I have a Pfeiffer piano, roughly 40 years old. Pfeiffer is a premium brand, using in my case premium hammers, and using a Renner mechanic. They provide their mechanics to the most reknowned brand, e.g. in a Steinway & Sons Model D (Hamburg) you will find one. So naturally, I was quite nervous on touching my piano.
When I asked my local piano builder, while he was tuning my piano, if he could recommend a digital piano (e.g. Yamaha P-125 or so), he instead offered up the idea to retrofit my piano to be a silent piano with a retro-fit system.
I decided to buy the adsilent system, which supposedly is one of the best of the available systems, and it can export the sound as midi via USB or Bluetooth, has line-out, headphone jack, metronome, different sounds, can record your play and play it and all that fancy stuff you can do with an app. Hooking the system up to GarageBand, Pianoteq or any DAW/Sampling solution should be totally possible, I haven’t tried it though. Moreover, when I contacted their sales people, the founder of the company kindly responded to my questions in detail. Great service!
So, when the time came, the piano builder took my piano apart, put an optical sensor bar below the keyboard, reflectors on each key, added a stop bar and reconfigured the release. Surprise: even though in forums people complain about the release being too far away from the strings and thus the key action and ability to play with quick repetitions or pianissimo is getting worse, this hasn’t been the case for me.
My release is in average at 2,5mm, previously it was at about 1-2mm. This makes me very happy, because playing feels the same for me when in acoustic mode and additionally the digital playing is awesome, providing some high quality samples of pianos, even though there is the tinies bit of a feeling that is different – maybe it would go away with a foam covered stop bar instead of a felt covered one, but I haven’t used the available premium bar yet. Still, it feels 99% like before or playing acoustic.
So if you have an acoustic piano and consider buying a digital one, maybe retrofitting your acoustic one is an option. It all is dependent of having the right person doing the retrofit though – you need an expert in piano building and somebody who is regulating the release and dampening of your instrument with passion – in my case it took the piano builder and his son some hours to install the silent system.
Next step is going to be hooking it all up with a computer, and then with a Raspberry Pi 4 to test out Pianoteq 7.1 for ARM to see, if it can maybe even improve on the factory-installed sounds. They are actually quite good, but according to the web, Pianoteq seems currently be the leader in “physical modelling” a piano sound, which – at least in the long run – should be superior to a recorded/sampled instrument as it is trying to emulate the physical swinging and proliferation of sound as it would be happening in a real piano instead of playing recordings.