YAMAHA NU1 HYBRID UPRIGHT: SPECIFICATIONS
Keyboard: 88 keys with adjustable touch sensitivity
Pedals: 3 (damper with half-pedaling, sostenuto, soft)
Voices: 5, with 256-note polyphony and CFX sampling
Speakers: 4 x 40 watts
Recording: 1 track via USB
Connectivity: Headphones, MIDI (In/Out), Aux (In/Out), USB (to Host/to Device)
Other Functions: Reverb, Metronome, Tempo, Transpose, Alternate Tuning, Volume Control
Cabinet: Polished Ebony, with Soft-Close Fallboard and Music Rest
Width: 59½" (1501mm)
Height: 40 5/16" (1024mm)
Depth: 18¼" (463mm)
Weight: 240 lbs. (109kg)
Price: $5,499 (MSRP), $4,835 (estimated street price)
Side-by-Side Comparison: Yamaha's U1 Acoustic Upright and New NU1 Hybrid, continued
For the purposes of this test, I played Chopin's Étude Op.25 No.12, Scriabin's Préludes Op.11 Nos. 10 and 14, several jazz standards, and some blues. My goal was to hear and feel how both instruments responded to the different technical demands of these pieces, and to compare their suitability to different musical styles.
U1 Acoustic Upright
One of the best features of the U1 was the tactile feel of its keytops. They were smooth, with rounded edges, and the keys had a rapid return. When playing the intense and fast-paced Chopin and Scriabin No.14 excerpts, I never felt constrained by the action. The sound's pleasingly long, tapered decay allowed the soulful and lyrical Scriabin Prélude No.10 to sound full and round, even in the long held notes toward the end of the piece. The lower octaves sounded a bit thin compared with larger grand pianos, but the middle and upper registers had surprising volume and richness. The pedals were smooth and easy to control.
When I switched repertoire, and technical approach, from classical to jazz, I was pleased that the instrument responded to the change of style, from a more refined and elegant tone quality to one that was a little brighter and edgier. I would have liked a little more clarity in the lower register — my walking bass line sounded a little fuzzy — but overall, it felt satisfactory.
The U1's general quality of sound was mellow and pleasing. The acoustics of the room in which I was playing were ideal, and the entire instrument resonated, making the sound “round," with lots of overtones. The experience was a bit like being wrapped in a blanket of sound.
NU1 Hybrid Upright
Yamaha is marketing the hybrid NU1 as a lower-cost, lower-maintenance alternative to the U1. Its sleek, beautifully designed cabinet has clean lines and looks like a real piano. The hybrid has a piano action nearly identical to the U1's, and digital sound sampling from Yamaha'scritically acclaimed CFX concert grand and other instruments.* It's extremely easy to operate, and once shown how to change voices, I was able to scroll through all the options without needing to refer to the owner's manual.
* The similarity of the model names begs a comparison of the NU1 with Yamaha's celebrated U1 upright that the company's marketing materials seem to encourage. However, just before this issue went to press, it came to our attention that the action used in the NU1 is built with the slightly smaller parts characteristic of a console-piano action, which, as Rhonda Ringering has noted, don't provide quite the same level of musical control as the full-size parts of an upright action such as that used in the U1. On the other hand, the NU1 has the sound of a Yamaha concert grand, which compensates somewhat for the action's shortcomings. — Editor