GEM's RealPiano Expander
An article by Niclas Fogwall: © 2001

Reprinted edition: Images and broken links are restored wherever possible.
A partly archived version of the original article can be found at Open Wayback archive where you can also find later comprehensive updates.



This webpage is about Generalmusic's piano module "RealPiano Expander", among many musicians rated as the best sounding piano module on the market. The purpose behind this site is to give interested potential buyers as much useful information as possible from a non-biased point of view (this webpage is not sponsored by Generalmusic or anyone else).


I first start with some general information about the strengths and weaknesses of the digital piano followed by a quick tour of sampling technology.

Then I will make a small comparison of some competing piano modules on the market, followed by excerpts from the news groups and my own e-mail correspondence.

Finally, I have added some sound samples of the RealPiano, useful for all of you who don't have the possibility to try it out before purchase.

Strengths and weaknesses

When a professional musician, a concert pianist for example, wants to buy a piano to practise on he can today choose from a very expensive acoustic concert grand or the cheaper digital variant. Below are the advantages of each of these alternatives.

The digital piano
- affordable, even for hobby use
- portable, easy to move from one house to another
- easy to furnish even in small apartments
- neighbour friendly, just plug in your headphones
- versatile, easy transposing, add effects to the piano sound
- a perfect recording instrument, no microphone needed
- acting like a piano-roll by playing midi files
- not in need of any fine tuning

The acoustic grand piano
- natural hammer touch with wood keys
- natural piano sound, with genuine resonance effects
- beautiful furniture for large luxurious rooms
- suitable for classical piano concerts where people want the real thing

Would the professional pianist choose the digital piano? I don't think so. Even though the digital piano is affordable and offers several functions it still needs enhancements of the hammer action, complex resonance modelling and the sampling technique, in order to bring a natural acoustic piano sound.

Sampling techniques

When sampling the piano sound you should consider the many levels of key velocities which have an influence on how the string sounds when being hit by the hammer, for example the grading pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff of each of the 88 keys of an acoustic grand piano. Each key is sampled with a very high sampling frequency, 44.1 kHz, in true stereo and for as long as the key brings any sound in order to avoid looping techniques.

A simple mathematical calculation:
88 keys x 6 velocities = 528 unique samples.
528 samples x 10 seconds average = 5280 seconds.
5280 seconds x 176 KB storage = 929280 KB = approximately 929 MB.

On top of this there should be added some kind of resonance modelling to consider the influence of the physical laws of the complexity of resonance. For example, when releasing a key, the piano will still bring the sounds of the interaction of the resonance from the strings and the piano itself. If the pedal is pressed the same second as a key is released, the sounds of the resonance will still be caught and strengthened by the pedal.

Today there are available CDs with over 1 GB piano samples from acoustic grand pianos. When used with special software to make use of the harddisk on the computer, the samples of today are very good but still not really satisfying for the demanding pianist as the samples don't take into consideration of an effective harmonic resonance model.

Competitors to the RealPiano
After reading many posts in the news groups, corresponding with others and listening to the sound samples available, I have made the conclusion that the following digital pianos are of most interest to professional pianists concerning the sound alone, and strong competitors to GEM's RealPiano:

- Yamaha GT2 "GranTouch"
Wooden piano keyboard, continuous-position optical sensors, acoustic grand piano action, digital stereo sampling with sustain pedal resonance effects, Yamaha CFIIIS concert grand piano, Memory: 30 megabyte (wave memory), 32-notes stereo polyphony, Pitch Control: 438~445 hertz in 1-hertz steps, fine tuning in 1.2-cent steps, 109 KG (240 lbs). List price, probably around $7000.

This one is simply marvellous concerning the look and feel. The special piano touch is achieved through optical sensors. The piano sound is soft and warm so they have really done some serious signal processing with the samples. So I liked it, but the price tag was huge (despite a $1500 discount offered).

Sound sample available at www.purgatorycreek.com.

- Kawai MP9000
Wooden keys, Kawai Enhanced AWA Grand Action, Velocity Sensing, Harmonic Imaging sound technology, 64 notes polyphony, Sympathetic Resonance, Chorus 1, Chorus 2, Chorus 3, Flanger 1, Flanger 2, Ensemble, Celeste, Delay 1, Delay 2, Auto Pan, Tremolo, Phaser 1, Phaser 2, Rotary 1(Fast/Slow), Rotary 2 (F/S) Auto Wah, Exciter, Enhancer, Overdrive, Distortion, 33 KG (73 lbs). $1425 at www.musicians-gear.com. Sound sample available at Veridical Sounds webpage.

I tried another model, the CA750, which should have the same action and sound technology. As I wasn't used to the touch I first didn't like this, but after trying it the second time a couple of months later I came to another conclusion. The dynamic sensitivity is great! It felt as it was a real grand piano in front of me as it responded to my crescendos in a way that my Yamaha Clavinova never can. The sound was however a bit too electronic in some places and also uneven in some keys, so I suspect they have only sampled every third key in average.

- Oberheim Minigrand module
Modeling and sample based technologies. The attacks of the hammers, sympathetic resonance and the damper pedal are all modeled. You can even hear the distinctive sounds of the pedals. 8 MB of internal samples. $450 list price. Sound sample (941 kB).

- William Coakley PerfectPiano
32 MB of piano samples on CD, do not support resonance modelling however.
The 32 Meg Fazioli Concert Grand (the longest piano in production!) including special application variations of the Fazioli for use with Sample Cell, E-Mu, Kurzweil, Roland and Akai. $299. Sound sample (1580 kB).

- NemeSys GigaPiano
Designed specifically for the NemeSys GigaSampler with samples from a Yamaha Concert Series Grand. This piano represents a big step in sampling - with over a gigabyte of stereo samples, no loops, rich resonant pedal down samples, release-triggered sound board resonance that varies over time (great staccato playing), and wide dynamic timbre. 2 CDs, $99.
Follow an interesting discussion here!
Sound sample (1045 kB) | More sound samples

Kurzweil KMP-1 MicroPiano module
32 sounds, 32 voices (64 with 2 modules midi-connected). $220.
Sound sample (752 kB). Another sample available on this page.

Roland RD-700
The successor to RD-600. Progressive Hammer-Action Keyboard (heavier touch in the lower range and a lighter touch in the upper range), 16 parts multitimbral, 128 sounds, 64 MB stereo samples with Sympathetic Resonance effects, expandable using SRX-Series Wave Expansion Boards. A sample is available further down on this page. $1385 at www.musicians-gear.com.

Alesis NanoPiano module
8 MB stereo samples, 256 sounds, 64 voices, 4 parts multitimbral, $370.

When I tried this one, I was not impressed. It's not suited for any classical playing, too much electronic sounding except in the lower octaves.

Roland JV/XP Series Wave Expansion Board
This is a wave expansion board which adds additional high-quality waveforms and patches to the Roland JD, JV, Super-JV and XP series synthesizers. The board adds an additional 16 MB of waveforms. The piano samples are based on a Steinway. The sound has rather short decay but for some sequencing purposes the sound is truly fantastic. Stereo. 64 voices. Roland also offers another expansion board (to the XV series) with 64 MB stereo piano samples.
$195 at www.musicians-gear.com. Sound samples at Zzounds website.

Post Pristine Piano
Steinberg samples for use with GigaSampler. The Steinway Concert Grand - Model D was recorded in full 24 bit digital audio quality using the world's best microphones, converters and recorders, with incredible attention to every detail during editing. All typical characteristics in terms of velocity are captured: (true) pp - mf - f and ff! Both pedal up and down. Last, the release sample layer was added to achieve true realism!
$200 at http://www.bigfishaudio.com. Sound sample.

Steinway Model-C Grand Piano
A 1.9 GB (!) GigaSampler file from the piano sampling fetishist Warren Trachtman. This is a 4-layer pedal-up and a 4-layer pedal-down of each of the 88 keys. This results in a very good piano sound. $75.
Sound sample (1007 kB)

Malmsjö Acoustic Grand
For use with GigaSampler. It is recorded in four velocity layers: ppp, p, mf, and f. Every key is sampled individually, and every tone is allowed to ring out completely. Only pedal-down samples and no release samples but still with unusually true realism in my opinion. $100. Sound samples at Artvista's website.
Another sample in the "ultimate compare" section further down on this page.

The Grand VSTi
This brand new VST instrument (samples from a Kawai EX concert grand) by Wizoo/Steinberg integrates into Cubase, Logic or any other VST2 compatible host. Complex variation of different sound characteristics such as dynamic response, dying out of notes, hammer action and string resonance. Authentic functionality of sustain and sostenuto pedals. Velocity individually adaptable to suit personal playing style. $299. Sample 1 (1690 kB), Sample 2 (1367 kB).
Another sample in the "ultimate compare" section further down on this page.

Please observe, if you intend using GigaSampler or GigaStudio with Cubase VST you should have an ASIO and GSIF compatible sound card, for example Delta's Audiophile 2496 and a computer with at least 500 MHz CPU, 256 MB RAM and a 7200 rpm HDD.


M Audio Audiophile 2496 sound card. Price approximately $200.

Some notes about me

I want to point out that I am no professional pianist myself, I am no expert of digital sampling techniques and I have not tried all digital pianos mentioned on this page. I usually play soft classical piano pieces, especially Satie, Beethoven and Grieg. I also play my own piano works which are similar in some aspects.

The RealPiano Expander

Before giving you any information regarding this extraordinary piano module I should inform you that since July 2000 Generalmusic have stopped the production of the RealPiano Expander. They are not developing a successor even though it was planned before. According to Chris Anthony, product developer of Generalmusic, this was due to an unforeseen supply problem with some components specific to this unit. They are however developing a new piano keyboard series but it's unknown what kind of technology they will bring. According to Paolo Sacchetti, keyboards product specialist of Generalmusic, they don't have any information or timing details (...it's still top secret even for Mr Sacchetti himself...). I will get back to this subject when I receive any more details.

As a result of the production stop it's nowadays very hard to find an unused RealPiano Expander, for the moment only a few distributors worldwide have it in stock. I have the past weeks received mail from musicians reporting this sad fact. However, good news is that Generalmusic offer help in finding unsold units still available among distributors and music shops worldwide, so it's not impossible finding an unused unit. One place on the internet you may find a used unit is on Ebay's auction site.

What it is
The RealPiano Expander and the keyboard variants seem to have been distributed since the beginning of 1997 and is known to reproduce the piano sounds astonishly real. It is also known in some price lists as Pro M, where the M probably stands for module as there are also available the keyboard variants Pro 1, Pro 2, the new Pro Mega3 and the digital home piano series. I don't know how much sample memory there are, for example Oberheim's MiniGrand has 8 MB and Yamaha's GT2 30 MB, but their patented technique of resonance modelling is the secret formula behind the sound.

In collaboration with the CSC, department at the acclaimed University of Padova, Italy, Generalmusic has perfected a physical model that can accurately reproduce the real performance characteristics of an acoustic grand piano. Using the unique "FFT Merge" technology, developed specifically for the RealPiano series, the tonal characteristics of the finest grand pianos in the world (including Steinway, Bösendorfer, Yamaha and Fazioli) are carefully analyzed with the best results from each being implemented in the final composite sound.

From the manual:

The RealPiano Expander features three unique applications of sound design technology including "physical modeling" to simulate the internal characteristics of a piano sound board.

Natural string resonance
The first physical modeling technology, patented by Generalmusic as "Natural String Resonance", allows all of the complex harmonics normally produced by the piano sound board to be faithfully produced. This means that a note's individual sound will always be slightly different depending upon which other notes are currently being held, (and consequently which strings are un-damped and free to resonate in sympathy). If you hold a low "C" and let the note decay, the strings for that note are still un-damped for as long as the key remains depressed. If you now strike another "C" higher up the keyboard, (staccato), you will hear the sympathetic resonance of the low "C" strings in response to the new note played. This natural effect replicates exactly what happens on a grand piano. If you experiment with different combinations of notes you will hear harmonic colors particular to each. Because this effect is produced by physical modeling and not by samples or DSP effects, the result is musically and technically accurate simulation of a piano's sound board and virtually infinite combinations of harmonics can be produced.

Damper physical model
The second technology, patented by Generalmusic is "Damper Physical Model". Although it looks like an ordinary damper foot switch, the special continuos damper pedal for the RealPiano Expander is not a switch but, instead, a continuos pedal which accurately simulates the effect of the dampers being moved closer to or further away from the strings of the piano. Because of this, effects such as partial or half damping can be achieved. The dampers can even be slowly "squeezed" back against the strings. When the damper pedal is depressed, the damper physical model will simulate the effect of sympathetic resonance being produced by the un-damped strings. Even if you are using a standard switch type pedal, you can hear the effect of the Damper Physical Model by comparing the sounds of notes played in the highest octave of the instrument with and without the damper pedal depressed.

Advanced Release Technology
The third and final technology applied to the piano sounds in the RealPiano Expander is "Advanced Release Technology", (patent pending). Sample based electronic pianos traditionally use envelope generators to control what happens when a key is released. This simply allows the sample loop to continue for a set period of time until its amplitude is reduced to zero by the envelope generator. In an acoustic piano, vibrating strings are silenced by the action of a damper making contact with the string. When this happens, depending on the velocity with which the key was struck and the length of the string itself, certain frequencies are damped earlier than others producing a distinctive harmonic "ring" as the different frequencies in the string's tone dissipate throughout the piano sound board. The Key Release Model in the RealPiano Expander simulates exactly this feature with complete accuracy throughout the note range.

The RealPiano module offers a complete set of MIDI connectors (In, Out and Thru), stereo outputs, a serial port (mac interface), 32 sounds, different chorus/flanger/reverb effects, programmable sound presets, tuning in 0.5 steps, easy transpose buttons, 2 sound layers for simultaneous playing and a split function. Jack for stereo headphones. Optional accessory is the GEM continuos damper pedal for optimal use of the pedal effects (damper physical model).

Stage piano series

GEM also sell the stage piano series RealPiano Pro 1 and Pro 2. The Pro 1 has identical sound as the Expander with 64 notes polyphony, which is needed when performing complex classical piano works while the RealPiano Pro 2 offers 128 notes polyphony. Here is a small sound sample (ragtime piece, 469 kB). Even though the stage piano series have "hammer weighted" action they don't seem to be as good as, for example, Kawai's MP9000 or Yamaha's GT2. Therefore, many pianists seem to choose the Expander for use with another midi keyboard. A professional pianist not used to midi keyboards might find it unpleasant as he/she might be used to the effects of the hammer laying back to its original position when releasing a key. As of today I don't think there is any midi keyboard which can succeed in a complete imitation. This is indeed an interesting subject to professional pianists who are thinking of purchasing a neighbour friendly midi variant.

For anyone interested there is an interesting discussion available from the rec.music.makers.piano news group regarding the hammer touch of digital pianos.

I suspect that the Pro 1 and Pro 2 stage pianos will soon be discontinued as GEM now are marketing the following successors:

ProMega series

The successors to the Pro 1 and Pro 2 are ProMega 1, 2 and 3. Information from Generalmusic's product support:

ProMega 2 and 3 will be available in the U.S around February. Prices should be around $3500 for the Promega3 and around $2500 for the Promega2. All the promega instruments feature our new stereo grand piano samples with physical modeling, damper physical model and natural string resonance plus completely physically modeled rhodes, wurlitzer and clavinet. The Promega 3 has 320 note polyphony, 4 mixable sections - Pianos, Vintage Keys, Orchestra and Bass/Other with a total of 60 sounds, motorized faders and aftertouch. It is housed in a studio style console with real wood side panels and the control panel sloping upwards at about 40 degrees. The Promega 2 has approximately 200 note polyphony, (to be confirmed) with 3 mixable sections - Pianos/Vintage, Orchestra and Bass/Other with a total of 45 sounds. The Promega2 does not have motorized faders or aftertouch. It is housed in a more typical stage piano cabinet with the control panel being flat. The ProMega1 will be released at the end of spring 2002 and will offer 1 section with 32 presets. Polyphony should be between 64- 100. Price is expected at around $1000.


GEM RealPiano ProMega 3

Beginner's questions

I have received mail from musicians asking me how to connect the module to a midi keyboard. You can use this piano module with any midi keyboard available, that is if it has a midi out port. It doesn't matter how good or bad the keyboard is but it will do justice if you use a good midi keyboard with a decent hammer touch. You can use any of the digital pianos available, the sound of the module will take over and offer a 64 notes polyphony.

Which keyboard?

It's a matter of taste which keyboard you should use. I suggest you try some at the music shops. If you will use it as a midi keyboard only (that is by using an external piano module) all that really matters is the piano touch. I use my old 76 keys Yamaha Clavinova CLP-250 which has a good touch.

Yamaha P-80
Yamaha offer a stage piano variant of the Clavinova series, the P-80. It's very cheap, about $720 at www.musicians-gear.com, and weighs only 37 lbs (16 kg). The touch is very good according to many users but in my opinion the touch seems too rigid so I recommend you try it yourself before buying it. Although the built in piano sound lacks the realism delivered by resonance modelling it is quite good, in the same class as the more expensive P-200 and Clavinova series. It has a limited 2-track sequencer to function as a musical sketchbook. Optional accessories are the piano stand and monitor speakers.
$750 at www.musicians-gear.com.


Yamaha P-80 stage piano

Roland RD-150
Roland have recently released a model, RD-150, which is the successor to the RD-100 stage piano. I like this touch better. It has a light touch similar to a Steinway Grand Piano which I compared it with in the same shop. The built in piano sound of this one is not so good. It has a 2-track sequencer. 49 lbs (22 kg). $720 at www.musicians-gear.com.


Roland RD-150 stage piano

Kawai ES1
A new lighter variant of the MP9000 with Harmonic Imaging resonance modelling of the built in piano sound. However, it doesn't have the same superb touch as the MP9000 as it lacks the unique features of wooden keys and AWA Grand III action. 2-track sequencer. 40 lbs (18 kg). $750 at www.musicians-gear.com.


Kawai ES1 stage piano

Generalmusic PRP7
Generalmusic offer a rather new piano series, the PRP stage piano series. Although it offers physical modelling of the piano sound it only handles 32 notes polyphony compared to 64 notes for the Expander. Besides this the sample memory stored for the piano samples is more limited. The piano sound is therefore not very good. The PRP7 and PRP8 models make use of the Fatar keyboard action which means they have a very good touch. $450 (PRP7) and $550 (PRP8) at www.musicians-gear.com.


GEM PRP stage piano series

..or perhaps...
If you are able and willing to spend lots of money I suggest you go for Yamaha's GranTouch model or the cheaper MP9000 stage piano from Kawai (both described earlier on this page). The GranTouch has the best piano touch, very similar to the mid-range acoustic grand pianos, and a beautiful design.

My own experience

I have had my RealPiano Expander since 6 April 2000. My experience of it so far is that it is very expressive as a whole and achieves a close to true acoustic accuracy (listen to my sound samples below on this page). I strongly recommend that you make use of an external reverb (as the built in reverbs are not sufficient enough) and an equalizer to tweak the sound to your personal taste.

Now, you may wonder if there are any disadvantages. The answer is Yes, there are! It's only natural to find shortcomings on a module which, until recently, could be bought for a price tag of approximately $250 (at Music-City, Köln, Germany).

Fading notes
All notes, especially in the lower range, seem to fade out too quickly, unless you play harder or use the pedal to utilize the string resonance. This became quite annoying when I let a professional pianist try it for a couple of hours. We recorded several piano pieces by the French rather unknown composer Robert Caby (1906-1992). I have put a sound sample from that session which is available in the samples section on this page. The solution to this problem is to upgrade to a newer Eprom (version 1.12 or later) which is available through GEM's local distributors.

Sampling errors
Some notes deliver an abnormal volume (in midi terms: "velocity") when playing calm pieces with pianissimos. It seems there is an incorrect signal processing of some dynamic responses, independent of which note is played. When analysing these in a midi sequencing program you will find that your critical musical ear is right. The latest Eprom (1.13) have unfortunately not dealt with this problem. The only solution is to adjust the volume of these particular notes in a midi sequencing program (e g Cubase).

Limited sample memory
When listening carefully with no reverb effect, I can hear some small sampling errors, as if not all the 88 keys are sampled, for example I noticed that some keys deliver a slightly sharper tone than others, which did not surprise me as the sample memory of the module probably has a limit of, say, 8-16 MB, which you could compare with Yamaha's GranTouch models (30 MB) and Nemesys' GigaPiano (more than 1 GB). As a result of the limited sample memory you can hear the loops on each note, meaning that if you press and hold a note for more than, say, 3 seconds you will hear a constant repetition from a fraction of the sample. On some of the notes this is more obvious (you can listen to this in the samples section on this page). I would like to point out that loops exist on all digital pianos of today, even on Yamaha's GranTouch models. Only the computer based solutions (e g GigaSampler) have enough sample memory to avoid loops.

Not perfect physical modelling
An owner of the RP Pro 2 stage piano recently informed about a missing function in the physical modelling algorithms. Here is a step by step instruction on how to notice it: Depress damper pedal, play a loud chord, release chord but hold pedal (chord still rings under the damper pedal), silently press chord (while holding pedal), release pedal while holding notes of chord with fingers. On any real piano, after performing the above procedure, the chord that is held still rings loudly. Here, as soon as the damper is released there is silence. This is not corrected in the latest Eprom updates.

No input connectors
I miss the input connectors, so that I may connect it through another module, an external reverb and equalizer and still make us of the headphones on the expander. This problem is however quite easy to bypass.

Eprom update

In June 2000 I received interesting information from Pamela Frisoni of the marketing department of Generalmusic about an EPROM update of the RealPiano Expander, titled IC Eprom (550638/O C909), dated 19 January 2000. This corrects some problems concerning the sound and midi preferences. The Eprom is actually a small circuit that is rather messy to handle as you will have to open up the Expander and unscrew one of the two main boards inside. The price for it should somewhere be between $30 and $50, in other words a cheap essential update. You can listen to a compare of the piano sound of Eprom versions 1.06 vs. 1.13 in the samples section of this page. You can find out which version you have by pressing the Mode button while powering up the unit, then press Mode button again. You will see the date, time and version number (you will not find this information in the manual). All versions below 1.12 don't apply any changes to the RP Expander.

Here is the complete list of changes made since the first version:

Version 1.12 (RP Expander, RP Pro 1)
1. On piano1, rhodex1, rhodex2, the envelope length has been increased.
(deals with the fading notes problem)

2. On piano1 the hammer intensity has been decreased at low dynamic level.
(apparently increases the dynamic sensitivity)

3. The damper pedal guarantees the 0 value when not pressed. The values have been quantized to 16 level from 0 to 127 by step of 8.
(a more accurate reproduction of the damper pedal)

The rest deal with some apparent MIDI problems:

4. Now, when controlled via MIDI section channel, the volume control work properly also on section 2.
5. Now, when controlled via MIDI common channel, the volume control work as master volume.
6. Now when a performance is changed via midi, also the corresponding effect parameters are properly changed.
7. The MIDI PANIC function now send reset all controllers and all notes off on all midi channels.
8. Now the MIDI transpose work properly and does not corrupt any more the other output midi events.
9. In "Perf. edit" mode, the received midi data does no longer affect the normal data entry function.

Version 1.13 (RP Expander, RP Pro 1)
1. When a performance is changed the program change is now sent on target performance.

Version 1.07 (RP Pro 2 only)
This Eprom (550635/G) is the equivalence to version 1.13 and also deals with a problem concerning the volume of a released key that was too loud after playing a piano note for a long time.


The latest Eprom

When replacing your Eprom make sure that the text "Singapore" is pointed towards the back of the box. The white text label of your old Eprom may be put upside down so don't let this confuse you. Also, be gentle with this circuit. If you haven't done similar upgrades before I suggest you let a technician do the job.

Will there be a next version?

As mentioned earlier, Generalmusic have stopped the production of this piano module and they have no plans of developing a new version (even though they should). I want to point out that this module is, despite the described shortcomings, superior to other piano modules thanks to the complex resonance modelling. It's now an hard-to-find product.

Other opinions and experiences of the RealPiano Expander

Most of these clips are from the rec.music.makers.piano news group. I especially wish to thank Hans Spieker (GEM RealPiano Pro 2 owner), Alex Maas and John Lynch (Kawai MP9000 owners) for sharing their experiences with me.


I am not one to evaluate actions but I have heard a PRO-1 and I thought it sounded remarkably like an acoustic. You get a definite feeling that the works are installed in a resonant wooden enclosure. You can get a pedal set for it that contains a rheostat that can distinguish between slow and fast releases. Am I correct in the understanding that this isn't normal for digitals?


Although I haven't had the pleasure of playing a Pro 2, one of the keyboard performers who has been such a strong influence in my life endorses it -- Keith Emerson! So as someone who loves very much the Emerson piano sound, I'd almost be tempted to buy one, having never tried the instrument in person.


How a piano sounds is a bit of a non-topic for discussion. The sound I like could be a sound the next person hates. To my ears (playing acoustic piano for over 25 years) the Pro-2 sounds convincing, but not like a "real" piano. However, I do like the sound of the pro-2 better than the RD600.


Most of the comments I have heard from people that have tried the Pro 2 have been pretty negative as far as the sound and the action. Most Professional Keyboard Players ( of which I am one) seem to favor the RD-600
Fatar master keyboard with their fantastic weighted action and a GEM RealPiano module would probably be the next best thing to a sampler with shitloads of memory and some mighty expensive sample CD-ROM's. If that doesn't fit your budget take a look at Yamaha P50-m. This small piano module has the same samples Yamaha put in their P-series digital pianos, including the top of the line P-500.


After checking out the Yamaha P200, Roland RD600, and the Alesis NanoPiano I have decided to buy the GeneralMusic Expander. Although I would probably be happy with the P200, I prefer the option of a separate keyboard and piano module and marginally prefer the sound of the GEM..

The GEM, for me, comes about the closest I've found to a good emulation of a real grand piano with only a minor electronic sameness to the sound, certainly no worse than other digital pianos. There is enough realistic tonal variation to loud and soft to make it exciting to play without being exaggerated or unrealistic, the bass is full and chunky, again without being overexaggerated. Long notes sustain well, and loud notes have a nice subtle attack. For my ear, I think they've got the balance of subtleties about right.

The ambiance is good with headphones, though I have a feeling that the type of speakers might be important in getting the best sound. (I first tried it in a shop through small speakers and wasn't impressed with the muffled sound, but with headphones it sounded great).

The RD600 struck me as not having enough percussive attack on the loud notes. The P200, had good percussive attack but was not so good on quieter sustained notes. And the NanoPiano, although the base was quite good, sounded rather shallow and 'tinny' or 'buzzy' higher up - not too realistic when playing classical.

Anyway, they are all a bit of a compromise, and others might perceive them differently. Any comments?


I took home the expander over Easter on a trial basis and I must say I was rather disappointed! These darn things change their qualities depending on the situation and enthusiasm you have at the time!

Anyway, when I compared it with my JV1080 piano and orchestra setup, the GEM, although it sounded realistic, just didn't have the 'bighty' sound I am used with the JV1080 (I use an edited version of the 'Nice Piano'). To get a reasonable 'attack' on the GEM I had to add about 40 to the velocity of the notes produced by my ancient DX7 keyboard. Even then I was not too satisfied.

Back to checking out the P200 etc. Though I might stay with the JV1080 for the time being. Trouble is, with piano and orchestra, you can run out of notes.

Any other suggestions for digital pianos. Anyone use a sampler or sample player. How I would love a realistic Boesendorfer!!! (Sigh!)


This keyboard is about the piano - the other sounds are clearly secondary (I liked some, didn't like others.). Generalmusic has developed several physical models of pianos and has applied them to a composite sample of grand piano sounds.to produce what I believe is the best digital piano sound I've heard. The three models include natural string resonance (models the harmonics of sympathetic vibration), damper (which when used with the continuous damper pedal simulates the variable control you have on a real piano) and "release technology" that models what happens when the key is released. The result is a big, ringing sound with (many but not all of) the subtle interactions that characterize a grand piano.


I've played the RealPiano in the Pro2 version many times. It is a true miracle. Best digital piano I've ever heard. I've played the piano for over 25 years, so I do know how it's supposed to sound. It's fair to say I play always solo piano, so the pianosound is extra important.

I've tried the Yamaha CVP-series (a rather cheap pianosound), the Yamaha P200 (I hate the sound of this one), The Kawai MP9000 is also nice, but my favorite is still the RealPiano. Roland is a no-goer as far as I'm concerned. The most shitty metallic sound I've ever heard.

The only difference between the Pro2 and the expander is the 64note limit. In fact the Expander is a Pro1 without the keyboard. The GEM keyboard sucks anyway, so you don't miss anything in that department. Ever tried to play "handful of keys" on the RealPiano? The keyboard can't keep up! This is something they should fix. However, with the expander you're free of this annoying thing and have the keyboard you want.

However, it could be fun to listen to the GigaSampler/GigaPiano before you decide what you want. If you've got the hardware required (Pentium3 with 128 MB) you get a great sounding pianosampler. Check out their website. The GigaSampler is on discount now and they throw in the GigaPiano for free. Remember you won't get sympathetic resonance! This is the one thing that sets the GEM RealPiano apart from the rest, and it is really an addition to the sound of a piano. In fact, I think the RealPiano is worth buying just for the grand piano alone.


I have the Gem RealPiano Pro 2 keyboard, which uses the same sounds as the expander, and would highly recommend the piano sound. Apart from my own playing, I have downloaded several piano-jazz midi files from the net and they sound really convincing. Some of the other sounds are worth having too, particularly the Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric piano.


Sounds to me like you need a GEM Realpiano Expander, which is by far the best sounding piano module I have ever tried. Yamaha P50-m would be my second choice. I hear they're going for $99 now which is an absolute bargain. I hear good things about the Oberheim Minigrand too but I haven't tried it myself.


I bought a GEM RealPiano Pro II last year, and I think anyone considering buying one should hear about my experience. In all the piano voices (I didn't pay much attention to the others), as I was playing, one key or another would make a really bad sound. I never figured out a pattern to it. Also the white key edges were all rough, and after playing a few minutes, I felt like my fingers were getting cut up.

I spoke to the GEM representative about these problems, and I was told that all digital pianos make strange sounds where the samples change (or something like that). And that I should take fine sandpaper to all the key edges.

After that conversation, I had a different solution to the problems. I sent the keyboard back and got a Roland RD600. It is beautifully and solidly made, and does not make funny sounds.

I bought the Realpiano without trying one, because there was no dealer I could get to, on the strength of the wonderful things written in GEM's website. I certainly recommend trying one before you buy.


I am a fan of Roland digital pianos myself, but I have heard the Real Piano and in my opinion, it really does come closest to sounding like the real thing.


I have not tried Korg or Kawai digitalPianos, but I listened to and played the GEM RealPiano, Roland RD600, a Yamaha (with integrated speakers), and some others at the store a few weeks ago.

I agree about the GEM RealPiano (Annalisa), it sounds very good, and clearly better than the others that I tried. But Roland, and especially Yamaha had better tangents.


The Roland sounds are still, for me, the best I've heard, but it's been a little while since I did any serious comparing. If you want a keyboard with built-in sounds, the RD-600 is probably the best gigging rig. However, next time I replace my equipment, I'm going to think hard about the GeneralMusic RealPiano Pro. The basic piano sample is nothing to write home about (although it's no worse than most other brands), but it does a great job of capturing the real resonances of a piano - sympathetic vibrations between the strings and so forth. I find this the one thing most lacking on all other brands, especially on solo gigs.


I have heard some General Music Real Piano sounds and think they sounded awesome. How does the Real Piano Pro 2 Digital Piano feel in the keys?
I have heard that General Music is not a very reliable company and I have personally had bad luck getting good info from their Product support line, so I am leary about purchasing there stuff but again loved the sounds of their Real Piano sounds.


I do love the sound of the GM RealPiano, and both the Pro 1 and Pro 2 have a nice keyboard. However, don't expect to get the best keyboard around. Last time I tried a Pro 1, the keyboard action couldn't keep up with Fats Waller "Handful of Keys" at full speed. So it depends on what you're playing. Too bad, great sounding digital pianos!
My advice: buy a great master keyboard and a GM Real Piano Expander.


So, I made this little "ranking". After scanning internet and News for 1 week now, and playing some of the instruments at the music shop. I believe I have found the best instruments available (and learned a lot). I am interested in your opinions now :-)

BEST PIANO SOUND (URL's to MP3- SoundDemos below)
1 GeneralMusic RealPiano (Module or Keyboard, the Piano Action is not so good)
2 Kawai MP9000 (Very good wooden(?) keys)
3 Yamaha P200 (Built in speakers)
(? Kurzweil MicroPiano) (Module, Could not find MP3-demo for this one..)
(? Nemesys GigaPiano) (SoftwareSampler for PC, unlimited sample-capacity)

BEST PIANO-ACTION
1 Yamaha P200
2 Kawai MP9000
(? Fatar StudioLogic) (keyboard, no sounds. Interesting since it is cheap!)

I wonder...
-After a visit at the music shop, I concluded that the Yamaha had the best keys, and the RealPiano had the best sound.. And many people agree on this. But, is Kawai MP9000 the best compromise (I haven't tried it unfortunately)...? Does the software upgrade also improve the sound..?

-Does Kawai's MP9000 wooden keys withstand unstable "environments".. ..temperature variations etc..?

-Fatar is interesting in combination with a RealPiano/(MicroPiano/GigaPiano) because it's so cheap, but does it have as good PianoAction as a Roland RD600 (I presume it can't match Yamaha or Kawai)..?

-People who have compared RealPiano and Gigapiano(with 100 times more sample source, but no Physical Modeling), claim that the Gigapiano is good, but not as good as RealPiano.. Can Physical Modeling be that essential?

-Is Kurzweil MicroPiano still going strong compared to the others mentioned here? And, does anyone have an URL to a MP3-demo of it?


I have a comment or 6 on the GeneralMusic RealPiano, which Helga ranks #1. (I have the "Expander" rack module). I too think it's an amazing piano sound, but...

1) The sustain is very short for the lower end when compared to an acoustic grand. This could be a trick to allow greater polyphony - the rack module and the PRO 1 have 64 simultaneous note capability. I find my bass notes and my chords fading away a bit too quickly, although I've never heard it "rob" notes.

2) The octave or 2 above middle C is kind of flaccid. The deep bass and the high treble have a lot of punch, but it's just missing in the octaves where you would play most of your typical melodies. When you whack harder on the keys, instead of getting more punch, you get more twang and fuzziness. Very frustrating when you are trying to cut through the mix of a 9-piece horn band. I found I had to turn up the volume and use less force on the keys. Drove the sound man nuts. I think it just won't work in a noisy band. However...

3) It's great for a quiet group. I gotta find another vampy chick singer and scare up another lounge gig. This thing is perfect for that "Hey, I'm a sensitive guy" act. I'm just going to use something else for pounding out soul music.

4) The sympathetic string vibration, hammer and damper effect stuff is really great for detailed playing. I can use it for late-night classical practicing under headphones with great pleasure. The damper pedal is actually a CV controller which your can use for partial damping and flutter pedal with amazing realism. The "physical modeling" sounds like it's more than just velocity cross-fades. You can really picture what is happening to the string as you do... whatever it is you do.

5) Looks like they didn't bother trying to physically model the Rhodes patch. I haven't spent a lot of time with it, but it sounds like just a crummy 2 stage velocity-switched sample. I don't care at all for any of the rest of the patches (strings and such). They call it "Realpiano", and that's really all it is.

6) Get one. It's only a half-rack unit, it's cheeeeep (I paid US$325 2nd hand, an extra $100 for a new CV damper pedal), and even though you can't use it for everything, you can do some great things with it.


Ease of Use: 5
The structure of the user interface isn't completely intuitive. Also some of the front panel switches are starting to fail, making operation a little difficult.

Features: 7
This is the module that has the same capabilities as the PRO1 piano. 64 voice polyphony is great. Besides the grand piano, it comes with other sounds including strings. You can define two patches to play simultaneously. I was able to reproduce a convincing violin/piano sonata.

Expressiveness/Sounds: 9
The piano is VERY expressive. What's key for me is the ability to combine delicacy with power. This module can sound delicate in soft passages, then hit loud bass notes with balls, and deliver extremely exciting loud high notes. I don't care so much how close it is to a real piano. The Gigapiano for the Gigasampler sounds, at least in superficial ways, more like a real piano. I haven't owned the Gigapiano so I can't do a detailed comparison, but the Realpiano expander delivers very expressive sounds, and that's what counts.
I have owned an Emu Proformance/1 piano module and a Yamaha P50m. The Generalmusic vastly exceeds both in expressiveness.

Reliability: N/A
I got mine used. It's worked so far, although some of the front panel keys are getting intermittant.


If an accurate grand piano sound is what your interested in, the Pro2 is without peer. The RD600 P200, and Coakley perfect piano, synclavier, and gigapiano samples, all of which I've listened to, don't match it. With time, and inevitable advances in chip speed and memory, the sound will no doubt be bettered. But right now it's definitely the most accurate piano synth sound on the market. (But don't bother with the other sounds on this machine.)


TO my ears, this is the most accurate sounding digital piano on the market!!!! I own a 6 foot Kawai grand, so I am able to A/B the two. The first thing I noticed was that the piano sounds are so damn accurate, that even the slight "imperfections" of an acoustic instrument have been faithfully reproduced. If you are used to piano samples from Yamaha's P-series or Roland's RD-series, your first impression will be that it's bright and thin sounding. But, I guarantee you that after you tweak the EQ and play it for a few minutes, it has it all over the competition in terms of the more subtle tone characteristics being heard from a piano. To my ears, it was like looking at a newspaper photograph and then seeing the same image in a professional 8X10. The sustained notes are treated in real time, and not just looped until the volume reaches zero. I was actually able to hear the CORRECT overtones resulting from sympathetic string resonance, as well as the reaction of the string being damped down while already vibrating.My jazz chords sounded like jazz chords. The upper and lower octaves are probably better than the mids to most people, but again, I was able to tweak it to my taste, no problem. The 128 note polyphony was glaringly obvious when I played some arpeggios with my Korg Trinity Rack, and then with the PRO2. The stereo piano in the Trinity is only 16 notes, and yep, I ran out of gas real quick. With the Pro2, all that Chopin stuff can now be played without compromise. The effects, are OK, but screw up the pianos sounds. I leave them off, but love them for other things. The Rhodes sounds are great. You have a choice of 16 sounds with 2 variations apiece (48 total), from pianos to EPs to clavs, basses, choir, strings, etc. No drum kit like on the RD, and no pitch or mod wheels. I don't find this a problem tho, because the instrument is designed to be a piano. You can, however, bend pitches from another keyboard via MIDI. The expansion options are going to supposedly be done via EPROM chip updates. The onboard sequencer has about 45,000 events (20,000) notes and is definitely, with only 2 tracks, and basic transport controls a scratchpad affair. Again, the true power of this instrument is not immediately apparent. You gotta play it awhile, and realize that it's a piano, dude

There is some slight "fuzz" noise that I still haven't been able to pinpoint, mostly heard when you strike a chord in the upper register with the sustain pedal. But, it's not getting in the way. I gave it a 9 for this reason, but the pianos are great.


Spent some time at the music shop downtown trying a couple of digital pianos.

First I tried the Kawai MP9000. This is an ugly instrument to see, but plays rather well. Still not better sounding than the GEM.
After this, I tried a Roland RD-600 and a Yamaha P-200. Both of them are decent pianos, but they sound very artificial to me.

I tried a Yamaha GT-1 digital grand. This one is great, so is its price tag and only 32 note polyphone. But it must be said, if Yamaha did make a GT digital grand with 128 note polyphony, this would be the one to buy! Terrific keyboard (original full grand piano keyboard) and great sound.

Roland has a new kid on the block, I believe it's a FP-9. This one sounds nice, but has a huge price tag for what you get.

After all, I would still settle for the GEM RealPiano, all considered.

It's my believe the progress in development is slowing down. They are reaching some kind of technical limit, I don't know, but the pianos from two years ago are still among the finest you can get. This is strange, maybe we'll have to wait until the Frankfurter Music Messe (april 2000) to see what's ahead of us.


So what's virtual about it, you ask. Well, you know those resonances that sound when you hold certain notes down on a real piano (and a RealPiano, for that matter)? Well the RealPiano models them for a more authentic-sounding instrument than your common-or-garden sample-only pianos. Clever, eh? Not only that, but it also models the effect of the damper pedal on a piano, as well as the decay of the notes after the key is released. The Pro 2 manual describes these techniques as 'Natural String Resonance', 'Damper Physical Model' and 'Advanced Release Technology', but let's face it, all you and I want to know is "do they work?"

(...)

Virtual modelling or no virtual modelling, if something doesn't sound good then all the money spent on developing the technology may as well have been poured down the toilet. There'll be no flushing going on in the Gem household, however, because the Pro 2 sounds absolutely marvellous.

Anyone buying this instrument will essentially be buying it for one sound - the acoustic piano - and if it had no other presets on, it would still be worth the £1,399 asking price. Yes, it really is that good. I'd been playing the Pro 2 for days before I even tried out any of the other sounds, so impressed was I with its basic piano sound. So what makes it so impressive?

Of course, the modelled resonances play a big part in the sound, but its the sheer authenticity and playability of the piano sound that makes it so appealing. To be honest, it could have been generated by steam for all I care - all that matters is that it is very, very good. Just hit the first preset on the instrument and you're off. Soon you'll be playing with the graphic EQ to shape the tone to the requirements of the music you're playing.

Then add some reverb and effects and you've got another range of piano sounds to choose from. From this basic sound, there's a whole spectrum of acoustic combinations to be had. Hit the variation key and you've got a brighter, dance-orientated sound and this is before you've even got to Acoustic Piano 2.

(...)

The Pro 2 has already been taken up by a growing list of notable professionals, Rick Wakeman and Jamiroquai's keyboardist Toby Smith among them. And what these players want is one thing: a great acoustic piano sound. The Pro 2 may not be the best digital piano on the market - there are plenty of flashier models around for plenty more money - but in this price range (and quite a way above it) the Pro 2 is now the piano to beat.

For me, many of today's digital pianos are actually preferable to all but the best 'real' pianos, and if you try out the RealPiano Pro 2 you may well come to that conclusion too.


To quote another review here "the piano sounds are great"!!! - they really are, used it for a session a while back (for piano), the owner of the studio heard it and immediately picked up the phone and ordered one. It is very expressive, like the highs and lows way more than the mids, can use some tweaking, but the onboard eq definitely reduces quality somewhat.


> Okay, I'll bite....what do you hear? Make sure that the
> effects are all off and you actually release the "G" while
> holding down middle "C". What do you hear?

At first I tried this at the (real wooden box known as) piano. Actually, I don't hear to much. When you try this at a RealPiano, you hear about the same effect. The effect is more obviuos when you laydown a chord, let's say C major, without the hammers touching the strings and hit/release C one octave above. On the wooden box and the RealPiano you get the same results. If you want to experience these effects for yourself, visit a local dealer and try some more.

FYI, I'm not stating the RealPiano is a perfect substitute for a real piano (it's not), but it has very convincing sound effects (like sympathic resonance) build in and can be made to sound close to a real piano.


Ease of Use: 7
The user interface takes a little getting used to, but since the module doesn't attempt to be very deep, it is a quick learn.

Features: 8
For what I bought it for (just a piano module), it's great. Plenty of polyphony (64 I believe). The built in effects are so-so, I'm using outboard gear anyway.

Expressiveness/Sounds: 10
EXCELLENT. Once I made a performance containing the Piano1 and Piano2 sounds, it really filled in the middle range nicely. The highs are crisp, and the lower register has plenty of punch. Extremely expressive, although my Fatar SL880 controller took some manipulating to get the velocity curves configured so it sounded good when I played. I find the unit sounds better with very little EQ or reverb... it makes it sound much more convincing. I've already used the piano patch I made in a song and it sounds so real...it's hard to believe.

Reliability: 8
Seems fine so far.

Customer Support: N/A

Overall Rating: 9
What a great unit. Definitely think it's the best piano module for the money.


Sound samples

Here you can listen to several sound samples of the RealPiano piano sound:
(encoded in high quality mp3 format, 44.1 kHz, 128 kbps)

The first (520 kB) is a demonstration of all keys from C3 to C7 followed by a fast classical piece with lots of dynamic action. A very good sample.

The second (563 kB) is a continuation of the RealPiano demo above, now containing a fast 18th century classical piece with lots of staccato playing.

The third (1556 kB) is a kind of compilation of the two samples above plus a demo of a Fender Rhodes (?) sound.

The fourth (235 kB) is my own small demonstration of the string resonance.

The fifth (184 kB) was made to prove its capability based on the discussion on the rec.music.makers.piano news group regarding sympathetic resonance. Here I am laying down a chord in C major, without the hammers touching the strings, and then pressing and releasing some keys to hear the effect.

The sixth (828 kB) is my demonstration of the advanced release technology as well as the dynamic sensitivity. You will also hear the loops which not always sound natural (caused by the limited sample memory).

The seventh (468 kB) is an improvised calm piano piece with chords mainly from the middle and lower parts of the keyboard. I have added a built in reverb effect to bring out the characteristic piano sound.

The eighth (592 kB) is from a recording of the French composer Robert Caby's piano works, performed by the Swedish pianist Olof Höjer. The first phase of this sample outbrings the lovely string resonance while the second phase reveals the quick fading of the bass notes, a shortcoming described earlier on this page.

The ninth (615 kB) is the same sample but this time after updating the Eprom to the latest version. And yes, you will hear the difference... This sample is the only one on this page played with the updated Eprom.

There are now also available 70 minutes of piano music with the GEM RealPiano Expander (with the updated Eprom)! It's a unique recording of the rather unknown French composer Robert Caby. You can read all about it here.

The ultimate compare

Here are sound samples from Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu in C# Minor, Op. 66.
These pianos use the same midi file, performed by a pianist.
A tip: Use a reverb module (e g Alesis Microverb) to achieve a more natural sound.

- GEM RealPiano Pro 2 (recorded by Hans Spieker)
As expected, this sounds great. Perhaps less sensitive in the silent parts than Kawai's MP9000 below but on the other hand with a naturally brighter sound and an impressive dynamic range.

- Kawai MP9000 (recorded by John Lynch)
This is the main Concert Grand sound. If you listen to this in high volume you will notice a "chirping" sound between notes, I'm not sure if this is the cause of the mp3 sound compression or from the piano itself. However, the piano sound is great. Note: The link to this sample is broken for the moment. I will soon put the mp3 file on this site instead.

- NemeSys GigaPiano (recorded by Hans Spieker)
With the help of GigaSampler software you will hear an impressive gigabyte sample range from a Yamaha Concert Grand. However, I think the sounds of the upper octaves are too mellow, not convincing.

- Yamaha EMT10 (recorded by me)
This sample was made to demonstrate the development of piano modules since 1990 when I bought this thing for about $450. This module was known to bring an impressive piano sound and still outclasses some of the poor sound card piano sounds today. Mono samples. The noise in the background is from the recording, not the module.

- Kurzweil KMP-1 MicroPiano (recorded by Alex Elfimov)
This is the basic piano patch (#1 Grand Piano). The sound is clear and actually rather good but a bit tame in my opinion.

- Roland JV/XP Session Board (recorded by Alex Elfimov)
I find this sound a bit too mellow in the upper octaves, similar to the GigaPiano. The piano sound is, however, not fully tweaked to suite the purpose and you will also hear a slightly audible artefact, caused by rusty cables.

- Alesis QS synthesizer (recorded by Tom Lee)
Factory samples (Bösendorfer) from the Alesis QS. To me this seems to be a mix between the Kurzweil MicroPiano and the Yamaha EMT10. Please note that the mp3 encoding quality in this sample is only 96 kbps hence the poor sound.

- Jazz Piano Q-Card (recorded by Tom Lee)
Jazz Piano Q-Card (Kawai) from the Alesis QS. About the same quality as the Bösendorfer samples, but a bit more mellow and perhaps not as much convincing.

- Hubbe Velo Generic Grand (recorded by Giam Paolo)
The first piano sound font! So this is a .sf2 file played through a SoundBlaster Live card. The sound is a bit harsh and not convincing, though slightly better than the JazzPiano Q-Card from Alesis.

- Malmsjö Acoustic Grand (recorded by Hans Adamson)
For use with GigaSampler (see a description further up on this page) and based on one of the finest Swedish grand pianos of the 19th century. The sound of this sample is smooth and natural and seems to suit this piano very well apart from that it lacks a bit of intensity in the fortissimos.

- EastWest Bösendorfer (recorded by Thorbjørn Weidemann)
Here is EastWest's impressing Bösendorfer sample played through GigaStudio. It uses pedal down and key release samples. It sounds clearer than the GigaPiano, especially in the upper registers.

- Roland RD-700 (recorded by Michael Herf)
This one has a beautiful piano sound as it seems to have an even stream of well sampled notes. However, the decay is a bit too evident, probably due to the limited sample memory.

- Bechstein upright (recorded by Nicholas Huzan)
This is a 215 MB piano sample for Akai S5/6000. There are two layers: an extensively sampled normal one, and one of just sympathetic string resonance samples where the note being struck was 'stopped' just after the string(s) for that note had been struck, thus leaving just the sound of the other strings in the piano vibrating in sympathy. This is beautifully made, sounds like a real upright to me.

- Roland A90 (recorded by Bivotar Zork)
This is a sample from the patch St.Concert1 from the VE-RD1 card installed on Roland A90. It is quite similar to Roland RD-700 but has a longer sustain probably thanks to a larger sample memory.

- The Grand VSTi (recorded by Edwin Hettinger)
This brand new VST instrument by Wizoo/Steinberg integrates into Cubase, Logic or any other VST2 compatible host. The piano sound is clear and powerful with some similarities to Kawai MP9000, not surprising as they are both using samples from a Kawai EX concert grand. See below the compare between The Grand and RealPiano Expander.

Here is the original midi file:
- Fantaisie-Impromptu

If you have another piano module please record it and send it to me. I will put it here. It will be sufficient with the first 45 seconds. If you need assistance on how to do this I will gladly help you out.

If you have a SoundBlaster Live sound card in your computer you can make use of the Sound Font technology and play this midi file using any Sound Font file (.sf2) freely available on the Internet (these files can be up to 32 MB in size).

Compare between RealPiano Expander and The Grand VSTi

Impressed by the samples of Steinberg's VST instrument The Grand I have made a detailed compare of the resonance effects of this and the RealPiano Expander, revealing the strengths and weaknesses.

The Grand VSTi | RealPiano Expander (1060 kB each)

0-9 seconds:
Here I depress the sustain pedal, play a loud chord, release the chord but hold the pedal (the chord still rings under the sustain pedal), silently press the chord (while holding the pedal) and finally release the pedal while holding the notes of the chord with the fingers. On any real piano, after performing the above procedure, the chord that is held still rings loudly. In this case neither of the pianos can handle it. Notice the proper pedal down effect of The Grand, as the you can hear the release of the pedal halfway along the chord.

10-17 seconds:
Here I play some loud chords and immediately after releasing the keys, heavily press and hold the sustain pedal. On any real piano the chord is caught by the string resonance. The RealPiano Expander can handle it but The Grand can not.

18-31 seconds:
Here I play an up-down scale while holding the sustain pedal. On any real piano you can hear the string resonance. Here can both the pianos handle it. The sustain is slightly better with The Grand.

32-50 seconds:
Here I am laying down a chord in C major, without the hammers touching the strings, and pressing and releasing some keys to hear the effect. On any real piano you can hear how the string resonance reveals the chord that is still there. Here the RealPiano Expander reveals it in some extent but The Grand does not.

51-67 seconds:
Here I play a chord and release it in the very end after having played some notes. On any real piano the chord rings throughout the end. Here the sustain is better with The Grand and especially the key release which effect seem to be a bit exaggerated on the RealPiano Expander.

Conclusion:
Neither of these pianos are perfect regarding the physical modelling of a real piano but they are better than the vast majority of digital pianos of today. As The Grand is a brand new solution it might still be under development and thus hopefully there will be improvements.

If you are an owner of a digital piano (including any computer based version) with some string resonance functions I would be thankful if you could record it and send it to me. I will then put it here with some comments. Here is the midi file: test1.mid (right click on the link and save it). Do not use any reverb effects, otherwise it will be more difficult to analyse it.


Links

Peavey's Generalmusic forum.
Here you can ask anything about Generalmusic's products and receive prompt replies from Generalmusic's representatives. To be able to post you must become a forum member, it costs nothing and you will be able to join their mailing list.

Veridical Sounds, a new sampled piano comparison page by Nicholas Huzan. Includes most of the available piano samples.

Purgatory Creek, a place with tools for the electronic musician, has a webpage with a detailed compare of many GigaSampler piano samples.

Bruce Richardson, senior editor of prorec.com, describes in this article his impressions of Nemesys GigaPiano, EastWest GigaSound Bosendorfer Piano and EastWest GigaSound Library Steinway B Piano. He also describes important limitations of GigaSampler from reaching the "perfect" piano sound.

Rob van Heelsbergen, an experienced sound engineer and pianist, has a very interesting article on his website regarding the shortcomings of many of today's sampling techniques of the acoustic grand piano. On his site you can also listen to some sound samples from Yamaha P100, P150, P200 and the new P80.

Gigasampler/GigaStudio sample libraries & sounds is the name of this discussion group where you may find out everything about current piano samples.

Sample Library Discussions is another similar forum, discussing Giga samples.

RealPiano discussions on Usenet, supplied by the former DejaNews search engine, now Google Groups. This invaluable search engine lets you follow threads of old discussions no longer available on Usenet.

rec.music.makers.piano news group, supplied by DejaNews/Google Groups.
This news group is the most important one for pianists, piano teachers and pupils. There are discussions regarding both acoustic and digital pianos.

HarmonyCentral synth database - evaluations of digital pianos and modules.
Here you will find non-biased reviews about the RealPiano Expander and several other digital piano modules and keyboards. You can also contribute with your own review.

Kawai MP9000 webpage by John Lynch.
This webpage impressed me a lot and became an important inspiration source to me. Check out his detailed photo report of his repairing of some squeaking keys.

ProMega3, GEM inform about the brand new successor to the RealPiano Pro 2 stage piano. This baby has a polyphony of 320 (!) notes.

Generalmusic's own description of RealPiano Expander.


Share your experience

You are welcome to share your own experience of the RealPiano and other competing brands any time.

This page was last updated on December 21, 2001.


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