New piano player system delivers leading-edge
performance and interactivity
“The world’s oldest music software company” has unveiled the latest evolutionary step from the player piano rolls it began manufacturing in 1900. QRS Music Technologies’ new PNO3 player system represents a major leap forward in features that, in the first two months since its debut, are already thrilling both dealers and consumers.
Under development since 2012, QRS’s new player system (pronounced “piano three”) delivers “less lag and greater granularity of timing and control of how the player engine performs,” according to Tom Dolan, president. These upgrades immerse the customer in QRS’s acclaimed player piano music library.
Dedicated processing power also facilitates significantly improved recording with QRS’s PNOscan, including superior resolution and new features such as Auto Record, which automatically saves the customer’s performance without the need to turn on the system or hit a record button. The feature automatically saves the performance locally and then sends it to the customer’s PNOcloud account for access from any device.
Another major upgrade surfaces in PNO3’s Practice feature. With the touch of a button, the customer can select from three standard downloadable sound fonts—for example, a high-definition grand piano sound—to practice and perform with, or they can upload their own. The selected sound is heard through the customer’s headphones when practicing in silence or mixed with background music during playback and sent out the Mixed Audio Out port to be piped through the house, eliminating the need for a mixer and a mic. Any of the General MIDI sounds can be layered on top of the acoustic piano sound.
PNO3 can be installed on any piano, and QRS offers an upgrade kit that is compatible with all of its past systems. The upgrade kit also includes set-up routines that allow it to be added to competitors’ older systems.
The new system’s October 2015 release was timed to coincide with the unveiling of QRS’s new mobile apps. Mobile app capability, which Dolan deems essential in today’s market, will enable the customer to seamlessly interface with third-party apps and platforms within the PNO3 user interface. For example, PNO3 will incorporate iOS, Android, and Microsoft functionality and communicate with platforms such as YouTube, Piano Marvel, and others. (Touching PNO3’s Learn button launches the customer into a free year of online Piano Marvel lessons, which Dolan calls “powerful and addicting.”) Customers can even set up their own “radio stations” that play, à la Pandora, songs fitting their personal preferences. Links to QRS servers can also be used to manage various cloud accounts, PNOcloud, PNOmation, and back office.
For commercial customers, PNO3 offers new playback scheduling capabilities. Meanwhile, PNOcloud and Piano Marvel integration adds learning, archiving, and tracking tools for institutions.
Upon the first launch of the app through Google Play and iOS stores, the system will find the customer’s piano on their network regardless of what IP address it may have been assigned or changed to by their router. This eliminates problems with the previous system that often ended in customer calls to the dealer.
After a few beta test issues were ironed out, dealer response to PNO3 has been “a huge thumbs up,” with praise for everything from its solid hardware and superb performance to how easy it is to sell and connect with customers’ home networks. Dealers also applaud much-requested factory reset and cloud backup and restore features—as well as its general user friendliness and adjustability.
But the highest praise has been for the PNO3/PNOscan system’s interactivity. If the keyboard is playing unevenly, the customer can correct it himself without calling in a technician. Customers can also adjust its sensitivity curve, with a stronger or mellower attack, to their own taste. They can play something and have it instantly, wirelessly printed as sheet music on their printer. They can connect their Mac to it and compose something in Garage Band or Logic, correct it all, and play it back on the piano instantly. And they can connect with online piano lessons through Piano Marvel. “Player pianos have been around for 150 years now, so customers don’t get wowed by them anymore,” says Kerwin Ipsen, vice president of Daynes Music in Midvale, Utah. PNO3 offers more functions and flexibility than any other system on the market and basically brings the ‘wow’ back.”
Addressing another equally important aspect of the customer’s purchase decision, QRS also provides an exceptionally high level of “customer assurance.” In Tom Dolan’s words, PNO3 represents his company’s ongoing commitment to “keeping the technology on the customer’s piano relevant to what is happening today.” Along with “support from the very first customer to the new customer,” QRS prides itself on always providing a migration path to new product technologies. “We give the potential new buyer peace of mind that what they buy today will complement the life of their piano. Customers tend to show off their purchase to other potential customers. Our upgrade kits give the dealer a reason to contact old customers and generate additional incremental revenue.”
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