Dissapointed with the Roland BK9 supernatural piano sound

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I have persevered with the Roland BK9 for about 6 months now. Tried allsorts to get a decent piano sound from it and basically, it's terrible. It reminds me of cheap plastic! Other sounds are not bad, styles are pretty good and overall usablility is a bit fiddly, as with all Roland keyboards. Piano is my main instrument and I thought the supernatural piano would be much better than it is. None of the piano tones sound good. My son has a cheap Casio and the defualt piano on that sounds better than the one on the BK9. I have played Roland keyboards since the G800 and G1000 and have been very satisfied up until the BK9. I'm thinking of either selling it and replacing it with a Yamaha or adding a Yamaha as an extra board with a good piano sound.

Anybody have any recommendations please?
 
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Depends upon budget

Sticking with 76 keys you are very, very limited.

Yamaha EW 425 @ £429 or a Korg Pa5X 76 @ £3150, that is all I am aware of with 76 keys.

Most Arrangers have 61 keys, Yamaha PSR SX700 or Korg Pa700 but these are £1100+.

There is a Yamaha PSR e473 @ about £300 or a Korg EK50 at £280 - £350 depending upon version.

you could, if the BK has audio input get a Yamaha DP and connect that up and play piano on it and backing on the BK but it could take some getting used to the different hand and arm positions.
 
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Sticking with 76 keys you are very, very limited.

Yamaha EW 425 @ £429 or a Korg Pa5X 76 @ £3150, that is all I am aware of with 76 keys.
and Genos 2

or adding a Yamaha as an extra board with a good piano sound.

Anybody have any recommendations please?
If you happen to have an iPhone or iPad, you might also try connecting that to the Roland and getting a piano sound from there. Off-hand, I don't know how much MIDI flexibility the BK9 has, e.g. for playing an external piano sound along with its internal sounds, but that could be worth looking into.

As for adding an external piano board, there are lots of boards with good piano sounds, Yamaha and otherwise... but you might want to choose one with 5-pin MIDI connectors (not just USB) to make it easier to possibly integrate with your BK9 (again within whatever MIDI capabilities the BK9 offers).
 
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and Genos 2


If you happen to have an iPhone or iPad, you might also try connecting that to the Roland and getting a piano sound from there. Off-hand, I don't know how much MIDI flexibility the BK9 has, e.g. for playing an external piano sound along with its internal sounds, but that could be worth looking into.

As for adding an external piano board, there are lots of boards with good piano sounds, Yamaha and otherwise... but you might want to choose one with 5-pin MIDI connectors (not just USB) to make it easier to possibly integrate with your BK9 (again within whatever MIDI capabilities the BK9 offers).
Hi and thanks for your reply.

I have a iPad so will look into using that for a decent piano sound. Also the Yamaha ew425 looks interesting. Not familiar at all with a Yamaha DP, so will check this out. The BK9 has 5 pin midi connectors and also the USB connector so there is plenty of scope for an external piano board. Anything has got to be an improvement on the so called supernatural piano that's built in to the BK9.
 
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The BK9 has 5 pin midi connectors and also the USB connector so there is plenty of scope for an external piano board.
The BK9 5-pin MIDI connectors can be used to connect it to an external piano board. The USB connector generally cannot, unless you have a host device in between. That's why I said it would be preferable to select a board with 5-pin MIDI connectors.
 
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I suggest simply connecting up your iPad via an Apple Camera Adaptor and initially using one of the default sounds in Garage Band to see how they function together.

My concern is that playing a sound via an iPad into the BK and maintaining the operation of the style backing may not be possible hence a suck it and see approach.

If it does work out OK then the best Piano App to take a look at is the Ravenscroft 275 @ £35
 
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I have just tried the IK multimedia iGrand piano app on the iPad with a camera adaptor. I can plug the iPad into the BK9 audio in and turn the UP1 local control to off so that I only hear the iGrand piano tone together with the BK9 backing. Works quite well. Not too confident in a live situation as the iGrand app did hang up on me a few times but it did sound well plus there's other virtual pianos to try like you say, the Ravenscroft 275 and others.
 
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The BK-9 has an excellent MIDI implementation. By MIDI-ing it to another keyboard there is a net gain of function; you can probably do more than you could with either board individually. The BK-9 has decent-size keys and a good medium-weight keybed action for a 20-lb board. But it doesn't have aftertouch. So if you need that to extract the subtleties of a piano sound you might consider its predecessor the Roland G-70, or a dedicated style piano like the new FP-E50. My $.02.
 
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The BK-9 has an excellent MIDI implementation. By MIDI-ing it to another keyboard there is a net gain of function; you can probably do more than you could with either board individually. The BK-9 has decent-size keys and a good medium-weight keybed action for a 20-lb board. But it doesn't have aftertouch. So if you need that to extract the subtleties of a piano sound you might consider its predecessor the Roland G-70, or a dedicated style piano like the new FP-E50. My $.02.
Hi.

Thanks for your post. I have considered a G70 but they're hard to find in good condition. I want to stick with the BK9 if I can. I'm not a pianist, I play the chords with the left hand (with accompaniment) and melody with the right, but like a clear piano sound that cuts through the backing. The BK9 just doesn't have that sound. To me, the piano tones sound pretty dismal especially through my PA. The piano tones all seem to sound muddy. On the same PA, my old G1000 sounded rich and clear. I didn't use the default piano though, I used an older SC55 tone which had more definition, at least to me. I am no good at editing sounds to shape the sound into something I like, so rely on out of the box sounds. I'm not a tweaker, just love to choose a style and play. I read that the newer keyboards have much more memory to store data and therefore reproduce sounds with more detail but I just can't hear it with the BK9 pianos(SupeNatural and ordinary ones), which is a shame as I'm happy with the other instruments and think the styles are great.
 
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The G1000 was an amazing board in its day, but engineers did the best they could with limited memory. The BK-9 samples probably use 10x as much ROM. Could this be a stereo-mono thing (i.e., the samples are stereo and your PA is mono)? How does it sound through quality headphones? Even if you're not a tweaker, you might try turning MFX on and off, or trying different presets on the built-in graphic equalizer. There are tools, you might have to "season" the sound to your taste.
 
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The G1000 was an amazing board in its day, but engineers did the best they could with limited memory. The BK-9 samples probably use 10x as much ROM. Could this be a stereo-mono thing (i.e., the samples are stereo and your PA is mono)? How does it sound through quality headphones? Even if you're not a tweaker, you might try turning MFX on and off, or trying different presets on the built-in graphic equalizer. There are tools, you might have to "season" the sound to your taste.
Hi.

It may be a stereo to mono issue as it does sound better at home than through my headphones than it does live through my PA. I have tried some tweaking by connecting up my iPad and messing around with EQ and FX and the results are quite pleasing at home but again not when through my PA. The piano tone seems to have a pleasing tone to it when the velocity hits around 91. I've tested this by turning off the touch sensitivity and setting the static velocity to 91. But you have to hit the keyboard hard to reach this velocity even with touch sensitivity on low and don't want to play with the sensitivity off altogether.

I have read online that the lower quality piano sounds are clearer. I know this sounds like nonsense but perhaps there's some truth in that as my G1000 piano sounded clearer and if it used much less ROM, then the quality must have been lower.

The G1000 did have a lot more reverb on the tones by default but it was high quality. The BK9 default reverb is a lot lighter but when I crank it up, it just sounds very muddy.

The piano tones on the BK9 all seem to have a 'thud' which is only audible through my PA. I know my PA is old but it just puzzles me that my G1000 sounded great through it and I'm connectong my BK9 up to it in the exact same way.

I just hope I can get it sorted as I would definitely like to keep the BK9 but need a clear piano sound.
 

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Can you control filter parameters on the BK like resonance and cutoff?

If not, maybe add a filter pedal to the unit when playing live.

Personally I get a lot of use out of a Zoom MS70CDR

Most ROMpler pianos sound pretty tame until you screw around a bit with EQ and resonance.
 
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There are quite a few parameters you can edit for the standard tones on the BK9 (not the Supernatural ones). Resonance and cutoff included. I don't understand what they do, but they don't seem to make much of a difference on the piano tones. I can only put the whole mix through a filter pedal as you can't output just the upper tones separate.

I'm sure there will be some settings somewhere that will get me closer to a sound I'm comfortable with...
 

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Resonance and cutoff included. I don't understand what they do,

Cutoff controls the cutoff frequency for the low pass filter, which is the highest frequency which is allowed through the filter; all of the frequencies below the cutoff can pass through the filter, whereas all of the frequencies above the cutoff are filtered out. But it isn't an immediate on/off thing; the amplitudes of the frequencies start to decrease near the cutoff, and don't get completely cut off until after the cutoff, so it's more of a fadeout. What this does it let you make a voice sound "brighter" or "darker" based on how many of the higher-frequency harmonics are allowed through the filter.

Resonance controls how much the frequencies close to the cutoff frequency are amplified to give the cutoff more or less emphasis.

One way that these two parameters are used on synths is to create a "filter sweep" by cranking up the resonance and then changing the cutoff frequency while a sound is playing. Moving the cutoff from low to high will create more of a "wah" sound, while moving it from high to low will create more of an "ow" sound. Often they are done together-- low to high to low again, or vice versa. Many synths also let you control this with a low frequency oscillator, so that a sound's harmonics can go up and down in a regular cycle, either quickly or slowly depending on the rate of the low frequency oscillator.
 
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Can you control filter parameters on the BK like resonance and cutoff?

If not, maybe add a filter pedal to the unit when playing live.

Personally I get a lot of use out of a Zoom MS70CDR

Most ROMpler pianos sound pretty tame until you screw around a bit with EQ and resonance.

What Gary writes is exactly what I found on the Korg Pa 700 that I used to have.

Once the default EQ off was changed to On and adjustments made the mediocre piano sounds became bright and vibrant.

Try adjusting the Eq and what settings you can.

Thos is a typical sound profile and the elements that can often be adjusted and the overall timbre of the instrument sound changed.



IMG_5250.gif
 
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Cutoff controls the cutoff frequency for the low pass filter, which is the highest frequency which is allowed through the filter; all of the frequencies below the cutoff can pass through the filter, whereas all of the frequencies above the cutoff are filtered out. But it isn't an immediate on/off thing; the amplitudes of the frequencies start to decrease near the cutoff, and don't get completely cut off until after the cutoff, so it's more of a fadeout. What this does it let you make a voice sound "brighter" or "darker" based on how many of the higher-frequency harmonics are allowed through the filter.

Resonance controls how much the frequencies close to the cutoff frequency are amplified to give the cutoff more or less emphasis.

One way that these two parameters are used on synths is to create a "filter sweep" by cranking up the resonance and then changing the cutoff frequency while a sound is playing. Moving the cutoff from low to high will create more of a "wah" sound, while moving it from high to low will create more of an "ow" sound. Often they are done together-- low to high to low again, or vice versa. Many synths also let you control this with a low frequency oscillator, so that a sound's harmonics can go up and down in a regular cycle, either quickly or slowly depending on the rate of the low frequency oscillator.
Many thanks for the explanation. I will have a play around with the cutoff and resonance controls of the piano tones. My intention is to make the sound brighter.
 
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I have had a play around with the resonance and cutoff parameters on the BK9 piano tones. I hear no difference at all. The manual states that no noticeable difference will be heard by adjusting these parameters with certain tones as the default will be at the maximum.

I'm putting the quality loss down to my amp, and the fact that I'm going from stereo to mono, but I have always done this. Besides, the styles sound quite good, as do some of the other instruments, like guitars and some of the strings and saxes. Just not the piano!

Someone has given me a Casio WK-3500 which I am going to try in conjunction with the BK9. Seems a strange combo but if I can just get a clear piano sound from the Casio, I'll be happy. Just a pity I have to lug an extra keyboard around with me to get a decent piano tone.

I don't know why, but it seems that the cheaper keyboards have clearer pianos. Maybe it's just my ears and what I'm used to, I don't know.

At this stage, I feel like going back to Yamaha after 20+ years of being a Roland player.
 

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I know what you mean about the cheaper keyboards. I used to have a Casio CTK-710, which was an ultra cheap model. When I got my first Yamaha (a PSR-E433) I did a voice-by-voice comparison, and I thought the Casio's piano sounded clearer than the Yamaha's, because it seems that Yamaha likes to add a lot of reverb to their piano voices, and the Casio wasn't reverb-heavy like the Yamaha was.
 
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I know what you mean about the cheaper keyboards. I used to have a Casio CTK-710, which was an ultra cheap model. When I got my first Yamaha (a PSR-E433) I did a voice-by-voice comparison, and I thought the Casio's piano sounded clearer than the Yamaha's, because it seems that Yamaha likes to add a lot of reverb to their piano voices, and the Casio wasn't reverb-heavy like the Yamaha was.
That's interesting, as the piano tone on my G1000 was reverb heavy and the reverb effect was quality. The default reverb on the BK9 piano tone is really light but when I try and extend the time or increase the level, it just sounds horrible. The reverb on the Casio WK-3500 piano is quite heavy but sounds ok.

But your Casio piano tone sounded clearer without reverb.

Maybe we just get used to a certain sound and others sound inferior. Not sure.

I'm thinking of trying the Yamaha E-473 or the EW-425. Seems like I'm going backwards though as the value difference is quite big. But I need to feel comfortable with what I play. Especially live.
 
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I have had a play around with the resonance and cutoff parameters on the BK9 piano tones. I hear no difference at all. The manual states that no noticeable difference will be heard by adjusting these parameters with certain tones as the default will be at the maximum.

Yeah, the filter suggestions were a bit of a red herring. As you noted yourself earlier, they don't work on SuperNATURAL sounds, but even on the other (traditionally sampled) piano sounds, pretty much any modern sampled piano sound will have multiple velocity layers. In the old days, a piano note might have only had a single sample, and the sound designer could use filter cutoff combined with velocity envelope adjustment to help give it some velocity-controlled dynamics, and then opening that filter (or altering the velocity responsiveness of the filter) could add some brightness to the less-than-high-velocity strikes, but these days, keyboards almost always use different samples for different velocity levels. So then you might be able to use a filter to reduce it from its originally recorded brightness, but you can't use it in the direction you'd want, it's not going to bring out brightness in the sample that wasn't there to begin with (or as you put it, it's effectively already at maximum). And resonance creates artificial peaks that are unlikely to be helpful here.

I'm putting the quality loss down to my amp, and the fact that I'm going from stereo to mono, but I have always done this. Besides, the styles sound quite good, as do some of the other instruments, like guitars and some of the strings and saxes. Just not the piano!

Piano is typically the hardest sound to get sounding good through an amp. It is pretty much the "go to" sound to determine how good an amp is. An amp with more coloration or weaker highs or lows won't be noticed as much on those other instruments as they are on piano. Also, for most sounds, you don't have to worry about stereo vs. mono phase issues because most sounds are mono (absent any effects).

Out of curiosity, I don't think it's been mentioned, what amp are you using?

I don't know why, but it seems that the cheaper keyboards have clearer pianos. Maybe it's just my ears and what I'm used to, I don't know.

I think sometimes "better" pianos can sound worse than lesser ones. One reason could be a difference in stereo-to-mono compatibility. I also have an "uncanny valley" theory here... that when a piano sound gets closer to real, its flaws through sub-standard amplification become more apparent.

Since you're okay with the sound at home, as you say, it may well be because of the amp and/or going from stereo to mono, even if other keyboards have been okay in that environment, and so that might be the perspective from which to address the issue, rather than adjustments to the keyboard or adding a second keyboard. But on the second board topic...

Someone has given me a Casio WK-3500 which I am going to try in conjunction with the BK9. Seems a strange combo but if I can just get a clear piano sound from the Casio, I'll be happy. Just a pity I have to lug an extra keyboard around with me to get a decent piano tone...I'm thinking of trying the Yamaha E-473 or the EW-425.

I didn't like the piano playability of the EW-425.I don't know how much of it was the particular piano sound, vs. how it played from that action. My Casio CT-S500 is pretty decent, though, if 61 keys is enough and you want something small/light and low-cost. Again, no 5-pin MIDI, so you won't be able to hardwire it directly with the BK9.

But getting back to sparing you from having to bring a second board... amp is one variable to address as mentioned... and we've mentioned stereo vs. mono, but not how to address it. Short of actually running in stereo, here's something else you can try. If you're using an output from your keyboard that sums the stereo to mono, try defeating that by just using an actual mono signal that is only one side of the stereo signal. So if you're using the L/Mono out of the BK9, try using the R output instead.

Though also, it sounded like your initial experiment with an iPad sound was reasonably successful, so maybe some more time spent on that could also spare you from having to bring a second board.
 

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