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I tried a few silent pianos last week. A Bechstein Vario on a beautiful Academy series upright, and a Yamaha Ensipre Pro on a medium sized Bosendorfer grand. I previously played a Kawai GX-2 Aures too. I used my own headphones on each.

The Vario was interesting. It's pretty modern, has USB-C and a single button and tiny RGB LED and you press to change voices (the LED changes color for each voice). It's also got more advanced features via wireless app integration. The sound was, ok I guess. The velocity curve was pretty aggressive and sudden compared to what I'm used to with a regular digital and also Garritan CFX, and it struck my as somewhat "steppy" or "on-off". There is sympathetic resonance but it's incredibly faint/subtle.

Since it was on an upright, I specifically tested for a "loud note" problem. Pretty confidently I can say it doesn't exist here. Now, it is *easy* to trigger notes on the silent that do not play acoustically (easy to test by having the silent system on and the silent rail disengaged) but these strikes occur with varying levels of pp/p tones. So not exactly modeling the behavior of the upright, but not offensively distracting as when it happens on the NU1.

Overall, i'd say this system is like a 4/10. I would never buy it on a grand, and if I had it, I would use it only for MIDI to VST.

Later, I tried Yamaha Ensipre on a couple of Bosendorfer grands. I ended up using it only a couple of minutes, but the initial impression from the very first note struck me: Wow, this sounds and feels GOOD. I didn't bother testing out any of the advanced features like aftertouch/smooth release etc., I just played a few passages, realized that everything was quite well set up, natural, and surprisingly very much like Garritan, and that this would absolutely work as a top quality silent/digital system, and I turned it off and stopped thinking about it; I spent the rest of my time with the Bosendorfers acoustically. As a silent system I'd say it's essentially a 10/10 on first impression, and given that as an option it costs more than most grand pianos, I guess it had better be good.

I also tried a Kawai GX-2 Aures earlier, and pretty much came to the same conclusion as the Yamaha: this is worthy of being installed on a premium grand. Honestly I wasn't as surprised/impressed maybe because I have an essentially identical Kawai setup and know exactly what to expect (and also for my digital piano I've replaced the Kawai sound engine for a VST CFX). I've say it's an 8/10.

So far this is just reinforcing for me common knowledge. The Yamaha/Kawai silent systems are good (even great), the add-on aftermarket ones, not so much.


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Newbie question: in silent mode there is still a thump-thump sound, right? I guess the idea is that when you put on headphones, you won't be bothered by those?


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Originally Posted by cygnusdei
Newbie question: in silent mode there is still a thump-thump sound, right? I guess the idea is that when you put on the headphones, you won't be bothered by those?

Right, but your wife, and everyone else, will be driven mad by the thump-thump sound. My wife begged me to stop playing in silent mode.

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Originally Posted by LarryK
Originally Posted by cygnusdei
Newbie question: in silent mode there is still a thump-thump sound, right? I guess the idea is that when you put on the headphones, you won't be bothered by those?

Right, but your wife, and everyone else, will be driven mad by the thump-thump sound. My wife begged me to stop playing in silent mode.
Ahah, maybe the whole household will need headphones 😅


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Originally Posted by cygnusdei
Newbie question: in silent mode there is still a thump-thump sound, right? I guess the idea is that when you put on headphones, you won't be bothered by those?

Silent mode is a bit of a misnomer. An acoustic piano action is louder than any digital piano's. So any silent system will be louder than any digital. It'll let you play a room or two away without bothering most people, bit definitely not "play the piano in the bedroom while your SO sleeps."


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Originally Posted by Gombessa
I tried a few silent pianos last week. A Bechstein Vario on a beautiful Academy series upright, and a Yamaha Ensipre Pro on a medium sized Bosendorfer grand. I previously played a Kawai GX-2 Aures too. I used my own headphones on each.

Thanks Gombessa for you review. Very insightful. I have a Kawai silent upright and are also very happy with the quality of the system. I had hoped the Bechstein Vario system would be good as well (dreaming of buying a Bechstein or Grotrian upright in the distant future...), but alas.

It is strange that the prestigious European piano makers neglect silent systems so much. Although most people here on PW seem to favor a separate acoustic and digital approach over a silent piano, I think a silent system is a fantastic solution and piano makers would sell more pianos if they had a good silent system. It may be that these brands are too small to develop this themselves, but they could cooperate somehow. Now you essentially are limited to Yamaha or Kawai if you want a good silent system.

When I was piano hunting, I noticed that many sales people talk about silents systems in terms of 'practice', playing scales etc. In the past this was maybe the only thing they were good for, but nowadays they can be an integral part part of playing music. I use it as such. I can't play acoustically all the time, and if I can't I don't want to be restricted to playing scales (although I perhaps should play them more often...).

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Originally Posted by Gombessa
Later, I tried Yamaha Ensipre on a couple of Bosendorfer grands. I ended up using it only a couple of minutes, but the initial impression from the very first note struck me: Wow, this sounds and feels GOOD. I didn't bother testing out any of the advanced features like aftertouch/smooth release etc., I just played a few passages, realized that everything was quite well set up, natural, and surprisingly very much like Garritan, and that this would absolutely work as a top quality silent/digital system, and I turned it off and stopped thinking about it; I spent the rest of my time with the Bosendorfers acoustically. As a silent system I'd say it's essentially a 10/10 on first impression, and given that as an option it costs more than most grand pianos, I guess it had better be good

Great review, keep them coming, please. I think it's clear that Yamaha kills it end to end with Enspire Pro on a Bosendorfer. There's no real competitor when it comes to the feature set. AURES 2 can't play back acoustically on the piano. Does Spirio support silent play?

How did the Bosendorfer do acoustically? Is that going to work in your home?

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Originally Posted by Gombessa
I tried a few silent pianos last week. A Bechstein Vario on a beautiful Academy series upright, and a Yamaha Ensipre Pro on a medium sized Bosendorfer grand. I previously played a Kawai GX-2 Aures too. I used my own headphones on each.

The Vario was interesting. It's pretty modern, has USB-C and a single button and tiny RGB LED and you press to change voices (the LED changes color for each voice). It's also got more advanced features via wireless app integration. The sound was, ok I guess. The velocity curve was pretty aggressive and sudden compared to what I'm used to with a regular digital and also Garritan CFX, and it struck my as somewhat "steppy" or "on-off". There is sympathetic resonance but it's incredibly faint/subtle.

Since it was on an upright, I specifically tested for a "loud note" problem. Pretty confidently I can say it doesn't exist here. Now, it is *easy* to trigger notes on the silent that do not play acoustically (easy to test by having the silent system on and the silent rail disengaged) but these strikes occur with varying levels of pp/p tones. So not exactly modeling the behavior of the upright, but not offensively distracting as when it happens on the NU1.

Overall, i'd say this system is like a 4/10. I would never buy it on a grand, and if I had it, I would use it only for MIDI to VST.

Later, I tried Yamaha Ensipre on a couple of Bosendorfer grands. I ended up using it only a couple of minutes, but the initial impression from the very first note struck me: Wow, this sounds and feels GOOD. I didn't bother testing out any of the advanced features like aftertouch/smooth release etc., I just played a few passages, realized that everything was quite well set up, natural, and surprisingly very much like Garritan, and that this would absolutely work as a top quality silent/digital system, and I turned it off and stopped thinking about it; I spent the rest of my time with the Bosendorfers acoustically. As a silent system I'd say it's essentially a 10/10 on first impression, and given that as an option it costs more than most grand pianos, I guess it had better be good.

I also tried a Kawai GX-2 Aures earlier, and pretty much came to the same conclusion as the Yamaha: this is worthy of being installed on a premium grand. Honestly I wasn't as surprised/impressed maybe because I have an essentially identical Kawai setup and know exactly what to expect (and also for my digital piano I've replaced the Kawai sound engine for a VST CFX). I've say it's an 8/10.

So far this is just reinforcing for me common knowledge. The Yamaha/Kawai silent systems are good (even great), the add-on aftermarket ones, not so much.

Cool. Which Bosendorfer grands with Enspire/Disklavier did you try? For the price, they’d better be good or what good are they?

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Originally Posted by LarryK
Cool. Which Bosendorfer grands with Enspire/Disklavier did you try? For the price, they’d better be good or what good are they?

You got that right (they had better be damned good). And they were good...one might say they were grand....if one didn't want to get walked to the door.

200, 214VC, and a flavor of Edge (maybe 200?).


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Originally Posted by Gombessa
Silent mode is a bit of a misnomer. An acoustic piano action is louder than any digital piano's. So any silent system will be louder than any digital. It'll let you play a room or two away without bothering most people, bit definitely not "play the piano in the bedroom while your SO sleeps."

I've never tried an acoustic with a silent system. Two questions:

With the silent system engaged to mute the piano's sound - If I wanted to use the MIDI output with a piano VST would the action's "thumping" simply blend in realistically with the sound of the piano VST (seems that it would), or would it create any unexpected problems in that case?

When the silent system is NOT engaged (acoustic piano still sounding) is the MIDI output still active to trigger other VST instruments or effects?


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Originally Posted by Macy
I've never tried an acoustic with a silent system. Two questions:

With the silent system engaged to mute the piano's sound - If I wanted to use the MIDI output with a piano VST would the action's "thumping" simply blend in realistically with the sound of the piano VST (seems that it would), or would it create any unexpected problems in that case?

On a hybrid, it "blends" in fine if the volume is set to a realistic level. On the NV-10, the action noise is IDENTICAL to the "hammer/fallback noise" setting you can adjust in Virtual Technician. Of course, there are folks who don't want any kind of extraneous hammer noise, and with a hybrid or silent system, you can turn that off, but you can't silence the actual action, unless you turn the volume even higher, or use closed-back headphones to drown out external noise.

Originally Posted by Macy
When the silent system is NOT engaged (acoustic piano still sounding) is the MIDI output still active to trigger other VST instruments or effects?

I assume yes, because there are a lot of variations of the system (Transacoustic/Enspire/Aures) that track the hammer and key movement even without the silent rail engaged. Presumably there is no downside to keeping the MIDI stream going in these cases.


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Originally Posted by Gombessa
Originally Posted by Macy
I've never tried an acoustic with a silent system. Two questions:

With the silent system engaged to mute the piano's sound - If I wanted to use the MIDI output with a piano VST would the action's "thumping" simply blend in realistically with the sound of the piano VST (seems that it would), or would it create any unexpected problems in that case?

On a hybrid, it "blends" in fine if the volume is set to a realistic level. On the NV-10, the action noise is IDENTICAL to the "hammer/fallback noise" setting you can adjust in Virtual Technician. Of course, there are folks who don't want any kind of extraneous hammer noise, and with a hybrid or silent system, you can turn that off, but you can't silence the actual action, unless you turn the volume even higher, or use closed-back headphones to drown out external noise.

Originally Posted by Macy
When the silent system is NOT engaged (acoustic piano still sounding) is the MIDI output still active to trigger other VST instruments or effects?

I assume yes, because there are a lot of variations of the system (Transacoustic/Enspire/Aures) that track the hammer and key movement even without the silent rail engaged. Presumably there is no downside to keeping the MIDI stream going in these cases.


The Enspire from Yamaha, also known as the Disklavier, is unique in that it triggers playback of a recording by using a solenoid to push up on the back of the keys so as to strike the strings. Little flags are used to record the velocity of the hammer hitting the string, and those velocities are used to control the solenoid to produce the same velocity on playback.

The Enspire/Disklavier pianos are modern player pianos. They can play any MIDI file, and can record and play back your own playing. This system can be installed on a wide variety of uprights as well as on grand pianos. I own the DYUS5, which is the YUS5 upright with the Disklavier system.

These pianos also have a practice rail to stop the hammers from hitting the strings so that a digital sample can be played instead.

More information can be found here:

https://usa.yamaha.com/products/musical_instruments/pianos/disklavier/

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Originally Posted by Macy
When the silent system is NOT engaged (acoustic piano still sounding) is the MIDI output still active to trigger other VST instruments or effects?

I would think there is such a feature, because it would be useful for recording your own performance into MIDI. But for live play, the acoustic sound may not be perfectly in tune, unlike the (3rd party) VST which will always be.


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Originally Posted by Macy
When the silent system is NOT engaged (acoustic piano still sounding) is the MIDI output still active to trigger other VST instruments or effects?

On Kawai's ATX system at least: yes. The silencing is done by a bar that is completely mechanical and independent from the sensor/digital system. So you can play acoustically and digitally at the same time, including MIDI output.

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Originally Posted by Gombessa
Originally Posted by cygnusdei
Newbie question: in silent mode there is still a thump-thump sound, right? I guess the idea is that when you put on headphones, you won't be bothered by those?

Silent mode is a bit of a misnomer. An acoustic piano action is louder than any digital piano's. So any silent system will be louder than any digital. It'll let you play a room or two away without bothering most people, bit definitely not "play the piano in the bedroom while your SO sleeps."
I beg to differ.

I used to have a Yamaha Clavinova CLP-150 at my place, and its action was so loud that my neighbours sometimes complained about my playing even when I used headphones.
I currently have a Yamaha C2 SG at my place, and never got any complains from neighbours when playing in silent mode (not talking about acoustic mode...). I also have the subjective feeling that the action of the C2 grand piano is quieter than of the digital Clavinova.

Of course, a reason could be that my old apartment had thinner walls than my current one. But even so, I don't think an acoustic piano with silent system always has louder mechanic noises than some digitals.


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Originally Posted by patH
Of course, a reason could be that my old apartment had thinner walls than my current one...

Or that your neighbours at the previous place were less tolerant. wink

Cheers,
James
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Employed by Kawai Japan, however the opinions I express are my own.
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