I’ll start with a short recap. In 2017, acoustic piano sounds can be obtained from a variety of sources :
- Samples and/or software emulations running/played back on a computer or portable device(including smartphones), which need you to complement this with an external keyboard via MIDI or USB, etc, to playback the audio in real time.
- Samples and/or sofware emulations played back on a self contained hardware piano device, with its own keybed.
This commentary focuses on the latter.
In my opinion after years of tryouts, and with more discernment over time, there are only two options worth considering.
Why, at the end of the day, what you need from a piano is an instrument that can convey emotions, without distractions. This is music – emotions, not sounds.
I have discovered that the human ear is very sensitive to distortions, and while most of us may not own a top of the line instrument, we are accustomed to listening to good quality instruments in some of the most popular commercial recordings, and the characteristics – especially the emotional accuracy is transparently conveyed when you hear a good acoustic piano, or simulation thereof.
Two instruments pass my criteria for authentic emotional engagement, which is an instrument that allows you to focus on the music, with minimal adjustment – just sit down and play and every note sounds like it came from a real instrument, even though your ears know it’s not real. The illusion is almost believable, and in some instances exceeds a real instrument, by becoming its own reincarnation of what a modern piano should be. May I use the term – SuperAuthentic.
The two pianos I now recommend are the Yamaha CLP 585, and the Roland LX17. Different, but both full rich, solid bass, with excellent harmonic content in each note, every note a pleasure. You can truly become lost with either of these, without that feeling of limitations, that other digital pianos give you – of having to fight with the piano to reproduce your intentions accurately.
With these two, the variation of intention from barely audible to thundering – attention grabbing – hear me now, is as effortless as I have ever experienced on any instrument.
I would dare to add that I consider these digital pianos even more superior to acoustic pianos in the consistency of touch from one key to another, perfectly weighted and able to be played for hours without fingers and hands tiring. Effortless. You forget about the keys and only focus on the music. And when you are done, you leave the instrument satisfied, fulfilled, and return to planet Earth from somewhere higher up in the planes of musical existence.
Expensive – yes, but everything else sounds compromised, and will, because the ear is such a marvel, soon become unpleasant/artificial to hear.
Why are these pianos sounding so good? One primary reason is the quality of amps and speakers and placement of these, which give a more complete image of the sound, especially in the frequency spectrum…..from bass to treble – you hear the full spectrum contained in every note, especially in the bass. This includes any bass component in higher register notes.
It could also be that their implementation of sympathetic resonance, sounds better.
I’ll end by adding that they simply sound so much clearer and less veiled, than other digital pianos. They are the top of their line, and deservedly so.