Yamaha is producing digital pianos that sound as good as its real pianos, reports David Pogue in The New York Times (9/5/13). The AvantGrand N3 has sensors instead of strings, and its sound comes "from painstakingly recorded audio snippets, or samples, of each string from a $120,000 top-of-the-line grand piano, reproduced through a set of high-end speakers." It has "wooden keys and hammers … identical to those on Yamaha’s real pianos; you even feel the keys subtly vibrate when you strike them hard, exactly as on a real pianos."
One benefit is that the AvantGrand "never needs tuning." Another is that "you can turn the volume up and down, or listen through headphones," which can be handy for apartment dwellers. It is also "much smaller and lighter" than a real piano – it’s just four-feet long but sounds just like a nine-footer. The one thing it doesn’t offer is a price break, as the N3 typically sells for about $15,000. AvantGrand’s upright grand, the N2, goes for $11,000 and the upright N1 costs about $8,000.
These prices are basically comparable to real pianos, although Yamaha has now introduced the NU1 upright, selling for $4,500, which "costs less than its analog counterpart." It has many of the same features (wooden keys and hammer mechanism) that provide "the same expressive capability" as a typical upright. However, the keys are plastic rather than synthetic ivory and, according to David, the sound is "just not as convincing as the other hybrids." What matters, he says, it’s now "clear that the beauty, clarity and expressiveness of real pianos has now entered the digital age."