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The Press Desk 8th February 2018 07:42 PM

10 of the best virtual pianos right now
 
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Ten of the best virtual pianos right now

We don’t need to rehash the importance of the piano in music and culture, but given the practical implications of owning, maintaining and recording a real piano, virtual pianos are often presented as a viable alternative for many and in some cases it’s the only one! With that in mind we have sifted through forum discussion data to find out which AAX, AU and VST plug-ins for virtual pianos the Gearslutz community is talking about. Here’s the list — in alphabetical order:


 Abbey Road CFX Concert Grand

Garritan Abbey Road CFX Concert Grand

Garritan is a widely recognized name in the world of orchestral instruments, with a very respectable lineup of products that have earned the company a solid reputation. Their CFX Concert Grand is an enticing entry on their roster, bringing a Yamaha CFX Concert Grand - recorded at Abbey Road Studio One - to our computers via their proprietary ARIA engine and plug-in. Garritan also offers two versions of the CFX: a “Grand” version with multiple microphone perspectives from different distances, and a cost-friendly “Lite” version that retains the core features but only includes a single close-mic position.



 Production Grand 2

Production Voices Production Grand 2

Presenting one of the most daunting sample pools in terms with nearly half a terabyte (!), Production Voices Grand 2 represents perhaps the biggest effort to date to capture the famous Yamaha C7 Grand with all its nuance and finesse. Boasting eight microphone positions (that even include a microphone under the piano), the Grand 2 team spared no expense in order to achieve their goal. That includes not only a recording session in a high-end studio to capture the C7 Grand in all its glory but also detailed and comprehensive scripting work to make all those samples come together in a virtual instrument. (Note that a full version of Kontakt is required to make use of this monster!)



 Ivory II Studio Grands

Synthogy Ivory II Studio Grands

The Synthogy Ivory line of virtual pianos arrives at its second iteration and further establishes itself as one of the most popular solutions out there. Ivory now comes in five flavours: Studio Grands, American Concert D, Grand Pianos, Italian Grand and Upright Pianos. Featured here is the ‘Studio Grands’ edition, which brings two famous grand pianos (the Bösendorfer 225 and Steinway B) that were sampled to the utmost detail, offering up to twenty-four velocity layers, multiple round-robins, soft pedal variations and even a synth pad layer for when more modern sounds are required. Note - if you are an iOS producer/user, Ivory is now also now available for the iPad as an expansion for the Korg Module.



 Keyscape

Spectrasonics Keyscape

Regarded as one of the best purveyors of software instruments, with Omnisphere and Trillian ranking amongst the best of their kind, Spectrasonics is a beacon for high quality VIs. Keyscape is the company’s latest effort and brings their excellence to the keyboard game, basically doing for piano what Omnisphere did for synth and what Trillian did for bass. Spectrasonic spent ten years developing this product and the result is an instrument that is as vast and comprehensive as can be, including not only the classic studio keyboards & pianos but also exotic instruments from all around the globe. Keyscape gets even better if you own Omnisphere, since you can merge both instruments libraries for the ultimate “endless” sonic palette.



 Pianoteq 6 PRO

MODARTT Pianoteq 6 PRO

Modartt’s Pianoteq is the only instrument on our list that is not sample-based - instead it uses advanced modelling algorithms instead of real recordings. Their proprietary technology has gathered many accolades since its 2006 debut and is considered by many to be a milestone in music software development, even earning the approval of the legendary piano manufacturer Steinway & Sons. Currently on its sixth iteration, Pianoteq brings all sorts of pianos, including acoustic, electric and also chromatic instruments (such as the xylophone), and it’s available in three versions which can be upgraded and expanded with more sounds.



 Pianos

EastWest/Quantum Leap Pianos

EastWest has been one of the top players in the sample-based virtual instrument game since its early days. Quantum Leap Pianos was developed over the course of two years and brings four industry-standard pianos: the Bechstein D-280, Steinway D, Bösendorfer 290 and a Yamaha C7, all recorded using the finest equipment in a room designed specifically for pianos. Each piano has a whopping sample pool of over 60GB to deliver three distinct microphone positions, over ten velocity layers and many articulations. As with other EastWest instruments, Quantum Leap Pianos runs on their “Play” engine/plug-in for all DAWs.



 Ravenscroft 275

VI Labs Ravenscroft 275

As the name hints, VI Labs transports the Ravenscroft 275 Titanium to the digital realm on an officially licensed virtual instrument for the free UVI Workstation. Contrary to others on our list the Ravenscroft is a relatively new concert piano, combining traditional piano building techniques with modern innovations such as computer aided design. VI Labs did a very meticulous job of recording this exquisite piano, with full sampling of pedals, sympathetic resonances, Una Corda soft pedal, mute strikes and much more, while also keeping the storage footprint surprisingly low thanks to the UVI engine.



 The Grandeur

Native Instruments The Grandeur

Native Instruments is a reference when it comes to virtual instruments, but for this product they’ve partnered with the piano-sampling experts at Galaxy Instruments. This is The Grandeur, a concert grand piano which was extensively used for recordings and performances. As expected it features an extensive amount of samples to capture every possible nuance, including dedicated samples for the piano’s overtones and resonance, and it also offers in-depth controls such as pedal level, hammer sound and a tone control to match every need. The Grandeur is available as a standalone instrument for the Kontakt player and also as a part of the Native Instruments Definitive Piano Collection, which also includes two other vintage pianos.



 The Hammersmith

Soniccouture The Hammersmith

The experts at Soniccouture have also taken upon the task of sampling a grand piano, and their choice was the classic Steinway Model D. The result is the Hammersmith, a very well-polished virtual instrument that comes with twenty-one velocity layers, sustain sampling, different microphones at various distances (including the elusive Neumann binaural head), tuning options and scales controls among other features that enable the highest possible degree of realism. This fine instrument comes in two tiers: a professional edition with six mic positions and a standard edition with only two positions - that can be upgraded. Both versions are compatible with the free Native Instruments Kontakt Player.



 Vintage D

Galaxy Instruments Vintage D

Galaxy Instruments Vintage D aims to be the definitive recreation of the Steinway D, one of the most iconic pianos that can be heard on numerous recordings, from classical to pop and jazz and more. For this product Galaxy Instruments obtained access to Bauer Studios’ Steinway D Grand Piano from 1920 and sampled it down to the smallest detail through vintage Neumann mics and an Neve console. It features over two thousand individual samples, thirteen velocity zones, onboard reverb, a synth pad layer and a simple-to-use interface powered by the Kontakt Player.


Honourable mentions go to: Acousticsamples C7 Grand, Native Instruments Alicia's Keys, SONiVOX Eighty Eight Ensemble and Soundiron Emotional Piano, all of which were heavily discussed on Gearslutz.com.

What do you think of the state of the virtual piano in 2018? Have they met all the necessary requirements for production or are they still lacking any particular details? What else could be improved right now? What do you personally use? Are there any famous pianos that are overlooked in the sample library world? Please share your thoughts!

RobinL 9th February 2018 01:15 AM

I was kind of expecting to see the Piano in Blue here. I have most pianos in this list and Piano in Blue is the one getting picked.

sramsay 10th February 2018 05:06 AM

I refuse to take seriously a list of "virtual pianos" that does not include the Vienna Imperial. When the aforementioned pianos offer 1200 samples per key off a Bosendorfer then we can talk. These instruments are not even remotely in the ballpark of the Imperial.

Justin Case 10th February 2018 12:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RobinL (Post 13129250)
I was kind of expecting to see the Piano in Blue here. I have most pianos in this list and Piano in Blue is the one getting picked.

Same here.

gearsuser 10th February 2018 12:08 PM

(Is this list really independantly put together or in some way sponsored? )

I agree, this list is seriously flawed imho: What people are talking about and what is best can be a big difference!
To have Ivory II on here boggles my mind... maybe it was one of the best many years ago when there was only Ivory I around.
e.g. the musicality of Imperfect Samples pianos is head and shoulders over Synthogy Ivory II !

DaveEC 14th February 2018 06:54 PM

Poor Trilian....nobody knows how to spell you...

bill5 21st February 2018 01:06 AM

Note the intro

Quote:

we have sifted through forum discussion data to find out which AAX, AU and VST plug-ins for virtual pianos the Gearslutz community is talking about.
ie not necessarily "the ones we think are the best." Apparently people on the forum disagree with some of you about which is the best. So talk it up and get em on the list. ;)

RobinL 21st February 2018 12:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bill5 (Post 13154094)
Note the intro


ie not necessarily "the ones we think are the best." Apparently people on the forum disagree with some of you about which is the best. So talk it up and get em on the list. ;)

So what you are saying is that this is a list of "most talked about" rather than "the best?" Or was context used from these topics? Very curious how many hours were spend if the latter would be the case.

Vesta 21st February 2018 01:23 PM

It's always good to have several libraries for variety. Can't have the same piano sound in all your tracks. The ones I like the most aren't on this list though. I chose Session Keys Grand in a blind test, among 10 other libraries, for example. I also like the ones made by 8dio, the 1968 and 1927, I think. I recently started liking the sounds from Alicia's Keys too but detest the name... So much so I feel like creating a wallpaper with some other name. Small pet peeve but it is a bit uninspiring to work on serious compositions when it's got some hip-hop singer's name over it. If others feel the same way, just create a small wallpaper with Yamaha Grand on it or something...

bill5 21st February 2018 06:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RobinL (Post 13154837)
So what you are saying is that this is a list of "most talked about" rather than "the best?" Or was context used from these topics? Very curious how many hours were spend if the latter would be the case.

My impression was that it's the best of those being talked about. :) And yeah, I'd rather it just be "the best" too. Be good if they could clarify...

zephonic 23rd February 2018 04:01 PM

I can see why producers would like PianoInBlue, but for players it is nearly unusable. Noticeable lag, uneven velocity response, phasiness when combining different mic positions.

I love VILabs products: both TrueKeys and Ravenscroft are excellent. They sound great, are a delight to play (provided you have a decent controller), and the UVI engine is super-efficient.

I am underwhelmed by Keyscape's acoustic pianos, had high hopes and was disappointed. But the electrics and digitals are terrific, really a cut above the competition.

Galaxy Vintage D was a good buy ten years ago, but it can't really hang with the newer stuff. NI's Grandeur is very good, though. If I didn't have the VILabs stuff, that's the one I'd pick.

bill5 24th February 2018 02:29 AM

Whatever happened to Pianoteq?

zephonic 24th February 2018 04:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bill5 (Post 13160694)
Whatever happened to Pianoteq?

mezed

It's no.5 on the list?

bill5 25th February 2018 03:19 AM

lol. My bad. I just saw MODARTT and flew by it. d'oh.

azone2 25th February 2018 10:13 AM

Somewhat surprised to see Vintage D on there. I've never heard it talked about and it's older, but it is still BY FAR the best Steinway D. Ivory I and II is static in comparison. I've been using it for years paired up with my RD700GX. It is deserving and glad to see on the list.

bill5 25th February 2018 05:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by zephonic (Post 13159531)
I love VILabs products: both TrueKeys and Ravenscroft are excellent. They sound great, are a delight to play (provided you have a decent controller)

Pardon another potentially dumb comment but "controller?" ? As in a real (musical) keyboard? I thought these were all play it on your PC. Isn't that what "virtual piano" means?

zephonic 27th February 2018 01:18 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bill5 (Post 13163347)
Pardon another potentially dumb comment but "controller?" ? As in a real (musical) keyboard? I thought these were all play it on your PC. Isn't that what "virtual piano" means?

Controller as in the keyboard you use to play or trigger sounds from the computer.

bill5 27th February 2018 03:14 AM

Then I don't understand how this article is defining "virtual piano."

dino321 3rd March 2018 12:20 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bill5 (Post 13166562)
Then I don't understand how this article is defining "virtual piano."

“Virtual” in music production refers to a software emulation of a real instrument, in this case pianos.

dino321 3rd March 2018 01:29 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bill5 (Post 13166562)
Then I don't understand how this article is defining "virtual piano."

These are all softwares pianos. I don’t understand your confusion.

bill5 3rd March 2018 08:35 PM

Then maybe I'm misunderstanding what was said above about a "controller." It sounds like he means a (musical) keyboard (eg a MIDI controller etc), which is not used with a virtual piano, for reasons you stated and as I've always understood it...a virtual piano is one you play on your computer.

nightchef 3rd March 2018 11:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bill5 (Post 13176105)
Then maybe I'm misunderstanding what was said above about a "controller." It sounds like he means a (musical) keyboard (eg a MIDI controller etc), which is not used with a virtual piano, for reasons you stated and as I've always understood it...a virtual piano is one you play on your computer.

It's the piano sounds that are on the computer. The device that you use to trigger those sounds (and to record the MIDI tracks that can then be played back to trigger the sounds) is usually an external MIDI keyboard controller.

nightchef 3rd March 2018 11:03 PM

I have the NI Grandeur and like it a lot, but wouldn't mind having another flavor. Which of the products on this list would provide the biggest contrast or complement to the Grandeur? (As I understand it, the Grandeur is based on the Galaxy Vintage D and somewhat similar in sound.)

bill5 4th March 2018 05:31 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by nightchef (Post 13176336)
It's the piano sounds that are on the computer. The device that you use to trigger those sounds (and to record the MIDI tracks that can then be played back to trigger the sounds) is usually an external MIDI keyboard controller.

OK I always understood "virtual piano" to mean something totally on the PC, not just a sound on a PC that you use via your (music) keyboard.

dickiefunk 4th March 2018 10:04 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by nightchef (Post 13176340)
I have the NI Grandeur and like it a lot, but wouldn't mind having another flavor. Which of the products on this list would provide the biggest contrast or complement to the Grandeur? (As I understand it, the Grandeur is based on the Galaxy Vintage D and somewhat similar in sound.)

I also have NI Grandeur and think it’s excellent. My other alternative is Pianoteq 6.1. I also have the other pianos in the NI Definitive Pianos collection and Pianoteq 6.1. They all compliment Grandeur extremely well!

Honeyshape 5th March 2018 09:10 AM

8dio 1928 is very moody and emotive. One of my favourites

mickbenjamins 5th March 2018 04:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by nightchef (Post 13176340)
I have the NI Grandeur and like it a lot, but wouldn't mind having another flavor. Which of the products on this list would provide the biggest contrast or complement to the Grandeur? (As I understand it, the Grandeur is based on the Galaxy Vintage D and somewhat similar in sound.)

I think Una Corda is great too: Komplete : Keys : Una Corda | Products

You can hear it here:

giacomoverrando 9th March 2018 04:18 PM

Dysclavier?
 
What all of you think about this new Yamaha dysclavier? It's a very descreet technology applied in both upright and grand pianos. You play the real piano but there is a recording of all your movements, velocity pedals aftertouch everything. Then you hit play and real piano plays by itself!! Moving the keys!!
Something great for studios I think where you can have real piano sound but controllable via software. Basically you record your star and then you work with the sound or edit notes. Or, back to VI, you can have a Bosendorfer 200 as your master keyboard

Rhodesplaya 10th March 2018 01:48 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bill5 (Post 13176746)
OK I always understood "virtual piano" to mean something totally on the PC, not just a sound on a PC that you use via your (music) keyboard.

How on earth would you play anything even remotely piano-esque without using a keyboard?

moos_music 20th March 2018 02:12 PM

Spectrasonics Keyscape is the best instrument plugin to invest your money in, together with Omnisphere and you are pretty much done for life