Before undertaking this review, I double-checked how many piano sample libraries I already owned. Thirteen. Of varying quality. I worked out that I probably used only six of them regularly. Which still means that there is clearly a need for a wide variety of pianos in the composer’s palette. Therefore, there is clearly still room for good new ones.
Out of the six I use, there are pianos made by Steinway, Kawai, Fazioli (my personal favourite sound), Malmsjo and Braunschweig. No Yamahas. Which brings us neatly to Antisample’s Cinematic Grand, which is a Yamaha C2. Clearly I have a gap in my piano arsenal; can the Cinematic Grand fill that gap?
The Cinematic Grand is Antisample’s first commercial sample library. Quite a brave undertaking, as we all know that sampling a piano well is a meticulous process. The price is low and the memory footprint is small. This is not a piano that has been sampled to the nth degree, with a vast array of detailed velocity. It is clearly aimed as a ‘go to’ concert piano sound that is easy on the pocket. But is it also easy on the ear?
Quickly playing Cinematic Grand I am reminded why I probably don’t have a Yamaha in my sample collection. It’s a crisper, brighter sound than I usually require from a piano. But that is merely a matter of taste and style. I cannot deny that the tone Antisample have captured is rather nice. The Yamaha is a piano that wants to be heard, it is not a subtle sound. However, whilst this piano library captures that strident upfront nature, it also provides a bit more warmth and depth.
The lack of velocity samples does not provide much of an issue either. The keys are responsive, unlike some other more expensive libraries, and this results in a reasonably good amount of dynamics. The four velocity curves on the GUI also add to this, offering you a little more punch or subtlety at the touch of a button.
This is one of the features of this library, it’s GUI. It is simple, elegant and offers just the right amount of options to create the Yamaha piano you want. The ten band equaliser is particularly useful. In extreme settings I was able to create a classic Korg M1 house piano sound. With a bit more care, I created a nice, dark sound that fits my line of work better. This sound sculpting capability alone makes it a hugely useable library.
There are also settings for altering the volume of the release samples and you can hook up your sustain pedal (CC64) to control sustain. Unfortunately, it’s not controllable any other way, which is a little bit of an annoyance if your workflow is different. You have two mic positions to play with as well. You can choose either the player (behind the piano) or audience (in front of the piano) perspective. These mic positions are simulated, rather than actual sampled recordings. The result is subtle, but noticeable enough to be useful.
Effects come in the guise of reverb and delay. The delay is fairly simple and seems to have a slightly strong effect on dampening the attack of the piano sound, which might not suit all tastes. The reverb has three modes: Studio, Room and Hall. All three are pretty decent and smooth; Antisamples have chosen wisely with their convolution impulses. Not always the case in budget Kontakt libraries.
At the beginning of this review, I asked if the Cinematic Grand could find it’s way into my collection. Well, yes it could. For that bright, confident, almost pop, grand piano sound, this is a great addition. And the features at this price are the icing on the cake. I probably still won’t use it as much as others since the Yamaha is not my favourite sound, but this is a solid, useable and flexible piano library at a very affordable price point.
For those who wish for a more detailed piano that can stand to be very exposed in a track, more expensive and more meticulously sampled libraries may be the best option, but Cinematic Grand is a better quality piano library than many of its competitors in a similar price bracket and a useful addition to most studios. For a first sample library it is quite excellent and we can expect to hear much more from Antisamples in the future, I hope.