A few further harpsichord vsti thoughts

bachstudies

New Member
Finding the perfect harpsichord VST is clearly an impossible task especially if you are wanting to use the instrument for a solo album. I have to say that this is not the case for pipe organ. Between Hauptwerk and Grandorgue that are truly stellar sample sets out there including the excellent Piotr Grabowski organs available for free. I can sit for hours playing one of those and forget it is a sample instrument. Linn Records used a Hauptwerk instrument on their recent Monteverdi Vespers recording and my own demo solo tracks prove that people are easily fooled!

Back to harpsichords. I've tried 'em all at this point barring Cinesamples, I think. This one is not an option for me because they failed to include both single manual 8 foot stops (in similar fashion to the VSL instrument). Such a strange choice!

The top choice for me is OT Berlin series with the Italian, in particular, being really nice to play. The problem with the French model is that there are a couple of out-of-tune notes and for some reason it does not sound quite as focused as the Italian. Listening back to my harpsichord CDs, I consider both the OT instruments "hollywood"-esque which is to be expected, I suppose, but it's certainly not a dealbreaker.

The Hauptwerk Ruckers from Sonus Paradisi is also really excellent. My struggles here are finding natural-sounding reverb solutions either algo or IR to make the instrument fit in a convincing space. Otherwise, the instrument is consistent with a lovely soundboard resonance. It has a very "present" treble but I assume that with the right reverb this could be tamed somewhat.

As an aside, I'm still trying to figure out the decisions made to mike the Mietke model in the way they did (the bass notes are squarely heard only in the left speaker!). Panning the signal really messes with the phase coherence. I guess the only way to save it is to listen back from a distance or physically record the output from the speakers to get more natural crossfeed. Also, the trills are just terrible-sounding on my digital piano (due to no decay time as you get by default in Kontakt?). If anyone has a solution for either of these issues, I'd love to hear it as the timbre that is presented is really top-notch.

The others, including free offerings, are discounted from consideration due to lack of aforementioned soundboard resonance. Further, Soniccouture had it's own out-of-the-box issues like mis-tunings, intrusive "tuned" release samples etc and, TBH, the Ruckers (the reason I bought it) is a little pinched/harsh in the treble. Pianoteq should be given an honorable mention for playability but, honestly, it just sounds fake (like Organteq currently does).

I'm also looking at clavichord options if I can't live with any of the harpsichords but so far none have convinced me. I've yet to buy the Wavelore one because with the very limited demo compass it is impossible to get an accurate impression of how it will sound with real pieces of music and reverb. Users' performances on YouTube are not convincing me at all despite good playing. The rest just sound totally awful. The pianoteq one is modelled on a Nazi Germany-era piano-frame monstrosity so hardly equates to the sounds heard on Christopher Hogwood's "Secret Bach" disc!

To summarize: help! If you know how to fix the serious issues present in Spitfire Devine please let me know. Likewise, if you have tips for placing the Hauptwerk Ruckers in a good natural and convincing space, do write back! Also, if you can explain the weird Miekte miking, trills, and how to fix/improve I would be very grateful!

I'm pretty much ready to record the Bach French Suites but struggling to move ahead when the instruments are not sounding as good as I'd like...
 
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Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
I was surprised to see an update to several of Soniccouture's products the other day, and spent most of Monday re-downloading my entire collection as most have now switched to Kontakt Player with licenses and quite a few potentially had updates or fixes.

The Theorbo and Harpsichord tracks definitely sounded different after re-tracking, but I only used them in one piece and its dense and hybrid (some synths going on) so is not the best place to judge the issues and whether they are fixed or not. I use the French with 8' lower and 8' + 4' upper (or do I have that backwards?).

I did solo it, but it's very light playing of background parts so I would probably have to tackle something more serious to determine what was done since the previous revision a year or so ago. This one seems to date from December 2019, and I remember an email blipping by, that I ignored at the time due to being busy. I didn't see a changelog per se.
 

Beat Kaufmann

Active Member
...perfect and dry recorded - no out of tune notes...
Best would be, to use just little of an "algo" reverb like Breeze2 with it...
Beat
 
OP
bachstudies

bachstudies

New Member
The problem with VSL is not the sound but the lack of a solo upper 8 register. I can't believe they didn't include it but I suppose for orchestral scoring it wasn't top of their priorities. For solo albums, it takes VSL (and Cineharpsichord) out of the running, unfortunately.
 
Have you looked at the VSCO2 harpsichords? They have at least 2 in Pro and there are maybe 5 harpsichords in the free VCSL.

In my recent VSCO2 Pro vs. VCSL thread, there is a link to a VCSL Kontakt series organized by bigcat.

Bach is the 2nd kind of classical music I found that I enjoyed back in my young Philistine days. Please continue your search to find the right sound.

Sam Gossner of Versilian might be willing to work with you to sample an appropriate instrument if the current choices don't meet your needs.

I utterly failed to get GrandOrgue to play sounds. I had been impressed by the many sample sets recorded by the Polish gentleman too.
 
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bachstudies

bachstudies

New Member
Thanks for your response, @mekosmowski! I had already checked out VCSL and VSCO2 and unfortunately the instruments are not quite up to the standard required for solo recording (in major part due to only having limited number of registers). The good news (thanks for reminding me!) is that I have since found great peace with the following instruments: The Mietke and Ruckers from Sonus Paradisi and the Spitfire Devine library.

First the Sonus Paradisi models...I'm running them in Grandorgue (absolutely zero trill issues vs in Hauptwerk, surprisingly) and I have since been able to add some great reverb either via zita-rev1, Dragonfly or using IRs from here. They really are amazing libraries (great price, too). The authentic soundboard resonance is way ahead of every other harpsichord vsti, IMHO.

Second, Spitfire Devine. This is a tricky one because the library as sold is quite useless because of really abysmal implementation of attack-sustain-release (crossfading between three different samples!). This has since been verified by two other users so I know it is not just my particular install. Anyhow, I managed to fix it! Unfortunately, it is a not a fix I can easily (or legally) share given that I had decided to adapt the starts of the samples themselves in addition to changing the way Kontakt was triggering them. The altered instrument is a revelation and the Fleischer can now join the Sonus Paradisi models as another excellent option.

I'm still fond of the free Zell instrument for Grandorgue and those free Soni Musicae instruments. I'm thinking of porting them to SFZ so I can more easily extend the top and bottom of the instruments as necessary and run directly in a DAW. With some creative use of Dragonfly plate reverb, I can kinda recreate soundboard resonance before adding in the room. Maybe I'll git clone the VSCL instruments again and try the same technique...
 
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jonvog

Member
If it wasn't for solo work (film scoring, chamber sized ensemble), what would be your harpsichord of choice? given a tight (edu) budget.
I am leaning towards vsl because it's very inexpensive and sounds nice, but it's quite old. Does it still hold up?
Cinesamples would be -50% EDU discount, so quite affordable as well.
OT would be around 90,- EDU included.

I don't think I'd need the whole soniccouture suite, so for me it isn't quite worth the higher price.

Anything I am missing?
 
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bachstudies

bachstudies

New Member
For non-solo work you have a few workable options. My top choice for that is definitely OT because it contains two full harpsichords (all the registers), soundboard resonance, multi microphone positions and sounds great out of the box. VSL and Cinesamples also sound excellent (though missing resonance) but do not give you the upper manual by itself. This was a personal deal-breaker. If that's not a big deal to you for film scoring then VSL would be excellent.

Before you spend any money, have you looked at the free options from Soni Musicae and the Zell (Casacota)? For film scoring with the instrument acting as continuo any of those would be perfectly good. The Soni Musicae and Zell offer every register and are tuned to 440/equal.
 
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jonvog

Member
Before you spend any money, have you looked at the free options from Soni Musicae and the Zell (Casacota)? For film scoring with the instrument acting as continuo any of those would be perfectly good. The Soni Musicae and Zell offer every register and are tuned to 440/equal.
I indeed went with the Blanchet 1720 from Soni Musicae for now. Sounds quite good to my ears! Thanks for pointing this out...