Steinway have billed the Spirio as one of its most groundbreaking launches

Ken Kessler writes .....

Oh, are we spoiled when it comes to music. For over a century, we’ve had methods of hearing music in the home, recordings by the world’s greatest singers and musicians, played back via cylinders, 78s, vinyl records, tapes and CDs. Now we’re even free of these physical formats: we can stream music, but don’t let a cheeky millennial tell you that it’s anything new. Streaming is simply radio, but with a choice of what we hear.

And the precursor to all of this? In the 19th century, if you loved music and wanted to hear it at home and not just in the concert hall, but didn’t have the skills to play an actual instrument, you could buy an instrument that played itself. The pianola, or “player piano” enabled music lovers to hear great piano works, and with better sound quality than any hi-fi system ever produced, because the player piano was an actual musical instrument, not a recording, operated via mechanical and hydraulic technologies controlled by rolls of perforated paper and other "software". They retained the advantage of being an actual, usable piano to be played by a real pianist when not in automatic mode. And now the pianola, quite simply a music box made large, is back, complete with 21st-century technology.

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