Traditional pianos were designed before viable acoustic engineering theory was available and have barely changed in concept or detail since the formative days of trial and error improvement in the 1880’s.
Modern piano designers, hampered by unwise managerial fiscal constraints, have so little understanding of what led to success that piano design has stagnated since the late 1800’s. We have applied and extended modern acoustic science to piano design and once more started listening to advice and the aspirations of artists.
Our studies have shown that conventional pianos produce a mere 4 units (Watts) of sound energy for every 100 Watts of finger energy put into the keyboard by the pianist. New computer programs, modern stress analysis and acoustic studies enabled us to show where energy was being used and where it was being lost. We could watch the electronically exaggerated vibration response of every part of a piano we studied and also investigate the effect on the sound performance of sometimes quite small changes to particular components.
We identified massive potential advantages by careful substitution of wood with carbon fibre and identified the disadvantages of the use of downwards pressure from the strings, which is the crude means used by the early builders to maintain firm contact between the strings and the bridge enabling vibration energy transfer to the sound board but which clamps the soundboard and results in huge damping and loss of sound energy.
In 2008 both we and Steingraeber began making Phoenix pianos. We had generous help from Steingraeber. Phoenix pianos have special bridge agraffes attaching the string to a carbon fibre bridge yet imposing no load on the sound board; we now combine this with a special very thin and light but strong carbon fibre soundboard.
Phoenix pianos produce about twice as much sound energy as traditional pianos with the same finger energy input.
The extra sound energy appears as longer sustain of the note as well as more sound power. The sound quality is only very marginally changed by carbon fibre. With the larger power reserve the pianos can easily be adjusted from bright to mellow sound by voicing the hammers.
Unless told, only a tiny proportion of professional pianists playing our pianos realise the soundboard is not made of wood.
In 2012 we exhibited a Phoenix- Carbiano-in Cremona, Paris and Birmingham as the world’s first piano made almost entirely from carbon fibre. The structure is up to 3 times stiffer than a traditional piano and it is virtually unaffected by adverse climate or by the age deterioration of conventional pianos. It weighed about 1/3rd as much as a conventional piano of the same size.