With the rise in popularity of silent pianos and evolution of digital piano technology, we thought it would be a fantastic idea to outline the key differences between the two, the pros, cons and options available to you in order to help you decide which instrument might be better suited to your requirement.
Before we set the context however, let’s first outline the premise of what both digital and silent pianos actually are.
Digital pianos are, as the name implies, digital instruments that contain electronic components to replicate that of a real piano. They are often smaller, lighter and generally speaking more affordable options than acoustic pianos.
There a number of reasons for this lower price point, including longevity (read our guide to digital piano lifespans here), materials - most are primarily made of plastic until you reach the higher ends and finally mass production - unlike quality acoustic pianos, most digital pianos are made via machinery and encounter little no no craft from a piano technician.
Digital pianos typically come in three forms, in that of portable instruments, home digital instruments and finally hybrid instruments. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages that we’ll cover below.
Silent pianos however are essentially the opposite of digital pianos, where digitals use technology to replicate that of an acoustic piano, silent pianos are acoustic instruments that have the capability and functionality of digital pianos via an external system, such as the ability to play silently, connect to devices via bluetooth or MIDI etc.
There are a number of silent systems out there, however the main ones that we personally supply at Millers is that of the KIOSHI silent system which is an aftermarket product that can be retrofitted to almost any acoustic piano and that of the C.Bechstein VARIO system, which represents perhaps the pinnacle of silent piano technology.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s dive into which system may be best suited to your requirements.
Often the first question that we get asked about when it comes to purchasing a digital or a silent piano is that of the value of the instrument and how long it will hold its value for. Typically speaking acoustic pianos hold their value far better than that of digital pianos. This is due to a number of reasons, however mostly because of the shorter lifespan and deterioration of digitals and the constant improvements of technology, you can learn more about this in our guide to the lifespan of digital pianos here.
Likewise, when we speak about the ability to repair or service an acoustic or a digital piano, we often refer to acoustic pianos as being ‘infinitely repairable’ meaning that even if a component breaks, it can be easily replaced by a technician. This is also true for the likes of the silent system, even if the system breaks or a new model comes out, as they are fully separate from the actual instrument, they can be easily removed and updated. The same however cannot be said for digital pianos where once the motherboard or an electronic component blows, it is almost impossible to replace. Learn more about this in our guide to repairing digital pianos here.
One reason that many people opt for digital pianos over acoustic ones is often size, location or noise concerns, whilst silent pianos do negate the noise concern as they too can be played via headphones, one thing that they cannot tackle is that of size if you need the piano to be easily stored away or moved regularly such as a gigging musician.
In these instances, a digital piano may be a better option for you. This is also true of those who perhaps live in flats or apartment buildings with lots of stairs or perhaps weight limitations. Moving an acoustic piano upstairs is no easy task and can lead to it being an incredibly expensive investment. Not sure on which types of piano might be best suited to your room? Read our guide here.
Sound Quality & Touch
Quality of sound is an incredibly subjective point, what sounds good to some may not hit the right notes for others and vice versa. Ultimately, it is important to remember that a digital piano is always replicating that of an acoustic (or silent) piano, so in terms of feel it is not uncommon for many pianists - particularly those who perhaps practice with a teacher on an acoustic piano - to ‘outgrow’ the feel of their digital piano, which can result in a plateau in your learning.
Generally speaking, due to their more sensitive touch response and a better ability to ‘connect’ with the instruments, most seasoned pianists will opt for an acoustic over a digital, but that being said with the innovations in modern sound sampling and technology developing such as the Casio And C.Bechstein Grand Hybrid Range, digital pianos have excelled that of older second hand acoustic pianos that are perhaps in need of renovation.
This is where silent pianos do offer a unique place in the market as if you love the touch response on an older acoustic piano, by fitting a silent system to it, you are essentially able to combine the best of acoustic touch with digital sound sampling, giving even the smallest upright pianos the ‘sound’ of a grand piano.
So Which Is Best?
Ultimately there is no right or wrong answer to which is best when it comes to silent acoustic pianos or digital pianos and ultimately it comes down to the individual’s requirements. If you are still unsure of what your requirements actually are, that is no problem either! Our experts have travelled the world and visited piano factories in order to understand nearly every possible requirement out there, we would love to invite you to visit our showroom or get in touch with us so we can help find the perfect piano for you!