News - Why Digital Pianos Just Don't Rock! - Bosendorfer

Why Digital Pianos Just Don't Rock!

Many digital piano salesmen will say,

“Oh yeah, there's no difference between digital and acoustic pianos. Digital technology has come so far that it's virtually indistinguishable.”

This is garbage.

Without a doubt, there are certain advantages with a digital piano: it’s more portable and lighter, you can play with headphones, you can play the flute or the organ and other sounds, they're less expensive (up front anyway), and there is no tuning necessary. However, in the balance, all of those advantages simply don't outweigh acoustic pianos' superiority in touch and tone and durability and beauty (they are also cheaper in the long run, too!) There is no digital piano in existence that comes even close to a real (acoustic) piano, nor do I think there ever will be. Digital pianos are a counterfeit of the real thing!

Digital vs. acoustic piano touch

The touch of an acoustic piano is the lovely, perfect result of 300 years of collaboration between musicians and engineers. Wood, felt, leather, cloth, springs, screws, are all combined in a perfect recipe of mechanical and musical genius. The piano action has been refined and perfected since well before the American Revolution, and the result enables musical expression that far surpasses any other keyboard instrument. The musician is enabled to express himself or herself with sensitivity or power, anger or softness, joy or despair.

The mechanics of a digital piano, on the other hand, are comprised of a system of levers, springs, and weights that attempt to artificially simulate the real touch of an acoustic piano, but they unavoidably fall very short. The musician (and this is not just for fine, experienced musicians, but for beginners, as well!) is relegated to a sort of musical purgatory, in which he or she can approach expression, but is really caught in a limbo of robotic mimicry.

Digital vs. acoustic piano tone

I often hear some version of the following:

“I just was looking at digital pianos at another shop, and the salesman said that his digital piano was sampled off of a $150,000 Bosendorfer piano, and it's therefore virtually indistinguishable from the finest acoustic pianos in the world!”

While it may be true that a very fine acoustic piano was indeed sampled, the tone of a digital piano is nonetheless an artificial reproduction coming out of speakers.

The tone of an acoustic piano, however, is generated when a compressed felt hammer strikes a steel string under 160lbs of tension, which causes a maple bridge to transfer its vibration to a gigantic spruce soundboard, that is assembled and put under a specific "crown" stress by meticulous craftsmen. No speaker will ever compete with that! Again, this tonal difference is not just for advanced musicians to hear. Beginning musicians, even non-musicians, can easily hear the difference!

Is a digital piano really cheaper than an acoustic?

And then the final point that I'll make is is from a financial standpoint. They're actually not more expensive or a better deal. Less expensive digital's are not because of longevity. In terms of longevity, they have more in common with a DVD player, or television, or other consumer electronics where they are kind of a dinosaur within five years. They are also difficult to service. By ten years, they're just absolutely beyond help. By twelve years, they're on the fritz and they’re pretty much out. They’re pretty much done.

Whereas with pianos, your warranty alone is going to be anywhere from 10 to 15 years and then beyond that you've got, like I was talking about a minute ago, you've got another 10 years of excellent, excellent service. Have it refurbished, and now you've got another 25 years of excellent service. So if you look at it in terms of needing to replace it, replacing a digital piano every 10 to 12 years is not even a good deal from a financial standpoint; it's not a better value. In terms of resale, there's no comparison. An acoustic piano has excellent resale versus a digital piano. Who buys a used DVD player? Maybe some people, but, you pay 200 bucks for a DVD player and a couple years later it's going to be worth 20 bucks maybe. It's similar to that with digital pianos.

In conclusion, a real piano has a soul! Each piano is a unique artistic creation from the piano technicians that created it. Even a piano that is one serial number away from another will have a slightly different nuance and feel and it's a unique piece. A real artist or seeker of solace can not express on a digital the way you can on a piano.

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