Yamaha Develops Acoustic-digital Hybrid Piano

Apr 16, 2009
Chiho Matsuda, Nikkei Monozukuri
The AvantGrand integrates the acoustic and digital technologies. The size of the main unit can be reduced because it does not have strings or frame. Above is the AvantGrand N3 priced at ¥1,522,500 (including tax, approx US$15,430), and below is the N2, which is priced at ¥1,102,500 (including tax).
The AvantGrand integrates the acoustic and digital technologies. The size of the main unit can be reduced because it does not have strings or frame. Above is the AvantGrand N3 priced at ¥1,522,500 (including tax, approx US$15,430), and below is the N2, which is priced at ¥1,102,500 (including tax).
[Click to enlarge image]
By sampling sound from four locations, Yamaha gave depth to the sound.
By sampling sound from four locations, Yamaha gave depth to the sound.
[Click to enlarge image]

Yamaha Corp developed the "AvantGrand," a piano that integrates the mechanism of a grand piano and electronics technologies.

The company will release the "AvantGrand N3," which looks like a grand piano, May 15, 2009, and the "N2" with a depth of 51.3cm July 15 in Japan. The departments specializing in acoustic and electronic pianos jointly launched the project and commercialized these products.

To simulate the touch of a grand piano as closely as possible, Yamaha developed a special keyboard operation mechanism for the new piano. Each key has two sensors that contactlessly detect a key stroke and its strength when producing sound. One of the sensors is attached to a key while the other is located on a component provided in place of a hammer of a grand piano.

The pedals can be used just like those of a grand piano. In general, when the pedals of a grand piano are pressed, they are light at first, then firm and then lighter again as pushed further. Skilled players delicately change their pedaling to have desired expression in their play. Yamaha improved the mechanism to duplicate the feelings of a grand piano.

The AvantGrand produces sound based on the sound sampled from four locations, namely left, right, center and rear, of a grand piano. In addition, each of the high-, middle- and low-range speakers is equipped with a dedicated amplifier to avoid interference in each range and offer subtle nuances in the sound, according to the company.

Moreover, the N3 has a flat-panel resonator speaker in the place where the music stand being laid flat would be. It reproduces sounds with a short attack time just like when a hammer of a grand piano strikes a string.

According to Yamaha, the number of users who do not discriminate acoustic and digital pianos from each other is increasing. Such users sometimes prefer an electronic piano even though they have enough budget and space.

Thus far, acoustic and electronic pianos have been developed separately by different departments at Yamaha, but the company became convinced that a synergistic effect can be produced by leveraging the strengths of the two departments. In order to strengthen the competitiveness by restructuring its piano business, the company launched a cross-sectoral project.

In the project, the two departments collaborated on product development, design, production, marketing and promotional activities.

"These departments use different terminologies of their own, so we had to translate the languages," Yamaha said, recalling the challenges they faced.