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Happy Monday everyone.

I spent the weekend tidying up around the piano, and that of course led to a bit of puttering with the VST settings. It made me think of two things:

1. I've always felt that digital output (either speakers or headphones) don't do a good job reproducing the raw volumes associated with ppp to ff playing. In other words, it should be possible to set the volume high enough to get the reproduction of those hard hitting forte notes/chords, yet still play light enough for ppp, but both on the digital and VST, I feel the default range is a bit limited. Setting dynamic range to 100 on Garritan helps out a lot, but I was wondering what others think/do?

2. One of the interesting things I notice when transitioning to acoustic--oftentimes I'm taken aback by how "loud" an acoustic is, and I'm not sure if it's plain volume, or psychological response to knowing I'm not on headphones and everyone can hear me. So I often end up trying to play extra quiet, causing mental lapses and missed notes while playing, which adds to the stress of playing more "publicly" than I'm used to on my digital. But because of #1 above, I usually err on the side of lower volume (also to protect my ears in the long term), which exacerbates the problem in #2. I wonder if I should switch it up a bit.

Thoughts?


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Yes, you should raise your DP's volume to match an acoustic piano.

Then, you won't pound the keys on the DP during practice, and you won't be thrown off when you switch to an acoustic piano.

When I set Pianoteq to a 60 dB dynamic range, I can't play a scale evenly. At 40 dB, no problem.


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Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
When I set Pianoteq to a 60 dB dynamic range, I can't play a scale evenly. At 40 dB, no problem.

Apologies, I'm not sure what 60dB/40dB mean. Is 60 "higher" as in more difference between max low and high volumes?


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Setting the Dynamic Range(different names in different vsts) and the Output Volume works for me

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@Gombessa : yes, the dynamic range (60 or 40dB) is the difference of level between the minimum and the maximum.

The higher the dynamic range, the more sensitive Pianoteq is with the velocity.

Last edited by Frédéric L; 06/21/21 12:31 PM.

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A couple of random comments. This is stuff many of us know, but this is how I think about it.

I think VST developers are often targeting folks making recordings. And if you’ve made recordings for commercial purposes, you usually want less volume dynamics than a real concert grand. The typical listener might be in a car or be listening to their TV. Keeping the volume fairly even is a desirable thing.

And then there’s live performances. These aren’t classical concerts. It’s pop and rock and live jazz. For audiences who are making noise during the performance. Less volume dynamics is desirable.

So what does the default dynamic range mean to you in your home playing? Nothing. Set it how you like it. And change it according to your repertoire. Bach needs less dynamics, not more. (Think harpsichord and organ, not Steinway D.) I’m acutely aware of the trade-offs. Selecting more dynamic range gives the player a larger palette. But it also makes performance much more difficult.

For the astounding volume that a real concert grand can provide, this gets into the art of setting the volume of your DP as discussed above.

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Thanks for the clarifications.

I also think I haven't been quite as clear in my OP: Regardless of where I set the volume, I feel there isn't enough range between highs and lows, without manually adjusting dynamic range. If the volume is high enough for the ff hits to sound loud, then the ppp/pp notes are also too loud and strident. Luckily, VSTs generally allow us to change this. But it also applies to the default DP hardware/sound engine. So I'm not sure it's because it's optimized for recording/stage usage (at least in some cases).

I just kind of assumed it was a limitation in the speaker/amplification technology, but since dynamic range settings improve it, I'm wondering if something else is in play.

For Garritan, I feel I get the best response/realism if I set dynamic range to 100% (this lets me set the volume up without blowing my ears out even when playing p).


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I feel blessed that I can play two acoustic grands on a fairly regular basis. One is a 7' Kawai acoustic that has a lovely tone and smooth action. None of the digital pianos I've owned - stock or with VST's - even comes close to emulating that Kawai grand in terms of sound, playability, and dynamic range.

What comes the closest to it (by a significant margin) is the stock N1X with its internal CFX sample. But unfortunately, I would consider it pale in comparison.

I don't have a problem transitioning between the N1X and 7' Kawai in terms of volume and dynamic range. I actually find myself playing better on the 7' Kawai because of the greater palette of expression that's available. I used to have a problem adjusting to the action before I owned the hybrid N1X, but thankfully that's not a problem anymore. The N1X allows me to feel right at home behind a real acoustic.

At home I do keep my N1X volume fairly low to protect my ears. I don't bang on the keys to get the volume up. I play relaxed and with a normal touch. I realize that when I play on the 7' Kawai my normal touch is going to create more volume than it does at home and I adjust my touch accordingly. It's no different than if someone were to play a 5', 7', or upright since they all produce different volumes. We adjust our touch accordingly.

God Bless,
David


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The default dynamic range is set to match an AP.

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Originally Posted by Christopher90
The default dynamic range is set to match an AP.

Which acoustic piano? They are all different. I've played an old Baldwin at a church recently and a restored Steinway at another, and I was surprised at how different they played.

God Bless,
David


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Originally Posted by David B
I don't have a problem transitioning between the N1X and 7' Kawai in terms of volume and dynamic range. I actually find myself playing better on the 7' Kawai because of the greater palette of expression that's available. I used to have a problem adjusting to the action before I owned the hybrid N1X, but thankfully that's not a problem anymore. The N1X allows me to feel right at home behind a real acoustic.

When I was switching regularly between an acoustic grand and a digital, it quickly became second nature regardless of the volume/dynamic range differences. And once you're used to an acoustic, it's usually trivial to set my DP to a much lower volume/DR and to protect my hearing, without impacting how I play on the acoustic.

With lockdown though, I haven't had that perk in a while, and it's gotten me thinking more about the differences between the two!


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Originally Posted by PianoMan51
I think VST developers are often targeting folks making recordings. And if you’ve made recordings for commercial purposes, you usually want less volume dynamics than a real concert grand. The typical listener might be in a car or be listening to their TV. Keeping the volume fairly even is a desirable thing. . .

So what does the default dynamic range mean to you in your home playing? Nothing. Set it how you like it. And change it according to your repertoire. Bach needs less dynamics, not more. (Think harpsichord and organ, not Steinway D.) I’m acutely aware of the trade-offs. Selecting more dynamic range gives the player a larger palette. But it also makes performance much more difficult.
Thank you.

Gombessa- Getting the dynamic range of a concert grand via home audio equipment is a big ask.

Typical cone speakers in consumer goods are not very efficient and require a lot of power.

"Real" horn speakers are more efficient so should require less power and have a more realistic dynamic range. They are very big and very expensive. Even the very best horns won't fool a child for one second into thinking he is in a real concert hall. But they are enjoyable.

Some headphones are quite efficient, so maybe you would have some luck with a big headphone and powerful headphone amp. I think the HD800 was the most realistic overall experience for me, but it is expensive and requires a powerful amp. Some HD5** models are popular here and cheap; some of the new Schlitt amps are well rated and cheap (not all are well rated and not all are cheap).

The marketing specs for audio equipment are not terribly helpful so don't be fooled by numbers.

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Originally Posted by newer player
Originally Posted by PianoMan51
I think VST developers are often targeting folks making recordings. And if you’ve made recordings for commercial purposes, you usually want less volume dynamics than a real concert grand. The typical listener might be in a car or be listening to their TV. Keeping the volume fairly even is a desirable thing. . .

So what does the default dynamic range mean to you in your home playing? Nothing. Set it how you like it. And change it according to your repertoire. Bach needs less dynamics, not more. (Think harpsichord and organ, not Steinway D.) I’m acutely aware of the trade-offs. Selecting more dynamic range gives the player a larger palette. But it also makes performance much more difficult.
Thank you.

Gombessa- Getting the dynamic range of a concert grand via home audio equipment is a big ask.

Typical cone speakers in consumer goods are not very efficient and require a lot of power.

"Real" horn speakers are more efficient so should require less power and have a more realistic dynamic range. They are very big and very expensive. Even the very best horns won't fool a child for one second into thinking he is in a real concert hall. But they are enjoyable.

Some headphones are quite efficient, so maybe you would have some luck with a big headphone and powerful headphone amp. I think the HD800 was the most realistic overall experience for me, but it is expensive and requires a powerful amp. Some HD5** models are popular here and cheap; some of the new Schlitt amps are well rated and cheap (not all are well rated and not all are cheap).

The marketing specs for audio equipment are not terribly helpful so don't be fooled by numbers.
Why does the speaker have to be efficient when it can play loud enough? Well, I set my amp to 50% and surprised to hear the DP not that loud so it's also subjective and result of habit, but our hearing is very sensitive so why does it have to match the AP anyway?.

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Originally Posted by newer player
Typical cone speakers in consumer goods are not very efficient and require a lot of power.

Originally Posted by Christopher90
Why does the speaker have to be efficient when it can play loud enough? Well, I set my amp to 50% and surprised to hear the DP not that loud so it's also subjective and result of habit, but our hearing is very sensitive so why does it have to match the AP anyway?.

This is what I was thinking, too. If you turn the volume up on the DP's speakers, shouldn't it still be able to play ppp very softly? I assume the audio source just needs to be encoded at an appropriate level. I can understand VSTs being mismatched, but you'd think the native sound engine and speakers on a DP will be pre-matched. But those also seem to have tremendously compressed dynamic range.

Originally Posted by newer player
Some headphones are quite efficient, so maybe you would have some luck with a big headphone and powerful headphone amp. I think the HD800 was the most realistic overall experience for me, but it is expensive and requires a powerful amp. Some HD5** models are popular here and cheap; some of the new Schlitt amps are well rated and cheap (not all are well rated and not all are cheap).

I use Sennheiser HD598s. Same thing. When the ppps are quiet, the fffs are not as loud as they "should" be to my ears. When I set the volume such that fff is as loud as I perceive from a grand (i never normally strike notes at this volume), the ppp's are way too loud, too.

Both the headphones and the speakers can handle the low and high volumes just fine; so I don't think it's an amplification/power issue.


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Originally Posted by Gombessa
Thanks for the clarifications.

I also think I haven't been quite as clear in my OP: Regardless of where I set the volume, I feel there isn't enough range between highs and lows, without manually adjusting dynamic range. If the volume is high enough for the ff hits to sound loud, then the ppp/pp notes are also too loud and strident. Luckily, VSTs generally allow us to change this. But it also applies to the default DP hardware/sound engine. So I'm not sure it's because it's optimized for recording/stage usage (at least in some cases).

I just kind of assumed it was a limitation in the speaker/amplification technology, but since dynamic range settings improve it, I'm wondering if something else is in play.

For Garritan, I feel I get the best response/realism if I set dynamic range to 100% (this lets me set the volume up without blowing my ears out even when playing p).

(a) Here's one way to think about this:

The signal-to-noise ratio, on a standard CD (_not_ MP3 compressed) is around 90 dB (if I remember right). Good amps are that quiet.

What a recording engineer will do (usually), is to adjust the dynamic range of the raw piano recording, so that a listener _in an average living room_ will be able to hear the "ppp" sections over room noise, and the "fff" sections won't distort during playback. What does that mean?

A quick Google search yields:

https://www.archtoolbox.com/materia...al-acoustics-acceptable-room-levels.html

which suggests that a living room should have a noise background of 30-35 dBA (the "A" is a frequency-weighting scheme).

So, if you play a CD with a softest-recordable track, at a volume level that makes it just-barely-hearable (which will be, say, 35 dB), the _loudest_ musical content, recordable on that track, will hit (35 + 90) = 125 dB during playback --

. . . that's well into the "discomfort" range, and close to the
. . . "threshold of pain".

Most home-audio systems won't play that loud. (My EV ZXA1 PA loudspeaker will, just barely, if you sit 1 meter in front of it. Madness.)

So the limit on a DP's dynamic range isn't "What can the electronics reproduce?" -- it's

. . . "What will a listener or player want to hear?"

Which is a long way of justifying:
Originally Posted by PianoMan51
. . . So what does the default dynamic range mean to you in your home playing? Nothing. Set it how you like it. And change it according to your repertoire. . .

(b) In this forum for several years, I've read several variants of:

. . . "DP's don't have the dynamic range of acoustic pianos",

or its cousin:

. . . "DP's don't have the expressive range of acoustic pianos."

That's probably true, for most DP's. Recording and processing acoustic-piano samples, to use them in a DP sound generator, is a black art. But I'll bet that _part_ of the process is compressing the dynamic range of the acoustic, to something that will give acceptable results in a DP that _cannot_ reproduce the "fff" of an acoustic piano,

. . . because its amps and loudspeakers just don't play that loud.

BUT if you're using a VST, and your amps and speakers _can_ play that loud, set things up the way you like them (Pianoteq's default dynamic range for many "models", is set to 40 dB, but it's adjustable), pretend you're sitting in front of a concert grand, and play your heart out.

While such sound levels are hard for common amps and speakers to reach, they're within the capabilities of a lot of headphones and earbuds. "Take care of your ears" is always good advice.

Last edited by Charles Cohen; 06/21/21 03:49 PM.

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For a while, I had access to a Steinway D, for a few minutes, a couple times per week. I played the rest of my time on my digital or VCP1 with VST. I too, have struggled to find the optimal dynamic range setting on my VSTs that produces the exact same experience as the grand.

One thing I've noticed is that the Steinway D gave the perception of loud, without being bothersomely loud. Nothing I've been able to do to my dynamic range knob has been able to match that particular sensation.

I wonder if the overall sensation of hearing or listening also involves visual input, such as our visual perception of the size of the space in which the playing/hearing/listening is taking place, such that we end up having quite different listening experiences despite that fact that the actual sound pressure and range of pressures (dynamic range) between the grand acoustic and the digital/amp/speaker are dialed in to be the same. I have personally marveled at the ability of that Steinway to sound quiet (ppp) while simultaneously giving me the overall sensation of filling the large room it sat in with sound. As if there was a way to make massive amounts of sound without being loud. Perhaps our brain shapes our final experience by adding the visual input, and calculating changes in our hearing perception to accommodate the visual input. Perhaps our brain melds and mixes the visual and audible to make our final "listening" experience product.

I wonder if, when we discuss the inability to set the digital dynamic range so that it matches the acoustic , we are really just not recognizing the effect of the other sensory inputs that contribute to the overall listening experience.


Ralph

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