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A meeting with Peter Lyngdorf. At a recent audio show organized by AudioVideo2Day in a hotel near Antwerp, Belgium was present head of Lyngdorf Audio Peter Lyngdorf. He was there to demonstrate the flagship model of the Steinway Lyngdorf series of hifi systems called the Model D. Those who’ve met Peter at previous shows know how he loves to play DJ and MC at the same time while going through favorite tracks of his vast collection. This time was no different but the system he used was. Very different.

In the 60m² room he had set up two 2-meter tall active dipole speakers. Slightly behind them and in the middle rose a sizeable pedestal. Here were to be found all necessary electronics from CD transport to control amplifier, Room Perfect module and connections for external devices. An Ethernet cable hardwired the control center to the speakers and ran a proprietary digital signal which controlled the voltage and thus gain of the digital amplifiers built into the speakers. For remote control a heavily gold-plated round device used RF to interface with the control center.

To demonstrate the combination of Room Perfect digital room tuning with dipole loudspeakers, the demo room featured seats also behind the loudspeakers [see above]. Peter literally took us by the hand and walked us around the room to experience the capabilities of multi-point measurements with his Room Perfect hard/software. In each spot the sound was controlled, very life like and completely free from compression, distortion and other common room-versus-system conflicts. This remained true whether the room was full of listeners or empty. Amazing!

Beyond the technical solutions of the whole system and its noteworthy likeness to the real thing, Peter was keen on sharing something with us about the making of the System D. For that we left the room and hunkered down in the hotel lobby for an impromptu quickie presentation.

So what is the story behind the Steinway Lyngdorf collaboration? A few years ago someone acquainted with the management of piano manufacturer Steinway & Sons contacted Peter. From this a meeting with management followed wherein Steinway & Sons expressed the desire for an audio system that would be capable of reproducing the sound of a Steinway piano without compromise. There is no instrument on earth whose sound is as hard to reproduce as that of a concert grand like the Steinway D. Such a piano is devoid of distortion. Reproducing the full output of such an instrument usually adds distortion of some kind which accordingly becomes more obvious. In a great piano there simply are no higher harmonics capable of masking system distortion from a hifi system.

What’s more a concert grand has a 2m² soundboard capable of releasing an enormous amount of energy. At a one-meter distance such an instrument can produce 110dB in a true transient shockwave. You can feel a piano just as much as you hear it. Of course Peter was delighted and honored that the Steinway management would talk to him about such a proposal and interested to cooperate. However he first insisted on a demonstration. Only after the Steinway people were satisfied and confident would he accept their commission. At the demo there was to be no room for any distinction between a live piano and the playback of a piano recording. Steinway was to pick the facility, Peter would bring the electronics.

The first demo took place in New York. A know Russian pianist played a piece on a Model D piano, thereafter Peter played back a piano piece recorded at the Boston Symphony Hall. The recorded piece made a deep impression on the ladies and gentlemen of Steinway and they judged the playback superior to the live performance in a normal but large room. That's because the Lyngdorf system had properly teleported the Boston acoustics into the New York room. Later the same experiment was repeated in the Steinway Haus of Berlin. Here the great appreciation of Steinway for the results accumulated in the official permission for Peter to use the Steinway name and lyre logo for a new line of products. This was a unique proposition. Steinway & Sons is traditionally very rigid about protecting their name and logo.

Peter now dove deeper into the soul of the Model D concert grand. One remarkable fact he learnt was that the piano was not designed by musicians but mechanical engineers. One of them was Hermann Helmholtz known in audio circles for his Helmholtz resonators. It was Helmholtz for example who came up with the idea to equip the cast iron plate above the soundboard to which the strings attach with the now characteristic plate holes.

Back in Copenhagen things got busy at Lyngdorf HQ. To make the cooperation a success Peter hired no less than 30 engineers. They worked for many different companies before and thus came from many different backgrounds. One even worked previously at a renowned loudspeaker firm as senior designer but now applied as junior designer with Peter’s new company. This illustrates the attraction the project’s hi-tech cutting-edge nature had on ambitious designers. These newly hired engineers began work on the electronics, digital signal processing, speaker design and amplification. Even though the Lyngdorf group includes brands like NAD, Snell and Lyngdorf to have amassed profound knowledge in these fields already, for the Steinway project they all started from scratch. The final system had to be modular and last more than a lifetime. Defective parts should be readily replaceable and updates incorporated whenever technology progressed. Peter’s notion of modern was timeless.

As part of the project Lyngdorf’s engineers investigated Steinway’s Model D instrument. They wanted to understand how Steinway had fought distortion. Remember that those solutions date back 150 years. As a result however the Lyngdorf system would have no volume or corrective analog controls to become a pure digital system all the way to the drive units. The system’s power supply is said to be 100% noise/distortion free. An Ethernet connection and special transmission protocol allows for the distance between control unit and active speakers to be up to 200 meters per channel. Jitter is said to be completely absent and output levels are controlled by directly altering the gain of the active speaker modules.

An integral part of the Steinway Lyngdorf Model D is Room Perfect. 14 years ago Peter began to explore room correction in the digital realm. Only recently he and his design team succeeded in perfecting the technique. Many corrective systems add high-frequency information to the signal though in opposite phase when reflections already cause an overabundance of HF. The ear keys into this discrepancy. Room Perfect’s data acquisition and counter measures are rather more precise and effective. They use for example two test frequencies like 30.3024 and 30.3027Hz. Measurements based on these minuscule pitch offsets are far more accurate to better define phase rotation, impulse aberrations and other parameters in software which then improves the accuracy of the compensation. Brute force is a thing of the past and Lyngdorf’s more sophisticated and intelligent approach works far more realistic wonders.

When the Steinway Lyngdorf System D was ready for its first unveiling in Moscow, the stage hosted five Model D Steinway grands. At the sides were the loudspeakers, in the front seats was the full management of Steinway & Sons. Ten talented young pianists opened the concert with quattre main works. The second part of the score was played above the keys where the electronics of Model D playback took over. Nobody in the audience noticed the playback half or in this case the hand sync until the pianists gave a show of hands whilst the music continued. That's when the Steinway Lyngdorf system received a standing ovation from those present. When Peter recounted this anecdote a twinkle appeared in his eyes.

In the compressed time he had available to sit down with us under show conditions and outside his own demo room, we flashed back on a boys’ life who left home at 15 because his father did not like the music he played on his Tandberg tape deck with hand-built loudspeakers. Peter Lyngdorf really is driven by a passion for music and his Model D now stands as the culmination of a life time in its service.
Steinway/Lyngdorf website