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Spitfire Audio Steven Devine Harpsichord

bachstudies

New Member
I just wanted to post about my recent experiences with the Spitfire Audio Steven Devine Harpsichord library. Within a day of purchasing the instrument with the intent of recording some solo keyboard works, I realized that the instrument was not up to the task for the following reasons:

1) There is a weird dip in the onset of the note occasionally that I can only describe as a kind of stepped-on compressor sound and, strangely, sometimes the opposite where the instrument sounds overly dynamic on the onset. I believe that this is a result of questionable crossfading between the 8 round robin onsets (that are programmed to fade very quickly) and the ONE sustain sample. This, to my mind at least, is not true round robin as I would expect 8 full-length samples with separate release noises. I suspect that volume differences in the way the fade is happening is the cause (but I am happy to be corrected!).

2) There are no real release samples. One test to try: on most harpsichord libraries holding a note for a long time will still result in the authentic key release / plectrum return sound. On the Spitfire instrument, if notes are held long enough there is ZERO release noise. For solo work this is problematic! Shorter notes sound much better but it still isn't a real release sample.

3) To my huge disappointment, the instrument is not even chromatically sampled! I expect in 2019 (and for $99) for there to be full sampling. I've been told by a Spitfire rep that the industry standard is whole-note sampling but I'm sorry that I just don't buy this given my experience with other libraries. It is easy to hear on harpsichords (and I assume other instruments too) when pitch stretching is being used.

Spitfire Audio claims that all the subtleties of the instrument have been captured but no real release samples and non-chromatic sampling argues otherwise. The first point makes this instrument a no-go for solo work as it just sounds weird. All of the demo tracks exhibit the behavior now and again as do various YouTube videos. It seems that not many people can hear what I hear in point one. I own many libraries and listen to harpsichord recordings extensively (as well as play acoustic instruments whenever I am able) and something sounds off for the onset of notes that even free harpsichord libraries do not suffer from.

If anyone else has experienced the sonic anomaly in 1) and found a fix, please let me know as I would dearly like to use this library given its potential. I might even be able to look past 2) and 3) in this case even though I remain disappointed that these deficiencies aren't made clear on the specs of the instrument.

Rightly or wrongly, I've always ignored the demo tracks on library websites because they are either MIDI-fied inflexible realizations, real people playing with questionable reverb/registration settings or in a mix with other instruments that mask the complexities of the sound in more realistic spaces. There was no way that I could know about any of the three deficiencies without first paying and downloading. Which leaves me disappointed with the lack-of-refund policy :(
 
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bachstudies

New Member
I stand corrected in that regard. I would argue that the organs and harpsichords I've come across are generally chromatically sampled and probably should be given that they are often used as solo instruments (especially ones claiming to capture all the subtleties). I get that my three points in the original post are reduced considerably when using such an instrument deep in the mix as continuo but my point is that for the price and the fact they aim to faithfully reproduce Steven Devine's harpsichord it is somewhat lacking for solo work. Even the free libraries from places like Soni Musicae are chromatically sampled because they understand that to capture an instrument faithfully half-steps are required.
 
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bachstudies

New Member
Oh, yes, I purchased that already and completely agree! Absolutely amazing sound right out of the box. You might wonder why I carried on looking after finding such fine Italian and French models...For my project I'd also like to find a German (hence Spitfire Audio that captures a 1710 Fleischer) and Flemish (I have the Sonus Paradisi and Realsamples Ruckers models but find them both lacking so have my eye on Soniccouture).

I'm at a loss as to whether I'll find anything as good as the Berlin so might be sticking with those two instruments. Others on my radar for potential greatness include the harpsichord in UVI Keysuite (not the Blanchet), VSL (I already own the special edition version with only one registration) and, as I mentioned, Soniccouture Conservatoire but $235 seems a lot if the authenticity and playability is considerably inferior to the Berlin.
 

The Darris

Senior Member
Yeah, I've heard those issues too which is why I never bought it. I really like the harpsichord patches in Fluffy Audio's Rinascimento. It's comparable in price to Soniccouture's Conservatoire but with a lot more instruments and articulations available. Just a recommendation if you were looking for one.

Best,

Chris
 

ProfoundSilence

Senior Member
the irony that Berlin harpsichord doesn't contain a German is not lost

I thought SF's was an Italian. I would assume rinascamento is an Italian one, but you can always email Paolo
 
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bachstudies

New Member
My detective work revealed that Spitfire's image of the soundboard on the website perfectly matches the soundboard in Steven Devine's harpsichord video for OAE:
If I was Colin Booth or Steven Devine, I wouldn't be too happy at the sampling job, especially given Steven Devine's name is attached to the product. I'll check out Rinascimento again. I'm a bit confused by the main harpsichord and second harpsichord in the Fluffy Audio videos -- are these separate instruments or manuals?
 

ProfoundSilence

Senior Member
My detective work revealed that Spitfire's image of the soundboard on the website perfectly matches the soundboard in Steven Devine's harpsichord video for OAE:
If I was Colin Booth or Steven Devine, I wouldn't be too happy at the sampling job, especially given Steven Devine's name is attached to the product. I'll check out Rinascimento again. I'm a bit confused by the main harpsichord and second harpsichord in the Fluffy Audio videos -- are these separate instruments or manuals?
if you have Midi you want to test it on just PM me.

I have rina/SF/Berlin for reference
 
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bachstudies

New Member
Thanks all! Having listened some more to all the major harpsichord libraries I'm aware of and taken recommendations/criticisms into consideration, I can say the following:

1) Spitfire Devine remains a no-go and one that I simply can't use moving forward. I'm actively seeking a refund but I don't hold up much hope given that they'd need to take my word that I'd delete the samples (I would, I promise!)

2) Berlin instruments sound far superior to everything else I have including Realsamples x 4, VSL, Spitfire, Xperimenta (surprisingly good sound for the price but some inconsistencies with the interface, round robin and faked combined registers), Sonus Paradisi Mietke and Ruckers (good at first glance but stereo imaging weird and both sound "plastic" on trills and in the upper registers) and the usual free ones (huge respect for the Casacota Zell in particular but detail of sampling doesn't seem to quite match the paid options).

3) My choices seem to be to stick entirely with Berlin, or take a punt on Soniccouture to add a second French and the smaller Ruckers instrument (other instruments in the collection don't interest me, honestly). Questions remain about whether Berlin is so superior that I wouldn't enjoy Soniccouture.
 

redlester

Active Member
On point number 2, I think the releases are there but you need to use the Cog function to turn them up. Can be increased from the default 0 up to 20dB. I'm not too sure of the intricacies of how the Cog works in practice so don't know if this is a practical solution.
 
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bachstudies

New Member
OK, I'll take a look, thanks! Point 1 is the killer for me, I'm afraid. I had another play with it a couple of days ago and the onsets on certain notes/round robin iterations (or perhaps phasing issues due to diatonic sampling?) makes it a no-go for professional solo work. I purchased Soniccouture Conservatoire yesterday and while I think the instruments are not as well scripted as the Berlin or Devine (if everything was sounding as it should) they are well sampled and fit nicely into my projects. I even managed to create some quasi-keyswitches for the stops by clicking on the Kontakt KSP button and setting up some notes outside the harpsichord compass to MIDI CCs and setting them as "switches" so they work as toggles.
 
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bachstudies

New Member
OK, I had a chance to explore the cog and I believe that it only deals with per note tweaking of the main "releases" slider. I checked again at the sample level in the group editor etc and I do not see a real releases trigger for the note "off" signal. Either you need a separate set of release samples or, at the very least, a start-end loop which begins at the sound of the key release as part of a longer complete sample. Alas, neither is utilized.
 

redlester

Active Member
Indeed, I wish there was more explicit information about what the Cog actually does and how to use it. There is one very ancient looking Spitfire video with no narration which briefly shows it in use, with no explanation. The product manuals are equally vague as to the concept and reasoning.

It looks to me as if it’s simply to adjust the parameters of a single round robin and/or note? Am completely unclear how that is particularly useful in practice.

If anyone can clarify I’d be interested.
 
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bachstudies

New Member
With no information other than clicking around (and I now remember doing so before I even posted about the Devine Harpsichord) I was left thinking that it was cool to be able to tweak individual round robins etc but something I would never ever use. Shouldn't all the round robins be pleasing with out-of-the-box settings? Why would I ever want to skip one permanently?

One of the other frustrations about this instrument was the lack of manual (or at least the link was down when I purchased?). I had to google around to figure out how those little buttons worked to slide the key switches to another part of the keyboard and wonder why the GUI I was presented with looked different from the one demonstrated in the walkthrough video.

I do see that there is now a manual: https://d1t3zg51rvnesz.cloudfront.net/p/files/product-manuals/1965/1566814479/Harpsichord_UserManual_V1.pdf

However, the information is sparse and I do not see a ton of specific information about the harpsichord itself. Some of the sections referring to various parts of the interface are misnumbered and there's a big blank after the first paragraph for "6. Controllers" on page 9 where I was hoping to read about the release samples. It reads like it could cover any and all Spitfire instrument libraries. Another disappointment but honestly not unexpected at this point.
 

redlester

Active Member
The manuals have been a long time bugbear of mine. I’m old school in the sense I think there should be a manual for every product, regardless of any walkthroughs on the web.

I see Spitfire now seem to have removed the links to the manuals for products which don’t have one - it previously lead to a frustrating page headed “where’s my manual”. It amazes me that even large complex libraries such as Albion 3 & 4 don’t have a manual.
 
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