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Posted By: jackifus Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/15/17 10:41 PM
With respect to a digital piano, my focus is on the feeling of connectedness from the action to the sound.

I want to play an instrument that feels alive - regardless of the source of the timbral sound: model or sample.

My current impression is that a modeled sound *feels* more alive to me. I don't mean to say that it sounds objectively better... just that the responsive feeling is such that I'm able to coax greater timbral variation, I'm able to have a richer conversation with the instrument. I guess it feels more analog to me.

While this strong impression arose from playing a Roland FP-90, I'm still exploring other options (MP11, RD-2000).

And in so doing, I wondered if internal sounds might be intrinsically more responsive than those accessible via a MIDI interface.
Has anyone found that to be the case, or is it merely imagined by me?

I know that latency can be an issue, and can be managed. But beyond that for example, I don't believe there's a reason that a manufacturer must design internal sounds to conform only to the "0-127" velocity granularity that an external MIDI interface allows. (I'm not pretending that my technique is such that I could take advantage of more than that ... I'm using this as an illustration of potential differences between internal and external sounds).

And so, is there special sauce that a manufacturer applies to their internal sound engine as invoked by its instrument action that is not reachable by MIDI ?

*Something* made me say "WOW" out loud when I played the FP-90...
I'm curious if I'd be able to feel something similar with an external sound should I prefer the MP11 action after I try it.

Of course, I'll try it and listen and feel... but I'm curious if there's a known difference between internal and external "connectedness" ...

thanks so much.

Jack
It all depends about interface (the keyboard/action), sound (for example, how many velocity layers for a sampled instrument, etc.) and what is in between (for example, the velocity map) which translates what comes out of the interface towards the sound engine. It's often possible to improve what the manufacturer offers as is, for example simply adjusting the "internal" parameters offered on the DP, otherwise using external MIDI data mapping devices. Also, some sounds are created with way less dynamic range than others, including sampled acoustic pianos, etc. I always choose digital instruments which offer maximum programmability, as I don't want to be stuck with just a dozen of adjustable parameters.
Quote
. . .
And so, is there special sauce that a manufacturer applies to their internal sound engine as invoked by its instrument action that is not reachable by MIDI ?


That's a well-formed question, and I think the answer is:

. . . "No."

There may be exceptions for some DP's. But for most of them, the link between the keyboard and sound generator is a list of MIDI events:

. . . <note-on / pitch / velocity > <note-off / pitch / velocity > . . . . .

(I don't know how many DP's transmit note-off velocity, but I know some do -- and for those, it makes a difference to their sound generators.)

I think that any maker who _did_ use "beyond MIDI" information would be very vocal about it.
Posted By: jackifus Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/16/17 05:37 AM
Quote
I think that any maker who _did_ use "beyond MIDI" information would be very vocal about it.


That's a great point. I appreciate it.
Posted By: Pete14 Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/16/17 01:32 PM
I posted a similar question, but I used two different instruments for comparison.

Basically, I'm curious if the on-board sound of the Roland LX- 17 would be 'intrinsically' better connected to its action than the Novus used as a controller running Pianoteq.

Roland supposedly uses a scanner under the keys along with sensors that, I assume, have been finely tuned to control a sound engine specifically designed for the "Roland action."

While the Novus uses a grand action, it has not been optimized specifically for Pianoteq, so, does something potentially get lost in translation? Can we tweak the heck out of Pianoteq to make the connection to Novus seamless?

Maybe there exists a "special sauce" that goes beyond simple on/off events, or maybe not. It is a very subjective area. I suppose some will swear by their on-board sound (purely in terms of connectedness/playability), whilst others will find no difference at all running a virtual instrument.
Using a dedicated chip to scan a keyboard is not new. According to the service manual of my circa 2002 Clavinova, I have one too. The purpose of this chip is just to measure the velocity. Creating 88 little counters on a chip is not that hard and can avoid too much load on the main CPU, and/or improve the resolution.

The tuning of the response could be done with a translation table in the Roland.

With Pianoteq, you can fine tune easily a key response. You put some point on a response curve and can set the intended velocity at any MIDI velocity number (with interpolation between theses points).
Posted By: Pete14 Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/16/17 03:09 PM
I understand that you can set the intended velocity at any MIDI velocity number (with interpolation between these points). I believe you can also emphasize specific overtones (unrelated to playability) using the spectrum profile, and so on........but the question is, is there something beyond these very 'advanced and scientific' notions (perhaps a special sauce) that when applied at the programming/factory level to the on-board sound engine could make a difference? Technically, I suppose the answer is no, but then again, what if there exists a secret recipe for the special sauce? smile






Posted By: jackifus Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/16/17 11:14 PM
Thanks for the responses.

I tried to find this question addressed in earlier threads but didn't find it…

Underlying the question is a feeling of trepidation at the thought of purchasing an MP11 with its close to 4-year-old internals vs a new RD-2000 given the rapid rate of change of electronic components.

And so, even if up to debate, the answer to my question sounds like a "no"

And a selection between these two (for me) would governed by the mechanical feel of the action, the sensibility behind the physical design and layout, physical control surface differences (joystick & sliders) … as well as the acceptability of friction added by an external PC running whichever sound that feels more satisfying than the aging MP11 internals.

And responsiveness can be managed through parameters in pianoteq per se, that have every likelihood of being as satisfying as the Roland that made me say "wow" aloud.

Thanks much. It's all quite helpful.

I'm eager to feel the MP11.

Cheers
Posted By: Gombessa Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/17/17 12:25 AM
Originally Posted by jackifus

I know that latency can be an issue, and can be managed. But beyond that for example, I don't believe there's a reason that a manufacturer must design internal sounds to conform only to the "0-127" velocity granularity that an external MIDI interface allows. (I'm not pretending that my technique is such that I could take advantage of more than that ... I'm using this as an illustration of potential differences between internal and external sounds).


While there's no reason any given DP's internal velocity sensor would need to use the standard 128 MIDI output levels, I've only heard of a few that externally output more (e.g., boards outputting to high-resolution MIDI or perhaps Roland's new Rainlink). I haven't really heard of anyone claiming to be able to notice a difference (though honestly I haven't really looked). Pianoteq supports high resolution MIDI input, so it may be worth searching for comparisons between standard and hi-res input to that software?

Originally Posted by jackifus
Underlying the question is a feeling of trepidation at the thought of purchasing an MP11 with its close to 4-year-old internals vs a new RD-2000 given the rapid rate of change of electronic components.


Interestingly, I have an MP11, and have recently switched to using it to drive a software piano (not Pianoteq though) and have recently sent some time trying out an RD2000. While I could hear something very clean and crisp in the Roland output, it didn't really blow me away. Frankly, neither did the MP11's default tone; I think my first real "wow" moment with it was when driving the software piano, which had a richness and depth I didn't feel in the HW samples (though it's kind of a pain dealing with a computer every time I want to play).

I was honestly left with a fairly lukewarm feeling from the PHA-50 action, which has been really hyped here for the last year or so. IMO it didn't really feel all that different from other Roland actions like Ivory-Feel G and PHA-IV Concert--in short, it's a fine weighted action that leans a bit on the heavy side. Part of it could be that my MP11 feels particularly well-matched to the acoustic grand I play, so that becomes the baseline everything else gets compared to.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the MP11 sound and feel!
This has been discussed before here on PW and elsewhere. IMHO the need to have more than the usual 1 to 127 MIDI levels is pointless. For example, let's imagine one modifies a totally ordinary linear velocity map, but introducing in it one MIDI output value of zero for just one MIDI input value, for example 90 or 5Ah. In other words, if you happen to hit this rather mf precise value, you will hear nothing, as if the hammer wouldn't move on a real piano. I challenge anyone to try to repeatedly hit (let's say three times in a row) such an isolated value on a digital instrument. If nobody can, it's probably that 127 velocity levels are way enough in terms of precision and musical expression. Unless someone happens to be the reincarnation of Horowitz.

:-)
I agree. MIDI 128 is enough. Finer increments would defy the human ability to perceive.

But there are those who believe that more is better, even when it's not. (They make great customers!)
Posted By: Gombessa Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/17/17 06:07 AM
Originally Posted by Bosendorff
I challenge anyone to try to repeatedly hit (let's say three times in a row) such an isolated value on a digital instrument. If nobody can, it's probably that 127 velocity levels are way enough in terms of precision and musical expression. Unless someone happens to be the reincarnation of Horowitz.

:-)


This keeps coming up, but I'd suggest the real question isn't whether a specific MIDI value can be reproduced at will. I'd even contend that Horowitz (or anyone else, really) has never been able to exactly reproduce any note he has played, ever. It's just a question of how many decimal points of precision you care to go out.

The question is really whether you can hear (or feel, or whatever) the difference between value 89 and 90, versus something like 89.x and 90, assuming that same difference can be heard on an acoustic. The answer may very well be no. But if yes, it doesn't mean the pianist intended to precisely play 89.x and that they do it every single time they play that piece, only that they happened to hit that value and it makes a difference that is noticeable on some level by the listener (as it allegedly would on an acoustic).
Posted By: peterws Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/17/17 04:30 PM
Originally Posted by MacMacMac
I agree. MIDI 128 is enough. Finer increments would defy the human ability to perceive.

But there are those who believe that more is better, even when it's not. (They make great customers!)


I, and Yamaha,amongst others, were once firmly of the opinion that 32 note polyphony was more than enough. Seems like it's only me who thinks this now . . . .
When trying to play multiple notes with the same velocity, I get a 5 unit dispersion (-2/+2 or more, I don't remember). Then the 127 MIDI scale is enough for me. If we want some randomness when 2 same velocity notes are pressed, we can use a round robin virtual piano.
Posted By: JoeT Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/17/17 08:40 PM
The main question is: How precise are the sensors? I don't think they really can differentiate 127 values. At most a few dozens.

High precision MIDI is mostly useful for MIDI touch curve adjustments without losing precision. You might decide you want to play some virtual instrument between velocity 55 and 65 only without being restricted to just 10 steps. With 7 bit MIDI you have to map velocities 55 to 65 to 1 to 127 inside the instrument itself. With everything 14 bit MIDI capable you can simply adjust the MIDI controller or map it elsewhere on the MIDI bus, because you have still hundreds of steps between MIDI velocities 55 and 65.
Posted By: prout Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/17/17 09:06 PM
Originally Posted by JoeT
The main question is: How precise are the sensors? I don't think they really can differentiate 127 values. At most a few dozens.

High precision MIDI is mostly useful for MIDI touch curve adjustments without losing precision. You might decide you want to play some virtual instrument between velocity 55 and 65 only without being restricted to just 10 steps. With 7 bit MIDI you have to map velocities 55 to 65 to 1 to 127 inside the instrument itself. With everything 14 bit MIDI capable you can simply adjust the MIDI controller or map it elsewhere on the MIDI bus, because you have still hundreds of steps between MIDI velocities 55 and 65.


I am trying to understand what value to the musician this increase in velocity resolution would have.

My acoustic grand has a dynamic range of about 50dB. Mapping that 50dB range into 127 steps (allowing 0 as silence) is a resolution better than 0.5dB per step, a change far finer than any human ear is capable of discerning, or any human pianist is capable of consistently reproducing.

edit: In case you are wondering how I know my AP's dynamic range, it is because I check my mic positions near the piano when recording and can achieve, at maximum while beating the sh*t out of the piano, 103dBSPL measured 2cm from the rim at the curve with the lid on half stick. The softest note playable with consistancy is at 53dBSPL. When fed to my DAW I set this to -15dBFS and -65dBFS.
Originally Posted by Frédéric L
When trying to play multiple notes with the same velocity, I get a 5 unit dispersion (-2/+2 or more, I don't remember).


I agree with Gombessa that the ability to reproduce a velocity at will has nothing to do with determining the desirable limits of velocity sensing.

If you repeatedly aim for velocity 62 and get 60-64 (which would be darn good, IMO!), and aiming for 63 gets you 61-65, and aiming for 64 gets you 62-66, then they are generating three distinctly different sets of results, even if your are only getting within 2 of your target.

And you might not be able to exactly duplicate each velocity within a crescendo, but that doesn't make them unimportant to the effect.

That said, I still think 127 values is probably enough. If each value represented a .5 decibel volume difference, the difference between any two adjacent values would essentially be inaudible, and you'd still have a 64 dB dynamic range from your quietest note to your loudest note, which seems like more than enough.
(((There are some threads about this at
http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/2392952
and
http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/1999063
)))

But then I think the question further goes to mapping various velocities to the various levels, and that to me is where it gets perhaps more complicated than merely "having enough" to account for audible differences. For example, for response to feel natural, you might actually need some difference of force (velocity) to NOT be sufficient to create an audible difference, and to me, that's what makes it more complicated to determine how many levels of force you need to sense. Maybe you need more gradations within a certain range of force, and fewer gradations within another.

In a related conversation a while back, we talked about the possibility of using a controller like a Casio PX5S (capable of sending hi-resolution MIDI beyond 127) with Pianoteq (capable of receiving same), and turning the hi-res sensing of Pianoteq on and off (which I think is possible), and seeing if any players could reliably tell whether the hi-res sensing was on or off, whether any setting felt more expressive or accurate to their playing. I don't know that anyone tried it, though. Still it's awfully hard to prove a negative. Even if no one reported being able to tell the difference, it doesn't mean that it's impossible that someone else could, or could with some other controller or software.

It is largely academic, though, as even IF this difference exists, it would seem to be quite subtle at best. I don't think we are yet close enough to "perfection" in key feel, sound generation, and sound reproduction for *this* to be the missing "a-ha!" element. ;-)
Originally Posted by prout
Mapping that 50dB range into 127 steps (allowing 0 as silence) is a resolution better than 0.5dB per step, a change far finer than any human ear is capable of discerning, or any human pianist is capable of consistently reproducing.

Exactly. Just like it's impossible for human eyes to read what is written on a tiny piece of paper at a 100 feet distance.

I have written a special Excel sheet with macros which, when used with a well-known freeware, enables one to create any MIDI velocity curve (yes, within the "horrible limitations" of the 0-127 values). One can later easily use this as a simple external data mapping, as long as the instrument has MIDI IN and OUT and that a computer is available nearby. This enables one to accommodate for anything unwanted on stock velocity curves/maps on digital instruments (if they don't offer user-programmable ones) and also create custom ones.

In other words, supposing that the user likes the feel of a given keyboard and its sounds (and that both are at least decently made and balanced), when it comes to "what's in between" incorrect velocity maps are much more likely to cause unsatisfactory results for a user playing a DP or synth, compared to the MIDI 1.0 7-bit range of values.
Posted By: JoeT Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/17/17 10:37 PM
Originally Posted by anotherscott
In a related conversation a while back, we talked about the possibility of using a controller like a Casio PX5S (capable of sending hi-resolution MIDI beyond 127) with Pianoteq (capable of receiving same), and turning the hi-res sensing of Pianoteq on and off (which I think is possible), and seeing if any players could reliably tell whether the hi-res sensing was on or off, whether any setting felt more expressive or accurate to their playing. I don't know that anyone tried it, though. Still it's awfully hard to prove a negative. Even if no one reported being able to tell the difference, it doesn't mean that it's impossible that someone else could, or could with some other controller or software.

The point of high-resolution MIDI is to not have to adjust the velocity curve inside Pianoteq (or any other of maybe dozens of virtual instruments), but have the ability to do the mapping elsewhere instead. When working with limited ranges (for example mapping input velocity 20-70 to 1-127), you get very big steps without high resolution and you can hear that.
Good point, JoeT, which also kind of picks up from where I said "maybe you need more gradations within a certain range of force, and fewer gradations within another." By having more than 127 total values to work with, you can also get more finesse within a specific range, without having very little available elsewhere. An example of that which many people may have experiences with is when they change a piano's default velocity curve, say, from normal to hard. They may get the better response they want on one end, but find a compromised lack of finesse at the other. Essentially, they are "throwing away" some of the 127 values they are starting with, and that could be part of the issue.
Posted By: Gombessa Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/18/17 01:01 AM
Originally Posted by prout

My acoustic grand has a dynamic range of about 50dB. Mapping that 50dB range into 127 steps (allowing 0 as silence) is a resolution better than 0.5dB per step, a change far finer than any human ear is capable of discerning, or any human pianist is capable of consistently reproducing.


+1. Seeing that the dynamic range of an AP between each of 127 steps is already beyond the detectable range of human hearing pretty much ends the discussion for me. There are way bigger fish to fry in DP technology!
prout: I think you nailed it.

This topic has been discussed here quite a number of times in years past.

I have long understood that 1 dB is the smallest change in loudness that the human ear can detect ... and that only under the best conditions. Someone here countered that some people can distinguish .5 dB.

So yes, prout-san ... 127 levels is enough for .5 dB increments ... which is as fine as the finest ear can discern.
(I think you could cut that in half to 64 levels and VERY few would notice. Cut it in half yet again and few would notice!)

But increase it to 4096? That's just a techno-copout. Even the "ours-is-bigger" marketeers who trot out the polyphony numbers, and who declare that their keyboards rival the finest concert grands have not yet made touting mention of the virtues of MIDI hi-res. So I'm inclined to ignore this "feature".

JoeT points out that in some cases a production environment might need the hi-res to tweak things up for special purposes.

But I approach the piano as a performer, not as a technician. I don't have special purposes. I wonder how many people do? And are they in the piano market? Or are they in the production equipment market?
Posted By: voxpops Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/18/17 06:17 AM
My personal experience is that when I had a PX-5S and connected it to Pianoteq using Hi-Res MIDI, I was amazed at how in-control I felt. It made playing Pianoteq a very pleasurable experience - so much so that I used to gig with that combination rather than use the perfectly adequate internal sounds. I suspect it had little to do with sound, and being able to detect minute differences in dBs (particularly on a gig), but everything to do with feel and feedback.

Of course, it was a subjective experience, but all I can say is that there was something different enough with that combination to draw me in more. Since buying a Roland FP-30, I no longer play Pianoteq live, as that sense of control is now missing for me.

I can draw no hard and fast conclusions about the value of Hi-Res MIDI, but personal experience would lead me to suspect that something in the finger-sound engine connection is improved with the increased resolution. Other factors may play an equal part, but I wouldn't write off Hi-Res MIDI as a gimmick.
vox: How does this experience differ from the situation where you feed low-res MIDI to Pianoteq?
Posted By: voxpops Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/18/17 11:53 AM
I wish I still had the PX so I could test that scenario. Unfortunately, the FP-30 I have only outputs standard MIDI (as far as I'm aware), and I find it only average as a controller - not good enough to make me want to hook it up to Pianoteq in a live situation.

Maybe the PX-5S is just a very good controller board and would be equally good in low-res. It would be great if someone who plays subtly could check that out. All I remember is that subliminal feeling that I could express myself better with that combination.
Posted By: similar Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/18/17 05:42 PM
Can you hear the difference in 0.5 dB?

http://www.audiocheck.net/blindtests_level.php?lvl=0.5

After some warming up, I absolutely can (>99% "confidence" according to the above site). To me, this means finer steps than 0.5 dB is generally important for music.

CDs use 16 bits (65,536 values) of resolution. I'm not totally sure, but I think this implies that many more than 128 volume levels for most sounds are accessible to CDs. This suggests that more volumes are well acknowledged to be desirable for music in general.

But pianos are not general instruments. Since they are percussive, it is less common than some other instruments to be need to hear many distinct volumes in a small volume-range.

For an electronic organ, though, you may want to smoothly change the volume output (say with a mod wheel) while holding some notes. Then very fine volume increments are significant.
Posted By: prout Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/18/17 05:54 PM
If I played a descending five note scale multiple times with a decreasing volume and making the last note +/-0.5dB randomly, I seriously doubt that you could hear the change.

The test you referenced is just like the passive-acoustic coding tests done decades to establish the level of compression one could tolerate in the digital stream. In standard A/B note test, people could easily detect minute differences. In music, the threshold level for detection rose immensely. If this were not the case, MP3 would never have made it to the market. We hear what we want to hear.
Posted By: prout Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/18/17 06:01 PM
With regard to bit depth, the depth simply provides a theoretical noise floor which allows the signal to noise ratio to be larger for a greater bit depth.

16 bits is perfectly adequate to reconstruct an analogue waveform and has a nice ~96dB dynamic range though even a symphony orchestra needs only about 65dB range and a rock band about 3dB range. It has little to do with resolution when dealing in acoustics.
I think you should not test weather you can hear a 0.5 dB difference. A better way would be to play a piece of music 2 times : unaltered and with notes randomly changed (+1). If you don't discover the change, the piece is well enough rendered, and the need to have a HiRes MIDI would be proven.
Posted By: prout Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/18/17 07:39 PM
Originally Posted by Frédéric L
I think you should not test weather you can hear a 0.5 dB difference. A better way would be to play a piece of music 2 times : unaltered and with notes randomly changed (+1). If you don't discover the change, the piece is well enough rendered, and the need yo hzvr a HiRes MIDI would be proven.


An excellent idea.
The question to me is less about whether a listener can tell the difference, but rather whether the player can tell the difference, as he's playing (i.e. one system seems to better track his intent, or give him a sense of greater control). A listener can't know whether a given note should be louder, softer, or the same as the previous note, only the player knows. And I think the player is much more likely to sense a subtle difference as he's playing than the listener is in listening to a playback.
Posted By: similar Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/18/17 07:51 PM
I think there are some passages of music where particular notes are repeated at nearly the same volumes. Like in minimalist music, however important fine volume distinctions there are. Personally, I think I could live without finer resolution than 0.5dB, especially since I don't usually listen to music where such situations often occur.

And what passes for general-market acceptance surely should not be given too much respect in an enthusiast context.

But I find the 128 midi volumes to be sufficient for my DP, as well as the far fewer volume samples per note in the Garritan CFX.
Posted By: prout Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/18/17 07:53 PM
Originally Posted by anotherscott
The question to me is less about whether a listener can tell the difference, but rather whether the player can tell the difference, as he's playing (i.e. one system seems to better track his intent, or give him a sense of greater control). A listener can't know whether a given note should be louder, softer, or the same as the previous note, only the player knows. And I think the player is much more likely to sense a subtle difference as he's playing than the listener is in listening to a playback.

I play principally on an very fine acoustic grand. From ppp to fff I sense maybe 5 or 6 velocities that I consciously use. I am sure I use many more than that in a subtle way, but I highly doubt it would be more than maybe twenty levels.
Originally Posted by prout
I play principally on an very fine acoustic grand. From ppp to fff I sense maybe 5 or 6 velocities that I consciously use. I am sure I use many more than that in a subtle way, but I highly doubt it would be more than maybe twenty levels.

It would be an interesting experiment, to map the 127 values down to 20, and see if you notice any diminishing in the subjective responsiveness.
Posted By: prout Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/18/17 09:00 PM
Originally Posted by anotherscott
Originally Posted by prout
I play principally on an very fine acoustic grand. From ppp to fff I sense maybe 5 or 6 velocities that I consciously use. I am sure I use many more than that in a subtle way, but I highly doubt it would be more than maybe twenty levels.

It would be an interesting experiment, to map the 127 values down to 20, and see if you notice any diminishing in the subjective responsiveness.

Just a guess, but I think we might notice the change. There are good arguments being put forth here that there are subtleties when playing that go beyond our obvious notice. I can see both sides of the argument but lack the knowledge to test them out.
Posted By: HSFlik Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/18/17 09:18 PM
Haha, this is a really interesting idea... I'll write a Reaper script to do that at some point this week.
What bothers me about this whole hi-res MIDI thing ...

Why won't they just make pianos that sound more like pianos, instead of working on useless crap like hi-res MIDI?

How about putting in better speakers?
How about putting in better samples?
How about doing SOMETHING WORTHWHILE?
Originally Posted by MacMacMac
What bothers me about this whole hi-res MIDI thing ...

Why won't they just make pianos that sound more like pianos, instead of working on useless crap like hi-res MIDI?

How about putting in better speakers?
How about putting in better samples?
How about doing SOMETHING WORTHWHILE?

Maybe because one is easy and cheap and the other is hard and expensive?
Posted By: ando Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/19/17 02:39 AM
In my experience, 128 steps for MIDI is sometimes not enough - although I think 1000+ steps is overkill. I've done a lot of mix downs on DAWs and workstations for large audio projects and plugins and the digital mixing desks will usually be limited to 128 steps. There have been a lot of times for me when I've had to blend over a dozen instruments and found that having, say a trumpet at 78 was too loud and having it at 77 was too soft. I needed to get it in between those values to get it just where I wanted it. That usually resulted in me having to adjust a bunch of other parameters to achieve it in a different way - or in the case of an audio waveform, I would sometimes normalise the waveform. So I do support more resolution for MIDI - although I'm not sure how significant this would be for playing a digital piano.
In the quest to optimize, "the feeling of connectedness," we might try to identify significant factors and irrelevent factors.

I suppose we could start with a few macro buckets for VIs, such as:

1- Physical - realistic key action.

2- Time domain - low latency and low jitter.

3- Media - realistic sound production from samples and/or modeling.

4- Audio - realistic sound reproduction by amplifier and transducers.
_____

Assuming one has: a good digital piano action, optimized computer performance in the time domain, and a good headphone setup, I think the greatest area for potential improvement is "Media."

Interestingly, I tried the Roland V-Drums tonight with some cheap headphones. I think Roland absolutely killed acoustic drums here (but it is expensive and the cymbals are mediocre). The physical mesh surface is superb, latency unnoticable, and has realistic sounding media. Roland used "high resolution velocity" of 317 which might have made for superb dynamics. Comparing an acoustic snare to V-Drums, I "think" I can hear what is going on. Perhaps Roland make the sound so interesting by adding:

a. slight randomness in velocity
b. (lots of) round robin "samples"
c. no randomness in timing

A snare drum has got to be much easier to replicate than a grand piano is. Maybe these factors also are critical for digital piano reproduction. What if we apply them to Garritan CFX? For me, Garritan CFX loses a bit of realism when I practice a short section and the sound is identical over and over again. A few ideas that might work with a DAW:

a. Introduce slight randomness in velocity to each note.

b. Introduce say 5 round robin "samples".
Not quite sure how to do this. Maybe we could:

*** run 5 instances of Garritan CFX, each with slightly different settings (eg pitch, mic gains, sympathetic resonance etc.) but that would require a monster computer.

*** run 2 instances of Garritan CFX with slightly different settings. Then have the DAW "randomly" mix the output.

*** run 1 instance of Garritan CFX and then have the DAW "randomly" add some minor effects. Maybe EQ would work better than say panning or reverb?




ENDNOTES
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1 - AvantGrand action replicates real piano action; expensive but does not provide same feedback as real piano does. Several of the actions by the big firms are quite good. Regardless, there are only a handful of action options.

2 - I measured excellent (true round-trip) latency from the internal sounds of a few digital keyboards; the result of dedicated electronics and good factory optimization. Getting similar latency levels from VIs (Pianoteq & Garritan CFX) required a lot of Windows optimization, a powerful laptop, and a good interface. I did not measure jitter but several users have measured good results with the RME ASIO drivers. VI users face endless hardware-software-optimization options.

4 - Reproducing audio at realistic volumes and dealing with haphazard room acoustics is challenging; headphones are a pretty good and easy solution. A few inexpensive headphones are quite popular on the pianoworld forums.

I don't know if a digital piano would benefit from 317 velocity steps. The snare was fantastic from ppp to fff and maybe more responsive than a real snare drum. The Roland manual shows one can reset the V-Drums to 127 steps (bank 88) and try it out but I don't know how to do that.
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Posted By: eclectic Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/21/17 07:48 AM
JoeT wrote:
>The main question is: How precise are the sensors? I don't think they really can differentiate 127 values. At most a few dozens.

I'm fairly sure they can. But do they? Only the R&D folks know for sure but here's why I think, yes they do.

Say I use a clock as slow as 400 kHz (2.5 microsecond ticks) and 2 optical encoders spaced 5mm apart. I think that to avoid aliasing I need 2 clock cycles so that's 5 microseconds to detect 5mm of motion, a speed of 1 mm per microsecond. The equivalent of 1000 meters per second and I don't think I can strike that fast, but it could measure it if I could without breaking it. So there's no practical upper limit to the sensors' ability to measure velocity What's the lower limit? That depends on how big is the counter they use. If they have a 24 bit counter it could wait 16 million clock cycles for someone to finally hit the bottom of the key, that's several seconds to move 5 mm, slower than an ant, I can't play that slow. So with those assumptions the sensors are more than fine. I think the numbers I just gave are conservative, feasible, and I think there's room for them to save money by slowing the clock down, shrinking the encoder distance, and use a cheaper 16-bit counter and still be good enough.
I agree, but I would write it otherwise : 1m/s at 5mm needs 5ms. A clock cycle at 400kHz is 0.003ms. The 5ms is 2000 clock cycles : you have a quite good relative accuracy.
Posted By: JoeT Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/21/17 10:12 AM
I think it's mostly the rubber domes themselves, which are not that precise. Their time of making contact varies with each key press. So the last 3 bits of the 7 bit MIDI velocity are somewhat random.
Posted By: voxpops Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/21/17 10:15 AM
Leaving aside the specific metrics involved, I would say any development that moves digital instruments back toward an analogue curve in any specific area is welcome. I recall that when CDs were first introduced, some people expressed an opinion that there was something "not quite right" or "cold" about the sound when compared to vinyl or tape, but they really couldn't pinpoint it. I very much doubt they could discern the discrete "jumps" in volume and quantization at 44.1kHz, but they may have picked up the "blockiness" subliminally after being so used to analogue reproduction.

The other day I was listening to a recording I had made a couple of years ago using a Nord piano. I loved the sound (Italian Grand, I think) on this quite lyrical piece, but I was disturbed by the very slightly "robotic" nature of the playback - even though I had played it manually. It sounded like most notes were at the same volume level - even though I thought I had played it expressively at the time. Now, I'm not a fan of the Fatar TP40 action, but it's not that bad. I think that I was picking up on the granularity of the MIDI steps. Instead of minor variations that inform you of human input (even though you can't pinpoint the actual steps), I was somehow hitting the same volume levels too often. If I had been able to play using hi-res MIDI, that would have been much less likely to occur. So, being able to accurately repeat specific MIDI values may actually be a detriment to expressive musicality.
vox: Are you sure it's caused by YOU? Or caused by MIDI? Perhaps, instead, it's the piano software/library? Maybe the piano responds to MIDI velocity 60 exactly the same as MIDI velocity 61. And 62. And 63. Maybe it doesn't change until you reach velocity 64?
Posted By: voxpops Re: Internal sounds vs. MIDI responsiveness - 07/21/17 10:39 AM
I'm not sure of anything, Mac; that's the problem. It's a kind of psychoacoustic black hole! But the main thrust of what I'm saying is that there's no detriment (that I can discern) to helping digital instruments more accurately emulate a natural analogue curve.
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