TIRED when I practiced exclusively on the CA51 for a couple of months and then played the same piece on an acoustic. It just didn't translate.

Moving on several years, I now have owned a Kawai Novus NV10 for a few months. And as i said, it has had some reliability issues with the hammers. And the speakers are garbage! However, the action is insane. I played it side by side with a Shigeru acoustic and it felt absolutely identical to me. When I combine that with good headphones/speakers and Pianoteq calibrated with a good velocity curve and some auditory tweaking, I have run into the opposite problem.

Not only does my NV10 have an action that is better than 99.9% of acoustic instruments, the level of phrasing and expressivity I am able to achieve with ease on it is better than all but maybe the top two or three acoustic pianos I have ever played in my life. In many ways, I prefer playing the digital.

In terms of carryover to an acoustic instrument, I have found that from a stamina issue that has now been solved. Technically, I can do the same things on the NV10 and acoustic pianos. However, from an expressivity standpoint I am now finding that it takes me a significant period of time to adjust to an acoustic instrument to achieve the same level of musical phrasing and expressivity (if it's even possible).

The NV10 and Pianoteq are just so perfect every time, it's easy to achieve what I want. And then you get used to that, and build your technique subconsciously around that to take advantage of the higher level of expressivity. And what I am now finding is that unless I sit down at a freshly prepped Steinway D or Shigeru (which only happens maybe once a year, if that), it's actually more difficult for me to adapt to acoustics because they are so inconsistent.

Just thought it was an interesting anecdote as these new hybrids like the Yamahas and Kawais come out and more and more people buy them. If an amateur player never has to worry about performing on-stage and transitioning their technique to an acoustic, I think it's hard now to argue for any reason to purchase one instead of a digital hybrid. I would bet money that most people would play better and produce better recordings on a digital hybrid than an average acoustic. I wonder if we are witnessing the end of the acoustic piano in the home and church environment?

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Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
computerpro3 #2812957 02/10/19 12:56 AM
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I saw you mentioned you intend to work on improving NV10's speaker systems on your own. I was about to ask you why don't you just consider buying an acoustic piano as it seems you practice on speaker systems more often than headphone?

I owned a CA78 and a GX2 and I spend most of time with GX2 as I feel more enjoyable to play on an acustic piano. Acustic piano is indeed more difficult to control especially when you perform with the piano that is not your own and you need to get used to the inconsistency and find a way to adapt. The good about acoustic piano is that it would last longer than digital (even though you might need to get more services when acoustic pianos are really old). If a digital piano is broken after the warranty years, you might have hard time getting it fixed if the parts/component are EOL. I personally don't think acoustic piano market in the home and church environment will be ended.

Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
Kenny Cheng #2813016 02/10/19 07:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Kenny Cheng
I saw you mentioned you intend to work on improving NV10's speaker systems on your own. I was about to ask you why don't you just consider buying an acoustic piano as it seems you practice on speaker systems more often than headphone?

I owned a CA78 and a GX2 and I spend most of time with GX2 as I feel more enjoyable to play on an acustic piano. Acustic piano is indeed more difficult to control especially when you perform with the piano that is not your own and you need to get used to the inconsistency and find a way to adapt. The good about acoustic piano is that it would last longer than digital (even though you might need to get more services when acoustic pianos are really old). If a digital piano is broken after the warranty years, you might have hard time getting it fixed if the parts/component are EOL. I personally don't think acoustic piano market in the home and church environment will be ended.


I think that the question is more the opposite, why would you buy an AP... But I’ll let computerpro3 answer this.
I would just like to point out that no, APs don’t necessarily outlast DPs. A DP can last a lifetime and may not need any maintenanance during this time. Instead an AP will need tuning and even restoring (I had to completely restore my baby grand after 30 years...)
Of course this is provided that you don’t feel the need to upgrade your DP, which, if you really like the action, and use virtual pianos for sound, you may not need to...


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Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
Digitalguy #2813018 02/10/19 07:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Digitalguy
A DP can last a lifetime and may not need any maintenanance during this time.


DPs haven't been around for a lifetime yet so I don't think you can make this claim with any credibility. I think it's very unlikely a DP would last a lifetime (say, 70 years - how many other consumer electronic devices have lasted that long?). So not a lifetime, except in the odd freak circumstance. And, regardless of the thing's overall durability, of course after ten years or so the tone generator in it has become rather outdated.


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Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
computerpro3 #2813072 02/10/19 11:07 AM
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I have had a number of digital pianos wear out on me, usually the contact strips. I have also broken one, but that’s because I carry them around, which I do not do with my acoustic grand! They are different instruments. But neither will last a lifetime without maintenance. If you are a serious piano player, there are very good reasons to have a real piano.


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Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
Digitalguy #2813081 02/10/19 11:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Digitalguy

I would just like to point out that no, APs don’t necessarily outlast DPs. A DP can last a lifetime and may not need any maintenanance during this time. Instead an AP will need tuning and even restoring (I had to completely restore my baby grand after 30 years...)


I don't agree with this at all. I've taught in enough digital piano labs (regular use environment) of various ages and been around enough gigging musicians to see digital pianos wear out and break, whether it's contact strips, broken keys, other action parts, headphone jacks, capacitors, and so on. I went on a tour once with a guy who played so hard that he literally broke most digital pianos he touched, but he had the means to just keep replacing things. In a home environment, I have no doubt that anything above an entry-level, cheapest components possible digital piano can last 20 years, but not indefinitely.

A mid to high-end acoustic piano in a light to moderate usage home environment should last 50 years before needing major rebuilding work. You can cut that number in half for the highest intensity, institutional use, or situations with particularly nasty humidity extremes.


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Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
computerpro3 #2813085 02/10/19 11:58 AM
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Precisely! Keys break. Contact pads break. But worst of all ... control electronics break down. If these are obsolete the piano may be un-repairable.

Getting ten years out of a digital is not surprising. Twenty years is pushing it. But an acoustic upright can be expected to last at least twice that long.

Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
computerpro3 #2813087 02/10/19 12:05 PM
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Just curious computerpro3, before you got your NV10, you certainly tried out the AG's but you never bought one of those. Yet this thread is about the "new" hybrid digitals and not just on the NV10, so you obviously are conceptually including the AGs in your discussion/comparison. I assume that means you don't think they are horrible. So how do you think the keyboard actions of the N1, N2, N3 compare with the NV10 keyboard action?


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Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
Tyrone Slothrop #2813093 02/10/19 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Just curious computerpro3, before you got your NV10, you certainly tried out the AG's but you never bought one of those. Yet this thread is about the "new" hybrid digitals and not just on the NV10, so you obviously are conceptually including the AGs in your discussion/comparison. I assume that means you don't think they are horrible. So how do you think the keyboard actions of the N1, N2, N3 compare with the NV10 keyboard action?


I thought they were very good, I just preferred the action of the Kawai. I also prefer Kawai and Steinway acoustic actions over Yamaha as well. But I definitely think they are good enough to include on this thread.

I think there are two interesting things here: I want to make sure people realize I am specifically talking about the basically the NV10 and Yamaha Avantgrands. No other digital piano qualifies at all.

Second, everyone is talking about reliability arguments - and that is absolutely fair. However, my main point was more along the lines of a performance standpoint. It takes at least a $50k instrument to get an action as good as the NV10 in the acoustic world, and then the instrument has to be maintained religiously and kept in proper temperature, humidity, etc to stay as controllable and expressive as the NV10 is and will remain indefinitely. I choose my NV10 every single time vs. my acoustic grand which admittedly, is not a Steinway. However, I would choose my acoustic grand 10/10 times over the Steinways in the practice room back at school because they were not maintained as well as my personal grand is.

So I guess what I'm saying is, it takes a $50-100k grand exclusively, well maintained, to approach the level of expressiveness and ease I can accomplish on a NV10 or Avantgrand. And that has profound implications to the piano industry, given an entry level Avantgrand is $8k...

Frankly, it's probably a good thing. I think these hybrid instruments have the possibility to really increase the availability of top-flight instruments to younger kids, which is only a good thing for classical music.

Last edited by computerpro3; 02/10/19 12:22 PM.
Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
computerpro3 #2813094 02/10/19 12:26 PM
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Computerpro3 you would be a brave person indeed to post this on the classical forum! You would be run out of town on a piano board.

But, having to make a switch to digital from acoustic myself due to circumstances, I can believe what you say. Though the MP11se I now play is not really close to my Steinway B, it is more than adequate and adaptable. I have not played the Novus, but maybe someone can acknowledge how much of a step up it is compared to the GF1 action.

A dp that costs $8000 does not have to last a lifetime, but I can see that one or two decades is easily possible. And that, for me, would be a lifetime. Nice to hear somebody who is really satisfied with 21 St century tech.


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Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
IosPlayer #2813099 02/10/19 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by IosPlayer
Computerpro3 you would be a brave person indeed to post this on the classical forum! You would be run out of town on a piano board.

But, having to make a switch to digital from acoustic myself due to circumstances, I can believe what you say. Though the MP11se I now play is not really close to my Steinway B, it is more than adequate and adaptable. I have not played the Novus, but maybe someone can acknowledge how much of a step up it is compared to the GF1 action.

A dp that costs $8000 does not have to last a lifetime, but I can see that one or two decades is easily possible. And that, for me, would be a lifetime. Nice to hear somebody who is really satisfied with 21 St century tech.


They can run me out of town if they want, but to be taken seriously I would just verify that those doing the most complaining:

1. Have a classical piano performance degree and/or play at college or professional level
2. Have spent years playing 20+ different Steinways/Yamahas/Bosendorfers/etc 4+hrs a day
3. Own a NV10 or Avantgrand (NV10 for me)
4. Own a regular digital piano (CA51 for me)
5. Own an acoustic grand (Hallet and Davis)

Since the hybrids are so new to market, I think it's a pretty small subset of people that do. Probably maybe a hundred in the USA at this point, if that. Which is part of the reason I made this thread, I think these new instruments are game changing once they start spreading, cost comes down, and more people get to live with them.

Last edited by computerpro3; 02/10/19 12:50 PM.
Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
computerpro3 #2813105 02/10/19 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by computerpro3
So I guess what I'm saying is, it takes a $50-100k grand exclusively, well maintained, to approach the level of expressiveness and ease I can accomplish on a NV10 or Avantgrand. And that has profound implications to the piano industry, given an entry level Avantgrand is $8k...

I agree with you that hybrid is the future of piano. Though your main problem with the Novus seems to be the sound projection through speakers. And that can be fixed by adding back the parts from an acoustic piano still missing to get a true hybrid instrument.

The end result can be an really expressive, good sounding piano, with a rather small footprint at a much more affordable (upright) price.


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Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
computerpro3 #2813134 02/10/19 02:59 PM
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To the OP: I agree that the action on the NV10 is mindblowing. Coupled with pianoteq and a good pair of headphones - yes, expressiveness and control are better than what you can get on all but the very very best acoustic grands, and only when they are properly maintained and regulated.

But it seems to me that you are approaching this from a technical perspective - that of the (classical) player who wants to practice, learn pieces, etc. Perhaps also from the perspective of the studio player, or recording artist.

But how about the other part of the equation - the sound of the instrument? A proper grand in a large enough room - there is just no way that the speakers of a DP or headphones can recreate that sonic experience. For me, the joy of playing a good acoustic piano also has to do with the sound, the tone, how it fills a room with sound, and how I interact with the tone and sound the instrument creates. I'm fairly confident that DPs won't get there sonicly for quite some time.

Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
computerpro3 #2813144 02/10/19 03:25 PM
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About 6 years ago, I signed up for a freshman level piano taught at the local university. I was the oldest person in the group class of twenty students. In class we used Roland DPs. At home I had my Yamaha. Many of the students staying in the dorms were lucky to have a small keyboard to use for practice. They did have small practice labs (closet sized room with not well maintained studio uprights) with long waiting lists for appointments. I did have one recital on a Steinway that was in tune. Most of my tests were on the Toands. Because I practiced on an acoustic grand, I no longer worried as much about which piano I was playing, I could probably “handle whatever” as long as I had my sheet music. Daily practice on an acoustic helps us “keep our chops” so to speak. Ive heard that many guitar players consider acoustic much more challenging than jamming on that Stratocaster.


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Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
computerpro3 #2813150 02/10/19 03:48 PM
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Others have noted the typical components that wear out on a digital, but specifically related to the current generation of true hybrids, one of the things that has been mentioned to fail after 1-2 decades is the optical sensing system, in particular the LED emitters. The GranTouch of a hybrid that predates the AvantGrand, and this is one of the things owners/butters have reported having to service or replace.


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Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
j&j #2813156 02/10/19 03:58 PM
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And that is his point, J&J. These hybrids have an acoustic action. Moving from a CS11 to the NV10 was a bit of a challenge. As good as the CS11 is, the action on the NV10 is so much more responsive and, well, sensitive to touch. Good for a pro, but requires the novice be more precise. Of the pianos I have played, other than perhaps some expensive high end grands at a Kawai store in Orange County, this action feels the best. It is way better than the grand pianos my two previous teaches had. Since I bought mine, I browsed at a used piano store and tried several brands and sizes. I did not prefer any of them to mine. The action was heavy and clunky, even the sound was either too shrill or too loud, or too boomy. That being said, I will agree with you. If my circumstances changed, I would buy a grand. However, it would be tuned and regulated to be as good as the Novus, but with a real a acoustic sound.



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Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
EssBrace #2813222 02/10/19 06:33 PM
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Originally Posted by EssBrace
Originally Posted by Digitalguy
A DP can last a lifetime and may not need any maintenanance during this time.


DPs haven't been around for a lifetime yet so I don't think you can make this claim with any credibility. I think it's very unlikely a DP would last a lifetime (say, 70 years - how many other consumer electronic devices have lasted that long?). So not a lifetime, except in the odd freak circumstance. And, regardless of the thing's overall durability, of course after ten years or so the tone generator in it has become rather outdated.


There is no more credibility in your comment than in mine. You cannot say for sure more than I do since consumer electronics haven’t existed for 70 years. Of course when I say “can last” I mean in ideal conditions, such as using them only at home a keeping them clean etc. as you would do with an AP. My 1993 GEM keyboard (not a DP, but similar enough) still works and while I had to do a small repair a couple of years ago it was nowhere as expensive as for my 30 year old AP. And thanks to MiDI (one of the first to have it) I can use any virtual piano with it. I expect my other DPs and keybords to last me for decades to come as I only play at home and keep them clean (and I don’t play a lot since it’s a hobby for me). Again this is only a “reasonable prediction”, and only time will tell.


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Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
computerpro3 #2813236 02/10/19 06:51 PM
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My PX-330's action certainly didn't last a lifetime, but I suppose if I keep replacing it the unit as a whole might. (it's on it's second one now, but it now either needs repairing or replacing) Home use only and actually not all that much playing, but I do hammer it when I do play.

Greg.

Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
Digitalguy #2813242 02/10/19 06:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Digitalguy
There is no more credibility in your comment than in mine. You cannot say for sure more than I do since consumer electronics haven’t existed for 70 years.



Electronic components fail, no matter how sparingly they are used or how clean your house is. It is clear you are going to have to find that out the hard way. You may have a 1993 keyboard. I have a 1986 digital piano, which I have been playing today as a matter of fact. It still works perfectly. Nothing has ever failed on it (yet). But it will not last a lifetime, of that I am completely certain.


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Re: New hybrid digital pianos "too good" compared to acoustic?
sullivang #2813243 02/10/19 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by sullivang
My PX-330's action certainly didn't last a lifetime, but I suppose if I keep replacing it the unit as a whole might. (it's on it's second one now, but it now either needs repairing or replacing) Home use only and actually not all that much playing, but I do hammer it when I do play.

Greg.


That's like saying you've had the same floor mop for 50 years - and in that time it's had five replacement handles and ten replacement heads!


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