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The Tings were ready to move beyond the upright piano they started with. We spoke to the family recently about their experience with M. Steinert & Sons, Steinway, the Spirio, and life as a musical parent. We hope you enjoy this wonderful addition to our new Steinway Story series.
The Tings selected a new Steinway & Sons Spirio Model B piano.
by Stephen N. Reed
When you say the words “player piano,” your mind probably goes back to an older upright from the early part of the 20th century. Such early player pianos reached their greatest popularity n the early 1920s, as radio sets and record players grew in popularity. But for several decades, player pianos were the early 20th century’s home entertainment center.
To get a feel for the original player piano again and to see how they work, go to this video.
Today’s modern player piano is a huge advancement from the early player pianos. Gone are the old piano rolls and in their place, digital recordings continue the tradition of a player piano being not only playable but an entertainment center with thousands of recording recordings.
This digital technology adds to the price of a new grand piano, so making the best choice for your home is essential. No one wants to have buyer’s remorse regarding such a significant purchase.
M. Steinert & Sons has been helping customers find the best piano for them for over 160 years. We’ve been tracking the modern player piano models from the earliest player grand piano models to today’s Steinway & Sons’ Spirio. We can answer your questions when it comes to the modern player piano revolution and its current models.
In a recent interview, M. Steinert President Emeritus Paul Murphy traced the beginnings of the earliest player grand pianos sold by M. Steinert in the early part of the 20th century.
“At that time, Aeolian had a pneumatic ‘pumper’ player that used pedals to move air through the device,” notes Paul. “These were usually uprights although some were grands. The original players only played about 65 notes and there was no ’nuance’ to the notes. Think off and on.”
But as time went on, Paul says that Aeolian developed “reproducer” mechanisms that could reproduce the loud and soft play of the original performer.
“Later models with a “B” drawer could accommodate long-playing rolls and some included an electric clock which would activate the mechanism every hour between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.” says Paul. “The piano would play about two minutes of music appropriate to the hour. I thought of it as a sort of ship’s clock with music instead of bells. M. Steinert sold all of these.”
The 21st century player piano has much more nuance and other capabilities than the player grand pianos of the early 20th century. By the end of this article, you will understand better the 21st century aspects of Steinway & Sons’ Spirio.
Steinway & Sons’ decision to get into the modern player piano market in 2015 with its Spirio signaled that the modern player piano was not a flash in the pan. With its ability to be both a fully-functioning piano combined with high-resolution playback and recording experience, modern player pianos like Spirio redefined the market.
Steinway & Sons was taking a risk, as its reputation was built on handcrafted pianos of exceptional musical quality, not blending technology and traditional piano design. Would Spirio be a good fit in a player piano market?
On the other hand, having the latest digital technology plus a handcrafted Steinway all in one package could be the complete package for many 21st Century piano buyers.
Plus, for those who might not play the piano but wanted the combination of the high-definition, 5,000+ recordings audio library plus a top-quality, handcrafted Steinway piano was an appealing combination.
Visiting family members and friends who play the piano or who simply share a love of exceptional music recordings can enjoy hours of the high-resolution recordings on Spirio with the homeowner.
For all these potential customers, Steinway & Sons’ engineers worked to create in Spirio a modern player piano that was user-friendly and which featured adaptable technology that guarded against becoming obsolete.
Steinway engineers included key, sophisticated features which indicate that they built an improved player piano for today’s buyer:
Steinway engineers wanted Spirio to create performances, now or in future recordings, that would be as much like the original performances as possible. As a result, when George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” was selected, Spirio can present it exactly as Gershwin would play it–right on the Spirio owner’s keyboard.
The sensitivity levels built into each key on a Spirio are quite subtle. The music industry’s 128-level MIDI standard is well surpassed by a single Spirio key played at 1020 levels, sampled 800 times per second–yielding recordings playing at the highest resolution on the market. There is widespread agreement that going beyond these specifications would yield no perceptible difference in resolution.
Spirio’s sensitivity in action dynamics, combined with 256 levels of pedal positioning, form the backbone of the Steinway Spirio performance library.
Just as a Steinway & Sons piano’s design allows for a wider range of color for performers to pour themselves into on stage, Spirio’s nuanced proprietary data file format captures the nuances and full range of emotion from each artist’s level of performance for the benefit of the Spirio owner.
Spirio’s ability to replicate smaller increments of velocity on proportional pedaling and the hammers gives it the edge over other player pianos in the market.
Spirio’s Steinway Musical Library catalog, now over 5,000 pieces, is regularly updated with 3-4 hours of new content added monthly. Steinway guards against a music catalog that becomes obsolete by freshening it with Steinway Artists who perform both classical and contemporary pieces.
In the same catalog, a music lover can find classical works by Steinway Immortals like Sergei Rachmaninoff and modern jazz Steinway Artists like Aaron Diehl.
Spirio’s easy-to-use iPad interface will change as software technology does, but the hardware in the piano is solid. Spirio’s hardware features are separate, detachable components, they can be repaired or replaced as necessary.
Spirio engineers realized early on that people tend to use only those technologies that are easily learned and used. Piano consultants at Steinway dealers regularly teach new Spirio owners how to navigate the detachable iPad interface with ease in a single visit.
SpirioCast was added in November 2021. SpirioCast features Steinway curated events, master classes with Steinway Artists, and the sharing of international performances in real time between remote instruments.
This technology allows for a broad range of distance learning opportunities and remote musical practice sessions–enlivening one’s living room with exceptional educational and entertainment experiences.
Steinway envisions a SpirioCast community that can enjoy a concert or class at the same time, with a performer or teacher channeling their music directly through thousands of Spirio keyboards simultaneously.
Sometimes a piano company will add a few new bells and whistles to an existing model without going straight to the heart of what buyers want. Steinway & Sons’ engineers took another tact. They wanted Spirio to be not only different but unique in the modern player piano market.
As a result, they focused on three critically important areas. They were willing to come into the market later with Spirio until they solved these two focused on two important areas to quickly become competitive in the modern player piano market.
First, they evolved and engineered the high-definition player hardware that is at the core of the Spirio playback experience.
Second, they focused on creating a large, high-definition performance library. One of the most important features of the Spirio is in the resolution available for its digital recordings. Steinway & Sons’ data file format captures the nuances and full range of emotions from each artist’s level of performance.
Third, they waited to rollout Spirio until they had conducted sufficient testing on the detachable iPad interface. Having a user-friendly, detachable interface is important, as people will not use an interface that is difficult to use.
More recently, the introduction of SpirioCast in November 2021 gives Spirio users a whole new high-tech educational and entertainment experience in their living rooms around the world, creating a new community for music lovers.
SpirioCast’s development demonstrated Spirio’s versatility and future potential as an adaptable, versatile instrument that would have future applications for families, as well as individual artists and students.
For the highest possible resolution musical library, ease of use, and a handcrafted grand piano, Steinway & Sons’ Spirio is the total package. But is the added cost to upgrade to a Spirio worth it to you? And will Spirio’s technology ever become obsolete? To learn more read the following articles:
Could the Steinway Spirio ever become obsolete?
By Stephen N. Reed
For over a century, player pianos have had the remarkable ability to play without a pianist sitting at the bench. The earliest mechanical systems used a combination of industrial era techniques, ranging from pumps to levers to pumps to cue each note from holes in paper rolls.
Fast forward several decades. A new player piano renaissance was coming into being. In the 1980s and 1990s, several companies began digitizing the player piano experience.
The Yamaha Disklavier, the PianoDisc and QRS systems were the main players. In these systems, a series of solenoids are activated under the keys, a real revolution in player piano technology. In 2016, the Steinway Spirio entered the player market as well.
The first player pianos lacked dynamic range. Today’s player pianos have surprising nuance and exceptional dynamic range due to the new technology available.
If you are potentially interested in a player piano experience, then understanding the different modern player piano systems is key to making the best possible piano selection. After all, the addition of a player piano system is a significant investment, and the last thing you want is to choose a system that doesn’t meet your needs.
Long before acoustic piano companies began to embrace digital technologies, we at M. Steinert built our reputation on helping customers select the best piano for them.
For an increasing number of our customers, that means including a player piano system. As a result, we are constantly learning about the various playing piano options as they roll out.
By the end of this article, you’ll understand how player pianos work, what they cost, and will also be introduced to Steinway’s Spirio player piano, which now accounts for over half of Steinway’s sales today.
QRS and PianoDisc are the main competitors in the custom installation world. While in macro similar, they each have their unique attributes, installation procedures, and technologies. The most obvious differences are in their user interface and the music library.
Either system can be added to almost any acoustic piano not over 20 years old (this is a recommendation due to increased wear and tear, not an imposed restriction). Adding one to a piano costs between $7,000 and $11,000, depending on the models and options selected.
Adding a player system involves shipping the piano to a qualified installer to make the modifications needed to install and test the system. Player system installations should not be attempted by an inexperienced piano tech.
Here is a look at other similarities and differences between PianoDisc and QRS:
QRS uses fully encased solenoids with Teflon impregnated solenoid plungers to deliver control over the range of motion. A longer plunger and solenoid deliver greater accuracy and the necessary dynamism to support this feature.
PianoDisc solenoids are shorter than those on QRS, which some feel reduces performance due to the physics of solenoid engagement.
Both QRS and PianoDisc allow upgrades to both their hardware and software components. The latest PianoDisc system is called the Prodigy and the most recent update to QRS is the PNO3 (Pianomation 3).
QRS uses an embedded web app system, where you effectively ‘login’ to the piano, and once connected have full control of the piano from any connected device.
In the first year of QRS ownership you access to all l 15,000 songs from the QRS library – which are pre-loaded into the system. After one year you get to keep 1500 without additional payment–and you can order more through the app.
Over 4,000 songs in all music categories have been recorded for PianoDisc. You can download music from PianoDisc’s music store via iQ.
Both the QRS PNO3 and PianoDisc iQ systems are retrofit and can be easily installed in any piano.
Both systems allow songs/tracks to have additional audio accompaniment. The balance between the piano and this additional audio can be mixed from the app controls.
With PianoDisc, music is mostly purchased as an entire album, while QRS allows users to purchase singles.
Demand for the modern player piano experience continued to grow. Yamaha rolled out their Disklavier player piano in 1987. See the article at the end of this article for details on the Disklavier and how it compares to the Steinway Spirio.
After several years of research and engineering, Steinway introduced the Spirio High-Definition Player Piano in 2016. Spirio set out to redefine the player piano experience in terms of both quality and ease of use.
In addition to having the player piano technology installed in the factory before the sale, three additional factors help to set them apart:
The cost to add Spirio’s Playback system technology to a Steinway & Sons’ Model M or Model B grand is about $27,500. To further add the Record technology is an additional $15,000.
In 2019, Steinway introduced the Spirio | r, allowing the capture, archival, and editing of live performances in high-definition. Spirio | r offers exclusive high-resolution recording, preserving all the music: every nuanced dynamic level from infinitesimal gradations of hammer velocity and every shade of resonance from proportional pedaling.
The Spirio | r adds a total of $45,000 to the new Steinway Grand Model M, B, or D (the Model D Spirio is only available in the Spirio | r version).
Continued interest in add-on player piano systems like QRS and PianoDisc, as well as brisk sales of Yamaha Disklavier and Steinway’s Spirio, are proof positive that modern player pianos are here to stay.
The fact that well over half of new Steinway sales are for Spirios confirms the increasing popularity of this intriguing combination of classic acoustic design and modern-day digital technology.
At M. Steinert, we encourage you to try all four major player piano systems before purchasing. Investigate PianoDisc, QRS, Yamaha’s Disklavier, and Steinway’s Spirio. Only then will you be able to make the most informed choice for your modern player piano.
Make an appointment to discuss these options with one of our seasoned piano consultants at M. Steinert. In the meantime, read more about the differences between Disklavier and Spirio in this article:
Spirio vs. Disklavier: Which is the better 21st century self-playing piano for you
by Stephen N. Reed
Steinway’s Spirio has established itself as the premier 21st century player piano. It has done so through the following five attributes:
For purposes of this article, we will be referring to the latest form of Spirio, the Spirio | r, which provides for the latest technology in recording, editing, and sharing as well as playing.
By the end of this article, you will understand the 5 “must know” facts about Steinway’s Spirio and how each contributes to the overall Spirio experience.
New high-performance audio technology may be fascinating to those who follow the latest breakthroughs. But the average user needs to know that they can use it–easily–or many of them simply won’t use it.
Steinway engineers wanted to make sure that their 21st Century player piano not only produced the highest resolution audio recordings available; they held back the release of the Spirio until they made the new technology easily accessible to the player.
Their answer was a separate interface, one already familiar to many Spirio buyers: an Apple iPad interface. As a result, an average person with little technology experience can access a selection of songs from the Steinway proprietary music catalog, easily entertaining themselves or a gathering of friends after dinner.
With the advent of Spirio | r, that same simple interface allows recording, editing, and saving of piano recordings.
Moreover, thanks to the Apple iPad interface, Spirio only takes one step to access the piano’s technology, while others in the industry can take up to four steps and tend towards multi-layer confusing menus.
By making Spirio’s technology easily accessible, Steinway’s engineers have effectively removed barriers that would have diminished a buyer’s enjoyment of this high-tech self-playing piano.
The following four Spirio facts are favorably impacted by this first and most important fact: a new buyer can learn how to use the Steinway Spirio with little or no training. .
Steinway’s engineers understand the incredible subtlety that goes into the Steinway sound with its palette of wide-ranging color.
One of their priorities in developing the Spirio | r was to emulate performances with a level of detail that would allow recordings to be indistinguishable from a live performance. This is an amazing listening experience.
The sensitivity levels these Steinway engineers built into each key are quite subtle. A single key can be played at 1020 levels, sampled 800 times per second and in excess of the music industry’s 128 level MIDI standard.
This nuance and sensitivity in action dynamics, combined with 256 levels of pedal positioning, form the backbone of the Steinway Spirio performance library.
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. This is the highest of high-definition performance capture quality. This is only available on the Steinway Spirio | r.
At no charge, Steinway gives Spirio buyers a collection of 4,300+ Steinway Artist songs. This Spirio musical catalog contains not only vintage, digitally-remastered classical and jazz recordings by Steinway Immortals like Rachmaninoff, Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Duke Ellington.
But Steinway keeps current by including in the same catalog many new recordings by contemporary jazz and classical Steinway Artists like Aaron Diehl, Robert, Glasper, Lang Lang, and Yuja Wang. Steinway adds 40-50 new high-resolution recordings to Spirio’s collection every month at no additional charge.
These recordings have such high definition that the effect is that the Steinway Artist is being channeled directly through the moving keys on the keyboard. Imagine experiencing George Gershwin actually performing “Rhapsody in Blue” with the same keystrokes and volume as when he recorded it decades ago.
The highest-definition performance capture possible is what makes the Steinway Artist collection unique.
The Spirio’s live performance, high-performance capture and playback are possible thanks to years of Steinway engineers working to perfect it before releasing it to the public. Spirio | r is a revolution in player piano artistry and technology.
When a piano student can record and edit their own recordings with the same high-resolution quality as a Steinway Artist receives from recording in a professional studio, we are in exciting, uncharted waters.
Think of it: A student can develop his or her recording and editing skills, sharing them with a teacher or friend. This can accelerate their piano playing skills, not only because they can hear where they need to improve but because of the added motivation from sharing their efforts with others.
Spiriocast came into being during the pandemic, a time when many people were looking for new ways to enjoy live music. What if today’s best piano performers could perform live, right in your home, whether for an intimate concert for your family or a group of friends?
And what if they played right on your very own piano?
Spiriocast was launched for the first time on October 25, 2021. That day, Steinway broadcast a performance by Steinway Artist Kris Bowers from a piano in California to pianos in its dealerships across the world, including M. Steinert & Sons.
The Spirio | r captures high-definition performances via the iPad interface. A cutting-edge, high-definition sensor system on the Spirio | r captures the movements of the Spirio | r’s keys and pedals, recreating an authentic acoustic experience for each of the Spirios participating in the cast.
Each performer’s audio and video is captured through each Spirio’s iPad, which broadcasts together with the music. The accompanying video of the Spiriocast performer adds greatly to the experience, but the incredible, live clarity of the music is the main attraction as it comes into your own living room and piano.
Spiriocast allows you to enjoy live performances, a masterclass, or simply the live playing of a friend or family member–from anywhere in the world.
Steinway’s great investment of time and energy into the Spirio line has clearly paid off, as now one-third of all Steinway sales are Spirios. Just like pianos became the fashionable way for Americans to make their parlors the center of their home, their entertainment center, Steinway has provided in the Spirio | r.
Here is a grand piano that is up to the challenge of providing stimulating education and entertainment for the 21st century family.
If ever there were a musical instrument and a piece of cutting-edge technology that you have to experience in person, the Spirio is it. Come to one of M. Steinert & Sons’ two showrooms in Newton and Boston to see, hear, and touch for yourself the evolution of the piano.
In the meantime, learn more about the Spiro by reading these articles:
Could the Steinway Spirio ever become obsolete?
by Stephen N. Reed
For over 160 years, M. Steinert & Sons has seen the latest developments as new pianos have been introduced to the public. In all those years, Steinway’s Spirio | r has been the most impressive and exciting new development. Spirio | r is a revolution in player piano artistry and technology thanks to its easy-to-use ways to record, edit, and share piano performances.
What makes the Spirio | r special is its high-resolution, live performance capture and playback. This capturing of live performances is especially remarkable in that the individual playing the Spirio can record and edit their own recordings with the same high-resolution quality as a Steinway artist receives from recording in a professional studio.
Jonathan Kotulski, a piano technician at M. Steinert & Sons, describes the unique experience the Spirio | r provides:
“It’s fun for the person playing because it’s a kind of Do It Yourself project with the recording and editing the Spirio | r provides,” Jonathan notes. “Obviously, you’re not going to have a team of audio engineers in your home like a professional recording artist would have in a studio. However, the Spirio | r’s technology makes it accessible to you.”
As a result, you can develop your audio recording and editing skills, sharing your recordings with a teacher, colleague, or friend.
Plus, when you want to take a break from your own piano recording and editing, Spirio features a unique and growing library of over 4,000 high-definition performances, some digitally-remastered recordings from Steinway Artists of yesteryear and others from today,
But how does the Spirio | r actually work? This article will explore this remarkable piano model–how it works, its impressive capacity, and its high-resolution quality. Steinway’s goal was to enter the player piano market and quickly dominate it by delivering exceptional new technical features without compromising the instrument’s renowned Steinway tonal range and color.
Steinway’s great investment of time and energy into the Spirio line has clearly paid off, as now one-third of all Steinway sales are Spirios.
Yamaha began to develop some early player piano models in the 1980s. Then they created a new model, known as the Disklavier MX80 series, created in the early 1990s. Like the prior models, the MX80 series was recorded on floppy disks and recorded performances in a Yamaha-proprietary file format.
This system was a forerunner of the subsequent industry-standard file format known as Standard MIDI Files. Technical innovations found on these early model instruments included hammer sensors for recording, as well as recording and playback of incremental pedal data on the Yamaha Disklavier “wagon” Grand (featuring a large, rolling external control unit).
After rigorous research and testing, Spirio’s playback edition first entered the market in 2015. In order to achieve high-resolution recording, Spirio had 1020 levels of key and hammer velocity, along with 256 increments of positional pedaling.
Then, in 2019, Steinway introduced the Spirio | r, which is capable of both reproducing and recording high-resolution piano music for later playback. The key here is “high-resolution.” In fact, the Spirio | r features the highest resolution for recordings by player pianos today.
How did Spirio | r arrive at this level of high performance? Happily, the engineers involved in creating Spirio have explained the essence of the process.
IPS is an engineering firm that worked with Steinway on Spirio. They explain how Spirio’s state-of-the-art high-resolution audio is made manifest.
IPS notes that their hardware and software engineers carefully added to the traditional Steinway grand piano a high-performance, embedded control system, consisting of distributed microcontrollers networked for the high-speed movement of data.
These controllers provide precise timing in a multi-step note-driven process, producing accurate timing and dynamics of note events. This process allows Spirio to reproduce the nuances of the original performance.
Additionally, hammer velocity and proportional pedaling are monitored hundred of times per second. The high-resolution recording hardware captures the artist’s performance, thereby ensuring the most accurate reproduction to date of dynamics, timing, and pedal motions.
Multiple self-calibration processes allow the control system to adjust its note-driven waveforms, maintaining consistent sound quality and precision.
For more detail on IPS’s engineering work on Spirio, click here.
All of this is extraordinarily advanced, 21st Century audio technology, software development, and electronic engineering. It is designed to produce the high-resolution, nuanced sound any audiophile seeks. This level of high-resolution technology is needed to record a Spirio player’s exact, subtle, soft and loud key strikes.
Whereas Yamaha’s Disklavier library often relies on low-resolution data files, Spirio’s entire library is recorded at the highest resolution possible. Steinway has created a proprietary data file format that captures the nuances and full range of emotion from each artist’s level of performance, resulting in a heightened level of playback and recording.
Spirio | r’s nuanced playback and recording come from a combination of both the proprietary data file format, along with Spirio’s ability to replicate smaller increments of velocity on both the hammers and proportional pedaling.
This technology captures a range of subtlety and nuance that, before now, has not been possible. Spirio | r allows the player to experience that same range in their own recordings.
Clearly, today’s Spirio | r is an impressive blend of traditional craftsmanship and state-of-the-art, high-resolution technology.
However, if such an instrument is difficult to use, all that superior technology will come to naught. Part of the opportunity Steinway saw was to make Spirio easy to use for the average person.
Spirio’s iPad interface is one everyone can learn to use. The elegant interface has made this 21st Century self-playing piano extraordinarily popular.
A person with very little experience with technology can suddenly entertain dinner guests like a tech pro, simply by accessing a selection of songs from the Steinway proprietary music catalog. With the advent of Spirio | r, that same person can record, edit, save, and send friends their own latest piano recordings.
Best of all, Spirio only takes one step to access the piano’s technology, while others in the industry can take up to four steps.
“Spirio’s simplicity is a virtue that removes barriers, enabling pianists of all ages to engage with its software through an iPad Pro,” notes Patrick Elisha of the M. Steinert & Sons Education Department. “Whether studying and improving upon one’s playing or capturing a special performance in the home or concert setting, Spirio | r captures piano playing in a new and dynamic recording medium that will influence the way that we learn and experience piano playing for years to come.”
The Spirio | r is another example of Steinway’s commitment to easy-to-use technology. The Spirio system is operated through the same Steinway Spirio App, which detects when connected to a Spirio | r piano and provides a seamless recording interface that is both intuitive and easy to use.
In addition, Spirio | r features connectivity options through the internet, WiFi, USB, Bluetooth, MIDI, and HDMI, allowing for exceptional interoperability.
Steinway & Sons embraces innovation at the company’s core. In October 2021, Steinway announced a bold new feature on new Spirios: Spiriocast. In a nutshell, Spiriocast allows multiple Spirios to connect for live performances anywhere in the world. A top piano performer could be playing at a concert hall in Sydney, Australia, while you enjoy the performance with friends in your home.
But this is not simply a remote broadcast, as you might experience on television. The piano performer’s music is channeled directly through your Spirio keyboard, bringing you a more enlivening, intimate, interactive experience.
Imagine pressing a single key on a piano, and simultaneously, across the world, that same key moved on hundreds or even thousands of pianos – that is the magic of Steinway Spiriocast.
Video of the performance is remotely relayed as well, but the main attraction here is the stunning clarity of the music, since it is live, coming from your piano, right in your own living room.
Whether it’s a masterclass by a world-renowned teacher, or a performance by a friend, family member, or artist from anywhere in the world, Spiriocast adds some incredible possibilities.
As with the rest of Spirio’s technological innovations, Spiriocast is easy to use, as demonstrated by Boston-area groups successfully linking up to Spiriocast performances.
At M. Steinert & Sons, our goal has always been to help customers find the best piano for them. Increasingly, we find ourselves fielding questions about the Spirio, especially the Spirio | r. Prospective buyers appreciate Spirio | r’s potential for helping students and others with their development as a musician, along with the exceptional high-performance audio and video entertainment options it offers.
For the curious, the best way to learn more about the Spirio | r revolution is to come into one of our showrooms in Boston and Newton to try it for yourself. Our seasoned sales consultants can walk you through the easy-to-use interface and demonstrate the full capacity of this modern player piano.
Meantime, read more about the Spirio from these additional articles:
Could the Steinway Spirio ever become obsolete?
by Stephen N. Reed
What if today’s best piano performers could perform live, right on your piano?
This is the high-resolution promise of Spiriocast, a new technology that connects Steinway & Sons Spirio | r pianos in real-time.
Imagine pressing a single key on a piano, and simultaneously, across the world, that same key moved on hundreds or even thousands of pianos – that is the power of Steinway Spiriocast.
Video of the performance is relayed as well, but the main attraction here is the stunning clarity of the music, since it is live, coming from your piano, right in your own living room.
Whether it’s a masterclass by a world-renowned teacher, or a performance by a friend, family member, or artist from anywhere in the world, Spiriocast adds some incredible possibilities.
For the first time, on October 25, 2021, Steinway broadcast a performance by Steinway Artist Kris Bowers from a piano in California to pianos in its dealerships across the world. With this, a new era of piano performance possibilities began.
Spiriocast is a new streaming technology whereby musicians can capture a live performance on their Spirio and share it with others virtually. Simply put, Spiriocast allows a performer to replicate his performance, in real-time, between Spirio pianos.
But we’re not talking only one-to-one live music sharing. Any number of Spirio users can join in on the streaming that carries music from a single piano performer’s Spirio. As a result, this concert of the future will eventually form a high-resolution, live music community of thousands of Spirio owners.
People understand the streaming aspect of Spiriocast. However, the actual music being played on one’s Spirio needs a bit of description.
The ability to originate a Spiriocast is a feature of the new Spirio | r piano. Spirio | r allows you to record, playback, edit or save performances through the accompanying iPad.
A cutting-edge, high-definition sensor system on the Spirio | r captures the movements of the Spirio | r’s keys and pedals, recreating an authentic acoustic experience for each of the Spirios participating in the cast. On all Steinway Spirio pianos receiving the cast.
Additionally, each performer’s audio and video are captured through each Spirio’s iPad, which broadcasts together with the music.
When looking for the best option for a self-playing piano these days, often you’ll hear it boiled down to Yamaha’s Disklavier and Steinway’s Spirio. Both have their strengths. Recent innovations in communication technology have made it possible to expand the possibilities of the self-playing piano.
You want a self-playing piano that gives you and your family options, in addition to the ability to record your own music or draw on the increasing number of high-resolution pieces in the Steinway Artist audio library. Spiriocast adds a whole new element to Steinway’s content library.
Steinway already offered a growing Spirio music library including thousands of high-resolution Steinway Artist recordings. That allows the magic of Steinway Immortals like classical composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff or jazz legend George Gershwin to be channeled through any Steinway Spirio piano.
Spiriocast brings unprecedented intimacy to live piano performances by both mega-star professional musicians, and by friends and family in the Spirio community.
“The degree of intimacy we can experience with other people live, at long distance, through a musical instrument and remote screen was amazing,” notes Katherine Murphy, Director of Strategic Operations for M. Steinert & Sons. Katherine has spearheaded M. Steinert’s participation with the very first Spiriocasts and tests this year.
“When my colleague, Steve Hauk, and I sat in our comfortable little seating area in our Boston showroom by the Spirio | r, the test cast really did create the feeling that the pianist was right there WITH us, playing THAT piano,” Katherine notes.
Steinway’s newly-launched series of Live Spiriocast concerts, culminating this year with an upcoming holiday concert from the artist’s own home, have shown an ability to experiment with format and to deepen the intimacy of the experience.
“The most recent Spiriocast with Steinway Artist Lee Musiker’s performance taught me so much, as he introduced each piece, highlighting interesting information about the composer and also his own history with the piece and why he selected it,” says Katherine. “He was so engaging–I got shivers watching from our Boston space, as he played OUR Spirio piano!”
Why not come into one of our showrooms and see a Steinway & Sons Spirio self-playing piano for yourself. See if you’d like to become part of the 21st Century’s new live music community. And for more information about Spirio, read the following articles:
by Stephen N. Reed
Much has been written about the Steinway Spirio’s musical and entertainment value in the home. For many thousands of satisfied owners, the Spirio has reclaimed the piano’s historic place in the center of the home. For good reason, nearly half of new Steinway pianos purchased today are Spirios.
The Spirio provides hours of practice on a high-quality piano, as well as the joy of perfecting a piano piece. Now, with the latest high resolution technology, Spirio’s allow their owners to play, record, and soon participate in remote performances and masterclasses.
But what about the use of a Spirio in a school or institution of higher education? In this article, we will examine four reasons they should consider buying a Spirio.
For an institution like a fine arts department in a school or institution of higher education, grand pianos are among the top equipment assets as they are among the very few instruments a student cannot bring with them.
Choosing the right piano becomes a tremendously important decision, as it will be with your institution for many years.
The most critical factor regarding any institution’s consideration of purchasing a Spirio is the fact that it is designed and created by Steinway & Sons engineers and craftspeople. The handcrafted quality of a Steinway piano has made it a legendary brand, with a tone and touch that are unique in the world of music. Plus, they are built to last.
For institutions, a Steinway will be the longest-lasting equipment as well as the one with the lowest cost to maintain over time, as they are designed specifically for the rigors of this use. The approximate lifespan of a well- maintained Steinway piano in an institution is 40-50 years.
One is hard-pressed to find another instrument or piece of equipment at an institution with that kind of durability and cost-effectiveness.
Concert pianos tend to be cycled out of major concert use into a secondary performance or rehearsal role sooner than that.
Unlike other widely-used institutional equipment, pianos must accommodate a diverse range of playing or teaching styles and tastes. Steinway & Sons pianos are strongest in their versatility to fulfill this role in all academic spheres.
For generations, Steinway craftspeople have helped to build the company’s reputation. They are seen as legendary masters at their craft–any institution can feel proud to partner with such skill and passion.
Additionally, Steinway & Sons pianos are a perpetually positive force for recruitment of new faculty and students.
For example, institutions of higher education and private schools with Fine Arts programs may also have primary/secondary piano offerings that stretch far beyond those students whose focus is music.
As a result, a Steinway piano potentially impacts all students interested in taking piano or music lessons at a school.
For those students and faculty already immersed in music, many of them seek out schools with Steinway pianos. They are associated with a benchmark of excellence in education, instruction, and a commitment to providing the best equipment on which to learn.
In short, Steinway’s reputation can easily redound to a school and pay significant dividends in the form of student and faculty recruitment.
Remote learning is now a requirement for institutions in a post COVID-19 era, offering the ability to audition, study, and perform, with the unique SpirioCast technology soon allowing for the reception of live piano content, starting in November 2021.
This places Spirio in a perfect position to support higher education and musical institutions in offering more variety in its courses as well as offering recruitment to expand to previously inaccessible markets.
For example, Texas A&M University’s Commerce Department recently announced it has become an All-Steinway Spirio school and looks forward to utilizing Spirio’s remote learning capacities.
Spirio is a Steinway & Sons piano built with durability, ease of use, and lifetime updates in mind for the institutional market. Any institution investing in a Spirio is offering its constituents the finest equipment for the study of music and the performing arts. Other benefits include:
In order to meet the continuously evolving standards and career opportunities in the competitive workspace, institutions need musical equipment that meet modern, rigorous standards.
This same equipment must provide students with the most current methods of education and professional development–if those same students are going to compete later in their chosen career areas.
In a college or university music department, the pianos are a primary asset in attaining these goals, with Steinway’s Spirio being the only instrument to offer students the capability to record, edit, and playback captured piano playing, all in the highest resolution available today.
Spirio features the world’s highest resolution curated library of 4,300+ performances by classical, jazz, and contemporary Steinway Artists, free and updated monthly at no extra charge to students and faculty users.
Moreover, these students and faculty utilizing a Spirio at their school or a nearby musical institution will have access to the world’s highest resolution curated library of 4,300+ classical, jazz, and contemporary Steinway Artists, free and updated monthly at no extra charge for students’ access through their institutions.
Spirio also features advanced connectivity options, including HDMI output to broadcast to classroom projectors or other screens, as well as MIDI In and Out to connect with applications for notation, interactive learning, recording and more.
Spirio is this conduit to connecting music and the growing world of internet connectivity and technology enhanced learning.
The same self-playing piano that is at work in a morning remote learning or notation session with students in different locations can also be found later that same evening, adding to the entertainment at a fundraising event.
Supporters of your school will be intrigued by the quality and varying functions of Spirio, making it an easy conversation starter at school functions.
For development functions, a Spirio is fully capable of helping you with the following:
When one considers the different educational and development uses for a Steinway Spirio, a more versatile, harder working instrument would be difficult to imagine.
At M. Steinert & Sons, we have been helping schools, colleges, and universities across New England with their piano selections since 1860. Our seasoned salespersons have deep experience in education and music, enabling them to easily understand which options would work best for you.
Read more about Spirio in the articles below and consider a visit to one of M. Steinert’s two showroom locations in Boston and Newton. Or we would be glad to come to your campus first for an assessment of your school’s particular needs. Please fill out the form below so that we can get in touch with you.
Could the Spirio ever become obsolete?
How much does a Steinway Spirio cost?
by Stephen N. Reed
updated September 20, 2022
Player pianos have a long and storied past, going back to the 19th Century. What started as a novelty became a best-selling musical instrument. Just as the smart TV is the home entertainment center today, the player piano was the center of the home at the turn of the 20th Century. This was the golden age of player pianos.
The player piano continued its roll until the phonograph and radio came along in the 1920s. Those two inventions essentially wiped out the player piano.
Two generations later, in the 1980s, player pianos made a comeback, utilizing cassette-based players, followed by floppy disks, CDs, and now wireless self-playing pianos.
Modern player pianos can both record and playback performances. Yamaha’s Disklavier has been doing that for many years. The more recent entrant, Steinway’s Spirio | r, features a high-performance quality playback AND record system.
Plus, both have content libraries that are digitized from early 20th Century recordings of famous composers and pianists. We’ll take a look at this technology, along with other key similarities and differences between the Disklavier and Spirio below.
As Yamaha and Steinway & Sons have emerged as the two piano companies that have put the most significant investments into creating the 21 Century player piano, a closer look at both is helpful to any buyer looking into one.
In 1982, the Yamaha Corporation introduced the first Disklavier self-playing piano in Japan. In 1987, the first Disklavier was sold in the United States, the MX 100A, a studio model upright. Shortly after that, the first Disklavier grand, known as the Wagon Grand ( “Wagon” came from the large rolling cart required to hold the hardware) was rolled out.
A third early model, known as the MX80 series, was created in the early 1990s. Like the prior models, the MX80 series recorded on floppy disks and recorded performances in a Yamaha-proprietary file format.
This was a forerunner of the subsequent industry-standard file format known as Standard MIDI Files. Technical innovations found on these early model instruments included hammer sensors for recording, recording and playback of incremental pedal data on the Wagon Grand, and moving pedals during playback.
Since then, Disklavier has gone through many changes, including those in the chart below.
Spirio was a new direction for Steinway, which had staked its claim on the meticulous, handcrafted quality of its pianos, their unique tone and touch, and their preference among the vast majority of professional concert pianists.
Could a company steeped in high musical performance also develop a self-playing piano designed more for home entertainment?
Since introducing the standard Spirio Play model in 2015, Steinway has risen to the challenge, making sure that each part of Spirio was up to Steinway’s historic standards of quality. For example, a recording option was not originally available in Steinway Spirio pianos.
However, after significant research and development, in 2019 Steinway introduced the Spirio | r, which is capable of both reproducing and recording high performance piano music for later playback.
Similarly, while Disklavier has already implemented Remote Performance Technology, which grew in popularity for distance learning and remote performances during the pandemic, Steinway’s engineers the latest high-resolution Spirio | r recording technology in November 2021.
In the end, whichever one’s preference between the Disklavier and the Spirio, no one can question the financial and philosophical commitment of Steinway in their pursuit of creating the best 21st Century self-playing piano.
|Item||Yamaha Disklavier||Steinway Spirio|
|Approach to Player Piano Design||Yamaha C series||Steinway & Sons historical designs – adapted for the Spirio integration.|
|High Resolution||PRO models only||Yes|
|User Experience||Many complicated features–not easy||Easy|
|Separation of Core Player System From Rapidly-Changing User Interface||Average||Excellent|
|Soft Play and Repetition||Above average||Excellent|
|Remote Performance Technology||Yes||SpirioCast – Released in November 2021|
|Immunity to Line Voltage Variation||Above average||Excellent|
|Supports Recording||Standard, digital recording on all but low-end models||Spirio | r included the highest performance recording possible|
|Included Music||500 of 11,000+ pieces given at installation. More songs available at additional cost. Also, Disklavier Radio.||Complete 4,482 piece library given at installation. 3-4 hours of new music added free per month.|
|Proprietary Music Catalogue||Disklavier E3 Artists. Live video events available.||Steinway Artists. Spiriocast library growing|
|Quality of underlying instrument||Yamaha–manufactured in a production environment.||Steinway–handcrafted with over 100 craftspeople involved. Steinway tone and touch.|
|Cost||Ranges from $28,899–$225,000||Ranges from $113,700–$243,400|
Over the years, Disklavier models have utilized a range of devices that were used to operate the piano. These included a control box mounted on the piano, infrared handheld and Wi-Fi controllers.
A variety of devices have been used to control the instrument, including buttons on a control box mounted on the piano, a Java app running via a personal computer, and other apps that run on IOS-based devices.
All Disklaviers have an option for remote control. In most cases, this has been a line-of-sight remote that uses infrared signals (much like a typical TV remote).
Disklavier PRO models have a detached interface. Disklaviers are equipped with non-contact optical sensors but also incorporate continuous grayscale shutters on the hammers to measure their speed and distance.
The addition of continuous grayscale shutters for each hammer allows the user to natively record and playback high-resolution performances with 1023 levels of key and hammer velocity as well as 256 increments of positional pedaling using Yamaha’s proprietary XP format.
Spirio has 1020 levels of key and hammer velocity, along with 256 increments of positional pedaling. The Spirio system is operated through the Steinway Spirio App, which provides a seamless interface to the piano and is both intuitive and easy to use.
Whereas Yamaha’s Disklavier system relies on MIDI data, low resolution data files, Spirio is recording at the highest resolution possible. Steinway has created a proprietary data file format that captures the nuances and full range of emotion from each artist’s level of performance, resulting in a heightened level of playback.
The Spirio’s nuanced playback comes from a combination of both the proprietary data file format, along with the Spirio’s ability to replicate smaller increments of velocity on both the hammers and proportional pedaling.
This recent technology captures a range of subtlety and nuance that, before now, has not been possible.
The advent of a detachable interface, one everyone can learn to use in an hour on a familiar iPad or equivalent has made the 21st Century self-playing piano extraordinarily popular.
Someone with very little experience with technology can suddenly entertain dinner guests like a tech pro, simply by accessing a selection of songs from the proprietary music catalogs provided by Yamaha and Steinway.
Having said that, the Spirio may have benefitted from getting in later than the Disklavier, as the Spirio has a reputation for having technology that is easier to use. The Disklavier can take up to four steps to access the piano’s technology, while Spirio often only requires one step.
Today’s piano buyer is still buying for the sound experience; they don’t look forward to complicated, multi-step ordeals. On the question of ease of use, Spirio wins hands down.
The Disklavier has Remote Performance Technology, and Spirio rolled out its version in November 2021. During the pandemic, this technology became better known and quite popular for its distance-learning capacities.
For example, a famous musician, college professor, or high school instructor could offer a masterclass to students located remotely.
The Disklavier features a silent play option, which means that a player can practice silently.
The playback on the Disklavier and the Spirio both have high levels of reproduction. Both also have MIDI-editing software. This allows one to record without rerecording the entire piece.
Spirio | r has an iOS app to edit high-definition recordings. Yamaha does not provide software to edit Disklavier Pro recordings.
Both Yamaha and Steinway offer sweeteners to their piano purchases through their respective Proprietary Music Catalogues. Steinway knew that Yamaha had the jump on them, having unveiled the Disclavier a decade earlier.
Since rolling out Spirio in 2015, Steinway has outpaced Yamaha in the number of high-performance recordings available to their customers. At their current rate, Steinway’s number of recorded songs should overtake Yamaha’s in five years.
Notably, Steinway gives all of their Steinway Artist songs–now over 4,450 tracks–as part of their piano sale at no additional charge.
Yamaha has always taken a different approach to its music catalog. First, they have roughly 11,000 songs in their catalog, and their system can handle vocals and background music, not piano music alone.
However, Yamaha usually provides a number of free songs away at the close of sale; their customers have to purchase any others afterward, at an additional cost per song or album. Also, if Disklavier’s music catalog sounds a bit dated, it is: their prime years for new recordings were in the 1990s and early 2000s, most of which is not recorded in high resolution.
In contrast, the Spirio musical catalog contains not only vintage classical and jazz recordings but many new recordings by contemporary piano artists.
Both Yamaha and Steinway & Sons deserve great credit for developing the self-playing piano as a 21st Century combination of an acoustic piano/home entertainment center.
Both companies have invested millions of dollars in design, cutting-edge technology, and marketing to restore the piano to the center of hundreds of thousands of homes worldwide.
As just one indicator of Spirio’s rise in popularity, over a third of all new Steinways sold today are Spirios.
While there is no question that the evolution of the Disklavier plowed the ground for any self-playing pianos to follow, Steinway & Sons has invigorated the self-playing piano market with a more usable interface, more recent activity on Music Library production, and the highest resolution of playback yet created for this kind of piano.
On the other hand, the Disklavier has earned applause lately for its performance during the pandemic as a Remote Performance Technology, which allows for remote performances, master classes, and other forms of remote learning.
With the addition of Spiriocast in 2021, Steinway & Sons is now pioneering a Steinway-caliber roster of ‘live’ performances.
Competition is good for piano buyers as well as for Yamaha and Steinway. As each company strives to make their self-playing instruments even more sophisticated, both will be kept on their toes and will show prospective buyers their updated versions of the 21st Century player piano.
In the end, despite other technological differences, the choice may simply come down to whether the buyer wants a manufactured Yamaha or a handcrafted Steinway for their 21 Century player piano.
We have taken a deeper look into the differences between the Yamaha Disklavier and Steinway Spirio in this article and hope that it helps you to choose the best 21st Century self-playing piano for you.
But an instrument this technologically advanced needs to be seen and heard up close and personal. Towards that end, we hope you will fill out the form below to make an in-store appointment with our informed and helpful M. Steinert & Sons staff. They are available at either of our two locations in Boston and Newton, MA.
For further reading, please see these additional articles on the Steinway Spirio.
Could the Spirio ever become obsolete?
How much does a Steinway Spirio cost?
Spirio Pianos at M. Steinert & Sons
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:
“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, with the M. Steinert & Sons’ Education Department, notes that Steinway has included key, sophisticated features which indicate that they built the Spirio to last:
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:
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.
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?
by Stephen N. Reed, updated for 2023 pricing on January 24, 2023
Since its release in 2016, Steinway & Sons’ Spirio pianos have captured the imagination of those who want the high performance of a Steinway Model D, B, or M grand piano paired with the highest resolution self-playing technology.
Spirio Models start around $122,000 and reach over $400,000 (depending upon size, features, and finish). The Spirio Play model adds an additional $29,000 to the price of a Steinway Model M or Model B grand piano.
The newer Spirio | r, with its added recording and high definition editing technology, adds a total of $48,000 to the new Steinway Grand Model M, B, or D (the Model D Spirio is only available in the Spirio | r version).
Let’s look into four key areas, related to the cost of the only self-playing piano to meet the high standards set by Steinway & Sons.
Steinway wants nothing to go out under its name without an exhaustive testing process. This is true for any Steinway product but especially Spirio, with the complexities involved in integrating new audio technology with a Steinway grand.
As the world’s oldest dealer of Steinway pianos, M. Steinert & Sons has an extensive understanding of all Steinway products, especially the Spirio, which we have been carrying since its launch in 2016.
The state-of-the-art technology and engineering innovations created by the engineers at Steinway & Sons account for a significant amount of the value present in each Steinway Spirio piano.
What kind of engineering innovations?
As one example, in order to achieve the high resolution now available in every Spirio grand, Steinway engineers had to place over 1,000 levels of sensitivity per key.
This is not your grandfather’s player piano. This is extraordinarily advanced audio technology, software development, and electronic engineering, all designed to produce the high resolution, nuanced sound any audiophile seeks.
Such innovation is necessary to achieve the experience of having Irving Berlin or Vladimir Horowitz interpret a piano piece. That performance is played out on the Spirio keyboard in the same, precise manner as when these piano masters were recorded years ago.
High resolution technology is needed to offer the same, precise, subtle soft and loud key strikes that a Steinway immortal played in their prime.
It is important to note, that Spirio technology must be installed during the manufacturing process. It cannot be added on after the fact. Just as developing the latest technology takes a highly qualified team, so does the craftsmanship involved in creating a Steinway Spirio. Interfacing the exceptional materials and design inherent in any new Steinway grand with the new Spirio technology being installed is a complex process.
Every new Steinway Spirio is outfitted by Steinway craftspeople to ensure that both the integrity of the original Steinway design and the functioning of the new technology blend in a seamless way to create the Spirio experience.
A key part of this process is installing a solenoid (electromechanical actuator) rail into the piano keybed (a shelf-like part of the piano that supports the keys and action). On the solenoid rail, there is one solenoid for each key.
There is also a solenoid for all three pedals, soft, sostenuto, and sustain pedals, Steinway created over 250 levels of sensitivity per pedal and a solenoid for the on/off function of the sostenuto pedal, as well.
Each solenoid contains a mechanical device that, when activated by an electronic signal, pushes against a key or against the pedal trap work, causing the appropriate keys and pedals to move up and down. All of this is put into place without compromising the integrity of the instrument.
Perfecting this player-piano technology to achieve Steinway standards adds to the value of any Spirio piano.
Unlike pay-per-song technologies, Spirio owners enjoy a huge high resolution library at no extra charge. The Spirio music library consists of over 4,300 pieces from classical and jazz legends, as well as today’s pop artists. Some pieces come from Steinway’s proprietary archival recordings of famed Steinway Artists like Sergei Rachmaninoff, George Gershwin, and Vladimir Horowitz, unavailable elsewhere. Imagine what such exclusive performance recordings would cost if each piece was bought separately.
Steinway continues to pay for new recordings of modern Steinway Artists, whose works are among the 40-50 pieces added monthly in high resolution, recorded exclusively for Spirio. These pieces are added at no additional charge, thus growing and diversifying the Spirio owner’s musical library.
In addition to these factors, one other cost factor remains: does the Spirio buyer want the original Spirio Play version or the Spirio | r version to record from their keyboard? Spirio Play costs approximately $29,000 and is added to the regular cost of a new Steinway Model B or M grand piano.
The Spirio | r adds an additional charge due to the added technology components involved, such as editing capacities and linking up with other musicians remotely. The Spirio | r, with its recording technology, costs $48,000 and is added to the cost of a new Steinway Model M, B, and D.
Both Spirio models come with the highest levels of quality and durability expected of any Steinway.
For more information about the Spirio experience, contact M. Steinert & Sons by filling out the form below.
Or – directly schedule a time to try a Spirio in Boston or Newton.
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