by Stephen Fortner
Day two of our testing went even more smoothly, as we had all the audio routing dialed in already.I'd actually spent most of the previous day at the Village, as PMC monitors threw a listening party at the very same venue that night, thrown by audio engineer Dave Hampton and organized by the ubiquitous Chandra Lynn of Glow Marketing. Here's one of their guys demonstrating the ALN-1, which in the picture below has the blue faceplate. One of the tracks we listened to was actually a stem of just the vocals from Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On." I'm talking about the original session here. Wow. Let's just say that if anything might take the place of my beloved ADAM S2A pair, it might be these. The bass they put out had everyone going "Where's the subwoofer?" There wasn't one. And the off-axis sweet spot was wide enough to drive your gig van through.
Back to the AvantGrand piano. The day's guests included Nicholas Pike, who's main gig is being a composer/orchestrator. He's one of those guys who says "I'm not a really a piano player" then sits down and plays better than you or I. ;) His credits include scoring the 45-minute video for Michael Jackson's "Ghost," and more recently, he's been the MD on the Bonnie Hunt show.
Nick listened very carefully to both the C7 (right) and the AvantGrand, especially to what I like to call the "spaces between the notes."Meaning, he played a lot of close cluster voicings and listened for to see if the interaction between all the harmonics of the adjacent notes was realistic. From what I heard, it's pretty uncanny. Nick did voice the concern that he wasn't hearing quite the low end he'd like from the N3 (baby grand cabinet) model. Don't get me wrong - it has plenty of low end, but the C7 did have more. A lot of factors could have been contributing here. First, Studio B at the Village is a very dead room. Second, we'd had the N3's volume turned down too low when he initially started playing it. Third, their relative positions in the room. I actually found I preferred the bass of the N2 upright (below), which was in a more right-angled corner. We'll have both models at Keyboard central soon, too, so we'll see how they do in different rooms.
Our final guest for the project was Randy Waldman, who has the enviable gig of musical director and pianist for Barbra Streisand, and is used to playing a 9' Yamaha CF-III-S concert grand at her performances. For just a snippet of what a shredder and reharmonization madman this guy is, click here. (When he's not playing with Babs, he teaches people to fly helicopters, too. No joke.)
Randy was blown away by the action, the sound, and when we went into the control room to listen through the wall-mounted TAD monitors, he said, "I can't tell the difference." Asked if he'd take the AvantGrand onstage at a Barbra Streisand performance if no grand were available, he responded in the affirmative.
We're hard at work editing the full versions of all the videos we shot, so watch this site. They'll be showing up soon!