The Good Life

Steinway Spirio Player Piano

By Gregory Mottola | From Damian Lewis, January/February 2016
Steinway Spirio Player Piano

Player pianos, even the so-called superior ones, have always had the same problem—rigidity. While a self-playing piano may get most of the notes right for, say, the Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1, it's guaranteed to be a flat, robotic rendition that lacks the dimension and feeling of a live performance. It might also miss a note or two during complicated runs up or down the keys. Perhaps the average enthusiast never realized there was a problem with today's player pianos, but Steinway & Sons sure did—and they've solved it with the Steinway Spirio.

Steinway bills the Spirio as the world's finest player piano, but on some level, the company doesn't even consider it a traditional player piano because it performs just like a live concert pianist through live sampling technology. In other words, a real pianist will sit down to a Steinway studio piano designed to digitally capture that particular performance. The piece is then recorded, edited and released in high-resolution, using a proprietary data format that captures the finest details from each artist's performance. Once it's logged, the piece becomes part of Steinway's library of performances. It's like being able to conjure a pianist right in your living room at will, giving you all the dynamics and nuance of a live concert. Delicate peddling, subtle phrasing, soft trills and thundering fortissimos are not a problem for the Spirio.

The playback precision is the result of numerous technological developments, including immunity to varying line voltage, closed-loop proportional pedaling and thermal compensation.

Each Spirio comes with an iPad to control the system and access the inventory of 1,700 live performances by dedicated Steinway artists. Musical genres range from classical to jazz, and new music files are automatically added to the list—at no additional charge—as they become available.

And don't worry about aesthetics. Unless you're looking for it, chances are, you'll never notice the electronic module is even there. The Spirio player system unit is integrated during the manufacturing process and is cleverly hidden from view.

In the U.S. market, Spirio is offered (with an additional expenditure of about $15,000) on two existing classic acoustic Steinway models. Including the Spirio, the Model M music room grand costs $84,000 and the Model B medium grand is $116,000. 

Should you want to play the piano yourself, Steinway assures that the Spirio module in no way affects its natural touch or sound. Four complimentary service appointments come with each Spirio as well.

Visit www.steinwayspirio.com

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