Today I am reviewing a recent addition to Spitfire’s Signature range, the HZP, or Hans Zimmer Piano. As with existing HZ modules, this highly detailed piano sample library was created alongside award-winning and world renowned film composer Hans Zimmer.
Pitched as a unique and all encompassing library, the HZP is a whopping 211GB endeavour, comprising over 88,000 individual samples of a gorgeous concert grand piano, distilled from a staggering 60 rarefied microphones. As with all Air Lyndhurst made SF libraries, HZP has had the benefit of an exquisite signal chain, including the custom Air ‘Monserrat’ pre-amps, Prism AD Converters, and of course, the famous Neve 88R.
– 88352 samples
– 452.7 GB Uncompressed .wav
– 211.2 GB requirement (422.2 to install)
Individual Microphone Categories:
– Spot, Mid, Decca Tree, Outrigger
– Surround, Room, Gallery, Bottle
Combined Mic Perspectives:
– Spot, Mid, Room, Surround
Unique features of note:
– Recorded “The Spitfire Way” – with rare vintage microphones to Studer 2” tape via Neve Montserrat pre-amps at 96khz 24bit, and converted via Prism AD converters at Air Lyndhurst, London.
– Created in conjunction with world famous composer Hans Zimmer.
This IS a Kontakt library, and comes with a copy of the Kontakt Player. It will appear as a library in the library tab on the left hand side of Kontakt. It is also possible to add components of the library to the QuickLoad window for easy insertion.
Due to the size of HZP, the instruments have been grouped in 3 primary groups: Selections, Sets, and Compensated Signals.
Selections are carefully chosen combinations of the various individual rarefied microphone signals, which are used to create unique mic mixes from the same recording material. The result is 4 astoundingly different but incredibly impactful piano tones that offer even further customisation within each patch’s mixing tab.
Sets provide straightforward patches, containing solely the Mid and Spot mics respectively, allowing us to alternate between them to find the sound we want, and to mix amongst themselves if required.
The Distance Compensated Signals folder contains individual microphone perspectives that have been…you guessed it! These perspectives have had the time from the initial transient hit to the resulting reverberation in the space of Lyndhurst Hall removed, resulting in a selection of patches with incredible immediacy behind their sound, while still retaining the fullness of the hall they were recorded in. The patches are presented individually for maximum customisation across the 60 odd microphones used to make the library.
In addition to all of this, each microphone position was also used to capture a wide ranging array of natural sounding FX and percussive hits and textures. These capture a variety of aleatoric, dissonant, abstract, and unconventional sounds from the piano, providing ample food for creative thought.
Finally, each of the microphone perspectives have an alternative super soft piano version that is a delight to play, with a warm and disarmingly delicate tone. The entire library can be also be explored and used on an individual patch basis.
The patch GUI for the HZP module is surprisingly straightforward and unobtrusive. The cross-integration provided by all the patches being essentially combinations of individual mic positions means that the interface has an obligation to glue together easily.
Owners of the HZ Percussion modules will recognise the signature Pitch, Boom, and Crack controllers, which allow us to filter and pitch the piano samples easily for unique musical textures.
Those of the Spitfire persuasion will be very familiar with the rest of the GUI, which provides simple mix options between perspectives, dynamic controls, and a variety of system optimisation options, like reducing round robin, purging unused samples, and MIDI customisation, all of which is neatly nested at the bottom of the patch. Quite nice.
The only thing that might be unclear about the library at first (as was for me) was the labelling for the close and mid microphones. Remember that there are several close and mid spot microphones used on this library, so the traditional close and mid slots on the mix tab are now each denoted by A, B, C and D, which correspond to the different mics used. Once this is apparent, it all makes total sense. In the below image, for instance, we can see the first two mic options say D and D. This is because in this case, spot mic and mid mic D were used.
The library also provides combination patches, for the FX and percussion sounds, a staple of SF products, which is very intuitive and easy to use.
If there is one word I would use to describe the sound of the entire HZP library, it would be this: Depth. There is a certain ‘bottomlessness’ to the sound that HZP creates; a beautifully full tone that doesn’t overstate itself when played quietly, and doesn’t engulf when playing heavier material. I was seriously impressed by the low end clarity of the library, and the ‘air’ that can be heard underneath the higher register notes. There really is just something about this library, and the detail to which it was recorded affords you endless possibilities in terms of customising your concert grand sound. My personal favourite patch has to be the Warm and Rounded – there is an exceptional clarity and spaciousness to be heard here that really brings the music to life.
The array of effects and percussion samples is of great interest also, and the tone of certain melodic patches like the muted piano and paperclip staccato are really refreshing and a joy to play.
The last thing to note, and the sign of a great piano, is the sustain. The sustain is borderline endless on this piano, and it contributes to the very emotive sound of Lyndhurst Hall that is so clearly captured in these samples. Superb.
While this library is really an incredible piece of kit for any composer, the cost is very steep. Coming in at 299 GBP, a Eurozone citizen will need to drop about 485 Euros (VAT + exchange rate) to get their hands on this. The sampled piano market is quite saturated, and there are many many alternatives out there for a fraction of the cost, that will give you a great result, depending on what you are trying to achieve. A great alternative might be the Piano in Blue from Cinesamples. While it has far fewer microphone options than HZP, it certainly is a great sounding piano that I would regularly reach for.
That said, this is a beautiful and comprehensive piano library, and for those who are familiar with and appreciate the gorgeous room tone evident in many of Spitfire’s orchestral products, this may be something to consider.
The Hans Zimmer Piano is, for all intents and purposes, and magnificent library. The detail of the sound and the captured room is really just very unique and it’s an enticing acoustic that begets creativity. The variety of microphones brings a new dimension to an instrument that has been sampled extensively by many, many people, giving a traditionally traditional library the capacity to operate outside of its comfort zone.
I do believe that the price for this library is too high. I think that in conversion to Euros, a price point of 199 GBP would have been more appropriate. However, I recognise that this is truly a premium product for premium quality work.
A very important point to note is that if you do not have a solid state drive to store this library on, I would be wary of purchasing it. The reason for this is that it is a massive library and can take some time to load if your drive speed is not fast enough. I tested the library on a SATA drive and a solid state, and it was not playable on the SATA. The purpose of something like this is to be able to play away without restriction, so this is something to take into consideration when buying it.