I think it’s safe to say that most of us had a grandmother or aunt whose home practically revolved around the piano. For the most part, it was probably the traditional, upright style, with that traditional, upright sound. It was also a sign of wealth and the nemesis of kids everywhere. But most pianists also know that not all pianos are created equal, and that the upright sound couldn’t hold a candle to the sound of a real grand piano. However, the odds of having the space (and money) for a grand piano in the home these days is often not a reality. Yamaha’s hybrid pianos aim to bring the concert grand sound at a fraction of the traditional cost (and size).
Yamaha’s line of AvantGrand Hybrid Pianos combine a traditional keyboard, DSP, audio samples, and well-placed speakers to create that big, grand piano sound. Personally, I learned to play on a Yamaha Clavinova Digital Piano that had a variety of features, including weighted keys and a whole mess of different instruments to play. These hybrid pianos are certainly not a Clavinova. They are designed for the serious pianist who needs the concert grand sound in a small space.
Yamaha has created a specialized keyboard that simulates a true, grand piano feel, and integrates digital sensors for all aspects of the key press. The audio samples are taken from four locations, deep within a Yamaha CFIIIS full concert grand piano, to capture not only the sound, but also the unique resonance of the grand piano. Opening the lid of the hybrid piano reveals four speakers in an impressive layout. This instrument utilizes its speakers, designed in a three-way configuration with the bass woofer pointed down and the treble cones facing up, to allow more natural reverberation in the soundboard. Each speaker has its own dedicated amp, and speaker positioning mimics the positions in the grand piano from which the original samples were taken, offering a more natural sound to the pianist.
The bottom line is that digital technology continues to change or improve all aspects of life. Traditional film has been replaced with digital cameras, physical media is being replaced by streaming and digital downloads, and here, Yamaha is taking the steps toward making a piano with strings — well, not necessarily a thing of the past, since the company still makes some mighty fine stringed instruments, but definitely no longer an outright necessity. Granted, you still need the original instrument to sample the sound, but Yamaha is making the sound and quality of a $80-100k piano more accessible to the masses.