Roland Introduces the SuperNATURAL Piano Sound Engine
(ShackMan | Posted 2010-07-18)
As storage gets smaller and smaller and the amount of information we can store gets bigger and bigger, digital piano manufacturers are beginning to have more room than they know what to do with when it comes to sampling instruments and creating grand piano sounds. Roland realized just what to do with it quickly when it embarked on the task of creating the latest and best piano sound engine yet, the SuperNATURAL sound engine, a combination of the V-Piano system and 88-key stereo sampling. At least, if it works as it says, it's the best yet by far. Just take a look at the problems it addresses, and I'm sure you'll agree.
First we come to the idea of seamless dynamic variation from the softest press of a key to the grandest, loudest fortissimo. Pianos up until this point have had (usually) 3 or 4 different dynamic levels, with some more expensive keyboards having up to 7 or 8 different levels. This resulted in jumps or gaps in dynamic expression. Roland claims to have created a seamless, gapless dynamic gradient all the way from nearly nothing to outright banging on the piano. This alone is a major development, allowing true crescendos and true-to-life touch response on all levels.
Second on Roland's list a more minor change, but those with a discerning ear will be able to tell the difference. Often times, digital piano makers will create a loop after a certain amount of time during the decay of a stuck note. This loop usually consists of some span of time after the attack, but while it can suffice for some, those seeking full realism understand that a piano's note changes in tone as well as in volume as the sound resonates and fades. Roland's new sound engine claims that it samples the full decay and the complete fade to nothingness and resonance in the piano board, for a true piano sound from beginning to end.
Finally, Roland claims a smooth transition between all 88 stereo-sampled notes, as opposed to the usual 4 or 5 "zones" that most keyboards set up as a gradient. Again, this isn't a glaring difference to an unobservant listener, but it is definitely noticeable. In a grand piano, strings have different gauges and lengths depending on their range, the number of strings used for each note and the sizes of hammers are different as well. In addition, there are differences in the way the soundboard, body, and other strings resonate depending on the pitch, and this creates the beautiful tone of an acoustic piano where each note has a unique quality.
This all came about with the HP series of digital pianos. These were a part of Roland's first attempts at sampling all 88 keys of a variety of world-class grand pianos and synthesizing the tones using state of the art digital technology to develop a high-quality, expressive sound. A sound that was until recently impossible, largely due to a great lack of storage space on many pianos, which would only hold up to 128 megabytes of sampling. Now, SD cards and usb drives can carry 20, 30, or 50 times that much in a package that can fit snugly in your palm, allowing sampling free reign. It's a wonder more companies haven't tried this just yet. I can't wait to get my hands on a new Roland piano with the SuperNATURAL sound system to see exactly how it sounds and whether or not it delivers as promised.
James Rushin is a bassist, keyboardist, writer, and composer living and working in the Greater Pittsburgh area. He has performed with Selmer artist Tim Price, Curtis Johnson, guitarists Ken Karsh and Joe Negri, and his compositions have been featured at West Virginia University and Valley Forge Christian College. His contest winning essays and short stories have seen publication in and around the Tri-State area.
Feel free to e-mail James with comments, questions, concerns, at firstname.lastname@example.org.