Q Up Arts California Keys [Exciting, Deep] Review
California Keys is not a single instrument. In addition to the acoustic grand piano – which was sampled in configurations ranging from stereo all the way through to 7.1 surround – Q Up Arts has stuffed in a collection of beloved, vintage organs and e-pianos. Albeit, Q Up’s take on some of the instruments is a little off-the-beaten-track, the “Cali Keys” bundle has quite a lot to offer.
The MSRP is a rather ambitious figure of $499 (USD), but the bundle is offered on sale occasionally, and Douglas Morton is conscious of making Q Up products available to students for amiable rates. Quite frankly, this helps Doug and his company stand out from the crowd; well-deserving to be duly commended.
e-Instruments Session Keys Electric R, S, W [Deep] Review
For those who might be acquainted with “Session Horns (Pro)” and “Session Strings (Pro)” - badged as Native Instruments products – e-Instruments’ self-branded “Session Keys” series of highly playable electric pianos will not come across as unheard-of-strangers. In fairness to software giant, “Native Instruments”, the aforementioned strings & horns libraries’ product pages do cite e-Instruments as the actual creators. As a matter of fact, it’s because of the company’s partnership with Native Instruments that e-Instruments gained ground as a relatively new developer at that time.
It’s fair to say that e-Instruments have certainly proven themselves to be top-tier sampling experts since 2010, weaving a pedigree of interest and notability. Enticingly so, their commendable “Session Keys” series of electric pianos are very fairly priced. Each one costs but $79 (USD) / €79 apiece. If at all possible, I do recommend that Canadian customers purchase using US funds. Even though the current exchange rate of USD to CAD (at the time of this publication) would result in an amount of $105 (CAD), for some reason e-Instruments’ online store charges a hefty $129 (CAD).
AcousticSampleS Wurlie Review
Unlike the majority of Wurlitzer-based virtual instruments available, this is *not* still another tiresome interpretation of the now common “A200” model. Nope. This here, y’all, is delightfully unique in that it is a meticulously-crafted sample library of a model 206A ‘student’ Wurlitzer. Of course, being a “Wurlie”, it has that classic, definitive early 70s sound, but with just a teensy bit more attitude and vibe.
Wurlie from AcousticSampleS is a virtual instrument for the discriminating vintage-keyboard connoisseur. This is a superb sample library (again in UVI Workstation format) of a sexy little 64-key model 206A Wurlitzer®. The samples were recorded via studio-grade DI into a high end tube-powered preamp *and with a pair of high-grade microphones right above it – all at a sampling rate of 96 kilohertz and 24-bit, bit depth. This painstaking recording process has resulted in a VI (virtual instrument) that easily reproduces both the feeling and also the sound that we’re looking for; tube ampage with the direct mechanical sound intact.
The tone is rich, well-balanced and precipitates with absolute opulence in the sympathetic response and resonance departments. If you’re looking to own a ‘Logical’ choice for authentic, characterful Wurlitzer realism in-the-box, it can be had for the reasonable price of 79€ / $87 (USD).
Ahh, the warm, harmonically complex tones of a classic Wurly in excellent repair; is there anything sweeter sounding to a collector’s ears? Well, not really, except maybe for a Rhodes of the same vintage. The trouble is, maintaining a Wurlitzer can be a rather daunting task that often requires the skill of an experienced technician. Why, even tuning a Wurly very often requires a soldering iron. EEP!
Fortunately for those of us whom have become well-acquainted and furnished with digital emulations, we need not shop around for a 40 year old instrument, pay big collector’s fees to buy it, and then have a climate-controlled space to keep it safe. We simply pop online, pay a small fee to a hard working developer, and conveniently download a VSTi or sample library to our hard drive. Subsequently, we have at our beck and call, the means to compare and scrutinize the assiduous results of the developers. Quite frankly, we’re rather spoiled. *Grin.
AcousticSampleS Mark79 Review
Fortunately for us, company founder & owner, Arnaud Sicard, and his team at AcousticSampleS, sonically capture some of the best-sounding instruments available in the world. Mark79 is such an example of Parisian craftsmanship, par excellence.
This engaging instrument is experienced within the proprietary “UVI Workstation” sample player format, freely downloadable from UVI.net. Definitely a qualifying contender for audio quality supremacy, the UVI format provides convenience, ease-of-use, and exemplary built-in effects (including a streamlined version of UVI’s fabulous algorithmic reverb, Sparkverb). As with other sample players, such as Kontakt, a user can configure disk streaming, RAM consumption, ADSR, and most nearly any other pertinent option thinkable. Personally, I really like the UVI platform and I find it very comfortable to use.
Mark79 may certainly be categorized as a classic, vintage instrument. Here, we are presented a superb sample library of a classic 73 key ‘suitcase’ Fender Rhodes® Mark II, circa 1979. The samples were recorded dry via studio-grade DI into a high end tube-powered preamp. From the moment you play your first chord or riff, your ears are greeted with authentic Rhodes character a-plenty. The tone is rich, full and very well-balanced. All of this sumptuous tines n’ tone can be had for the reasonable price of 79€ / $87 (USD)
If you read my earlier review of SonicCouture’s remarkable “EP73 Deconstructed”, you’ll know that I hold it in very high esteem. That said, standing proudly beside it is this equally impressive rendering of Rhodes sound. In all fairness, the two sample libraries can’t be directly compared; they are demonstrations of differing keyboard models. What can be compared, however, is the respective sound quality of each one, which is very good indeed. Where the “EP73” is a unique library capable of a divergent degree of sound creativity, AcousticSampleS’ “Mark79” is a more straight forward repository. This one is dedicated to accurately representing a Mark II Fender Rhodes® electric piano in as pure a fashion as possible.
As regards space requirements, there are close to three and a half gigabytes of uncompressed samples packed into this library - these generously feature TEN layers of sustained note *and* TEN layers of release samples. Thankfully, the samples have been compressed in lossless FLAC format and only require 1.46 GB of hard drive real-estate. By today’s large, multi-gig standards, this is a very manageable library size. The samples load quickly and are ready-to-go within just a few seconds, from a cold state.
SonicCouture EP73 Deconstructed Review
Uncontested . . . strong word; don’t you think? One would have to make sure that the claim could be substantiated or one would be considered brazen, or ill-informed, or rash, or gullible, or just plain stupid. I honestly hope that you don’t think that dear ol’ Brother Charles fits into any of those categories. *Smile.
SonicCouture have not simply raised the bar; they may even have ‘become’ the bar, as regards Rhodes MKI sample libraries. Man, this library rockZ. I mean it . . . this library abso-freakin-lutely RockZ! The depth and detail of SonicCouture’s sampling process is immense.
The level of realism is tremendous. The release noises, the pedal noises, the triple-layered Round Robin sampling, the attention to sonic detail, the inclusion of close and contact mic’d acoustic/mechanical sounds all contribute to making this perhaps THE MOST unique and authentic-sounding virtual Rhodes to date.
SonicCouture occasionally offer sales, but the Listed Retail Price of $129 is very fair in ratio to the sound quality. I have to be careful that I don’t brag this sample library up too much; we don’t want them raising the price . . . *Grin.
ToonTrack EZkeys Essential Pianos Review
I was more than a little ‘jazzed’ when I first heard that Sampling giants, ToonTrack, were adding pianos/keyboards to their industry-leading product line-up. I had already been a more-than-satisfied ToonTrack customer for a couple of years. I rely on various “EZdrummer” modules as my drum sample/construction software of choice. As soon as I’d heard the early release news about the original, ground-breaking “EZkeys Grand” Piano sample library/sequencer, I anticipated that song writers and home producers would be elated with the news. I don’t mean to come across as pretentious, but my assumption was absolutely correct.
The initial release of “EZkeys Grand” created no small ripple in the sampling pool. Not only did “EZkeys Grand” hold up extremely well against its large, multi-gig competitors sound-wise, but it gave something to non-keyboardists that no other competing piano sample library could – built-in midi phrases and song construction tools. ToonTrack serves up first-rate piano sounds, assorted musical styles, transposition, drag n’ drop song construction and an attractive, photo-realistic GUI. The EZkeys line-up will empower novice song-writers and non-keyboardists with professional-grade piano compositional parts, while providing professionals a means of creatively fast-tracking song ideas; quickly and easily.
This review will be an exhaustive inspection of the cross-platform “EZkeys Essential Pianos” collection. This wonderful suite of pianos is comprised of: EZkeys Grand, an impeccably sampled Steinway “Model D”; EZkeys Classic Keyboards, a totally vibe’n set of Wurlitzer “A200” and Rhodes “Mark I” electric pianos; and EZkeys Upright, a harmonically-pleasant, old-time, upright piano. Any one of these packages retails for €139/$179 by itself, with any additional EZkeys library available for only €69/$89. As a bundle, the EZkeys Essential Pianos suite rings in at €249/$325. Just for grins n’ giggles we’ll also get introduced to a truckload of EZkeys midi libraries in the styles of: R&B, Gospel, Jazz, Country, Blues, and Pop.
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