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Hello everyone. I've been wondering about the sound difference between these two. Personally, I had always recorded MIDI on my digital piano and applied VSTs to it later on. While being passable and probably nice to casual listeners, it’s nowhere near the sound quality that I want to attain, in comparison with other videos on YT whether professionally made or not, as it sounds dry, veiled and synthetic to my ears, despite using the very same VST and settings. An example of what I’m talking about is THIS (Garritan CFX). Only recently I’ve had the chance to record the CFX live and the sound seems better and more realistic than the former, with the reverb being more noticeable as in THIS VIDEO, although I only used a MIDI cable instead of an audio interface (I do have one – the Roland Quad-capture, but I have troubles configuring it to work with my Mac). Lastly, I’ve always had this thought: if applying VSTs to MIDI sounds just as good as live recording, then the former would be the obvious choice for polished-to- perfection recording as you can freely edit notes. And also, what’s the point of buying an expensive digital piano when you can opt for a cheap one and use the best piano VSTs? Bar the appearance, speakers and gimmicky features, I guess the only difference here is the key action? But then, if you record through the aforementioned, then it doesn't matter much. I’d like to hear your opinions, as I’m just a novice music lover and record for fun. Have a good day!

P.S.: If anyone happens to have the same audio interface, please contact me. I can’t figure out how to properly set it up to receive MIDI signals. The driver was successfully installed. By the way, does a good audio interface increase the sound quality, compared to MIDI cables? One thing I know for sure is the latency is greatly reduced though. But for my current setup, the MIDI cable works just fine with no noticeable delay.

Last edited by Saberlarry; 06/24/21 11:44 PM.
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Originally Posted by Saberlarry
Hello everyone. I've been wondering about the sound difference between these two. Personally, I had always recorded MIDI on my digital piano and applied VSTs to it later on. While being passable and probably nice to casual listeners, it’s nowhere near the sound quality that I want to attain, in comparison with other videos on YT whether professionally made or not, as it sounds dry, veiled and synthetic to my ears, despite using the very same VST and settings. An example of what I’m talking about is THIS (Garritan CFX).

You can buy Virtual Instruments in a package, but you can't buy sound engineering skills in a package. If you have no clue how to use DAW plugins, your mixes will sound like crap.

Quote
And also, what’s the point of buying an expensive digital piano when you can opt for a cheap one and use the best piano VSTs?

Because cheap digital pianos are crap and VIs relentlessly expose that. VIs are meant to go beyond high-end digital pianos (Yamaha AvantGrand, Kawai Novus) for production-quality recordings - when you pay someone who knows how to create such. Depending on your mix your MIDI controller needs to be on par with Yamaha AG or Novus NV and will cost as much.

VIs don't serve as magical purification plant for your cheap digital piano or controller. Garbage in, garbage out.


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Recording while listening your DP and afterward send it to a virtual piano seems me a bad idea. When you play, your fingers adapt their strength to what you hear which permits the intended intensity (and timbre). The virtual piano will have surely an other velocity/intensity curve, then you won’t have exactly what you have played.


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Sure, but you can adjust MIDI values in DAW post-recording, match it to specific VST you want to render with. It's quite common practice.


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A FP-90 is not a bad controller per se, but a hybrid one will get better results.

Ideally you're playing and listening to a real acoustic grand piano while recording the MIDI track through the means of Yamaha SH et al.


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Originally Posted by Saberlarry
And also, what’s the point of buying an expensive digital piano when you can opt for a cheap one and use the best piano VSTs?

To not have to use a VST.

Originally Posted by Saberlarry
Bar the appearance, speakers and gimmicky features, I guess the only difference here is the key action?

Typically the better piano sound engines are found in the more expensive models.

Originally Posted by Saberlarry
But then, if you record through the aforementioned, then it doesn't matter much.

The action matters.

(But exactly how much depends on the player i.e. is he/she in any way limited by a "less good" action.)

Originally Posted by Saberlarry
...the sound seems better and more realistic than the former, with the reverb being more noticeable as in THIS VIDEO, although I only used a MIDI cable instead of an audio interface...

The audio interface isn't going to make any difference since you record MIDI or play a virtual instrument via MIDI and the final sound is generated only in the VST.

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I prefer playing live because I can control the VST and adapt my touch to it. I took a listen to the OP's video and it sounds kind of flat to me in dynamics. I believe because Garritan CFX has a very detailed velocity mapping compared to a typical digital piano's default piano sound, the playing experience will not be the same. Hope this made sense. smile

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Saberlarry: just to clarify... When you mention "live" is that using the VST sound (headphones for example) or the internal roland sound? If so, both situations lead to very different sound. In contrast, live VST play and midi playback of the same performance through the same VST should result in the same sound.

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Originally Posted by David Lai
I prefer playing live because I can control the VST and adapt my touch to it. I took a listen to the OP's video and it sounds kind of flat to me in dynamics. I believe because Garritan CFX has a very detailed velocity mapping compared to a typical digital piano's default piano sound, the playing experience will not be the same. Hope this made sense. smile

Thanks for replying. I hope that only one video sounds flat to you, which is the processed-MIDI video, not the live-recorded one? If both sounds flat, then it's my incompetence as a player.


Originally Posted by vagfilm
Saberlarry: just to clarify... When you mention "live" is that using the VST sound (headphones for example) or the internal roland sound? If so, both situations lead to very different sound. In contrast, live VST play and midi playback of the same performance through the same VST should result in the same sound.

I mean the first case where I use headphones to listen to the VST coming from my computer, obviously connected with my digital piano. Surely it's not placebo but I swear I prefer the live-recorded sound as shown in my first post to the other video where MIDI playback using the same VST + settings was applied.

Last edited by Saberlarry; 06/28/21 12:12 AM.
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Originally Posted by AlphaBravoCharlie
Sure, but you can adjust MIDI values in DAW post-recording, match it to specific VST you want to render with. It's quite common practice.

This has been driving me nuts as I swear it sounds more realistic and fuller when live recording, whereas MIDI playback is flat and dull. Did you find any difference at all in my examples? At this rate I would soon become delusional haha.

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Originally Posted by Saberlarry
Originally Posted by AlphaBravoCharlie
Sure, but you can adjust MIDI values in DAW post-recording, match it to specific VST you want to render with. It's quite common practice.

This has been driving me nuts as I swear it sounds more realistic and fuller when live recording, whereas MIDI playback is flat and dull. Did you find any difference at all in my examples? At this rate I would soon become delusional haha.

I wouldn’t use the words ‘more realistic and fuller’ in describing the first clip. ‘bright and thin’, is for me especially compared to the second, is a more reasonable description.

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Originally Posted by emenelton
Originally Posted by Saberlarry
Originally Posted by AlphaBravoCharlie
Sure, but you can adjust MIDI values in DAW post-recording, match it to specific VST you want to render with. It's quite common practice.

This has been driving me nuts as I swear it sounds more realistic and fuller when live recording, whereas MIDI playback is flat and dull. Did you find any difference at all in my examples? At this rate I would soon become delusional haha.

I wouldn’t use the words ‘more realistic and fuller’ in describing the first clip. ‘bright and thin’, is for me especially compared to the second, is a more reasonable description.

Maybe I made a mistake; is the first video the one ‘post live’?

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Originally Posted by Saberlarry
Originally Posted by AlphaBravoCharlie
Sure, but you can adjust MIDI values in DAW post-recording, match it to specific VST you want to render with. It's quite common practice.

This has been driving me nuts as I swear it sounds more realistic and fuller when live recording, whereas MIDI playback is flat and dull. Did you find any difference at all in my examples? At this rate I would soon become delusional haha.

Please try the following:

1. Sit down at any Yamaha acoustic piano with the manufacturer's silent option installed. Go to a store if you don't have one available elsewhere. Preferably use a Yamaha grand piano. Doesn't have to be a CFX though.

2. DON'T plugin headphones, DON'T engage the silent rail.

3. Plug in your USB drive

4. Record a "MIDI song" to your USB drive:

a. Press the Mode button until "Song" lights up.
b. Press the Select button until "S" shows up in display
c. Press the Rec button.

4. Perform your piece.

5. Import the MIDI file from the USB drive into your DAW and feed it through to your VST plugin. Adjust the plugin settings until it sounds nice, then export the mixdown.

6. Upload the results to YouTube.

We will assess if that still sounds flat and dull.


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It's almost impossible to compare the sound between 2 different recordings of 2 different pieces. If you want to put to rest any doubt that live MIDI through Garritan, sounds or not identical to MIDI playback through Garritan, you need to perform a strict comparison:

connect the p515 to the Garritan, play a piece live, and record the audio output from garritan AND at the same time record the MIDI file of that performance inside the p515. Then playback the p515 MIDI file through garritan and record the output audio of that "non-live" version. In theory they should sound absolutely identical.

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Originally Posted by vagfilm
It's almost impossible to compare the sound between 2 different recordings of 2 different pieces. If you want to put to rest any doubt that live MIDI through Garritan, sounds or not identical to MIDI playback through Garritan, you need to perform a strict comparison:

connect the p515 to the Garritan, play a piece live, and record the audio output from garritan AND at the same time record the MIDI file of that performance inside the p515. Then playback the p515 MIDI file through garritan and record the output audio of that "non-live" version. In theory they should sound absolutely identical.


this

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The only possibility those recordings will sound different from each other is magic and magic does not exist. Though there might be a difference in those 2 scenarios when it comes to 'sound perception': more critical listening happens when you're not focusing on making your body move to produce sound from the instrument.


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The only possible reason I can think of is that in the live recording, it's possible that the VST drops the number of samples or sound quality due to limited processing power on your PC. The resulting sound will be different and can subjectively feel better in some situations.

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Originally Posted by ranjit
The only possible reason I can think of is that in the live recording, it's possible that the VST drops the number of samples or sound quality due to limited processing power on your PC. The resulting sound will be different and can subjectively feel better in some situations.
If the OP is not rendering through a daw, the processing power should be the same in both situations...

What alphabravocharlie said is most probably the cause. Otherwise, yamaha has a midi implementation for live output and another one for internal recording. Not likely.

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Originally Posted by vagfilm
It's almost impossible to compare the sound between 2 different recordings of 2 different pieces. If you want to put to rest any doubt that live MIDI through Garritan, sounds or not identical to MIDI playback through Garritan, you need to perform a strict comparison:

connect the p515 to the Garritan, play a piece live, and record the audio output from garritan AND at the same time record the MIDI file of that performance inside the p515. Then playback the p515 MIDI file through garritan and record the output audio of that "non-live" version. In theory they should sound absolutely identical.


A simpler; record the midi and audio at the same time in the daw.

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Originally Posted by emenelton
Originally Posted by Saberlarry
Originally Posted by AlphaBravoCharlie
Sure, but you can adjust MIDI values in DAW post-recording, match it to specific VST you want to render with. It's quite common practice.

This has been driving me nuts as I swear it sounds more realistic and fuller when live recording, whereas MIDI playback is flat and dull. Did you find any difference at all in my examples? At this rate I would soon become delusional haha.

I wouldn’t use the words ‘more realistic and fuller’ in describing the first clip. ‘bright and thin’, is for me especially compared to the second, is a more reasonable description.

The first clip is a MIDI playback using Garritan CFX, and yes, your description is spot on.

Originally Posted by emenelton
connect the p515 to the Garritan, play a piece live, and record the audio output from garritan AND at the same time record the MIDI file of that performance inside the p515. Then playback the p515 MIDI file through garritan and record the output audio of that "non-live" version. In theory they should sound absolutely identical.


A simpler; record the midi and audio at the same time in the daw.[/quote]

That's what I plan to do in the next performance!

@All: I wish I could upvote/like your replies but this forum doesn't have that function, and I don't want to quote every single post and make this thread look like a mess. Thanks for your suggestions and comments. Really sorry for not using the same song for comparison, but I hope you get my idea - I think anyone who plays any musical instruments for a while has more "developed", discerning ears to casual listeners, and to my thoughts exactly, you guys give the same opinion about the sound quality of my MIDI playback. In general, all of my previous videos that used Garritan CFX via MIDI playback sounds thin and dull, even though I use the same settings as "rach3master" on YouTube. Since I almost never get the chance to play on a real piano and my music theory is almost non-existent (I only know how to read notes), my competence as a pianist is strictly limited, so I might not be able to bring out the best of the pieces I've learnt.

THIS VIDEO is a very good demonstration of how beautiful the CFX is when played by the right person with the right equipment. I personally asked the uploader and he said apart from boosting the volume, he doesn't do anything else to the final product.

THIS VIDEO is played by another pianist on YouTube. Though he doesn't reveal his setup, subjectively I'd say he uses Garritan CFX as well and his videos utilise the MIDI playback function (?). The reason why I choose this channel is because according to his bio, he's classically-trained, so he should be able to express nuances good enough, and most importantly, I haven't found any other channel that meets the previous filter + sounds similar to my CFX-playback videos. Please note that this is my personal feeling and it could very well be wrong and I'm delusional here :<.

Anyway, regarding audio interfaces (AI) for recording VIs, I'd like to have the following enquiries:
- I believe they only help with the latency and (maybe) less hiss/background noise when live recording, otherwise there wouldn't be any difference at all between a printer cable and an AI?
- Because I couldn't get my AI setup to work, I currently have to make do with the AI's printer cable and surprisingly there is no tangible latency at all. If the answer of the first question is No difference, then should I just sell my AI, since the printer cable already does a good job?


Thank you all for reading.

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