Piano companies have long been in the pursuit of creating an economically-sized grand piano. Every pianist wants a grand piano in their home, but not every pianist has the space for one. The first attempt at a replacement was the tiny spinet piano. These pianos gave a meek, tinny sound. They had shorter action parts than the normal upright piano. Shorter action parts made the piano feel clunky, and unresponsive. Next the electric organ was going to replace every piano in homes. Yet, that fad died out as well. Organs did not have the touch or the sound of a piano. FM and Digital Pianos provided a new alternative to an acoustic piano. Eventually digital pianos had weighted-keys that mimicked the key weight of an acoustic piano. Advances in sampling technology also sounded (and continue to sound) more realistic. Yet, there was something missing even from these digital pianos. While digital pianos are still a great tool for beginning players they still do not match up to an acoustic piano. There is something special, almost poetic, that happens when playing an acoustic piano. This “Piano Experience” is difficult to capture with a digital piano and I thought was impossible to achieve. My mind was changed when I played Yamaha’s NU1.
The NU1 is not your typical digital piano. Just by looking at it, you see that it has the look of a beautiful, yet compact, upright piano. The NU1’s polished black finish is stunning while adding elegant silver highlights. When you sit down to play it, there is something different in the feel. There is no resistance on the key-return, no feeling of pressure sensors depressing, and is evenly weighted throughout. The wooden keys vibrate freely with the music that seems to pour out of this piano. The key tops offer a suitable grip, and every muscle synapse is captured masterfully. The big sound coming from such a small instrument is smooth and rich. My first thought is that this instrument is a perfect acoustic piano. I was actively feeling the “Piano Experience”. But the NU1 is not an acoustic instrument, it is a hybrid.
The NU1 uses an actual acoustic action from their famed U1 piano! Unlike most digital pianos, the key stroke is not measured with pressure sensors. Having those sensors would impede the motion of the wooden hammers and action parts. Instead they measure the distance and velocity of the keys with optical lasers. These lasers measure the most subtle of hand movements down to the micrometer. The sampling with the laser datum creates a responsive, accurate sound. With this type of accuracy and feel, it is no wonder pianists are falling in love with this instrument. It’s not just pianists though! Churches and schools love this instrument too. With no strings, there is no need to tune it. It always stays in perfect pitch! Headphone inputs, auxiliary in/outputs, and large speakers give endless possibilities to sound distribution. The NU1 also features recording ability. This is a fantastic learning tool for rehearsals when busy pianists are unavailable.
I highly recommend trying this product out. The NU1 is perfect for small homes or apartments. It is something that can only be appreciated when played. The NU1 offers the “Piano Experience” in all venues no matter the size. Perhaps that is the greatest gift the Hybrid experience gives us.