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#669663 - 03/21/05 05:39 PM Here's whats wrong with the digital piano world.  
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 12
cmwck Offline
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I took a stroll through all the top manufacturers' digital piano line-ups recently and noticed that almost all of them suffered heavily from what I'll call 'useless feature bloating'.

Yamaha's Clavinova line-up is perhaps the best example of this. Walk up and down the aisles of CVP's and you'll see features piling up with every model: high res. LCD displays, 311 voices, AWM piano samples, drum machines, auto-Accompaniment, disk drives, Karaoke, speaker systems, 300-pounds of wooden cabinet 'elegence', built in EQ, digital sheet music displays, 16-track recording...

All of these things, yes, even the piano sounds, should _not_ be built-in to the keyboard itself. They should go into external sound modules. Please let me have my wooden keys and realistic action for $1500-$2000 without forcing me to spend $4000 more on these useless built-in features. I have something I allready paid $4000 for, and its called a PC with midi input, and can completely dominate any built-in features you could put into a digital piano. Or, maybe, I have a really expensive dedicated external sound module and want to couple that with realistic wooden-key action.

I'm sure there are alot of people who would kill to have, for example, Yamaha's wooden-key action for a decent price, which could be achieved by simply removing all internal features. A bonus to doing this is that digital pianos could easily be upgraded simply by upgrading the external sound module.

Right now the overhead cost to the consumer is really way too high if you're spending %50 or less of the total price of the piano on the keys and action itself, when the action is what contributes %90 or more to the piano's overall quality.

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#669664 - 03/21/05 06:42 PM Re: Here's whats wrong with the digital piano world.  
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signa Offline
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forget about CVP, which by definition has more than just piano funcitons anyway, but consider CLP first. i guess if there is market for bare piano type of CLP with wooden keys, Yamaha might consider such a model in the future. maybe people should presuade Yamaha for doing just that for next CLP model.

#669665 - 03/21/05 10:09 PM Re: Here's whats wrong with the digital piano world.  
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vgeorge Offline
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I had put up a similar post some time back and was very keen on hooking up a P-60 to a giga piano and good quality speakers .Thats when Rodney explained why the biggies never want to do such a thing for then it would amount to stealing from their own acoustic market.Tell me if you have an excellent digital why would you want to own an acoustic with all its attendant problems, but technology will catch up with these biggies and if they dont adapt then like dinosaurs their fate is certain

#669666 - 03/22/05 06:03 AM Re: Here's whats wrong with the digital piano world.  
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SteveY Offline
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Quote
Thats when Rodney explained why the biggies never want to do such a thing for then it would amount to stealing from their own acoustic market.
I don't know if Rodney ever said such a thing, but it's simply not true. Do you think the guys in Yamaha R&D even know the guys in the acoustic piano division? What about Roland? They're often one-upping Yamaha in the technology department, and yet they have no acoustic division to canibalize. It just doesn't hold water...

As to cmwck's post, the digital piano manufacturers are market-driven. If there's enough of a demand, they'll create the product. While the product you are suggesting sounds wonderful, I just don't think there's enough of a market to justify it.


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#669667 - 03/22/05 07:57 AM Re: Here's whats wrong with the digital piano world.  
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Groggy60 Offline
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The Roland HP107 basically tries to be a good piano. Most of the bells and whistles are related to the piano sound.


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#669668 - 03/22/05 08:12 AM Re: Here's whats wrong with the digital piano world.  
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DAMeyn Offline
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This thread needs an insider in the digital piano business to break down the relative contributions of the electronic add-ons vs. the basic piano (keyboard, midi controller, sound module, main piano samples, amp/speaker system, cabinet and pedals). I suspect you'll discover the add-ons are not a great part of the cost on the high end digipianos. In fact, a really good speaker system (flat 25-20,000 Hz, 250 W) could be half the price or more, but thus far, Yamaha for example hasn't seen fit to provide that in even the top line pianos. (If you think 250W is excessive, consider that to create a doubling of perceived loudness requires a 10X increase in amp power, assuming constant speaker efficiency. Besides that, to lower the bass response from 100 Hz (ala PF500) to 25 Hz requires a large boost in power to maintain loudness in the very deep bass.)


Dale the Whale
#669669 - 03/22/05 08:49 AM Re: Here's whats wrong with the digital piano world.  
Joined: Aug 2004
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fogwall Offline
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I agree with cmwck. Today there is a need for a midi controller with the same keyboard action as the flagship models of the digital pianos. Many demanding musicians must pay for features they never asked for just to get that keyboard action.

However, in the long run this will be no problem anymore as digital pianos probably will offer possibilities that computers are used for today, such as being able to import new samples into RAM and making use of programmable effects such as convolution reverbs. At least I assume this will be the case for the flagship models.

#669670 - 03/22/05 10:21 AM Re: Here's whats wrong with the digital piano world.  
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cmwck Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by DAMeyn:
This thread needs an insider in the digital piano business to break down the relative contributions of the electronic add-ons vs. the basic piano (keyboard, midi controller, sound module, main piano samples, amp/speaker system, cabinet and pedals). I suspect you'll discover the add-ons are not a great part of the cost on the high end digipianos....
Actually, I'm claiming that not even the sound module, samples, amp/speaker system, nor cabinet (ok, maybe cabinet, as an optional feature) should be part of the basic piano. For example, the sound samples could be sold separately as an external module. I believe this is the model that electronic drums have allways followed.

#669671 - 03/22/05 11:02 AM Re: Here's whats wrong with the digital piano world.  
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Rodney Offline
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Neither Yamaha or Roland are in the business of producing midi controllers any more and have decided to focus their efforts into producing instruments for all markets which breaks down as:

Consumer Arranger keyboards (PSR)
Professional Arranger keyboards (Tyros)
Consumer Home Piano (YDP)
Consumer digital pianos (CLP)
Consumer Arranger digital piano (CVP)
Professional stage pianos (Pxxx)
Professional workstations (Motif)
Professional Synths (Sxx)

I believe the wooden key action is only available in the CLP-175 and CVP-309; both of which are the highest end and heaviest units available. I suspect that a big portion of the weight is the action which makes it not suitable for any of the other classes including the professional keyboards... It's likely just too heavy!

The next best action is the GH3 which is also only available in the CLP-170 and CVP-307. Weight is likely the limitation here as well but you would think that you could put this action into lower models of the Clavinova line, and potentially into the professional keyboards.

Unfortunately I suspect that the reason that these keyboards have not moved into portable units is that they are fragile and could be subject to failure if bounced around from gig to gig.

Let's not forget that Kawai did manufacture a portable stage piano (MP9500) with a great action but they no longer sell it.... Why?? Was it not successful?? Was it just too heavy??

My point is that if there is a market for a truely great (back breaking heavy) midi controller keyboard, then it is M-Audio or Studiologic that will make it and not Yamaha or Roland. I'm sure that their marketing departments have either dismissed the idea due to a lack of market size, or their engineering department has dismissed it as an impractacle idea.

BTW:

Just as a thought. If someone did make a truely authentic piano action (wooden keys, hammers, etc.) wouldn't it be subject to the same environmental limitations of an accoustic that result in periodic maintenance (regulation, adjustment, etc.) Who would actually want this?? This of course would only be exacerbated by making the unit portable.

What I find very interesting is that none of the manufacturers are making a dedicated piano module. The reason for this has to be marketing and not technology. While I don't think this would effect the accoustic business, it certainly would cannabalize the digital instrument market. Yes you can purchase a Motif ES Rack, or a Fantom XR but both lack the features necessary to make the most realistic piano sounds.

My 2 cents,

Rodney

#669672 - 03/22/05 11:25 AM Re: Here's whats wrong with the digital piano world.  
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Rodney Offline
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SteveY,

At one point I did suggest that part of the reason that digital piano's haven't progressed as fast as they have might be due to a reluctance to cannabilize current markets. In Yamaha's case that could include their (huge) accoustic business unit, and in Roland's and Yamaha's, their existing digital market.

All companies expect products to have a life cycle (either natural or atificial) which allows them to recoupe R&D expenditures. It's obvious that Roland didn't wait to deliver an 88 key sampled, 4 layer digital piano until this year because of technological limitations.

Evolutionalry product development is significantly more lucrative than revolutionary development.

While I agree that Yamaha digital piano techies aren't in direct contact with the accoustic business unit, their product managers are. Sales and marketing deciaions are made at a much higher level and any decision that might result in a cannabilization of current markets will be scrutinized at the highest level.

Your comparison with Roland doesn't really make sense as they also have a market to protect and investment dollars to recoupe.

Rodney

#669673 - 03/22/05 11:33 AM Re: Here's whats wrong with the digital piano world.  
Joined: Jan 2005
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DAMeyn Offline
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Fredericksburg VA
Just a clarification: I was mostly speaking from the viewpoint of the consumer market, not the traveling performer or multi-instrument studio market. Most acoustic pianos are probably bought for home and other non-professional use, where the buyer just wants a ready-to-go instrument, likewise most digital pianos are probably going to be bought for this market also, more so in future. It's the same market as for the consumer electronic organs, except for those who want well simulated piano feel as well as sound, and buyers want something they don't have to hook up to a computer or shop for speicalized sound modules, attach auxilliary audio systems, etc., to use, and also want lots of fun stuff to play with. For us (I'm one), the basic piano is as I described, good action, great sound, neat features, ready to go, no tech knowledge/skills required. What cmwk describes is a specialist's tool to round out a studio or use with existing sound systems on gigs along with a bunch of other equipment. That's the trouble with this forum (and also part of the fun), a lot of people with very disparate needs argue about what constitutes the "best" cost/features/performance compromise in digipianos. I think the big three are doing a pretty good job of servicing this market, which is probably their bread and butter.


Dale the Whale
#669674 - 03/22/05 04:33 PM Re: Here's whats wrong with the digital piano world.  
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SteveY Offline
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Quote
While I agree that Yamaha digital piano techies aren't in direct contact with the accoustic business unit, their product managers are. Sales and marketing deciaions are made at a much higher level and any decision that might result in a cannabilization of current markets will be scrutinized at the highest level.

Your comparison with Roland doesn't really make sense as they also have a market to protect and investment dollars to recoupe.
What you're suggesting makes perfects sense, but it just isn't the case. I've spent some time at Yamaha and I've done a lot of work for Roland US in Los Angeles. That's just not the way it works. The keyboard market is not very profitable at the moment. These manufacturers will sell ANYTHING that can turn a profit for them. At this point, there would be little to no R&D cost for a no frills digital piano (or MIDI controller) with a great action. The truth is that the bells-n-whistles are what the market is asking for.


PianoWorld disclaimer: musician, producer, arranger, author, clinician, consultant, PS2 aficionado, secret agent...
#669675 - 03/22/05 07:23 PM Re: Here's whats wrong with the digital piano world.  
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dbm Offline
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Here is my 2 cents worth:
For a typical keyboard with a lot of electronics and mechanical components, it's not easy to control the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) around $300 - $400 per piano. This is just parts cost and doesn't include manufacturing, distribution and R&D cost. Thus there is very little money to be made in a sub $1k keyboard. Bells and whistles add to the one-time R&D cost without raising COGS significantly. With these "features" the piano sells for over $2k with a much better profit margin. Unfortunately the market size also decreases significantly so it's a tough business.

#669676 - 03/23/05 07:35 AM Re: Here's whats wrong with the digital piano world.  
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Rodney Offline
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It would be very interesting to see the breakdown of units sold per class of keyboard. I suspect that the largest volume of keyboards are actually those PSR (cheap) models that can be purchased at the big electronics chains. Of course the prices on these all but negate any significant profit per unit so volume is the only way to make any real money. They also server to push brand recognition for the more expensive options (i.e. lost leader).

People who purchase these keyboards for their children will likely (upgrade) to either a Clavinova or accoustic (this is where the brand recognition really helps). Those who just loved the arranger functions will move to a CVP and the rest will go either CLP or accoustic with a VERY few shifting to a stage piano (thost that do go primarily for cost). In the case of the upgrade, I guess Yamaha (we'll leave Roland out of it for now) doesn't really care which way you go (Clavinova/Accoustic) as both are higher margin items (just as long as you stay in the Yamaha family of products). Clearly they wouldn't really want the higher volume (home user) market to shift to stage/professional keyboards as these units have much lower margins since they are targeted at starving artists/musicians.

Let's face it, most piano teachers will recommend that parents either purchase an accoustic, or at least a digital with the BEST feel/sound. A stage piano will just not be good enough and all these future concert pianists will be ruined by such a thing! ;-)

While those pro/semi-pro (starving artists) musicians would like the most realistic action/sound; it isn't a MUST HAVE. Variety of voices and net cost are likely the driving factors. These are two diametrically opposed goals that only result in reduced overall margin for Yamaha.

Obviously demand for new features will drive functionality down the chain so it is only a matter of time before we see a stage piano with a great action (I personally think the actions are great now), but then the home units will come out with an even better action (GH4??). This will ensure that little Suzie or Johnnie's parents will still by the Clavinova since the stage piano will not be good enough. Actually I think we have seen this process repeated several times already over the last couple of decades.

All this makes sense to me and it clear that Yamaha wants to cover all its bases with only minor overlap between markets. I still believe that there is a point where the digital home unit (Clavinova) will reach a point where it is so realistic that it will be "GOOD ENOUGH" for the vast majority of people who currently purchase accoustics. My belief is that technologically this is do-able today (albeit quite expensive) but this just doesn't line up with business objectives at the moment. (Not a conspiracy,... just marketing 101!)

Rodney

#669677 - 03/23/05 08:07 AM Re: Here's whats wrong with the digital piano world.  
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SteveY Offline
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Quote
In the case of the upgrade, I guess Yamaha (we'll leave Roland out of it for now) doesn't really care which way you go (Clavinova/Accoustic) as both are higher margin items (just as long as you stay in the Yamaha family of products). Clearly they wouldn't really want the higher volume (home user) market to shift to stage/professional keyboards as these units have much lower margins since they are targeted at starving artists/musicians.
I know very little about the consumer digital market. Is this true? Is the Clavinova a high-margin product? I know that there's less discounting at the dealer level on consumer products (as compared to pro). But isn't the margin built into the list price the same (B-mark)? But what about at the manufacturer level? Do digital pianos have a similar margin to acoustics? Do the margins differ between consumer and pro electronic music products? That would surprise me...


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#669678 - 03/23/05 09:29 AM Re: Here's whats wrong with the digital piano world.  
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Steve Chandler Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by Rodney:
Obviously demand for new features will drive functionality down the chain so it is only a matter of time before we see a stage piano with a great action (I personally think the actions are great now), but then the home units will come out with an even better action (GH4??). This will ensure that little Suzie or Johnnie's parents will still by the Clavinova since the stage piano will not be good enough. Actually I think we have seen this process repeated several times already over the last couple of decades.

All this makes sense to me and it clear that Yamaha wants to cover all its bases with only minor overlap between markets. I still believe that there is a point where the digital home unit (Clavinova) will reach a point where it is so realistic that it will be "GOOD ENOUGH" for the vast majority of people who currently purchase accoustics. My belief is that technologically this is do-able today (albeit quite expensive) but this just doesn't line up with business objectives at the moment. (Not a conspiracy,... just marketing 101!)
Hi Rodney,

Thanks for your candid assessment and I think you're on target. I recently purchased a P60 and was amazed at how realistic the action felt. It's better than our Samick upright. Most of those parents buying instruments for kids have no idea how good these actions are and the salesman knows they can afford the more expensive unit. So they sell against the stage piano with a nice cabinet and better action for little Suzie or Johnny who will not need anything better for probably 5 years. At which time a far better action will be available. Ain't commerce wunnerful? Still if it keeps them in business you can't blame 'em.

Cheers,

#669679 - 03/23/05 11:55 AM Re: Here's whats wrong with the digital piano world.  
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Quote
Originally posted by Steve Chandler:
I recently purchased a P60 and was amazed at how realistic the action felt. It's better than our Samick upright. Most of those parents buying instruments for kids have no idea how good these actions are and the salesman knows they can afford the more expensive unit.
Samick uprights are much better than any digital piano... "it's a real piano!" So said the sales guy (and music teacher) at a local Samick dealer as he was trying to sell one of the bottom end upright. eek


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