Realpiano is the brainchild of Jonathan Dodd, who decided to create an alternative to the usual ways of accessing grand pianos: either travelling to them, or hiring them in (both at considerable expense).
Instead, Realpiano offers clients several options. Some visit the company’s studio for a session, taking away audio and MIDI files of their work. Many, however, choose simply to send a MIDI file as an email attachment, having recorded it on their keyboard, anywhere in the world.
Dodd uses Yamaha’s Mk4-Pro Disklavier system in a hand-crafted DS6 grand piano sourced by Charles Bozon, UK director for Yamaha.
“From the minute it was brought in, the difference was obvious – it had such presence,” says Dodd. When he receives a client’s audio file, he first checks it for potential issues with velocities and sustain pedal movement. The MIDI file is then loaded into the Disklavier and the performance recorded with Brauner mics, directly into the Prism Sound’s Orpheus system. At the end, the client receives a clean, 24-bit recording of their own piece.
Prism Sound’s Orpheus lies at the very heart of Realpiano’s recording path, which runs directly into the Orpheus channels one and two, Dodd explains.
“I use the built-in mic pre-amps included on the first four channels, which are simply brilliant. The Orpheus is a wonderful piece of kit, not only robust but easy to use, due to its proprietary app, which I have installed on my Mac. You can set input levels, phantom power, roll off, and there is a neat limiter facility on the four mic pre-inputs, called OverKiller. There’s also a built-in mixer and amongst other things, it can read any sample rate and play back different sample rates simultaneously. The Orpheus focus is on high-quality audio and digital conversion: it does that very well.”
Dodd chose Prism Sound’s Orpheus because it suited his needs perfectly.
“It has a strong reputation in pro audio and is respected around the world, as well as being made in England,” he says. “My recording path is very much kept to a minimum; clients get ultra-high quality DS6 grand piano in whatever sample rate 24-bit audio file they want, with a very pure result.”
Realpiano is now working with clients around the world, both in music and media. “MIDI to audio has been the main source of work,” Dodd explains, adding that he has been worked on MIDI files from Rio and São Paulo, LA, New York, Quebec, Norway, Sweden, France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Spain, Ghana and Australia.
For media music producers, Realpiano is especially useful, Dodd points out, because they often need to present different edits or adjust their pieces to picture. “Sending back their edited MIDI files gets them exactly the same quality and sound, almost by return,” he says.
Realpiano has worked with the Spanish artist Pau Chafer, as well as recording piano parts for the New York-based artist Dario Boente and Swiss-based pianist, composer and arranger Alex Wilson. Other clients include Trausti Bjarnson from Iceland, who Dodd recalls sent his MIDI file whilst on an island north of Norway. Most recently, Realpiano has been recording piano for the forthcoming movie Florence Foster Jenkins.
Prism Sound’s Orpheus ‘studio in a box’ is a FireWire multichannel audio interface for Windows PC and Mac. As well as eight analog audio line inputs and outputs, Orpheus provides four microphone pre-amplifiers, two high impedance instrument inputs, a MIDI interface, two headphone outputs and a host of advanced synchronization and monitoring facilities. Orpheus is unique in the sector in providing Prism Sound’s pedigree of conversion, analog, clock and signal processing to the DAW user in an integrated package, with the plug-and-play convenience of an ordinary sound card.