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Upgrade Arius, Built-in Audio of DP's & Audio Input
#2939757 01/28/20 02:19 PM
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Greetings All,

It's the year 2020, and I have a Yamaha Arius YDP-C71PE (basically a rebadged YDP-161: GH keyboard, no synthetic ivory, 20w x 2 speakers, no aux in; circa ~2012-2014) that my son and I have been using to learn piano for the past 14 months. I've had a great time diving into some classical repertoire for the first time.

I've been debating (mostly with myself) on whether it might be worthwhile upgrading my current set up to use with PianoTeq as the sound source. I scope out used treasures as a hobby and on any given day I can usually find a ~5 to 20 year old Clavinova or Roland DP for under $400, sometimes for $150 or less requiring some mild maintenance.

The main pain point I'd be trying to solve is eliminating the external speakers, amp (and all of the cables/space/plugs associated with that) and just plugging the laptop into the audio in of the piano. Any other upgrades would be bonus.


Key Questions:
* for those with console-style DPs (esp with audio-in jacks), is anyone EVER extremely impressed with the built-in speakers? The goal here would be to plug in my laptop's audio output and elegantly play Pianoteq through the built-in speakers without adding additional external speakers.
* regarding the keyboard action - Has keyboard technology actually changed much at all over the past 2 decades? I'm most familiar with Yamaha - GH/GH3/Real Wood have been offered on various models since ~2000. Has the Roland feel changed much?
* if we had to quantify the impact of synthetic ivory, is this a big difference or more of nice to have?
* For PianoTeq - my Arius does not send note-off velocity. Is this important to look for?
* Some Clavinovas list 4-level sampling (I think my Arius lists 3-level sampling)

A real world example would be a ~2008 Clavinova CLP-340. GH3 keyboard, synthetic ivory, 40w x 2 speakers (twice the power), aux in, 4-level sampling for built-in piano. Particularly if I'm looking to use PianoTeq, this looks like an upgrade across the board - am I missing something? I reckon speaker design and wear and tear are things I can't gauge without seeing the instrument first hand.

(most current-model Clavinovas tend to have lower power speakers than this, but Yamaha seems to have changed the placement of the speakers and has introduced secondary speakers to add more depth)

Re: Upgrade Arius, Built-in Audio of DP's & Audio Input
technomaster #2939781 01/28/20 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by technomaster
* for those with console-style DPs (esp with audio-in jacks), is anyone EVER extremely impressed with the built-in speakers? The goal here would be to plug in my laptop's audio output and elegantly play Pianoteq through the built-in speakers without adding additional external speakers.

I was impressed enough with the 2x 15+5W internal speakers of my Yamaha P-515 slab, that I didn't see the need to add external ones. But was even more impressed by the built-in CFX tone, so that I didn't saw the need for Pianoteq anymore, despite having a built-in Steinberg ASIO USB audio interface for full DAW integration.

Quote
* regarding the keyboard action - Has keyboard technology actually changed much at all over the past 2 decades? I'm most familiar with Yamaha - GH/GH3/Real Wood have been offered on various models since ~2000. Has the Roland feel changed much?


The sensor scanning has been improved. The current generation NWX sends both Note-On and Note-Off velocity through three sensors and the internal tone generator uses that.

Quote
Some Clavinovas list 4-level sampling (I think my Arius lists 3-level sampling)


Since the discontinuation of the AWM engine in Clavinova pianos, you don't get sample layers listed in datasheets anymore. But the sample memory size still increases the more you pay.


Yamaha P-515 | Kawai ES100 | Steinberg UR22 | Sony MDR-7506
Re: Upgrade Arius, Built-in Audio of DP's & Audio Input
technomaster #2939841 01/28/20 04:46 PM
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Have you looked at the speaker arrangement inside a console piano? How does that compare with the construction of any outboard speaker?
Originally Posted by technomaster
... for those with console-style DPs (esp with audio-in jacks), is anyone EVER extremely impressed with the built-in speakers?
The in-built speakers are nothing short of terrible. The use of such an arrangment on a cheap or low-end piano is understandable. But it's not much different on the high-end goods and that is a disgrace.

I would not consider feeding an external sound source, Pianoteq or otherwise, into the speakers of a console piano. External monitors may be a nuisance. But they sound good.


The answer to this is yes and no.
Originally Posted by technomaster
Has keyboard technology actually changed much at all over the past 2 decades? I'm most familiar with Yamaha - GH/GH3/Real Wood have been offered on various models since ~2000. Has the Roland feel changed much?
The low-end has inherited some of the better keyboard actions. But the only real improvements have been in the upper range units. And it seems that your are not considering those.

Regardless, the tech doesn't matter. The results do. Try some of them for yourself and render your own judgement.

Make your own judgement here, too ...
Originally Posted by technomaster
If we had to quantify the impact of synthetic ivory, is this a big difference or more of nice to have?
But if you want my opinion ... stick to the smooth-surfaced keytops, whether synth ivory or not. There have been a number of rough textured sythetic keys that just don't pass muster. Very nasty.

I think those are no longer made ... and I've not seen them in the shops lately. But you say you're looking for an older, used item. You might find the rough textured synth ivory on those. Just say no to them.

This is not important ...
Quote
My Arius does not send note-off velocity. Is this important to look for?
Don't focus on tech. Focus on touch and sound. Nothing else matters.


If you intend to use a virtual instrument this is not relevant ...
Originally Posted by technomaster
Some Clavinovas list 4-level sampling (I think my Arius lists 3-level sampling)


This piano is too old.
Originally Posted by technomaster
A real world example would be a ~2008 Clavinova CLP-340. ... this looks like an upgrade across the board. Am I missing something?
I have a piano just slightly older and it's worn. It's ready for the dustbin. I would not consider any piano older than five years.

Summary: You seem to want an improved piano. But you want to buy an older, used piano. Those two wishes may be incompatible.

Re: Upgrade Arius, Built-in Audio of DP's & Audio Input
technomaster #2940053 01/29/20 03:08 AM
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FWIW (likely bias) --

Take your current DP -- the GH action is reasonably good.

Connect it via MID to a PC, run Pianoteq on the PC,
. . . run the PC's headphone output into a pair of powered monitor speakers with 5" or larger woofers.

(Those monitors will probably have over 100 watts of total output power, likely bi-amplified, and properly-baffled drivers. )

You can rent the monitors, and use the "demo" version of Pianoteq for testing.

. . . See if you like that setup.

You might decide to keep the Arius -- the GH keyboard is the only part you'll be using.


. Charles
---------------------------
PX-350 / microKorg XL+ / Pianoteq / Lounge Lizard / EV ZXA1 speaker
Re: Upgrade Arius, Built-in Audio of DP's & Audio Input
technomaster #2940234 01/29/20 12:58 PM
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Thank you all for the responses.

In general I'm fine with my Arius DP and I think this thread confirms much of my thinking. I'm a multi-instrumentalist and studied music education 20 years ago at a university. I spent a lot of time sitting in practice rooms fitted with Yamaha U1's and similar, in various states of tuning and maintenance, mostly while primarily practicing other instruments. smile My Yamaha Arius C71PE's keyboard feel is in the neighborhood of those pianos. One thing I've become more conscious of in the past 2-3 months is that there's tremendous variation among real pianos of different makes, models, and eras. In terms of real performance, there's a mental advantage to not being so locked into a certain feel. I recently played a Steinway concert grand at my old college and the keys felt loose and imprecise ("broken in"), I perceived latency (it's a big instrument!), and the sound sounded very spread out (well, again, it's a big grand!). But a trained pianist told me that, "wow, this piano's great!" Whaaa! It took a few minutes to become familiar with it, then it just became another piano - albeit a big $40k+ piano. I've also had the pleasure of playing on a consumer Baldwin console piano from the 1980s. Again, a very different experience.

So my standard for a DP is whether it's good enough to learn good technique on, so that when I perform on other equipment my skills will translate without much fanfare. (at a piano recital, it's not uncommon to be playing on an unfamiliar instrument, and rarely do you have an opportunity to warm up on the piano before performing) Part of playing piano, to me, is accepting that I'll need to be adaptable to different set ups.

But we're also talking about what's a good enough set up for home use and whether there's an opportunity to improve it with just a modest investment.

I found the P515 comment regarding the sound quality interesting. I'd imagine my Arius's sound system (if it were a PC) would be akin to While my Arius lists AWM generation and CFIIIs samples. I reckon this really quantifies as mid-2000s processing power, imagine a Pentium 4, 512gb ram, and a smallish sample library 256mb. If Yamaha used even 10 year old technology in their CFX sound, imagine what you might be able to do with a Core i5, 4gb ram, and 2gb of samples.

The other factor remains the meh state of affairs for built-in speakers on DPs. My main question was really whether the internal speakers of a DP might be able to drive Pianoteq sufficiently - the general sense I've gotten is that I'd get better results with my own external speakers. Fair enough. I have some decent speakers to play with so if this is the best way, I'll make due (I have KRK Rokit6 monitor speakers, though I worry about their weight wearing down the DP, plus they're way too close to my head than ideal; I've most recently been using a small amp with some vintage Optimus Pro LX5's; in either case I probably should think about creating a shelf or get some free standing speaker stands.).

Lastly, given that it's rare to find a good showroom to playtest the different permutations of features and functionalities, we often fall victim to specs (and online forums!) as the best way to understand the landscape. I've stepped into a Guitar Center recently, and more often than not they don't have the model you want on display. So much of we do relies on looking at specs and making our best guesses. And particularly in the case of used instruments, I can't do an apples to apples comparison - usually there's 1 instrument to play on and I'd have to do my best to evaluate the DP in isolation.

The key here is doing this all on a budget. With a music educator mentality (geared toward inspiring others to get started and push to the intermediate level), I want to help advise parents (of child learners) and adult beginners on how to get going without a big investment upfront - they can spend the money saved on lessons. smile

For $400 or less, I'd feel reasonably pretty good recommending a used mid-2000s Clavinova (or Roland or Casio) with a GH/GH3 or equivalent would be a better buy than almost any new DP at that price range (let's say a Korg B1SP, anything Williams, Yamaha P45, Low end Casio, or what folks often start with, non-weighted Yamaha or Casios). And they'd still have to grow with MIDI and software instruments.

So regarding the CLP-340. It meets or surpasses the specs of my current DP. I guess all that's stopping me is $150 and whether the wife will be mad that I'm taking up a lot of space with another piano. But think of all of the dueling piano opportunities... smile

Re: Upgrade Arius, Built-in Audio of DP's & Audio Input
technomaster #2940259 01/29/20 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by technomaster

I found the P515 comment regarding the sound quality interesting. I'd imagine my Arius's sound system (if it were a PC) would be akin to While my Arius lists AWM generation and CFIIIs samples. I reckon this really quantifies as mid-2000s processing power, imagine a Pentium 4, 512gb ram, and a smallish sample library 256mb. If Yamaha used even 10 year old technology in their CFX sound, imagine what you might be able to do with a Core i5, 4gb ram, and 2gb of samples.

AWM is technology Yamaha introduced in the year 1990, the CLP-340 uses that too. Yamaha introduced the successor RGE in 2011 into the Clavinova series and later the tone generator from the Avant Grand trickled down.

Overall Yamaha stopped using fancy names for their technologies. But you can tell that even the current Arius features the same old 192 polyphony tone generator with the new CFX sample (beside whopping 9 other voices). The P-515 seems to share its with the CLP-645 - which is an entirely different world.

My assessment is that what you have there technology-wise you can buy new as a Yamaha P-45 with a slightly inferior keyboard action.


Yamaha P-515 | Kawai ES100 | Steinberg UR22 | Sony MDR-7506

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