As technological capabilities continue to advance, so too does the process of creating the ideal instrument for all eventualities and musical needs. We often get a lot of customers asking for silent pianos when they actually mean hybrid pianos and vice versa so it can be confusing! Today we’ll be investigating the two, discussing what the main differences are, running you through a few of our favourite models and helping you decide which might be the right for you!
What’s the difference?
When it comes to silent vs hybrid pianos, things can be broadly classified as: Silent pianos are an acoustic instrument with digital features, whilst hybrid pianos are digital instruments with the feels and touch of an acoustic instrument.
So what does this actually mean? Well let’s go through each to help you find which is right for you.
Silent pianos are becoming increasingly popular across the world, so much so that roughly 40-45% of all acoustic pianos are now made with some form of silent feature. Essentially, the instrument is still acoustic piano and uses the same mechanisms to create its sound, however silent pianos have the added digital feature of having a silent function that allows the pianist to play through headphones. This is especially beneficial for those who perhaps aren’t able to practice acoustically throughout the day without disturbing others, or who prefer to practice at 1 O’Clock in the morning!
The silent feature on a silent piano is more like a ‘voicebox’, it ‘catches’ the acoustic sound of the piano via sensors under the keys and hammers andand allows the user to play silently. Each of the main piano manufacturers has their own unique method of doing this. For example Kawai have introduced their ATX system as found on the Kawai K15 ATX3L Silent Upright Piano, the piano's transducer uses Progressive Harmonic Imaging sound technology that creates the exact feel and sound of playing acoustically. You can learn more about Kawai's silent and hybrid systems here.
Meanwhile Yamaha have also adopted the power of silence through their HiFi system and SILENT Piano™ function. When activated, the hammers will no longer hit the strings and instead, a highly sophisticated sensor-technology captures all movements of the keys and sends them to the digital tone module.
As these pianos also become digital, many other features typically found on digital pianos also become available. For example, many silent pianos also include a range of pre-installed sound samples, or allow you to record your own performances and connect various devices with your piano.
C. Bechstein have taken this process one step further and introduced their Vario System as part of all of their new piano ranges. Allowing users to enjoy that unmistakable C. Bechstein sound through your headphones while your piano is muted, This digital system is a holistically designed solution that leverages the qualities of the acoustic instrument and complements them with a number of applications. The Vario Duet is made up of several components that together form a truly innovative system. Allows the user to customise their piano further and when the next system comes out, it can be removed, updated and refitted to your piano with ease.
Now you understand silent pianos, let's flip it on it’s head and talk about hybrid pianos!
Whereas silent pianos are acoustic instruments with digital features, hybrid pianos are essentially: Digital pianos with acoustic feel and touch.
This means that all hybrid pianos are actually digital pianos that feature a real piano action to help the user feel like they are playing on a real acoustic. Typically speaking, this feature is found at the higher flagship range of digital models. These pianos feature a piano action buy utilise a series of highly delicate and sensitive sensors in order to find the exact feel and tone that the pianist is looking for. This also allows the user to have access to a wide plethora of piano sound samples.
Much like silent pianos, hybrid pianos are perfect for those who want to practice with headphones, but also have an instrument that is both easier to move and has the added convenience of digital capabilities such as MiDi inputs and bluetooth connectivity.
Some great examples of hybrid pianos are the Casio GP range with it’s Berlin, Vienna and Hamburg grand sound samples, with the Kawai Novus NV-5 also implementing some fantastic hybrid features and capabilities. The action on the NV5 can be seen below, notice how it is almost identical to the action on an acoustic, except the hammers are hitting sensors instead of strings.
So which is best?
Ultimately, the preference between silent and hybrid pianos is dependant on the user and what you intend to use your piano for. If you are exclusively an acoustic player, then a silent piano will likely catch your eye! However, for those looking for a piano that is easy to move whilst still allowing the user to get the feel of an acoustic piano, then a hybrid piano will be right for you! Hybrid pianos are also especially helpful for those looking to keep their piano in rooms with varying temperatures such as a conservatory, where silent and acoustic pianos will become out of tune quickly due to changes in temperature, as it relies purely on sensors and digital technology, a hybrid piano will not.
Want to learn more about hybrid or silent pianos or book in for a demonstration? Speak to our expert team today!