The concept of operating a player or reproducing piano with electric valves connected into the tracker bar tubing originated in the late 1920s. Several manufacturers, most notably Welte and Aeolian, made a remote roll changer device. The associated piano had small electric valves and was connected to the remote roll changer by a large multi (100+) conductor electric cable.
The roll “reading” in these devices was done pneumatically by utilizing pouch activated electric contacts for each hole in the tracker bar. At the other end of the large cable, the contact closures completed the circuit to the corresponding magnet valves.
The VirtualRoll is a modern adaptation of this original concept. The principal of the operation is essentially the same. The roll data is converted to electrical signals which operate magnet valves to provide the “tracker bar” signals that control the player action. The difference is that the rolls have been optically scanned, the roll punch data stored and then further processed to become e-roll files.
The output of the VirtualRoll’s valves when playing an e-roll file is functionally identical to the tracker bar signals when playing the actual paper roll.
Hunt Piano Company had its beginnings in the mid 60’s when Bob Hunt was given a Henry F. Miller upright player piano. The restoration and enjoyment of that first player led to many others; a hobby/ business that continued for many years and many pianos. Hunt Piano Company was incorporated six years ago, continuing to do high quality restorations of player and reproducing pianos and also manufacturing and installing the VirtualRoll. At first, sales of the VirtualRoll were limited to local clients whose pianos were being restored by Hunt Piano Company. In 2006 the VirtualRoll was displayed at the Chicago AMICA Convention, and national sales initiated.