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Best ever - Sampled pianos Bundle - Production Voices
Old 4 weeks ago
Best ever - Sampled pianos Bundle - Production Voices

In three words - buy this now.

only $59.

The offer ends in July 2019. They sound fantastic. Like real instruments, and you'll want/keep them with you for a lifetime, not the kind of piano samples that will ever be superseded, because rather than trying to sound a particular way, these pianos are simply an authentic reproduction of the piano via a microphone, nothing added nothing taken away.

They sum into mono superbly with none of the detail taken away, and in stereo are glorious.

Very accurate life like presentation of pianos.

4 pianos.

1. Kawai Grand

2. Yamaha Grand

3. Steinway Grand

4. An effect piano - for all manner of weird sounds.

Very dynamic instruments with huge range in timbre and volume, from soft to loud.

The hallmark of all Production Voices products is clarity, the kind that does not get muddled up when you play chords, no matter how polyhponic - 4, 5, 7, 9 (or more) distinct notes in the same chord, and you still hear every note super clear...

I do not represent Production Voices, simply appreciate his labour of love, which is what these samples are - the very best piano samples I have ever heard, and they deserve to be heard and played every day by anyone who needs a decent piano...which these are, with no reservations whatsoever.

All of these piano samples run in the free sforzando player which you can download freely, a highly efficient streaming player, and which uses very little RAM. (this is the same engine behind Aria Player which is used by Garritan's Abbey Road - Yamaha CFX piano sample instrument).

You can try the reduced version of the Kawai with only one stereo set of microphones from a download here

This was already so awesome, and is good enough to be your main piano for a variety of genres, that getting the bundle for $59 is a no brainer.

While I do not work for production voices, I'm happy to share my tips on how to get the best from these instruments.....if there is sufficient interest.
Old 4 weeks ago
Some more wonderful thing about these pianos, you get (discovered some of these added bonuses, after purchasing mine):

1. Unlimited lifetime downloads from the Production Voices site, (requires login via your Production Voices user account).

2. Very fast loading times and an extremely stable sfz format player, been using it for over 2 weeks and it has never crashed once.

3. No restrictions on how many computers you can use the pianos on, and not having to transfer licenses from one computer to another, so you can have this on your portable device like a laptop, and on all of your desktop computers, for no additional cost. Now that's a relief.

4. Freedom from Kontakt and Kontakt upgrades. The sforzando player is 100% free and quick to download, and does not need any registration, on their web site or when installed on your computer, so you can install this (the Production Voices bundle) on as many computers as you own.

I think these are the best value sampled instruments and especially pianos, ever, less than $20 per piano, I also think Waves Grand Rhapsody is also good value when its on sale for about $30. What a great time to be alive, to play the sounds of instruments that would be impossible to purchase - even more valuable when yoiu consider how much it would cost to own all of these pianos, that's about at least over $100,000 in pianos for $59 and you do not have to ever put up microphones to record these ones, all been done for you, and you can play them and edit the score via MIDI, which you cannot do on a real acoustic piano (most of them)....

5. Should you ever wish to upgrade to the Kontakt version of any of these products, typically to access more microphone positions, there is an upgrade path so you do not pay the full price of the Kontakt version. For most people, this may never happen, why? a good number of pianos which are in use today, have only one microphone or a mixdown to stereo of several microphones, such as in the Ivory products , and pretty much all of Native instruments pianos. This whole multi-microphone thing is of course the ultimate, but it also requires more CPU and more disk streaming and more RAM, and unless your are really really a top performing artist e.g Elton John, IMHO, you'll get so much out of the single mic versions of Production Voices products - in sforzando, cos of the quality of the samples - with just one stereo pair - the samples are extraordinarily good - about the best in the industry - Because the sfz format is a readable file, I checked and was astonished at the level of detail required to create the Production Voice sforzando format products. -

I bought the bundle and I am absolutely thrilled with it, with good speakers in a decent room, its a virtual piano, and you feel it in your fingers - the unique variable response of every single key on the piano. You kind of learn the entire piano of each of these pianos, key by key, velocity by velocity - cos there is nothing generic - all teh quirks of the piano that was samples are there, if there are differences in strings between adjacent keys, you hear it, just like on a real piano - there has been very little "cleaning up" if any. So unlike playing a stage piano like a Nord, or Yamaha or Roland, all of a sudden you find your fingers digging in to the keyboard with an almost limitless range of expression. After the initial learning phase on each piano of about a few hours or days, you appreciate that these Production Voices samples are another level of virtual reality and there is no going back to stage pianos. No way - they simply do not have the detail captured to the same extent, and cannot deliver the expressiveness of a Production Voices instrument...

and I add one more shock. I find these samples are almost immune to velocity curve settings on your controller or via a velocity mapping plugin in your DAW. Sure different mappings feel different, but because of the deep sampling and layers, you still get the sense of a huge dynamic range, no matter where you set your velocity curve. This part is uncanny, how can that be possible, a piano that sounds good no matter what keyboard velocity setting I use !!, Sure setting a preferred velocity improves the response and sound, but even if you do not set this, you still get a playable decent sound, with dynamics in feel and tone.

If I may add, you could spend a whole day on one of thes pianos, getting familiar with it, and when I did, cos I simply could not stop exploring the possibilities, you discover - this is a damn good sampled piano, and I can play any music, any genre on it.

Please remember to add ambience - ideally via a top quality reverb processor or convolution product/impulses., or use the ambience features built into the Sforzando player/Production Voices preset.

Great value and excellent sound.

My best investment ever.... creative tools for a lifetime...

Some tips for optimal use of these pianos, culled from advice on one of the Production Voices larger instruments which also applies here IMHO

Expect a learning curve to get the most out of this library.
Expect to invest some time calibrating your MIDI controller for your touch and playing style.
Expect to have to adjust Release, Pedal Noise and other settings to best match your expectations of how a piano performs.
Consider using a continuously variable sustain pedal with the library, it does wonders to the pedal noises - you get lots of them. very realistic !!
For best results, use a quality weighted controller, such as Kawai VPC, or a good stage piano.

Last edited by kodebode; 3 weeks ago at 01:37 AM..
Old 3 weeks ago
Production Grand Compact (for Sforzando) - The Yamaha C7

As there are 4 pianos in the bundle, I'll focus this post on just the Yamaha C7.

I especially appreciate in all of the instruments, the "brevity", which I'll attempt to emulate in my post.

The Yamaha has a lot of notes sampled - over 4000 of these and it does take what feels like at least 1/2 a minute to about 1 and a half minutes (depending on what else is going on on the computer) to load, on a spinning 5400 rpm hard drive, on an i5 laptop with 8GB RAM, in Windows 10.

In its defense, at this level of instrument simulation in virtual land, unless you improve your hardware specs, you can expect sub par performance as described above. But to its credit, once loaded, as long as I do not have too much else going on on the computer, occasionally I can play for hours with absolutely no hiccups or audio glitches.

Clearly the instrument needs an SSD, at least 16GB RAM, and an i7 or better. To do it justice. But that's not unusual, I think audio is very demanding on a computer, benefiting from more in every aspect of the hardware resources, more gives you more overhead - room to accommodate occasional hiccups and conflicts in resource demand from the various apps and plugins running simultaneously, and pseudo simultaneously, yet giving you wiggle room to still deliver glitch free audio consistently. Especially if you use the DAW for composing as well as mixing, the extra room invested in additional overhead pays off in a lack of frustration, so you can focus on your primary intention - music/audio/composing, rather than babying a computer skating on thin ice.

I had, before purchasing the bundle tried out the free Estate Grand LE which is a donationware version of the Estate Grand for Sforzando, and was so impressed by this, I knew the bundle was a no brainer especially at $59.

One caveat - I am fairly certain that the lead developer of Production Voices - Jason, uses a Mac for his development. Reason : if you use Windows native ability to extract the files from the .zip you get a rather confused set of files at multiple levels, which make no sense whatsoever. multiple master xml files, which are the master files of the registration of the instrument with sforzando the free player. For this reason, I would strongly suggest you use an unzip program e.g Winzip to extract only the relevant folder and avoid extracting the _MACOSX linked reference included in the zip (kind of a duplicate - same date referenced differently) to avoid confusion, rather than trust Windows native zip extraction implicitly.

Upon registration, which is a local thing that happens only on your computer, for each instrument in the bundle, the Yamaha was brilliant, lots of depth, and for a day or two, my velocity sensitivity settings via an MIDI plugin highlighted the more forte velocities. Over time, especially after I recorded my playing and had played another sampled piano, it was obvious something was not quite right. About another hour of setting less aggressive velocity sensitivity using MIDICurve allowed me to be much more expressive and subtle without predominantly hitting the louder notes. A good number of the 12 velocity levels are the louder notes of the piano, 6 of the 12 respond to the MIDI velocity range from 60 to 127... so there is a huge dynamic range in timbre and volume. The power is there no doubt.

But for most normal playing unless you have some very undynamic rock or block chords in mind, a predominance of the louder notes becomes grating and unnatural, where is the music, so i had to adjust the sensitivity especially at lower velocities from my keyboard, to ensure I was hitting louder notes of the sampled instrument, only when I played a bit harder. I still have to make the effort to play softly on soft notes, almost want to adjust sensitivity even further, but I would hate to over do this an end up with a lifeless, uninspiring instrument.... in contrast, to the soft notes, I do not need to reach the highest velocities to express loudness, the notes are there to be played, but these are there really for ABNORMALLY loud use only..

Next concern. User interface.

The Estate Grand LE for Sforzando has very few controls in comparison, but this is a Godsend. Sometime less is more.

It is so easy to mess around with the controls in Production Grand Compact and end up with a sound that is not suitable for anything and leaving you wondering - how can this piano sound so bad, when the root cause is user error.

I kinda feel sad for the sample instrument developers, in their effort to impress, they roll out all these bells and whistles in a nuclear arms race of more samples, more dynamic levels, more buttons, more sliders, and there is a point beyond which the end user has been given enough rope to commit virtual piano suicide... I did. enabled the Pre-Attack and struggled to make anything sound as dynamic, also went overboard with the pedal noise volume, that still needs some taming, especially cos its no longer masked by louder notes after my most recent velocity sensitivity adjustment.

My settings for the main controls, at this time are in the image below. I adjust velocity sensitivity outside of sforzando, and therefore set the velocity sensitivity in the sampled instrument to its maximum, same with the volume. Sforzando allows you to save custom presets, and recall them with all your settings intact.

Clearly a Yamaha C7, especially a recently made one, is a percussive instrument, and there is no disguising this., yet with judicious adjustment of velocity sensitivity and adjusting your playing style a bit, you can play ballads effectively and touch what I would call the soft heart of this instrument. I do feel I'm playing a really good instrument - cost of the piano itself and the microphones and rental of the studio would run into the tens of thousands, and to have a version of this for less than $20 if I divvy up the cost per instrument, is a lot of value. You adjust to each instrument, now I have to do more work to accommodate the full potential of this instrument, so much depth due to the layers, you hear every little change in fingering, and every note. On the clarity, it encourages you to play a lot more chords and more complex chords, cos even discords sound pleasant, without the plethora of overtones that plagues some sampled instruments. This is the opposite of the samples on a Yamaha Motif ES, where triads sound already so rich, you are wary to add more notes to chords, to avoid overloading the harmonic landscape.

In this new world, more notes please, and they all sound good, what a piano sample set,

So much still to say.

All the Production Voices instruments do very well when summed to mono. They still retain such a wonderful sound, in mono. Which is such a relief, cos on many stage pianos, this is such a big issue. i.e. these are pianos that will sound amazing on a live stage, either if you played them back :

1. In stereo
2. Mono
3. Or used any side of the stereo - Left or Right as a mono source.

Most of the time, when recording, I listen in mono.

It does take a while to learn the instrument, cos the way Production Voices sample sets evoke are unlike any other, there's life and depth, and realism, IMHO - these can be used naked, with absolutely no EQ, none whatsoever, and no compression. This is a testimony to how good the piano sample set is, it just works, sonically, out of the box, with almost no further treatment sonically, except as advised below, which is par for the course for all sampled pianos anyway.

I would suggest when monitoring live, such as when recording, at least some reverb in the monitoring chain. A piano needs "room", and there is nothing wrong with the approach on this piano which uses one stereo pair of microphones just outside the piano, so it is not as close miked as it could be (those additional microphone sample sets and others are in some of the Kontakt versions of the same instrument). You decide how much reverb you want in the final mix.

After struggling for years to EQ a stage piano, this is like heaven in every note, no EQ, and I can play any song in any genre, without changing patches, just like on a real acoustic piano. Once I load my saved preset, along with my custom reverb chain, that's it.

The are some presets provided by Production Voices, but for some reason, they did not work as intended - e.g adding more reverb within Sforzando, many of them vary the volume, noises, some feature called "saturation" which I particularly did not like - sounded like some kind of dynamic restriction - but clearly not needed within the tool - good that it is provided, you may find a use for it. But for me these variations were nowhere as effective as getting the velocity sensitivity dialled correctly using the aforementioned MIDI plugin, and a bit of reverb in other plugins in my DAW.... I seem to use only convolution plugins, to yield a more pure tone than algorithmic - for me these seem to work the best for playback, practice and recording - so much more like I'm listening to a real piano, and in mixing, of course I can tweak the reverb ad infinitum using whatever I like to add.

This has been a much longer writeup than planned, but I think very worth it, cos Jason has done such a fantastic job in these samples, almost anyone can have a world class piano in their bedroom, and take it with them anywhere, and unashamedly play it in front of any audience, no matter how discerning they are, I say this with all confidence - this piano will hold up to any scrutiny, any. Truth be told, most people listening to a recording of this sampled instrument would be hard pressed to tell the difference, and in may cases would prefer the recording from the sampled piano, over many live piano recordings - it is that good.

Now for those who have borne the pain of reading this far.

A reward... something for you to listen to. A direct recording of this piano, as setup in my description above, with only a tad of processing (the usual some EQ, dynamic range management and ambience)in the highest quality I could muster - stereo undithered 96Khz, 32 bit floating point....(I thought 64 bit float was somewhat overkill) . You may need to use this in your DAW or use a playback app like Resonic Player, as that bit depth is not supported in some media players!

It's called "Arise (and Shine)" an original composition/theme - all rights mine ... performed live on the Production Voices Grand Compact for Sforzando, if anyone would like me to provide music, on a commercial basis, please do get in touch with me.

At the link below, (96 Megabytes) which expires in about a week from the date of this post.

One thing this does is make me look forward to purchasing the larger Kontakt version one day, in the hope that some of the softer velocities are more sympathetically captured with a few more layers. But a quick check reveals that the Kontakt version only adds more microphone perspectives, no more layers per microphone perspective ... I wish. We are gearslutz we want MORE..!

Until then the following velocity curve in MIDICurve will suffice.

Last edited by kodebode; 3 weeks ago at 07:33 PM..
Old 3 weeks ago
It's 1st of August yet it appears the bundle is still available at the $59 price.

On the site it may indicate $99 or higher but if you add it to you cart at the time of this writing, the actual cost in your cart is $59...
Old 3 weeks ago
Estate Grand

There are two versions of the Estate Grand, which is a Kawai grand.

1. Estate Grand for Sforzando (EGSF). With three stereo microphone sets. This is included in the bundle, or available for purchase as a separate product.

2. Estate Grand LE for Sforzando(EGLESF) - with only one stereo microphone set of the three included in the aforementioned product - this is donationware.

I've used both of them. There is a bit of inconsistency in versioning, EGSF seems to be at version 1.01, while EGLESF, has some tweaks which take the versioning to at least 1.04, with some eq enhancement of the low frequencies centered around 100hz, and a difference in the note release parameter - shorter release.

Otherwise to the best of my knowledge, from a cursory inspection of their files, they are identical.

EGSF obviously adds 2 extra microphone positions, with switches and level sliders for all three microphone sets.

I love the interface of the Estate Grand, simplicity itself, just like a real piano, no messing around with umpteen buttons, switches and sliders, just sit down and play.

While the number of layers is no more than 6 (6 pedal up samples and 6 pedal down samples - per note), and the dynamic range is not as extended as the Yamaha C7 - Production Grand Compact, I think the samples are true to the original piano, and sufficient for reproducing the original piano virtually.

The reduced dynamic range can be a bonus, cos it creates a piano that is never smothered, by other recorded material in the mix, definitely cuts through with ease, yet can be justifiably mellow - like a cross between a grand and an upright.

For Jazz, Trad Jazz, Ballads, I do not play Classical Music so can't say if it would suit this style of music - but then Classical music is not one genre, and there are so many sub genres.

Bright, Plinky, not one for sadness. A character piano like no other, not one of this super regulated affairs, that attempts to please everyone, and fit in, this one you take as is, and IMHO the one that sound more like the piano on the records, if you want to do a Chick Corea or Herbie imitation, as much as I know Chick plays a lot of Yamaha grands, this Kawai sounds more like the records than the C7 in the bundle.

Having more microphone positions is a mixed bag, enabling all of them creates a 3D image of the notes, but introduces a defocus from phasing, so either you reduce the level of the more distant mics, using them more as an effect, or disable them so only the closest mic set is active.

On my resource limited laptop, the three microphone positions streaming was unsustainable, and lots of glitches resulted, making consistent playback of samples impossible. My thinking - record with one mic set, then during mixing play around with the impact of the additional sets and see if these add any value.

I'm happy with one microphone set, as long as a bit of comfort ambiance is added externally, or via the provided internal reverb which I did not bother with.

Not much else to say - great piano, superb for sketching ideas. Impeccable sonics, recording quality samples.... The quality of the end result is what makes it difficult for me to ever consider going back to a stage piano for live use. I'd rather have this, anytime, than any stage piano I've ever heard or played. This is a piano, sounds like one, anyone listening to the recording will think its a real piano. Job done.

There is a consistency emerging. The velocity response I prefer for the Yamaha C7 also works well with the Kawai.

The Mid Side Microphone coupled with a Mid-Side Processor (I use the Mid Side Matrix from Goodhertz), is such a bonus, to add/remove stereo width and spacial information. It however highlights the limitations of Sforzando, with only one stereo audio out. Brilliant spacy info by messing with the mid side, without resorting to reverb. Excellent.. This feature the Mid Side recordings, are compulsory or should be, for all piano samples, once you've used one, you're hooked. so lifelike...

At the very least ensuring that the mid-side mic is converted to left right, is such a revelation, and I do wonder if most people who use these mic positions use them appropriately.

boosting the side in Mid Side Matrix, just adds such roominess, without the blurring that comes when you attempt same with reverb...or convolution...

Extensive simultaneous use of multiple microphone sets and individual processing of each set, requires more than one instance of sforzando - untidy...., and you need to avoid duplicating pedal noises....then I wonder are the release artefacts/samples specific to each mic pair or the same for all pairs - will check.....

The additional microphone positions open up a whole universe of sonic options, you could tie yourself in knots, if discipline and focus on the end result is not applied. The positive, the end result may be something you never intended, but sounds fresh.

The non mid-side microphone sets, especially relevant is the IN stereo mic set, which like all the other sets, has superb mono compatibility, and also holds up really well to mid side experiments (even thought this was not recorded as a mid-side pair of microphones)...This demonstrates how good all the samples are, the authentic piano tone is very well preserved, even after quite aggressive mid-side changes.

A most versatile set of piano samples, that impressively remains mono compatible with the utmost clarity, in all of the above, even when the stereo output after all processing is converted to mono - which is how I do most of my initial auditioning, in mono - if it still holds up in mono, then it will sound good anywhere on any reproduction system. Really amazing, you widen the width via mid-side, yet it all holds up and this width is preserved when collapsed to mono. In stereo - just out of this world...

Highly recommended.

Last edited by kodebode; 3 weeks ago at 03:43 PM..
Old 3 weeks ago
Concert Grand - The Steinway

Pretty much all the points covered on the other instruments apply here.

Thankfully the midi-velocity curve for the other instruments, also works fine here, so that's one relief - I do not have to define a velocity curve for different instruments by Production Voices.

Also a very good sign of consistency from this provider.

I have been somewhat more concerned as I have had more time to review these instrument, about their mono compatibility.

With the exception of the Mid Side sample set in the Kawai, which uses coincident microphone recordings, the other recordings do collapse somewhat in mono, more than I would love to hear.

It is not unique to production voices, and I may need to do a bit more study on this, to understand how best to use the samples in a mono setting....

Glad to hear from others, how they resolve such issues on stereo mono.

In stereo, the Steinway is a beautiful instrument, dare I say it the one I would use the most, if I needed to pick one. Very balanced tone, rich expressive, excellent samples. I consider that as this is the most recent set of pianos sampled by Production Voices, Jason has had more experience, and it shows.

An incredible capture of a faultless modern Steinway....

There is not much more to say about this piano, it just works, on everything, from rock to ballads, to classical, to jazz, this is IMHO the universal piano. The mystique/reputation of the Steinway is confirmed, this is the one piano to bind them all.

World class samples by a meticulous sample instrument maker.
Old 2 weeks ago
Best way to enjoy these is use them over a few days, to get familiar, and there remains this constant conclusion.

Production Voices instruments are keepsakes, tools that I expect to use for a lifetime, and continue to grow on me.

Excellent noise free samples, all the features you need, minus all the features you may never use (like soft pedal samples or half pedaling or pedal catch).

I think the Sforzando engine is brilliant, it uses the same cache for all instruments loaded in all sforzando instances.... cache sharing, now isn't that just smart.....

While not as plug and play as a digital piano (the kind encased in wooden furniture bought as a replacement for an acoustic piano, which it will never be), where audio quality is key, definitely Production Voices bundle beats any digital piano, hands down. Very expressive instruments, very natural sound, you add whatever you want in terms of processing.

And that is where is may not agree with some, the pianos are not biased in anyway, so you get very clean natural sound, while all the pianos you hear on records have been through some form of processing.

Straight out of the box, you get pianos that would cost a fortune if you had to record on similar gear, and there has been no pre-processing to purpose the=m for any genre specific use. So compared to some other sampled piano libraries, these may sound a bit too pure.

On the Steinway, only 1 of the 88 notes gave me a bit of a concern, and I was relieved to hear this cos otherwise the instrument would have been too perfect.
Old 2 weeks ago
Here for the gear

Originally Posted by kodebode View Post
It's 1st of August yet it appears the bundle is still available at the $59 price.

On the site it may indicate $99 or higher but if you add it to you cart at the time of this writing, the actual cost in your cart is $59...
Thanks for all the info...just missed the intro! Hopefully a future BF sale will get close to the intro price.
Old 2 weeks ago
Originally Posted by PointOfDeparture View Post
Thanks for all the info...just missed the intro! Hopefully a future BF sale will get close to the intro price.
I am not affiliated with Production Voices, so have no idea when next this bundle will be on such a deeply discounted sale. Maybe Black Friday....

Please note there is a free/donationware/suggested price $5 product, Estate Grand LE, which was the product that led me into this bundle. It is the best free sampled piano in the world, it does not sound like any other freely downloadable piano, it's actually a very good quality piano sample set.

It is a fantastic product, and you have nothing to lose.

Available here.

Estate Grand LE is the single microphone pair version of a multi microphone set, Estate Grand, which is also still pretty inexpensive @ $24. At this price it is still a phenomenal product, the least cost multiple microphone sampled piano set in the world, with great quality sound.

Available here.

The Yamaha is still relatively inexpensive @ $49.

Last edited by kodebode; 2 weeks ago at 01:47 PM..
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