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Choosing a Sailboat Piano

Posted By: Nomadness

Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/22/12 04:09 AM

HI folks...

I've hesitated about starting another "which piano" thread, since there are already so many covering a huge range of priorities, but I still find myself a bit stuck in the quest for a suitable boat keyboard. A quick background:

I was posting actively here about 5 years ago when adapting a home studio desk to support my RD-700SX, four KRK monitors, Mackie mixer, and music stand... all described here. That came together well, and I settled into playing... but my needs have changed as I have moved aboard a 44-foot sailboat.

It's not a normal cruising situation, however... I have converted the original dinette region of the salon into a lab, and am in the process of building three 12U rack spaces focused on audio, communications, and test equipment. These are flanked by an iMac on the left and tool cabinet on the right, making a 180-degree wrap-around console facing a sliding swivel chair... and a nearby Zone of Hackage is integrated with an Internet Alcove in addition to the usual pilothouse and helm stuff (power, navigation, galley, etc). The piano will be integrated into a drawer-slide assembly, and will pull out from under the lab desktop. If you're curious, there is a quick tour of the boat, along with a photo of the lab desk before the racks were in place, over yonder.

The RD-700SX is getting a bit long-in-the tooth sound-wise, and is also very wide and heavy. While it would be barely possible to squeeze this in, I don't really want to... my plan is to sell that whole system and buy something a bit more svelte with excellent hand feel, more modern sounds, and good interfaceability for a rack synth or software pianos.

Like many here, I am frustrated by the lack of a decent controller-only product; if there were one that did not attract howls of frustration, I'd go that way and do all sound-generation externally with something like the Motif Rack XS or software emulator. But given the current market, it seems that the more realistic approach is a digital stage piano... and among those, the most tempting options are physically too large. My first choice, in fact, thanks to excellent presence in this forum (hi, James), would be Kawai... but the MP6 and MP10 are 7" tall and the ES7 is 6", and both are 54" long.

My notes are full of observed trade-offs, and it's probably wise to nudge things down toward a more modest price range given the harshness of the environment (water corrodes; salt water corrodes absolutely). In other words, I'd really love a Nord Stage 2, which vigorously pushes my geek buttons even though I've never actually seen one, but it's too big a risk!

Realistically, I'm probably looking more in the range of EP3/P95/SP-250/PX-3/Numa (not to imply equivalence among those, but they are all of manageable size and lower cost). 88 keys are a must, and I prefer piano action to the lighter synth or organ touch. A large sound library seems to be a common trade-off versus Really Good Piano, and I would have to say the latter is more important... there's a lot to be said for having excellent on-board sound without having to fire up a computer or external synth module, but otherwise the more voices the merrier. Internal speakers are not particularly desirable although I would probably use them; the audio console has an Edirol M-16DX mixer feeding a Fusion MS-IP700 and local speaker system with subwoofer. Svelte size and excellent construction (in addition to a decent keybed) are critical issues.

I know this is not too much of a departure from the general quest for a lightweight gigging piano, and I have spent hours reading the informative threads here and wandering off to product pages and YouTube demos. But with my added space and packaging constraints, I thought it worthwhile to ask your advice... what will fit best in a pull-out drawer below the desktop in this photo?

Since that picture was taken, the three 12U racks (Middle Atlantic CFR) have been added, forming a nice wrap-around workspace that exactly matches the tool cabinet height. These will be roofed by a wood shelf with overhang that supports a curtain to shed droplets when crew is galumping through the cabin with wet foulies, and the space above carries a down-angled speaker system (though I will miss my near-field monitors). I don't want to stow the keyboard and put it on the desk for use; it would be too high, and stowage space aboard is precious. Pull-out is ideal, and the space was designed to accommodate it; my seat slides forward and back as needed to achieve proper ergnomics.

Key issues in the selection, other than the obvious ones, include physical robustness... given limited knee clearance, I'd love to support this from the ends and not have to add a shelf for it to rest on. Without physically examining the candidates, I have no way to judge construction quality. Vertical height is critical... the thinner the better. Depth doesn't matter much, and length should be less than 52 inches although I can handle a little more if necessary.

My preconceived notions and biases, for what it's worth, roughly rank the Kawai first (thanks again to the responsive vendor presence here), followed by a smaller Roland, Yamaha, Korg, Privia, and Numa. But these are based mostly on what I have read here... it's a lot to sort out. For context, my playing is classical/lyrical with desire to foray into jazz and blues; I'm more interested in rich voicing than punching through a mix, though visiting friends play a wide range of styles.

Thank you for your thoughts and suggestions! I look forward to posting photos of the finished system here...

Cheers from Nomadness, currently docked in the San Juan Islands...
Posted By: Kawai James

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/22/12 05:33 AM

Hi Steve!

Wow, I have to say, this has got to be one of the coolest projects I've ever seen on PianoWorld! Your sailboat looks absolutely terrific - and what a wonderful life, sailing from one island to the next, enjoying the ocean during the day, and playing music at night. Fantastic!

Okay, back to your query, how about the new Roland A-88 keyboard controller? It's very compact (albeit with the controls on the bass side...), with a reasonably good keyboard action, and should be idea for driving a Motixf rack or software piano on a laptop. Alternatively, the Roland FP-4F utilises the same keyboard action, but includes speakers and a good selection of sounds.

If you're weary of spending too much money, I would also consider the new Casio PX-150/PX-350 boards.

Finally, if you do decide to spend (risk?) a little more, perhaps the Nord Piano is also worth thinking about? Very lightweight and portable, reasonably good action, and excellent interchangeable sounds.

Regardless of which instrument you eventually opt for, please do return to the forum to post some pictures!

All the best!

Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/22/12 06:11 AM

HI James, and thanks for the suggestions!

I should have mentioned the A-88... I was very excited to hear of that, but initially concluded that the length is just too great... the controls at the left would end up tucked under the iMac. But now that you have prompted me to look at it again, I can see that once the Mac is on its VESA mount instead of the current non-seaworthy base, I'd have about 4.5" of vertical clearance over the A-88 controls. So maybe, maybe... that does look sweet, and it would play nice with iPad, Mac, and dedicated sound modules. Hmmm.

As to the Nord... oooh, you're a dangerous influence! My GAS needs but a trigger to rationalize such a purchase. Hmm, let's see, what can I get for my current rig... *grin*

Interesting on the FP-4F; I had not seriously looked at that. Same size as the PX-350, but probably a whole different experience. Part of me wants to conservatively minimize risk in the harsh environment and go with a low-cost but capable cheapie; the rest of me wants to maximize the aesthetic quality of the sound and feel, which is what most encourages growth. Tough call!

I'll definitely be posting with updates, and thanks again for the comments... they are really helpful.


Posted By: Dr Popper

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/22/12 12:23 PM

Yeah the A-88 and a Integra 7 would be a good combo for you ....
Posted By: StefaanBelgium

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/22/12 04:37 PM

Another thing to consider is the humid environment of a sailing boat... I have no idea how good the electronics will survive in the long run !
Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/22/12 05:16 PM

Stefaan - yes, that is a very important consideration, and I'm dealing with it throughout. Generally, I take a multi-layered approach starting externally to keep physical droplets away, protect boards with conformal coating, and use vapor-phase-corrosion inhibitors where possible. A keyboard has three classes of problems: the PC board stuff is easy to protect, front-panel controls tricky or not depending on type (Nord would be relatively easy here), and the keybed itself is fine *if* all the sensors are purely electronic rather than any kind of open contact. Anyone know the guts of the Fatar in that regard? Sometimes the worst problems are not so much electronic as just corrosion of cheap steel hardware. (And, of course, all bets are off in a knockdown or other serious event.)

Dr Popper - yah, that Integra 7 is a beauty! Same price for that combo as a Nord Piano 2, which makes it more tempting than I would have guessed (at twice the rack module cost of the Motif). Interesting. This combo has "more bounce to the ounce" than anything else I've seen, though that long keyboard is a challenge.

As to the Nord, I'm currently leaning toward that because the packaging looks (from afar, anyway) to be the most robust and amenable to bolting on drawer slides, not to mention the minor detail that it sounds like a pretty awesome machine. But that Integra would certainly be more flexible and has a much richer user interface, not to mention having less money tied up in a relatively vulnerable keyboard assembly and more in a relatively protected rack unit.

This will be fun.

Posted By: StefaanBelgium

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/22/12 07:01 PM

Ok, looks like you have experience with the humid environment and the consequences. I just wanted to mention this, because my parents had a sailing boat ( although a bit smaller than yours ! ) and during the years they had it, the most common problems were electrical because of corrosion.
It's a nice boat you have by the way smile
Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/23/12 07:35 AM

Thank you, Stefaan...

The environment really does call for constant awareness... with connectors, choices of hardware, cooling (forced air through cabinets can be deadly), types of wire, sealing, encapsulation, and more. It's a huge issue, and even the big-name manufacturers of "marine" electronics often get it wrong in the interest of saving a few pennies (or just not paying attention). Very common: fancy sealed VHF radios that claim JIS-8 waterproofing, but which use open-frame inline fuses and cheap copper power wire that will wick moisture all the way to the circuit board if the distal end gets splashed. Very frustrating.

A lot of the work I'm doing with the console systems is related to this, so of course I'm nervous about a $3K piano. It will be well drip-isolated and does not need ventilation for cooling, but there's no realistic way to "seal" the control-panel components or keys. So I'll probably open it up and see what needs extra attention, then just keep a close eye on it. My boat is not terribly wet while voyaging in Northwest waters, but ocean crossings will be another matter... I'll probably want to shrink-wrap the whole mess!

Still leaning toward the NP2, fantasizing about the Stage 2 (not that I need it, of course, but...).

Posted By: Dr Popper

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/23/12 11:41 AM

Got a motif XS7 on my boat ....it's had no issues with condensation etc ...but my boat doesn't leak really at all so YMMV.
Posted By: anotherscott

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/23/12 01:00 PM

Originally Posted by Nomadness
Interesting on the FP-4F; I had not seriously looked at that. Same size as the PX-350, but probably a whole different experience

Most people feel that the action of the FP-7F is far superior to that of the FP-4F. It has more features as well, and the price difference isn't that great. I think the real selling point of the 4F is the lower weight, but it sounds like that would not be an issue for you.

Have you given any thought to using whatever board meets your ergonomic requirements, combined with running a software piano from the computer I assume you'll have with you anyway?
Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/23/12 06:50 PM

Scott - thanks for that data point; I have not had my hands on either of the FP models, but that certainly makes sense. I really should get off this island and try to actually see some of these things!

And yes, I am definitely looking at the software piano option, though I have only played with Pianoteq demos and don't yet have a sense of the possibilities with this, Ivory, and others. The trade-off, as I see it, involves power/complexity overhead: there is a lot to be said for just switching on a piano and playing without having to bring the "big iron" online (I understand there are some iPad options as well, but how good they are, I don't know). The option to fire up Logic and/or software piano models is then a separate issue from just turning on the piano and sound system.

I get the impression that some of the truly great sounds are best acquired with software pianos... so I would not rule that out as a later upgrade path. I think it gets down to the realization (and I know I'm contradicting some of my own comments in the original posting at the top of this thread) that I'll be more likely to spend time in skill-development if the board itself provides gratifying touch and sound. When I think about some of the light plasticky keys and cheesy sounds I've observed while wandering through music stores or visiting friends, I have to admit that my motivation would probably be negatively impacted if I don't choose carefully and get this part right, even if it's more than I originally wanted to spend.

So the decision looks like it will be driven by that, dimensional considerations that rule out too-long or too-tall options, geek/aesthetic appeal, and advice from folks who know the products. All this still has me leaning toward a Nord, with packaging that I find very appealing...

Dr. Popper - cool re the XS7 aboard! I have no leak issues either, and condensation is only a factor with surfaces that get markedly colder than the rest of the insulated interior (aluminum window frames in the pilothouse). My main concern is what happens when things get a little crazy and crew is running around with wet foulies, or spray is coming through the companionway in a following sea. The "gross packaging" should handle all this just fine, assuming no knockdowns or rollovers *shudder*, and the rest is not expected to be any worse than being in any environment with variable humidity and temp.

By the way, I've been zeroing in on the audio part of this system. The piano and other sources feed an Edirol mixer (the M-16DX which is neater for console mounting since it separates the control surface from the interface box bristling with cables), then the main output of that feeds the aux input of a Fusion MS-IP700 marine stereo with iPod dock. This drives a pair of box speakers over the console as well as a powered sub under the desk. It's a small intimate space about 8 feet wide, so this should be more than enough oomph (just now trying to choose those speakers... probably Boston Acoustics or Klipsch, with a Fusion sub). I'm used to powered monitors, but don't have the luxury of space or electrons... and a while back I bought a sweet Crown rackmount mode D amp, but that is crazy overkill and now for sale.

Also, while redundant with the Mac in the console, there is also a panel-mounted Tascam Portastudio for quick recording and mix-downs of the multiple audio sources around the boat including mics, hydrophone, communications, hailer listen-back, speech synth, and so on. Again, this is a power issue similar to the keyboard choice... I like having non-computer options when counting amp-hours.

Posted By: jazzwee

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/24/12 07:28 AM

Amazing boat Nomadness! I'm a sailor myself though I've never kept a full 88 keys to a boat. No really good spot to place it. Given weight issues, I think I brought in a Casio once. And then long ago, I just left a Yamaha PSR (toyish) keyboard on board. Ran on batteries.

Anyway, given your space, I'd think of a lightweight Casio Privia of some sort. You can always turn it into a controller. I think those are 26lbs or so. Then beyond that you're in Nord territory.

Nord does offer more flexibility since it already has the nice sounds and is also not as deep as others.

I wish I could have a keyboard on board. There is potential of corrosion on metal parts. The salty ocean environment is not kind to anything. It can literally suck the chrome off a Mack truck (as you know). I'm thinking of that Nord encased in what, aluminum? Is that coated with zinc-chromate? Unless it's stainless steel, I'd be concerned. And I'm not even talking of innards.

In contrast boat electronics are made to be sealed from the elements. Of course you have a pilothouse so that may lessen concern about salt spray etc. but wet hands from salt water? Anyway, I just have this respect for nature and know that nature tends to win...
Posted By: Kawai James

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/24/12 07:48 AM

Nomadness, if you do opt to buy the Nord (and perhaps do some case modifications to preserve the electronics/casing), you should definitely take some pictures and send them to Clavia. You could perhaps even email them to explain your requirements, and ask if they have any useful suggestions.

Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/24/12 06:42 PM

Jazzwee - good to hear from you, thanks for the thoughts! I was just having a fantasy of a raft-up with a bunch of folks, keyboards and other instruments on foredecks, jamming away in a cove somewhere. Maybe I should keep that 1000-watt rackmount Crown amp that is slight overkill for use in the salon! <grin>

Anyway, yes indeed on the sealing issue. I can't tell from the photos, but that red is probably paint, not anodizing... aluminum is notoriously tricky when it comes to coatings, so I'm hoping there is a passivation layer. Truly sealing is pretty much impossible given the keybed and some of the control panel hardware, so I'll definitely make a few improvements internally as well as make sure that no actual wetness can ever find its way to the unit. In practice, this means a flap that covers it when retracted into its slot under the desk, making that enclosed rather than the originally postulated open drawer assembly, and having a spot to stash it in a truly sealed bag when offshore.

James - very good idea. I'll tongue-in-cheek propose that they make NP2M and Stage 2M marine versions! crazy

Posted By: jazzwee

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/25/12 12:58 AM

Originally Posted by Nomadness
Jazzwee - good to hear from you, thanks for the thoughts! I was just having a fantasy of a raft-up with a bunch of folks, keyboards and other instruments on foredecks, jamming away in a cove somewhere. Maybe I should keep that 1000-watt rackmount Crown amp that is slight overkill for use in the salon! <grin>

Anyway, yes indeed on the sealing issue. I can't tell from the photos, but that red is probably paint, not anodizing... aluminum is notoriously tricky when it comes to coatings, so I'm hoping there is a passivation layer. Truly sealing is pretty much impossible given the keybed and some of the control panel hardware, so I'll definitely make a few improvements internally as well as make sure that no actual wetness can ever find its way to the unit. In practice, this means a flap that covers it when retracted into its slot under the desk, making that enclosed rather than the originally postulated open drawer assembly, and having a spot to stash it in a truly sealed bag when offshore.

James - very good idea. I'll tongue-in-cheek propose that they make NP2M and Stage 2M marine versions! crazy


Nomadness, I guarantee that Nord isn't going to worry about Zinc Chromate on Aluminum - LOL. Now my aluminum mast with Zinc-chromate and LP paint is doing great after 10+ years and exposed to salt water daily.

You're right though. Just even a cover on the keyboard might do the trick. On my (smaller) boat, I have a dehumidying heater running all the time to make sure there's minimal mosture inside the boat. I presume you take that kind of precaution too since it isn't just about direct water but the moisture in the air. In theory it shouldn't have anything corrosive in water vapor, but in practice, things corrode without direct water contact on a boat. Don't know why...

Raft-up jam session! Sounds like a good deal! I wonder if anyone has ever tried that. Are you in Washington? Well let me know when you cruise down to Southern Cal.

I am envious of having a permanent keyboard on board. Sailing and Piano are my two biggest passions and seriously, I'd rather be able to do both, like you. If I can play piano while on the boat, I may never leave.

Good sailing and good piano playing my friend! Glad to see someone with the same interests.

BTW - I have a blue boat too and I just want it to grow up a little to 44. LOL. But I'm a racer, not a cruiser, so that's probably not likely.

Posted By: signal

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/25/12 01:06 AM

A88 is a great choice. The SP90ES is nice too, sometimes you can find those cheap. Both have excellent actions, and the SP90ES has great piano sounds.

Now, about your predicament. IMHO, the BEST controller to get for those that need space with NO compromise, are those by Deopfer: http://www.doepfer.de/home_e.htm

The PK88 is the smallest, the LMK series are top of the line.
Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/25/12 02:34 AM

Signal - ah, I was not aware of the Doepfer products... interesting! Thanks for that; I'll do some research. I keep looking at the A-88, but that cluster of stuff at the left end really would get awkward (especially if I tried to use the D-beam controller... ouch!). Nord is holding my attention, but a Doepfer with a Motif Rack XS would knock a grand off the price tag.

Jazzwee - RaftJam would be such a hoot! I'm nowhere near your league on the piano, but heck, I could always run the electronics and turn a Real(TM)Pianist loose on my board while I pick up the trusty old flute and noodle along.

I've been aboard one boat with a full-time keyboard/studio installation (though not 88 keys; I got disoriented quickly on his 61 or whatever), and there's a quirky sailboat down the bay with an acoustic upright installed (how it stays in tune, I don't know, but dang, he's good). On my boat, the project has one clear objective: integration of all my passions into a technomadic lifestyle. That makes it relatively easy to give up a perfectly serviceable dinette in favor of a lab/studio space, despite the loss of lounging area.

At one point, I was considering hacking a keybed with a hinge and just stowing it when not in use, but then figured out how to do a permanent under-desk installation that integrates nicely into the overall plan... though there will be some ergonomic compromises.

(It is going to be extremely weird when I get too old and have to sell the boat someday... I'm working on a documentation binder and publishing design packages about the subsystems, but am trying to imagine a typical yacht broker trying to make sense of something that looks like a marriage of the Starship Enterprise and the Nautilus. That's going to seriously challenge their BS skills, which are legion. I had one tell me, as I stood in a too-short salon with a crook neck, "no, mate, that's a good thing! In a seaway, you brace with your neck muscles and have both your hands free!")

Posted By: jazzwee

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/25/12 03:13 AM

Nomadness, LOVE IT! Love those stories. I gig at Yacht clubs pretty often (weekly in fact) so I'm always in sight of boats when I play. It's my way of connecting the two interests. At least I don't have to redo my interior. Hehe. But it's really great to play music while looking the blue water of the harbor.

I like that word "RaftJam". smile I'll have to remember that. The only problem for a real jam is putting a drum set on a boat. There's actually someone on the dock across that has Roland V-Drums (MIDI) on his powerboat. Can't fit a full kit but at least he's got his something. He lives on the boat so that must be really tight. Be glad you're into keyboards instead of drums. LOL.

Who cares what a future buyer is going to think. Gotta enjoy it now.

Talking about Acoustics near the ocean though, my tuner told me of a brand new Steinway kept in a Malibu beach house. Of course windows are always open. Piano was wrecked. Rusted and just beat up. Sad (for the piano).

Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/25/12 09:18 AM

Jazzwee - X-stand on the foredeck? laugh

I just had a vision of a kayak version of the RaftJam... everybody with iPads and various music apps...

You are SO right about the future buyer thing; I wasn't really stressing about that, but it makes me chuckle occasionally. It took over a year after buying the boat for me to relax and feel OK about changing things, especially where it involved hacking into the gorgeous joinery... now it doesn't bother me much. She's going to be very, very geeky before this is all over. (Occasionally I take flak for "complexity," which always cracks me up, especially when it comes from a sailor with NMEA2000, AIS, inverter/charger, SSB, WiFi, iPod dock, radar, etc...........)

Anyway, back to the piano, I think the thing to do will be to slather on corrosion inhibitors (which actually work pretty well), conformally coat the boards, carefully isolate the whole thing from liquid water, and keep a close eye on it. That's pretty much what I'm doing with all the rest, so I'm not too worried... at least in normal cruising and live-aboard conditions.

As to the choice, the maddening thing about this wonderful forum is that almost every product has flaws, and there's nothing like a community of experts to identify them all. I don't need the perfect piano, but of course that's what I want! Hard to make such a choice on an island with no way to actually get my hands on any of them, so I'm listening closely to all the voices here. Thanks, folks.

Posted By: MertYazan

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/25/12 09:57 PM

I own Yamaha Piaggero NP-V60 Lightweight Digital Piano as a spare DP.With 76 keys instead of 88 ,maybe suitable for your boat.(330 $)
Weight: 15.65 lbs
Width: 49.76 in
Depth: 12.28 in
Height: 4.37 in
you can play with chargable 6 x AA-size Batteries
Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/01/12 08:28 AM

Hi folks...

A little update... for the past week or so I've been settling into the idea of a Nord NP2 (and lusting after the NS2), though it seriously pushes the justification envelope. I do always "err on the side of maximum geekiness," so there is that...

But I want to at least consider a cheaper, but equally flexible alternative. I have 1U of rack space remaining on the console for a Motif Rack XS, and if there is an 88-key controller that can fit the space requirements and feels excellent, then that is probably a wiser choice than the Nord... reducing the amount of money tied up in the most vulnerable part and offloading sound production to the module and/or software. Basically, it should not be much wider than the keybed, nor any taller than necessary (3-4 inches max). Depth is not a huge issue, but less is better... I just want a board with low physical overhead.

I know that pure controller products are relatively rare (StudioLogic with highly mixed reviews, the super-long Roland A88, obscure Doepfer, and M-Audio which I don't care for). An equally acceptable alternative, and probably easier to find, is a basic DP. In that product space, what sleek one has the nicest touch?

The benefit of that approach is scaling... I could practice with on-board voices and not have to turn anything on; if the power budget permits, I could crank up the rack synth module or launch a software piano on the Mac. And the keyboard would probably be sub-$1K instead of $3K or more. (I have started advertising my Roland/Mackie/KRK system locally to ease the pain.)

Thanks again for the brainstorming help! Progress report: the console layout is taking shape, with actual-size cutouts of all the devices taped to temporary Coroplast panels (36U total, or 63 inches) screwed to the rack cabinets aboard. It's going to be a nice environment for audio production, communications, and lab work... with a piano that can be pulled out whenever the mood strikes.

Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/08/12 05:44 AM

I just did a blog post about the console region of the boat. If you skip past the hovercat and radio stuff to the section entitled "Console Development," there's a discussion about the audio equipment that will put some of this thread into better context.

Still haven't chosen a controller or DP... has StudioLogic's customer-service reputation improved? Am I worrying too much in response to the earlier thread here? I mean, Nord uses Fatar... and the Numa series is a reasonable size. That plus a rack synth and/or software pianos might be a nice solution for quite a bit less than the $3K NP2.

Also, is it OK to list an item for sale here? I'd like to find a Pacific Northwest home (not involving shipping) for my existing rig...

Cheers and thanks,

Posted By: Kawai James

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/08/12 07:12 AM

Originally Posted by Nomadness
An equally acceptable alternative, and probably easier to find, is a basic DP. In that product space, what sleek one has the nicest touch?

Would a Kawai MP10 be too big/heavy?

Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/08/12 08:23 AM

Would a Kawai MP10 be too big/heavy?

Interesting question, and my first thought, looking again at the product specs, is yes... too tall. But after a close look at the "nekid pictures" thread started by Dewster last year, I have a completely different take. This is exquisitely hackable, with all the electronics nicely independent of the keybed and very flexible cabling. It would be quite easy to repackage this, moving the user-interface to a nearby location instead of the stepped top panel of the standard cabinet.

I'd go for a minimum envelope on the keybed itself, since it's under the lab desktop where knee clearance becomes an issue. It looks like it can fit within about a 4" vertical space including enclosure, which is perfect. The panel appears to be about 36" wide and 3" tall, and there is a chance it could snuggle into the space between keys and hammers, but that would probably feel way too cramped. Most likely it would be split at the blue cable bundle, and remoted to a rackspace (if I eliminate the overkill Crown XLS1000, there is room!).

How would you feel about seeing one hacked and integrated on that level? It looks (and sounds) ideal, and this approach would eliminate the frustration of being limited to off-the-shelf cabinetry.

Posted By: KHen

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/09/12 07:09 AM

This is an exciting thread! After looking at your boat and the live aboard forums it makes me want one. I was already looking into alternative housing options anyways, plus I'm single and don't own hardly anything. Sure beats paying the monthly rent where I live for an apartment that I don't get to keep.

If you can rework the Kawai MP10 I think it would be a great piano. It sounds like you've looked at all the options, nord, the A88, Numas, Dopefer, and others.. Good luck!
Posted By: Kawai James

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/09/12 11:36 AM

Steve, I would be rather cautious about hacking an MP10 apart - it's quite a big risk if you end up damaging the components etc.

Are you no longer planning to use a software piano running on your PC?

Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/09/12 06:27 PM

James - I am not too concerned about the boards (assuming proper care in handling), and the keybed looks very robust... the trickiest bit would probably be the PCB-mounted controls on the panel which might make it a little flexible on the mechanical side until well-supported by a new panel. At first glance, that split point near the LCD might be a challenge given the width of my enclosure (standard 19" rackmount)... though it looks like the board is in two parts with the boundary right there, so I think it's easy if the dimensions work. Otherwise, it looks pretty modular.

I am still planning software pianos (not sure which yet, but there are both Mac and iPad environments at the console). There are three layers here, involving power budget and redundancy: bare piano (unless just a controller, of course), rack synth like the Motif XS (overkill for my needs), and software voicings. The latter is architecturally most appealing, though requiring "big iron" computer to be on when it is not a continuous duty machine does make it much more of an event to just pull out the keyboard and practice for a few minutes (my favorite mode, and a huge argument for a pure DP... especially when we're looking at one with excellent voice quality).

I've been assuming that the iMac 27 would host software pianos, but there is also an almost-always-on Mini Server that runs headless... perhaps the voices could live there, be invoked by a remote (VNC) session from the laptop, and then left to their own devices. That would make sense. Having never used software instruments other than a Pianoteq demo and Garage Band, I don't have an intuition about that... I'd love to hear comments from folks who know them.

This repackaging hack is an alluring alternative, since space constraints under the lab desktop have been limiting me to a very small subset of products. Mounting a decent keybed on its own enclosed drawer and remoting the circuit boards is very appealing if the process doesn't take too much surgery. (Technically, I could probably do the same with my Roland, though now y'all have me wanting the RM3 action and Kawai sounds!) The way the circuit boards are isolated on a wiring harness makes this kind of thing pretty easy; boards themselves would be pretty much untouched and mounted on stand-offs, with little or no hacking beyond cable extension.

In other news...

KHen - living aboard is great, with a few challenges and firm boundaries on tonnage. The mobility is wonderful, and the views are hard to beat... and there are a lot of small boats out there that can be had for a song if you don't mind taking a spartan approach (a friend here just got one for free).

Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/09/12 06:35 PM

By the way, I just have to share this. I'm reminded of my keyboard interface hack of yesteryear... back in 1978, to be exact, when achieving polyphony (more than one note at a time) in a homebrew system was non-trivial. Here's my Byte article about the project... click to embiggen the photos:

Polyphony Made Easy

Good times...
Posted By: KHen

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/09/12 09:33 PM

One thing that I didn't see mentioned and that I totally forgot about, also you seem very mechanically inclined and you could pull this off with ease from what you have previously done, is buying a keybed, such as the Fatar TP40Wood, arguably one of their finest actions, combined with a PNOScan Midi strip and build your own piano. It would have the dimensions you need and be cheaper than an NP2. The sounds would come from a virtual piano such as Ivory, Alicia keys, pianoteq, etc. You'd also need to build your own housing around the keys, otherwise they would just be exposed piano keys. You would essentially make your own controller with a nice action.

Here is a link of someone doing this. http://www.forum-pianoteq.com/viewtopic.php?id=2043

Also, this is probably vaporware, but it shows what the PNOscan is capable of http://www.ltecpiano.com/ltecpiano.com/Playing.html

P.S. If I were live aboard I'd need room for not only a piano, but ALSO my cello.

Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/09/12 11:07 PM

KHen - that is beautiful; thanks for telling me about it! I'm hoping not to have to dive in that deeply, but it is really good to know that the tools are available and well-documented. Links have been saved!

I'm off to learn more about the system requirements of virtual pianos, in case things end up going that way. As I mentioned earlier, my standard practice mode is interwoven with other activities, often a dozen or more short sessions throughout the day instead of single marathons. Whatever form this takes, it needs to be no big deal to pull it out and play... but I suspect that's possible with any of the options under serious consideration, since a 2 GHz quad-core Mac Mini Server will be continuously running the database engine for all the ship monitoring, as well as the web front-end for the user interface. That sounds chewy, but it's pretty lightweight computationally.

Thinking about it, and my needs, a virtual piano probably makes more sense than a rack synth if internal sounds are not an option... space is at a premium anyway, and there's a lot of nearby processing horsepower that's usually just idling. Ivory II looks great, but that iLok key is offensive. Maybe Galaxy Vintage D...

Posted By: whitfit

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/10/12 04:44 PM

I agree that you could pull off the modular piano. For a mechanically competent person it is a pretty trivial matter, and given your other projects I have no doubt about that.

One thing I thought I'd mention is that the MP6 might actually be a better candidate for this hack. The action is more compact and self contained, and it is also very good, if not quite the MP10. It is also all plastic which might help in the marine environment. One of the online retailer stocks and sells damaged MP10s, which might be a good way to go, if a little risky.

By the way, my other hobbies are sailing and bicycles (and woodworking and "mechaniking"), so I am very intrigued by your projects. I am less of a computer hacker, but definitely a bicycle/machine hacker, so I love to see all of this stuff.
Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/11/12 09:34 AM

Whitfit - interesting data point on the MP6; thanks! I look forward to seeing how this project unfolds... I appreciate the encouragement.

And yes, it's really the combination of passions, isn't it? That's always what has driven me on these crazy quests; I have the most fun when everything I love is all blended into a lifestyle. Here's the final version of my bike, about 21 years ago (I think I may have linked to a page with this photo earlier in the thread, but an inline photo is more fun). I carried my flute 17,000 miles, and it was an essential part of the adventure... I feel the same way now about the piano on the sailboat.

[Linked Image]

Fair winds!
Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/22/12 07:00 AM


Question for y'all... has anyone seen the innards of a PX-350?

I've been continuing to refine the design here, and have pretty well decided that sound generation should be handed off to a Mac Mini Server that's only about 4 feet away and lightly loaded. No rack synth needed, and it would be overkill anyway. I like the sound of the Galaxy Vintage D and a few others of the ilk... and having internal sounds as well is not a bad thing either... quick turn-key playing when I don't want to mess with the setup of the Mac with VNC on the iPad, etc.

This gets me back to the controller question, and my dimensional constraints are severe enough that it looks like I almost certainly need to do the hack I mentioned earlier (repackaging the keybed to a minimal drawer that can be pushed well under the boat's lab desk, past my knees... then pulled out enough to clear the keys for playing, with no control-panel overhead). If I have to do that anyway, I am no longer limited to the svelte slabs... so I might as well stop looking for something that may not exist, find an acceptable keyboard in whatever form, buy the thing, extract the innards, and toss the cabinet.

So it's down to this: Doepfer looks interesting, if a bit unknown, but they seem to have the best of the Fatar actions. Studiologic has enough detractors here that I'm wary. What about getting one of the new Casios? The 350 is $799 at the moment, and I'd be much less nervous tearing into one than, say, a Nord (which wins on pure techno-lust terms, but is honestly more than I need or want to risk). Given the environment, and the resale-destroying hack, I should be looking at cost:performance ratio... so I'm wondering about the internal "modularity" of the PX-350 board layout. As cleanly hackable as the MP10 as revealed in the nekkid pictures thread from a while back?

(This is worth asking, because manufacturing cost-minimization often makes things highly unhackable... separate boards with open harnesses are very nice.)

I have considered just tearing apart my existing RD-700SX. I'm not in love with the sounds, though, and it feels a bit dated overall... but I suppose I should ask how a PX-350 would compare, given the age difference (what, about 8 years?). When I'm using software pianos, of course, the sounds don't matter, so maybe that's the best choice, even with the somewhat ancient USB interface and cryptic user interface... though I suspect I'd use on-board voices quite a lot if they are nice, and a generational update is very appealing here.

Cheers, and thanks again for the patient and enthusiastic brainstorming help... it has really made a difference!


(Added note: I know the 350 has internal speakers, but it also seems to be the most feature-rich of the product family and sounds very nice in the demos I've heard. Depending on how they are packaged, the included speakers and amp might make it into the system as "extras" independent of the boat's main audio system... again with the idea of just having a one-switch solution for quick tinkering, which is how I tend to play much of the time. I seem to learn better when keyboard time is sprinkled through the day rather than taken in large chunks, so an easy turnkey system is very appealing if I can shoehorn it in.)
Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 12/14/12 05:38 AM

HI folks...

It's been three weeks since my last post in this thread, and I've had a few additional thoughts that simplify the problem. Here's a quick update, followed by a few questions.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm assuming that there will be software pianos when I want maximum quality, but I also find real value in simply being able to switch on one thing and play. These are not mutually incompatible, of course, and the lesson here is that it is probably a lot easier to choose a DP instead of a controller, given the much wider range of options and the economies of scale.

The big change is the realization that I don't have to do the keybed repackaging job I was anticipating/dreading... there are enough projects to keep me busy, and that one would have been fiddly. When seated at the boat's lab desktop, it turns out that I have a little over 13" between my knees and the first obstacle in front of them (a vertical post that supports the center of the desk). Clearance above the knee is about 4" (barely enough for the thinnest slabs) but there is enough room in the other dimension for most of the off-the-shelf stage pianos or home digitals.

Packaging will be a simple drawer, pulling from the locked position under the desk to an extended position that is just enough to clear the controls. This will require a seating hack, since this whole region is on a sort of pedestal and this moves my center of mass past the edge, but that's unavoidable and expected.

So given all that, and removing my earlier constraints about hackability, I'd like to refine the choice based on these observations:

  • Internal speakers are undesirable and redundant in this application (not only adding depth but superfluous with the marine stereo, big-iron amp, excellent speakers, and subwoofer all within arm's reach).
  • Ideal price point is about $1K, though I can nudge it up to $1.5K. This leaves out the NS2, alas... tempting but overkill! There are also a few sweet boards in the $2.5K range (ES7, RD-700NX...) that push this or dimensional limits.
  • Unlike most people, I'd actually prefer the thing to require a wall wart IF (and that's a big "if") the voltage it accepts is unregulated 12, allowing it to hang on the boat's battery bus. Otherwise, I'll live with AC and run the inverter... I'll probably have AC on almost all the time anyway, but hate to keep adding things that require it (like my espresso machine, but what are ya gonna do?).
  • Modern and excellent sounds, of course, though I expect to turn to Galaxy or other software voicing when I want to really optimize it. But for quick practice, it should at least sound nice by itself (huge subjective word there, but you know what I mean... good long decay, lush grand voice, plenty of polyphony, not shrill, no obvious looping, no buzz, etc)
  • Piano-esque touch. I've read the arguments about graded action, and I'm not accustomed to an AP, though I prefer a good piano feel to that of a lightweight synth or organ. I've only been playing about 6 years, and am not trying to replicate any previous experience... and heck, it's a boat. I expect some compromise.
  • Length less than 53" or so… more than that and it will start to interfere with things. Depth 13" or less, and height probably around 5" or less. In all dimensions, less is better!
  • MIDI capability, which is a given… USB at least. I don't have a current need for IN/OUT/THRU connectors.
  • Other voices, other features, gizmos, effects, recording, rhythm sections, layering... the more the merrier, as long as it doesn't start to compromise excellence where it counts.
  • Finally, a good sense of quality. This is the most ephemeral part, but there is an undeniable aesthetic component to this that affects my desire to practice (in addition to good sound). Cheap plasticky feel (of cabinet and keys) does not seduce the fingers.

The relaxation of packaging constraints opens lots of possibilities I had not considered before, and I'm on an island where the only music dealer is a delightfully friendly place with lots of stringed instruments, but only one old acoustic piano. I can't easily just go try a few things, though if it gets narrowed down to a couple of strong candidates I'd find my way to the mainland (or just take a chance). Every time I come to this forum, I spend an hour or so reading comparisons of boards, and I know it's hugely subjective, but given the issues above are there any that absolutely jump out from the pack as obvious best choices?

Many thanks for your thoughts and the collective wisdom of this community,
Posted By: KHen

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 12/17/12 05:23 AM

So a 1k-1.5k board with dimensions of >53" L, >13" D, and >5" H.....hmm this is a tough one.

I looked at about 10 boards at the 1k-1.5k mark and only 2 met your dimension requirements. The kawai ES6 (it's 1/2" bigger on all sides than what you want) and the Numa Nano( well under your size tolerances, but good luck reaching studiologic if you have a complaint). I'll try to do some more digging for you, but with those dimensions most boards from the BIG 4 are out( Roland, Yamaha, Kawai, Korg) Even the Nord piano is out dimension wise, plus it's not 1.5k either.

Hope this helps. I'll keep looking for you. Happy sailing!

Edit: Just saw the Numa Compact. It's well within the dimensions, and it's $670. May be worth a look into.
Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 12/17/12 08:21 AM

Thanks, KHen!

Did you mean the Kawai MP6? That's one of the ones on my short list...

Those numbers are not cast in STONE, though they get tight very quickly... the space already exists and has solid objects on all sides (desk support post, slightly movable... iMac to left... tool cabinet to right... knees to front...).

As to the Numa... I keep finding my way to those when searching specs, then get kind of turned off by user comments here and elsewhere. Oh, to not care! *grin*

And I do lust after the NS2 for its UI and overall feature set, though I have never touched one and it's way over-budget anyway.

The most annoying dimension is that 13" one, and I'm exploring work-arounds. It gets SO much easier if I let that creep up to 15" (among other things, the geekily appealing Korg Krome, though there are lots of not-so-complimentary reports on the keybed and it's also annoyingly long... so it is over 2 of the 3 limits). I'm half tempted to just shrug and get the PX-350, based largely on reports of good feel... it's half my price limit in a risky environment, and is within the space constraints.

(I have been tempted to just keep my Roland RD-700SX, but I'm frankly a little tired of it. It is also rather portly, over two of the dimension targets.)

GAS is really insidious, isn't it? Heck, I'm not even remotely pro-level like a good many of you folks, yet I'm spending HOURS in analyzing comments, specs, dimensions, interfaces, and overall subjective cost-performance ratio... without even getting a chance to actually try any of them. I know. I'm overthinking it, but what are ya gonna do? crazy

Cheers, and I'll post as this unfolds!
Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/11/15 04:54 PM

HI folks...

Thought I'd add a long-overdue update to this thread, now that we are three years along. I bought a PX-5S but never really connected with the touch... though it was a perfect fit and easy to handle in the boat. I did have trouble managing sheet music, until I made an elevated stand for it:


But meanwhile, my back was getting worse, and I haven't been sailing at all... so I finally decided to make the move to a big power boat that gives me more space for lab, machine shop, and studio (while placing fewer demands on my creaky bod!). A happy note in this is that there is much more room for the piano, so I'm getting serious about an RD-800, deployed on a 4-bar linkage from fixtures on the wall behind the motorized drafting table I use mostly as a desk (if I have to dig the piano out of storage and hook it up, I'll never play). This will end up stowing in a nest above side windows in the salon, then smoothly lower to the playing position when needed... already cabled to mixer, computer, and power.

I promise to post photos... this should be a hoot.

Posted By: Jack Elliott

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/13/15 02:59 AM

wow, just wow. serious madness, and I'm jealous!
Posted By: Kawai James

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/13/15 05:46 AM

Welcome back Nomadness!

I shall look forward to seeing that RD800 stand! wink

Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 10/29/15 04:18 AM

Thanks for the re-welcome and kind words!

Just had a /headdesk moment yesterday... I happened to be in *cough* a nearby town *cough* where there is a music store that's part of that Really Big Chain. So I thought I'd pop in and let my fingers feel an RD-800, just because, well, one probably should before spending that kinda money.

I walked in, and was immediately approached by an eager kid (I'm 63, so that's a relative term). I told him what I was looking for.

"Nope, but we have some great Williams pianos over here!"

He hadn't actually heard of the RD-800 and I had to explain it, but he did kindly offer to order one. *sigh*

(I probably judged too hastily, but did not take any of the inventory for a spin.)

Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/04/15 02:00 AM

Another update to this 3-year-old thread. Despite my post from 3 weeks ago, I've had a change of heart and decided to go ahead and pick up an MP-7. There's apparently no way to see ANY of these contraptions up-close in this corner of the US, so the only way to move forward is to take a chance. With a $700 price difference vs the RD-800, not to mention 2" shorter length and some excellent demos on the Kawai site, I'll just have to overlook the highly appealing Roland screen and overall more inviting UI.

As to touch, sound, overall quality feel, and other essential details that should actually be the major driving factors? I guess I have to take a chance and find out. It would be days of difficult travel to get to a place to try them, apparently... even a dealer of both north of Seattle doesn't actually have any.

Besides, today is 4X eBay bucks... and I have GAS!

I'll post photos of the boat installation as it occurs... details are not yet solid, but basically it will be deployed on a pair of arms that swing down from the starboard salon wall, placing it (already cabled) at an optimum playing position when my motorized desk is at the lowest position. A little sloping rack cabinet will have the mixer and related items, and looks like a pair of KRK Rokit 6 monitors should be adequate in the small studio space (no sub unless absolutely necessary).

Posted By: Kawai James

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/04/15 04:04 AM

Congrats Steve!

I shall look forward to seeing your new board 'on-board'. wink

Posted By: Charles Cohen

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/04/15 06:47 AM

The only problem now will be salt-water corrosion . . .

Keep the boat interior dry, eh?
Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/04/15 07:34 AM

Charles... indeed. Water corrodes; salt water corrodes absolutely!

There's active humidity management aboard and I'm very fond of conformal coatings and other tricks when building systems, but the first line of defense is to keep the whole region warm and non-condensing... since even a speck of salt is a hygroscopic little bugger that never rests. The MP7 will be stowed in a nest when not in use, thermally isolated from the cabin windows that are nearby. Of course, if I head out on a crossing, one of the items on the pre-flight checklist will be to package it properly and tuck it away (along with the instruments in the electronics lab and a few other bits of gizmology). If we take green water aboard, all bets are off. (Oh, James - that would be OK under warranty, right? <grin>)

I should mention some of the other rationale for this choice, since so many folks here enjoy the X-vs-Y discussions. Huge pluses for the MP7 are comments in this forum over the past year and Kawai's active presence, and I've studied the demos and specs with GAS-induced obsession. I feel confident that this is a good choice, and hope to follow up with enthusiastic postings over the next few weeks. It's always unnerving to buy something sight-unseen (and especially touch-unfelt, where keyboards are concerned), but y'all have provided lots of input from a wide range of perspectives and experience levels... so I'm game.

I might have to start a new thread at some point though. You know what they say: Sailboat -> Trawler -> Motorhome -> Rest Home. I'm going over to the Dark Side, not without a few pangs. There is SO much more room for geek toys... including lab, machine shop, CNC router, music studio, massage chair, ham radio, telemetry, ROV, and a crane-deployed pedal/solar/sail micro-trimaran. This is probably my last hurrah with epic technomadic projects, so I might as well make it a fun one. The piano is a huge presence in the mix.


Posted By: Charles Cohen

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/04/15 05:20 PM

Bon voyage!

We sold our Morgan 36 Out Island -- "Right Galah" -- about a year ago. It's tough when your knees don't work. I think we'll skip the trawler phase, and go straight to motorhome, or rest home.

I'm looking at a Korg Wavedrum this afternoon -- a percussion studio in a very small package. Eminently suitable for a boat.
Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/05/15 08:29 AM

What a cool thing! Just watched the Korg video... love it.

Congrats on the sale... though that old saw about "the two best days in a boat owner's life" is way over-simplified. It took me over a year just to decide to sell Nomadness, and then more than another year to actually do it... including some major yard time. For me it was the back; I started joking about epoxying my dock lines, then realized it wasn't funny.

In piano news, while waiting for the MP7 to wing its way across the US, I'm lining up related goodies... pair of KRK Rokit 6 monitors, rackmount mixer and eq, power conditioning, and other blinky bits that go in the boat's media lab. Packing density is already getting scary.

Fair winds,

Nomadic Research Labs
s/v Nomadness transitioning to m/v Datawake
Posted By: Fer De Armas

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/06/15 11:19 PM

Hi... choose a digital piano is something very personal and subjective, in my case i chose Kawai MP7. Best digital piano under $2500 range period.
Posted By: Dave Weiser

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/07/15 01:57 AM

This is the best thread title/post I've ever seen on a music forum.

And your website is fabulous.

If you ever sail into port in Boston, please drop me a line.
Dinner and drinks on me in exchange for tales of the Technomadic life. wink
Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/07/15 05:19 AM

Thank you for the kind words, Dave! I look forward to it... the Great Loop is very much on my bucket list, and although that initial delivery is a bit of a daunting project, I'd love to spend a couple of years plying/playing the coastal and inland waterways. I'd definitely make time to head up to New England, whether to do the long version of the loop or just visit friends in your neighborhood and Down East.

I've been working on the studio suite... it's still a squeeze, but there's more room than there was on the sailboat. The substrate is an electric drafting table that nicely covers the range from seated to standing. It will have a 12U rack cabinet for audio geekery (Middle Atlantic CFR cabinet, about as svelte as possible), an iMac on a swing arm that can let me work from the adjacent massage chair, and some video tools. The monitors will be just outboard of the table in a proper triangle, and I'll just have to hope they'll be OK for general music use when I'm not in the hot seat.

Anyway, I'll do a blog post on the microship site with photos as soon as it's getting real... this will be a fun project.

And to Fer, just above - thanks for the reinforcement on the MP7!

Posted By: R_B

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/07/15 01:28 PM

In my speed read scanning mode I misread the title of this thread.
I am a sail boarder, so my reflex read "Sailboard piano", which didn't seem to make much sense, so I opened it. laugh
There is definitely not enough space on my sailboard, and playing HT would be tough, even when hooked in.

Not just "humidity".

It is part of environmental testing setups for a LOT of equipment, but not typically for "musical electronics".
The components on the circuit boards will be OK, the circuit boards themselves probably not, plugs/sockets, etc, e.g. CONNECTORS even worse.
Posted By: Nomadness

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/07/15 07:33 PM

Yes... we call salt water Aqua Regia sometimes... corrosive humidity is death to electronics. Packaging is a huge part of all this (been doing it for 20 years or more, with lessons from oceanography and industrial control environments). Staying well ahead of it is essential, and sadly, things called "marine electronics" are not necessarily immune once the spray flies in earnest.

Fortunately, we have a few things going for us in this project. First, despite the title of this thread, it's not a sailboat anymore. Second, I've been dealing with on-board electronics long enough to know how to protect it (mostly), and you are exactly right.... connectors are particularly vulnerable, partly because their asperities reduce the actual contact area, and partly because they inevitably represent nearby differing voltages. Add some electrolyte and the fuzzy conductive hydrophilic crud starts to grow... and like rust, it never sleeps.

In some cases, I've done a fair bit of repackaging; in others, simple isolation. One of my projects (a video turret) ran about a half PSI above ambient, pressurized by dessicated air... but it was designed to be outside and wet so was an extreme case. Sometimes vapor-phase corrosion inhibitors are enough to protect for the life of the instrument; other times a carefully applied conformal coating spray helps. All involve trade-offs of thermal barriers, backfiring with connector reliability, and complexity.

In the use case of the piano, I'm treating it as I do laptops and oscilloscopes... trot it out when needed in benign conditions; put it away otherwise. That is generally sufficient, assuming proper gold-plated contacts and adherence to current manufacturing standards (about which I can only assume at the moment, since I haven't seen it yet). Not too worried... though if we start taking waves aboard we have larger problems and all bets are off.

Finally, the comparative luxury of "big boat" also means it's easy to keep studio and lab spaces thermally stable and dehumidified... this is a much easier problem than the Microship (which, by the way, will now be crane-deployed from the upper deck). This is going to be a hoot.... here she is after spending the summer in the water a couple of years ago (without proper bottom paint!):


(PS - I love sailboarding... absolutely the best way to learn to sail! Nothing teaches the relationship between center of effort and center of lateral resistance more effectively...)


Posted By: Fer De Armas

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/07/15 08:56 PM

Hi Nomadness, you are welcome my friend...!
Posted By: Kawai James

Re: Choosing a Sailboat Piano - 11/09/15 02:22 AM

Even the 'Microship' looks awesome! wink
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