totem hawk or mani, allison 2 or 4, rogers studio 7(no longer made),castle howard....i play piano and these speakers are better than most at any price for reproducing the weight and scale of piano music.
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I'm a big fan of tube gear and I won't likely go back to SS. But I must admit that the ONE single instrument that I've heard really excel out on my friends $50K Levinson system (NHT 3.3 speakers) was piano. The detail, body and shear emotional impact of that instrument is magnificent on his system and none of my tube systems have been able to match that. I guess it has something to do with the slam of SS. The micro-details were amazing and on one recording I can record hearing the pianists feet working the pedals on his system. I do love piano music as well, but also love vocals and strings both of which excel with tube gear IMO. The illusion of depth space and atmosphere is also superior with tubes, but somehow with a piano this does not seem to make as much of a difference. Perhaps because the piano's impact is more of a singular focused instrument center stage, and speed is paramount. With his system the 'body' of the instrument was NOT lost....it did seem to have real dimension and palpability, albeit laser focused. I never thought I'd have cause to point to SS, but if piano were my first and foremost priority I would go that direction. On a tube system it is certainly impressive, but in comparison with SS it lacks the chest-slamming emotional impact that that instrument can have....straight to heart. The NHT 3.3's certainly had something to do with this as they have an incredible low end (some may say too exagerated - subwoofers need not apply here) and great dynamic range and speed. I'm sorry, but I do not recall which Levinson amp he uses, but I believe it was in the $5k price range. The rest of his system is all Levinson.
Either the Revel Salon(best if budget is no concern) or Studio(budget conscious)would be 2 of the best choices. Its a well known fact either of these Revel speakers has midrange performance equal to the best elctrostatics along with incredible dynamics and bottom end definition which is needed to fully create proper piano harmonics somehting I have yet to hear any esl/planer speaker reproduce faithfully. I have owned a few planer/electrostatic speakers( including the ML Prodigies along with my Revel Salon's presently)and its a different kind of listening altogether.
I have owned Vandersteen, Totem, Meadowlark, Spendor, Reference 3A and Living Voice. The latter 3 do a very good job w/ piano, but the best I have heard with piano were Harbeths (with class A Pass amps) and Quads (with VAC gear). Unfortunately, the Harbeths didn't light my fire othewise, and the new Quads too $$$.
If someone is looking for absolute best piano sound, he is going to want timbral accuracy and solid dynamics. Timbral accuracy from 20hz up to 20khz. Revel Salon or Revel Studio. 2 of the best speakers for timbral accuracy and dynamics regardless of pricing. I have also owned a pair of Vandy 3A sig's, No Vandersteen should be listed in this persons category if this is the case. A different style of speaker altogether.
Sbank is absolutely right. NO speaker has ever matched the Quads in the midrange where most piano and voice (not to mention most music in general) falls. By Medieval music I presume you mean mostly liturgical pieces. The Quads are unparalled with a cappella voice yet equally facile with sackbuts and crumhorns should your Medieval tastes run more secular. The 988 should be sufficient unless you listen to an inordinate number of pianists performing on Bosendorfers which sound better on the 989s. With your musical tastes you must hear these speakers.
Khrys, I beg to differ. Piano resonates throughout it's body with every stroke in subtle low frequencies. When a low note is pounded, the piano cavity is exited all the more. The Apogee can translate these very low frequencies with authority. The Scintilla, Duetta, and Diva all straight line to 20 db. The Scintilla ribbon is every bit as fast as the Quad diaphragm, only the Scintilla can go very loud.
I would contend that a time and phase coherent design is required to reproduce the piano accurately.
In addition, as someone pointed out above, the piano is a percussion instrument and requires not only speed, but great dynamics and FULL range as well. There are tons of overtones and undertones that resonate within the instrument while it's being played.
These requirements leave very few choices. I would agree that the larger (full range) Apogees such as the Divas and Scintillas do a tremendous job at capturing these elements. The other speakers that I recommend are the larger Thiels (3.6 and up).
I really do think that there's also something to the metal drivers. I've NEVER heard a soft-dome tweeter believably reproduce the piano.
Maybe it's just me, but I've never heard large Thiel speakers (and this includes 2.3) that sounded anywhere near as coherent and musical, especially in the midrange, as the 1.5.
Listening to Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli's live recording of Chopin's piano sonata no. 2 (from 1952 no less) was an eargasmic experience I shall not soon forget.
Gullahisland points out that there are many overtones resonating when a piano is played. To discern the sonic character and personality of the instrument, the timing has to be dead on and the speaker has to recreate the reverberant sound field to endow the reproduced sound with the vibrancy and harmonic richness you immediately recognize as live sound. Additionally, accurately reproducing the size and sound of the body of the instrument and conveying venue information (hall sound) well requires good extended bass response which must blend seamlessly. There are few loudspeakers which successfully do all of this. In my experience and opinion full range dipoles do it best.
Well, it would seem that the choice of speakers alone is out of context with the rest of one's system. Yes, Quads can sound great. I've listened to them powered by Naim separates, and they are wonderful. I've also listened to them powered by a Berning set-up, and they did not sound nearly so good. My Cabasse, pushed by a Plinius integrated, reproduce piano fantastically.
easily the best for reproducing the nuances of piano especially the attack and decay associated with the hammer strike on the strings is without question the ESP Concert Grands. The designer of these speakers is a collector of some of the most prestigious grand pianos ever assembled and mirrored these type of pianos sonic signatures in an extremely lifelike, convincing manner.
Sorry to rain on the parade, but I sometimes listen to a real piano played automatically by a floppy disc program. The sad truth is that no loudspeaker comes close to the sound of the real thing (yet), and the modern computer-controlled player piano can duplicate all the subtle aspects of the keystrokes by the performer. With regard to convenience, inserting the floppy disc is just like loading a CD. Unfortunately, it does take up a bit more room than a loudspeaker, and automated violins and cellos aren't available.
Sorry to "rain" on your parade, but stating that no speaker comes close to reproducing the sound of a piano is also not true. I have played the piano myself for quite a few years and there are a number of speakers that can reproduce the sounds and overtones/harmonics of a piano with great accuracy, not perfectly, but very extremly close.
Actually "close" is not subjective. Its fact. You nor about 99.9999% of the human population physically cant tell the difference between a speaker and a "live" piano if the speaker is of competent design along with the rest of the audio chain and the recording itself was also properly mastered.Hell if you were blindfolded and brought into an unknown room, of unknown dimensions and accoustic characteristics with unknown equipment in the test you would fail ANY audio test miserably on direct comparisons, so to make the earlier comment you made is absurd. If you could that would mean you would be able to tell the slight harmonic differences between 2 identical Yamaha piano's of the same model the first time you hear them. And the human ear just isnt that sensitive. Like I stated there are a few great speakers that can faithfully reproduce the sonics of the piano, or kazoo for that matter. Not perfectly, but enough so to where our ears can be the true limiting factor.
Hell I was the piano the other day, my own Grandmother wasnt sure if it was me or the audio system making the music. Granted she doesnt have the best hearing at her age, but its just a point to bring out that musical reproduction by a pair of transducers properly set up is better than what alot of folks take for granted.
Hey, Ive heard em. A really "good" sounding speaker. ;) If I decide to sell my ML Prodigies I may pick up a used pair(along with a pair of Joseph Audio monitor's). I just dont like the inherant problems they have, and Im not just talking sonically either. Ribbon replacement is a necessary evil unfortunatly with them. And their performance isnt very linear either.
Eldartford: Your entitled to all of your opinions too, but opinions are just that, especially when people like you dont have any true "hands on experience" with doing true controlled audio tests on a daily basis. I do just by playing my piano and bass guitar.
If you want to swing by and place a friendly wager(of cash)on how good your ears truely are. Feel free to email me directly. I would love to set up an audio test on fully controlled equipment and instruments where its garenteed that you will fail miserably, please be my guest. Ive yet to have one person walk through my door and do otherwise. And alot of these friends and aquaintences of mine are actual real musicians who actually have trained auditory senses unlike you. Playing an instrument and "listening" to instruments requires different skill levels. And its a fact that people who actually play instruments have a much higher degree of sensitivity to changes in amplitude and pitch, than people who just listen to musical instruments.
Just like the FACT that if you went blind, over time your other bodily senses would try and compensate for the sensory loss by increasing sensitivity and awareness to our other forms of physical interaction with our environment. Or is this just more "opinion" of mine? If you think so, Ill start posting some articles that are nothing but proven facts on what the human body is truely capable of and some of the tricks that the mind can play on our senses.
Ritteri...How do you know what experience I have? Again you quote your conjectures as if they were facts.
I play the violin. My wife plays our Steinway grand. I have screwed around with audio equipment since about 1953. My job involves the design and testing of complex military electronics. However, I don't claim that all this makes my ears any better than yours.
Again I say: your opinions (like mine) are of interest and worthy of consideration, but should not be confused with facts.
You play the violin? So do I! Who made your voilin? Full size?Type of wood used? Who made the bow? Horse hair or synthetic? WHat kind of strings do you use? How do you store your Violin?
Funny that you mentioned Violin's. I used to appraise them part time in Ma. to help pay my college tuition a few years back. It was a very enjoyable job, very laid back, but I learned alot about appraising,repairing, and even mfg. techniques used by old school string maker's in the area.
Steinway Grand too eh? Really? Which model does your wife have?
BTW, no opinions on my part,ALL facts until you can prove otherwise(and that isnt going to happen because I doubt you would ever be foolish enough to take on a bet you cant win). And you know how you can do that. Take me up on my offer so I can make you(your ears actually)look a bit foolish in person. Ill bet ANY amount of money you couldnt tell the difference between a Yamaha YDP223,a Yamaha U-1,a yamaha P-22,A Samic SIG50 a pair of Dunlavy SC-IVA's and Revel Salon's(I wont include the ML Prodigies because they have an easily identifiable harmonic distortion thats easy to pick up on, just like all planer speakers have)You would have 1 electric piano, 2 vertical's and one grand piano along with 2 pairs of full range competently designed speakers. With no visual que's you would NEVER be able to tell on a consistent basis if its "Live"(a real piano) or "memorex"(floor standers), let alone which model is playing(well maybe the electronic piano on a good day). If you feel otherwise, next time your in the Boston area, be sure to swing by.
But in all honesty you should have read some of the other posts above a bit more carefully about being able to discern the differnces in piano harmonics and full range speaker without even knowing what the actual piano is supposed to sound like in the first place from the original recording. There is no opinion to this, just a plain simple fact. If you dont know what the piano sounded like exactly to begin with before being recorded, how can you tell if the recording or speaker is faithful in itself to the original track? You cant, just like you cant make the original statement you made. And that my friend IS FACT.
Muralman, your enthusiasm for the Apogees is curious. I owned the Duettas for a time and found them exciting but ultimately unsatisfying. I suspect many others did too leading to the demise of the company. Their inefficiency and cruel impedance swings tended to bring out the worst aspects of most amps except those least suited to the nuance of piano and voice. I must confess that before your post on 11/14 I did not realize that the Apogees could all "straight line to 20db". For the Quads to match that feat you'd have to use the volume control but I think they get pretty close to 0dB with the mute button.
Ritteri, your comments are, well, more opinion than fact until proven otherwise, so saith doubting Thomas. I would be interested in hearing more details on how you have arrived at your conclusions, these tests that you have done. I haven't heard an audio system yet properly produce all the things necessary to convey the realism of a live piano, any piano. Timbre is the first to bite the dust but Quads do come closest in my experience but lack in other areas, dynamics mostly, to be totally convincing. I sure would love to have you prove me wrong cause then I will have found my speaker!
btw, I've heard some great recordings on both vinyl and CD on modified IRS 5 and Genesis 200 system which came closer than anything in ALL areas, but maybe I was fooling myself in believing what I heard wasn't real? ;^)
There's an awful lot of entitlement and opinions flying around on this thread. My buddy, Duane, plays the skin flute (I think he also appraises them too) and I know for a fact if you blindfolded him in the room with his kickass home theatre setup that he couldn't tell the difference between a porno playing on his 6-channel and actual fellatio going on in the room. I know because he and his friends actually tried it once and they were all repeatedly stumped. Can't remember the components though I do remember he seemed to have enjoyed the challenge and recommended I try the same with my wife. Duane's an odd duck, he tells me he really sucks at playing the skin flute but he seems to have an awful lot of willing partners. Must be the kick-ass HT setup. Gotta git'me one of them!
You must have not tried many amps on your Duettas. I used a mere 150 watt amp on those "inefficient" speakers to very good results. Good enough to have Martin Logan owner and a Quad owner enjoy them.
Only the Scintilla really fits the bill as grossly inefficient. Even so, when the Scintilla is matched with a can do amp, there are few full range speaker contenders.
That precludes the Quad - not full range.
My Scintilla does straight line down to 20db, and trails off to beyond. The mids and highs are as delicately articulated as any, while surpassing nearly all.
Ritteri, I hate to rain on YOUR parade dude, but IMO you have come on way too strong with your assertions. I'm thrilled that you feel so strongly about the merits of your chosen speakers, but...
Are you suggesting that the human ear is not sensitive enough to tell the differences between two same model Yamaha's? Why then, don't many players, and not just professional musicians, simply order a piano over the phone and call it a day? Why bother with test playing them in showrooms, and agonizing over the sometimes subtle, but obvious differences. Are you suggesting that the human ear is not sensitive enough to consistently tell apart a Yamaha electric from a real grand? Or from Dunlavy IV's? Musicians that you know were not able to do this? Professional musicians?!?! (And I don't mean to suggest, at all, that only musicians can do this) Just how much money are you willing to wager?
Email me privately if you would like to extend the challenge. Interesting, though, that you use Yamaha as a reference; of all the major piano brands, probably the least harmonically rich and complex.
Anyway, I agree with you that there are a few speaker systems can come pretty close to reproducing the sound of a real piano. But the impact, the resonance of the wood, the complexity of harmonics and difference tones that even the best recording equipment has trouble capturing? Close? Sure, but no cigar. To suggest otherwise also means that playback equipment and amplification has reached a level of perfection that, I think, most here would agree is simply not the case. Speakers are, by definition, at the mercy of what came before them. As good as it may all be, it's all far from perfect.
Now, about that challenge...
Seriously, happy listening, and don't let this hobby lose it's mistery and challenge. When it starts to happen, I asure you that you're just not digging deep enough. Reproduced sound will never be able to sound like the real thing. Close maybe, but as they say...
Support live music!!
I tried to get back to my last post to amend it - too late. Now I'll have to take the heat from Quad owners.
In my defense, I first want to confess the Quad is one of the greatest speakers ever.
The thing that I love about the Scintilla is it equals the Quad in transparency and immediacy, but surpasses the Quad in extension. Since musical instruments emit a kaleidescope of frequencies, having the lows and the highs fully covered assist greatly in presenting a convincing picture of a musical event.
On repro music and the real thing: That depends on how far the listener might be from the real thing. A lot of frequencies are absorbed, and dulled over a distance. There is no doubt, in my mind, a Grand, in the living room, will never be equaled by any playback system.
In the case of a piano concert, from a distance, IMO there are systems that can fool the most musical savvy. At least, I have been fooled.
My first experience with the Scintilla in '85 completely fooled me into thinking I was indeed listening to a real piano - in an adjacent studio.
I had never seen the likes of the Scintilla. I took them for room dividers. They were being fed by a Goldmund table and Koetzu cartridge, Pre amp and amp unknown.
I have a good sense what a real piano wounds like. We have a great heavy old turn of the century Piano upright. My wife plays beautifully, and I had attended numerous concerts by that time.
Walking into that listening room, the piano was completely convincing. It sounded receded, some distance away, but real just the same. There was no one in the room to tell me otherwise. Not until I poked my head through an open doorway, where the piano diminished, did I understand the joke was on me. I promised my self I would own those speakers that sound like a real piano - as soon as I could afford the beasts to drive them.
We live in a golden age of audio, with new digital formats coming out all the time. Radically new amp concepts are appearing, like the powerful Butler OTL, and the Acoustic Reality ICE powered amps. Inexpensive digital front ends are closing the sound quality gap with high end (really!).
I sold the beasts I was first driving my Scintillas with, and now use the Acoustic Reality eAR 2 amp to power the Scintilla. No longer am I peering through a door to the real piano, I am now in row E.
I had a Quad owner over the other day. I played a little Brickman "Autumn" music for him. He sat there with his eyes closed for a long while. Then he looked my way, and asked, "Wouldn't you agree you have recaptured the real thing, like you heard years ago?"
Yes, I think I have.
Frogman: Actually, yes a very skilled trained professional that plays the piano probably can tell the difference between different pianos. Just like a trained Violinist can tell the differences between Violins etc.
What my point was, is that if I brought good ol' Eldertford into a room in which he didnt know what model piano was playing, he wouldnt be able to discern the difference. In other words, if I brought in a few different piano's,threw in a few quality high end full range speakers and had him sit down and listen to them(without seeing them)all without telling him which is which, he wouldnt be able to tell the difference between ANY of them. If you cant tell the difference between which is which, how can you make the claim that no speaker can sound as good or lifelike as a "live" piano?? Its almost impossible.
Yes I will be running for President too! :P