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Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
#2963199 04/03/20 08:00 AM
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How in the heck is anyone supposed to choose a VST?

Question:

1 - How did you choose your FIRST VST?
2 - Looking back, what was right or wrong about your decisioning?
3 - What is the best on-line review for VSTs that match your opinion? YouTube or other is fine.... pick one or two if you feel they are of good quality.

I feel the YouTube vids are seriously flawed for a few reasons:

A- The source playback system may not be great
B- The source recording system or technique may not be great
3- YouTube bit Cuisinart is destructive to the sound
D- Your home computer playback system is most likely not a high fidelity system

Full disclosure: I purchase one set of VSTs, The VI Labs Ravenscroft, Italian, American, and German piano set (on sale around the past holidays). I am very happy but only play the Ravenscroft... sometimes the Italian. Only the Ravenscroft sound does it for me, the others were a waste of money.. just being honest. They don't suck, it is just the Ravenscroft sound is best out of the four. I also have, what I believe to be, a high-quality sound reproduction system using an expensive Benchmark digital to analog converter for the Ravenscroft piano and nice speaker/amplifier compliment.

See my rig here: http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/2915938/my-updated-rig-added-more-speakers.html
The reason I am posting my rig specs, is because of another issue I see .... playback quality... the quality of your playback will affect your perception of VST quality adding to the fog of sounding off.

Peace
Bruce in Philly


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Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
Bruce In Philly #2963209 04/03/20 08:41 AM
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I chose Synthogy Ivory 1 back in 2009 based on discussion here on PW.
It sounded far better than the native piano sounds, even with the mediocre sound system I used at that time.

I don't think it's wise to choose based on recommendations. Only by listening to the product can I make a meaningful judgement.
But I cannot listen before buying, so I just purchase and cross my fingers.

I've purchased many, many pianos since then. Some were pure garbage. Some were okay. Some were excellent.
You pull out your wallet and you just take your chances.

The online videos are of no help to me.
Either the recording is so flawed that they're unlistenable.
Or, more often, the recording is fine, but they still don't sound like real product.
Why? I'm not sure ... but maybe it's because there are so many tweaks that there's no proper basis for comparison.

Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
Bruce In Philly #2963216 04/03/20 08:55 AM
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I chose my first VST, which is Pianoteq, because it was the only one I knew and it was cheap smile Then I've heard Ravenscroft demos from NAMM and loved it, I've waited 2 years and then bought it. I loved it straight from the box. Great playability and nice sound. No problems with configuration. Then, I was looking for a nice Steinway D, read tons of reviews and forum discussions, listened to demos, and best price-to-sound ratio was Emberton Walker 1955. I was disappointed after the instalation.. although the sound was great, the performance is terrible. So I switched back to R275, but after I fiddled with EW1955 settings for a few days.. it's my favourite one. There was Garritan CFX in the meantime - I'm really disappointed, never use it.

The terrible conclusion I have: you never know, until you buy it and try for yourself. Garritan is praised almost everywhere and I simply can't use it due to noise in samples. Before I bought it, no one mentioned it anywhere.


Ars non habet osorem nisi ignorantem
Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
Bruce In Philly #2963245 04/03/20 09:58 AM
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I switched from Hardware to software in 2015....very late to the scene.
I went numerous times to the Frankfurter Messe and to Namm also.
I remember the original giga piano presented at the Messe and it sounded way better than anything else from hardware companies. But the latency was dreadful when i tried it...
I gigged as a live musician and when i stopped playing in a band it took me two years to properly inform myself about vsts , computer specs , drivers , soundcard etc.
I decided to buy a custom made computer with RME soundcard to avoid all the problems i read everywhere that made me very cautious to go to a computer set up.From day one i didnt have to many problems with my specialized computer.

I started with Garritan CFX because the demos were really convincing, positive comments online, many sample layers and it didn’t disappoint the moment i played it.
Since then i have bought Ravenscroft full, Wavesfactory Mercury full, Embertone Walker 1955, SC Hammersmith full, CinePiano, Pianoteq, VSL Bösendorfer and at least a dozen more.....

80% i have deleted or never use again, because others are simply better.
I think most examples online give away some aspects of a library but not enough by a long shot. I guess in my case the first vst (Garritan CFX) was the exception.
I was mostly slightly disappointed after purchase based on vids and reviews.
Hammersmith and Ravenscroft on top....the former had a dry/dead soundboard sound and the latter a freezing cold vibe...but in both cases i really liked all the available sound examples and overall positive reviews.

Long story short...I think you have to find a way to try out certain libraries because our hands and ears are way to personal.

Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
Bruce In Philly #2963422 04/03/20 06:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Bruce In Philly
How in the heck is anyone supposed to choose a VST?

Question:

1 - How did you choose your FIRST VST?
2 - Looking back, what was right or wrong about your decisioning?
3 - What is the best on-line review for VSTs that match your opinion? YouTube or other is fine.... pick one or two if you feel they are of good quality.


I agree with you on the youtube vids being flawed - don't rely on them.

Wrong thing I did: relying too much on online reviews and 'demos'. A lot of VSTs sound great in their demos - but are often a disappointment in actual live use. Online reviews (written or video) were not helpful to me at all (except to eliminate VSTs that have universally bad reviews).

If you are using a VST for live playback - online reviews and demos are definitely not helpful as it doesn't help you figure out how the VST will feel with your computer and setup. It is very difficult to judge playability from reviews. Also, the headphone/speaker system you are using (along with the sound card) can also impact your purchase decision greatly.

So, recommendation: Use a trial software if available (Pianoteq and VSL are the two ones that have trial software or return policy) to evaluate VSTs on your own. If not, buy a VST and sell if you don't like it (on VI control market place for example). Also, buy a VST from a market place such as VI Control to minimize costs if possible.

Osho


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Kawai Novus NV10 + VST. Current VST favorites (in the order of preference): VSL Synchron Concert D//Garritan CFX/Pianoteq 6/Embertone Walker D Full

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Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
AlphaBravoCharlie #2963435 04/03/20 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by AlphaBravoCharlie
The terrible conclusion I have: you never know, until you buy it and try for yourself.

+1.

Osho


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Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
Osho #2963439 04/03/20 07:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Osho
Originally Posted by AlphaBravoCharlie
The terrible conclusion I have: you never know, until you buy it and try for yourself.

+1.

Osho

+1.

In answer to the original question:

. . . Pianoteq (v. 3? v. 4? I forget) had two desirable features:

. . . . . a small "footprint" for memory and CPU resources;

. . . . . a free, almost-fully-functiona demo version.

I installed it, and liked it. Still do, after several version changes and added piano models.

But see the quote above . . . some people tolerate it, and others absolutely hate it.


. Charles
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PX-350 / microKorg XL+ / Pianoteq / Lounge Lizard / EV ZXA1 speaker
Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
Bruce In Philly #2963465 04/03/20 09:23 PM
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I'll answer your question in the hope it will help someone. But I suspect it won't because I wouldn't have taken this advice myself years ago, since it's counter-intuitive to being an "informed buyer".

I like to think I'm a smart guy (hardware/software design engineer for 40+ years), who has played electronic keyboards since I was in high school. So when I first decided to buy a Piano VST, just for solo personal playing use, I wanted to research everything - read reviews, listen to on-line demos, read sites like this, etc. Unfortunately there were no places (I could find) to actually try any VST's. So I decided to primarily trust my ears listening to online demos, and "professional" reviews, and more or less dismissed comments on sites like this from "ordinary" users since how do you know who to trust? And since I could afford it, why not just buy the most expensive thing available since it must be really good or how else could they sell it for so much? (Ha, ha, that logic has never been true about most anything.)

So I bought what was at that time one of the most expensive VSTs (#2 in cost if I remember right) which sounded great with online demos and had very good professional reviews. Oh man, it was awful. Horrible playability, bad sound, poorly sampled and post-processed. Bad in every way, in my opinion, of course. For me, a complete waste of money (it did launch me into writing software to analyze its flaws and improve it with real-time modifications of each individual note as it was being played - so I got that experience/fun out of it.) I later learned that its on-line demos had been post-processed (doctored) to make them sound better, but I suspect that's true of most VSTs.

Since then I've bought a bunch of VST's. I like some of them. Some a little. Some more. But I've probably learned something from each one, whether it was something they did especially well, or something they did especially badly. Sometimes you learn more from something that is done poorly (because you recognize exactly what the problem is) rather than something that is done right. I learned for instance that playability is incredibly important, which is something else you can't determine at all from online demos. And I learned that one badly sampled, or badly post-processed note can make you hate an entire VST.

Most importantly, perhaps, I've learned there is no perfect VST, at least not for me. So I have a couple (with good playability) that I switch between depending on my mood, but one that I always seem to come back to because it has the least number of flaws that irritate me on the genres I like to play most. And when my playing interest peaks again (and it goes up and down year to year) I'll buy some more because the belief that there will be something better coming along will probably never end.

Oh, so my recommendation on how to buy a VST? First, forget the online sound demos. In fact stay away from them (I know you won't, but you better ignore what you hear). They will only mislead you or provide incomplete vital information about playability. Sometimes partial information is more detrimental to your interests than ignoring that information. The only sure way of knowing how a VST sounds and PLAYS is to try them. Unfortunately more of us don't have a way to do that. You can only download playable demos of a couple products (Pianoteq being the most notable), but do take advantage of that. BTW, there is no reason the sampled VST companies couldn't produce stripped-down limited-time demo versions of their products if they had faith you would like their product enough to buy it instead of another VST you can't demo. Think about that when you read website hype about how perfect their pianos are.

So what are you left with? I'd say listen to people on this site (or others) that have been using VST pianos for quite a while, have many, and can articulate their differences. Someone that has only a couple of VST experiences may give you good advice, but that's really like listening to one or two demos when you are trying to pick from a plethora of imperfect products. Experience is invaluable in this case. But cheer up, unless you are only going to have a short-term interest in VST's, you are going to eventually buy a lot of them because your quest for something better will go on. So taking the right advice early is just to shorten the time it takes to get to that first one you'll really enjoy playing.


Macy

CVP-409GP, Garritan CFX, Vintage D, Ivory II GP's & American Concert D, Pianoteq, True Keys American D, Ravenscroft 275, Garritan Authorized Steinway, Alicia's Keys, EWQL Pianos, MainStage, iPad Pro/forScore/PageFlip Cicada, Custom Mac MIDI/Audio Software Design, Macs Everywhere
Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
Bruce In Philly #2963468 04/03/20 09:33 PM
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+1 with everything what Macy said. Excellent post Macy. Should be made a sticky.

Osho

Last edited by Osho; 04/03/20 09:34 PM.

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Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
Bruce In Philly #2963502 04/04/20 02:25 AM
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I chose Pianoteq because it's the only decent modelled VST and after Roland pianos I know this is the right direction. There is one problem with Pianoteq though, it doesn't have proper FF sound, in all pianos from Pianoteq I bought FF does not change timbre as it should. On Roland and Kawai pianos when you play hard you can really hear it as on acoustic.

Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
Bruce In Philly #2963521 04/04/20 04:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Bruce In Philly
1 - How did you choose your FIRST VST?
2 - Looking back, what was right or wrong about your decisioning?
3 - What is the best on-line review for VSTs that match your opinion? YouTube or other is fine.... pick one or two if you feel they are of good quality.

C- YouTube bit Cuisinart is destructive to the sound
D- Your home computer playback system is most likely not a high fidelity system

1 - I chose Pianoteq as an experiment because it offered a demo. I happened to like the way it sounded and bought it.
2 - Still like the way it sounds, esp like how lightweight, stable and comfortable to use it is. Also digging the "always on" recording. This thing is as close to "press ON to play" as it gets.
3 - No clue. I don't give much hoots about VST reviews, they always sound awesomesauce in demo recordings. Proof is where the rubber meets the road, or in other words: I have to like it when my incompetent hands are involved in the tone production. wink

C- It's not as bad as you think. 192KBit AAC is fine for evaluation purposes and keeps enough of the sound to get the picture. Only during critical listening will you notice the compression artifacts. Of course, not every YT video has that high a bitrate.
D- A computer and a good headphone are pretty much "HiFi" enough these days. The times in which you needed some huge system costing 5 figures to get acceptable sound are long over.


The backbone of modern industrial society is, and for the foreseeable future will be, the use of electrical Power.
VPC 1 -> Pianoteq 6 Std | Garritan CFX / Pearl Alto Flute 201
Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
Bruce In Philly #2963524 04/04/20 05:00 AM
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Ivory American Concert D was my first. I didn't particularly like it, and didn't find the demos convincing, but it was better than my Kawai MP10's internal sounds.

The next was VSL Vienna Imperial. I chose that because it sounded fantastic.

Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
Bruce In Philly #2963526 04/04/20 05:20 AM
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Quote
1 - How did you choose your FIRST VST?


The first one to pay for? By trying out several that allowed trying out within very resonable limits and didn't require some other expensive software (like Kontakt or whatever). (Some of the oldies like 4Front TruePianos, CVPiano, Acoustica Pianissimo and the not-so-oldie Arturia Piano V and Pianoteq.)

Quote
2 - Looking back, what was right or wrong about your decisioning?


All was right, none was wrong.

Quote
3 - What is the best on-line review for VSTs that match your opinion? YouTube or other is fine.... pick one or two if you feel they are of good quality.


Can't say really. But they should also point out some of the technical aspects, like half and repedaling, resonances and so on and so forth and not just the sound.

Quote
A- The source playback system may not be great


If it's direct recording from a VST then I don't see how there's any problem in a bit-to-bit accurate recording. If it's a microphone recording of speakers then that's a different story of course.

Quote
B- The source recording system or technique may not be great


See A.

Quote
3- YouTube bit Cuisinart is destructive to the sound


Sure. Or a Blendtech blender.

Quote
D- Your home computer playback system is most likely not a high fidelity system


My home computer playback system is what I use the VST with anyway.

But none of this is very helpful as I'm not so picky.

Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
Bruce In Philly #2963529 04/04/20 05:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Bruce In Philly
How in the heck is anyone supposed to choose a VST?

Question:

1 - How did you choose your FIRST VST?
2 - Looking back, what was right or wrong about your decisioning?
3 - What is the best on-line review for VSTs that match your opinion? YouTube or other is fine.... pick one or two if you feel they are of good quality


I ordered my first and last two VSTs in 2014 together with my first digital piano as boxed software. I got the idea from PW. The choice was based solely on price (about 100 bucks per VST), so I ended up with Pianoteq 4 Stage (included an upgrade to 5 in the box) and Ivory II American Concert D. After the new car smell wore off, I ended up using the internal sound of my Kawai digital piano for daily practice.

I didn't purchase any other VSTs down the road, because as an amateur pianist playing classical repertoire I didn't need any of them. Last year I ventured into acoustic instruments (including non-keyboard ones) and decided that my digital piano adventure is going to end in the foreseeable future.


Yamaha P-515 | Kawai ES100 | Steinberg UR22 | Sony MDR-7506
Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
johnstaf #2963636 04/04/20 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by johnstaf
Ivory American Concert D was my first. I didn't particularly like it, and didn't find the demos convincing, but it was better than my Kawai MP10's internal sounds.

The next was VSL Vienna Imperial. I chose that because it sounded fantastic.


Anything more you can say about VSL Vienna Imperial John?

I have Ivory II American Concert D and I quite like it. The only other VST I have is Garritan CFX lite which I also like. Garritan has the best playability. I like its long sustain and bright sound, but it lacks a certain depth, richness of sound. Garritan sounds good both using my headphones and my speakers.

After playing Garritan for a while American Concert D can sound a bit thin at first, especially when I am listening to it using my speakers. I think this is mostly that the attack is so much louder than the part that sustains with American Concert D. When I play with headphones American Concert D is definitely my favourite of the two. The sound is richer, more interesting more complex. Listening through the speakers it is definitely a toss up as to which I prefer. I like both significantly more than the internal sounds of my MP11SE.

I am not actively looking for new VSTs at the moment. But often my approach to purchasing is to leave things to mull in my head for a long time. My position now is as much curiosity as it is with intent to purchase. The two VSTs that have caught my attention are Ravenscroft 275 and the Vienna Imperial.

Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
KevinM #2963681 04/04/20 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by KevinM
Anything more you can say about VSL Vienna Imperial John?

I love it Kevin. The playability is absolutely wonderful. However it is broken. Some notes go out of tune when the sustain pedal is pressed, and the pedalling is primitive.

Anyone who is used to the best modern libraries would probably find it very frustrating, but in terms of piano responsiveness and the realistic range of tone, I don't think it has been surpassed. It gives the impression that the tone is infinitely variable.

The tenor is particularly wonderful. 2hearts 3hearts

The more recent VSL pianos are widely considered superior, and I can't really disagree, but I love VI more than any of them.

Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
Bruce In Philly #2963699 04/04/20 05:28 PM
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Thanks John.

I suspect VSL Vienna Imperial's idiosyncrasies will be enough for me to say no. I am definitely keen on convenience and a minimum of fuss.

I only went down the VST route after feeling I needed something better than the internal sounds of the MP11SE, convenience is important to me, otherwise I would also have considered Vintage D.

Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
Bruce In Philly #2963704 04/04/20 05:41 PM
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Hopefully they'll release a new version soon to go with the Steinway and CFX.

Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
Bruce In Philly #2963750 04/04/20 08:16 PM
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The first VST I got was Garritan CFX, after reading a lot of praise on this website. Can’t stand it over headphones, so much reverb...
Like others said, this is all very personal.
Another one I got after reading about it here was VI Labs Modern U, this one I like it lot (I only wish the bass had more oomph).
However, I end up only using VSTs occasionally, to get some diversity. most times I’m practicing using the internal CFX sound on my NU1.

Re: Piano VSTs - how did you choose your first?
KevinM #2963782 04/05/20 01:50 AM
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Originally Posted by KevinM

I only went down the VST route after feeling I needed something better than the internal sounds of the MP11SE, convenience is important to me, otherwise I would also have considered Vintage D.


What inconvenience with the Vintage D? I think it's one of the easiest VST interfaces to use.


Macy

CVP-409GP, Garritan CFX, Vintage D, Ivory II GP's & American Concert D, Pianoteq, True Keys American D, Ravenscroft 275, Garritan Authorized Steinway, Alicia's Keys, EWQL Pianos, MainStage, iPad Pro/forScore/PageFlip Cicada, Custom Mac MIDI/Audio Software Design, Macs Everywhere
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