PianoDisc, based in Sacramento, California, is a leading manufacturer of player-piano and optical MIDI sensor and record systems. The company, in business since 1988, offers retrofittable systems that can be installed in virtually any acoustic piano, grand or vertical, new or used. A number of piano manufacturers offer factory-installed PianoDisc systems, and a large network of PianoDisc dealers and certified technicians throughout the U.S.and many other countries offer installation services.
PianoDisc manufactures three core player-piano systems featuring its iQ technology: Prodigy iQ Entertainment, Prodigy iQ Interactive, and Prodigy iQ QuietTime. The Prodigy iQ Entertainment system is the most popular and least expensive, and provides playback-only capabilities. The Prodigy iQ Interactive system also provides playback functionality and, with the addition of an optical MIDI strip, allows the user to record performances and interact with MIDI music apps such as PianoDisc iQ Player (described below), Garage Band, Symphonix Evolution, and Piano Marvel, to name a few. The Prodigy iQ QuietTime system is essentially an iQ Interactive system, but the addition of a manually activated mechanical mute rail to prevent the piano’s hammers from striking the strings eliminates the normal acoustic-piano sound. The user can then listen through headphones (provided) without being disturbed by surrounding sounds, and/or play without disturbing others. Although most buyers use their own smartphones, tablets, or computers to control their iQ systems, PianoDisc offers several media-player packages that include Apple’s popular iPad devices.
At the heart of the PianoDisc Prodigy iQ player system is SilentDrive HDII, a high-resolution solenoid system that features integrated Bluetooth audio and MIDI for fast wireless connections, easy operation, and additional connection flexibility. With 1,024 levels of expression, SD HDII can replay piano performances with highly accurate articulation, even at very low volume. The first generation of Silent Drive HD featured a separate iQ control box and CPU. The new SD HDII combines the iQ control box and the CPU in one box, which results in easier and cleaner installations with fewer cables and components.
All PianoDisc Prodigy iQ systems come with a complimentary music and video library consisting of nearly 500 songs and 15 video performances, valued at $1,400. When a customer registers a PianoDisc warranty, he or she receives a $175 coupon that can be used toward the purchase of music or videos from PianoDisc’s large library. Recently, PianoDisc began offering single-song downloads from its Music Store, in addition to downloads of entire albums.
The introduction of the PianoDisc iQ Player app (free for iOS devices) makes it easier and more enjoyable to operate all of the music and video features offered by the Prodigy iQ Player Piano system. This powerful app permits the user to download music or video performances from the PianoDisc Music Store directly into the app, and automatically downloads the free music library. The Player app also lets you download and play MIDI files on the Prodigy iQ system, stream free PianoDisc Radio stations, create playlists, record MIDI performances, and much more.
Older PianoDisc systems—such as the PDS128+, 228CFX, PianoCD, and Opus7—can be easily upgraded to an iQ system. In many cases, the upgrade retains most of the original player system’s components (e.g., the power supply, driver boards, and solenoids) but eliminates the bulky control box. This makes for a piano with a much more attractive look, and provides many of the features that a new iQ system would offer at a much lower price. As with a complete new Prodigy iQ player system, an upgrade comes with the $1,400 complimentary music package. Upgrade customers can also take advantage of PianoDisc’s popular Legacy Music Exchange program, which allows the exchange of music on Floppy Disk or CD for music in high-quality MP3 file format, playable on the user’s smartphone or tablet device.
PianoDisc also manufactures two optical MIDI and Record systems, ProRecord and ProScan. These systems feature optical sensors, installed under the keys of the piano, that transmit information about the notes played: i.e. velocity, duration, pedal effects, etc. This information, called MIDI data, can then be recorded using a MIDI app (e.g., Symphonix Evolution) or MIDI computer software program (e.g., Finale), or sent to another MIDI device or keyboard.
Whereas ProScan is simply a MIDI sensor strip, ProRecord also has a built-in sound module that contains 88 high-quality digital instruments and numerous other features and functions, including recording capabilities, metronome functions, transpose and tempo adjustments, digital effects, and much more. With Bluetooth-ready integration, ProRecord can pair quickly and easily with an iPad or iPhone using the free ProRecord app and the very user-friendly interface. All of the features and functions of the ProRecord system can be accessed from the ProRecord app, eliminating the need to look down at the small display screen and buttons of the ProRecord control box.
Both ProRecord and ProScan can be integrated into an iQ player system, or used without the player-piano function to create a standalone digital piano or MIDI controller. Additionally, both systems can be fitted with an optional mute rail, which transforms the system into a QuietTime, or “silent,” system for private practice.
The release of the updated PianoDisc Calibrate app (free for iOS devices) will benefit PianoDisc technicians and installers. The Calibrate app allows a technician to perform all of the necessary initial iQ setup and calibration steps more easily and quickly than before, with noticeably better results. It’s important to note, however, that this app is designed for use by certified PianoDisc technicians only, not by end users.