Steinway’s Self-Playing Pianos Can Now Sync With Live Performances From Anywhere in the World

Steinway’s Self-Playing Pianos Can Now Sync With Live Performances From Anywhere in the World

It doesn’t matter how many hundreds of thousands of dollars you shell out for an audiophile-grade home stereo, a recorded piano performance will never sound as good as a live one on an actual piano, so Steinway is finally introducing a feature that allows live performances to be streamed and performed, in real-time, on its self-playing pianos.

Self-playing pianos aren’t a new idea, they were first demonstrated over 120 years ago and I have fond memories of a classic model in my aunt’s basement that uses long scrolls of paper perforated with holes to play songs while the performer’s only duty is to keep their fingers off the keys while their feet pump a pair of foot pedals that generates the air pressure the piano runs off. It is a fascinatingly complex contraption, and one that weighs far more than you’d expect, which is why Yamaha’s attempts to digitize player pianos in the ‘80s with its Disklavier line were a welcome upgrade.

But, even if you can’t muster a recognisable rendition of Chopsticks when you sit down at a piano, you undoubtedly know the name Steinway & Sons and that as grand pianos go, there’s no more respected name in the industry. So while Yamaha technically delivered a similar feature where live performances could be streamed from one instrument to another, the fact that it can now be done on a Steinway is a big deal.

The feature is being made available on Steinway’s Spirio line of self-playing pianos which were first introduced in 2015 and now make up almost half of the company’s piano sales. The electronics that power the Spirio pianos are completely invisible — they look just like regular grand pianos — but each one ships with an iPad that serves as the interface for the instrument’s smart features through various apps. That includes the ability to record and edit performances to be played back later, as well as an ever-growing library of over 4,300 songs that can be accessed and played at any time. Think of it like Spotify, but instead of hearing a recording, the piano itself recreates an entire performance.

The iPad is also what facilitates the new SpirioCast feature, which can live stream video, audio, and the performance itself — the movement of the piano’s keys and foot pedals recorded with enough detail to capture every nuanced motion of a pianist — to the cloud where it can be made available to the public, or only to select viewers, whose own Steinway Spirio pianos will reproduce the performance in real-time. It really is the ultimate audiophile experience for fans of piano music, and in more ways than one because the cheapest model in the Steinway & Sons’ Spirio line costs about $US100,000 ($133,390), and as much as $US200,000 ($266,780) when you add features like performance recording, and now SpirioCast.