PNOmation, and the new PNOmation Studio, are electronic player-piano reproducing systems that can be installed in virtually any piano, grand or vertical, new or used. Most manufacturers endorse the PNOmation system, and will install it, at a dealer’s request, at one of their manufacturing or distribution points. Standard installation is also available at a dealer location by a QRS-trained and -certified technician. QRS also installs the system in many major brands of piano at its own U.S. factory. The factory installation conceals unnecessary wires, electronics, and the solenoid rail cover, for a more pleasing appearance, and the operation and feel of the piano’s original pedal trapwork are retained.
Traditionally, electronic player pianos have been defined by the type of control box at the front of the piano, or by the controller’s capabilities. PNOmation differs in integrating the core features of every controller, including the music, into the PNOmation engine, thereby eliminating confusing options as well as the need to have a box hanging under the piano or on the lyre. Instead of offering a modular approach to the equipment required for various features, PNOmation offers all features standard, and a modular approach to their use. For example, the user can log in to the PNOmation system through any web-enabled device, pull up the system’s embedded web-app user interface, and begin to play the piano. For those more comfortable with inserting their music selections into the device, music can be delivered via a USB thumb drive; then you need only push Play on the system’s remote control, or the Play button on the unit itself.
When PNOmation is integrated with the PNOscan optical sensor strip—a leading technology for recording performances on an acoustic piano—and a keystop rail to prevent the piano’s hammers from striking the strings, the piano becomes a PNOmation Studio. The PNOscan strip doesn’t touch the keys—it uses only reflected light to continuously measure key and pedal movements. By integrating PNOscan with PNOmation in a one-time setup operation, one need only play the piano and the piece is recorded—no login, no need to push Record or Stop. Just pull up a bench and play, and your performance is saved both locally (named according to your preset preferences) and uploaded to your personal QRS PNOcloud account. The file can also be sent to your favorite editing program or e-mailed to a friend—all without boxes or wires. Purchase of PNOscan also entitles the buyer to one year’s worth of free piano lessons from the online piano-teaching software Piano Marvel.
Key to PNOmation’s flexibility is the fact that it is simultaneously delivered in both a standalone-network mode, with its own network serving its own user interface, and in a network mode in which PNOmation is a client on your home network. One advantage of this arrangement is that if your home network is down, the PNOmation features can still be accessed. Other advantages include ease of setup, network updates, cloud account links, learning, archiving, and video streams.
As a client on a home network, a PNOmation-equipped piano can be controlled by accessing the web-app user interface via iPhone, iPad, iTouch, Android, Mac, Google Chrome browser, Kindle Fire, or any other similar piece of technology, as well as via the more unique Apple Watch and Amazon Echo. The web app gives the user full control of all parameters of the system and how music is played, so there is rarely a reason to call in a technician to make adjustments. Some customers are concerned only with whether a song is a solo performance or a performance with background music, which they can determine from the web-app screen. Other customers may want to manipulate a MIDI file to change the tempo or tuning, and some may want to upload a recorded performance to view or change. None of this is possible with an off-the-shelf MP3 playback engine, but all of it is easily done with QRS’s PNOmation app. The QRS system also includes integrated Bluetooth MIDI and Bluetooth Audio. This gives you the ability to wirelessly use third-party apps in conjunction with your PNOscan, or third-party speaker systems for playback.
The web app also offers the customer several new ways to control the PNOmation engine, including better-controlled release of the sustain pedal, to give it a soft landing and eliminate the potential thump heard with the release of the damper tray. The same controlled-release technology has also been applied to the keys, improving the PNOmation’s already quiet playback while adding much more lifelike fingering. Other features include trill timing compensation, delay compensation, pitch correction, and MIDI-output curve maps. While most customers will use the default settings, those who want to dial in the perfect performance will be able to do so.
QRS has been in the business of player-piano content since 1900, and offers one of the best player-piano libraries on the market, including SyncAlong, which allows the piano to play along with original artist content. All of the data that control the movements of the piano keys and pedals are in a noncompressed MIDI format (a high-definition MIDI format will soon be released). All music available for PNOmation—soon to number more than 10,000 tracks—can be purchased one song at a time or by the album, or users can purchase an All-Access Plan that provides access to the entire QRS music library and extends the warranty. QRS also offers an upgrade option for legacy QRS products and for competitors’ systems that have a MIDI input, giving them many of the advantages of the latest PNOmation system.