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#3222721 06/07/22 03:32 AM
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I have Garritan CFX, which I absolutely like, expect for being a tad "ringey" not harsh but close to that in the mid highs. I also have Noire which I got when it was in offer, OK maybe for Pop /Rock, not bad but not that good either for my classical oriented practicing (on to Chopin and Schumann now)

Would the knowledgeable forum peers suggest a new VST for me ? I came into a little bit of money and want to expand my palette.

What's important to me, in priority order:
- A mellow sound for this one, I am well covered for brightish
- Realistic resonance
- A convincing, realistic musical space, not too distant but kind of real life experience (Garritan is super here IMO)
- Una corda

I have a reasonably powerful Windows system so I can bear anything I would guess in terms of performance on the CPU / SSD.

I should add, I know there's plenty of demos on YouTube etc. but I basically don't trust them. Too easy to "massage" the sound. Lots of the impression you get actually relies on the skills of the player at hand, on the repertoire being chosen. I would rather trust informed opinions of people that have actually used them

Thanks for any suggestions.

M.

marklings #3222726 06/07/22 04:02 AM
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If you peruse the ABF quarterly recitals (find a post from Sam S; he's got a link), you will find many different virtual instruments being used by various members. I think those will be a good help in getting a feel for how the various simulated piano's sound. Some hard core VST connoisseurs are stable recital contributors.


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Galaxy II Grand piano collection, Synthogy Ivory II Studio Grands, Production Voices Estate Grand, Garritan CFX Lite, Pianoteq 7.5.2 (Blüthner, Bechstein DG, Grotrian, Steinway D, K2)
marklings #3222729 06/07/22 04:09 AM
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Not many sampled pianos have real una corda samples, but those I own (which includes the Garritan CFX) that do have them are:

• Synthogy Ivory Grand Pianos, Studio Grands, American Concert D and Fazioli F-308 (my pick is the American Concert D or the Bosendorfer 225 from the Studio Grands). All Ivory pianos have a single stereo mix (ie. no separate mic perspectives)

• VSL Vienna Imperial – Bosendorfer 290 (Close, Player & Distant mic sets)

• Embertone 1955 Walker D – New York Steinway D (mics sets can be purchased individually)

• East West Quantum Leap pianos (New York Steinway D, Bosendorfer 290, C.Bechstein 282 and Yamaha C7) - all have 3 mics sets in the Platinum edition.

Of these, the Walker D has the most mellow, vintage tone in my opinion. There have been reports (mainly Windows based users) of performance/CPU issues, but I can run the full 36 layer set with adaptive releases using 2 mics sets in a Kontakt multi with no issues on a Mac Mini 3.2 GHz 6 core i7 with 32GB ram. Very realistic and holds up well in solo piano music and in a mix. A wide and natural dynamic range when optimised to your keyboard.

The Ivory American Concert D has a beautiful golden tone with well defined hammer attack transients, and can be shaped extensively with the huge range of controls. Superb playability too, and quite light on computer resources (runs fine from a 7200rpm HDD) compared to the Embertone Walker D or the latest VSL Synchron pianos, which require an SSD to stream from.

The VSL Vienna Imperial is probably my "desert island" sampled piano, but the Bosendorfer tone & character tends to divide people so it may not be your preferred sound. The dynamic range is incredible, and the GUI allows for a fine level of customisation (per note editing of EQ & volume). It's efficient with CPU use and runs happily from a 7200rpm HDD.

I couldn't really recommend the East West Quantum Leap pianos from a playability point of view. They are efficient with CPU use and run fine from a 7200rpm HDD. The tone of them can be very realistic, 3D and lush sounding, but there are some odd velocity jumps and quirks which would distract most as a playing experience. I mainly use them as "production" pianos.

Hope this helps smile

Last edited by Craig Richards; 06/07/22 04:18 AM.

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marklings #3222731 06/07/22 04:15 AM
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To add to the above, all sampled pianos I listed have separately captured sustain pedal down samples, except for the Synthogy Ivory pianos, which have modelled sustain pedal down resonance and sympathetic resonances. Sampled pianos with real sustain pedal down samples provide a more 3D, blooming resonance compared to the Synthogy Ivory pianos, but the advantage of Synthogy's approach is that re-pedalling and half pedalling is more consistent and reliable.


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marklings #3222732 06/07/22 04:28 AM
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. . . and another thing, the full version of Embertone's 1955 Walker D offers a range of mic perspectives including main (side) hammers, close, binaural, wide, and room. The room and binaural mic perspectives give a good sense of space and depth, but not to the degree of the Garritan CFX Abbey Roads room sound. The Walker D was captured in a smaller, private recital space with less reflections and a short reverb tail. It does handle additional reverb well though (either built-in or external).

Last edited by Craig Richards; 06/07/22 04:30 AM.

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marklings #3222738 06/07/22 05:34 AM
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Hello,

I love the informative posts above by @Craig Richards. Thanks Craig!

Fellow forum member @Frederic L made this super useful page:

http://www.sinerj.org/~loyer/piano/Fantaisie/

Every time VST GAS hits me I refer to these examples and it helps me not to buy the GAS culprit without fail 😉.

Cheers and happy decision making,

HZ

PS @marklings, not mentioned thus far (and not on the linked page) is VI Labs' Modern U. So far it is the only one I actually use every day. I 'just' play, so no recording, production, DAW or anything. In my realm Modern U is the best, most realistic virtual piano and realism is my main criterium before anything else.

marklings #3222786 06/07/22 09:13 AM
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Cheers @HZPiano. Another soon to be released sampled piano to consider smile



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Originally Posted by Craig Richards
Cheers @HZPiano. Another soon to be released sampled piano to consider smile


That's a Fazioli.


Roland FP-30, Roland E-28
Galaxy II Grand piano collection, Synthogy Ivory II Studio Grands, Production Voices Estate Grand, Garritan CFX Lite, Pianoteq 7.5.2 (Blüthner, Bechstein DG, Grotrian, Steinway D, K2)
marklings #3222798 06/07/22 09:56 AM
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Thank you Craig HZ Piano and all,

I find Embertone intriguing, I'll dig a little bit more into that.

Surprised VSL did not get that many mentions . . .

marklings #3222821 06/07/22 11:39 AM
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Vienna Symphonic Library:

There are a few Vienna Symphonic Library (VSL) instruments that fulfill number 1 (a mellow sound) and number 3 (realistic space) on your list of priorities.

As for number 2 of your priorities (sympathetic resonance), *I* think they all have great resonance already captured in the samples. That said, many others feel it’s not enough & prefer a more obvious effect from software, and, admittedly VSL’s sympathetic resonance feature isn’t very good. That said, for my purposes, I have never been disappointed with the sense of sympathetic resonance already captured in the samples.

As for number 4 on your list (una corda), none of them have it with the exception of their much older Vienna Imperial instrument; but that has issues. Here’s my recommendations for those:

Of the current Synchron Pianos by VSL, the best for your purposes (mellow sound) would be:

Concert D-274 - a Steinway D. Gorgeous tone, brilliant Steinway sound, wonderfully tuned, vividly & dynamically captured. A peak concert instrument. It sounds and plays like every great Steinway recording you’ve heard. (I’m partial to the Steinway sound, so this may or may not matter for you). 10 different individual mic sets, which you can mix to your pleasure, each captured from a superb mic & set-up. Surround mics which can be used with a Dolby Atmos set-up for real surround sound. The VSL libraries have gotten a reputation for being distant and full of hall ambience; that’s largely from an intentional choice to highlight the ambience in the demos because VSL is one of the few libraries that feature it, and because their presets focus more on room ambience. However, a careful mixture of one or more of the close mics, with a mid mic, and adding one or two room mics at half or 3/4 volume will give you closeness that rivals any library. Find a good mix of mics & the velocity curve that works for you, and you can’t beat this instrument.

Bluthner 1895 - Even more mellow than the Steinway, and I would’ve recommended this before the Steinway, but there are points to consider. The instrument sampled is an older one, a refurbished grand from 1895. So, by dint of it being from an older time period, the sound is slightly different from modern instruments: less ring & metallicism at higher volumes, a thinner & more fractious tone at higher volumes, and a much weaker bass than the booming, brassy, metallic bass we’ve acclimated to with modern instruments. That said, it has a very lovely singing tone & is gorgeous through it’s range. It’s also a smaller instrument (a 6 foot grand) so less fullness overall. Despite it’s age & refurbished nature, VSL sampled it without limitation through it’s dynamic range, and you can get some greater thunder out of it. Less velocity layers than the Steinway, but still far more than anything else on the market, so that doesn’t impact it’s playability.

Bosendorfer Imperial - A beautiful concert instrument that works exactly the same as the others listed above in all the good ways, but take note: it’s a Bosendorfer! The sound of that instrument can divide people, especially in a world that has been more predominantly shaped by the Steinway & then Yamaha sound. Bosendorfers can be beautifully mellow, but, in the treble range, from about C4 to C-6, they can be almost bell like; the notes can be very sharp and clear with a marked focus on the upper fundamentals & upper range of the note, and an almost guitar/lyre/harp like pluckiness the louder you go. This is the range of the Bosendorfer that most people either love or hate. Even more, I feel like almost no sampler probably captures the sound of a Bosendorfer; for me there’s always something missing and I think this is because the sound “evolves” more the farther away you get from the source, in a way other instruments don’t. Also, for some reason, a decision was made to record this instrument with the piano to the left of the Decca Tree mics, surround mics, & room mics. Which means, if you choose to use anything outside of the Close mics & Mid mics, the sound will be distinctly to your left in the stereo image; you’ll feel like the piano is to your left as you play. They claim this was because, in a mix, it will feel like you’re really hearing how the instrument would sound on stage; but for a player this is not desirable. You can select a “Centered” preset, but that pans things, and I never like panning a main instrument. You can also pan the room/Decca tree/surround mics in your won mix, but again, same thing.

None of these have una corda, but since that’s the last thing on your priority list, I figured you might be willing to forego it in exchange for excellence everywhere else. VSL does a pretty good of “mimicking” una corda, but it’s not the best. It kinda just mutes things. That can be a good for some pieces, not so good for others.

Outside of the Synchron pianos, VSL offers:
Vienna Imperial - I believe this is the same instrument used for the Synchron Bosendorfer Imperial, but it’s captured differently here. Much more distinctively. A great instrument with a good singing tone. Consider, again, that it’s a Bosendorfer, so different sound. No issues with stereo image (if I recall correctly), but you get less mics and only three perspectives: close, player, & distant, which blends the mics accordingly. Actual una corda samples that are well done. It’s an outdated virtual instrument, far older than the three mentioned above. The UI is outdated (meh) and you can’t control the mics individually. The sound quality is slightly lesser. Less velocity layers than the three above, but still significantly more than any other instrument on the market. Most importantly, no half-pedaling, which will impact playability of classical music. Also, VSL isn’t selling it anymore currently, so you’ll have to get it through a third-party if they sell it.



Outside of the VSLs, which I consider the Holy of Holies, there are some other great choices, and I’d concur with Embertone as a great “mellow option”.

Embertone Walker - A vintage Steinway D. Wonderfully “close” instrument, which feels like it’s right there in the room with you. Has a gorgeous tone, an extremely wide dynamic range. It’s a vintage instrument, and you can hear that; at times, so much so, that it’s almost a character instrument. Great una corda sampling as well. Wonderful sampling of instrument sounds that really make you feel like you’re sitting right in front of a piano. One of the mics is a binaural mic and it is amazing at providing that close, surround, directly-in-front-of-the-instrument feel as well. Very well-sampled; despite having less velocity layers than the VSL instruments, it still has significantly more than any other virtual instrument, and playability is pretty good. All these things said, it’s not without it’s flaws. There are some notes which are slightly out of tune; this may not bother some but it may be extremely noticeable to others. The velocity curve feature is extremely odd, unintuitive, & hard to use, and it seems nearly impossible to access the full dynamic range: you either only get ppp-f or mp-fff, but it seems almost impossible to get ppp-fff. You also can’t turn off the sometimes overwhelming key noise without turning down the release samples, which then ruins the realistic sound of the instrument. Kontakt Player and/or the instrument itself is very taxing on the CPU: I’m able to use five or six mics on VSL with no issues unless I’m playing some super complicated piece and practically overusing the pedal. More than a few mics on Embertone seems to overwhelm the CPU. Kontakt can have weird glitches & crashes. It’s important to note these flaws. However, if you’re willing to live with those flaws, it’s a BEAUTIFUL instrument.

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Originally Posted by Craig Richards
Cheers @HZPiano. Another soon to be released sampled piano to consider smile


Oops, requires full Kontakt (or at least so do the other Xperimenta pianos). That is not for me, unfortunately (or, fortunately? 😉).

Cheers and happy playing,

HZ

marklings #3222833 06/07/22 12:14 PM
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@Taushi,

Thanks for the incredibly competent review. I too lean on the Steinway sound. Eventually una corda might not be that important.

I guess it'll be either VSL American D or Emberton. I'll re read your comprehensive post and take it from there.

Last edited by marklings; 06/07/22 12:14 PM.
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I bought both the Bosendorfer Imperial and the Steinway 274 both from VSL - It took me a good month to get the Steinway where I like it - and I could not agree more with Taushi that " a careful mixture of one or more of the close mics, with a mid mic, and adding one or two room mics at half or 3/4 volume will give you closeness that rivals any library" Once I found this sweet spot the piano really came to life for me.

On the Bosendorfer I found that adding some body resonance and some sympathetic resonance got me almost there - but I sort of don't like that guitar pluckiness that Taushi describes above. However, this instrument records very nicely as does the Steinway.

I would like to get one more VST - a CFX or Fazioli but I want to tread very carefully so I don't end up with a lemon....

marklings #3222840 06/07/22 12:30 PM
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Do any of the Pianoteq pianos fit OP's requirements? I haven't used it but it seems like a lot of people here have experience with it.

BMKE #3222847 06/07/22 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by BMKE
Do any of the Pianoteq pianos fit OP's requirements? I haven't used it but it seems like a lot of people here have experience with it.

Well, techically you should be able to mellow any of them and create nice results with enough tweeking.
Whether there are specific presets that are mellow. I know that the new felt presets are quite mellow.


Last edited by Doug M.; 06/07/22 12:51 PM.

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marklings #3222866 06/07/22 01:33 PM
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All great replies for the OP.

I'd also say that if you are looking for una corda samples, don't forget VILabs Ravenscroft 275 and the new Dorian-Marko Piano from Auddict. However, the former has a harsher tone, and the latter just came out and needs more exposure in the VST community.

If you want una corda samples, which you'll need when playing music of the Romantic period, then stay away from Synchron Pianos from VSL, despite how good they may be. The reason? No una corda samples!

Ivory's American Concert D is a very good piano to consider, and should be a good companion to your Garritan CFX.

Lastly, PianoTeq has divided opinions in this community. For me, I say stay away, as their modern grands are not that realistic sound wise, despite great playability. The same can be said for the Piano V3 by Arturia, though their sound is slightly better than PianoTeq. The digital / harshness of these plugins is, to me, why I'm still staying away from them to this day.

I believe all what you're looking for are good qualities, and you should choose wisely. And never underestimate una corda or the lack of it. I currently regret having purchased the VSL Concert D 274, despite its great sound and good playability.

Hope this helps!

David

marklings #3222868 06/07/22 01:38 PM
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Having tried many of the usual suspects (Garittan CFX, Ravenscroft, Noire, Embertone Walker, Pianoteq, NI Grandeur/Maverick/Gentleman, VSL) I have to say that the VSL instruments really are a notch above in terms of realism and playability, and absolutely worth the extra cost - especially if you are primarily playing classical repertoire. The extra deep sampling and velocity layers provide a variety of tone and responsiveness to touch that I found to make a noticeable difference in exposed solo playing.

I have the VSL Synchron Bosendorfer Imperial, and love it, though I don't know if I would call the sound mellow exactly. I think the default sound for most of the VSL grand pianos seems to be rather bright and in a largish space, but you can dial them in to be somewhat softer and more intimate by playing with the velocity curve and mic mixes.

One VSL that intrigues me (though I haven't tried myself) is the Bosendorfer Upright, which seems to have a much more mellow and intimate sound than the grands - at least in the demos I've heard. Of course it's an upright, so the sound will be different, but you might want to consider checking if out if you're looking for a more mellow tone.

As others have mentioned, with the exception of the Vienna Imperial they all have simulated as opposed to real una corda samples, but I personally don't find this to be a deal breaker.

In fact, if could do it again, I probably would have skipped all the other VSTs and gone straight for the VSL options, but you live and learn. I plan to get either the CFX or Bluthner next time they have a sale on.

marklings #3222888 06/07/22 03:35 PM
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I quote : « Vienna Imperial : Less velocity layers than the three above, but still significantly more than any other instrument on the market. »

Well… it is sold to have up to 100 velocity per keys. I guess the MIDI limit is 127 : we are quite close. How much velocity per keys has the Synchron ? At least 60 according to https://www.vsl.co.at/community/posts/t48823-CFX-velocity-levels#post272378

(Note with 64 velocity layers, each layer covers only 2 level which is very very good)


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