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Nord Piano 4 Sound Quality

Postby JonathanG » 20 Nov 2018, 17:05

I just received my new Nord Piano 4 yesterday and played it for the first time. I noticed that the sound is not great at all and sounds muddy and muffled on all of the pianos. I'm using Sennheiser HD558 headphones and tried a Signtaure HiFi ( 2 channel bookshelf) system so far but only through the headphone out. I did an enormous amount of research before buying it and was willing to forgive the less than realistic Fatar action in exchange for what I thought were some of the best sampled piano sounds in the World today. They always sounded great online and in recordings so I figured with YouTube compression, it would easily sound as good or better in person. I'm coming from a Casio Privia PX-130 and THAT is a lot clearer in tone. It doesn't have the long sustain or powerful bass in the bottom end but sounds clearer nonetheless. This should not be the case. I've tried every combination of EQ, Reverb, Bright, Creative filters and I'm not at all satisfied. I own Garritan CFX and it is very clear but I always felt a slight disconnect with playing (probably my computer causing some latency). I feel a very big disconnect with this thing and that shouldn't be the case either. Am I doing something wrong? ]Is there a certain piano I should load on to it, certain monitors I should use, settings? Or should I get a Kawai MP11SE or Yamaha P515 instead? My goal with whatever piano setup is to have as close as I can have to having a piano right in front of me without actually having one. I won't be gigging with it, it's staying in one place for the most part and for home use only with the playing experience and sound being my only and utmost priorities. I want to like this thing as it sounds so nice online and is so expensive but I'm just not satisfied with it and this is a lot of money for me to be stuck with something I don't feel inspired by when I play it. That's what I'm really after is that feeling of inspiration when you walk up to an amazing instrument and don't need to think about playing something and it just comes naturally. My favorite real pianos are Yamaha as I play a lot of pop (Coldplay type) style and they have a crystal clear singing tone, if that helps. Any help is greatly appreciated!


Thanks,

Jonathan G
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Nord Piano 4 Sound Quality


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Re: Nord Piano 4 Sound Quality

Postby baekgaard » 20 Nov 2018, 18:43

It's difficult to tell what's "wrong" in this case. It should sound fine in headphones, but not all headphones are equally suited to piano playing. Normal HiFi speakers surely aren't.

Make sure you play Stereo and not accidentally in Mono mode (either because the Mono button is pressed or because of a failing adapter)!

What pianos are you listening to? The Bright (comes preloaded, if I remember right), probably comes close to your favorite "biting" tone -- or maybe the Silver does too? In headphones, I find the Royal Grand 3D very very nice and quite convincing to play.

By the way, I get the best experience when playing through in-ear monitors, but headphones also work well for me (for home use, not on stage obviously).
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Re: Nord Piano 4 Sound Quality

Postby cphollis » 20 Nov 2018, 19:19

I'm with Baekgaard. This doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

The Sennheiser headphones should be pure bliss plugged into the back of a Nord Piano 4. Mine are, anyway.

The only thing I can think of is that maybe the aesthetic you're after isn't the default. If that's the case, experiment! You've got more than a dozen pianos to sample, plus the pre-set EQs, e.g. "bright", plus a separate EQ section, plus all sorts of effects, plus the ability to layer in a bit of sample as sweetener.

The aesthetic I'm coming from are real deal grand pianos (e.g. Bosendorfer, Yamaha, Steinway and similar). I'm not a fan of overly processed piano sounds (e.g. Coldplay) but that is neither here nor there. For the tunes that require a processed piano sound, a bit of chorus/reverb/delay and EQ seem to do what's needed.

Best of luck!

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Re: Nord Piano 4 Sound Quality

Postby JonathanG » 21 Nov 2018, 00:15

I’ve played just about every piano you can think of from a Yamaha CFIIIS to every model of Steinway, many C7s, Bösendorfers, REAL Shigeru Kawai SK7s, those all inspire me. I cannot stand processed piano sounds, I’m just looking for realism close to walking up to a grand like the ones listed. I’ve played with EQ a bit more today and got it to sound better but not great. The sustain does not last very long either like a real piano. I think maybe the feel has a lot to do with the disconnect at the end of the day. This seems like an instrument that’s great for live performances on stage but not as good as a studio type sound. I haven’t had the chance to load anything other than the factory sounds on it but you’d think they’d put some of their best out in front. Also, what Sennheiser headphones do you have?
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Re: Nord Piano 4 Sound Quality

Postby SteveNordP3 » 21 Nov 2018, 03:42

It’s impossible to know what it sounds like to you, what your expectations are, what the disconnect is, etc. From my perspective, as a Yamaha C7 owner for 20 years, and someone who has recorded with Steinway, Yamaha and Falcone pianos, the sample sounds in the Nord library are the most realistic representations of mic’d pianos for recording. It is a different sound than sitting at the keyboard of one of the original instruments I think because the pure physics of the thing. Having said that, I’ve also owned and played tons of digital pianos from Roland’s to Yamahas to Emu to Kurzweil - none of them come close - not even remotely close to sounding as nuanced and realistic as the Nords do. If you’ve ever heard one on stage in a concert ether solo or with a band (and you probably have - sometimes musicians put them in the hollowed out cases of grand pianos) I think you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between that sound and the sound of a grand mic’d for the concert. I think that’s what they’re shooting for and they nail it in my view.

The FATAR keyboard? The weakest link/Achilles heel of an otherwise brilliant platform.

Having said all that - your description in your original post suggests to me you may have more of an issue with headphones, signal path, frayed cables, or something else. Unless you expect to hear/feel the physics of a natural grand.

Hope any of that is of some help. Good luck!
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Re: Nord Piano 4 Sound Quality

Postby JonathanG » 21 Nov 2018, 05:07

Thanks Steve, the only thing that has remained consistent is an older (cheap quality) AKG 1/4 inch to 3.5mm adapter and I know that it’s possible that it could be causing an issue with the signal path. I’d rather get away from headphones so what monitors do you use or suggest? If I did decide to go headphone route, what do you think is best?
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Re: Nord Piano 4 Sound Quality

Postby SteveNordP3 » 21 Nov 2018, 05:46

I use several different headphones - a cheap Senneheiser HD202 (over the ear) sounds glorious - I’m sure more expensive cans would sound great too. Playing with phones is even closer to the recording experience and again, the samples shine in my view. Playing live I use a Bose L1 Model 2 with B2 bass module and their Tone Match mixer. Now here’s the amazing thing about that - this is a MONO system (you can buy a pair to do stereo but it’s not necessary). I use the system for vocals (wife/me), her ukes and the Nord - and I use the line in for my Timber bass uke (by Magic Fluke) and can literally shake the House with this setup. Playing live with this again just sounds like a perfectly mic’d piano (I use several grands and uprights).

I also have a pair of powered Mackie studio monitors that would serve the purpose if just practicing alone.

Lots of options. Doubt there’s a single right or wrong. Really hope you can sort out whatever isn’t working well for you and that you can enjoy the beauty of the sounds! Good luck!
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Re: Nord Piano 4 Sound Quality

Postby cphollis » 21 Nov 2018, 05:49

Building on SteveNordP3's comments ...

One of things that isn't clear to me is context: is your goal to play at home, record in the studio, or play live with other musicians? Different tools for different jobs.

If you want to play for your own satisfaction at home, nothing beats a real grand piano. If you're trying to use digital tech to approximate that, I fear you will always come up short. It doesn't matter how much you spend.

As said before, real pianos are acoustically complex instruments that inevitably collapse into two dimensions (stereo) when you try and digitize them. Even the digital hybrids (e.g. AvantGrand) can be a bit of a compromise.

If your goal is to record, well that's where software pianos can shine. When you put them on the right hardware, latency minimizes and you're creating amazing music, albeit in digital space vs. acoustic space. You'll get all the complexity and nuance you expect on a recording (or on headphones).

If you play live with other musicians like so many of us here, that's where digital slab pianos (and the Nords) fit in. All of that tasty nuance you crave is completely lost in the fog of war. You want voices that sound good in a mix as well as solo. You want to be able to sculpt your sound on the fly without menu diving. Yes, you're welcome to bring a grand piano to a gig (challenging), or a full software piano setup to a gig (less challenging), but many of us prefer the simplicity of a single instrument.

Like SteveNordP3 and others, we've all played them all, and we ended up with Nords. Nothing is perfect in life, but they're pretty darn good for what we do. And when something better comes along, we'll do that instead.

You ask about monitors for your Nord Pianos. While I would vociferously agree that amplification matters much more with Nord pianos than with other brands, you need to be careful that you end up in a place where you're happy. If you'd like to have an *extended* discussion about live amplification options, I'd be glad to help.

Best of luck finding that perfect sound you crave.
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Re: Nord Piano 4 Sound Quality

Postby dhbp-nord » 21 Nov 2018, 13:07

Lose the cheap 1/4" headphone adapter - there is a whole raft of them on the internet, I had a few and threw them away. A definite and massive loss of sound quality. You will be amazed at the difference with a good one.

"the only thing that has remained consistent is an older (cheap quality) AKG 1/4 inch to 3.5mm adapter and I know that it’s possible that it could be causing an issue with the signal path"

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Re: Nord Piano 4 Sound Quality

Postby cphollis » 21 Nov 2018, 16:08

dhbp-nord wrote:Lose the cheap 1/4" headphone adapter - there is a whole raft of them on the internet, I had a few and threw them away. A definite and massive loss of sound quality. You will be amazed at the difference with a good one.

"the only thing that has remained consistent is an older (cheap quality) AKG 1/4 inch to 3.5mm adapter and I know that it’s possible that it could be causing an issue with the signal path"

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This. A bunch of cheap ones from China out there that were mis-wired, causing all sorts of phase issues and signal degradation.
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