Yamaha is one of the premier manufacturers of top-end concert pianos, so when it introduces a new line that sounds fantastic, never needs tuning, and offers great options for practicing and listening via headphones, it may be pointing the way for the entire industry.
For years, musical instrument manufacturers have offered digital pianos that sounded incomparably bad next to the real thing. But the newest Yamahas look and feel like concert grands and uprights, and have a carefully-sampled sound taken from a $120,000 concert piano, perfectly tuned and authentic to the last overtone. The one advantage the new line doesn't yet have is a lower price, but as the economies of scale kick in over future generations, we should see prices drop.
Hunter Communications Original New Source:
New York Times
Link to article:
Excerpt: "A few years ago, Yamaha tried a crazy experiment. What if it produced a grand piano that was traditional in almost every respect — except that it replaced strings with sensors? What if the sound came from painstakingly recorded audio snippets, or samples, of each string from a $120,000 top-of-the-line grand piano, reproduced through a set of high-end speakers?
The result was the AvantGrand N3, a gorgeous baby grand hybrid piano that you can buy today for about $15,000. (Yamaha won’t reveal its pianos’ street prices, only ludicrously high suggested retail prices. The prices printed here come from Chicago’s Grand Piano Haus, but the three other dealers I called across the country were in the same ballpark.)
The feel of the N3’s wooden keys and hammers is identical to those on Yamaha’s real pianos; you even feel the keys subtly vibrate when you strike them hard, exactly as on a real piano. The samples and speakers are so good, most players would not even realize it’s not a real grand piano.
Then came the N2, a space-saving 'upright grand' version with the same features ($11,000). And the N1, a less expensive upright ($8,000).
All these pianos offer a few towering advantages over stringed pianos. First, they never need tuning. That’s a very big deal; real pianos have to be professionally tuned, string by string (there are about 230 of them on a grand piano), especially if they’re in rooms that aren’t humidity- and temperature-controlled. That’s pricey and time-consuming.
Second, you can turn the volume up or down, or listen through headphones. That makes hybrids sensational for apartments, dorm rooms or anywhere else that your practicing might disturb others. Turning the speakers down is also useful when you’re accompanying a singer or soloist whose volume is no match for your impassioned playing.
Finally, hybrid pianos are much smaller and lighter than real ones. The N3, for example, sounds like a nine-foot grand, but it’s only four feet long.
The only thing Yamaha never managed to do is fix the price. Real upright pianos usually cost $5,000 to $15,000; the world’s best selling piano, for example, is Yamaha’s U1 upright, which costs $7,500. And real grand pianos cost $10,000 to $50,000. So Yamaha’s hybrids may save space, weight and tuning, but they don’t save you much money.
That, no doubt, is why Yamaha has now introduced a fourth AvantGrand model, the NU1 upright hybrid — with a street price of about $4,500. Finally, there’s a hybrid that costs less than its analog counterpart.
The question is, how much of the AvantGrand amazingness did Yamaha have to leave out to reach that price?"