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Since its inception ten years ago, the Harbeth User Group's ambition has been to create a lasting knowledge archive. Knowledge is based on facts and observations. Knowledge is timeless. Knowledge is human independent and replicatable. However, we live in new world where thanks to social media, 'facts' have become flexible and personal. HUG operates in that real world.

HUG has two approaches to contributor's Posts. If you have, like us, a scientific mind and are curious about how the ear works, how it can lead us to make the right - and wrong - decisions, and about the technical ins and outs of audio equipment, how it's designed and what choices the designer makes, then the factual area of HUG is for you. The objective methods of comparing audio equipment under controlled conditions has been thoroughly examined here on HUG and elsewhere and can be easily understood and tried with negligible technical knowledge.

Alternatively, if you just like chatting about audio and subjectivity rules for you, then the Subjective Soundings sub-forum is you. If upon examination we think that Posts are better suited to one sub-forum than than the other, they will be redirected during Moderation, which is applied throughout the site.

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{Updated Nov. 2016A}
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  • #46
    Ok have you looked at the piano videos? What did you notice?
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

    Comment


    • #47
      Piano videos - observation

      The most-used pedal appears to be the sustain pedal (the one on the right).

      Generally, it is modulated rather than held down continuously.

      Comment


      • #48
        Learning about pianos and how that relates to hifi loudspeakers at home

        Originally posted by EricW View Post
        The most-used pedal appears to be the sustain pedal (the one on the right).
        Yes, that's what I observe to. In fact, the left and middle peddles only very rarely seem to be used. So there is something rather special about the action of the right peddle, whatever it is. And as we'll see, the decision whether or not to press a peddle is defined in the musical score. It's not (or shouldn't be) a decision made by the performer according to how he feels on the day. The composer must have had in mid both an awareness of what the peddle does to the sound and when he wanted that effect to be heard by the audience.

        Just to recap a little. We're trying to examine a certain je ne sais quoi that may or not be audible between notes or phrases in reproduced music at home. ST called this coloration. That's one possible term. But I said that coloration implied to me the addition of some element to the sound and I'm not completely happy with the word coloration in this connection. It's not exactly the experience I have. Let's see if we can nail down a really appropriate word. Back to the piano to help us. The piano is really useful to demonstrate acoustic because it's a like a little room on its own, and has the characteristics we associate with rooms: standing waves, echoes, reverberation, decay and tonality so we should be able to recognise those. These next few steps are extremely important relating to the Harbeth musical experience and if you appreciate the importance of the upcoming points then we can close down the HUG as job complete, I can retire, and sales of RADIAL cones Harbeth speakers will rule the audio world!

        First step: what exactly does that magical right-foot pedal do? Have a look at this video 12. As EricW said, the right peddle is the sustain peddle. Sustain means last for longer - agree? But the key has already been hit by the performer so how can the note last longer? Surely the energy input is complete.

        Step 2: We need to look inside to get an idea of what happens when the keyboard is pressed. Video 13. This is an upright piano, ideal for use at home. We'll also see inside a concert piano which is exactly the same concept but horizontal.

        Step 3: Exactly what mechanical-acoustical process goes on inside the piano? The next video shows felt-covered hammers under the strings (connected one-to-one to the keys) in action, and notice how there needs to be a certain minimum force applied by the pianist to accelerate the hammer from rest and to strike the string.

        Also - and this is really critical - note the pyramid shaped, felt material tooth-like wedges that slip in between the strings and make intimate contact with them. The rest position for these dampers is down, in contact with every string. They are only very briefly automatically raised and dropped after the note is struck, but all can be simultaneously lifted away from the strings for as long as the pianist applies pressure to the sustain peddle. Video 14.

        In close-up we can see the dampers, and the sustain pedal in operation here, video 15. The action of the light damping of the felt on the strings greatly alters the ambience of the instrument's voice. Damping does not add something, (as we often associate with coloration): it removes or suppresses something in the sound. Just as the word implies: damping alters the air, the ambience, freshness, a sense of spaciousness and realism, of 'being there'. If you remember nothing else, remember this point: damping controls resonance. Too much damping kills musicality. The optimum amount of damping is the difference between a xylophone and a real piano.

        Step 4
        : Now an interesting observation. We looked at a random selection of videos in post #44 of piano's being played, and whilst this was not a scientific sample of all available piano videos, it's self evident that the pianists right foot is constantly called upon by the composer to operate the sustain peddle. Several pieces demonstrated that the normal playing mode was playing with the peddle down - that is, applying sustain, just occasionally dropping the dampers on the strings to damp the tone. So the application of sustain, and the consequently brighter tone, is something that is is much desired by composers for sonic effect. The pianist has clear instructions when to apply the pedals, here. It's what we need to capture in our hifi systems at home.

        Step 5
        : As I mentioned in step 3, the normal arrangement if you looked inside a piano at rest is dampers in contact with the strings. We know that for sonic reasons, much of the music we hear is seemingly played with the dampers away from the strings, sustain peddle pressed. Example here, video 16.

        Remember: the operation of the sustain peddle is usually instructed by the composer. The composer and performer want the piano to sing-on with a clean, bright tone. It's a vital part of the musical performance: the open voice of the instrument - the sense of air that this creates around the instrument. Even the child performer in video 4 could hear that the piano's voice was too dull, too dampened because she couldn't reach the sustain booster-peddle to raise the dampers from the strings. She didn't want to continue playing: the piano's voice was not as the composer intended.

        Step 6: So, what is the undamped, open voice of a piano? What sonic microtonality is it capable of yielding? It's really astonishing. Count how many seconds the reverberation tail extends in this gloriously balanced instrument under repair here, video 17. The sound you hear is not the room echo. You're hearing only the sound racing around in the iron frame, soundboard, strings and body of the piano. Note that by implication, the fact that we can hear it decaying so slowly - it would take more than a minute to fully decay, means that the damping in the instrument's structure is extremely small. Interesting isn't it: negligible damping in the structure, and significant felt damping on the strings. The entire sound of musical instruments is about the optimisation of damping: they can all play the same notes.

        ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

        If we as hifi enthusiasts want to capture what just this one fabulous instrument is capable of we have to pay serious attention to the way our audio system - and especially our loudspeakers - reproduce microtonality. In other words, we have to avoid smothering the vital transient information between notes as one note decays into the next. As we have seen, composers and Steinway & Sons strive for a brightness and openness of tone, invoking regular even constant use of the sustain peddle. But it's the inappropriate and excessive application of damping in conventional loudspeakers cones (the working part of the speaker) that's robbing the audio of it's real-life freshness. They just sound too muffled - like the dampers are down when we should be hearing sustain. They play the notes perfectly; they can't release the information between the notes properly. So the replay experience is not as open and fresh as it is in the concert hall, live. It's too dark, just like the little Japanese girl experienced.

        Harbeth's own RADIAL cone material is, as far as we know, the only purpose-designed acoustic loudspeaker cone plastic available in the world. We engineered RADIAL specifically not to over-damp the sound of reproduced musical instruments because that's what I heard conventional polypropylene speaker cones doing. When you hear the low-level transient resolution of the Harbeth RADIAL cone, there is no way back to the foggy sound of conventional, loudspeakers!

        Here is a recording I made of Steinway D at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon. You can imagine that the sustain pedal is in much use. This is exactly the bright, clean atmosphere that the piano should have - for classical performance. It is extremely challenging for a loudspeaker to reproduce all the fine grained detail in the decay whilst at the same time being a resonant system itself - as all cones are to greater or lesser extent. A loudspeaker is a controlled resonator masquerading as a transparent window onto another resonator (a musical instrument).

        Loading the player ...


        And now we know why conventional closely-miked pop music is quite useless as a tool to reveal latent loudspeaker quality. There is intentionally no air around the instruments and performers and hence the recording presents no real difficulty for even a low-fi loudspeaker. Pop recording is the equivalent of recording the classical piano with the foot permanently off the sustain pedal and the string dampers fully down. To really be able to test a loudspeaker's forensic ability to resolve low-level detail, you have to ask it to reproduce the acoustic space of a hall - and you have to listen carefully between the notes.

        Finally, a video demonstrating the effect of damping in the piano, as it is played. A Harbeth RADIAL coned loudspeaker is designed to catch and replay that rich liquid freshness of the sustain pedal in action (when it is being operated) - just as you would here in real life. It's a really, really difficult technical challenge for a loudspeaker. Video 18 (watch and listen - comments are in top left corner). In the pause 1'12 to 1'18 or 3'19 to 3'28 the piano tone is still decaying: conventional loudspeakers have difficulty resolving the microtones in that decay period. Can you imagine why?

        I developed the Harbeth RADIAL loudspeaker cone because, reacting as the little Japanese pianist in video 4 did, I couldn't hear the freshness of tonality of the concert hall experience on polypropylene-coned speakers.

        I hope this is useful for when you next go out auditioning hifi speakers - or better still, to a concert hall.
        Alan A. Shaw
        Designer, owner
        Harbeth Audio UK

        Comment


        • #49
          Reproducing the fine grain ....

          Originally posted by A.S. View Post
          1) It is extremely challenging for a loudspeaker to reproduce all the fine grained detail in the decay whilst at the same time being a resonant system itself - as all cones are to greater or lesser extent.

          2) To really be able to test a loudspeaker's forensic ability to resolve low-level detail, you have to ask it to reproduce the acoustic space of a hall - and you have to listen carefully between the notes.
          When you say "to reproduce all the fine grained detail in the decay whilst at the same time being a resonant system itself" am I correct to conceptualize it as to mean while the preceding note decays, we should hear the subsequent note clear and vibrant and yet the decay is still heard without any changes as if the new note wasn't there?

          Or like putting a drop of red ink and a drop of green ink to a glass of water and they both remain separate as red and green and not brown? Can't think of a better way to describe your statement.

          I still need to think about the second statement.

          ST

          Comment


          • #50
            Video 18 and pedals

            Video 18 is excellent. It also provides a good insight into how the left pedal operates mechanically; you can see the entire keyboard move when the pedal is pushed or released!

            It might also be worth noting that the middle pedal is relatively unusual. The left pedal adjusts the impact of the hammers on the strings so that only two of the three strings (that contribute to the higher notes) are hit. The middle pedal, where it exists, keeps the damper raised on notes that are played while the pedal is pressed in contrast with the right pedal which lifts all the dampers. The middle pedal is designed to negate the effect that can occur when the right pedal is used, which is that resonances are easily set up within the instrument e.g. if a middle C is struck with the dampers lifted, all the other Cs will sound to a greater or lesser extent.

            Comment


            • #51
              Mixing water inks in a glass ....

              Originally posted by STHLS5 View Post
              When you say "to reproduce all the fine grained detail in the decay whilst at the same time being a resonant system itself" am I correct to conceptualize it as to mean while the preceding note decays, we should hear the subsequent note clear and vibrant and yet the decay is still heard without any changes as if the new note wasn't there?

              Or like putting a drop of red ink and a drop of green ink to a glass of water and they both remain separate as red and green and not brown? ...ST
              Both of your observations are absolutely 100% correct.

              Technically, there is a word that describes how sound can co-exist, just like the red and green ink that you mention, whilst remaining completely pure and unmixed. If you play a piano at the same time as an electric bass, at the same time as you sing, at the same time as a police siren passes by, these sound waves do not mix together into a muddy brown as children find when they mix the individual bright vibrant colours of their paint set together. In fact, for me, by far the most engaging aspect of attending a live concert - especially a choir - is how much separation there is between the voices. Look and listen closely and you can identify individual performer's contributions - even little mistakes. Their sound waves are not at all mixed in the air of the hall ... and that coexistance without mixing is called superposition.

              Can you see the irony of home hifi reproduction compared to the superposition of live sounds in the hall or studio? We collect all those complex, independent red and green colour tones and pass them along to a loudspeaker, itself a complex mechanical resonator with it's own tonality. We take it for granted that having merged the colours into a cone driving force that the individual red and green sonic colours will magically be regenerated in our room, completely independent of each other exactly as the live experience right down to the smallest micro tone. That's a technical impossibility. The loudspeaker has its own internal resonances - some creating obvious sonic additive effects which we call colorations, and many more very subtle ones related to the material 'DNA' of the moving parts, specifically the relatively massive bass/midrange cone.

              When you experience live sound it is as light as a feather, weightless, effortless, dimensionless: feed that to a loudspeaker cone and you have then to accelerate, decelerate and keep it flapping about thousands of times a second to create a vague impression of the original sound waves. The loudspeaker is tasked with generating the individual, isolated, unconnected sounds from its one cone but as you suggest, we want only the red and green primary colours out, but to one extent or another, we get muddy brown. It must be - and it is a fact - that beyond all other elements in the reproduction chain, the expectations we place on the speaker cone (not cabinet, tweeter, biwire links, cables, crossovers) are technically demanding. Of all the parts, the most critical for high fidelity sound is the bass/midrange cone, as that is the transformer from electrical signal to the acoustic one. It is the arbiter of reproduction quality.

              To run with your analogy: the fundamental issue is that if you want to keep the red and green water-soluble colours separated, you cannot make the speaker bass/midrange cone from ordinary tap water. That would guarantee that they would mix. What cripples polypropylene as a cone material is that, at a molecular or 'DNA' level, it is substantially homogeneous just like the water in your glass. It does not have any inherent chemical mechanism to inhibit the colour mixing. A analogy to using polypropylene as an acoustic transformer (a speaker cone) is to dissolve a kg of sugar in your water glass then add the ink colours. They'd still mix of course, but you'd have made a stiff syrupy brown goo. The resulting sound will be sweet, charming, easy on the ear, inoffensive but acoustically dead. And the goo will resist stirring - an analogy for acceleration - which in turn brings us back to the microtonality problems with conventional loudspeakers.

              So, the fresh Harbeth sound is a manifestation of our research - perhaps even mastery - of cone material science. If you can see your face reflected from a midrange speaker cone, there is a chance that it could make great music. If the surface is pitted and dull, so will be the sound: the equivalent of a kg of sugar in the water. In my long experience of listening to loudspeakers I'd say that is a universal truth. It is no marketing gimmick that you can see your reflection in the mirror-like finish of the Harbeth bass/midrange cones from the P3ESR up to the M40.1. That high-gloss, polished, mirror-like finish reflects a fundamentally different cone technology to that of conventional speakers. RADIAL is a molecular modification to the cone which reduces colour mixing, and that means more resolution, more detail between the notes.

              Ask yourself how much thermoplastic and rubber you find in musical instruments. The answer is none because these materials are far too acoustically inert; they would kill the 'air' around the notes. Can you imagine the sound of a concert bell moulded in polypropylene?
              Alan A. Shaw
              Designer, owner
              Harbeth Audio UK

              Comment


              • #52
                Fascinating!

                Fascinating! And now I have gone off in search of my Van Cliburn Tchaikovsky concerto No 1, 1958 recording, to hear the piano with a whole new appreciation!

                George

                Comment


                • #53
                  What about metal cones?

                  Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                  ...the fresh Harbeth sound is a manifestation of our research - perhaps even mastery - of cone material science. If you can see your face reflected from a midrange speaker cone, there is a chance that it could make great music. If the surface is pitted and dull, so will be the sound: the equivalent of a kg of sugar in the water. In my long experience of listening to loudspeakers I'd say that is a universal truth. It is no marketing gimmick that you can see your reflection in the mirror-like finish of the Harbeth bass/midrange cones from the P3ESR up to the M40.1. That high-gloss, polished, mirror-like finish reflects a fundamentally different cone technology to that of conventional speakers. RADIAL is a molecular modification to the cone which reduces colour mixing, and that means more resolution, more detail between the notes.
                  Those who have not been following the HUG for a period of time might read the above and say, well. don't metal-coned speakers fit the above description? Many manufacturers are using metal cones these days, presumably because they appear offer an answer to the "smearing" problems caused by conventional materials.

                  As I've understood past explanations, it's not only that RADIAL "reduces colour mixing" by its greater rigidity, it's that it also does so without introducing the audible resonance problems that e.g. a metal-coned can (or is likely to?) have. Since you're making a case for the critical importance of the cone material, I thought it might be good to be reminded that control of cone resonance is a key factor as well, and the combination of high rigidity and low resonance (if I have that right) another unique RADIAL advantage.

                  Comment


                  • #54
                    Why not metal cones?

                    Originally posted by EricW View Post
                    Those who have not been following the HUG for a period of time might read the above and say, well, don't metal-coned speakers fit the above description? Many manufacturers are using metal cones these days, presumably because they appear offer an answer to the "smearing" problems caused by conventional materials.

                    As I've understood past explanations, it's not only that RADIAL "reduces colour mixing" by its greater rigidity, it's that it also does so without introducing the audible resonance problems that e.g. a metal-coned can (or is likely to?) have. Since you're making a case for the critical importance of the cone material, I thought it might be good to be reminded that control of cone resonance is a key factor as well, and the combination of high rigidity and low resonance (if I have that right) another unique RADIAL advantage.
                    Great - I was waiting for that perfectly logical observation. Indeed, on the face of it, if conventional semi-rigid plastic cone material acts like an acoustic sponge, then surely the opposite solution, a cone made of rigid metal would make an ideal loudspeaker cone. A perfectly reasonable assumption. If we continue with the great analogy of red and green inks in the glass of water - if we add the sugar we have not only mixed the coulours into a muddy brown, but made the whole mix viscous and dead. Alternatively, at the other extreme, find a fresh dry glass, drop in the red and green inks and stir with a teaspoon. In both cases the result is a an undesirable brown colour mix. In the sugar/water mix as the spoon touches the side of the glass there is a deadened, soft tinkling sound. In the second, the dry glass, there is a bright sound as the spoon touches the sides. Both result in a muddy brown ink. But the sound quality is very different and it's that which this entire thread has been focusing on. The dampers up or down.

                    I hope that if you have followed this entire thread and in particular, understood the operation of the piano pedals, we can neatly move towards an answer to the selection of the cone material, and as to why a metal cone may not be any more ideal than polypropylene. It's another 'take' but not perhaps the optimum solution to faithful reproduction.

                    1. We set aside a year or so, we trawl the world looking at all known materials materials that could theoretically be formed into speaker cones* and we devise a way to technically evaluate and grade their sonic anti-smearing potential using very sensitive and novel measuring equipment (we don't trust our ears at this stage).

                    2. Material by material, over the months we start to plot all those graded results for 'reproduction naturalness' Rnat on a graph, and our graph initially looks like picture A. Rnat is necessarily a index of many factors - the graph is actually a 3D matrix so this is a great simplification to give the general idea. The first four materials we tested (shown with Xs) had characteristic that placed them on the Rnat vertical scale as marked. There is nothing to learn from this distribution.

                    3. One by one as the points start to build up on the Rnat overview graph, we see a pattern emerging. These points are not as random as they appeared at first with just a few sample points. There are two significant clusters groups, and upon examination of the materials in these group, we can find some common technical attributes of the materials. Between P and H, in no-mans-land there is a median area, let's call it F (for fulcrum). Since we now understand the common material attribute present in groups P and H we can conceive of a material that would (theoretically) have characteristic F. Unfortunately, a material possessing the desired attribute F does not exist as an off-the-shelf material, but as with all chemicals, could theoretically be synthesised in the lab. Picture B.

                    4. Many experimental synthetic materials F1, F2 .... F20 are made by Harbeth, and analysed and plotted. The objective is to hit the green F zone, and to get as far above the A-B performance threshold as possible. This step takes about 18 months. Picture C.

                    5. Materials which after analysis fall towards or into the P end of the spectrum are invariably thermoplastics. Materials which fall towards the H end are hard materials, such as metal.

                    6. I made a decision which one of these would become Harbeth's RADIAL cone material. No. 17 I recall. It was the best overall compromise and the most stable in production, which I personally supervised. Bulk quantities of this are made under controlled conditions. (I may share this picture; some thought needed because of commercial secrecy). Picture D.

                    7. The optimum cone material in region F is neither like pressing the piano sustain pedal when sustain is not required nor like shutting the lid to over-damp the sound. Materials P tend towards over-damping the microtones, and materials H tend towards under-damping.

                    This Harbeth RADIAL project was part funded by the British Government who have recouped the cost many times over in corporation tax, income tax on employees and export earnings for the UK. The final reports are thousands of pages long.

                    * There are innumerable potential candidate materials available to industry. However, the list is whittled down rather (too) rapidly when we consider that the cone cannot realistically be too heavy and/or thick. There is a minimum loudness sensitivity which the hifi consumer will tolerate - perhaps around 80dB/1w/1m - and that calculates backwards to a certain maximum cone moving mass for a given magnet/coil motor. That requirement is the killer blow: it eliminated over 50% of potential material solutions even though they had other interesting acoustic properties.
                    Attached Files
                    Alan A. Shaw
                    Designer, owner
                    Harbeth Audio UK

                    Comment


                    • #55
                      Microtonality Inside the Notes

                      Great stuff in general and especially recently, Alan!

                      Alan has stressed Harbeth's reproduction of "microtonality" that reveals "the vital transient information between notes as one note decays into the next." But doesn't this reproduction of "microtonality" also reveal the fine texture, not just between notes, but of sustained sounds themselves when those sounds, like say the human voice and the French horn, have a complex microtonal structure?

                      Isn't this one reason, along with RADIAL's lack of coloration, that Harbeth's are famous for the accurate reproduction of the human voice and instrumental timbre?

                      Bruce

                      Comment


                      • #56
                        Originally posted by Euler View Post
                        ... Alan has stressed Harbeth's reproduction of "microtonality" that reveals "the vital transient information between notes as one note decays into the next." But doesn't this reproduction of "microtonality" also reveal the fine texture, not just between notes, but of sustained sounds themselves when those sounds, like say the human voice and the French horn, have a complex microtonal structure?

                        Isn't this one reason, along with RADIAL's lack of coloration, that Harbeth's are famous for the accurate reproduction of the human voice and instrumental timbre?...
                        Yes, absolutely so. But surely the easiest way for me to have demonstrated the microtonality issue is for us to listen to the decay of notes, which we can (or should be able to) separate from the note itself.

                        You are of course right that the sonic fogging problem, especially from vacuum-formed polypropylene (which accounts for perhaps 85% of all hifi speaker cones), is also obvious 'around' the reproduction of voices. If you only listened to speech not music, now you are alerted to this loss of resolution, you should be able to listen out for it.

                        I'm reminded of my experiences at the Penta/Ramada hifi shows some time ago. At that time, the P3E/ES/ES2 used a bought-in popypropylene cone (before we invented the 5" RADIAL driver for the P3ESR), and being our entry level product at a attractive price point and size, we made sure it was always available for demo. Being so small, and as our American friends apparently say, cute, it always drew a very good crowd of amazed listeners. As I normally prefer to be at the back of the room, it often became quite difficult to make a path through the entralled listeners to be able to swap the speakers over. Consequently, the (original) P3 always won a goody proportion of the daily demonstration time. I've not mentioned this before out of deference to entirely satisfied customers of the old P3, but after a while I found myself on edge, desperate to swap to any of the RADIAL-coned Harbeths and naturally to put on the best show we could. And when the moment came to switch over to say, the then C7, it was as if a blanket had been lifted off the speakers. Operatic voices and, cello and piano sounded much more open - believeable actually. Yet nobody noticed.

                        I vividly recall that after handed over to colleages, taking a break and wandering around the show, I could tell if a RADIAL Harbeth was playing just as I stepped back through the doorway of our room, eyes closed. It still amazes me that anyone is using PP. It makes excellent shampoo bottles, but rather strange speaker cones.

                        Basically, if you can't see your face reflected in a speaker cone that covers the vital midrange, I do not believe that the loudspeaker is capable of the higest level of fidelity, regardless of the price ticket and fancy cabinetwork.
                        Alan A. Shaw
                        Designer, owner
                        Harbeth Audio UK

                        Comment


                        • #57
                          About video 17 -

                          P.S. Hopefully you watched video 17 (mentioned in Step 6 of post #48). Beautifully recorded. I thought I'd call the author, piano restorer Barry Taylor of Taylor Piano Restoration in Virginia and thank him for the clip. I asked him if he had any more footage of the final decay into silence at the end of the clip. Unfortunately, what we hear is all he has, just the time it took him to walk over to the camera and switch off.

                          I've asked him if he is likely to be able to repeat the exercise, and to leave the camera running for a minute or two after he hammers the peg in, and he's kindly agreed to do so. He has Steinway pianos passing through his workshop continuously.

                          If you listen carefuly to video 17 again, here, you may notice that the decay has a particular quality. At first, the sound decays quite rapidly, then the decay slows down and levels out (the sound is being sustained in the piano structure), it is held in that state for many seconds (can you imagine how difficult that is to achieve?), and then decays again. It is hard to believe that mere humans could have manipulated minute details of the structure and materials of the piano to allow such a beautiful, clean decay. Truly a mechanical masterpiece. And asking a loudspeaker to reproduce the complexity of that sound is an impossibility - but we can try our very best to do so.

                          If you have enough bandwidth you can watch in HD, full screen. Just like being with Barry at the piano. A great loudspeaker, just like a great piano, is entirely about resonance control. Too much and you kill the fresheness of sound: too little and you have ringing which becomes fatiguing.
                          Alan A. Shaw
                          Designer, owner
                          Harbeth Audio UK

                          Comment


                          • #58
                            Video 17: are you nit picking the details and missing the big picture? It's pretty obvious that Barry Taylor is talking in a room, adjacent to the piano. But if you, like I, have actually peered into a Steinway (see my post many years ago referring to looking into Peter Katin's Steinway, which led to the C7 cabinet idea) you would recognise the characteristic racetrack-reverb of the instrument has little or nothing to do with the room. No, the room sound is not prominent: the close proximity of the piano to the camera mic substantially drowns out the room. Forget about the room sound. We've been through this close-miking thing recently, and in effect, with the camera right up againt the case we are hearing the nearfield sound of the piano.

                            I urge you to go out and find a Steinway, lift the lid and ask someone to press the sustain pedal (lifting off all the dampers) and play a compex chord as loud as possible, leave the sustain pedal depressed and count the seconds until the decay has reached inaudibility. I think a good sixty seconds will be needed.
                            Alan A. Shaw
                            Designer, owner
                            Harbeth Audio UK

                            Comment


                            • #59
                              The Steinway video

                              I have been advised by that there is an opinion amongst some viewers (who do not have the balls to step forward and say so here) that the claim that the decay sound of the Steinway in video 17 is somehow manipulated or faked by me or the author of the video. As I value my personal integrity I am baffled as to why I and even less so, the piano technician would be motivated to do this. It is exactly how a Steinway sounds when disassembled. Clearly there are some sad souls on the fringes of audiophila who have no contact with live music or instruments.

                              As a result of this mendaciousness I have written to Barry Taylor of Taylor Piano Restorations asking him if he would be kind enough to make another video, as and when he has a suitable instrument and the time to do so, giving us an even greater insight into the tonality of the various parts of the piano - strings, iron frame, case and perhaps above all, the sound board. He has said that working with these pianos every day, he takes for granted how they sing, and the sound recording in the video was in his opinion a by-product of his demonstration of craft skill. He is delighted that we found the sound side of the video of interest.

                              This video demonstrates a sound very similar to that of video 17, but outside in the open air. Marbles being dropped on the strings. If the body were still fitted, the sound would have been deeper, richer, louder and with longer sustain, as we observed in video 17. Video 20

                              85% of the piano is wood - factory tour Video 21 here. Note the consideration of grain and the bell-grade iron frame. Bell-grade so it can sing with sustain. Note how the hammers are individually pierced to achieve the desired tonal sound.

                              Here are some behind-the-scenes videos about the Steinway. Note the comment about 'tonal projection' and the super-critical soundboard. Video 22

                              Considering the (disputed) body-resonance sound of video 17, this video showing the disassembly of a Steinway for transportation is accompanied by music emphasising exactly that inherent tonality. Video 23. That surely must be obvious to all.

                              It's alive! A contact microphone on a string ..... video 24. Note how sensitive the entire structure is to acoustic feedback - when controlled that is exactly what gives the piano it's bright tonality.

                              Very important point demonstrated here video 25. The sound board in not touching the iron frame. If it were, it would be constrained, and wouldn't be able to sing. And concert-goers recognise this bright, clean sound video 26 - two examples, somewhat different room acoustic.

                              Obviously, the nay-sayers would believe all this to be trickery.
                              Alan A. Shaw
                              Designer, owner
                              Harbeth Audio UK

                              Comment


                              • #60
                                The mad few

                                Apart from your integrity (in which I trust) : What interest should you (or Mr Taylor) have to manipulate the sound???

                                Sometimes people seem to fall into some kind of conspiracy theory trap or something.
                                Somewhat mad, I think.

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