AF’s Weblog

September 26, 2011

Synthogy Ivory II Upright Pianos Mini-Review

After Grand Pianos, it’s the turn of the Upright Pianos bank to be ported to Synthogy’s new audio engine. Let’s give it a try.

A Snap Shot: Mini-Review

Synthogy Ivory II Upright PianosSynthogy Ivory II Upright Pianos

 

Old Timer…

 

Synthogy Ivory II Upright Pianos

Chronologically, the first instrument is the genuine Tack piano. Synthogy states that this piano was manufactured in the early 1900’s, it is not perfectly tuned and has metal tacks inserted into its hammer felts.

Let’s listen now to some sound samples…

Conclusion

A brief reminder before wrapping up: each of the 88 notes uses its own samples with up to 16 velocity layers. The samples are not looped so you get nice-sounding resonances (you “hear” the wood).

It’s difficult to find more cons than the ones already mentioned. Once again, Synthogy succeeds in offering the most comprehensive upright pianos bank in the market. The price makes it quite affordable, considering the rich and detailed sound of the samples. Needless to say, this product is very specialized and there are other options out there.

But for professional musicians and producers who look for exceptional pianos requiring almost no setup time (the instruments are almost ready to play and you’ll just have to adjust the sensitivity to your master keyboard), that sound great across the whole keyboard, and are easy to add to a mix, there won’t be much to think about.

Advantages:

  • Everything except…

Drawbacks:

  • … mechanical noises sometimes too regular at high velocity levels
  • The loading time of the plugin and the standalone version is too long
  • Still no 64-bit Mac version

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see: Synthogy Ivory II Upright Pianos Review

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February 18, 2011

Tonehammer Pianos Review

The launch of the Montclarion Hall Piano gives us the opportunity to present to you the full range of Tonehammer pianos, characterized by the same original approach of all the other instruments by the manufacturer.

Granny, This One’s For You…

Tonehammer Old Granny Piano

Chronologically, this was the first piano presented by Tonehammer. The manufacturer decided to sample an old brandless upright piano (the booklet says the piano was 60 or 70 years old) which had had no maintenance in years and was in a rather poor condition. Granny is really detuned and has no strings for the high notes. In fact, you can clearly hear noises when you hit and release the keys.

 

Tonehammer Old Granny Piano

In spite of being out of tune, the instrument is appealing. The manufacturer provides several presets, available in Untuned and Tuned versions. The piano is available in soft and bright versions. It includes a tone setting controlled by the wheel. You also get several programs with different impulses like tunnel, studio, stairwell, alley, garage, and subway, as well as Kotankt’s convolution reverb. You can change the settings using the edit functions. Since the impulses are provided in a separate folder, you can also use them with other Kontakt instruments — a very nice detail. You’ll also find three (sound design) presets whose aim isn’t authenticity.

Let’s hear some sound samples then…

Conclusion

 

Tonehammer has a reputation for going off the beaten path with its sampling products by offering rare and home-made instruments or using special recording situations for ensembles (see the Epic series). However, it also succeeds in offering more classic choir and piano samples while keeping a special approach to them. Among the special products, the Bowed and Plucked libraries are very original and even though you can find similar libraries out there, none of them reaches this sound quality. Besides their excellent audio quality, both include numerous extra features like an arpeggiator, sound design programs, impulses, etc.

 

Among the more traditional sounds, Emotional is a unique product because no other virtual piano currently provides this particular quality and roundness. This is one of my favorite pianos. Montclarion offers special acoustics with very interesting multimodes if you want to create particular ambiances. As for the cons, we noticed some slight phase problems, especially with Emotional and Montclarion. To solve the problem just narrow the stereo image a little bit (the changes are so slight that they won’t alter the sound). Also notice that you’ll need a powerful computer system with enough RAM and/or fast hard drives.

 

You can consider this series as several single instruments, but also as a comprehensive bundle offering almost everything in terms of piano sound (perhaps missing only a prepared piano) with an impeccable quality (Montclarion at 24 bits, no audible loop points on releases except in FX or Drone programs, no tuning or layer problems, etc.), which can complete (or not) the more “traditional” instruments other manufacturers have to offer. In any case, the full bundle costs only $389 — a very appealing price, considering its quality.

Advantages:

  • Sound quality
  • Programming quality
  • Originality
  • No audible loop points except on special effects
  • Numerous traditional programs
  • Numerous effect and drone programs
  • Bowed Legato
  • Plucked Dulcimer
  • Uberpeggiator
  • High-quality original impulses
  • Originality of the FX impulses
  • Interface and settings of Bowed and Plucked
  • Price

Drawbacks:

  • Locked Kontakt format of some libraries
  • No access to Kontakt editors in Emotional
  • No external access to the Bowed and Plucked impulses
  • Watch out for phase problems with certain programs
  • Powerful computer and enough RAM required

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Tonehammer Pianos Review

June 10, 2010

Rhodes Mark 7 73 Midi Organ

To see more gear video demos see:  Audiofanzine Video Vault

May 11, 2010

[MUSIKMESSE 2010] CLAVIA NORD PIANO

Filed under: keyboards, Musikmesse 2010 — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 9:43 am

To see more gear video demos see:  Audiofanzine Video Vault

September 19, 2009

Yamaha Tyros 3: The Arranger Keyboard Rearranged

Filed under: keyboards — Tags: , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 9:32 am
Yamaha Tyros 3 product review

Perpetuating the Tyros line for the third time, Yamaha presents a new, high-technology arranger keyboard that provides a rarely achieved musicality.

Some time ago, arranger keyboards were the “poor cousins” of the music industry. Those gadgets became educational tools for children and then for adults looking for strong musical sensations. Today, they are powerful production workstations with a large ROM, sample memories, DTD, USB port, etc. Some manufacturers equip them with technologies developed originally for their workstations, which results in the latter being not so predominant anymore. The Korg PA2X, for example, includes a real Triton/M3-like synth. Ketron’s Audia is a comprehensive audio loop machine with real-time pitch shifting and time stretching functions. The Tyros 3 is not fancy and Yamaha decided to improve every possible function of the original concept: sound realism, harmonization, FX processor and user interface.

A look under the hood

Yamaha Tyros 3

Like its predecessors, the Tyros 3 is fitted inside a PVC housing with gray aluminum finish on the top and black finish on the bottom. Considering its price range, I would have preferred a brushed aluminum housing that made it look more classy without adding much weight. Even if it is not made for that, do consider getting a carry case because the part underneath the keys tends to bend if you push on it. The manufacturer offers a very nice-looking one with the “Tyros 3” logo embroidered on it. The FSX keyboard has 61 velocity and pressure-sensitive keys. It’s the best light keyboard we have ever tested: straight response, perfect balance and full control. This keyboard is even better than the famous Yamaha model on the DX7, Korg Trinity and Triton… Yamaha has been constantly improving the layout of the different control sections since the first Tyros came out. This time around the layout seems perfectly thought-out. On the left side you will find everything regarding styles and sequences: in the lower part is the style control (intros, variations, breaks, endings, accompaniment modes, tempo, pads, etc.), in the middle part are the style selection buttons sorted by category, and in the upper part the sequencer controls. You can also find the mic section here: settings, vocal harmonies, etc.

Right at the center of the device is the big 7.5″ VGA display (640×480 dots). Its active color matrix provides a strong luminosity and an excellent definition. The display is adjustable (but not motorized–as if someone cared). It is surrounded by buttons for selecting sounds and styles, navigating within the different menu pages and direct editing of parameters. It’s nice and does its job pretty well. The fact that it’s not touch screen is not a problem at all, on the contrary that will help you keep it cleaner. Below the display, you’ll find eight pairs of function buttons (to edit values in the menu pages) and nine very-much-appreciated sliders that not only allow you to edit faster with the integrated mixer (more on this later), but are crucial for the modeled drawbar organ presets. As soon as you select one of these presets, the display shows a graphic representation of some Hammond B3-like drawbars, that you can control with the sliders in real-time for live applications. This is a great improvement on the older models and we celebrate it.

Last but not least: the right side of the device is dedicated to sound presets. In the lower part you can control the snapshots, the OTS registrations (more on this later), the main L/R channels and the select/mute functions of the different channels. In the middle, you’ll find the preset selection buttons sorted by category. The upper part is dedicated to the different effect sections of the presets. And you also have here the direct-to-disc section (more on this later) and the system menus.

Conclusion
Yamaha Tyros 3
The Tyros 3 is the result of top-quality improvements that started years ago. It has been a long way since the first version of the product. Its indisputable musicality is the instrument’s most outstanding quality–leaving the competition far behind, especially when it come to the new SA2 sounds and their unique expressiveness. The styles also gained more sound realism thanks to the new drum samples and the generous FX section. The 61-note keyboard has an exceptional quality but unfortunately there’s no 88-key version available. In spite of its impressive number of settings, the Tyros 3 is highly ergonomic and easy to use, making it the ideal solution for professional stage applications. People who like to mess around with sounds and styles will not be disappointed either, and the Tyros 3 is also a nice studio tool. However, we regret that the sound synthesis was “outsourced” to a software (considering the size of the display), and that the sequencer is based around the arranger. The all-plastic assembly and the few accessories provided are also disappointing, considering the price of the product. But our overall impression is very positive. When you start one of the styles of the Tyros 3, you can’t help putting your fingers on the keyboard and start beating the floor with your foot… it’s easy to be inspired!

Pluses:

  • Supreme sound
  • Accompaniments’ quality
  • Excellent keyboard manufacturing
  • Comprehensive connectivity
  • Drawbar organs modeling
  • Number of powerful multi-effects
  • Highly ergonomic user interface
  • Direct-to-Disc function
  • Sound editor for PC/Mac
  • Wave samples import

Drawbacks:

  • Plastic construction
  • Limited direct editing
  • Arranger-based sequencer
  • Few accessories included
  • Commercialism at its best (or worst)

To read the full detailed article see:    Yamaha Tyros 3 Review

April 18, 2009

Video Demo: Steinberg The Grand 3 Virtual Piano

Steinberg presents the 3.0 version of their famous virtual piano featuring five famous pianos: Yamaha C7, Bösendorfer 290, Steinway D., Yamaha CP80 Electric Grand, and a Nordiska upright.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.

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