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Acoustic Piano Sample Library Demo - Shoot Out / Comparison / Pick Your Favorite / Recognize the Instrument


ElmerJFudd
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I noticed the topic of hardware vs. software come up this week again and for a lot of us the main piano sound is pretty central to choosing a rig.  Of course, no audience is ever going to be as discerning as the player is about his/her sound.  Playing solo, or in a duo/trio, band we should keep in mind that the more there is going on, the smaller our little corner of sonic space and listening attention is.  And of course amplification and proximity play a big part in perception overall.  

 

That said, I thought it would be fun to share a comparison, shoot out with what I have available and see what we like, don't like, our preferences.  Which we think sounds most realistic, most attractive, most useful in context of the music we like to make and ensembles we play with.  Would we be able to tell one from the other - maybe recognize the source instrument by just hearing it (steinway vs. yamaha).   

 

I played a variety of shapes, dynamics, techniques to see how the instruments behaved, spoke and recorded that as MIDI on my CP88.  Then I played them back in the box or over MIDI.  Tried to keep their volumes relative, though some of these really have much wider dynamic range than the others.  The sequence goes....

Typical piano intro, chords and melody with pedal, let notes sustain -> no pedal, let notes bleed into each other, mf, note stabs -> pedal, down gradually go through velocity layers p to f then arp up to higher register -> fast arps no pedal and with pedal, mp -> fast arp with pedal half volume -> bombastic bass fff -> solo note line in mid and upper register -> punchy tremello lick.  

 

Instruments: Logic Steinway, Logic Yamaha, Logic Bosendorfer, Roland VR-700, Yamaha CP88, NI The Gentleman, UAD Ravel, Acousticsamples Kawai-EX Pro

Sound Files: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H 

 

If you have time and want to add sample libraries you have, I've attached the MIDI.  

 

HAPPY FRIDAY, ENJOY THE WEEKEND!

 

 

 

AcousticPianoSampleLibraryDemo.mid

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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Okay, here's my quick take:

 

Category 1 - Best

 

Category 2 - Decent, I'd probably rank then roughly this way, but it's close, they have different things I like or dislike about them...

F

C

E

D

B

 

Category 3 - Ugh

G

A

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Category 1 - Best (in order of preference):

G

C - My guess is this is the NI piano.

A (seems to be in mono though) - this is 100% a Yamaha of some kind, at least as the source instrument.

 

Category 2 - Decent:

F

 

Category 3 - not enjoyable (best to worst):

B

D (logic?)

E (logic again?)

 

--

Can't help but notice that I'm pretty much the opposite of Scott here. Interesting how that goes sometimes!

Yamaha: Motif XF8, MODX7, YS200, MX61, CVP-305, CLP-130, YPG-235, PSR-295, PSS-470 | Roland: Fantom 7, JV-1000

Kurzweil: PC3-76, PC4 (88) | Hammond: SK Pro 73 | Korg: N1R, X5DR | Emu: Proteus/1 | Casio: CT-370 | Novation: Launchkey 37 MK3

Former: Emu Proformance Plus & Mo'Phatt, Korg Krome 61, Roland Fantom XR & JV-1010, Behringer CAT

Yamaha Pacifica 112V & APX600 | Washburn WI64 | Ibanez BTB-675 | Roland TD-17 KVX | Alesis SamplePad Pro | Assorted organs, accordions, other instruments

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I like H best. Although it sounds electric it also sounds good.

 

C sounds good. It’s the only one that doesn’t sound electric but it’s too dark for my taste. Also too dark to be a Yamaha.

 

The others all sounded electric to me. Most noticeably on the louder notes.

 

I wonder if what I perceive as electric has more to do with close miking. 

www.alquinn.com
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Thanks to, Al for sharing a MIDI file render from a new mystery instrument - Demo track I as in Ivy.  

 

I am all for more player perspective and ambient sample library instruments.  The ability to blend between the mics is a great feature and immediately helps with realism to my ears. 

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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This is fun! I'm not reading any other replies before I write this, for the sake of the experiment :)

Some initial observations:

  • It seems to me that some of these have baked in reverb (or maybe just longer releases) while some don't.
  • Also, I noticed that sample "I" has maybe some pedal release sound and other mechanical noises that are prominent that none of the others seem to. Cool for realism maybe, but I think ultimately for me those things are drawbacks and not benefits.
  • It's also interesting to hear what are clearly differences in how manufacturers chose to mic their pianos. Some very much have a larger room sound (so, recorded from farther away?) while others feel a bit more . . . intimate?
  • Sample "C" feels fundamentally different than the rest, with a really dampened tone, particularly in softer low end portions of the sample (0:11-0:14). 

Anyway, my preferences lean toward what I'm describing as more up-close sound, with some choices sounding too echo-y, distant, and full of other resonances for my liking. In order from favorite to least favorite (though to be fair, the rankings from one to the next are a little arbitrary).

  1. C
  2. B
  3. F
  4. I (if I could turn off the pedal noise, this would maybe be my #1 option, but if it's baked into the samples, not so much)
  5. G (there's a really ringing resonance at 1:10 that is pretty unpleasant. Can I dial that back?)
  6. H
  7. D
  8. E
  9. A

 

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1 hour ago, BluMunk said:

This is fun! I'm not reading any other replies before I write this, for the sake of the experiment :)

Some initial observations:

  • It seems to me that some of these have baked in reverb (or maybe just longer releases) while some don't.
  • Also, I noticed that sample "I" has maybe some pedal release sound and other mechanical noises that are prominent that none of the others seem to. Cool for realism maybe, but I think ultimately for me those things are drawbacks and not benefits.
  • It's also interesting to hear what are clearly differences in how manufacturers chose to mic their pianos. Some very much have a larger room sound (so, recorded from farther away?) while others feel a bit more . . . intimate?
  • Sample "C" feels fundamentally different than the rest, with a really dampened tone, particularly in softer low end portions of the sample (0:11-0:14). 

Anyway, my preferences lean toward what I'm describing as more up-close sound, with some choices sounding too echo-y, distant, and full of other resonances for my liking. In order from favorite to least favorite (though to be fair, the rankings from one to the next are a little arbitrary).

  1. C
  2. B
  3. F
  4. I (if I could turn off the pedal noise, this would maybe be my #1 option, but if it's baked into the samples, not so much)
  5. G (there's a really ringing resonance at 1:10 that is pretty unpleasant. Can I dial that back?)
  6. H
  7. D
  8. E
  9. A

 

 

On both the hardware and software instruments there are no FX other than possibly a reverb if the developer included it as part of their patch.  To which I reduced it in volume to be noticeable but not an important part of the sound.  Yes, some might be dryer than others - it wasn't purposeful.  

 

Volume matching was very tricky due to the dynamic range these instruments are individually capable of.  By design, some of them are just more dynamically expressive and able to produce ppp - fff with the same 0-127 velocity messages in the midi performance.   I kept all recordings as loud as they could be without clipping at the highest velocity points.  No compression or limiting happening on the original 8 examples.  

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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B is my favorite (which I think is the Logic Yamaha).  Does not surprise me.  I prefer their hardware piano sounds.

Ludwig van Beethoven:  “To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.”

Portable Rig: Yamaha MOXF8 (used mostly for acoustic piano); (2) Yamaha DXR-10 powered speakers

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4 hours ago, ElmerJFudd said:

Thanks to, Al for sharing a MIDI file render from a new mystery instrument - Demo track I as in Ivy.

 

My pleasure Elmer. I used the stock piano for Demo track I. I didn't do any tweaks to the piano or add any effects to the recording (although whatever effects are built into the piano I left as is).

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www.alquinn.com
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Mystery Instruments: J, K, L added.  Possibly something in there worth a listen.  

 

A1 replaced A, for some reason the original was collapsed to mono and not right. 

 

 

 

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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20 minutes ago, Steve Nathan said:

I'd have to vote for I as well.  When do we learn what it is?

I'm looking for something that's really head and shoulders above, if I can get my hands on a render.  I'll let it run for the weekend and then let everyone now which was which. 

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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14 hours ago, ElmerJFudd said:

I'm looking for something that's really head and shoulders above, if I can get my hands on a render.  I'll let it run for the weekend and then let everyone now which was which. 

I'll see if I can't run you a couple myself later today.

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BTW: I recently saw an ad on FB for a new library/instrument created by a classical player here in Nashville.  It may have been samples of the Roman piano (not sure).  Anyone know anything about it?  I can't remember the name of his company.

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On 4/1/2022 at 6:35 AM, AnotherScott said:

MMM, what about H?

Huh, I must have deleted it accidentally. It would go under "Decent" for me. That said, I'm going to redo my rankings now that more pianos have been added.

Yamaha: Motif XF8, MODX7, YS200, MX61, CVP-305, CLP-130, YPG-235, PSR-295, PSS-470 | Roland: Fantom 7, JV-1000

Kurzweil: PC3-76, PC4 (88) | Hammond: SK Pro 73 | Korg: N1R, X5DR | Emu: Proteus/1 | Casio: CT-370 | Novation: Launchkey 37 MK3

Former: Emu Proformance Plus & Mo'Phatt, Korg Krome 61, Roland Fantom XR & JV-1010, Behringer CAT

Yamaha Pacifica 112V & APX600 | Washburn WI64 | Ibanez BTB-675 | Roland TD-17 KVX | Alesis SamplePad Pro | Assorted organs, accordions, other instruments

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Okay. With the additional pianos that have been added, here are my rankings. I REALLY like I and J (J sounds like a great upright, not good for a grand patch though if that's what it's meant to be).

 

Best [in order of preference]:
I
G
J
C
A1

 

Decent [in order of preference]:
F (midrange is weird)
K
H

 

Not a fan:
B
L - this one really sounds like my old Emu Proformance Plus piano with some more velocity layers. Which was fine at that time; but now? Not good.
D
E

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Yamaha: Motif XF8, MODX7, YS200, MX61, CVP-305, CLP-130, YPG-235, PSR-295, PSS-470 | Roland: Fantom 7, JV-1000

Kurzweil: PC3-76, PC4 (88) | Hammond: SK Pro 73 | Korg: N1R, X5DR | Emu: Proteus/1 | Casio: CT-370 | Novation: Launchkey 37 MK3

Former: Emu Proformance Plus & Mo'Phatt, Korg Krome 61, Roland Fantom XR & JV-1010, Behringer CAT

Yamaha Pacifica 112V & APX600 | Washburn WI64 | Ibanez BTB-675 | Roland TD-17 KVX | Alesis SamplePad Pro | Assorted organs, accordions, other instruments

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Probably a few duplicates here, but I was curious to see if I could figure out how to do this.  All of these are "factory Default Presets", just exactly how they load, with no tweaks, and no plugs of any kind.

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1 minute ago, Steve Nathan said:

I can PM you the names of each later today if you like.  Then you can alert everyone to the dupes.

I think I’ll do the reveal tonight, ya PM me the list. I’ll include with the unmasking. ;)

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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OK, I am pleased to say there is no overlap between Steve's playlist and mine.   I feel this comparison is going to be really useful when picking out what you'd like to have in your own collection.  Especially if your budget is tight and you are only to pick one or a few.  Or knowing which one to reach for depending on what the gig or the session calls for.  Or if you find a few sound/respond so similarly, no need to duplicate if looking for variety.  

 

Last one's added to my list are L and M which just went up today, Sunday, 4/3/22.

 

 

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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SHOOT OUT REVEAL 

 

A1 - included in Yamaha CP73/88 CFX, $1999.99-$2599.99 (introduced in 2019)

B - Acousticsamples Kawai EXPro, €99

C - Native Instruments The Gentleman, $99 (often included in sets and packages)

D - UAD Ravel, $149 (included in Spark, $20 a month)

E - Apple Logic Pro X Bösendorfer - included in DAW, $199.99

F - Roland VR-700 Superior Grd - on Reverb for $1,179 (introduced at NAMM 2010)

G - Apple Logic Pro X Steinway - included in DAW, $199.99

H - Apple Logic Pro X Yamaha - included in DAW, $199.99

I - Spectrasonics C7 - included in Keyscape, $399

J - Yamaha CP73/88 U1 - $1999.99-$2599.99 (introduced in 2019)

K - Yamaha CP73/88 S700 - $1999.99-$2599.99 (introduced in 2019)

L - EMU Proformance Pro/1 - on reverb for $120-150 (introduced in 1990)

M - Native Instruments The Maverick - $99 (often included in sets and packages)

N - Modartt Pianoteq 7 Grotrian Concert Royal - $149 (includes 2 instrument packs)

 

STEVE NATHAN'S REVEAL

 

1. e-instruments Session Keys Grand S - $99

2. e-instruments Session Keys Y - $99

3. Xperimenta Due First Piano - on sale $59.99 (includes First and Second - C7 and C3)

4. Soniccouture Hammersmith Pro - $239 (they had a 4.8gb free version at one point)

5. Waves Grand Rhapsody - $29.99 with CREATE40 coupon

6. VI Labs Ravenscroft 275 - $199

7. VI Labs Modern U - $169

8. Acoustic Samples C7 Grand - €109

9. MOTU Digital Performer Concert Grand - included in DAW, $499

10. Xperimenta Due Second Piano - on sale $59.99 (includes First and Second - C7 and C3)

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Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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My favorites - 

 

Uprights - out of VI Labs Modern U, NI's The Gentleman and the CP73/88's U1 - I actually like the library in the CP88 best.  

 

Grands - in no particular order

B - Acousticsamples Kawai EXPro

I - Spectrasonics C7 - Keyscape

K - Yamaha CP73/88 S700

N - Modartt Pianoteq 7 Grotrian Concert Royal 

2 - e-instruments Session Keys Y

5 - Waves Grand Rhapsody

6 - VI Labs Ravenscroft

9 - MOTU DP Concert Grand

 

Hardware instruments need to go big to keep up with what's happening in software.  Libraries like the C7 in Keyscape are highly detailed, you can really hear felts stop the strings, pedal noise (desirable or not, makes for realism).  String and pedal resonance, close and ambient micing positions, blending between the two.  Great quality and variety in reverb plugins.   

 

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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