Piano shootout #2

VST, AU, AAX, etc. plug-in Virtual Instruments discussion
jochicago
KVRian
544 posts since 26 Feb, 2018

Post Thu Jul 18, 2019 7:18 pm

In honor or Production Voices having a sale on the SFZ bundle, I tested a few libraries.

First off, I’ve been keeping an eye on these libraries and right now they come out at $15 each. It’s a great deal for libraries of this quality. The bundle comes with the excellent compact versions of their Steinway D and Yamaha C7, plus the decent Kawai and the very interesting Death Piano. I strongly recommend this bundle to anyone needing solid piano libraries:
https://www.productionvoices.com/produc ... do-bundle/


On to the test. Details below for those that like to read.
And big props to Kyle Landry for this wonderful improvisation piece. If you like this performance, please take a moment to give Kyle a thumbs up for making the midi available. youtu.be/xvV7-Rwn-zU

Steinway D
XLN Addictive Keys - https://instaud.io/3XTu
Sonivox 88 Ensemble - https://instaud.io/3XTr
Production Voices Concert Grand Compact - https://instaud.io/3XTv
Free library: Piano in 162, Steinway B - https://instaud.io/3XTO

Yamahas
Production Voices Production Grand Compact (C7) - https://instaud.io/3XTx
Free library: Yamaha C5 “Salamander” - https://instaud.io/3XTF

Fazioli F228
Wavesfactory Mercury Piano - https://instaud.io/3XU1

Other, DAW Instruments (These are here for comparison)
Studio One Presence Studio Grand - https://instaud.io/3XTy
Tracktion Collective Warm Concert Grand - https://instaud.io/3XTH



---

Test Details
I tried to give these some basic treatment to represent how they might be used. Exact same treatment for all of them. Also tried to use the default preset for each library, except for turning down built-in compression and reverb so it wouldn’t interfere too much with my own chain.

Treatment:
Scheps Omni – Bit of saturation, 2db of thump, about 2.5db of GR using the FET comp at 1.3 ratio.
TDR Limiter 6 – Used for leveling. Comp was set to 1.4 ratio, for an overall GR of about 7db.
Reverb: Xenoverb – used the preset “Concert Hall” at 40% mix.
Volume matching – used a 15sec section to volume match to 0.1db LUFS

Note: something is up with my render process. I was charging through these so I didn't notice till the end, but there are some odd pedal changes and buffer noises. If you spot those don't be too quick to blame the library itself.

jochicago
KVRian
544 posts since 26 Feb, 2018

Re: Piano shootout #2

Post Fri Jul 19, 2019 10:47 am

I have to add that I have a hard time with these choosing a favorite. Of the Steinways:
- The XLN is ok and has the various perspectives so most versatile of these. I might pick this for non-solo performances.
- The Production Voices is probably the most natural D here. Well rounded, accurate character, beautifully recorded. Easy to EQ to accentuate anyway you'd like.
- The 88 Ensemble still calls to me. Those glistening highs are just not what you'd expect from a D. Sharp attack and it's so crazy dynamic it needs twice as much compression as the others. It's such a good library for the right application.

For the Fazioli "Mercury" I hate using the default preset because I feel it does no justice to the library. A couple of tweaks and you can have such a breadth of sound, but for the test it would be unfair to the other libraries that also have deep settings. Still, it sounds a bit distant and muddy at the natural preset, when it's easy to make it present and attack-y. What it can't really do is sound full-concert-bodied like the larger Steinways.

of the DAW ones, I've always been a bit disappointed at what comes with the S1 for all the fanfare, although this piano is acceptable for non-solo use. The Tracktion thing feels like it's not even trying, like most of the sounds that come with that set - Collective is only good is you use it for all its might, to FX and LFO the crap out of the sounds. Same can be said of the DAW plugins, underwhelming at best for serious use.

Links to the free libraries:
Piano in 162, Steinway B
http://ivyaudio.com/Piano-in-162

It's a sub concert so it doesn't have that big body. Also very bright highs, at times uncomfortably so. But nice library. I would give it a dynamic eq to tame the highs.


Yamaha C5 Salamander
https://sites.google.com/view/hed-sound ... r-c5-light

My favorite version of this library is this light pack at only 25mb. I don't know how they got it so small, it sounds great. The full version is about 1gig if you look for it. But this version is about 80% of the sound quality and much easier to work with. Great for background piano parts. Also great reason to get started using Sforzando if this is your first sfz library.

CGR
KVRist
46 posts since 7 Sep, 2015

Re: Piano shootout #2

Post Mon Jul 22, 2019 4:09 am

Interesting comparison. The Sonivox 88 Ensemble really holds its own amongst all the sampled Steinway Ds out there. The room in which they sampled it (an old Masonic Hall converted to a studio) had a very complimentary influence on the tone they captured, especially the clear top end. I also have the Production Voices Concert Grand Compact, but don't use it that much. I prefer their wonderful Production Grand Yamaha C7. That's in the top 3 sampled C7's in my opinion.

Stokely
KVRist
140 posts since 11 May, 2010

Re: Piano shootout #2

Post Mon Jul 22, 2019 7:58 am

I've been very happy with Garritan's CFX (I have the "lite" version). Not expensive, not super-huge, and easy copy protection (I avoid iLok and similar so that leaves out a bunch of options). For a Steinway I'm using Addictive Keys, it's fine but doesn't have the dynamics or as nice of a sound as CFX lite (obviously not the same type of piano).

CGR
KVRist
46 posts since 7 Sep, 2015

Re: Piano shootout #2

Post Mon Jul 22, 2019 2:04 pm

Well worth upgrading to the full version of the Garritan CFX. The ambient mic sets really bring a depth of space (Abbey Roads Studio One) to the piano tone you can't achieve by simply adding reverb to the close mics only. A superb sampled piano, and incredibly flexible. Here it is in a few production library tracks I've composed and played. Tracks 029 and 033 on this album:

http://www.motionfocusmusic.com/album/m ... l-Journeys

No reverb added to the piano, but there is a touch of Valhalla Room (Large Room) on the master output to help gel everything.

jochicago
KVRian
544 posts since 26 Feb, 2018

Re: Piano shootout #2

Post Mon Jul 22, 2019 3:14 pm

CGR wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 2:04 pm
Well worth upgrading to the full version of the Garritan CFX.
Very nice tracks.
There's a thread from 2017 about fairly loud noise in the Garritan library. There were some examples posted, like this one:
https://soundcloud.com/thebirds/schubert-lite-default

If you crank up the volume and listen, it's a ton of noise. But I'm not really hearing it in the sales page examples and I'm not hearing it in your tracks. Have you had any problems with noise with this instrument? My guess is that Garritan went back in there and tweaked some things because it seems to be clean now.

CGR
KVRist
46 posts since 7 Sep, 2015

Re: Piano shootout #2

Post Mon Jul 22, 2019 4:05 pm

Thanks for checking my music out and your kind words. I've read a few posts on various forums of people complaining about the noise in the Garritan CFX. Sure, if you take some playing which is mainly in the lower velocity regions (the Garritan CFX has 20 velocity samples per key) and bump up the volume or normalise it, some noise will be evident, but unless you're recording in an anechoic chamber, this would happen with a real recording also, so for me it's a mute point.

Also, in that Schubert track you posted, there's no knowing how the Garritan CFX was configured, or what processing, EQ or compression was added. For example, I turn off the pedal noise completely in the GUI, as the hiss & swoosh from that can contribute to a lot of noise. I also use the Full edition, with the Close mics at 100% and the Ambient mics around 50-60%, don't use the built in reverb, and have the Sustain Resonance & Sympathetic Resonance dials set around 9 o'clock.

Given that many other sampled pianos have more issues with noise build up (the stacking of noise in each sample as multiple samples are triggered), Garritan have done a fine job of balancing noise reduction on the samples (to avoid obvious noise stacking) and leaving enough 'air' in the samples so they don't sound sterile. This contributes to why the Garritan CFX sounds so good & realistic (of course along with a stunning, well tuned & voiced Yamaha concert grand piano, the ambience of Abbey Roads Studio One, Abbey Roads' Engineers and top end mics & signal chain, and Garritan's programmers & scripters).

There are so many ultra-clean sampled pianos out there that ultimately for me end up sounding sterile & 'plastic'. I'm happy to live with a bit of noise (and in the case of Garritan's CFX, it's minimal) in order for the character & realism to be preserved. A little like subtle film grain in a black & white photo – it gives it character & 'grit' for want of a better word.

jochicago
KVRian
544 posts since 26 Feb, 2018

Re: Piano shootout #2

Post Mon Jul 22, 2019 4:51 pm

Good points.

If you has asked me a couple years back what's the best grand for me I would have said the Yamaha CFX. But since I've started playing at blending libraries I've been held back from going for a CFX library because I feel I can already get some very interesting tones with what's on hand, and I've gotten more ambitious in terms of finding the perfect tone (shows I play guitar doesn't it? )

For instance, this is my take on a great Steinway D for my taste. It's a mix of the Production Voices with 88 Ensemble for seasoning. The idea is to start with the steadiness of the PV mixed with the brightness and attack of the 88, plus some very gentle eq to taste. Mind that I mixed this one from the mp3 samples that had some artifacts, so a more formal render would be cleaner:
Hybrid D - https://instaud.io/3ZoN

Stokely
KVRist
140 posts since 11 May, 2010

Re: Piano shootout #2

Post Mon Jul 22, 2019 5:50 pm

CGR wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 2:04 pm
Well worth upgrading to the full version of the Garritan CFX. The ambient mic sets really bring a depth of space (Abbey Roads Studio One) to the piano tone you can't achieve by simply adding reverb to the close mics only. A superb sampled piano, and incredibly flexible. Here it is in a few production library tracks I've composed and played. Tracks 029 and 033 on this album:

http://www.motionfocusmusic.com/album/m ... l-Journeys

No reverb added to the piano, but there is a touch of Valhalla Room (Large Room) on the master output to help gel everything.
I see what you mean. That ambience makes it a very different-sounding instrument, not like I can get with putting 'verb alone on the close-miked version I have. I'll look into upgrading. Part of why I didn't get the full version was not being sure how well a relatively larger library would work on my machine, and it has worked very well.

Looking forward to Steinway thoughts in this thread.

I know it's "none of the above" but I'm having tons of fun with NI's Una Corda. Speaking of NI, have yet to really use the Grandeur since I got the full Komplete....

CGR
KVRist
46 posts since 7 Sep, 2015

Re: Piano shootout #2

Post Tue Jul 23, 2019 12:28 am

jochicago wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 4:51 pm
Good points.

If you has asked me a couple years back what's the best grand for me I would have said the Yamaha CFX. But since I've started playing at blending libraries I've been held back from going for a CFX library because I feel I can already get some very interesting tones with what's on hand, and I've gotten more ambitious in terms of finding the perfect tone (shows I play guitar doesn't it? )

For instance, this is my take on a great Steinway D for my taste. It's a mix of the Production Voices with 88 Ensemble for seasoning. The idea is to start with the steadiness of the PV mixed with the brightness and attack of the 88, plus some very gentle eq to taste. Mind that I mixed this one from the mp3 samples that had some artifacts, so a more formal render would be cleaner:
Hybrid D - https://instaud.io/3ZoN
I've had limited success with creating a natural piano sound by blending 2 sampled pianos, even of the same brand & model. There's always some weird phasing going on, which in certain dense passages (like your blended demo) often doesn't bother me, or if you're going for a certain effect, but most times it really sounds a bit 'off' in simpler, melodic/chordal playing. A technique which helps is to reduce the stereo width of one of the pianos (the one you prefer the attack of) and leave the stereo image to the 2nd piano. In your case I'd use a narrow stereo/almost mono attack of the 88 Ensemble and the stereo sustain of the Production Voices concert grand. Haven't tried that particular combo, but it's very much a trial and error thing.

CGR
KVRist
46 posts since 7 Sep, 2015

Re: Piano shootout #2

Post Tue Jul 23, 2019 12:36 am

Speaking of Steinway model Ds, I just upgraded the Embertone 1955 Walker Steinway D Lite (12 velocity layers, main AKG mic perspective) to the full version (36 velocity layers inc. Una Corda) and added the Hammer mic set. BIG difference. My most authentic sampled vintage Steinway experience to date. Despite the sustain pedalling issues, it just sounds so resonant and realistic, and plays exceptionally well - the thousands of release samples they captured based on velocity and duration really help (I use a Yamaha CP4 stage which has an 88 key wooden hammer action with a tri-sensor mechanism, which matches really well with sampled pianos).

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digitalboytn
KVRian
1407 posts since 8 Dec, 2008 from Global Cowboy

Re: Piano shootout #2

Post Tue Jul 23, 2019 1:33 am

I was imagining the piano shootout and I was just wondering if any of the pianos were killed or badly injured from gunshot wounds ?

As we learnt from the wild west,shootouts can be quite deadly and there always seems to be one or two going on here at KVR :wink:
Sorry - I don't use auto-tune....

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Julien Unison
KVRist
421 posts since 9 Oct, 2006

Re: Piano shootout #2

Post Tue Jul 23, 2019 7:03 pm

NOIRE and UNACORDA are reaaaaally awesome :love:
U N I S O N : shoegaze/electronic wall of sound with heavenly voice
https://soundcloud.com/weareunison / https://www.facebook.com/unison666 / https://weareunison.com/

jochicago
KVRian
544 posts since 26 Feb, 2018

Re: Piano shootout #2

Post Tue Jul 23, 2019 8:27 pm

CGR wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 12:28 am
I've had limited success with creating a natural piano sound by blending 2 sampled pianos, even of the same brand & model. There's always some weird phasing going on
For sure, I think that's inescapable but it's probably also a very big problem when blending multiple perspectives for the library makers. I can only imagine the agony of trying to sync 5 perspectives from 9 microphones. I think pride in this work is the reason the Mercury library's default preset is all perspectives loaded, and I personally feel that it doesn't sound so great, I feel like I'm hearing the phasing. I much prefer it with 3 perspectives by simply turning a couple off.

So, with the phasing being something to consider I embrace the challenge. The biggest problem for me has been getting 2 unrelated pianos to sound like they are working together. If their character is not compatible they start to sound artificial (metallic or plastic). So my approach is to use deep eq to regulate what goes where. I've been pretty happy with some of the blends, Steinway + Yamaha, or Fazioli + Steinway. And I really like my options here on Steinway + Steinway.

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