Best speaker/system piano concerts


Hi,

I enjoy many type of music but am a big fan of piano concerts. I’ve been to Hifi shows before but often find the music that they are playing not to my taste. 

Does anyone have recommendations for a speaker and amplifier that would be great to reproduce big piano plays realistically? I don’t think it’s easy for a system to have the speed and weight that the piano produces.

Would say speakers that are around 20-25k second hand and amps of 10-15k used

Looking forward to your suggestions.


hififreakk

I think you need a crisp/clean type of speaker to reproduce those effectively.  Many people don't realize that piano really needs fast attack and clarity.  Otherwise, it becomes too warm/slow and you loose resolution and impact.

Avoid speakers that use polypropylene or Kevlar type drivers for woofers/midrange.  Also avoid Morel/Dynaudio type speakers.

B&W D3 speakers are excellent in clarity and realness if paired with the proper amplification.  Their new D3 midrange driver has excellent clarity and the diamond tweeter carries that to the high frequencies.  Look at 803 D3 at the $13k to $14k level used.  The 802 D3 model can be had used and still under your budget.

Monitor Audio Platinum also comes to mind with their magnesium drivers and ribbon tweeters.  I would recommend listening to them first.  For my own preferences, I think the ribbon tweeters push too hard on the high frequencies and it loses realness.  You may feel differently, however.

For amps, Parasound JC1 to start with.  Or higher level Krell amps are excellent.  There's a pair of Krell Solo 575 monoblock amps on audiogon for $10.5k.  Classe monoblocks can also be excellent.

Amplifier choice also dictates what kind of sound you get.  If you want lots of attack and slam and excitement, Parasound or Krell are great choices.  If you want something neutral and controlled, Pass Labs amplifiers are great.

ATC. The founder and owner is an engineer and jazz pianist. Realistic piano was a major goal of their speakers. Up until the time ATC got going, the Quad EL 57 was the most realistic sounding speaker for everything but it lacked bass, dynamic range and high enough SPL output.

ATC 150ASL should be on your audition list or just buy them unheard and you are done. Diana Krall uses ATC. You don’t need a power amp as they are active. There is a mint pair for sale currently in UK for just under 10,000 GBP. There is no doubt that these will do piano realistically (and everything else).
Technics Reference Class SB-R1 are the best I have heard at reproducing piano. 
Post removed 
+1 on ATC, especially if you like to listen at fairly realistic volumes.  
Magico A3s with Pass 350.8 would give what you are looking for if you got the cash.Enjoy!!
Right now, right here, listening to Cyrus Chestnut playing live an Steinway & Sons piano with First Watt F5 (clones) power amps plus Zu Audio Druid Mk IV loudspeakers. Lovely and lively piano sound.
I would also plump for the ATC 150's as I had a pair of the 100s until a couple of year ago when I had to give up my full rig and move to headphones when my wife fell ill and we had to move and now have people on all sides of us. The ATCs are the most natural sounding dynamic speaker I have heard with the clarity of an electostatic and the untramelled power of a pair of subs. I am quite sure you would be delighted with them. As I don't know what your front end is though if you wanted to upgrade that then you would have saved yourself a fortune through not having to buy an amp. Good luck I wish I was in your shoes.
"Large Magneplanar speakers and a Pass X350.8 should give you the power and scale you seek."

     Plus one for dweller's recommendation.  You may want to audition with and without a good tube preamp to best tailor the sound to your speciific tastes.
     Both the new and used 3.x and 20.x Magnepans are excellent for life-like piano reproduction but may not produce the ultimate in powerful and dynamic bass.
     If you prefer state of the art from top to bottom, add this if you have the room:

http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/audiokinesis-swarm-subwoofer-system/

     With your large budget, you can afford the extra $2,500 and create a world class system.  I honestly don't know of a system that would sound better.  If I could afford it, this is definitely what I would purchase.

Best wishes,
   Tim
Any decent system will give you fine piano sound without you having to spend into the stratosphere...I'm a piano freak and enjoy a range of stuff from classical to jazz, and in my job mixing live shows I often work with a fine, recently tuned large Steinway so I know what a great piano played brilliantly sounds like. I like a full range system with subs for weight, and my current rig of Klipsch Heresy IIIs with 2 REL subs and a little single ended tube amp really delivers the goods. Save most of the 30 grand and just buy a piano.
To get  amazing  piano  sound you need get speakers with flat response as
possible in midbass region  100-350 Hz up to 500 hz  is very important
All low register is depend from this frequency , And sound is very huge
and juicy.   If you close to NY Or NJ you can listen  my Bache audio-002.
What is main difference to make piano sound is unique.   They have 
separate midbass  8" with aluminium cone,loaded oh independent
build in   amplifier and  active Linkvitz -Reily crossover 100-700 Hz     
How about speakers designed by a Piano maker: the Bosendorfer VC7

https://www.dagogo.com/bosendorfer-vc-7-floorstanding-speaker-review/

I haven't heard these models but they are well regarded for their rendition of piano. Other speakers I'd consider are the large Tannoy legacy models, Spendor Classic 100s and Harbeth M40.2s. The latter two reproduce piano much better than most speakers I've encountered. I have to disagree with the advice to avoid polypropylene. Some of the most accurate speakers I've heard use polypropylene cones. Their combination of stiffness, mass, and self-damping properties is competitive with some of the most exotic diaphragm materials. 

As for amps, I haven't heard any that produce more realistic piano tones than those from Yamaha. With your budget I'd consider the A-S3000 or A-S2100. I'm not claiming there isn't better out there, just that I haven't come across them.
Aside from the investment in the speakers and the associated gear, you need to make sure the speakers are set up properly in the room and the room acoustics are properly selected. As Wolf said, many "good" systems can reproduce the piano but in my experience, recreating the soundstage that can accurately reflect the size and the location of the piano is a bigger challenge. Furthermore, the "sound" of piano can vary significantly depending on how its recorded, live or in the studio, and more specifically where the microphone(s) are placed. You'll find on the same recording, some speakers push the piano to the back of the soundstage and others bring it to the front. With that sort of cash layout, you just need to listen to different systems and decide which one resembles the "real" sound of piano better than others, in our room and to your ears. My 2 cents.
I would look more at the front end source.  You want something that can communicate with the rest of your system but has a natural tone with long, slow note decay that will let the notes just linger to give you the natural wood of the piano and provide the soundstage front to back dimension.

Happy Listening. 

Tekton Double Impacts do pianos superbly. Their multi-tweeter array assigned to the high-mid-range works for the complicated piano timbre effortlessly. When the speaker first came out, many noted how accurate pianos sound with this transducer.

With the DIs, pianos emerge out of concerto textures with clarity and exactitude. The Fields Concertos by Bamert are a good example.

"Personally, I do not like what warm sounding equipment does to the sound of a piano. Warmth is wonderful on vocals, guitars and certain instruments, but it beats against the stretched overtones of a piano. The overtones in a piano occur at slightly higher than harmonic ratios, and these create beat notes with the exact integer ratios produced by electronic equipment (and speakers). Too much harmonic distortion will make a piano sound out of tune."

That is quote from John Siau -  Director of Engineering in Benchmark Media Systems, Inc.
Snell Type AIII's are a forgotten classic design still competitive with today's big-buck speakers! Dead-flat response (+ and - 0 db) from 30 to 20k and wide dynamic range. Plus textbook perfect off-axis response! Lowest coloration possible from a dynamic speaker!
wow, I think we all did more harm than good at this point.  With speakers, I have noticed that there are sometimes going to be 12 different opinion on what is best. lol.  sorry.
The soundboard of a 6' grand is about 25 square feet. IMO, to reproduce that believably takes a comparable radiating area.

That leaves big planar speakers or big planar speakers. I use Quad 2905's. Amplification is full complementary class A solid state from MC to speaker.

I get best results from the 0.25mV MC with active amplification rather than transformers, even the very best, which I also have. Piano also requires a very low load = high input impedance at the phono = 47K.

Even so, doesn't quite sound like the grand upstairs.
Great piano reproduction by any system becomes evident when you notice that all recorded pianos sound somewhat different from each other.
Without going into wordy sonic descriptors I would go with Focals you pick the model based on budget along with Pass Labs amplification preferable something in the XA series.  

Chuck 
Kalali nailed it all of those will sound more like a Piano and be more beneficial (physically & mentally)  then sitting and listening to recorded music.

I play a Mason & Hamlin myself (Classical Piano) predominantly Chopin. 

Chuck 
@wolf_garcia

You write, "Great piano reproduction by any system becomes evident when you notice that all recorded pianos sound somewhat different from each other."

I think that you are setting the bar far too low for what the OP has in mind. Any decent system can differentiate a Yamaha and a Steinway Concert. What I meant by writing, "doesn’t quite sound like the grand upstairs," is not a reference to the timbral differences but the percussive attack, which is a property of the generic instrument, and is very hard to reproduce.

That requires great speed everywhere in the chain, and that requires subtlety of electronic design.
Speed isn't an audio term I pay much attention to as it's somewhat meaningless...subtlety in design? Does that mean careful soldering? A great sounding system puts the recording into the air relatively unscathed, so the recording is where the differences should be, and not in the system necessarily. Also if "decent systems" can differentiate between a Yamaha and Steinway it makes me wonder how many listeners can do that, or if that matters...the reference for the "absolute sound" for pianos is interesting to me as I've refined my piano miking technique over decades mostly by working with so many brilliant artists, and many want specific things requiring different setups. Miking for recording is different as level and sound leakage are issues primarily with louder live reinforced stuff...and is the sound one wants supposed to accentuate the "percussive attack" (which I feel is in the hands of the player), or the overall sound as heard by someone other than the musician?..i.e. somebody near the piano hearing the cumulative tone as it resolves the various elements of the instrument. I've heard recording where you can hear the mechanical elements of a piano here and there and that's somewhat disturbing, although the performance and passion of the music is all that matters really, otherwise the audioiphile critical nitpicking can harsh your mellow, so to speak.
wolf, in your recording experience where’s the best location(s) for placing the microphone(s) to capture the most realistic piano sound for reproduction? What I’m most curious about is the optimal placement(s) to capture the realistic size of the piano within a soundstage, either by itself or amongst multiple instruments.
@wolf_garcia 

Fair enough about 'speed'. I should have mentioned low distortion all the way to ultrasonics.

As for design, I meant discrete, high quality components that work for audio, no opamps, current sources where useful, that sort of thing. Not soldering.
Yeah terry9...I was simply yammering...I prefer simple stuff...single ended amp, tube preamp, clean ear canals, etc. 

Kalili...2 good condenser mics, one over the treble side and one down the bass side does the job. Some EQ and general level tweaking is applied to each mic and you have to make sure there are no phase issues (that's obvious and rare really). Some pianists bring their own mics for this (Fred Hersch...can't remember what mic he used, but hey...they worked fine), and I did a show with Eldar (youngish hot shot piano player, nice guy) who wanted to take the large diaphragm condenser mic I was using as an overhead on the drums and stick it in the Steinway with the lid closed (supported by a stand sticking through the lid crack)...that worked also.
Yes, I believe in speed, and that 4 letter word " prat ".
a good reason for attending church choir practice

sit on the bench and three other places and you will get religion, and then a mic feed listen will turn you into an athiest..

ha.
Piano's, you want piano sound.....
Two words: Steinway Lyngdorf, makers of fine pianos and the worlds best audio equipment.
There ya go, thank me later!


I have B and W 802 D3s. They are superb with piano music of all kinds.
Many people consider the B and W 800 series the best transducers 
for piano music on the market. The sound on mine is very hard to distinguish from the real think and I have a steinway for comparison.
Have you auditioned the newer Maggie 3.7is and up?  They are magical in their reproduction of any stringed instruments.  I assume this is in part related to their being line sources which function more like strings than cones or horns.
 I suggest the newer upgraded models because the tweaks to the ribbon tweeter make for seamless transition with the planar magnetic.  
I agree that they do not produce as much energy below 40Hz as some might wish for.  They are marvelously fast and articulate.
Have you auditioned the newer Maggie 3.7is and up?  They are magical in their reproduction of any stringed instruments.  I assume this is in part related to their being line sources which function more like strings than cones or horns.
 I suggest the newer upgraded models because the tweaks to the ribbon tweeter make for seamless transition with the planar magnetic.  
I agree that they do not produce as much energy below 40Hz as some might wish for.  They are marvelously fast and articulate.
I have owned a Bosendorfer 275 9ft concert grand for 30 yrs and love it but it takes careful tuning and voicing. I have performed on Steinways, Yamahas, Baldwins. My favorite is is the Bosendorfer 295. A beautiful instrument with weight and velvety highs with long decay. Malcolm Frager playing Chopin on Telarc and Ivan Davis playing Reminicences of Norma live are superb. The 2 Brahms and Ravel p.c. are lovely. A list of pianists and their works is another topic.
I find my Apogee Divas (Graz refurbished ribbons) and Scintillas driven by Krell amps and Audio Research tube preamps to offer extremely realistic reproduction of these pianos in my 20x27 listening room. I would put this system against any system today for classical, jazz or folk music (they are fine with rock but use a bit more punch). They offer a wide and deep soundstage, lightening fast, floating a lifelike image without inflating the size of the instruments. Only vinyl (Mapleknoll table) really can do justice to the dynamics and timbre of a concert grand with an orchestra. I have not heard a speaker system reproduce sound better - at least none under 100k - and they are 28 and 34 yrs old, respectively. I have not heard the Maggie 30.7 yet, but I'm good!!
Without a doubt Halcro 38 (which I have), or 68 for the  power amp plus their 8 or 10 (which I have) for pre. Seldom available 2nd hand ,but WELL worth waiting for. Agreed - ATC, or you could audition some von Schweikerts (from the VR4 upwards). As an aside - do hope your listening room has proper acoustic treatment, (this is a sine qua non !).
Best speaker/system piano concerts

To give the best piano rendition of a real piano that I've heard, you can't beat ESL's, and if you can afford it with a Plasma Super tweeter from 12 or 15khz up, depending on the ESL that's used..

Cheers George  
If you’re after utmost accuracy to a live piano... you should consider the ATC’s mentioned above. There is a reason all the pro sound engineers use those speakers in their mastering.

That’s not to say, several others won’t sound great... but... if you’re really after accuracy you may want to follow the pros.

They do sound superb.  Check them out on YouTube and compare them to others there (e.g. Tannoy, B&W, Maggies, etc., etc.) - you'll get a pretty good idea of how they compare, despite the fact you aren't in the same room with them.  You'll be amazed.

And... they’re really not all that expensive, when you consider the most recent versions are powered by dedicated internal ATC amps for each driver. So... for $20,000 you get both the speakers and the amps. The integrated system designed for the utmost in clarity and accuracy.
"There is a mint pair for sale currently in UK for just under 10,000 GBP."  

Shadorne - is this the link to those ATC 150's for sale in the UK?

https://www.hifi-forsale.co.uk/moreinfo.php?prod_title=ATC_SCM_150_ASL_Active_speakers_in_Rosewood&a...=
Piano is very difficult to reproduce. From the recording side and mic’ing to playback. There is a lot of gravitas in the lower registers and the timing of the attack and decay on all the registers is not so easily recorded or reproduced realistically. I think you have to start with a good recording. From there, I would think the upstream components would have an effect on realistic reproduction, totally apart from the ability of the loudspeaker itself to deliver the scale and power of the instrument.
I’ve had a few large vintage pianos (lovely old Bosendorfer that didn’t like to stay in tune, but man, when it was ’voiced’ by a piano swami, that thing just sang in the upper registers).
One record I like for sonics of the piano (it meanders quite a bit) is a blues/vocal record by Claudine Meyers called a Tribute to Bessie Smith or something like that, on Leo Records. The audiophile re-do isn’t close to the sound of the original. This was not an expensive or rare record, but it may be a challenge to find now. I’m thinking it was released around 1980 or so, based on memory.
Regarding loudspeakers for piano concerts, B&W 802d3's are, I concur based on
listening at dealers' showrooms, a great choice....but so physically unattractive compared to the nicely sculpted 802D2's, which I own and which reproduce piano quite 'musically' but with some high frequency ring and suboptimal midrange 'accuracy' as powered by an ML 523 pre-amplifier and ML 532H amplifier.  Any more aesthetically, financially and sonically motivated speaker suggestions ?  Is the 802d3 worth owning....,I agree the used prices are compelling...despite its being the 'ugly sister'?
I own and would recommend Magnepan Tympani 1-D's or Jbl Hartsfields.  They deliver the necessary fidelity and scale. I drop jaws over here with the Maggies/Levinson 23.5/Marantz 7c/ Nakamichi 1000 ZXL/ playing Diana Krall - Love Scenes on cassette...
Years ago I spent the day with an elderly English neighbor who had a pair of old Rogers LS3/5As and a Quad amp, and we listened to a lot of great vinyl piano stuff...a magic day. Although those speakers are hardly full range, the tone and coherence of that rig was astonishing, and the pianos sounded beautiful and utterly alive. Who knew?
tomic6011,018 posts06-26-2018 8:03pma good reason for attending church choir practice

sit on the bench and three other places and you will get religion, and then a mic feed listen will turn you into an athiest..

ha.

Great post, lol.  Lot's of great choices.  It's often harder to find a great used speakers at the upper levels unless they company comes out with new models every few years and then they become devalued and folks feel the need to upgrade right away, because they are able to.  

When I was ready for a new system, I just auditioned everything I was able to regardless of cost.  What I found was that a good speaker is just that....good.  It will play anything properly to MY EAR.  If a speaker seems to only be good at one or two genres, then it's time to move on.  Too many good choices out there depending on your flavor. 

If you chose to use only piano for auditions, you may be greatly disappointed over the long run.  It's kind of like buying a TV.  Brightest one wins, but months later you don't watch as much or enjoy as much...why?  Because you aren't watching at those bright levels at home.  Same with speakers.  Many are highly dynamic, but lack micro and macro detail which is where the emotion is located.  The problem is that they aren't time and phase correct and you get smearing.  Can't cheat physics regardless of what 'fixes' or 'tuning' you try.  Is what it is.  I'm not saying only time and phase correct speakers are good, but to get the fast transients from a piano or to get that proper decay of the string and the percussive attack of the hammer, for ME, I need a time and phase correct speaker.  

I got Vandersteen's, but there are a few others that are also very good.  I do like some speakers that aren't time adn phase correct, but I always just keep coming back to the Vandersteen's (for my ears) as I like the compromises he has made (every speaker makes compromises).  

In your price range, you really should find a shop you trust and listen to the speaker and electronics together.  Just became a certain speaker is great, if you pair it with another 5 star amp, it may not be comparable.  I personally need a zero feedback amp due to teh way VAndy's are engineered.  YMMV.  Good luck.
The one who wrote avoid speakers that use polypropylene or Kevlar type drivers for woofers/midrange. Also avoid Morel/Dynaudio type speakers is 100% completely wrong.
@exron   

May be wrong but I happen to agree as I hear issues with these drivers.
Any speaker that is free of artifacts and has enough power behind it will do the job. You can't build a speaker that favors a certain instrument- that is like making a speaker that favors a certain kind of musical taste. Speakers don't care about that, they are a collection of parts that make sound and can't express taste on their own. This however is the most persistent speaker myth in the world.
IOW a speaker that is really good at piano will be really good at black metal, jazz, classical and Chinese pipa.

To reproduce pianos, like an orchestra or modern rock band, you need to make sound pressure without distortion or coloration; there needs to be enough clean power driving the speaker to do the job. If your electronics have issues, a good speaker will simply reveal that. IOW you need a good amp too, and amps don't have any taste either.


I couldn't agree more atmosphere. It kills me reading about folks wanting a speaker that is good for this or that.  This myth is long standing for sure and just silly.