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(Ensoniq) Perfect Piano

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(Ensoniq) Perfect Piano

Postby BillB » Sat Sep 12, 2020 9:04 am

Hi folks

I purchased an Ensoniq MR76 recently and like it a lot. Once I had repaired the key weights under the keyboard, it has a lovely action and is by far my preferred keyboard to play. It has quite a nice piano in ROM, ‘Concert Grand’ which is fairly good but sounds a little artificial in some octaves, not bad, but clearly not a convincing emulation, especially when sustained.

Partly for this reason, but also because it was a bargain compared to buying individual original expansion cards, I invested in this 3-in-1 expansion:
http://sampler-expansions.dxp.pl/ensoniq.htm

This includes the World card, Urban Dance card and ‘Perfect Piano’ card (William Oakley). The latter has appeared on Emu and Kurzweil boards/modules and is/was also available as a sample set. On the Ensoniq, the sound has a lot of promise - it has a lot of presence, very much like being in front of an acoustic, and is responsive, BUT the decay portion has a weird sort of angular, unmusical vibrato, especially noticeable in lower octaves when notes are sustained. This spoils an otherwise very good sound.

I have asked the vendor of the 3 in 1 card for his view and got no response. I don’t know whether this artefact is particular to this 3-in-1 card or whether it applies to the original Ensoniq ‘Perfect Piano’ cards. So, first question is, does anyone have experience of thIs card or soundset and does the issue I describe sound familiar or not? It is possible that the sound has been corrupted in the transfer to the new card, but i would have thought that copying a collection of bits from A to B should result in a perfect copy.

Although it’s a disappointment, I am not going to get rid of the card as it is an excellent-value collection of both patches and waves, including probably the biggest collection of transwaves on any Ensoniq device.

Follow-on question - and it has been asked before - can anybody recommend a good MIDI piano module at a sensible price? I am aware of (but have not heard) the Alesis Nanopiano, Kurzweil Micropiano, obviously older Yamaha and Roland boxes. I have a JV2080 with the piano expansion card and that is frankly disappointing. Some of the sounds are quite good but not very responsive. The SOS review of the Nanopiano was very positive, but it is hard to know whether that was based on the standard back then...

I am hoping for a recommendation from someone who is used to playing an acoustic piano and who says ‘this is a reasonable-sounding alternative’.

I want to avoid PC sampled or modelled pianos, but if there was something decent for an iPad, that might be another choice.

Incidentally, we have a nice upright acoustic piano, which is what sets the standard, but my wife and I both tend to want to practice at the same time (start/end of the day) so I need a separate alternative.

All thoughts welcome!
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Re: (Ensoniq) Perfect Piano

Postby GilesAnt » Sat Sep 12, 2020 11:09 am

I had an Alesis Nanopiano, but you are going back quite a few years here. It sounded great at the time, especially as it was my first, but I doubt it would stand up in today's market. If I recall it had 16 note polyphony, which might be a little limiting depending on your style.

As well as the basic piano it had a few organs, electric pianos, vibraphones etc, along with some weird sounds/effects that were really of novelty value only.

I would have posted it to you but sadly I chucked it out a few years back. I think you will find something better to be honest, although I do use sampled pianos these days.
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Re: (Ensoniq) Perfect Piano

Postby desmond » Sat Sep 12, 2020 11:17 am

I had a Kurz MicroPiano back in the day, and it was a good module, but I'm not clear on the style of piano you want. If you're looking for something to mock up classical solo piano pieces, then it's not really the tool for that ;)

It's more of a US contemporary/rock sound, compressed and fairly bright. I liked it, and still have samples, but I'm sure you can find demos online...

I don't like any of the pianos in the Roland stuff, they are too over-compressed and bright for anything useful for me.
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Re: (Ensoniq) Perfect Piano

Postby Arpangel » Sat Sep 12, 2020 11:38 am

A friend had a fantastic Ensoniq piano back in the 90’s, it was amazing, very basic, can’t remember the model number, but it had one of the best upright piano sounds I’ve ever heard, it was frighteningly realistic, with a really good keyboard action.
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Re: (Ensoniq) Perfect Piano

Postby BillB » Sat Sep 12, 2020 11:41 am

desmond wrote:I'm not clear on the style of piano you want.

At moment it is mostly for practising scales, so a classic/acoustic piano sound. ‘Perfect Piano’ would be near perfect were it not for its strange warble.

I am finally learning to play - and a decent piano sound is suddenly important. Funny that.
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Re: (Ensoniq) Perfect Piano

Postby BillB » Sat Sep 12, 2020 11:50 am

Arpangel wrote:A friend had a fantastic Ensoniq piano back in the 90’s, it was amazing, very basic, can’t remember the model number, but it had one of the best upright piano sounds I’ve ever heard, it was frighteningly realistic, with a really good keyboard action.
AFAIK, Ensoniq never made ‘a piano’ as such, just synths and samplers. Of the later (rompler) synths, the KS32 (I think), the TS12, MR76 and ZR76 all used the same 76 note Fatar keyboard, which feels very nice, albeit prone to the weights falling apart after 25 years! Maybe you heard the Concert Grand sound, or perhaps an original ‘Perfect Piano’ card. I have no way of knowing whether that had the same issue as I am experiencing.
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Re: (Ensoniq) Perfect Piano

Postby Arpangel » Sat Sep 12, 2020 11:52 am

BillB wrote:
Arpangel wrote:A friend had a fantastic Ensoniq piano back in the 90’s, it was amazing, very basic, can’t remember the model number, but it had one of the best upright piano sounds I’ve ever heard, it was frighteningly realistic, with a really good keyboard action.
AFAIK, Ensoniq never made ‘a piano’ as such, just synths and samplers. Of the later (rompler) synths, the KS32 (I think), the TS12, MR76 and ZR76 all used the same 76 note Fatar keyboard, which feels very nice, albeit prone to the weights falling apart after 25 years! Maybe you heard the Concert Grand sound, or perhaps an original ‘Perfect Piano’ card. I have no way of knowing whether that had the same issue as I am experiencing.

Maybe it was a synth, but it was very basic, it had very few controls, and no display as such, just lights. I wish I knew what it was, it was definitely an Ensoniq though.
I listened to some tapes that this guy recorded, and I was blown away by the piano, I thought it was a real one. It sounded very much like the piano sound on Music For Airports by Brian Eno, that lovely woody type sound, and that was right out of the box, no effects.
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Re: (Ensoniq) Perfect Piano

Postby BillB » Sat Sep 12, 2020 11:59 am

Interesting. I don’t know of an Ensoniq keyboard without a display, and I thought I knew the range fairly well. If it comes to you / anyone else, I would be interested to know.
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Re: (Ensoniq) Perfect Piano

Postby GilesAnt » Sat Sep 12, 2020 12:01 pm

If it is mainly for practicing scales etc the keyboard is probably more important than the quality of the sound i.e. to build up that muscular memory and an evenness of touch.

Even a dummy keyboard with no sounds at all will help with this, until you can elbow your wife aside and get back to your upright piano.
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Re: (Ensoniq) Perfect Piano

Postby BillB » Sat Sep 12, 2020 12:28 pm

I am happy with the feel of the MR76 keyboard, and I can get on the real piano when I want to, but our practice times do tend to coincide (i.e. when we are not working/cooking/eating/watching TV etc etc together). In effect, we also practice together - apart. Plus I like being in my (mini) studio when practising. Sometimes I flip through the MR sounds to something else that is interesting and responsive, just for a change. I am not ‘learning the piano’ as such, just using the piano as the basis of better use of all my keyboard/synth sounds. But a good piano sound does provide a bit of inspiration to keep bashing at the scales.
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Re: (Ensoniq) Perfect Piano

Postby GilesAnt » Sat Sep 12, 2020 12:44 pm

As an aside, maybe you and your wife can play duets, there are plenty of published ones in a range of styles and abilities. Some are clearly designed for pupil and teacher, but it really is fun to play together I promise.

If all else fails, draw some keys on a piece of paper and place on a table top - perfect for simple exercises and shows true dedication!
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Re: (Ensoniq) Perfect Piano

Postby BillB » Sat Sep 12, 2020 1:32 pm

GilesAnt wrote:As an aside, maybe you and your wife can play duets, there are plenty of published ones in a range of styles and abilities. Some are clearly designed for pupil and teacher, but it really is fun to play together I promise.

If all else fails, draw some keys on a piece of paper and place on a table top - perfect for simple exercises and shows true dedication!

Duets - good idea. They would need to be pupil-teacher arrangements. She is not my teacher (my daughter of 26 years training is!) but she is a good Grade Five and I am about Grade 0.2.

Paper keys? No it’s got to make a nice noise, I’m not that dedicated!
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Re: (Ensoniq) Perfect Piano

Postby Dave B » Sat Sep 12, 2020 7:24 pm

BillB wrote:AFAIK, Ensoniq never made ‘a piano’ as such, just synths and samplers

Actually, they did! It was an early unit done at the same time as the Mirage and ESQ-1 and was a dedicated stage piano. Once again, Desmond's amazing mu:zines comes to our rescue :

http://www.muzines.co.uk/articles/ensoniq-sampled-piano/1645

I never had one myself so I don't know how it sounded or whether it was the one that Arpangel is remembering. But pianos of that time were quite interesting as they had limited memory so did some great tricks for making things playable. I still say that a Roland RD-1000 is the best playing experience for rock n roll piano that I've ever had...
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Re: (Ensoniq) Perfect Piano

Postby IAA » Sat Sep 12, 2020 7:41 pm

If all else fails, draw some keys on a piece of paper and place on a table top - perfect for simple exercises and shows true dedication!
.... I thought I was the only one that did this!! :headbang: My piano teacher said its "better than nothing" so when I was on hols sometime this is what I did to the amazement of my family!
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Re: (Ensoniq) Perfect Piano

Postby BillB » Sat Sep 12, 2020 9:17 pm

Dave B wrote:
BillB wrote:AFAIK, Ensoniq never made ‘a piano’ as such, just synths and samplers

Actually, they did! It was an early unit done at the same time as the Mirage and ESQ-1 and was a dedicated stage piano. Once again, Desmond's amazing mu:zines comes to our rescue :

http://www.muzines.co.uk/articles/ensoniq-sampled-piano/1645

I never had one myself so I don't know how it sounded or whether it was the one that Arpangel is remembering. But pianos of that time were quite interesting as they had limited memory so did some great tricks for making things playable. I still say that a Roland RD-1000 is the best playing experience for rock n roll piano that I've ever had...

Interesting, didn’t know that such a beast existed It fits Tony’s ‘no display’ description as well.
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