The Definitive Piano Buying Guide
IF YOU’VE READ any of the “Brand and Company Profiles” on the acoustic side, you’ll see that discussions of digital makes and models is of a very different nature. For one thing, although a few manufacturers of digital pianos can trace their roots back over 100 years, such histories, while occasionally fascinating, have little or no relevance to a type of instrument that has existed for only a few dozen years. For another, whereas acoustic piano makers may boast of using slowly grown spruce carefully harvested from trees on north-facing slopes in the Bavarian Alps, there are no stories from digital piano makers of silicon carefully harvested from isolated south-facing beaches during the second low tide of October; no tales of printed circuit boards still crafted by hand as they’ve been for generations, or descriptions of internal cable harnesses made of only the finest German wire. And while it’s interesting to know who was the first to introduce a particular feature, digital pianos, like all modern electronic products, are very much a matter of “What have you done for me lately?”
Even more than in the section dedicated to acoustic pianos, the descriptions provided here are only half the story, and must be used in conjunction with the chart of “Digital Piano Specifications and Prices” if you are to have a clear picture of a given brand’s offerings. In some cases, little information is available or forthcoming regarding a brand, and much that could have been included would simply be a reiteration of marketing statements. In others, specifications or descriptions available from a manufacturer have been in conflict, as when specifications on their website say one thing and the owner’s manual says something else. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of these listings and descriptions, some discrepancies will have undoubtedly slipped through.
Blüthner, one of the world’s pre-eminent piano makers, has released its first digital piano, the e-Klavier. (For company background, see the Blüthner listing in the “Brand and Company Profiles” for acoustic pianos.) Engineered and manufactured entirely at the Blüthner factory in Leipzig, Germany, the e-Klavier is offered in three styles: slab, vertical, and professional performance keyboard.
Blüthner says it has developed a unique approach to sampling and sound modeling that allows the e-Klavier to reproduce the effect of the aliquot (fourth) string from the Blüthner piano, an approach the company calls Authentic Acoustic Behavior. This system also permits the reproduction of advanced harmonics, such as the coincidental partials produced when two notes are played simultaneously, and the sound the dampers make when lifting off the strings. The e-Klavier will include a digital editor that will allow the user to adjust the string resonance, aliquot effect, and damper performance. The user will also be able to download new sounds into the e-Klavier via the Internet, and to store the sounds of turn-of-the-century Blüthner pianos and other Blüthners of interest.
The speaker system and amplifier are unique to the e-Klavier and were designed by Günther Phillip of PCL Audio. The e-Klavier 2 model contains an actual piano soundboard, enabling the instrument to produce certain aspects of acoustic-piano tone that are difficult or impossible to simulate by purely electronic means.
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