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I'm getting really frustrated looking for an acoustic grand piano. The inventory of decent, used pianos seems to be severely constrained right now in my market--especially if looking for a good deal.

My local dealer has both the N1X and N3 in stock and I could go that route. I'm thinking about it again.

To those of you that have experience with both, how close does it really feel to the "real" thing? I've had some limited experiences in the dealer store, but it's hard to judge without extended playing time.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!


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Well, when you ask “how close” a hybrid gets to the real thing, it depends on which of the two main elements you’re referring to: action or sound.

In terms of the action & feel, a good hybrid can be *nearly* indiscernible from the real thing. Not totally, but nearly, indiscernible. Both Yamaha & Kawai have done great jobs with their hybrids, and the instruments have superb actions, feel, & playability.

In terms of sound, I don’t think any of the hybrids are any closer to a real piano than their digital faux-action counterparts, and that goes for both Yamaha & Kawai. Digital piano sound quality has improved massively, but compared to the real thing, it’s still lacking. Hybrids provide the best action you can get outside of an actual acoustic, but in terms of sound, they’re no better than their digital counterparts.

That said, if you couple your hybrid with a good VST, you’ll get an experience that comes as close to the real thing as you’re going to get.

So, if you absolutely can’t find a good used acoustic near you, and you need something immediately, a good hybrid and a good VST is a superb choice.

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Originally Posted by Taushi
Well, when you ask “how close” a hybrid gets to the real thing, it depends on which of the two main elements you’re referring to: action or sound.


.


Yes, thanks for the differentiation. This probably is an impossible question to really answer. If they were that close, people wouldn't buy anything but a hybrid. I think I wrote the post out of frustration at my inability to find an acoustic quickly. I'm going to have to be more patient methinks.


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mivaldes ... I have a feeling that ... if you are tested for ability to establish whether or nor a piano sound comes from a good quality sample or from an acoustic piano of same or similar sort ...... you will likely find that you'll have a hard time picking the difference. Especially with a very good electronic sound system and high quality samples. And good quality electronics for reconstructing the audio from the samples.

And when I play a particular digital piano, and turn it right up ..... I guarantee that the neighbours won't know that the beautiful piano sound is from a digital or acoustic, or hybrid.

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I mainly practice on a Yamaha N1 because of the time of day. When I can, I also play a Petrof grand. The Yamaha action feels just like a good grand action to me and I have no difficulty moving from the N1 to an acoustic piano as far as touch and development of finger strength. As for sound, however, the sound coming out of my headphones on the N1 while fine, is cleaner than what you'll get from an acoustic. Therefore if I have been practicing a piece mainly on the N1, there is some adjustment to all the resonances and ambient sounds that come at you from the acoustic which you don't experience with the digital.

If silent practice is important to you, then hybrids with a good pair of headphones are great. If you're trying to fill a room, the sound from the speakers on a hybrid is impressive, and you can enhance it with external speakers. But only you can judge if the result is close enough to an acoustic to make you happy.

Last edited by Emery Wang; 05/10/22 12:39 AM.

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Originally Posted by Emery Wang
Therefore if I have been practicing a piece mainly on the N1, there is some adjustment to all the resonances and ambient sounds that come at you from the acoustic which you don't experience with the digital.
That I can relate to.

I live in an apartment. I have an N3 and play almost entirely with headphones. Maybe 8 or 10 times a year I'll play on speakers for an hour.

One day last summer I had the opportunity to play on an acoustic grand for the first time in 6 or 8 years. One piece I played sounded to me as if I was hitting wrong notes... the complex resonances of the acoustic were jarring and disorienting after what you correctly describe as the "clean" sound from the headphones.

I still play the N3 with headphones but have switched to using various VSTi at least half the time so my brain doesn't stay so dependent on that "clean" sound from the N3's own samples.


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Having tried the N1X and NV10, and some other acoustic grand including a Steinway D, I'd say the NV10 is comparable to the small-baby new Grand Piano in term of sound, with good/better bass and tonal but lack some of the acoustic aspect (which is hard to describe), whereas the N1X is a little bit too clean and lack some power to my ear, action is 98% identical, but when you pay attention you can notice the subtle different between a keypress->hammer hitting string creating direct sound and hammer hitting felt in those hybrid


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Originally Posted by mivaldes
I think I wrote the post out of frustration at my inability to find an acoustic quickly. I'm going to have to be more patient methinks.

Hello,

I'm glad you wrote this, for this is probably the essence. I'd say please, please keep your head up, nose in the wind, and find yourself your beloved Grand Piano.

A lot has already been said above so I'll try not to repeat that.

Over the last few weeks I have extensively compared digital and acoustic pianos during two lengthy visits to a specialized piano store.

As has been said, hybrid digitals are good instruments action-wise, but are no match sound-and-visceral-connection-wise to a good acoustic grand.

I was shocked by the N3X (sorry Jane!) and its ridiculous price for what it is. I'd be gutted to see such money being spent on that instrument while it could have been put towards a lovely acoustic piano instead. In the next room there were grand pianos (used) with price tags *below* that of the N3X and which I could easily love and cherish for the rest of my life, while sitting at the N3X I was just in shock for what it isn't and got up and moved on in mere minutes.

The N1X and Kawai NV10S I consider as more balanced value for money wise, both are good and my personal preference from action standpoint would be with the NV10S. The N1X though is said to have a more advanced sensor implementation. Personally, even with these two, I'd rather invest such money in a real, wood and string instrument. These two hybrids are highly playable yet no match at all to the true piano experience.

Cheers and a happy search,

HZ

PS In all of this conversation, I am not considering "baby grands". I do not find those very interesting and/or worth the investment.

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Originally Posted by mivaldes
Originally Posted by Taushi
Well, when you ask “how close” a hybrid gets to the real thing, it depends on which of the two main elements you’re referring to: action or sound.


.


Yes, thanks for the differentiation. This probably is an impossible question to really answer. If they were that close, people wouldn't buy anything but a hybrid. I think I wrote the post out of frustration at my inability to find an acoustic quickly. I'm going to have to be more patient methinks.

Well, while the sound/sound engine on a hybrid may not be as good, a really high quality VST like the ones by Vienna Symphonic Library, Garritan, or Embertone can certainly hello the hybrid catch up in terms of sound.

I’d say if your search for an acoustic doesn’t manifest the one you want, a hybrid with a VST for sound may be a great option. And if a grand you like does pop up, you can generally trade-in or sell, and apply that toward the grand.

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I've no experience with the N1X or N3, but I do have both an analog acoustic grand (rebuilt Bechstein Model B 7'), and a digital "hybrid grand" (Casio GP-510).

The Bechstein I've owned for nearly 20 years, and I figured at the time it would last me many decades, if not the rest of my life. I had fallen in love with the sound and feel of it when I was actually shopping for a decent vertical piano. Love is fickle, and I was smitten. I still am. It's a beautiful instrument that seems to pull the music right out of my fingertips and the sweet sound wraps around and around like a soft, warm, blanket on a cold winter day.

I'm a snow birder, so have a winter home near Phoenix. That's a much smaller house with no room for a grand let alone the dryness there being an issue. Initially I had my travel piano there, an old Yamaha P-120. Last fall when we arrived for the season, I decided it was time to upgrade and ended up liking the Casio GP-510. The Bechstein partnership with Casio intrigued me, and my fingers were 100% satisfied after some playing sessions at the local dealer. Although the sound is excellent, nuanced and musical, leaps above my old P-120, my ears could tell it's not a real grand - it lacks some of the spaciousness that washes over you and down your spine. That's the physics and reality of digital pianos. Digital piano sound can be upgraded, but the action is what you get, so get a good one. That said, it helps to have excellent built-in sound and speakers to start.

So, I practiced daily on that new digital for five months. This week I am now back home to my summer place. I'm pleased to report that I had zero time required to adapt back to playing on my Bechstein. I picked up my musical journey right where I left off the previous week on the digital. What did strike me, though, was sonic... it needs a voicing. I had it tuned by the original rebuilder last fall, but it is now a little harsher sounding than it should be.

Now I realize I've been a bit spoiled by the digital... a clean sound that is always in tune, controllable volume, a choice of three excellent piano sounds, ability to use headphones, and connectivity to my iPad or laptop. I'm an intermediate to advanced player, but decided it would do me some good to shore up some long neglected method and technique. The Piano Marvel app was great for that, and I have significantly improved my timing, accuracy, and comfort with less common key signatures. Now back home on the analog piano, I have to admit I do miss some of those qualities unique to the digital. I can still use Piano Marvel, but the functions are limited without connectivity.

While I thought I would never part with my analog acoustic piano, I'm not quite as attached as I was before. If we downsize the winter home to, say, a condo, it won't break my heart to move on and go full digital. This very much reminds me of the transition from film to digital in photography. None of the pianos are perfect, digital or analog. There's always something more, so you have to learn to appreciate what you have or you'll drive yourself crazy(er).

Best wishes in your piano journey.


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I have a N1X… the feeling is perfect, but after trying an acoustic grand, I have heard the sound too dull. It is resolved with VSL virtual piano however… I should try again an acoustic grand, then try my N1X+VSL again and have a better comparison.


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Hello,

What a nice and interesting story, @BravoRomeo!

I do however hope you'll fall in love with your 7' Bechstein all over again. The way you describe your visceral connection with it very much resembles my feelings when sitting at a proper grand piano.

Your experiences with the Casio GP are also encouraging. Although technically, in the context of this thread, it is not a hybrid action, it is quite good. During the store visits mentioned above I also tested the GP510 and liked how it played. Should I have to make a purchase decision between this and the Grand Feel III by Kawai, I'd have a hard time calling one above the other.

Cheers and happy transfers,

HZ

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Originally Posted by BravoRomeo
Now I realize I've been a bit spoiled by the digital... a clean sound that is always in tune, controllable volume, a choice of three excellent piano sounds, ability to use headphones, and connectivity to my iPad or laptop. I'm an intermediate to advanced player, but decided it would do me some good to shore up some long neglected method and technique.

I know just what you mean. And probably everybody else does too. A digital piano is a musical instrument too, which can be enjoyed by many people - no matter what quality it is (and as long as it is working of course). Just as acoustic pianos can be enjoyed by many people. On both sorts of instruments (not including 'hybrid') - one can generate music.

As for clean, and no-tuning needed, and many outstanding features (eg. selecting different sorts of piano sounds to suit different sorts or styles of music, reverb and tonal adjustments in selected models etc) available in digital pianos ----- it can be said that digital pianos are in a league of their own. Although, digital pianos always has their root ----- that started with maybe harpsichord/clavichords etc. Evolution has been going on. How far it goes (where it evolves to) ------ nobody knows.

We know that digital instruments require electricity to work though. So if there is a black-out and if there is no energy storage for powering the digital, then this is where an acoustic piano does have an advantage. It's a particular case/condition of course.

As for tonal qualities of the 'best' acoustic pianos --- I reckon that the best mic systems, and best recording expertise and technology can record the sound of those acoustics very well indeed. Resonances will be recorded as well. And clever digital processing techniques even allow for some 'fancy' things to be done with the samples - so that a note can still sound pretty much the 'same' each time the key is struck (on a fancy digital piano), but not be 'exactly' the same sound. This is part of the evolution. Key action - also evolving. And is up to the stage that the keyboard mechanism behaviours and sensors are very nice indeed.

Both sorts of instruments - acoustic and digital - are amazing. We know it's possible to just buy both ------ if one really has a desire/need for both sorts. Not just buy both ----- but some of each, if there is room for them that is. Otherwise - for sure - these days, digital piano technology has evolved to an impressive stage, and it will keep evolving.

We know the way of analog tv, analog bulk-passenger commute aircraft, and analog cameras. They pretty much wiped out the analog counterparts on the market. But still - occasionally, under some circumstances - such as when the power goes out, or the digital system goes haywire due to some electronic fault, or sensor fault etc, or batteries or power runs out ------ under particular conditions --- this is where we can see some benefits of analog (for backups). Although, it is true that analog gear needs their servicing too - and can also have failures.

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You know, a digital can be subtly de-tuned. It does sound more authentic when you do this, or even overdo it.
Some years ago, I played Rolands offering at that time, an LX 17, new on the market. The piano lady had it positioned amongst the acoustics. It had a very similar ring to it, and was far, far superior to the other digitals upstairs wrt to sound.
I was fooled, definitely. But it sounded like an acoustic upright; maybe it had been de-tuned.a little.
A used one certainly wouldn't set one back too much. . . . .


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I have little to offer over the good advice provided here already.

Action - hybrids are 100% there. They're real. You may not *like* a particular hybrid action feel, but that's the same for acoustics. FWIW, I find the action and keyfeel in the NV-10 to be entirely identical to a C. Bechstein M/P 192. It's the closest acoustic grand action to the M3 (and that includes Kawai's own GL/GX/SKs).

Sounds - pretty good nowadays, and if you want to use a VST, there's no doubt it can sound/feel realistic and musical.

Speakers - really no good news here. A hybrid is at best going to be "a little bit better" than a standard digital piano, which doesn't hold a candle to any acoustic. If you like the sound from an acoustic piano, a hybrid may not be good enough.

It sounds like you're actually in the market for an acoustic grand (e.g., you have the money, space, and environment to support it). If so, I would strongly recommend broadening your search radius and keep on that train. A hybrid is a good alternative when you can't have a grand, but "can't have" usually means you need silent play or don't have the space.


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Originally Posted by peterws
But it sounded like an acoustic upright; maybe it had been de-tuned.a little.
A used one certainly wouldn't set one back too much. . . . .

That's quite ok! As we know that very nice music can be played on uprights. For many sorts of piano music ..... while some people think that it is super important to have super best ocd action and 'awesome' tonality etc ...... my own opinion is ... you can make lots of pianos generate fantastic music for people and ourselves to enjoy. Just got to be adaptable/flexible. People don't need an analog or even 'best' digital to generate nice music. You can generate the nice music through you.

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Originally Posted by HZPiano
Hello,
What a nice and interesting story, @BravoRomeo!

I do however hope you'll fall in love with your 7' Bechstein all over again. The way you describe your visceral connection with it very much resembles my feelings when sitting at a proper grand piano.

Your experiences with the Casio GP are also encouraging. Although technically, in the context of this thread, it is not a hybrid action, it is quite good. During the store visits mentioned above I also tested the GP510 and liked how it played. Should I have to make a purchase decision between this and the Grand Feel III by Kawai, I'd have a hard time calling one above the other.

Yes, I'm still in love with my Bechstein... wonderful piano. That said, my eyes have been opened to the possibility that it'd be OK to downsize if I needed to. It's great there are some compelling options. I wonder how things will look in another 5-10 years.

Curious - what is a hybrid? If the GP-510 doesn't qualify as one, then I'll be happy to retract my post so as not to clutter the thought process here.


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Will also add ... just in case. If somebody is aiming to have the best control they can possibly get ..... for particular demanding styles of music, then sure ..... the right tool for the right 'job' purpose can be considered. Or people with arthritis etc ..... maybe old synth type spring keys are beneficial.

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Originally Posted by BravoRomeo
Curious - what is a hybrid? If the GP-510 doesn't qualify as one, then I'll be happy to retract my post so as not to clutter the thought process here.

A hybrid piano has the same (or same sort) of mechanical system as 'acoustic' pianos. Except the hammers strike something that doesn't make much of a sound .... or hard to hear when piano sounds are masking the hammer strikes and other mechanical sounds. The piano sound is generated by methods found in digital pianos ... by means of sensors and samples playback, or even 'physical modelling' methods. The hybrid feel will be the same as acoustic actions. This doesn't necessarily mean best 'action' though (in one person's or some groups opinion that is). As technology advances .... it's possible that non-acoustic piano mechanisms can be the new 'go to' (favoured) behaviour among many people.

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Surprises are seen all the time as well. And one future surprise will likely be digital grand piano or even hybrid grand piano used in professional classical piano concerts. Not sure if it has happened already. Maybe it has .... for small concerts.

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