Our writer visits the Wardour Street showroom to test drive instruments for all tastes and budgets
By Andrew Shaw
Yamaha Music London are celebrating the Christmas period with the release of their new 2017 gift guide, containing some of their most exciting and innovative pianos. I went along to their store in Soho – the only official Yamaha store outside of Japan – to meet Stephen Davis, Retail Operations Manager, and find out more.
The brand new Clavinova CSP-150 tops the gift guide, and it is a seriously impressive instrument. Connect your tablet or smartphone and it instantly creates chord charts, scores and instructions on how to play any song in your music library.
The similar CSP-170:
Another good digital option is the b1 Silent Upright Piano. Even at almost half the price of the CSP-150, it would be a stretch to describe the b1 as affordable, but with sound sampled from Yamaha’s own CFX concert grand piano, the quality is unrivalled. When pianists Irene Hierrezuelo Osorio and Jamie Cullen tried it for themselves, they were stunned by how natural it sounded, even on silent mode with headphones in.
Stephen said: 'Playing the b1 feels exactly like playing an acoustic piano, and with the virtual resonance modelling we use it sounds like one too. We can make the world’s best digital instruments because we make some of the world’s best acoustic pianos.'
Speaking of the world’s best acoustic pianos, those looking for something truly incredible should turn to the C3XTA TransAcoustic Grand Piano, pictured:
'It’s a hybrid,' explained Stephen. 'It’s an acoustic piano but there’s a digital element in it as well. You can play normally and then just press a button and suddenly you’ve got a choir or a full orchestra on top. There are no speakers involved so what you hear is the piano sound board playing sound samples we’ve recorded on our own instruments. The beauty of this over using speakers and a piano is that you’re using the body of the piano as a resonance. It’s as natural a sound as it possibly can be, which is the goal of everything we do here – put something else in it but make it sound real.'
The effect was amazing. The samples blended with the piano notes perfectly, making it seem almost like the piano itself was creating them.
But it’s not just about acoustic pianos and electric pianos this Christmas, as the Yamaha Montage Synthesizer goes to show. This powerful synthesizer has been described as the 'mother of all synths' by Music Tech Magazine, which was probably why it received their prestigious Gold Award for Best Hardware. It manages to be one of the most powerful options on the market today while still being easier to use than much of the competition. Whisper it, but it’s arguably even better than the classic Yamaha DX7.
But whichever piano you choose from the guide, it’s Yamaha’s attention to detail which gives their pianos the edge.
'All instruments are made in Yamaha factories by Yamaha staff,” Stephen said. “Every part inside our instruments is made by Yamaha as well. If you open one of the digital pianos, the circuitry inside will say Yamaha. Even the robots that make some of our models are made by Yamaha. It’s bordering on paranoia but the only way we can guarantee the quality of all our instruments is by making them ourselves.'