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Retrofit an acoustic piano silent system?
Last post Fri, Dec 06 2019 by Melinda1@4, 7 replies.
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Posted on Mon, Nov 18 2019 15:12
by OE1FEU
Joined on Mon, Nov 18 2019, Posts 2

I was blown away by the sound of both the CFX and the Steinway D samples and seeing that Stefan Mendl played this in real time on a master keyboard, I was thinking what it would take to retrofit an existing acoustic piano with a silent system such as a Yamaha upright, because the sound of these systems isn't anywhere near the quality I've heard in VSL piano demos.

As I understand, such a silent system has midi outputs that could be used to connect it to a compatible computer set up. Here is a couple of questions in this regard:

  • Is my thinking correct at all that this might work?
  • Would a mini PC such as https://www.hystou.com/fanless-mini-pc-i7-7500u be good enough?
  • Is it possible to pre-configure the necessary software to use the PC as a standalone box, i.e. have it start up to be ready to play?
  • Is there any way to control various aspects of the system through a remote app on a tablet such as an iPad?
  • Are there any pitfalls in terms of latency and number of samples played at the same time?
  • What resolution in terms of using the maximum dynamic range of a mechanical action can be expected? Is it anywhere near the acoustic piano itself?
  • What software components are required and what have I possibly missed?

TIA!

Posted on Mon, Nov 18 2019 20:47
by Paul
Joined on Sat, Aug 03 2002, Vienna, Posts 11540

Hi, 

Yes, this will work like it works with any keyboard that can produce and send MIDI notes. 

The resolution of our engine is 128 steps, from 0-127, and fine-tuning the right mapping with sufficient recorded velocities is key to an authentic result. 

I'm not a hardware specialist, but I'll ask my colleagues about the specs of such a mini PC. I doubt that the performance will be sufficient for a decent performance with multiple stereo channels, but I could  be wrong.

And yes, the standalone piano can be in the startup programs of Windows, but there is no app for it (yet), so you'd need some kind of computer monitor and mouse to navigate the interface. 

Latency and streaming performance is the bottleneck with such an endeavor. 

Software components: All you need is the Synchron Pianos software, the samples, the license and a ViennaKey. 

Best, 
Paul

Paul Kopf
Product Manager - Vienna Symphonic Library
Posted on Tue, Nov 19 2019 07:35
by cm
Joined on Fri, Dec 20 2002, vienna, Posts 9055

hi, though the specification doesn't look too bad (i7 3.5 GHz 2 cores / 4 threads - so you'd have to set the board to use hyperthreading, 32 GB RAM, 1TB SSD) i'm doubtful it will meet your expectations in the long run.
be aware you can't go beyond this specs, need a good USB audio device and those mini-pcs always tend to overheat (or reducing CPU frequency) if stressed with computing.

if possible i'd choose a silent desktop instead of a fanless mini-pc ... would offer much more options for later expansions ...

and remember: a CRAY is the only computer that runs an endless loop in just four hours ...
Posted on Tue, Nov 19 2019 13:16
by OE1FEU
Joined on Mon, Nov 18 2019, Posts 2

Thank you for all the answers, they are really helpful to get an idea of what is feasible and what not.

Given that the objective is only to reproduce a superb piano sound in real time, I believe that defining 4 presets would be good enough and that a wide range of sound impressions can be reached with 4 monaural/2 stereo tracks and I'd think that the specs could be good enough.

From my experience in a different field of DAW usage, I found that BUS speed is more important than sheer processor power, so I am looking at a machine that uses PCIe 3.0 with an NVMe SSD plus L4 DDR RAM.

I'd really not want to use anything else than a fanless machine and give the specs of TDP at a max of 15 Watts, this looks OK to me and I can integrate it into my piano. The quoted machine was something I found after a really quick search, so there are probably other mini PCs out there that are better than those specs.

In any case, living in a city apartment makes a silent system a must, even though I love the sound of my acoustic piano. The sound of the silent system simply is not good enough for my taste (I am a piano snob ;-)), using VSL is something I'd like to follow up on.

Posted on Sun, Dec 01 2019 11:53
by Daniel Stenning
Joined on Fri, Jan 11 2019, UK, Posts 33

Hi,

I actually paid to haver a MIDI retrofit done for the Baby Grand ( Zimmermann ) in our house around 10 years ago.

It was a Quiettime Magicstar system.

It served me very well but there are some caveats worth bearing in mind when doing this to a piano - namely that it does slightly change the action and make the travel a little reduced. This can result in a slightly heavier action than before. And I think this applied whether the silencing bar was being used to silence the piano or not.

I suspect that the pianos - primarily Yamaha but also KAWAI and recenrtly Steinway - where such MIDI silent systems are fitted from the time they are in factory and the pianos can be designed with dimensions specifically tailored for the silent MIDI system and its sensors, that such pianos will be better as compared to retrofits. 

I gotr many years of use out of my MIDI retrofit - used primarily with Ableton, but it has to be said that the MIDI sensitivity and response was good but had lmitations due to the way such systems work - and a good new designed MIDI controller such as made by KAWAI ( considered by many to have the best actions these days ) will be far better.  But of course wont give the joy of being a real piano.

 

Also it needs to be said that my Quiettime System was v4 and a much more recent iteration of those silent piano systems is being made and sold these days by Pianodisk that i believe has much better and responsive sensors. So maybe things have improved a lot. 

But even though the sensort nowadatys in such retrofits might be much better there is still the issue of how adding such a retrofit does physically change the actual real action mechanism a little. 

My mother - who is 93 found it too hard to play the retrofitted piano due to the very slight incvrease she said in the stiffness. But having said that - I found the action in tewrms of stiffness no different to the FATAR 88 key mechanism in my currrent KOMPLETE KONTROL MK II 88. controller keyboard.  But then i'm a little younger and not a trained classical pianist.

 

My mother now has a great value KAWAI ES110 piano and I have to say I absolutely love playing that thing. So you might want to consider any controller keyboard that uses KAWAI. the VP1 dfor example. Plus NORD released rhe Grand recently which has a KAWAI mechanism.   Not a real acoustic of course but very playable.

Just my tuppeneth - having actually paid for the MIDI retrofit you mention. 

 

regards

 

Dan

Posted on Sun, Dec 01 2019 12:10
by Daniel Stenning
Joined on Fri, Jan 11 2019, UK, Posts 33

in answer to the technical questions: 

yup that would be fine. 

  • Is it possible to pre-configure the necessary software to use the PC as a standalone box, i.e. have it start up to be ready to play?

Yup. this is perfeclt possible. in fact it could even be "headless" without a screen but use something like a FIT-PC dongle.

  • Is there any way to control various aspects of the system through a remote app on a tablet such as an iPad?

 

Well there are VNC remote apps and Splashtop available.  But direct app control for Windows ( or mac ) VST hosting apps like VEP is rare. 

 

What you might seriouslt want to consider is actually using an iPad iOS app with grand pianos on them as these are acxtually very good these days.  For example KORG's Gadget and MODULE apps have a lite version of Synthogy's. IVORY. Steinway Piano  in those iOS apps. 

In adddition there is an iPad  piano app with a superb sample library of the Ravenscroft piano available. So rather than usig an iPad to controll a plugin player in a PC.Mac you might want to consider also as an option just using an iPad for everything. And then if necessary recording the MIDI in an iPad app and larter transferring the result to Cubase or another DAW. 

  • Are there any pitfalls in terms of latency and number of samples played at the same time? 

If you are only usig the PC or mac or even iPad to play a piano instrument and nothing else this should not be an issue. You can run at very low buffer sizes. Most modern piano libraries andf players support very large numbers of simultaneous notes so no worries there. 

  • What resolution in terms of using the maximum dynamic range of a mechanical action can be expected? Is it anywhere near the acoustic piano itself?

I dont know about current QuietTime sensore or retrofits but currenr MIDI only supports 127 levels.  But there are special add-ons to the MIDI spec that do increase this.  In short though I think If its going out via standard MIDI then no, the resolution wont be near a real mechanism.   MIDI HD ( 2.0 ) will change this but is in its infancy. 

Posted on Fri, Dec 06 2019 05:05
by Melinda1@4
Joined on Fri, Dec 06 2019, Posts 1

Originally Posted by: Daniel Stenning Go to Quoted Post

Hi,

I actually paid to haver a MIDI retrofit done for the Baby Grand ( Zimmermann ) in our house around 10 years ago.

It was a Quiettime Magicstar system.

It served me very well but there are some caveats worth bearing in mind when doing this to a piano - namely that it does slightly change the action and make the travel a little reduced. This can result in a slightly heavier action than before. And I think this applied whether the silencing bar was being used to silence the piano or not.

I suspect that the pianos - primarily Yamaha but also KAWAI and recenrtly Steinway - where such MIDI silent systems are fitted from the time they are in factory and the pianos can be designed with dimensions specifically tailored for the silent MIDI system and its sensors, that such pianos will be better as compared to retrofits. 

I gotr many years of use out of my MIDI retrofit - used primarily with Ableton, but it has to be said that the MIDI sensitivity and response was good but had lmitations due to the way such systems work - and a good new designed MIDI controller such as made by KAWAI ( considered by many to have the best actions these days ) will be far better.  But of course wont give the joy of being a real piano.

 

Also it needs to be said that my Quiettime System was v4 and a much more recent iteration of those silent piano systems is being made and sold these days by Pianodisk that i believe has much better and responsive sensors. So maybe things have improved a lot. 

But even though the sensort nowadatys in such retrofits might be much better there is still the issue of how adding such a retrofit does physically change the actual real action mechanism a little. 

My mother - who is 93 found it too hard to play the retrofitted piano due to the very slight incvrease she said in the stiffness. But having said that - I found the action in tewrms of stiffness no different to the FATAR 88 key mechanism in my currrent KOMPLETE KONTROL MK II 8yourtexasbenefits8. controller keyboard.  But then i'm a little younger and not a trained classical pianist.

 

My mother now has a great value KAWAI ES110 piano and I have to say I absolutely love playing that thing. So you might want to consider any controller keyboard that uses KAWAI. the VP1 dfor example. Plus NORD released rhe Grand recently which has a KAWAI mechanism.   Not a real acoustic of course but very playable.

Just my tuppeneth - having actually paid for the MIDI retrofit you mention. 

 

regards

 

Dan

Fear not, the piano you choose to install this in won't be harmed. With the pull of a simple handle, your piano goes silent, which enables you to use the keys to trigger your virtual instruments via MIDI.

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