Disklaviers – Alex's Piano Service

Nalbantov Floppy Disk Drive Upgrades

I’ve recently started recommending customers with worn-out floppy disk drives upgrade them to so-called “Floppy Disk Emulators.” There are a couple of these on the market, but it looks like the easiest to use and most reliable is the Nalbantov USB Floppy Disk Emulator. I use these regularly in Yamaha Disklaviers, but they can also be installed in keyboards. I install these quite regularly.

Why Upgrade?

There are several reasons why you might want to replace an old floppy disk drive with a USB floppy disk emulator, including:

  1. Increased reliability: USB floppy disk emulators are more reliable than traditional floppy disk drives, as they have no moving parts and are less susceptible to mechanical failure. Most customers reach out to me after their floppy disk drive has failed.
  2. Compatibility: USB floppy disk emulators are compatible with modern computers, which may not have floppy disk drives built-in or may no longer support floppy disks.
  3. Speed: USB floppy disk emulators transfer data faster than traditional floppy disk drives, making it easier and quicker to transfer large amounts of data.
  4. Convenience: USB floppy disk emulators can be easily connected and disconnected, making it easier to transfer data between different computers or to store data.
  5. Cost-effectiveness: USB floppy disk emulators are often more cost-effective than purchasing a new floppy disk drive or repairing an old one.

I’ve found some floppy disk drives now cost more than the replacement USB emulators, especially if they’ve had minimal use. And hardly anybody knows how to actually repair a floppy drive—that’s a nearly lost art.

Operation

After the Nalbantov is installed, you can use a single USB stick to represent up to 1000 floppy disks. Because it’s a floppy disk emulator, the Disklavier actually believes you’re inserting a different floppy disk, so as you switch between virtual “disks” by pressing the arrows, you’ll see the display on the Disklavier behave as though you’ve inserted a new disk. Of course, if you have more than 1000 floppy disks, you can invest in another USB stick, although I haven’t run into this particular situation yet!

Installation

Some customers opt to install the Nalbantov unit themselves. Depending on the design, this is quite doable, although I don’t recommend attempting it with most Yamaha MX100II Disklaviers (see below).

With some generations of Disklavier (most notably some MX100II uprights), the floppy disk drives are mounted behind a shaped plastic piece. In these cases, you’ll need to cut away the old plastic facing (a pair of flush-cut nippers is helpful here), install the new drive, and put some kind of buffer around it. I’ve experimented with a few different choices for something functional and attractive. Purchasing neoprene strips is a cheap solution.

I have a 3D model in STL format of a floppy bezel that’s sized to fit around a Nalbantov. You can 3D print this yourself, or I can mail you one. I adhere it to the replacement Nalbantov with a little bit of hot glue, and then slide the whole assembly in.

For backing up your current Disklavier floppy disks to a format that can be stored on your USB stick, see my article on Backing up Disklavier Floppy Disks. They can then be moved onto a virtual “disk” with Nalbantov’s proprietary tool.

Disklavier Floppy Disk Backups, eSEQ and MIDI Formats

Some of my customers choose to upgrade their older Disklavier’s floppy drive to a Nalbantov USB drive, and want to know how to copy songs from their old Disklavier floppy disks so they can put them on USB. Some of them just want to be able to backup their disks so they can make new ones later. And some are interested in writing altogether new songs to their floppies so they can finally listen to something new!

This post is intended to help you read from, write to, or replace Yamaha Disklavier floppy disks.

If you want your floppy disks files saved on a more modern media, you can also mail your floppy disks to me (please reach out to me at se*****@al************.com or through my Contact page).

If you’re adding new music to a floppy disk and have an older Disklaviers (including the popular MX100B), you’ll need to make sure the files are in Yamaha’s proprietary eSEQ format. Using the tools below, you can convert MIDI files to eSEQ so that it will speak your Disklavier’s native language!

Obtaining eSEQ Files from your Disks

Original Yamaha floppy disks are the best source of these files. However, floppy disks often don’t age well, and are very susceptible to sunlight and magnetic fields. (This is one more reason to back them up!)

Disklavier floppy disks cannot be natively read by your computer, which makes them difficult to backup. They use a very primitive form of copy protection.

There are several tools that will allow you to read them: I use the Player Piano Floppy Backup Utility 1.4, created by Mark Fontana. It’s freeware, but he requests donations. You can download it from him, or you can download ppfbu_v1.4_setup.exe from my MEGA drive. It can read and save directly in eSEQ format, even if the disk it’s reading from is in MIDI. It appears to run acceptably on Mac / Linux using emulators.

There are other tools out there. Most notably, there was a Hack-a-Day project by Tom Nardi that uses a Python script to copy the data off the floppies. His disklav.py tool is available on GitHub.

The Player Piano Floppy Backup Utility v1.4

Obtaining even More eSEQ Files from the Internet

In addition to the originals you might have, you can sometimes find these on eBay or at local music stores. Older disks on eBay are seldom tested, so there’s some risk of receiving junk disks.

There are several large online repositories in both eSEQ and MIDI formats. Some of these are of dubious legality. One legitimate resource is http://www.kuhmann.com/Yamaha.htm, which is also quite a large repository. I have a copy of their entire database on my MEGA drive. (I worry a lot about these older resources disappearing!)

Converting MIDI files to eSEQ

If you want to use MIDI files with your older Disklavier, you can, but you have to convert them to eSEQ first. There’s software to do this conversion. You can either get it from http://www.carolrpt.com/MIDItools.htm or you can download the whole DKVUTILS suite from my MEGA drive.

Once you download DKVUTILS.ZIP from my site or theirs, you’ll need to extract it. The program that converts MIDI files to eSEQ files is MID2ESEQ.EXE. This program runs only on Windows, and does not seem to run with emulators. Reach out to me and I can assist with conversion.

Using MID2ESEQ, just drag and drop MIDI files into the window.

You can also source files from Yamaha’s website, although this is the most expensive option. Many of their MIDI files have multiple instruments (or even limited piano), and are more designed for their keyboards and other MIDI devices. However, they do have an entire category of Piano Solos, and these are what you’ll want to search for when selecting files. When you download these, you get their associated MIDI files, which are comfortably sized for floppy disk purposes.

MIDI files that have only one track are called Type 0 files. MIDI files with multiple parts are Type 1. Sometimes, the piano will be spread between two tracks. In that case, you’ll find the resulting eSEQ has only half the notes it should. You can convert Type 1 to Type 0 files using the tool gn1to0.exe that’s also stored on my MEGA drive. This is a slightly cumbersome tool, but will either run on Windows or on Linux/Mac using Wine.

Using conversion software to merge all the MIDI tracks.

Yamaha Disklavier FAQs

My Yamaha Disklavier just makes a ‘Pop’ when I press the power button and doesn’t light up. Can you fix it?

Yes! This is a common problem with older Disklaviers, and usually indicates that the power supply has failed. I can box it up and send it to Tap Electronics, who can then rebuild it. At present (1/17/23), this is a flat-rate service provided by Tap for $700. Tap Electronics is authorized by Yamaha.

My Yamaha Disklavier runs for a few seconds (or even a few minutes), but then turns off. Can you fix it?

Yes! You might have a power supply that’s dying (in which case, see the answer to the last question). However, you might simply have a damaged power button. You can test this by wiggling the power button side-to-side with your finger. When they wear out, sometimes even just the vibrations of the piano can cause them to switch on and off. These buttons aren’t terribly difficult to replace; however, they’re discontinued.

Their (discontinued) Yamaha Part number is VN388300. The switch itself is a (discontinued) ALPS SPPH23. You can see a spec sheet for the ALPS SPPH230500 here. Unfortunately, I haven’t found an exact duplicate, and would love to know if you have. I purchase bulk generic locking switches from Amazon and use sandpaper to shape them to size.

Can you set up my wireless connection / fix my terrible connection?

Yes! I wrote a definitive guide on connecting the Disklavier wirelessly. I don’t generally recommend using the native wireless adapters that come with your device, which are clumsy and confusing. I use PowerLine adapters, which allow you to broadcast your network signal right through the power lines in your house! This technology means neither you nor your piano ever have to adjust and reconfigure anything. No keeping track of passwords, no weak signals, and no need to call a technician every time you buy a new router. Just plug in your piano and marvel at its spontaneous, excellent internet connection.

This works in most homes, although in particularly large houses or houses with old wiring the PowerLine adapters might have trouble. In that case, the best device to use is a WiFi extender mounted underneath the piano.

Can you replace or upgrade old floppy drives?

Replacement is sometimes an option, and upgrading always is. Most manufacturers have stopped producing replacement drives, but they can often still be purchased second hand. eBay is a good resource.

However, I recommend upgrading to a USB floppy disk emulator. The Bulgarian company Nalbantov Electronics manufactures USB floppy disk emulators specifically for older digital pianos and players. These systems allow you to use a single USB stick in place of dozens (if not hundreds) of floppy disks. As solid-state devices these are considerably more durable and long-lasting than old-fashioned floppy drives.

With some generations of Disklavier (most notably some MX100II uprights), the floppy disk drives are mounted behind a shaped plastic piece. In these cases, you’ll need to cut away the old plastic facing (a pair of flush-cut nippers is helpful here), install the new drive, and put some kind of buffer around it. I’ve experimented with a few different choices for something functional and attractive. Purchasing neoprene strips is a cheap solution.

I have a 3D model in STL format of a floppy bezel that’s sized to fit around a Nalbantov. You can 3D print this yourself, or I can mail you one. I adhere it to the replacement Nalbantov with a little bit of hot glue, and then slide the whole assembly in.

You can read more about this on my Nalbantov Floppy Disk Drive Upgrades page.

Yamaha E3/DKC-850 Firmware Update

The Yamaha E3 (or DKC-850) firmware update is wonderfully simple, unlike its older Mark IV sibling. The entire update can be done using just a USB stick with at least 20MB of memory.

The Problem

In October of 2020, Yamaha mandated that its pianos use better encryption standards (all pianos now use TLS 1.2 instead of TLS 1.1). If you connected your piano to the internet before October of 2020, it probably automatically updated to the latest firmware. However, if you weren’t so lucky, you’ll have to perform the updates yourself.

The Solution

First, you’ll need to download a copy of the new firmware, and you’ll need a USB stick.

You can obtain this either by downloading the Yamaha E3 v3.54 file (dkv_update.bin) from my MEGA drive, or you can visit Yamaha’s website for an archived copy. Once you have the dkv_update.bin file, simply copy it on a USB stick (not in any directories or folders). Take that USB stick and insert it into your Disklavier. Now hold down the Play / Pause button and power on the system (with the Play / Pause button still held). From there, you can follow the on-screen instructions.

If you have any difficulties, I’ve attached a PDF of their instructions below. You’ll need to start with “Downloading the Update Program using a PC and USB Flash Memory” on page three.

Yamaha Mark IV Firmware Update

In order to connect your Yamaha Mark IV to the internet, you’ll need to update the firmware; otherwise, you’ll receive an error telling you it can’t connect to the internet. This is a pretty confusing error, since you might actually be properly connected. However, the Disklavier can’t tell the difference between no internet and just unable to talk to Yamaha. As far as it’s concerned, if it can’t see Yamaha, the internet may as well not exist!

The Problem

In October of 2020, Yamaha mandated that its pianos use better encryption standards (all pianos now use TLS 1.2 instead of TLS 1.1). If you connected your piano to the internet before October of 2020, it probably automatically updated to the latest firmware. However, if you weren’t so lucky, you’ll have to perform the updates yourself.

The Solution

Here’s what you’ll need to complete the update:

  1. A CD-R
  2. A CD writer
  3. A blank floppy diskette

The floppy diskette is used only by the Disklavier: You do not need to be able to write to the floppy disk from your personal computer.

You can buy blank floppy diskettes from https://www.floppydisk.com/. Amazon and eBay are also good suppliers of floppy diskettes. Personally, I like to use old Sony 2HD diskettes purchased off of eBay. These are some of the older floppy diskettes available, but if you can find some still sealed in a package, they’re some of the best and most reliable ever made, and were produced domestically.

CD-Rs are readily available on Amazon, as are CD writers.

You can also purchase both the CD-R (prewritten) and blank floppy disk from me. I sell both for $30.00 at this time. Just contact me at se*****@al************.com.

Once you’ve got your media, you’ll need to burn the updated firmware to the CD.

You can download the Yamaha Mark IV firmware 4.26 from my MEGA drive. (The correct firmware is under the Firmware / Mark IV v4.26 directory.) Alternatively, you can download it directly from Yamaha’s FTP site. (User name is disklavier and password is disklavier.)

Once you’ve burned this to your CD-R, you’ll need to prepare your boot floppy. Now, if you happen to have a floppy disk drive and feel like saving a little time, you can copy the floppy disk files from my MEGA drive and put them on your floppy disk. You can then skip the below step. The below is copied from Yamaha’s firmware update instruction manual (emphasis and notations mine):

Unit must be completely booted — green standby light solid green
Floppy must have the Protect tab to the Unlock position-hole is covered

1. Insert one Blank High Density Disk--HD--into the floppy drive.

2. On the PRC-100, from the "Interface Main" tap on "Next -->" located on the bottom right corner, it will take you to the next page.

3. Tap on the "Setup" icon. Tap on the "Next -->" Bottom right corner.

4. Tap on "System". Tap on "Make Install FD". It will take approximately two minutes to make the boot Disk.

5. Tap on "OK" when the "Complete" message is displayed.

6. Press on the Back button repeatedly-the button that has the U turn arrow-until you see the "Interface Main"

Once you have the media prepared, follow their instructions for performing the update (emphasis and notations mine):

1. Hold down standby button on the Media Center until the button starts flashing. The Disklavier shuts down.

2. Wait approximately 10 seconds or more, and then press standby button on the Media Center. Update of the I/O Center starts.

3. During update, the buttons on the Media Center light in sequence. Note: The update cannot be performed if the remaining capacity of the hard disk drive is too small. The CD will eject and flash. In such case, close the CD tray, reboot the I/O Center, and then increase the storage capacity, by for example deleting song data in the PianoSoft Library or CD Library by as much as the amount of data stored on one CD. After that, try reupdating.

4. The update will continue for approximately 25 minutes before the CD tray opens. Note: The CD may eject and flash. In such a case, check that there are no scratches, stains, or dirt on the CD that can lead to readout error. If the CD is defective, clean the CD and reload it. The I/O Center reboots. If the CD is defective and a replacement is required, remove the CD and press to close the CD tray. The I/O Center reboots (though updating has stopped). 

5. Wait until the CD tray opens, and then remove the CD and the floppy disk.

And that’s it! Your firmware is updated. You can now proceed to Connecting your Disklavier to a network! If it’s already connected, you can read more about using piano radio in their Advanced Owner’s Manual (Part 2) on Chapter 8, Page 96.

Connecting Yamaha Disklaviers to a Network

If you have a previous generation of Disklavier and haven’t updated its firmware since October of 2020, it is absolutely necessary to update it before attempting to connect to the internet. Your Disklavier will tell you it isn’t connected to the internet no matter what you do until the firmware is updated.

I have more information on updating the firmware on the Disklavier E3 (DKC-800 / DKC-850). I can also help with updating the firmware on the Disklavier Mark IV, and can even provide you with the media if that’s helpful.

You can link directly to this page with https://setupdisklavier.com.

Yamaha Disklaviers are an innovative fusion of digital and acoustic engineering. They allow you to experience famous, concert pianists performing right in your living room, on your own piano. They’re an excellent tool for both entertainment and for learning. And of course, they’re just fun to watch. Check out this beautiful 2009 Yamaha GC1 Disklavier playing Billy Joel’s Piano Man that I recorded last summer.

They do have one drawback: Connecting them to WiFi networks can be confusing and difficult. Is your Disklavier acting as an access point, or is it connecting to your WiFi? Is it doing both? Can you tell from the instructions what you’re expected to do? Do you even have all the parts you need?

I’m sharing an incredibly elegant, simple way to hook up Yamaha Disklaviers. You don’t have to worry about reconnecting it if you change your WiFi password or buy a new router. You can set it up quickly, and it works in most houses.

First, your supplies:

A little redundant labeling makes all the difference. And Small-Caps adds some style.

1. NexusLink PowerLine Ethernet Adapters These devices allow you to network through the electrical lines in a house. Using this, your piano will believe it has a physical connection.

All you have to do to keep your piano connected is plug them in!

Before I go to a customer’s house, I label one of them with “Piano,” printed in 18pt text on a piece of plain white paper and covered with tape. It’s much less likely to get unplugged this way!

(All communication is encrypted between the two devices, so it’s not possible for somebody to hack into your house using the powerline! If that was a concern of yours…)

Remember that you need two!

I took it apart so that you don’t have to!

2. GE Designer 3-Outlet Surge Protector (pair) This is an 8-foot extension cord with a three port power strip on the end. It calls itself a surge protector, but doesn’t do any regulation or conditioning which might interfere with the NexusLink signal.

I did a tear-down of the device to make sure there were no surprises: Surge protection is achieved through a metal oxide varistor, and there is no voltage regulation beyond that.

3. Black CAT6 Ethernet Cables (1 foot and 3 feet) With all piano work, subtlety is a must. Anywhere black or concealed equipment can be used, I use it. Underneath a piano you won’t generally need more than one foot of ethernet cord.

4. Scotch Interlocking Fasteners These are strong, interlocking fasteners that aren’t vulnerable to vibration, and are strong enough to hold up the end of the extension cord.

And now, we get started…

A very simple diagram of the install.

1. Prepare and Encrypt NexusLink Adapters Beforehand

Remove the two NexusLink Adapters from their box and plug them both into the outlets where you intend for them to go—one next to the router and one in the extension cord you’re going to be putting underneath the piano, plugged into the closest to the piano. No ethernet connections are necessary at this time.

If the green connection lights on your NexusLinks turn on (the top light on each adapter), that means they’ve found one another, and are now communicating through your household power. Great!

Now you can secure their connection to each other. On the bottom of each unit (near the ethernet jack) there’s a small configuration button. Hold it down for three seconds, and the bottom of the three lights—labeled with a padlock—will begin to blink. Now press the same button on the other NexusLink for three seconds. After a short period of time, the padlock lights will turn solid. Then, some seconds later, the connection lights should turn solid as well.

These two NexusLinks are now a permanently bonded pair. No matter where you put them, they’ll find one another. So tightly paired that they’ll even ignore other NexusLinks.

2. Run the extension cord up underneath the piano

A NexusLink plugged into a power strip, with a ghastly yellow ethernet plugged into it.

With the Disklavier turned off, unplug the Disklavier.

Take two pieces of your Scotch Interlocking Fastener and, after removing the backing, mount both to the back of the power strip on your extension cord. Pick a good spot to mount the power strip underneath the piano. This is usually parallel to the floor on the side of one of the wooden beams adjacent to the Disklavier controller.

If possible, try to route the extension cord over a beam just so it’ll help prevent the extension cord from pulling out components if it somehow gets yanked.

Clean that spot thoroughly with alcohol, or with mildly soapy water. Once completely dry, remove the sticky backing from the other side of your Scotch Interlocking Fastener and mount the power strip to the beam.

3. Plug everything in

Plug your other NexusLink PowerLine Ethernet Adapter into the bottom port of the three of your power strip. Run a short length of Ethernet cord to your Disklavier controller. If possible, loop the ethernet cord up over the beam to apply a little bit of tension—the less that’s loose under there better, as pianos produce plenty of shaking and vibration. Use no more cable than you need.

Now plug the Disklavier power into the power strip (and the Dampp-Chaser as well if one is installed). This extension cord is comfortably rated for the power consumption of all three devices. (Also, make certain if there is a Dampp-Chaser installed, that the NexusLink isn’t near the humidistat, where the small amount of heat it produces might cause less accurate readings.)

At this time, both the green connection lights should be on, as well as both the padlock lights, meaning the NexusLink Adapters have discovered one another. If this isn’t the case, skip to the troubleshooting below.

Use zip-ties, twist ties, and other appropriate cable management to bundle everything up and out of sight. Stick-on conduit can be used to run cords along the beams if precise positioning is needed, such as if the piano is positioned next to a low couch or somewhere else people might easily see underneath. I’ll actually sit in various chairs in the room and look at the piano.

You’re all done! Unless you aren’t. If it doesn’t work immediately, read on.

No connection! What went wrong?

First: It’s probably a power strip or Universal Power Supply (UPS)

Do NOT plug them into a power strip or surge protector if you can avoid it. These often filter out the signal. Only very cheap power strips, as well as a handful of minimalist extension cords (like the GE one I recommend) will not block the signal. When in doubt, plug right into the wall.

Second: It might be the outlet

If the outlet isn’t receiving power (or is switch controlled), it won’t work. Try every outlet reasonably available for both adapters.

Third: It might be the breaker boxes

If the house has multiple breaker boxes, then the devices might not be able to see each other.