I live in a condo and used to have an upright piano. However, my neighbors complain constantly and I had to give up practicing at home. Then a friend told me about Yamaha's AvantGrand, which claims to reproduce the touch and sound of Yamaha's 9-foot concert grand. I was initially skeptical but with my friend's persistence I gave it a try.
The keyboard's touch and feel is very close to what I expect of a 9-foot Yamaha concert grand piano. I recorded my playing on the piano's recording system. Listening back, I was amazed at how much life and breath there is in the music. A sound specialist then gave me a high-end headphone, Sennheiser HD 650, to try with. It sounds quite good, despite it lacks the resonance of a real acoustic piano and the high pitch sounds not rich enough. (You don't really need a high-end headphone like the Sennheiser. More on headphone selection below.)
Below is a review of my AvantGrand N1. (N1 is the most basic model)
Tuning and Keyboard Action : The good thing is this piano will not require tuning, ever! Since the keyboard action is a replica of a real concert grand, you can have a Yamaha certified technician to regulate the keyboard action to your liking, just like a real grand piano. Sound Color : The variety of sound color available on my AvantGrand N1 heard through a decent headphone is better than any upright I have ever played on (more about headphone below). Compared to a grand piano, however, the sound is not deep enough and quite bright. Note that I am comparing the sound from my AvantGrand N1 heard through a decent headphone. Below video demonstrate some of the sound color capable on an N1:
Escapement Mechanism : AvantGrand has the same escapement mechanism as a concert grand. This means you will feel a click at the bottom 1/4 of the key. Pedal Effects : AvantGrand replicates the same special pedal effects available on a concert grand. You can try various pedal depths and the piano will react as you expect on a real concert grand. Check out below video for demo of pedal effects.
Reverb : There are twenty levels of reverb, simulating different levels of 'dryness' or 'wetness'. Re-hold a Released Key : You can also re-hold a released key. This means Step 1) press full right pedal Step 2) play a note down in the bass register while keep the pedal depressed Step 3) release your finger from the bass note (keeping pedal depressed) Step 4) play something in the treble register (pedal still depressed) Step 5) release all keys from your fingers, but pedal still depressed Step 6) press silently the original bass note on Step 2) Step 7) keep your finger on that bass note, now release the pedal. You will hear the residue sound from bass note in Step 2).
Preparing for Concert Performance
I had practiced on AvantGrand exclusively for 2 weeks, and then I went to try the 9-foot concert grand at Four Seasons Centre for Performing Arts. I am happy to say that I needed no special adjustment in terms of touch and pedaling that are not expected. AvantGrand is close enough to a real 9-foot grand that I can comfortably transfer my playing from the AvantGrand to a real grand piano. It is perfect for home-use, taking up very little space and yet allows me to practice without disturbing anyone. Note:
the clips at top of this page is recorded with connecting my Yamaha N1 directly to my Zoom H4. This will be the same sound you hear using a decent headphone.
when you go try AvantGrand at a piano store, ask for a good headphone to try with. The cheap headphones do not do justice to the sound quality.
I decided to buy N1 because of 1) space 2) I practice 95% on headphone so N2 and N3's better sound system will not benefit me.
Selecting a HeadPhone for AvantGrand
if you were to buy a headphone, you should be aware that the sound differs greatly depending on the headphone you choose. You should test out the headphone on an AvantGrand before buying (which is what I did). Find a store that sells a variety of headphones and AdvantGrand.
Here is an experience from Charyum Park of Korea using an inappropriate headphone:
"I'm satisfied with Avantgrand's speaker sound but I don't like headphone sound. I think that the sound from speaker and headphone is different thing! Unlike the real piano sound, The sound from headphone decays too fast and there is no resonance. I maxed reverb value and that's not an resolution. I use Panasonic RP-HD10 headphone. http://www.panasonic.com/ca/consumer/accessories/headphones-headsets/headphones/rp-hd10.html"
Below forum gave a survey of various things to look for when buying a headphone for AdvantGrand: http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/2694136/avantgrand-headphone-sound-is-bad-i-want-to-improve.html#Post2694136
AvantGrand N1 (the piano I got at home)