- Positive Features: Extremely flexible and sophisticated system
consists of a HUB with a basic 8-unit control panel (8 student workstations
and 1 teacher station). Up to FIVE additional control panels (RCS-8EXP
expansion kits) can be networked to the HUB for a total of 48 individual
student workstation controls. Individual keyboards are equipped with
a small mixer -- student interface unit (SI Unit) -- into which
are plugged the sound output of the keyboard along with the student's
headphones. The SI Units are then connected to the GLC-1
via network cables (CAT-5) which are plugged into the back of the
GLC-1. Students control
their individual volumes by adjusting the volume control on their
keyboards. There are no volume controls on the SI Units.
Roland GLC-1 - Negative
Features: None to speak of.
LC3 - The LC3 is practically identical to the Roland
GLC-1 and is even manufactured by the same company -- JL Cooper
electronics. the main differences: the Roland is silver colored; the
Yamaha is black. Both systems will work with any keyboard from any
The Roland and Yamaha systems are no doubt the most flexible Class
Piano Labs and are definitely THE EASIEST TO USE. If there
are serious techno-phobes in your school who are intimidated by pressing
buttons on scary black boxes, then this is the system for you -- ANYONE
can use this system FIRST TIME without having to read any technical
Yamaha also makes other systems. See MCL.
- Positive Features: The KCL Class Piano Lab is great
design (by JL Cooper Electronics) and it is AFFORDABLE, easy to
install, and easy to use. It would be ideal for schools that are
looking for a new class piano lab but who are definitely budget
minded. But, these units may not be currently available. Also, Kurzweil's service generally has been notoriously unpredictable in recent years so we would not recommend the system.
Kurzweil KCL - Negative Features: None to speak of. A maximum of 16 keyboards can be used with this system and it is possible
to network 2 or more systems together. With the added expense of
extra headphone boxes and headsets, you would definitely be more
ahead to consider the Roland or Yamaha systems if you are planning
to have more than 16 student workstations.
Korg GEC3 - Positive
Features: Computer interface (Windows only, but Macintosh version
promised in the future) and software which reproduces the touch-screen
on the computer (perhaps easier to manipulate with a mouse). Instructor
record keeping software (grades, attendance, etc.) is described, although
we have not seen this demonstrated. Two GEC3's can be interfaced
together for a total of 32 individual workstations.
Korg sells the individual student interface (headphone) boxes separately
and you can design a lab with as few and as many stations as you want.
The Korg student headphone boxes are plastic and have auxiliary audio
and microphone inputs.
Korg GEC3 - Korg has committed to an unusual headphone design
from Koss which uses a specialized mini-XLR jack. Consequently,
"regular" stereo headphones can not be used. The Koss headphones
are not heavy duty and wear out quickly. Although inexpensive to replace
($5.00), the replacement time for us was 4-6 weeks (our experience
as opposed to the 3-4 weeks as advertised). Korg has recently made
available an ADAPTER for their system which will allow the use of
"regular" headphones ($25.00 each).
Here's a "biggie" negative. Korg will not warranty their
system with any other pianos except Korg pianos. This is really stupid
because the only physical connection between the student headphone
boxes and the individual pianos is AUDIO and this is just a simple
stereo patch cable (DUH!). Nevertheless, this is the situation and
if you decide to go with a Korg class piano lab system, be prepared
to purchase new Korg pianos as well ($$$) unless you're willing to
go-it-alone on the warranty.
We found the Korg GEC3 touch pad to be confusing and often "fussy"
-- for example, when you first turn on the system you get the GEC3
logo but you do not go to the control panel until you touch the screen.
Also, the contrast control is easily changed and it is possible to
blank out the screen entirely. This is particularly problematic for
instructors who are not technologically inclined. We found the specialized
Koss headphones which use the mini-xlr plugs to be expensive and frustrating,
despite their life-time warranty. For example, with heavy use, the
headphones have to be replaced at least every 6 months. To replace
them, you have to ship them back to Koss along with a $5.00 service
fee. We found the turn-around on getting a replacement to be at least
4-6 weeks. Korg has available an adaptor ($29.00) which will allow
off-the-shelf headphones to be used. But the adaptor is configured
for a MONOPHONIC microphone and all current inexpensive headsets with
microphones are STEREO and have an altogether different OHM value.
Consequently, the microphones on off-the-shelf headsets simply WILL
NOT WORK with these adaptors. The headsets work fine. Finally, we
found the student headphone boxes to be cheaply constructed and often
had to be replaced. Out of a lab of 12 students pianos and 1 teacher
piano, we had to replace 5 headphone boxes within 9 months.
Other manufacturers (Roland and Yamaha) have recently gone with a
flexible modular design. Consequently, labs can be configured in groups
of 8, which means that you could have any configuration: 8, 16, 24,
32, or 48. This is especially good news for schools needing small
labs (4-8) since you can install a lab at a VERY reasonable cost.
Also, it is possible to design a single lab with up to 48 workstations
-- the equivalent class piano hell!
Nevertheless, Korg has stayed with their old design which means that
you are locked into a system which accommodates either 16 or 32 workstations.
Of course, you could use the basic controller in a small lab, say
of 4 - 8 workstations, but you would still have to purchase the complete
controller which has 16 workstation hookups. And it's not cheap!!
The basic controller with related paraphernalia including cables,
student interface boxes, and headphones for 8 workstations lists for
$4295.00. A similar Roland or Yamaha system lists for $3495.00.
MLC 100 - Positive Features: The MLC 100 is relatively inexpensive
(under $3000.00), easy to learn how to use, yet elegant and sophisticated.
Unfortunately, it is ONLY available directly from Yamaha (like the
MIE system) and is marketed specifically to elementary schools. If
this system particularly appeals to you, unless you are prepared to
deal with Yamaha Corp. directly and not a local retailer, you should
consider Yamaha's LC3 or Rolands GLC-1 systems instead.
Yamaha MLC 100 - Negative Features: The Yamaha headphone boxes
do not have any auxiliary audio inputs. Consequently, there is no
place to connect an auxiliary sound (synth) module to the individual
student headphone box for those who want to do this. This is not a
huge problem if you don't mind using TWO sets of headphones on each
student workstation (one for the piano and one for the synth module).
But, this means you now have 32 sets of headphones to look after instead
of 16 (ARGGGHH!!). Most professional model digital pianos (including
some, but not all, of the Yamaha Clavinova series) have auxiliary
audio inputs in the back along with MIDI and auxiliary audio outputs.
In addition, many digital pianos have a BUILT IN General MIDI sound
bank. But our experience has shown that most elementary schools opt
for inexpensive student pianos and these do not have auxiliary audio
inputs or General MIDI sound banks. There are only two solutions to
this problem: (1) use an add-on audio line mixer (Radio
Shack, $89.95); (2) have the student headphone boxes RETROFITTED
with an auxiliary input. We have not had any experience retrofitting
a Yamaha headphone box, but we assume that it would be similar in
cost to retrofitting a Roland box (see above under Roland). Don't
even think about using "Y-adaptors"
to get around this problem -- it just won't work. You end up changing
the impedance of the the headphones and introducing and unbearable
HUM into the audio system. A line-mixer or a retrofit is the only
We have not found any negative features to speak of in the system
itself. However, (similar to Korg, see above) Yamaha has a corporate
sales philosophy which prohibits ALL authorized Yamaha dealers from
selling this class piano system -- that is, all dealers which sell
Yamaha products (such as guitars, drums, etc.) are not allowed to
sell the MLC100 class piano system. Although Korg has only
ONE authorized dealer nationwide, Yamaha has only one designated dealer
REGIONALLY. But, you still have the problem of not being able to get
competitive bids. When the system is available from ONLY ONE dealer,
why should they give you a break on the price? Getting timely repairs
may also be a problem when there is only one regional dealer.
Kawai KML-SG - This
product may no longer be available.
Kawai KML-SG - Negative Features: The only negative feature
of the Kawai system is that it is an old design. At a time when all
other manufacturers have gone to ETHERNET cables for connecting audio,
the Kawai system is still using MIDI cables. Don't be confused here
about the MIDI cables. About 15 years ago, ALL the class piano
lab systems were using MIDI cables (which were SHIELDED, cheap, and
readily available) to connect the audio from the individual student
headphone boxes to the teacher control unit. There is absolutely NOTHING
wrong with this design and it works great (it's quiet). However, ETHERNET
is much easier to install, especially where unusual lengths are concerned
and since ethernet cable has become so prevalent in computer installations
in recent years, it has become the audio connection of choice for
new class piano lab systems.
One way to look at the Kawai system is negative: it's an old design
and has no "bells and whistles." But, you can look at this
as a POSITIVE as well: "WOW, this is a system that is
BARE-BONES with NO BELLS AND WHISTLES!!"
Also, the Kawai system MAY NO LONGER BE AVAILABLE. Check with your
local Kawai dealer.
See Class Piano Lab Manufacturers.
Back to Class Piano Lab Resources.