Design is Finalized, First Batch Production has Started

By Tom Rudnitsky Tom Rudnitsky is the designer and lead engineer of the Vidal keyboard.

Apr 12, 2024

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If you believe in this project and want to help support it, share this article with two friends who play piano. 


This project began with a belief that so much more was possible for keyboard players. Guitarists get a huge range of instruments to choose from, but keyboard players have been stuck with only a few options, all of which are made out of plastic and don't come close to feeling like a real instrument.

We set out to change that. And after a year of development, with support from pre-order holders and from everyone who has been following this project, we’re on the cusp of making it a reality.

Today we're excited to announce that design work on the Vidal Piano Controller is complete, and we are now moving into production. Orders for materials have been placed, dates for manufacturing work have been scheduled, and we’re converting the workshop from prototyping into production mode.

We had originally hoped to have production start at the end of March, but as we honed in on the final design, we discovered a few things that needed a bit more work. It took extra time to engineer and prototype these changes, but they’ve had a big impact on the instrument and we think they're well worth it. Read on below for more.

Longer Key Length

After feedback from pre-order holders and our own internal testing, we’ve increase the length of the keys by 1.5” (38mm). This increased key length significantly improves both the inertial feel of the keys and the consistency of leverage required to play the keys across the entire front-to-back length of the keytop. The choice to make these changes were based on a single factor: larger grand pianos feel better to play, and this is mostly due to the fact that they have longer keys.

New Key Length: 20 7/16” (519mm)
New Balance Distance: 9 15/16” (252mm)

The increase in inertia with longer keys makes it easier to control subtle gradations in dynamics and voicing, and the longer balance distance allow the full surface of the keys to be utilized when playing. On shorter keys, it takes a lot more force to play at the back of the keys than at the front, and this makes playing feels cramped. On most digital pianos, you can’t even get the key to press down when playing at the back. With longer key lengths such as those found on grand pianos 6 ft. in length or more, your fingers can use the entire keytop surface, and playing feels much more fluid and controllable.

Prototyping the longer key length and sensor board geometry.

Stabilized Keyframe

Underneath the keys is the keyframe, a structure of wood rails and crossbeams that support the weight of the keys and hold the entire instrument in precise alignment. In may not be obvious from the outside, but everything in the Vidal Piano Controller depends on the stability of the keyframe. The distance of key travel, the hold of the magnets when the keys are fully pressed, the timing of the velocity sensors, and the dampening of the keys all need to occur with very precise and consistent timings in order for the keys to feel just right.

Using real wood inside and out for the Vidal has major advantages for the feel of the instrument, but it also has one potential downside: wood expands and contracts with changes in humidity. This is why guitar players tune their instrument before every show, and why pianos need to be tuned and regulated several times a year.

With the Vidal, in order for action timings to be accurate and consistent across the entire keyboard, the keybed needs to be perfectly flat and stable. Any warp would cause the feel of the keys to change, and the overall experience to worsen.

To that end, we've spent months iterating on our keyframe design. We also tested every iteration by subjecting it to humidity levels ranging from 20% to 80% R.H., and then precisely tracking the ensuing warp. A lot of our ideas didn't pan out when the data came in, but we finally hit upon one solution that was always perfectly flat no matter the fluctuations in humidity.

Our final design still uses the traditional piano-making materials of quartersawn spruce and hard maple, but we’ve now also introduced thin steel plates that hold the front-to-back beams perfectly flat. Steel has 20x the flexural rigidity of spruce, and by adding very thin plates (only .036”, or 0.9mm thick) to the sides of each spruce beam, the wood can contract and expand laterally without any of this expansion causing the beam to bow or sag along its length. It’s a simple design, but like all simplicity, it took a lot of work to achieve.

With this design, the keyframe is absolutely flat and stable, meaning that the feel of the keys is perfectly consistent across every note. This also means that the keyboard will be much more stable across time as it's played, used, and loved.

Dead flat, and dead simple.

Our guiding principle for engineering the Vidal has been to design an instrument that will still be in perfect working order ten years from now. Shipping something that was almost-but-not-quite-there was never an option for us, and we’ve taken the extra time and engineering effort to get the design right.

Timeline for when Orders Start Shipping

Provided that everything goes smoothly, it will take about 4-6 weeks for the first keyboards to ship out. Pre-orders will be fulfilled based on the order they were placed, with the first people to place pre-orders being the first to receive their keyboards.

From the entire team at Vidal, we want to express our deep gratitude for the support from pre-order holders. Without you, this project wouldn’t have been possible. The development process has taken longer than we expected, in large part because engineering a fully stable and consistent instrument was a much more difficult task than we anticipated. At every step of the way, our focus has been on creating the best possible playing experience for musicians.

We’re now almost at the final product, and it’s all been worth it for one reason: all of you. We do this project not only because we love the process, but because we want to make this new instrument a reality for musicians everywhere. We think we have the chance to make something deeply meaningful for keyboard players, and being in that place of possibility is humbling. The support from our community is the fuel that drives us forward.

Thank you for joining us on this ride. We hope that playing a Vidal will mean as much to you as making it has meant to us.



(P.S. we still have one spot left in the first batch for an 88-key keyboard. Send us an email if you'd like to claim your pre-order.)


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