The current Version 3.0 operating system for the Mark IV includes the ability to make audio recordings of the piano and anything coming into the mic input, and enables control of the Mark IV via a PC or Macintosh computer through the use of a Web browser.
The Mark IV Version 4.0 operating system, available in spring 2010, will provide Disklavier owners with the ability to control their system with an iPhone or iPod Touch, and the potential to take part in the new Remote Lesson feature (piano-to-piano connection via the Internet), described later in this article. Yamaha has also, for the first time, released its code to software developers so they can develop third-party Disklavier controllers.
The performance level of the standard Mark IV Disklavier is the same as formerly found in the Mark III PRO series. The Mark IV PRO provides the highest level of performance in the Disklavier line. The PRO series has a much higher internal recording resolution and a greater dynamic range in playback.
Introduced this year, the Disklavier E3 offers many of the most popular capabilities of the Mark IV at a lower price. The E3 is offered only on Yamaha's smaller grands, from the 4' 11" model GB1K through the 5' 8" model C2, and on the 48" U1 upright. The following are the differences between the E3 and Mark IV Disklaviers:
- The E3 has no internal hard drive. However, it does support a user-supplied USB hard drive.
- The E3 has no floppy-disk drive, though one can be added.
- The E3's ensemble electronic voices do not include Yamaha's Articulation Element Modeling (AEM) voices.
- The E3 has flash memory.
- The E3 does not have a dedicated digital piano sound chip, instead using the piano sound in the XG tone generator.
- The upright version of the E3 (DU1E3) does not come with built-in speakers.
- The E3 has only 2-track recording capability instead of 16-track.
- The E3 does not support Silent Mode, Quiet Mode, or Quick Escape Action.
- The E3 does not come with headphones.
E3 Version 2.0, available in fall 2010, will add the same capabilities as described earlier for the Mark IV Version 4.0.
Models DGC1B and DC2B, recently discontinued, are Mark III Disklaviers with some limits in their functionality. They don't support Silent Mode, Quiet Mode, or Quick Escape Action, and headphones and a digital piano sound chip are not included (instead, they use the piano sound in the tone generator). The playback-only model DGB1CD is being discontinued in favor of the E3 version, the DGB1KE3. Owners of Mark IIXG and Mark III systems can access many of the advanced features found in the E3 system by purchasing replacement control unit DKC-850.
For simple playback, most player-piano systems now on the market are probably equally recommended. The Disklavier, however, has a slight edge in quality control, and its recording system is more sophisticated than most of the others, especially in the larger grands. For this reason, it is often the system of choice for professional applications such as performance and teaching, and much of Yamaha's marketing efforts are directed at that audience.
Two examples are especially noteworthy. Yamaha sponsors regular piano "e-competitions" in which contestants gather in several cities and play Disklavier concert grands. Their performances are recorded using PianoSmart Video Synchronization, then sent to judges in another location, who, rather than listen to recordings, watch and listen to the music reproduced perfectly on other Disklavier pianos.
A similar concept is a technology called Remote Lesson, debuting in spring 2010 after years of development and testing. A student takes a lesson on one Disklavier while a teacher located far away teaches and critiques on a second Disklavier connected via the Internet, student and teacher communicating with each other in real time via videoconferencing. Initially, this feature will be made available only to selected universities and at additional cost. Details and timing regarding availability of this feature to individuals is still under discussion.
Yamaha maintains a large and growing library of music for the Disklavier, including piano solo, piano with recorded "live" accompaniment, piano with digital instrumental accompaniment, and PianoSmart arrangements. The system will also play Standard MIDI files types 0 and 1.
Yamaha also makes a line of Silent Pianos, formerly called MIDIPianos. Technically, these are not Disklaviers because they don't use solenoids for playback; they're included here because they are closely related products that have some similar features. Like the Disklaviers, Silent Pianos have sensors associated with the keys, hammers, and pedals that record their movements in MIDI format and output the information through a digital piano sound chip to headphones or speakers, or to a computer for editing. With the addition of Yamaha's piano mute rail, the acoustic piano can be silenced and the instrument used as a digital piano with a real piano action. A new vertical silent system, called SG is now available. The SG system offers nine additional sounds, can record, and has USB capability to preserve recorded performances. See also the article on "Hybrid Pianos" in this issue for additional information.
Mike Kemper, a Los Angeles-based piano technician and expert on electronic player-piano systems, contributed to this article.