I have prepared a series of 6 videos of blind testing of piano VSTs, that some of you here at PW may find interesting. I uploaded them to Vimeo and you can download at will...
My initial purpose with these tests was to compare the demos of the VSL libraries currently on sale, and pit them against Garritan Full that I own and use, so that I could check which, if any, VSL library would be an option for me. After doing this exercise, I thought that it might also be of use for others, and decided to turn this into a series of 6 public videos and expand the comparison to some other Kontakt libraries that I don't really use...
Since I am a player at a very beginner level, live playing was really not an option; thus these videos are totally different from the expert VST comparisons from Gamma1734, Stu Harrison, or many other proficient YouTube piano players. What I did was use 6 publically available MIDI files of well known classical pieces (credits at the end of each video) that I thought would be able to showcase different important tonal characteristics of the libraries. Then I cycled through the VSTs every 4 bars, for better and faster comparisons.
Each video uses 3 VSTs at a time (labeled A-B-C) only identified at the end of each video (therefore, "blind testing"). Although it would be easier to make only one video comparing all VSTs at once, I believe that we are incapable of maintaining sonic memories of 10 or more sources (at least, I am...), and for that reason I opted to make comparisons in groups of 3.
The used VSTs are:
- Vienna VSL Synchron Piano - Bösendorfer Imperial
- Vienna VSL Synchron Piano - Bösendorfer 280VC
- Vienna VSL Synchron Piano - Steinway D-274
- Vienna VSL Synchron Piano - Yamaha CFX
- Cinesamples - CinePiano
- Garritan - CFX Concert Grand
- Native Instruments - The Grandeur
- Native Instruments - Noire
- Pianoteq 7.3 - Steinway D (New York)
- Pianoteq 7.3 - Steingraeber Grand
- Pianoteq 7.3 - Petrof Mistral
For each VST, I chose similar close presets with only a small amount of room reverb through room mics (whenever available). Because I intend to acquire a VSL standard library (not the full version) I used only 2-3 mics available in the standard versions. Garritan CFX is the full version. For Pianoteq I used the demo version that silences a few notes.
Rendering from midi is not an ideal scenario since each library calls for slightly different touch and pedalling. On the other hand, this kind of clinical and mechanical rendering brings up all defects since they cannot be improved by technical adjustments. Listen with critical judgement, and do not forget that midi pedalling is not optimized for any of these VSTs and some suffer particularly from this... So, the libraries will certainly sound better when live played.
The pieces were chosen for different characteristics. The Bach prelude is perfectly quantisized and uses fixed velocity and no pedalling: nowhere to hide... The other pieces were chosen to highlight different playing techniques: staccato single notes, staccato chords, slow phrasing, slow harmonies, fast glissandi, romantic legato, etc... Since these midi files don't have a lot of high velocity values, there was no need to calibrate velocity curves, although the end result is usually mellow. The only changed VST is the VSL D-274 in which I slightly softened the curve slope.
Hope this exercise may be helpful to some...
Here are the links to the videos:Video 1:Video 2:Video 3:Video 4:Video 5:Video 6: