Strictly speaking, Pianomation refers to the engine that makes the keys move up and down. It is always sold with a front-end controller as part of one of the systems described below. Pianomation systems are very modular; components can be mixed and matched to meet the requirements of many different situations, including the complex needs of commercial establishments.
The simplest and least expensive controller is the 2000C. The control box is hidden under the piano. It has no built-in disk drives, instead using the owner's stereo components (CD, DVD, or MP3 player) to drive the Pianomation engine and play QRS content. The background music comes from the user's stereo system, while a wireless transmitter sends the piano data to the Pianomation system. The 2000CD+ is similar, but with a provided CD player that plays QRS CDs.
The Petine (sometimes called Petine CD) control box is slim — just over 1.5 inches tall — and includes both a CD drive and a CompactFlash drive. The CD drive will play audio and data CDs (CD-ROMs), the latter potentially containing thousands of MIDI files on a single disc. (This controller plays Standard MIDI files types 1 and 0.) Other sources of music for playback include the internal memory, which comes with 24 songs, and auxiliary input, for an external computer, iPod, or MP3 or CD player. The system can accept QRS's optional PNOscan MIDI Record strip, with which the user can record and playback performances with Pianomation. An optional sound card is also available. The Petine has a three-digit LED display, and can be controlled by a data wheel or an infrared remote control. It also has a headphone output, microphone input for karaoke, and internal memory storage. The operating system is flash-upgradable. The Petine comes standard with a CompactFlash card containing a large sampling of free music from the QRS music library. The Petine LT model is a version without a CD drive.
The Ancho controller performs all the functions of the Petine, but with a more user-friendly, 20-character alphanumeric display and dedicated transport controls for navigating without a remote. It comes standard with a sound card (optional on the Petine), as well as a CompactFlash card with hundreds of songs.
Both systems come standard with a speaker. Both the Ancho and Petine have mixed and unmixed audio outputs: the background music track and the piano track can be mixed for piping around the house, but the piano track can be omitted from the speakers in the room containing the piano. Individual sources of audio sound can be finely adjusted to sound properly balanced at any volume level. Dual USB ports and an S-video output are on board both controllers but are not yet implemented.
The MIDI information on Pianomation CDs is in analog format: compressed by QRS's patented AMI (Analog MIDI interface) technology, then uncompressed and translated back into digital format as it is received by the piano for playback. The analog signal can be transmitted to the piano by radio waves using the optional wireless transmitter and receiver, which could be handy for use in commercial establishments, or when you don't want to run wires between the CD player and the piano.
SyncAlong is a MIDI-controlled piano performance that synchronizes with a commercially available audio CD of a major recording artist. SyncAlong CDs play on the Ancho and Petine. A Transcription series, similar to SyncAlong but without the background music, is also available. In this series, a solo-piano audio CD is transcribed and offered as a Pianomation CD so the customer can hear the performance on his or her own piano.
Qsync is a DVD interface designed to implement QRS's patented DVD SyncAlong technology. With the addition of Qsync, a Pianomation player piano will play along with selected popular, commercially available concert DVDs.
QRS offers an optical recording strip called PNOscan that now comes standard on all Story & Clark pianos. (Story & Clark is a subsidiary of QRS.) Placed under the keys, PNOscan translates each keystroke into MIDI data about the note, speed, and duration, without affecting the piano's touch. This MIDI data can be output to Pianomation for storage and later playback, or stored as a standard MIDI file on CompactFlash for computer editing. Coupling PNOscan with Ancho or Petine (with optional sound card), the pianist can play General MIDI (instrumental) sounds. SilentPNO consists of the PNOscan record strip, a piano sound module, and a stop rail for muting the acoustic piano. By muting the piano and turning on the sound card, the pianist can play in privacy with headphones. See the article on "Hybrid Pianos" for more information.