Acousticsamples C7 Grand by Diogo C
Product: C7 Grand
Format: UVI Workstation/Falcon instrument
DRM: iLok (USB not required, up to two activations)
Introduction: The Yamaha C7 Grand is a highly successful instrument that made its way into many great recordings, and it’s particularly coveted when it comes to powerful-sounding pianos, being widely used when a “full” piano sound is required. There are quite a few C7 Grand sampled-based instruments out there, and here we’ll take a look on the sampling efforts from the rising company Acousticsamples in order to capture this fine piano to its full extent. They’ve opted for the UVI Workstation platform, which makes it quite distinctive when we look at the Kontakt-dominated market and also quite refreshing since it can also run on UVI’s synthesis-sampling powerhouse Falcon.
The scope: Acousticsamples approach for sampling the C7 Grand is based around three microphone pairs, named close, side and player, all captured with Prism and MOTU converters/preamps, Rode and Brüel & Kjær microphones. The “close” mic pair is placed above the strings (with the lid open), “side” pair is located at the right side (player’s view) of the instrument where a singer would normally stand and lastly the “player” mics are placed right above the keyboard. All three pairs have their own volume fader, and they can be easily switched on or off and can be loaded or unloaded at will. Their application should be quite intuitive, with “close” delivering a full-range sound while “side” brings more space and ambiance with some brilliance in the top end. “Player” is more transient-heavy with tons of mid range. Most times I’ve found that a mixture of “close” and “side” is what I needed to achieve a natural sound that could be easily equalized according to the circumstance. For greater convenience Acoustic Samples also includes one separate instrument for each mic, so we have a “main” C7 Grand instrument where you can load any of the three mics, and we’re also presented with individual instruments with solo mics, and the big deal about them is that we are able to process each mic separately, thus enabling more sonic flexibility.
The sampling work done for this instrument is quite impressive and a lot of attention was also paid to the pedals, and they were thoroughly sampled including the sostenuto pedal, a “half pedal” position and it also reproduces repedalling action along with variable pedal noise. Both sostenuto and sustain pedals can be individually assigned to specific MIDI CCs, while the half pedal sound is triggered according to minimum/maximum sustain pedal values, which makes it quite adjustable. Key noise was also sample and as with pedal noise it can be freely adjusted or turned off. Other important aspect of this C7 Grand is the way resonances are handled, according to the user manual there are two set of “sympathetic” resonances:
The first one is the sympathetic resonance that notes are creating with each other when the sustain pedal is up. Every note will interact with all of the other pressed notes and make them resonate. We modeled the behavior of the strings but based all of that work on samples of the real resonances. You can adjust how much of it you want and also how much polyphony you want to allow for this feature. The second one is also the sympathetic resonances, but this time when the sustain pedal is down, we call it the true pedal action, it simply allows the resonances to come in even if the pedal is pressed after you press the chord, and even if you release the pedal and press it again while still holding a chord.It’s important to note that “true pedal action” is optional and also important to note that there are volume and polyphony controls for the “sympathetic resonances” feature and it also can be turned off entirely, which is something I wouldn’t recommend if realism is desired as they really add more nuance and density to the sound of this instrument. Acoustic Samples also offers a highly flexible velocity control that the user can freely draw to set the desired velocity curve. Speaking of velocity, The C7 Grand used multiple velocity layers and an advanced filtering to blend them, and for extra realism it’s also equipped with round-robins. Overall it’s a very polished product, offering plenty of possible adjustments without being overly complicated to the user.
Sound quality: The C7 Grand is a powerful sounding instrument, it’s very convincing and especially useful for modern-sounding productions. It’s a great pick when you need pianos to be upfront on busy mixes, but on the other hand I found it a bit too aggressive for solo work or for softer sounding music. It’s definitely on the bright side of the fence, so it’s not a problem of realism (or the lack of) but a matter of tone. Needless to say that it can be tweaked it to sound gentle, and we can always process it with EQ/compression and so forth, but I subscribe to the tradition of “getting it right from the source”, so I think the C7 Grand is definitely more appropriate for certain material but not so much for others. In this regard, it’s not something for all occasions but a specialized instrument and not really a workhorse. On the other hand, it does a great job both performatically and sonically when played to its advantages, showcasing once again Acousticsamples excellence when it comes to sampling and scripting some of the best virtual instruments - their B5 Organ is also widely praised and arguably the best in class. It’s very responsive instrument but mostly importantly it’s impactful, and that’s its biggest strength. It cuts through most mixes easily while sounding articulated all the time, and that’s quite a feat on itself.
Ease of use: There are only four control pages to be dealt with, so it shouldn’t take long to figure out the core parameters and set the sound accordingly. The interface is mostly easy to read, with good font size and contrast and overall the experience is quite smooth. Acoustic Samples has done a terrific job on C7 Grand’s optimization, with a minimum footprint both on RAM and CPU, so it’s quite easy on taxing our precious system resources. The memory load is surprisingly low, taking less than 500mb for maximum quality with all mics, so it’s suitable to use even on underpowered computers with less-than-stellar processors and not much RAM. Because of UVI’s efficient FLAC-based compression the loading times are also very good, taking less than 30 seconds to be ready for action. In this regard it makes for a good choice for live performances or rehearsals since it will be quite friendly with lower spec'd laptops. What could be more friendly is here is the presentation, it’s not that friendly in this regard due to the lack of presets, which can be a problem for those looking for ready to use sounds. Normally this kind of instrument is about a specific sound without big variations since the whole idea is to faithfully reproduce a real produce in the best possible way, but it would be great if presets with certain settings were offered, for example presets for maximum realism (and conversely for minimum load) or presets oriented towards certain play styles or music genres. Nevertheless, it’s an easy to use instrument that doesn’t require much fiddling around to make it sound right, so not having presets should not be a major issue for most users. If there’s any need for further clarifications there’s a 10-page PDF user manual that satisfactorily covers all controls.
Features: Acoustic Samples offers a good number of controls with some considerable depth, it’s not an overwhelming amount of parameters but it’s far from simplistic (see attachments for all control pages) with good controls related to the mechanical aspects of the piano and also some controls to shape the resulting sound, including a good sounding IR-based reverb in case you don’t to add one of your plug-ins (see attachments for all reverb options). I wouldn’t mind having a 3-band EQ to nudge the sound toward a certain directions but perhaps the feature I miss the most on C7 Grand is a proper preset system. This is something that can be done within the UVI Workstation/Falcon framework but ultimately this instrument would greatly benefit from an onboard preset browser and to refrain what I’ve said above, presets and a preset browser would add to the ease of use, and presets can be especially useful to those users who aren’t fond of fiddling around with all the controls or just want a quick path to a certain configuration. One other small complaint that I have is about the lack of a dedicated output for each of three mic pairs — separate instruments are offered for each mic pair and from the UVI Workstation/Falcon you can set each one to a separate output, but in this reviewer’s opinion it would be more practical if the “main” instrument offered proper output routing for each set of mics. Other than that the C7 Grand’s feature set is totally adequate for most situations and there’s hardly anything to miss when it comes to the sound-related adjustments.
Bang for buck: There’s no shortage of virtual C7 Grands out there, but the Acousticsamples C7 Grand is priced in line with most of its alternatives and given how tight the competition is these days will come down to your personal preferences or expectations, and also to the platform/format of your liking. If you want to stick with the UVI solutions there are currently no alternatives other than UVI’s Ultimate Grand Piano Collection, which includes a sampled Yamaha C7 Grand called “Japanese Grand Piano” along with other sampled pianos. If stepping outside of UVI’s platforms isn’t an issue or if that’s desired then there’s some considerable competition out there, and once again it will boil down each person’s tastes and requirements. Unfortunately (and for reasons beyond the scope of this review) most sampled-instruments libraries don’t offer demos, so you’ll have to search around for reviews and demos to make up your mind. Having said that, Acoustic Sample has done a competent job on sampling and scripting to deliver an instrument that sounds good right after loading it but one that’s also tweakable enough to be adjusted for a few different usage scenarios. In this regard, it has the upper hand over UVI’s own C7 since it offers more depth and controls for the user to play with it, and in my opinion it’s also better sounding, with more nuance, detail and weight than the UVI Japanese. On the other hand, the lack of presets might keep some folks from enjoying the full extent of its powers, so in order to make the most out of it a good read of the documentation and some tweaking are in order and definitely something I’d recommend. Above all, the Acoustic Samples C7 Grand is a solid contender that should be seriously considered if you’re after this particularly popular piano sound, and for the price it delivers some substantial bang for reasonable bucks.
Recommended for: keyboardists and producers looking for a piano for pop, rock and hip-hop and that can pierce through the busiest of mixes.
*An impactful sounding instrument that is perfect for modern production.
*Clean interface and mostly easy to use.
*Extremely savvy on system resources.
*Runs on the free UVI Workstation and if you’re a Falcon owner there’s also the benefits from all the extended functionality that it offers.
*Lacks presets and an internal preset browser.
Click below for full resolution screenshots.