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MMD > Archives > May 1996 > 1996.05.08 > 07Prev  Next

RE: Reproducer's "Voice"
By Craig Brougher

I have rebuilt a lot of reproducers and heard many in other homes, and never heard one that I thought was too loud. Now that's dedication! But frankly, there's more to that statement than it sounds like at first glance.

From huge concert grands to small spinet-types, reproducers come in all makes and sizes, but are acoustic instruments, and develop their "power" as much from the room and the height of ceiling they are in as from any other factor. A concert grand in a small room is not painfully loud, I think because of the hemholtz principle. loudness is a measure of both energy flux and pitch. The energy of a hammer imparted to a string is directly proportional to the energy you are going to get out of that string, given the same pitch. So what is hurting our ears in some cases is something other than just loudness.

I cannot be denied that some pianos are far more powerful than others. One instrument, a concert Chickering built around 1850, had a top end of about 126 db. In a recording studio, that piano caused the pianist's ears to ring for two days afterward. It was so powerful it could compete with a symphony orchestra.

They don't make pianos that powerful today, for that very reason. So I suspect that what is being interpreted as "too loud" has its roots elsewhere. The Duo-Art test roll is not the end-all and be-all of the regulation of a Duo-Art. In the case of a Duo-Art, it is where the regulator _begins_ his regulation. The real regulation starts by playing of twenty or thirty rolls and touching up to each one, and then going back and forth between certain passages that need adjustment, and finally compromising them all in such a way that even the most difficult D/A rolls are able to play effortlessly. Sorry, but the D/A is an exercise in the fine art of compromise, if you want it really good. The reason is, it is not self-compensating. It relies totally upon the roll coding to think for it, to position its spill valve, and to provide enough power in certain passages depending on the number of notes being played down at one time. The other reproducers are not like this. Thus, compromise is necessary between special rolls that the rebuilder knows are "marginally coded," as well as ordinary rolls.

Terry Smythe had a very good idea regarding the voicing. Softening the hammers, closing the lid of the piano, and even sometimes adjusting your hearing aid (if that applies) may be necessary. The problems with the closing of the lid is, it greatly compresses the expression one is able to realize by damping out the power of the string partials, which to the ear tells it "loud, louder, loudest." Because of the acoustic nature of strings, they rely on the room's own "impedance" to cause them to fully develop. So when the lid is down the impedance is maximum and actually helps to dampen out the strings, in addition to closing the "door" to the room the piano is in. It changes the tone quality, the resonance of the partials, the ratios of the partials, everything.

I have always wondered, "why go to the expense of buying a top quality grand piano and then use it as a table?" If Authur Rubenstein sat down to play their own piano, would they tell him, "Just a minute, please," and then close the lid? Oh well, everybody has their own way.

Craig B.

(Message sent Wed 8 May 1996, 15:53:45 GMT, from time zone GMT.)

Key Words in Subject:  Reproducer's, Voice

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