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Headphone v.s. speakers on DPs #2256172 12/26/10 08:01 PM
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Dave Ferris Offline OP
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I just started playing the CP5 the other day A/Bing with the new Nord sample on the loaner NP. Before that I hadn't turned it on for a few weeks since most of the gigs have been on Acoustic lately. So my ears were relativley fresh from an electronic keyboard.

I brought the CP5 in the house last night to do the obligatory Christmas carols with the in-laws since I got rid of my Yamaha GT-2 DP and I have to say the CP5 sounds really great in my AKG-240 phones.

Jeez how does one get that sound live ? Maybe it's not possible, I don't know. It's so smooth, musical, hi-fi and airy. It's an overall pleasing sound with no trace of digital harshness or that "honky" character that I get when playing live with speakers. I have a pair of fairly high end speakers here ( RCF TT08As) in addition to some decent studio monitors (Dynaudio BM6As MKII) and the sound plus the overall playing experience is nowhere near the same compared to my $99 set of phones. frown

KC Island
Re: Headphone v.s. speakers on DPs [Re: Dave Ferris] #2256174 12/26/10 08:04 PM
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Just a thought:



wink


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Re: Headphone v.s. speakers on DPs [Re: Sven Golly] #2256175 12/26/10 08:06 PM
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Dave Ferris Offline OP
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laugh

I'm talking about for me, Al Franken, though. I don't care about them. smile

Re: Headphone v.s. speakers on DPs [Re: Dave Ferris] #2256178 12/26/10 08:28 PM
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IEM's?


Instrumentation is meaningless - a song either stands on its own merit, or it requires bells and whistles to cover its lack of adequacy, much less quality. - kanker
Re: Headphone v.s. speakers on DPs [Re: Dave Ferris] #2256182 12/26/10 08:40 PM
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burningbusch Offline
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Dave, I wrote about it a little bit in this thread.

Mono Piano Discussion

"Why do these digital pianos sound so good through headphones but ‘kinda suck’ when listening through speakers? Below (fig. 2) is a picture of two sine waves that will produce 100% phase cancelation (read: you won't hear anything) when listened to in mono. What's interesting is that if you pan one far left and the other far right, you will now hear the sine waves. If you listen to the panned versions through headphones, the sine waves will sound perfect. If you pan them back to mono the sound will disappear. Headphones allow one ear to be fed 100% of one waveform while the other gets 100% of the other. This is a pristine listening environment where there are zero phase cancellations. Listening through headphones is very close to hearing exactly what the microphones picked during the recording session. In addition, headphones silence nearly all the ambient noise that can interfere with the sound. So the manufacturers don't intentionally try to make their pianos sound great through headphones, it is simply the best listening environment because it is pristine. Unfortunately, it isn't real world."


fig. 2

Also comb filtering, or the impact of room acoustics on sound, plays a big part on how well things come across through speakers in a room. That's covered very nicely in this video starting at ~17:00.



My take is piano is a supremely difficult instrument to try to reproduce electronically in a live performance environment. Phase cancellation, room acoustics and audience noise very successfully eat away at an otherwise respectable tone. There is just something about piano, probably having to do with the range and complexity of the tone, that makes it so difficult to reproduce.

Busch.

Re: Headphone v.s. speakers on DPs [Re: burningbusch] #2256202 12/26/10 10:25 PM
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I'm certainly no technical expert I have always has issues with running pianos and organs through speakers that were intended for other purposes.

I am starting to notice that digital pianos may not work well through speakers with crossovers or high frequency horn drivers.

At home I have a Yamaha Nocturne digital and this works a little differently than most piano amplification systems. It uses two small internal satellite speakers and it also incorporates a subwoofer. So it is basically bi amped.

I did substitute a different subwoofer rather than using the stock one and it works better because it uses a variable volume control.

This set up is by no means optimal ( I found the Nocturne in a thrift store !) but it shows me several things.

1. It keeps the low frequencies of the piano sound sepaarate from the high frequencies which helps limit " muddiness".

2)The satellites run full range and do not have any high frequency drivers to enhance digital shrillness.

So I think to get good reproduction for acoustic pianos, a good quality bi amped satellite/ subwoofer system might be the ticket. Combined that with a good power amp /preamp and who knows, it might rival your phones.

By the way I also love my Roland RD300GX through phones with a bit of low end boost.

Re: Headphone v.s. speakers on DPs [Re: LX88] #2256307 12/27/10 12:07 PM
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I remember trying a CP5 in a music store and thought it totally sucked -- I couldn't believe that anyone thought this was a decent piano, especially compared to the SV-1 sitting just across the aisle.

Later I realized I was hearing it in mono. I wonder if that's why it sounded so bad?

Re: Headphone v.s. speakers on DPs [Re: burningbusch] #2256415 12/27/10 06:50 PM
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Dave Ferris Offline OP
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Originally Posted By: burningbusch

My take is piano is a supremely difficult instrument to try to reproduce electronically in a live performance environment. Phase cancellation, room acoustics and audience noise very successfully eat away at an otherwise respectable tone. There is just something about piano, probably having to do with the range and complexity of the tone, that makes it so difficult to reproduce.
Busch.


Thanks Busch, I missed that thread. And thanks for Ethan's vid. I think the above summed it up better then what I tried to convey.

I think you are right on the money with your statement about the headphones best representing the original source recording. These developers obviously aren't monitoring through a pair of MI speakers like JBL or Mackie. grin

Conversely strange enough, out of all the Jazz or more Acoustic based recording sessions I've done on an Acoustic Piano, I've always preferred NOT to hear the AP in the phones but acoustically. Whenever I put the phones on, it turns into an altogether different instrument.

But getting back to the original topic--I think the internal speakers on a lot of these "Home" DPs do a good job of creating a piano playing experience. LX88, I have played that Nocturne before and thought it sounded very good. Whatever they do, the sound seems less harsh and more makes for a better overall piano playing experience. It might not be, at least in something like the Nocturne's case, the most cutting edge sound but it's not harsh and still gives the instrument a more "singing" quality which is always seems to be lacking when running these things through external speakers--no matter how high end. The Avant Grand has the best sound system I've played but you're also getting the real Grand Piano action so the two go hand in hand.

At least in Yamaha's case I believe these are two different areas or departments. The people that develop the Avant Grand and Clavinovas are separate from the CP/Motif line --at least as what's been told to me in the past. Maybe they should try joining forces......

I did try a sub-woofer, probably not ideal for DP, the Motion Sound SW-15 in conjunction with their KP-200. The difference with and without was negligible. Still bad sound coming from that amp. Perhaps something like this that is meant to pair up with my TT08As:
http://www.rcf.it/en_US/products/touring-and-theatre/tts12-a

Re: Headphone v.s. speakers on DPs [Re: Dave Ferris] #2256442 12/27/10 09:23 PM
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It's interesting that you enjoyed the Nocturne. From what I can tell it is basically a Yamaha Cp-33 with internal speakers and a subwoofer.

I think the sunwoofer is the thing that warms it up. But it is showing me that a different way is possible to amplify these things.

The low end of this piano just roars and the sub seems to take the edge off the highs too. The volume is similar to an upright piano, so there are band situations that would blow this thing away...

So my formula for headphone like clarity might be - a pair of full range 8 inch ( no crossover or high frequency driver) woofers for the mids and highs that would handle high power paired with a subwoofer.

I haven't seen anything like this on the market....but your piano sound is only as good as what you are running it through. And most people are using PA speakers or crappy keyboard amps.
It almost defeats the purpose of upgrading your piano.

I found the Nocturne in a Goodwill store in Hillsboro Oregon. The side was cracked and the subwoofer didn't work. 45 dollars.

Re: Headphone v.s. speakers on DPs [Re: LX88] #2256450 12/27/10 10:03 PM
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I'm sure the separation of frequencies with a bass sub helps a lot (especially on certain piano samples), although in real life, a piano doesn't have massive lows… it's a mish mash of frequencies and usually more about upper and lower mid range.

Busch covered this well, but just some added general thoughts:

An acoustic piano is the hardest instrument sound to reproduce. And if you get it right through a sound system, the system will be basically right for other instrument sounds.

With the right setup, you can come close to the sound quality of headphones, but you don't duplicate it. Headphones are always clearest for a DP, although when I EQ'd my DP to the max and ran it through Accugrooves (or any good neutral speakers), it actually sounded more realistic. The wood cabinets provided natural acoustic resonance while the headphones sounded too direct and digitized.

OT: Unfortunately, live music usually requires volumes beyond acoustic piano level. But the popular issue of "cutting through" often discussed on this forum is, I think, a little over the top.

How well a DP cuts through has nothing to do with how realistic a piano sound is. When you buy an acoustic you focus on the instrument, not how it cuts through.

If you get the piano sound you like, cutting through is a matter of proper EQ and the speaker system. With the "right" setup (well tweaked DP, EQ, speakers), I believe it's still easier for any DP to cut through most any situation, than it is for a DP to sound exactly like a piano.

Re: Headphone v.s. speakers on DPs [Re: SK] #2256471 12/27/10 11:43 PM
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It isn't that a sub reproduces massive lows in digital piano reproduction. The sub adds a audible low attack that actually adds warmth and body to the tones even into the upper midrange.

To me, it helps duplicate the resonant qualities of an acoustic and also helps by keeping these frequencies from interfering with the upper mids and highs.

I do agree that EQ can also help with the process. What I am tending to notice with the Nocturne is that it does not use "tweeters" as such. The speakers in there are 4"x6", and it has plenty of highs.

I am just theorizing about using a full range speaker with a sub, on a larger scale. I haven't actually tried it . Maybe an a small array type speaker would also work - with no crossover or ultra high frequency drivers.

When you think about it, phones are just single drivers - hence the idea of a no crossover full range driver to carry the bulk of mids and highs.

Re: Headphone v.s. speakers on DPs [Re: LX88] #2256482 12/28/10 12:48 AM
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Right, as I said, I can see how a sub would help the sound - that it disperses the separate frequencies better. Then I went OT into other stuff from there, about the main mid frequencies in a piano sound.

Re: Headphone v.s. speakers on DPs [Re: SK] #2256497 12/28/10 02:13 AM
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hmmm. . .interesting thread. . .it got me wondering if I have ever heard a piano sound (talking acoustic piano sounds here) I liked that was at a volume louder than one would experience sitting at the keyboard of a concert grand at half- or full-stick. I guess I have heard some nicely recorded grand piano loud in the studio, but I don't think live.


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Re: Headphone v.s. speakers on DPs [Re: reidmc] #2256564 12/28/10 11:38 AM
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So Dave, you're getting all the folks who are hungry for a 'real piano' experience with a DP to reply. Great thread.

I have some questions (and hypotheses about their answers, and conclusions for myself) that come to mind, and some have been stated earlier, but let me make them explicit:

1). Is the problem in speaker placement? I hypothesize that if you A-B your on-stage speakers with your studio monitors, in a good near-field placement, you'll find they sound pretty damn good, with a nice stereo image, and any imbalances fixable with a good parametric EQ. But we don't set up our stage speakers facing us, on stands at ear level with the keyboard in the sweet spot. So, set the speakers on a floor, or put them behind you against a wall and now what does it sound like? I bet if you're even a bit out of the stereo sweet spot it will sound weird.

2). Is the problem in the volume you are playing at? In the studio I have a really hard time connecting with any piano (virtual or DP) that is either too loud or too soft. I can attribute this to 50 years of conditioning. But we know about Fletcher-Munson and that our ears are far from linear. Could it be that APs (or good DPs) just don't sound good (or real) when they're too loud? Does anybody out there have a clue about this? (For live music, like acoustic jazz, that needs a great piano sound, I typically only like the piano sound when it's barely amplified.)

3). Is the problem in the room acoustics? A great AP sounds great in a great performance space, but put it in the back hall and it becomes an unmanageable beast. Play a great AP recording (your DP) through great speakers in a terrible room and it will sound bad, especially as the volume increases.

4). (and here's the one that I'm certainly guilty of...) Is the problem that our expectations are too high? No, don't shoot me yet! Consider: most of the music that any of us have ever heard has come from the controlled audio space of a recording studio, not a live performance. We go into the live situation wanting to reproduce our music in it's best form, to give us and our audience the best we can. Now, a concert at Carnegie Hall might allow us to do this with acoustic music. But a club isn't a studio. There is no sweet spot in the stereo field. The noise floor is loud. People are moving around, talking, dancing, drinking, having fun. They're not sitting in their media room with the $10k speakers.

Here's an analogy. I'm a chef. If you come to my home or restaurant for a meal I can, if I choose, give you the best meal I can create. (This may mean bringing a certain dish to you less than a minute off the burner.) But if you hire me to cater a dinner for 250 people my menu must change. I can't pull 250 steaks off the grill at the same time. So, I work out great but different meals that can be delivered successfully in the customer's venue.

A few years ago in Keyboard Mag, they interviewed the touring band for Justin Timberlake. Justin (unlike virtually ever other big name) came to the interview and added musical and technical detail that made me view him in a different light. If I can paraphrase, he pointed out that in really large venues (i.e. Madison Square Garden), the band is encouraged to play far less than what's on the album. A great piano chord might sound great on stage, but in the balcony it's completely lost. What's needed is a great piano 'note' that can reach the audience, be heard, and be effective.

So, take me on a typical gig, playing piano in a Dixieland quartet in a restaurant bar. My little Privia sounds fine (when heavily EQ'd) in the 'brash' stride style that I use. It sounds enough like a piano to not be embarrassing, and has enough dynamic control that I can accompany and still bring out a melody line or hit when needed. But two or three times in every set I get tired of pumping out the stride and want to move into a more expressive side of my playing, and when I try it sounds like poo and I swear at the rig and vow to go online to find a better solution.

But isn't this just like the catering analogy? I want to make my best music, but my gear (the Privia), the style of music (Dixieland), the band (let's pump it up, not take it down!), the audience (oh look Fred, the pianist is trying to be 'sensitive') and the venue (a bar) just don't support me being able to cook up whatever my little heart desires, even if it would sound f'ing incredible on a recording.

What am I going to do? First, hold off my next GAS until Dave tells us he has a really great DP-speaker setup for AP jazz. (That's why we love you.) Next, stop getting so worked up about not being able to express myself completely. Finally, when that specially voiced Alt chord with the half-pedalling doesn't sound good at the gig, find that one note that does and play the hell out of it.

Re: Headphone v.s. speakers on DPs [Re: PianoMan51] #2256579 12/28/10 01:09 PM
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Played a great C7 with a sensitive group last night. If only every gig.....


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Re: Headphone v.s. speakers on DPs [Re: PianoMan51] #2256592 12/28/10 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted By: PianoMan51
So Dave, you're getting all the folks who are hungry for a 'real piano' experience with a DP to reply. Great thread.

I have some questions (and hypotheses about their answers, and conclusions for myself) that come to mind, and some have been stated earlier, but let me make them explicit:

1). Is the problem in speaker placement? I hypothesize that if you A-B your on-stage speakers with your studio monitors, in a good near-field placement, you'll find they sound pretty damn good, with a nice stereo image, and any imbalances fixable with a good parametric EQ. But we don't set up our stage speakers facing us, on stands at ear level with the keyboard in the sweet spot. So, set the speakers on a floor, or put them behind you against a wall and now what does it sound like? I bet if you're even a bit out of the stereo sweet spot it will sound weird.

2). Is the problem in the volume you are playing at? In the studio I have a really hard time connecting with any piano (virtual or DP) that is either too loud or too soft. I can attribute this to 50 years of conditioning. But we know about Fletcher-Munson and that our ears are far from linear. Could it be that APs (or good DPs) just don't sound good (or real) when they're too loud? Does anybody out there have a clue about this? (For live music, like acoustic jazz, that needs a great piano sound, I typically only like the piano sound when it's barely amplified.)

3). Is the problem in the room acoustics? A great AP sounds great in a great performance space, but put it in the back hall and it becomes an unmanageable beast. Play a great AP recording (your DP) through great speakers in a terrible room and it will sound bad, especially as the volume increases.

4). (and here's the one that I'm certainly guilty of...) Is the problem that our expectations are too high? No, don't shoot me yet! Consider: most of the music that any of us have ever heard has come from the controlled audio space of a recording studio, not a live performance. We go into the live situation wanting to reproduce our music in it's best form, to give us and our audience the best we can. Now, a concert at Carnegie Hall might allow us to do this with acoustic music. But a club isn't a studio. There is no sweet spot in the stereo field. The noise floor is loud. People are moving around, talking, dancing, drinking, having fun. They're not sitting in their media room with the $10k speakers.

Here's an analogy. I'm a chef. If you come to my home or restaurant for a meal I can, if I choose, give you the best meal I can create. (This may mean bringing a certain dish to you less than a minute off the burner.) But if you hire me to cater a dinner for 250 people my menu must change. I can't pull 250 steaks off the grill at the same time. So, I work out great but different meals that can be delivered successfully in the customer's venue.

A few years ago in Keyboard Mag, they interviewed the touring band for Justin Timberlake. Justin (unlike virtually ever other big name) came to the interview and added musical and technical detail that made me view him in a different light. If I can paraphrase, he pointed out that in really large venues (i.e. Madison Square Garden), the band is encouraged to play far less than what's on the album. A great piano chord might sound great on stage, but in the balcony it's completely lost. What's needed is a great piano 'note' that can reach the audience, be heard, and be effective.

So, take me on a typical gig, playing piano in a Dixieland quartet in a restaurant bar. My little Privia sounds fine (when heavily EQ'd) in the 'brash' stride style that I use. It sounds enough like a piano to not be embarrassing, and has enough dynamic control that I can accompany and still bring out a melody line or hit when needed. But two or three times in every set I get tired of pumping out the stride and want to move into a more expressive side of my playing, and when I try it sounds like poo and I swear at the rig and vow to go online to find a better solution.

But isn't this just like the catering analogy? I want to make my best music, but my gear (the Privia), the style of music (Dixieland), the band (let's pump it up, not take it down!), the audience (oh look Fred, the pianist is trying to be 'sensitive') and the venue (a bar) just don't support me being able to cook up whatever my little heart desires, even if it would sound f'ing incredible on a recording.

What am I going to do? First, hold off my next GAS until Dave tells us he has a really great DP-speaker setup for AP jazz. (That's why we love you.) Next, stop getting so worked up about not being able to express myself completely. Finally, when that specially voiced Alt chord with the half-pedalling doesn't sound good at the gig, find that one note that does and play the hell out of it.


Ex-cell-ent! thu Really dig the chef analogy. thu


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