• Piano Department

    February 24, 2018

    Casio Grand Hybrid Pianos

    One of our favourite piano products of the last few years has been a new venture between electronics giant Casio and the historic piano manufacturer Bechstein to produce a unique digital instrument with many of the advantages of a traditional grand piano. We recently spent the day with Casio at their London headquarters so it seems like the perfect time to have a closer look at these fabulous instruments!

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    Introducing The Celviano Grand Hybrid

    * World’s first collaboration on a digital piano between two large players in the piano market.

    * Range of three models: the entry level GP300, GP400 with aliquot resonance (we’ll come to that shortly!) and higher cabinet, and GP500 with a luxurious polyester finish cabinet

    * Genuine wooden grand piano keys and hammer action of a grand piano – matched only by very expensive systems such as the Yamaha Avant Grand and Kawai Novus

    * Samples taken from the three leading European piano manufacturers where other brands use either their own brand (Kawai, Yamaha) or a single main instrument (Roland)

    * Speaker system intended to emulate grand piano with speakers facing upward or downward where a grand piano soundboard would be.

    * Designed for authenticity rather than ease of play – many digitals are designed to be easy to play which is great when you’re trying one in a shop but not ideal for technique if you then take exams on a traditional strung piano.

    * Scene Setting (400 and 500 only) allows fast recall of desired settings both in terms of the piano technician settings and features such as layering or split keyboard

    * Concert play allows the user to play along with recordings made specially for the Grand Hybrids by the NHK orchestra in Japan

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    Mechanics of the Grand Hybrid


    AiR Acoustic and Intelligent Resonator technology

    The AiR system comprises the following elements:

    * Piano Tone: the basic engine is driven by a series of recordings of three grand pianos sampled in an anechoic chamber. These are:

    Berlin Bechstein 282 Concert Grand

    Hamburg Steinway D

    Vienna Bosendorfer Imperial

    * Key Off: when you take your finger off the key the note does not simply stop but switches to a recording of the key being released. The Grand Hybrid actually uses two different key off samples to control how the note ends which means that when you take your finger off the key quickly it sounds different to when you remove your finger slowly. This gives an effect much closer to how the notes decay on a traditional strung piano.

    * String resonance: on a traditional strung piano when you strike a note on one key there is much more going on than simply that string vibrating, and as long as the hammers are lifted away from the strings numerous strings vibrate in sympathy which adds a huge amount of colour to the sound. A good way to hear this is to hold down a C triad with your right hand then strike a staccato C in the bass register with your left: you will hear the C chord ringing out for as long as you hold down those keys. To simulate this the Grand Hybrid plays back numerous samples to properly reflect what you would hear on a traditional piano.

    * Damper noise: As every part within a piano is mechanical, those parts create mechanical noise that you can hear when you play. A significant mechanical noise on grand pianos is the sound of the pedals being depressed, and the Grand Hybrid contains samples of this noise that it can add in whenever the pedals are moved.

    * Action Noise (400 & 500 only): The action of a grand piano also adds noise, that can easily be heard if you play the Grand Hybrid with when it’s turned off. The GP400 and 500 have been designed to sound closer to a concert grand by creating the illusion of having the player and action close to each other while the strings are far away. This is done by blending a little artificial noise recorded from a concert grand piano into the sound you hear as you play.

    * Aliquot resonance (400 & 500 only): concert and higher end baby grand pianos often have one of a couple of design attributes designed to add colour to the high end of the piano, which is particularly useful if the piano is being used in a large space where high frequencies don’t carry so well so benefit from a little enhancement. One such tuning is known as Aliquot stringing as invented by Julius Bluthner. This comprises an extra string in the top three octaves that is not struck but resonates in sympathy. Other makers obtain a similar effect known as duplex (or triplex) scaling by tuning the portions of the string outside of the actual speaking length so that they act as sympathetic resonators. The 400 and 500 have their own digital version of these sympathetic effects, adding a level of harmonic complexity to enhance the sound of the piano.

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    Grand Acoustic System

    * Sound from an acoustic grand piano does not emanate forward and backward but rather up and down as the soundboard vibrates in those directions.In the Grand Hybrid there are four speakers firing upward and two downward to simulate this.

    * The four upward speakers are aimed at the lid, so sound is reflected in the way it would be by a real piano lid.

    * The headphone mode on the Grand Hybrid uses addition processing to give a realistic stereo spread rather than relying on the sample you hear through the speakers that will sound unnaturally wide through headphones.

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    Keyboard

    * The Grand Hybrid has a genuine hammer action keyboard – all of their competitors use the term but very few actually have hammers in them!

    * The key is Austrian quarter sawn Spruce bought from Bechstein’s suppler in Europe. Buying quarter sawn spruce ensures that the key is stable and will not warp, and ensures a more consistent density.

    * The key bed is also Spruce and is very rigid. Most digital pianos have plastic or metal key beds which are not as strong or rigid and are less able to stand up to professional level of play over a long period.

    * Although the hammer mechanism is simplified from a grand piano key, all the parts are lined up in the correct orientation so that they have the same travel as the hammer mechanism in a traditional piano key, and they are engineered to have the same weight. The practical upshot of this is that the key resistance and recoil is incredibly realistic. Using plastic parts in place of wooden ones means the Grand Hybrid does not need to be regulated, so there is no maintenance necessary.

    * A common complaint with most digital piano is that they suffer from slow key recoil compared to a traditional piano. The Grand Hybrid keyboard tests as faster than a traditional piano key with a rate of 20 notes per second compared to 14 for a Bechstein grand – this is due to the combines hammer and whippen in the simplified hammer mechanism.

    * The sensor in the Grand Hybrid is positioned at the hammer location rather than under the key as on most digital pianos. This means you hear the note at the split second a hammer would hit the string on a traditional piano.

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    Concert Play

    * The Grand Hybrid comes loaded with 12 Concert Play tracks for which the sheet music can be found along with the manual. These are prerecorded backing tracks for which the pianist can play the piano part. These are not the typical MIDI files as found in many pianos with similar features but actual recordings made for Casio by the world renowned Japanese NHK orchestra.

    * In addition to the 12 pieces installed Casio have been building a library of these recordings that is available for free online, along with PDF downloads of the manuscripts.

    * If you are struggling with a new piece in the Concert Play mode it is possible to slow down the recording using the metronome controls.

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    Hall Simulation

    * The reverb algorithms for the Grand Hybrid are based on 12 legendary venues and have been made specially by Casio in a process that involved visiting the venues offered on the Grand Hybrid and conducting acoustical tests.

    * In addition to the 12 venues, the modelling process has been conducted from three listener locations so, not only can you choose between the venues you can also choose between sitting at the front, middle or rear of the venue.

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    Scene Setting (400 & 500 only)

    * Scene setting gives the pianist a series of preset voices and allows them to store their own settings. These can comprise functions such as layering two sounds or splitting the keyboard, or they can be adjustments to elements of the piano sound such as mellow and bright voicings, reverb or lid position.

    * The technician voice presets include sounds specifically set to compliment the style of certain composers

    * There are 10 user scenes as well as the factory settings for players to input their most commonly used settings for instant recall.

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    Conclusion

    There are a number of very cleverly designed digital pianos currently on the market that bring the digital piano ever closer to being able to function as a satisfactory substitute to a traditional piano even for experienced players, and pianos such as the Kawai CS11, Roland LX17 and Yamaha CLP685 are all exceptional instrument. In teaming up with Bechstein however, Casio have brought something genuinely unique to the market place and we’re blown away by how good these new instruments feel.

    To make it even easier to buy one of these great instruments, we can also offer free concierge delivery on Casio Grand Hybrids in the Northwest UK* - that means we’ll assemble it at the shop and send out a team to install it in your home, so no trying to figure out how to put it together, no nasty surprises out of the box and no mountain of cardboard to dispose of afterwards!

    We have all three in the showroom to try and will be delighted to demo them for you.

    *The offer is restricted to properties with reasonably easy ground floor access. If there are multiple steps into the property of you want it in an upstairs room that’s no problem but we will have to make a small charge for the additional work. We can of course deliver boxed pianos to your door pretty much anywhere in the UK and do not charge for this service.