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Hammersmith


Steve Nathan

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I never mind spending money on Sampletekk libraries, because they are so well-programmed. This means they are really easy and quick to work with at early mock-up stages, compared to some of the higher-end libraries. But I do not consider them detailed enough for final production work.

 

I suspect the drive behind such good programming, is that the main client for these libraries is Nord (formerly known as Clavia).

 

I had considered the Galaxy pianos as an addition, until True Keys came along. I still haven't even tried the ones Galaxy did for NI Complete 10!

Eugenio Upright, 60th Anniversary P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico SS Bari, EXL1,

Select Strat, 70th Anniversary Esquire, LP 57, Eastman T486, T64, Ibanez PM2, Hammond XK4, Moog Voyager

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Oh yeah, after years of using the Scarbee libraries, Soniccouture's Broken Wurly and Clav D6 quickly became my go-to libraries for e-pianos -- though I sometimes use Arturia's modeled (not sampled) Wulitzer when doing creative sound design.

Eugenio Upright, 60th Anniversary P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico SS Bari, EXL1,

Select Strat, 70th Anniversary Esquire, LP 57, Eastman T486, T64, Ibanez PM2, Hammond XK4, Moog Voyager

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I'm using Hammersmith on a track at the moment! It's a lovely instrument to play, particularly for stuff where the piano is exposed. My only criticisms are that it doesn't really sparkle when you dig in and there's a bit of phasing playing octaves at the bottom of the keyboard. I do only have the LE version though so one of the closer mic placements in the full version would probably solve the former issue.
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Oops, for the album I'm wrapping up today, those caveats are the most important aspects of the piano sound for the material that has acoustic piano. Good to know.

Eugenio Upright, 60th Anniversary P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico SS Bari, EXL1,

Select Strat, 70th Anniversary Esquire, LP 57, Eastman T486, T64, Ibanez PM2, Hammond XK4, Moog Voyager

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I've been using the Hammersmith Pro for couple weeks (via CP4). Wonderful to play. It does take some time to adjust and get acclimated. Love the mic placement feature on Pro version. Im finding it makes a significant difference depending on what style/song you are are playing. There certainly is no one-stop-preset-setting that will sound amazing out of the box, but you will find it for sure as you work with it. You have to spend some time with it to really appreciate its range and dynamics. I m still in discovery phase and and enjoying very much - somewhat addicted as I keep digging deeper. Keep in mind I am new to VST pianos, so my opinion is only FWIW. I do have very good ears though ;)
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OK, let's see if I can stay awake, and coherent, long enough to write a proper account of my six hours of piano work that I just finished, right on the heels of a rather long jazz gig this afternoon.

 

My preferences are extremely clear and consistent at this point, on repeated listens and at volumes all the way from quiet to slightly above voice level (I rarely ever listen louder than that, and certainly not while my housemates are sleeping).

 

The VI Labs products are at the top of the list, and nobody else comes remotely close. The reason is that they have zero phase issues (rare in piano libraries), and handle every possible pedaling challenge I could throw their way (a big stumbler for most libraries). I would say they handle staccato by far the best, as well as half-pedaling and interrupted pedaling, and the most realistic ppp and fff (and beyond).

 

The only qualms I have will be easily addressed once I start working with a preferred mic balance, and maybe some EQ. They're just a little too bright for me, but not in a harsh way. I prefer a slightly dark piano timbre, like Pianoteq's. I will probably also need to slightly adjust the velocity curve in terms of any re-tracking work, as I didn't use a linear map with Pianoteq.

 

Pianoteq does come in at number two, after much listening and comparison. And it continues to improve. Based on how close its various voicings are in timbre to the better libraries out there, as well as continued improvements in articulations, pedaling, etc., it is clear they listen closely to the sample libraries to try to emulate what is best about them. And there are plenty of other uses for Pianoteq now besides just acoustic piano (including the excellent new harp addition).

 

Where Pianoteq falls down relative to VI Labs (but still is better than ANY of the other products) is in the sort of muddle that develops when a lot of notes are played at once, while pedaling and playing percussively with fairly soft grace notes in between. But then, this would have been a hopeless task ten years ago.

 

Between the VI Labs libraries, I eventually kept coming back to the Fazioli as the best for this particular jazz album (not really pure jazz, but more influenced by latin styles, stride, and other less improvisational and more aggressive playing), even though I originally thought I'd switch from Pianoteq's Steinway "D" to the VI Labs American Grand. But all of the VI Labs libraries are equally good; they simply show each piano model for what its actual strengths are, which is ideal.

 

The only problem I have is two missing samples in the Fazioli. I'll have to see if they have an update, or write them an email. It's when enabling una corda, which for this particular project is irrelevant as I only briefly had a tri-pedal unit (Roland), which wasn't compatible with anything I owned and so got sold.

 

For Yamaha piano sounds, it's a tight race between Orange Tree Samples Evolution Rosewood Grand and Impact Soundworks Pearl Concert Grand, but even though the former needs some work regarding complex pedaling, its timbre seems a bit more spot-on and also less compressed than the Pearl library. Yet both are great options and will probably see programming improvements over time as both vendors are known for that.

 

The Hammersmith still eludes me in terms of pedaling, but other than that, and needing more time with it to really dig in, I would say it's definitely in that second tier along with the two Yamaha libraries mentioned above (and with Pianoteq).

 

The more expensive Vienna Imperial library (not to be confused with the cheaper Bosendorfer Imperial library), still gets used a lot in orchestral projects, as it really slices through in that context, but it is horrible for solo or chamber work as it seems incapable of handling pedaling of any sort. A shock at that size and price. But I have to mention its utility in the context for which it was created.

 

There's a HUGE step-down at that point, towards the other libraries, except for the caveat that the Sampletekk and Galaxy libraries are very musical, easy to work with, cheap, and great placeholders in the early phase of a project. They simply don't handle enough of the nuances to cut it on more demanding projects where there's a lot of dynamics, fast multi-strike action, pedaling, etc.

 

The Acoustic Samples libraries are interesting and well-done, but are hard to judge as I don't have as much experience on the originals. They focus on lesser-sampled pianos and historical models. They are interesting, and possibly better than the models in Pianoteq for such pianos. The Kawai and Pleyel are quite different.

 

UVI's own Fazioli library is quite good, but completely unnecessary given that one can buy the VI Labs Italian on its own. It is worth noting that both UVI and Acoustic Samples are stepping up their game though. Keep an eye on both vendors.

 

Finally, so far at the bottom that it came out the other side of the planet in China somewhere, is the Ivory Italian II. I spent a LOT of time trying to make this library work, but at its core, it seems fatally flawed in the ways I mentioned earlier, meaning that I doubt continuing to spend more time tweaking it will make a difference. The issue is that it is phasey, and can't handle any of the more challenging playing styles mentioned above. Each note sounds discrete and disconnected to my ears, just as it did in the version I products as well.

 

I hate to rag on Ivory because it is well-loved and its developers used to be Kurzweil employees. Maybe I'm still missing something. Yet the official demos also sound problematic to me in the same ways as I notice in my own use.

 

As for my current jazz album, I think I'll likely stick to tonight's choice of the VI Labs Italian Grand, as the Fazioli sound seems able to tame more aggressive playing styles and make them more bearable, without sounding a bit compressed like a Yamaha acoustic piano. The Fazioli sound to me sits somewhere between Steinway, Yamaha, and Kawai.

Eugenio Upright, 60th Anniversary P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico SS Bari, EXL1,

Select Strat, 70th Anniversary Esquire, LP 57, Eastman T486, T64, Ibanez PM2, Hammond XK4, Moog Voyager

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