476 Old Smizer Mill Rd. #136
Fenton, Missouri 63026
Pianoforce is a new entrant into the player-piano market under its own name, but the company that makes it — Ncode Ltd. of Bratislava, Slovakia — has been developing and manufacturing front-end controllers for the player-piano systems of other companies, such as Baldwin and QRS, since 1995. In 2005, Pianoforce was first offered as a complete system in the pianos of selected piano makers. In 2006, it was introduced as a retrofit kit installable in any piano, new or old. Designed and built by Ncode in Europe, the kit is ordered through a piano dealer and is typically installed in a new piano either at a distribution point or at the dealer location.
Pianoforce says that its system differs from those of its competitors in that the main rail component also contains all the controlling electronics, eliminating the need for a lot of complicated wiring and making for a neater and simpler installation. Also, a technician can plug a laptop computer into a USB port on the rail and, using software supplied by Pianoforce, can customize the system to the piano and to the customer’s preferences through the control of many playing parameters, such as solenoid force, note release, and pedal release. These custom settings can then be archived on the laptop. The system automatically calibrates itself to the piano’s sound with the help of a small sensor mounted on the soundboard. The combination of automatic calibration with manual setup ensures the best playback performance for each individual piano following installation.
In 2007 Pianoforce introduced its latest controller, the Performance. Expanding on the company’s past experience in supplying control components for other companies, the new controller contains some of the newest, most advanced features in the player-piano arena, such as the ability to read the software of other systems, including Yamaha Disklavier, QRS (except SyncAlong), and Web Only software, plus standard MIDI files; and onboard connections to the Internet via an Ethernet or wireless hookup, through which the user can download music from Pianoforce or even have system problems diagnosed. There are three USB ports for greater versatility, such as plugging in flash memory or a WiFi key. There is an optical digital stereo output and a dedicated subwoofer output line. The system can now be controlled remotely via the user’s iPod Touch or iPhone, and Internet streaming radio is available 24/7 with piano accompanied by original audio tracks.
The system comes with 500 MB of internal memory, pre-loaded with approximately 20 hours of piano music and expandable to 8 GB. The units are also shipped with approximately 400 Star Track piano recordings. A Star Track is a piano file in MIDI format synchronized to an original audio CD. When the audio CD is inserted, the corresponding Star Track is activated and plays a 30-second sampler accompaniment on the piano.
Keescan, an optional recording feature, uses optical sensors to record key and sustain-pedal movement. Also available is the AMI box, which facilitates connection of a microphone, iPod, and other USB devices. In addition to the system’s ability to play other makers’ software, Pianoforce is building its own library of CDs.
QRS Music Technologies, Inc.
269 Quaker Drive
Seneca, Pennsylvania 16346
PNOmation II is the latest generation of QRS Music’s flagship player-piano product, PNOmation, formerly called Pianomation. In addition to PNOmation, QRS has released a family of products under the PNO trademark, including PNOscan, SilentPNO, and others.
PNOmation II is an electronic player-piano system 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. QRS installs the system in many major brands of piano at its own U.S. factory, and it can also be installed at a dealer location by a QRS-trained technician.
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 II 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. 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; or, for those who are more comfortable with inserting their music selections into the device, music can be delivered via a USB thumb key; then you need only push Play on the system’s remote control, or the Play button on the unit itself.