FANTASTiC | 03 MARCH 2016 | KONTAKT VST: 917 MB | AU: 914 MB
Austrian Grand piano was sampled from a 100 year old Bruder Mikula Wien Austrian grand through a pair of AEA R84 ribbon microphones into an AEA TRP ribbon microphone preamp. Prior to recording, the piano’s hammer felts were sanded down to warm them up a bit. The piano was sampled in stereo under the lid, because that’s where the tone sounded best, at a sample rate of 44.1 kHz. It took many weeks to sample the piano entirely, as it was in such a state that most of the tuning pegs could no longer hold a pitch for any length of time. The piano was sampled labriously, with the softest to loudest dynamics being played, resulting in a library that can boast 10 velocity layers and 2 note round-robin.
Sampling originally began by recording through an additional pair of Oktava Mk-012’s to capture room ambience, but early on it was determined that the piano’s tone was best captured by the ribbon mics, and that potentially increasing the size of the sample library by several gigs to include room ambience would not significantly improve the sound.
Do to high-gain signal-noise unique to ribbons, quite a bit of noise became present when building the sample library. Noise from the ribbons is negligible, but when stacking 30-40 notes on top of eachother (such as in a sample library) the noise compounds and becomes quite noticeable. Therefore, the extra step of de-noising the samples was taken. Noise wasn’t removed completely – to avoid making the sample library sterile – and a faint “hiss” can be heard if you listen to the library carefully. For some people, some noise is desirable, but it can further be reduced by engaging the “4kHz cut” switch, as this is where most of the microphone noise tends to propagate.
This virtual instrument can be a great addition to your collection, as it fills a nice niche between bright sterile pianos (like Yamaha’s) and smooth, mellow pianos (like Faziolis). We were happy we could save such an old piano and turn it into a unique sample instrument and VST/Audio Unit.
The Kontakt version of Adam Monroe’s Austrian Grand Piano is cross-platform, and is maintained by Native Instruments, all the programming and effects being done through them. Some simple scripting is done by us. The VST and Audio Unit versions are another beast entirely, and the programming falls entirely on AdamMonroeMusic. The goal in any sample library that is also a VSTi (virtual instrument) or Audio Unit, is to attempt to match the performance of the Kontakt Player. With this library, we feel like we have done just that. The VST and Audio Unit versions includes updated, high-performance algorithms that have been improving with each new virtual instrument released by Adam Monroe Music. For example, the buffering algorithm is double-buffered and multithreaded, which means that buffering performance is fast, even on slower computers, and even in lower latencies. Voices are held and iterated over in a pure, C-Style array. Memory use is comparable to the Kontakt version. Because of the solid VST/Audio Unit code base and, you can feel confident that the VST and Audio Unit versions should work just as well as the Kontakt version.
Why develop a VST or Audio Unit version at all? Although a great piece of software, the Full version of Kontakt (required to run 3rd party sample libraries) is expensive. Developing a VST and Audio Unit version that anyone can use does not add significant time to the development of a piano sample library – most of the time is spent sampling and processing the samples – so it’s a real no-brainer.
Audio engineering is a large part of creating a VST or Audio Unit, but the sounds of this ground piano have barely been processed. A little of the mid and high frequencies were rolled back in the piano’s lower range, and the samples were denoised, but other than that, this library is nearly a direct translation of the sound of a 100 year old Austrian Grand Piano.