History of the Disklavier

Article Index

Mark IV
The year 2004 saw the introduction of the Mark IV. Standard and PRO models were available on the C3 and larger grands. A high quality consumer model was available on the C2 (5’ 8”) grand and smaller pianos.

The Mark IV brought a number of technical innovations to both the standard models and the PRO. Especially noteworthy was the design change to the hammer sensors which were changed from a metal shutter to gray scale sensors, enabling continuous monitoring of hammer position.

The PRO models recorded keys, hammers, and pedals with the same extra precision as the previous PROs. For the first time, the standard and consumer models recorded the full spectrum of 127 values of the una corda and sustain pedals. The standard model additionally recorded key release velocity.

In addition to all of these technical improvements, the Disklavier feature set expanded considerably including:

• A wireless controller that connects to the Mark IV over a private wi-fi network.

• An Ethernet port that connects the Disklavier to the Internet so that it can receive streaming performances from DisklavierRadio™. This network capability also provides access to firmware and feature upgrades. (Many years later, this connectivity feature made it possible for the instrument to receive RemoteLive broadcasts from DisklavierTV™.)

• Internal, 80GB hard drive.

• UBS port for connecting USB storage media, such as flash drives.

• USB port for MIDI communications.

A few years later, Yamaha released a controller app for the Mark IV that runs on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. The app provides access to the most commonly used features of the instrument.

In 2006, Yamaha introduced a peer-to-peer connectivity technology for the Mark IV called RemoteLesson. RemoteLesson makes it possible to connect up to four Mark IV and E3 Disklaviers together so that when you play any one of them, you simultaneously play the remote Disklaviers as well. Although the feature has not been released to the general public, it has been used regularly by music educators and music institutions that are active participants in the Disklavier Education Network.

E3—1st Generation
In 2006, Yamaha introduced the first generation E3 Disklavier in a single upright model (U1) and in the C2 and smaller grand pianos. Although the first generation E3 used state-of-the-art components, it was designed as a lower cost, consumer-level instrument that featured a key-sensor based recording system and an infrared, line-of-sight remote control.

The instrument included all of the primary Disklavier features that had previously become standard, including basic record & playback, video-sync recording, and Internet access to firmware and feature updates, DisklavierRadio, and (later) DisklavierTV—to name a few. A few years later, Yamaha released a controller app for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad that provides access to nearly all of the instruments user features.

The DKC-850 Upgrade
In 2009, Yamaha began to offer an upgraded control unit for older model Disklaviers. Outwardly, the control unit is identical to the control unit of the E3, and it offers the same user features as the control unit on the E3 (which is called the DKC-800).

DKC-850 cropped 500x120

The DKC-850 can be used as a replacement control unit for Mark IIXG and Mark III Disklaviers, both PROs and non-PROS. It does not change the recording and playback capabilities of the sensors and solenoids in these earlier Disklaviers, but it does provide a user experience that is nearly identical to that of the E3, including connectivity for USB storage devices and access to advance features such as DisklavierRadio and DisklavierTV.

The DKC-850 can also be used as an add-on control unit for the Mark II Disklavier. In this situation, the DKC-850 connects to the Mark II control unit with MIDI cables. Other than turning on the old control unit, the Disklavier owner can ignore the old control unit and use the features of the DKC-850 to control the piano. It should be noted, however, that DisklavierRadio and DisklavierTV are not supported in this context.

E3—2nd Generation
In 2012, Yamaha replaced the Mark IV series with standard and PRO versions of the E3. The standard version (complete with hammer sensors) was made available on the C2 and smaller grand pianos. All larger pianos (from the C3 on up) were outfitted with the PRO system.

DS6E3PRO PEAbout the same time as the introduction of the second generation E3s, Yamaha introduced a new feature for the Mark IV, E3, and DKC-850 called DisklavierTV. DisklavierTV is built on a technology called RemoteLive that enables the live streaming and archiving of video, audio, and Disklavier performance data (e.g. MIDI data). By connecting a compatible Disklavier to both the Internet and to a computer, Disklavier owners can watch as well as listen to live and archived performances that are reproduced on their own piano, even performances that include instrumental and vocal audio.

The introduction of the second generation E3 coincided with the debut of a new series of grand pianos called the CX series. CX pianos are based on design principles that were previously featured on the CFX concert grand piano, an instrument that made its way to the concert stage in 2010.

CX-series pianos were the result of years of research and development. The instruments feature a thickened back frame for improved support, providing a rich and resonant tone. They include a new, revolutionary piano wire as well as hammers based on those found in the CFX concert grand.

Today, the CXE3 series Disklaviers represent Yamaha’s flagship of piano technology, combining the most advanced Disklavier system with Yamaha’s finest acoustic pianos.