Keyboards Mono vs. Stereo

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Fountain Pen

This article is an editorial and expresses the opinion and experience of Cliff-at-Bose the author. Please post comments in the discussion page.
Thank you.


The stereo-sum problem is a general problem for all stereo-sample-based digital pianos and it shows up (in varying degrees) on all mono playback sound systems. Of course it's way more obvious to L1 owners because they (we) appear to be the only ones who can hear what they (we) are playing. I don't need to go into the reasons for this; you all know what they are.

Most of the stereo-sample pianos are (I think) intended for studio recording. We own a Yamaha CP300 and a GEM ProMega3, used for shows in our live music theater here in Framingham. Both sound awesome in stereo and the Yamaha sounds total juice-a-rama just playing the instrument with its internal speakers on, especially its Rhodes, which I can't really seem to leave alone. Stereo is a proven concept that works. Using the L1, "stereo" is a bigger concept and best realized in a fully-L1-equipped ensemble. This is better than normal L-R stereo. While we would all appreciate a doubling of L1 sales (you need two for stereo), few keyboard players I can think of (including yours truly) is willing to fork out the money or want to schlep the extra gear. Most load-ins are hard enough as it is. Plus, stereo becomes marginal with distance and it gets you away from the localization feature; "your sound comes from where you play". This works very well, especially in the ensemble configuration. And so, mono it is for most of us.

Most pianos have a GM piano that is normally mono. The PM3 has the original mono-based "Real Piano" left over from the Pro2 predecessor (I own one of these, love it live). I have been using and recommending to visiting players this patch on the PM3. There is also a mono piano patch on the Yamaha that works best. In the case of the PM3, I frankly like the mono-based Pro2 patch better, but it's a pop and r&r perspective; working best in the mix and all that. The big philosophical problem here is that piano makers seem to spend all their time and resources (and probably memory in the instrument) on the fancy stereo patches, leaving the mono ones as table scraps. I think all of us would appreciate some attention to a Simply Great Mono Piano for live shows.

About the only advice I can offer for using a stereo sample is to pan it all left or right and see how this works. A "Y" jack and the "R-Mono" jack will give you that familiar phasey sound, period. But there is a fundamental problem here. The right and left stereo recordings of a piano are made on different locations on the instrument. In stereo, this sounds lush and beautiful but in mono, it's sum-ugly. You can't, simply can't, avoid the physics of interference caused by combining two stereo recordings taken off different locations on the same piano.

I wish I had the magic wand to give you all for this recurring problem but the solution can only be solved by piano manufacturers. It's in the instrument, "Inter(ference) Inside" (TM?)

I don't know if piano manufacturers are checking out these discussions, but you would think that they would realize that (1) the gig is mono, (2) live players would appreciate a great mono piano sound and (3) sales might improve if they made this available. Are you out there? "SALES". Get it?

-- Cliff-at-Bose[1]

More from Cliff-at-Bose on the subject Cliff-at-Bose in the Bose Musicians Community Message Boards - link to search for "mono" from Cliff-at-Bose.

More...? This discussion goes on for days in the Bose Musicians Community Message Boards - link to search for "mono stereo keyboards" from everybody.