Nearly a century after the player piano took listeners’ ears and living rooms by storm, storied instrument maker Steinway & Sons has launched its new revolutionary reproducing system, Spirio. “The Spirio is taking the humanity, spontaneity and richness of the Steinway piano sound into the 21st Century,” says Elizabeth Joy Roe of keyboard duo Anderson & Roe. “It marries technology with something analog in a really beautiful way.”
Developed in collaboration with acclaimed player piano designer Wayne Stahnke (of Bösendorfer 290SE fame), the Steinway Spirio is in many ways a departure from today’s current crop of reproducing pianos, with sensors that allow minute gradations of touch, trills, pedaling, and more.
“Steinway has been talking about creating its own integrated, high-resolution player piano for nearly 25 years,” says Stephen Millikin, Senior Director of Global Public Relations for Steinway & Sons. “But unfortunately, the technology just didn’t yet exist for a player system that was truly up to Steinway standards.” About two years ago, Steinway joined forces with Stanhke, who worked with Steinway's internal team to refine the technology.
While many of today’s piano player systems are retrofitted onto existing instruments, the Steinway Spirio is installed at the time of the piano’s production, allowing seamless integration between touch and technology. “One of the most vital points in bringing the Spirio system to life was the directive that at the end of the day, it’s a Steinway,” Millikin says. “That means it has to play like a Steinway, with the same touch and tone our instruments are known for. The artists that have played and recorded on it—everyone from Yuja Wang to Lang Lang and others—have remarked on how there is no difference in response when compared to a standard Steinway. By having the system installed at the time of the piano’s manufacture, we can ensure that when you sit down to play a Spirio, it is first and foremost a Steinway piano. It just happens to have this amazing technology that lets the piano take over playing if you want it to!”
Along with its uncanny ability to reproduce minute pianistic movements, the Spirio contains state-of-the art mechanics and an operating system that is easily controlled (and upgraded) through an iPad and app that comes with each piano. Steinway is also continuously recording and adding to its online music library of high-resolution performances for the system, and additional performances are provided to Spirio owners monthly, at no charge.
“Spirio owners never pay for the music in their catalog,” Millikin says. “It’s all free, all the time, and you can choose from jazz, classical, and other genres as well, all from Steinway artists. We’re also able to offer unique and custom content for Spirio. For instance, [Grammy-winning pianist] Bill Charlap recorded a new album that is only available on Spirio. We also recently acquired the technology created by Zenph, which allows us to translate classic recordings by famous pianists into the data files used by Spirio. So your piano can now play exactly like George Gershwin or Van Cliburn did onstage in a concert hall.”
The Steinway Spirio is currently available in three different models: the Model B (6'10.5") worldwide, the Model M (5'7") in the U.S. and Canada, and the Model O (5'10.5") available in select European and Asian markets. For more information visit steinway.com/spirio.