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#3073470 01/24/21 03:49 PM
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As the proper followup on Cybrid and Jay's version of it, DIY transacoustic (aka soundboard speaker system) seem to be the next natural step

Has anyone on this forum attempted it just yet (and perhaps reported it while I was sleeping)?

I've just discovered that it's pretty simple and inexpensive to do it (if you have a laptop, amplifier and acoustic piano -- digital keyboard optional smile ) using one of these: https://www.daytonaudio.com/category/180/exciters

Looking at the specs this one seem the most suitable and I'm going to buy it and try it: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00PY670GC/ -- note the amazon review by the French guy (Robin Pauletto) who has already done it! Man, are you on this forum with a pseudonymous (I can't find anybody with that name)? Anyone else?

I am wondering if this approach make the traditional digital sound (which for lack of better word I always refer as "fake") into something more realistic. I can (and will) waste $16 to find out, but if other have already attempted (or intend to), let's share what we know! So far I know pretty little, basically just what these videos tell about "Distributed Mode Loudspeakers (DML)" aka soundboard speaker system






My take on those videos is: it works amazing well with pretty much any material, most commonly used with pink insulation to get inexpensive but "high quality" (whatever that means) regular speakers. But I don't care about regular speaker. From small cues in these videos and several other sources, it "sounds" (pardon the pun) it would work best with wood for certain sounds like the piano, especially for the bass.... The problem is wood needs to be thin and large, hence either fragile, expensive or both, such as end-grain balsa (very fragile, medium cost) or resonant spruce (less fragile, much more expensive), so most DIY projects stick to the pink insulation (and usually paint it).

Wait, I already have it a quite large piece of resonant spruce! And you may have it too! The soundboard of our acoustic piano seems to be ideal for the purpose...

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A guy on the internet slaps a 'ducer onto a foam board, calls it a speaker, and claims it sounds great. Is that about it?

Repeat after me: I BELIEVE EVERYTHING I SEE ON THE INTERNET.

I saw his video a couple of years ago. If there were anything to this then there would be some entrepreneur selling something like this, right? But ... is there?

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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
A guy on the internet slaps a 'ducer onto a foam board, calls it a speaker, and claims it sounds great. Is that about it?

Repeat after me: I BELIEVE EVERYTHING I SEE ON THE INTERNET.

I saw his video a couple of years ago. If there were anything to this then there would be some entrepreneur selling something like this, right? But ... is there?

As a scientist, I don't believe anything (seen on the internet or seen anywhere else) until it's been reproduced at will. In fact I am not believing the videos I quoted, and (with all due respect) I don't believe what you say on this or other PW threads laugh
Actually, I still can't believe people when they say that computer-based pianos sound great (as you probably remember from other threads), but I digress a bit... just a bit because this soundboard speaker is an experiment to prove myself if I can make those computer-based pianos sound something better than just decent, and become at least equal to the worse non-spinet acoustic piano.

Hence I am trying to reproduce this experiment (with piano soundboard not foam board for the reason I stated in my original post) and before doing so I'm asking if anyone has done it already! What's wrong with that, that triggered such response of yours????

Regarding "is there anybody selling anything like this" in our field there is Kawai NV-5, the full top of the line Kawai CA series not to mention the transacoustic upright pianos from both Yamaha and Kawai. So your implicit claim that there is "nobody" doing that does not stand (assuming that I am interpreting your question/sarcasm right, hard to do it properly online, sorry if I misunderstood).

For "regular" speakers, besides that I don't care as I stated (and hence I did not investigate much), the best materials are too large and fragile to be "shippable" a key requirement for anybody making a business out of this. So even if there is actually nobody doing it, that may be due to limitations not related to the quality of the sound which is what I care here.

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There should be a thread on the partsexpress speaker building forum (maybe it was on DIY Audio) where participants measured the performance of these transducers on various materials and in various positions. I seem to remember carbon fiber as working the best , but the price was outrageous for a sheet large enough to be useful. The next best material was actually the foamcore board made for mounting photos—which was very easy to damage. The best locations were not intuitive but I do think they were golden ratio related. Still, none of them resulted in what would be considered “HiFi” and I actually think that’s what you should be going for.

Yamaha’s first attempt at this was not very good. Their second attempt is very good. If I was going to do this, I’d look at where they placed them and try to get transducers as robust as theirs.

My professor’s Kawai digital uses this technology and it definitely sounds better than the student Kawai digital pianos.

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I messed around with DML speakers for a few months. For many of us who are like-minded, it seems to be a rite of passage when we re-start piano. wink

I setup up a system similar to the 2nd video and also gave a good listen to commercial DML speakers as well as transacoustic pianos. My current opinion is that DML speakers are 'very good' but not necessarily "better", they mostly just produce a different sort of sound. The main benefit of DML speakers (diffuse acoustic-like sound) quickly diminishes as you move away from the speakers. Also DML speaker can have a more 3D sound stage, meaning you can more easily hear 'where' the instruments are in the mix. But honestly, I find it's mostly hi-fi enthusiast wankery.

In practical/real terms - none of that helps make recorded sounds 'more real'. Sampled/modeled pianos still sound 'fake'. They just sound different through DML speakers. I was able to compare commercial Tectonic DML speakers with QSC PA speakers at a local venue. As you probably could have guessed, the live / mic'd instruments sounded great through either set of speakers - and the sampled/modeled pianos still sounded fake on either set of speakers.

One caveat - the live / mic'd instruments did sound amazing through the Tectonic DML speakers and the eveness of the music across the venue was very good. But also at a certain distance, both DML and PA speakers were basically the same.


Disclosure:
I have a pair of QSC k8.2 PA speakers and like them a lot.


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After watching one of that guy's videos last year, I took two Dayton Audio DAEX58FP, put one on each end of a cardboard box, and powered them with a Lepai LP-2020A+ and put the box on my head. (I did not take any pictures to prove any of this.)

It made... technically usable, but extremely awkward, headphones. There wasn't any power in the high end, but it didn't sound distorted. I've got a calibrated reference microphone, but I didn't bother taking any measurements. I assume you need something more rigid than cardboard to accurately reproduce high frequencies.

I also affixed them to the underside of my desk, which has a surface of ~3/4" plywood, and powered them from a Onkyo something receiver. The result was muffled and disappointing. (I did that first, and then moved on to the cardboard box.)

Originally Posted by Groove On
In practical/real terms - none of that helps make recorded sounds 'more real'. Sampled/modeled pianos still sound 'fake'. They just sound different through DML speakers.

Makes sense, if the DML speakers behave as even half-way decent speakers, you'd expect the result to sound more or less the same as other half-way decent speakers.

I think if someone wants to get more "realistic" piano sounds from a synthetic piano, they need to examine the signal chain, and think about what they're replacing and why.

In a real piano, it'll be something like this (hand waving wildly):

hammer energy -> string -> soundboard -> air -> reverberation inside of piano -> escapes outside -> reverberation outside of piano

A synthesized piano with nice reference monitors would be:

signal of a piano recorded from some distance away -> amplifier/speaker designed to reproduce signal exactly -> outside air -> reverberation in the room

Any amplifier/speaker combo that's been designed to accurately reproduce signals without distortion is going to produce a very similar acoustic far field, regardless of whether it is wiggling a cone, or a sheet of carbon fiber.

If we stuff some speakers inside of a de-stringed piano, and feed them a different signal:

signal of a piano soundboard, taken from a transducer affixed to a soundboard -> amplifier/speaker designed to reproduce signal exactly -> air -> reverberation inside of piano -> escapes outside -> reverberation outside of piano

In that case we'd get some interactions from the piano's shape and material. That might not make a better sound, but I'd wager a cookie you'd at least get a more 3D sound, as the entire housing would be moving, in all sorts of ways.

Last edited by JayKominek; 01/24/21 10:24 PM.
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Originally Posted by JayKominek
Originally Posted by Groove On
In practical/real terms - none of that helps make recorded sounds 'more real'. Sampled/modeled pianos still sound 'fake'. They just sound different through DML speakers.

Makes sense, if the DML speakers behave as even half-way decent speakers, you'd expect the result to sound more or less the same as other half-way decent speakers.

Excellent point.

Originally Posted by JayKominek
I think if someone wants to get more "realistic" piano sounds from a synthetic piano, they need to examine the signal chain, and think about what they're replacing and why.

Well, if the guys at Pianoteq, Yamaha, Kawai and the other computer-based sampling cannot do it, and their instrument sound "fake", I guess I can't do it either. Unless..

Originally Posted by JayKominek
In a real piano, it'll be something like this (hand waving wildly):

hammer energy -> string -> soundboard -> air -> reverberation inside of piano -> escapes outside -> reverberation outside of piano

A synthesized piano with nice reference monitors would be:

signal of a piano recorded from some distance away -> amplifier/speaker designed to reproduce signal exactly -> outside air -> reverberation in the room

Any amplifier/speaker combo that's been designed to accurately reproduce signals without distortion is going to produce a very similar acoustic far field, regardless of whether it is wiggling a cone, or a sheet of carbon fiber.

If we stuff some speakers inside of a de-stringed piano, and feed them a different signal:

signal of a piano soundboard, taken from a transducer affixed to a soundboard -> amplifier/speaker designed to reproduce signal exactly -> air -> reverberation inside of piano -> escapes outside -> reverberation outside of piano

In that case we'd get some interactions from the piano's shape and material. That might not make a better sound, but I'd wager a cookie you'd at least get a more 3D sound, as the entire housing would be moving, in all sorts of ways.

... unless the physics of an actual piano (including strings! at least that's what I've got now and possibly more "realistic") is too complicated to model and too finicky to sample.

Let me repeat it: I could not care less about building speakers (good or bad). I want to building a "digital piano soundboard". Yamaha (I believe Kawai) and Steingraeber have done it, but for a slightly different reason than mine. I guess it's still worth a try.

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Yamaha actually did do a large soundboard sized speaker, but for an organ. Almost the entire lower area below the keyboards was one big speaker.

You can see that here:

https://www.ggbmusic.com/museum/indexb81b.html?i=22


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So I finally did the test. Interesting results, which I (in hindsight) could have forecasted before doing the test.

What I did:

Hooked my MacBook headphone output to a Pyle PCA1.5 2x15 Watt Stereo Power Amplifier which powered a Dayton Audio DAEX25Q-4 Quad Feet 25mm Exciter 20W 4 Ohm which was handheld by an assistant on various places on the bottom of the soundboard of my 4'9" Apollo grand piano (very similar to https://www.pianomart.com/buy-a-piano/view?id=43664 but in better inside shape). With this setup I played various MIDI recordings in the computer, including the http://pianosound.wikidot.com/start full-range, parallel motion scale. Mostly with Pianoteq. Tried both with the dampers on and off the strings.

What I concluded:

With dampers off the string, I get an extreme "cathedral ambience" resonance. Nice at first listen, but tiring and unsuitable for playing. With dampers on, there still is some resonance (note that my instrument does NOT have duplex scaling), but very subtle and mildly pleasant. Probably quarter pedaling would have been best to make the resonance subtle but not very subtle. I did not do that test (see below why).

With damper on the the strings, I more closely analyzed the sound of a couple of software piano. This setup definitely changes the way that Pianoteq sounds, making it much better sounding in my opinion (note that in general I don't hate it like many people on this forum, but I do not particularly like it either). However, the setup is unusable, because the frequency response swings very wildly, with some registers being very soft and some others being very loud (the test was repeated several times to make sure the effect was not due to the pressure with which the exciter was held, or its exact position on the soundboard: the results showed some differences, especially when moving it around, but not as big as the very big difference in sound level). Before you say "well, can we fix that frequency response with a filter", think about this: if you do and make it "flat", or close enough to flat, so all registers play at uniform volume, then you are basically changing the soundboard back to a "normal" speaker. This is what I could have forecasted before doing it: if the soundboard changes the frequency response to make the timbre/tone better (or worse), it must also change the volume of some registers. So in this setup, it is "no go".

Alternatively, one can do a note-by-note volume adjustment (which I think the top-tier version of Pianoteq allows, not sure about the Pianoteq demo or other software pianos). This way you should be able to change the volume of the notes without changing the spectral (frequency) response of the system. This may indeed provide the benefit that I experienced with better sound, while keeping it usable. I have not performed that test and I'm living it as an exercise left to the reader.

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I have seen someone papering his wall with egg boards: https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/american-egg-board/
To reduce the noise he was making, so insulating his practoice room (he was a drummer)

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This french luthier company manufactures various soundboard type speakers commercially that may be of interest: La Voix Du Luthier - https://www.la-voix-du-luthier.com/

An example review from their Youtube channel:


Although I believe their emphasis on synthesiser based instruments misses a much larger target audience and potential applications.

Hope this is of some interest,

Regards Tog


Standard: Absolute beginner. Currently butchering Bach BWV846!
Kit: Kawai MP11SE; Focal Alpha 80 monitors (pair); the original REL 'Storm' Sub-woofer from the early 1990's ( manufactured by BK Electronics Ltd on behalf of REL); Roland Z-Stand; generic studio style speaker stands; HP Grado SR60

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