Which piano samples?

Kubler

Member
Fat and powerful sound to add weight and color to cinematic-like pieces > The Giant by Native Instruments. Perfectly suited for action cues and blaring epicness, but it sounds a bit too processed for classical and lighter writing.

Said classical and lighter writing, emotional parts > Berlin Concert Grand by Native Instruments. There's a lot of other libraries out there but BCG is the one I usually chose, as I find it quite balanced in terms of dynamics and sound definition within its whole range (and it has a pretty sound, of course.) I tried Aria Silk Piano by Aria Sounds but it sounded kind of artificial in my opinion.
 

Quasar

Senior Member
I've never said this before, but I'm a newly converted Pianoteq fan, and now believe it to be superior to any of the humongous sample library pianos I've tried. (Not that I've tried most of them.) And I still really like both the sonic quality and flexibility of Galaxy Vintage D.
 

thereus

Active Member
Summary (after a few edits).


If you want cheap but passable:

Waves Audio Grand Rhapsodie
AIR MINI
Ivy Audio Piano in 162
is free!

Otherwise, first buy Pianoteq and then if you have the cash to burn, work out what else you need. No need to buy more than one of each category:


Soft and intimate cinematic:
Native Instruments Una Corda [simply amazing]
Spitfire Audio Olafur Arnolds Toolkit [also nice]
Spitfire Audio Felt Piano


Big and dramatic cinematic:
Spitfire Audio Hans Zimmer Piano [big soundscapes, single piano, insane number of mics]
Native Instruments Giant [lots of drama from very variable sounds]


Classical detail in playing:
SonicCouture Hammersmith [My personal goto]
Garritan CFX
Vienna Imperial
[super detailed, super expensive]
Sampletekk Black Grand 2 or TVBO [nice and not too pricey, UI looks ugly]


Other character (ok, so you might need more than one of these for specific things depending on what you do):
Soundiron Emotional Piano [Designed to tug heart strings in a certain way but lacks something for me]
Cinesamples Piano in Blue [if you need that blue sound, this is the only place to get it.]
Native Instruments Alicia's keys [Meh...]
Spectransonics Keyscape [infinitely more than just a piano]
8DIO Estonia [unusual with a hint of exotic]
Art Vista Malmsjo [old, smooth, warm]
Sampletekk Rain Piano [beat up upright - there are a bunch of these around]
Sound Dust ShipsPiano3 [Pendle always delivers from the left field]
Cinematic Studio Piano [erm...]


Effects
Audio Imperia Klavier and Red [modern sound design]
Spectransonics Keyscape/Omnisphere [you can really change stuff up with this combination]


After that then you are in buying for pleasure mode. Consider the rest of the others and the below (in rough descending order of awesomeness. Actually, I have no idea of ranking of some of these. Indeed, I don't have every on but have listened to as much of the others that I can find and read many many threads and reviews. Some-much-of-a-muchness products seem to have landed in the middle. It really depends what you like.)

Bechstein Digital Grand [next paycheque will go here]
Synthology Ivory II [very accurate sounds]
VI Labs Audio Ravenscroft 275 [workhorse but never makes it to final mix for me]
Imperfect Samples (Lots of them) [beautifully all over the shop]
Production Voices Production Grand 2
EastWest QL Pianos
Galaxy Vintage D
[may be in playing category above for some, nice samples but too few of them in my view]
UVI Grand Piano Collection
Accoustic Samples (various)
VI Labs Audio Truekeys
Orange Tree Rosewood
[nice but goes thin sometimes]
8DIO (1990 Studio, 1969 Steinway, 1928 Steinway)[I don't own these - reports differ wildly]
Arturia V [Not really there yet. Will no doubt improve]
Sampletekk WG2
Sonivox Eighty Eight
[underrated]
Native Instruments Definitive Piano Collection [never managed to make these feel special]
XLN Audio Addictive Keys [lots of people rave but i don't...]
WavesFactory Mercury [disappointing to me. Dull high range, HQ mode squeaks and spits on my system (i7 970)]


Others that I don't know enough to comment on.
Fluffy Audio Scoring [don't know it, personally - anyone else wish to comment?]
Impact Sound Works Pearl Concert Grand [don't know it, personally - anyone else wish to comment?]
Pro Audio Vault Bluthner One
Cinesamples Abbey Road Uprights
[don't know it, personally - anyone else wish to comment?]

This is a summary of the state of the market.

Everyone has an opinion. One of the other commenters has described my list as "questionable" and I absolutely agree. Question away. This is a highly subjective personal opinion about a highly subjective subject. Hell, I doubt even the categories above will mean the same things for everyone. For instance, I have a passionate hatred of having too few velocity layers which does not seem to be universally shared. Also, everyone gets attached to things - sounds, products etc. particularly those they buy and use. People are making different sorts of music with differing keyboard and programming skills, have affinities to different real-world pianos, are using different monitors/effects/controllers, have different needs in terms of flexibility and different budgets. Another total wildcard is "mixability" which depends so much on the particular situation that to me every template needs a new rehearsal for the piano parts. There is huge overlap between what individual products can do also, so different people will have different combinations to cover the same territory.

If anyone wants to "correct" me/make the list better, let me know.


Anyway...
 
Last edited:

Vanni

Member
Pianoteq if you want the best sound, Pianoteq if you want the best playability, Pianoteq if you want best loading times.
 

CGR

Pianist, Composer & Arranger
My summary. (Everyone has an opinion.)

If you want cheap but passable:

Waves Grand
Piano in 162 is free!

Otherwise, first buy Pianoteq and then if you have the cash to burn, work out what else you need. No need to buy more than one of each category:


Soft and intimate cinematic:
Una Corda [simply amazing]
Olafur Arnolds [also nice]
Felt Piano


Big and dramatic cinematic:
Hans Zimmer [big soundscapes, single piano]
Giant [lots of drama from variable sounds]


Classical detail in playing:
Hammersmith [My personal goto]
cfx
Vienna Imperial [super detailed, super expensive]
sampleteqq black or TVBO [nice and not too pricey, UI looks ugly]


Other character (ok, so you might need more of these for really specific things):
Emotional [Does everything but lacks something for me]
Piano in Blue [if you need that blue sound, this is the only place to get it.]
Alicia's keys [Meh...]
Vintage D [deep]
Keyscape [infinitely more than just a piano]
8DIO Estonia [unusual with a hint of exotic]
Malmsjo [old, smooth, warm]


effects
Audio Imperia Klavier and Red [modern sound design]
Keyscape/Omnisphere [you can really change stuff up with this combination]


After that then you are in buying for pleasure mode. Consider the rest of the others and the below (in rough descending order of awesomeness. Actually, I have no idea of ranking of some of these. It really depends what you like.)

Bechstein
Ravenscroft 275
Ivory II
Imperfect
Other 8DIO
EastWest's
UVI's
Accoustic Samples
Truekeys
Orange Tree Rosewood
Arturia V
Other Sampleteqqs
Eighty Eight [underrated]
Other NIs
Fluffy Scoring
Pearl
Mercury [disappointing to me. Dull high range, HQ mode squeaks and spits)
Addictive keys [lots of people rave but...]
Very comprehensive and well-informed summary!
 

CGR

Pianist, Composer & Arranger
Pianoteq if you want the best sound, Pianoteq if you want the best playability, Pianoteq if you want best loading times.
Best loading times: I agree. Best playability: ditto. Best sound: Depends greatly on personal taste & musical context, hence the multitude of virtual pianos on the market. Unfortunately for our wallets, there is no one-size-fits-all product out there in my opinion.
 

thereus

Active Member
Best loading times: I agree. Best playability: ditto. Best sound: Depends greatly on personal taste & musical context, hence the multitude of virtual pianos on the market. Unfortunately for our wallets, there is no one-size-fits-all product out there in my opinion.
One other benefit. It takes very little HD space and you don't need an SSD.
Agree about sound being more about personal taste. It isn't my absolute favourite, but you have to hand it to them in terms of what they have achieved with modelling.
 

Arbee

Senior Member
Ivory American D - great sound (esp bottom end), lots of flexibility for tweaking the timbre, ability to add pads is useful. Best all rounder by far for me.

I went and listened to Pianoteq again after all the praise here of late, and while it gets closer with each release, it's still not quite there yet to my ears.
 

Quasar

Senior Member
Ivory American D - great sound (esp bottom end), lots of flexibility for tweaking the timbre, ability to add pads is useful. Best all rounder by far for me.

I went and listened to Pianoteq again after all the praise here of late, and while it gets closer with each release, it's still not quite there yet to my ears.
I can't argue with that. A few versions ago, I tried the demo and was really turned-off by the tonal character of the various instruments, as much as I liked the superior touch response and the expressiveness of the action. When I tried the v6 demo, to me it has at least approached the level of a decent sample library, to the point where maybe becomes a matter of subjective judgment and taste.

But I couldn't boldly assert that it's all the way there either. For me though, it's enough "in the neighborhood" that the touch response aspect pushes it over the top.
 

Lotias

Active Member
I've never heard anything in Pianoteq that said "fake piano" specifically to me - there are of course differences in sound, but it's definitely there for me. Some of the things in Pianoteq just aren't there yet though - the marimba is much better in v6 but not there yet, and I'm still not sure about the glockenspiel. The celesta is basically there for me though.
 
I actually like the ever-so-slightly synthetic tone of Pianoteq, it adds a neat futuristic character to the piano. Plus you can send through all kinds of reverb and effects to make it sound however you like, to say nothing of the technique used by the player himself.
 

Fleer

Feeding the Trolls
If you go Pianoteq, check out Blüthner and Grotrian.
If not, Bechstein Digital is the best IMO. Also dearly love Wavesfactory Mercury and ImpactSoundworks Pearl, as well as the TrueKeys trio, Soundiron Emotional and OrangeTreeSamples Rosewood.
 

re-peat

Senior Member
Very comprehensive and well-informed summary!
Can’t say I agree. Going by my experience, I find that Thereus summary to be as uninformative and misleading as it is questionable.

For example, to say that the Emotional “does everything” is just wrong. In actual fact, the Emotional can do very little, but in that small niche where it works, it can be more satisfying than just about anything else.

Putting the Hammersmith forward as a great piano for classical playing, is also something I find highly disputable. Personally, I think it’s one of the poorest piano emulations for classical playing. Occasionaly a sensible choice for other stuff though.

And calling the Vintage D a ‘character piano’ is yet another of several statements in that summary that make my eyebrows behave like the Leaping Nuns of Norwich.

_
 

CGR

Pianist, Composer & Arranger
Can’t say I agree. Going by my experience, I find that Thereus summary to be as uninformative and misleading as it is questionable.

For example, to say that the Emotional “does everything” is just wrong. In actual fact, the Emotional can do very little, but in that small niche where it works, it can be more satisfying than just about anything else.

Putting the Hammersmith forward as a great piano for classical playing, is also something I find highly disputable. Personally, I think it’s one of the poorest piano emulations for classical playing. Occasionaly a sensible choice for other stuff though.

And calling the Vintage D a ‘character piano’ is yet another of several statements in that summary that make my eyebrows behave like the Leaping Nuns of Norwich.

_
Being a little harsh there Re-peat I feel, for someone going to the effort of offering advice. It seems to me that from some of his quick summaries that Thereus has had hands-on experience with many of these. He did put in the disclaimer "Everyone has an opinion" and for a quick overview I think his thoughts would be quite helpful (and on many points an accurate assessment in my opinion). Each to their own.
 

thereus

Active Member
Can’t say I agree. Going by my experience, I find that Thereus summary to be as uninformative and misleading as it is questionable.

For example, to say that the Emotional “does everything” is just wrong. In actual fact, the Emotional can do very little, but in that small niche where it works, it can be more satisfying than just about anything else.

Putting the Hammersmith forward as a great piano for classical playing, is also something I find highly disputable. Personally, I think it’s one of the poorest piano emulations for classical playing. Occasionaly a sensible choice for other stuff though.

And calling the Vintage D a ‘character piano’ is yet another of several statements in that summary that make my eyebrows behave like the Leaping Nuns of Norwich.

_
Everyone has their opinion. Agree that the comment on Emotional could be misleading. "Everything" is probably not helpful. I will amend. I strongly disagree with you about the Hammersmith. It's the piano that I most enjoy for actual playing. Velocity Layers and raw sound are everything.

It's my best stab. You could provide yours. Alternatively we could see if there is a way to create a collective version.

Where would you put vintage d? I've moved it to the others section where I think you may be right that it fits better.

I was conscious that I have chosen a particular way of dividing the pianos up by type. There are others ways to divide them. For instance, by brand/model being emulated or by number of Mocs/round robins/velocity layers.

Hope your eyebrows are ok.

Thereus
 
Last edited: