There are home pianos and there are concert grand pianos, and unless you've resided in Graceland or Neverland, the two have always been quite different things. First, there's the size—a concert grand piano is at least 2.5 meters (8 feet) long. Then there's the cost—US $120 000 and up. But surely in today's digital world, we should be able to simulate the concert experience in our own living rooms, right?
That task has turned out to be surprisingly hard. But Yamaha, the world's largest manufacturer of musical instruments, may have finally done it with its AvantGrand digital piano. Using its 2.7-meter (9-foot) CFIIIS concert grand piano as its inspiration, Yamaha has spent the past 15 years developing a digital piano for the rest of us.
I found the response and the feel quite expressive. The piano mimics an acoustic instrument, with transducers inside reverberating at the touch of your hands and feet, and superb keyboard action remarkably similar to that of Yamaha's large grand pianos. Yamaha has also sampled all 88 notes from four locations within the CFIIIS; the AvantGrand replays them through four speakers located in corresponding positions to emulate the sound of notes bouncing off a grand piano's lid.
Does it sound like a hundred grand? No. The technology needed to replicate an exquisite, handcrafted instrument like the CFIIIS doesn't exist and possibly never will. However, the AvantGrand sounds and plays better than many acoustic pianos in the $15 000 to $20 000 range while requiring little space and no tuning. Its sound tends to be a bit bright, producing unflattering overtones during complex musical passages. Customizable equalization controls would remedy this.