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Could the Steinway Spirio Ever Become Obsolete?

by Stephen N. Reed


Spirio, the first self-playing piano that measured up to Steinway’s exacting standards, rolled out in 2016.  The Wall Street Journal captured some of its essence well:

Spirio at a party
The Steinway Spirio uses cutting audio technology to create a futuristic self-playing piano with high resolution recording capacity.

“An uncannily accurate method of recording key strikes (with more than 1,000 velocity gradations) and the nuances of pedaling render the flat, soulless quality of playing pianos obsolete.”

But could the 21st Century Spirio itself become obsolete in time?

Patrick Elisha, of the M. Steinert & Sons’ Education Department, notes that Steinway has included key, sophisticated features which indicate that they built the Spirio to last:

  • One main goal was to be able to emulate performances, present or future, with sufficient detail that they would be indistinguishable from a live performance.
  • The sensitivity levels built into each key are quite subtle. Can you imagine playing a single key at 1020 levels, sampled 800 times per second and in excess of the music industry’s 128 level MIDI standard. Clearly, Steinway set a stake that its investment in repertoire development would not change.
The separated iPad interface is regularly updated, thereby helping to ensure that the Spirio is current and functioning well.

Tech factors geared to forestall Spirio obsolescence

This nuance and sensitivity in action dynamics, combined with 256 levels of pedal positioning, form the backbone of the Steinway Spirio performance library.  There is widespread agreement that going beyond these specifications would yield no perceptible difference.

For on-board recording with Spirio|R,  the same principle prevails: the extraordinary capacity to capture over 1,020 levels of dynamic range and 256 pedal movements, sampled 100 times per second.  Other tech factors that should forestall Spirio becoming obsolete include:

  • The Steinway Spirio playback record/edit system is controlled via Steinway’s specially-developed interface of a Spirio App on an Apple iPad. These are both included in the purchase of every Steinway Spirio piano. Training is provided, though little is needed, due to the ease of use of Spirio technology.
  • Importantly, the Apple iPad interface is completely separated from what Steinway & Sons’s senior vice president calls the Spirio’s “industrial hardware.” This separation of the Spirio’s software and hardware is a breakthrough in self-playing piano design and safeguards the Spirio from ever becoming obsolete. The iPad utilizes a Bluetooth connection to control the piano.
  • Updates to the Spirio App and Apple’s iPad are routine, but the piano’s playback hardware was built to match Steinway’s own manufacturing, quality and durability standards.  The Spirio’s App and Apple iPad interface will naturally change and improve as software technology does, but the hardware in the piano is built to last just as the Steinway piano is.
Photo of Spirio iPad
Spirio features the Steinway Musical Library which is updated monthly with more pieces, both classical and contemporary.

Designed for Longevity and Serviceability

However, because the Spirio’s hardware features all separate components, they can be repaired or replaced as necessary.  Thus, if a single component of the hardware fails, the piano is not obsolete. Just as with other Steinway parts, individual components can be replaced if they wear out.

  • The Steinway Musical Library catalogue is regularly updated with 3-4 hours of new content added monthly.  Far from becoming obsolete, this catalogue is alive and growing, with pieces by both modern Steinway Artists and historic performances by “Steinway Immortals.”
  • After 5 years in the market, each Spirio contains and will play the entire Spirio catalogue. SpirioCast is coming soon and is the world’s first high resolution piano broadcast on a Steinway. SpirioCast features unique Steinway curated events, master classes with Steinway Artists, and the sharing of performances in real time between remote instruments. This will allow for a broad range of distance learning opportunities and remote musical practice sessions–all from one’s own home.
  • Steinway’s dedication to design and durability informs the Spirio’s development and separates it from every player system on the market.
The Spirio: The 21st Century Self-Playing Piano

Spirio’s technology a natural fit for Steinway

Patrick notes that Steinway & Sons has always been at the forefront of piano engineering and technology; these are areas that they have been comfortable working in for many years.

“Steinway is the catalyst and champion of modern piano technology,” explains Patrick. “The Spirio was engineered for the long haul, not for a price point.”

Steinway’s mission remains “Build the best piano possible.” Steinway Spirio is a continuation of this nearly 170-year mission.

For more information about the Steinway Spirio, see our article Is the Spirio Worth It?

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