CEUS Reproducing System Of My Bösendorfer Imperial 290 Piano
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"the capability to accurately record and to play back the full expressiveness of even the most talented pianist"
This explains CEUS, and how my own Bösendorfer Imperial piano came to be retro-fitted with CEUS in the Fall of 2009.
Right: Wayne Stahnke, innovative visionary who developed the SE which is the foundation upon which CEUS was developed.
The superb recording and playback accuracy of the 290SE was unprecedented. Those who enjoyed an opportunity to record on the SE, and historians who had old music adapted to play on the 290SE have paid this high compliments. Decades later the reliable 290SE remain sought after and continue in service; one of the 290SE remains cherished (along with its Microsoft DOS 3.1 computer) at the University of Maryland's Michelle Smith Library International Piano Archives, near my Columbia, Maryland home. Unfortunately owing to the high cost the SE technology was not followed up by Bösendorfer, nor was it patented. However, this effort became the basis for pianos that would since December 1987 come to dominate this market even though technically and musically these did not surpass the 290 SE, and so the Yamaha 'Disklavier' became synonymous with recording pianos.
Above: Image from Bösendorfer showing a CEUS equipped grand piano in action.
As explained by Bösendorfer literature:
"CEUS-Musical emotions and virtuosity are authentically reproducible: for the first time, a pianist can experience himself "live" from the listener's standpoint thanks to the CEUS reproducing system. Artists can record anywhere, without studio stress, without taking into consideration the entire musical span of a work. For the first time, direct live recordings are possible from a concert hall without disturbing background noise. Compositions and improvisations can be recorded and documented."
In this sense it is like having a pianist at your disposal full time, one with an uncommonly broad repertoire.
The CEUS incorporates a computer with a hard disk where music performance data is stored in a digital format as a ".boe" file within directories. This is not merely an analog or digital recording of the audio track, but this is instead digital data of the performance keys and pedals sequence and timing. The .boe files are a fraction of the size of conventional recorded data. Furthermore, no information is lost or inadvertently modified when copying data from one CEUS piano to another, or from one storage device (hard disk, Memory Stick, etc.) to another. The data may be transmitted by a local network or through the Internet, by USB flash stick, etc. This provides some measure of immortality to the performer and also to his .boe data files. The CEUS is delivered with a sample digital song library of nearly one thousand five hundred files in .boe format. In time recordings in .boe format may be shared on the Internet, or transmitted by E-Mail, or imported from other devices for example. Elsewhere that performance can be played back and recorded by audio microphones, at any studio that has a similar CEUS piano.
The piano playback volume will by default match that level as originally recorded, so assuming a song was recorded on an Imperial piano for example it will essentially be played back at the same volume on another Imperial. But by touching the control buttons up or down in increments CEUS will play back the recorded song louder or softer. It is just as though a pianist is being asked to strike the keys a little harder or softer; this does nothing to alter the piano itself. So if a performance recorded in a large hall is to be listened to in a room at home, one can reduce the volume to comfortable (and 'hearing safe') levels.
Transposition (reading the music in one key while playing it back in another) is not a simple element of music theory, but for the CEUS doing this too is a snap since CEUS can transpose the song's key signature up or down by command with a push of the control buttons. This can be done even while the piano is playing back the song. Transposing the song can make life easier for your accompanying instrumental musicians or vocalist. Or one can change key simply to hear a familiar song played a bit differently.
CEUS can be ordered factory installed in any new Bösendorfer Grand piano from the Model 170 (5'8") to the Imperial Model 290 (9'6"). Alternatively, a piano may be returned to the factory so that with some modifications to the piano the CEUS can be installed onto Bösendorfer grand pianos (models 170 to 290). This will no doubt provide many fine candle-lit dinners serenaded by any one of the many extraordinary artists whose efforts were saved for posterity in the CEUS library, this is this possibility that most stirred my imagination.
Welcome to a new dimension of recording and reproducing playing,
practice sessions or concerts on a grand piano."
Not Cues, but rather something between Seuss and Zeus: initially I was unsure about how to pronounce 'CEUS'. When I learned CEUS is pronounced like something between Zeus and the Seuss of Dr. Seuss fame ("Cat In The Hat", "Green Eggs and Ham", etc.), I was even more confounded about why Bösendorfer selected the CEUS name. When I first heard about it in 2005 at Bösendorfer New York they explained it was 'CEUSS' for "Computer Enhanced for Ultimate Super Sound", but since then I have seen it published only as CEUS. According to the earlier versions of both the German and English operating manuals CEUS is the acronym for "Create Emotions with Unique Sound", but this is in English. I tried to understand from where this originated while also wondering if the translation sounded better or made more sense in German (Emotionen erzeugen mit Einzigartiger Klang) but no, that does not work. I have noted neither the most recent operating manual nor the Bösendorfer web site explain the meaning of the CEUS acronym.
Image © Dr. Seuss Enterprises. Used by permission.
One of the first production CEUS pianos is an Imperial Model 290 that was acquired by the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research (BRAMS) center. This research centre is jointly affiliated with the University of Montreal, with McGill University, and with the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI). BRAMS is devoted to the study of music cognition with a focus on neuroscience. This piano was on line by early 2006 and by then I was learning more and more about the CEUS, yet I had no direct feedback from people who were using it and so I hesitated to proceed.
On 16 June 2007 Bösendorfer New York hosted the US introduction of the CEUS at their New York city showroom (note the image at top right of this page). BNY was then the world's sole Bösendorfer-only retail gallery. Everything promised by CEUS was delivered at this event; the presentations and technical operations were flawless. A number of pianists explored the CEUS and those in attendance came away with universally positive acclaim. This sucess of the CEUS at the New York event cemented my confidence in the product, and so by 18 June 2007 we drafted a preliminary agreement to have the CEUS installed on my Imperial piano.
However, as the self appointed guardian of my Imperial piano I was antagonized by doubts revolving around several issues related to a CEUS retrofit:
After discussions with Gerhard Feldmann, with Andreas Kaufmann Sales Director and with Ferdinand Braeu the Technical Director at L. Bösendorfer Klavierfabrik GmbH we formlated a plan about how to proceed. My concerns were addressed so that I placed the formal order on 27 July 2007.
• A Convertible CEUS: to maintain the piano's original stunning appearance, and to protect the piano against any possibility of CEUS's obsolescence the factory agreed to first precisely duplicate any original parts of the piano that would otherwise be modified by the CEUS installation process. The original components would be packaged and crated for safe return to me. The duplicated parts would be the parts to be modified to have the CEUS installed. Of course this increased the costs of the conversion, but in this way if I or a later owner of the piano desired to change the piano back to how it was when new then it would be a simple matter to attach the original legs into place, the Fall Board, etc. This did add some noteworthy costs to the work as this is not normally provided with the standard CEUS for a new piano or retrofit.
• Computer technology aspects of any new product tend to be refined rapidly after deployment as more experience is fed back into the development process. The installation would be delayed for at least two years after the introduction of the production CEUS. Part of the delay was related to the agreement of 20 December 2007 when BAWG (the bank that owned L. Bösendorfer Klavierfabrik GmbH) sold the company to Yamaha Corporation of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Japan. I viewed this as good for L. Bösendorfer Klavierfabrik GmbH, but this left me wondering whether or not the experience gained by Yamaha since 1987 with the Disklavier would help refine CEUS or would Yamaha cancel it altogether? Fortunately Yamaha restated its position to keep investing in CEUS refinement and support.
I awaited the return of my piano with CEUS anticipating that Christmas 2009 and the New Year's celebrations would be very special times indeed! The piano Gods smiled upon us and my piano was returned home on 28 December, delayed by an unusually deep snow the 'Blizzard of 2009' as it will become known here in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. region. It was reassuring to see the piano moving team consisted of ten experienced men all eager to insure this 1,550 lbs of piano, plus the 300 lbs of CEUS components, plus the original packaged fall board and legs of the piano would make its way home safely. When my 290 Imperial piano returned home this was the fifth CEUS system (three of them Imperial pianos) in North America!
I was a bit surprised that no one on the delivery team was familiar with CEUS, and the piano technician scheduled to visit and complete the set up work (tuning, etc.) was some weeks away. Since nobody there on 28 December could explain the CEUS to me I was left with my piano, the CEUS, and an instruction manual. To the credit of those who wrote the manual, and even more to those who set up the control system, I learned how to turn CEUS on and play and record some songs well enough to keep myself entertained.
The first moments I experienced the CEUS performing were eery and somewhat unsettling as the piano came alive to play Beethoven's Fifth Symphony; it was as though the ghost of Beethoven visited to perform. Below is a video recording of CEUS playing the first twenty four seconds of the Fifth Symphony as recorded by Milton Suskind and Arthur Loesser. This is a 47.3 megabyte file in Quicktime movie format. This video was made on that first night with a simple pocket camera, and just as my piano was delivered and before final tuning.
Above: impromptu recording by a compact digital camera so the video and audio quality are unremarkable, but it conveys a first impression.
The 47 megabyte movie is also available in a compressed format, view the above movie as an .mp4 of 6,864,398 bytes.
To view the above movie files pop-up windows must be enabled in your Browser.
Since the CEUS arrived at my home I have experienced no other recording piano system beside the CEUS that can record anything that one or more pianists can throw at it (grave or presto, accelerando or rubato or ritardo, pianissimo or fortissimo, in any style, etc.) then play it back exactly as it was performed. If you close your eyes while the CEUS is playing then you think someone is there performing the thing. As I mentioned above, the first night alone with the CEUS in my home was almost eerie - observing the keys and pedals move while listening to the Beethoven composition performed as though his own ghost were on the bench!
On 6-7 September 2010 Jan Sauerzapf the lead CEUS piano installation technician from L. Bösendorfer Klavierfabrik and Tom Kaplan, a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) working for Bösendorfer USA, visited my home to retrofit my CEUS for secure wireless networking. This was the first installation of this capability for a CEUS piano in the field. The work included installing a new PC that incorporated the wireless LAN components and the attachment of three antennas. This system is based upon the current most efficient standard, 802.11n, a recent amendment which improves upon the previous 802.11 standards by adding multiple-input multiple-output antennas (MIMO) and many other new features. This followed some months of discussions with Bösendorfer GmbH.
The ramifications for networking two or more CEUS systems by means of higher speed wireless connections can only be surmised. But for me this means less wires visible as only one AC power line runs to the piano and into a nondescript surge protector/power strip. It also means that anyone who visits my home can connect (with the provided password) onto the network thereby communicating with CEUS too. New Bösendorfer customers will be able to order the wireless capability as a factory installed option for their CEUS. Fortunately, current owners of the CEUS can have this retrofitted to their piano by a Bösendorfer technician on site; the piano need not be returned to the factory to have this installed. By now anyone who wanted networking capability for their CEUS probably installed the Cat5/6 cables connecting to their CEUSs' networking port, connecting that to either a wall outlet or to some wireless device. For more information about this capability search the Internet, to see how this works refer to my CEUS wireless networking section.
BOEdit - .boe File Editing Software:
In December 2010 Bösendorfer Klavierfabrik announced their plans to release BOEdit, a new software written specifically to allow the editing of CEUS recording .boe files. The software features two workspaces: 1. a track editor, and 2. a note editor. This software will permit the shifting of individual notes within the data file of a recorded performance in 2-millisecond resolution increments, edit the length and volume of notes, and optimize the velocity of the notes. With this software you can edit the slightest movements of the piano keys and pedals too. In the track editor an entire performance may be edited; cutting and pasting portions, or editing out mistakes. Throughout these processes numerous 'undo' possibilities are possible too, though it is simple enough to periodically save complete working versions of each file too.
Best of all, BOEdit is easy to learn and use with a simple graphical user interface that will be comprehendable even for those people who have no prior music editing experience.
Right: Announcement of the BOEdit Software for CEUS and the cover page of Bösendorfer Magazine, December 2010 issue (99,239 bytes).
BOEdit is a Microsoft Windows PC compatible software, but that can also run on modern Apple Macintosh OSX computers that are booted into a Windows operating system or are simultaneously running a Windows and Macintosh operating systems.
It is possible that in time the .boe file standard may be even more widely adopted, so that some of the more capable third party music editing and recording software too will be able to read and work with the .boe data. In time third-party software too may even permit other functions including the synthesized playback of .boe files on a PC.
I wrote article about this development and describe some of the early versions of BOEdit at BOEdit: CEUS File Editing Software.
CAUTION: It can be a costly proposition to have a factory technician visit to repair a fried CEUS, so to reduce the chances of that happening I recommend the employment of surge protection and or a line conditioning equipment. This will connect between any AC Mains power source and the CEUS piano, as well as for any networking cable or other hard wired connection to/from the CEUS equipped piano.
For countries or regions where the quality of the AC service is variable, then one may install an AC Line Conditioner or an Isolation Transformer, this should be connected to an outlet with a tested isolated grounding. This is used to convey electrical AC power to some equipment or device circuit while isolating the powered device(s) from the AC power source, usually for safety. Isolation transformers protect against electric shock, suppress electrical noise in sensitive devices, or transfer power between two circuits which must not otherwise be connected together. The Isolation Transformer may be either a stand alone appliance (shown at right) plugged into an AC main then feeding the device(s) to be protected, or it may be a device wired into the AC distribution circuits.
Left: APC brand Isolation Transformer front and back views.
Right: Tripp-Lite brand Isolation Transformer front and back views.
In areas where AC power can drop out then you can use a Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), that provides that there will be no lapse of continuous power to the connected device if the AC Mains/wall current is discontinued. Some UPS's incorporate surge protection and/or line filtering circuitry to protect the attached device from current fluctuations or nearby lightning strike and/or to insure a highly perfected current, free of noise or voltage fluctuations, is delivered to the connected appliance. With loss of Mains power the attached accessories are automatically switched over to run off the rechargeable batteries through a power supply that provides AC power out; this allows the user of the computer to save any edits and perform an orderly shut-down of BOEdit and the computer.
Reliable manufacturers of these devices include APC and Tripp-Lite for example.
For Further Reading:
Contact the owner of this piano.
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