One of the dream pieces of kit I want for my future studio is to have a Rhodes electric piano sitting in there. Sadly, they’re pretty damn expensive and that dream may be a long way off. Fortunately, in the meantime, there are a number of Rhodes piano sample libraries out there: including SonicCouture’s EP73 Deconstructed.
EP73 Deconstructed takes a classic 73-key Stage piano and takes it a great deal further than just being an authentic recreation of the original. There are wealth of different sampling techniques under the hood of this library, as SonicCouture took apart the 73 and delved inside.
The library is ‘Powered by Kontakt‘ , so it will work in Kontakt Player as well as the full version. This means you can add it to the library panel of the GUI, which is nice and convenient and simple enough to install if you are used to using Kontakt. The library weighs in at 15GB uncompressed (8GB download), so you know you’re getting a decent bang for your buck content wise. At least, if it sounds good. So, does it?
There are five main .NKI patches: bowed, keyboard, mallets, plucked and SFX. This immediately gives you an idea of what SonicCouture have experimented with. The traditional ‘keyboard’ patch is a Rhodes ‘as played’. But, even then, there are still some interesting recording techniques baked in.
EP73 Deconstructed Interface
The main GUI of the EP73 Deconstructed offers a lot of options, depending whether you want to go for a clean and simple playback sound, you want to get dirty with the different recording techniques and options, or you simply want to sculpt the sound to your wishes. The main ‘instrument’ tab features some basic and expected control via filter and amp envelope controls. There is also a really lovely an lush tremolo control, which is hugely enjoyable to play with. Add to this a ‘key off’ control, which basically allows you to control the velocity/loudness of the key releases noise. It can get quite wild and noisy, should you be in a very experimental mood.
And there are still more options. At the top of the GUI are controls for how the Rhodes was recorded. There’s a microphone option that picks up all the live playing noises, the main line out recording of the samples that captures all the richness of the Piano, plus the intriguing contact mic option which adds some extra bitey attack from the very guts of the machine. That’s still not everything. There’s also a little ‘edit’ button which allows you to adjust the speed of the tremolo and also adjust the filter and saturation of the mic/recording options.
On the ‘options’ tab (yes, there are MORE options!) there is a nice velocity control function and also a ‘RAM management’ area which allows you to choose how many round robin layers (up to 3) you want to select for each mic/recording option. Here too we have controls over the tone and amount of pedal noise and also a ‘noise’ dial for dialing in the amount recording buzz/hiss/feedback you want in the sound.
Want more options? There’s an effects tab. Here we have reverb, delay, chorus, phaser, auto-wah and auto-pan. All are controllable and also tempo-syncable. Still want more? How about a compressor, several cabinet options, an EQ and tape drive? Yes, they’re all here. There really is a ridiculous amount of controllable and tone shaping available here. If they’ve forgotten something, I do not know what it is. And remember, this is all still within the basic ‘keyboard’ option.
Let’s take a quick look at the other playing options. The bowed version features the internal tines of the Rhodes, as you can probably imagine, bowed. It’s a wonderfully ethereal sound and there are extra options here to control the loudness of the tine sound and also the bow sound. The mallet .NKI features the piano as played, apparently, by a small jeweller’s hammer. In this case, as well as the tine being struck, they have also hammered the tonebar and the assembly bracket, giving you a range of tonal frequencies, all of which can be controlled separately. The plucked version was created using a guitar pick on the tines and also features a rather entertaining ‘strummer’ script which allows you to play the plucked tines like a harp glissando – which really sounds wonderful. Finally, the SFX patch conatins a whole range of noises, glissandi and oddities created using all the different playing techniques. Playing several of them in rapid succession can give you the impression of having just wanted into a school music lesson, which has lost its teacher!
Those are the main .NKI patches. There are also a great number of playable and sound design presets that the guys at SonicCouture have out at your finger tips. These range from classic Rhodes emulations to truly experimental weirdness. If you’ve been commissioned to create some funky 70s style library music stuff, you are going to be in Alan Hawkshaw/Keith Mansfield heaven with some of them!
How Does the EP73 Sound?
We have come this far and not spoken of the sound (that alone is a testament to the depth of this library!). Put quite simply, it is ridiculously good. Every dynamic of the classic Rhodes sound is captured here. From the light, angelic crispness to the honking, barking badassdom. The velocity sensitivity is a dream for realism and the wealth of accurately adjustable controls is astonishing. I dare say there are as many variable Rhodes sounds available in this library as there are possible games of chess. Every time you load it up, you will lose hours just tinkering and playing and lost in a reverie world weary, cop shows and jive-talking street kings. This really is the next best thing to owning a real Rhodes… without question.
It isn’t just beautifully, almost slavishly (hell, you can drop that ‘s’ too and say lavishly), recorded. It is a work of art. Much as the original keyboard is. The controls are forensically extensive and the range and useability of the 120 presets on offer is amazing.
That all this comes for £99 is an absolute steal. And even if you’re thinking “But I don’t want or need a Rhodes sample library”, you’re wrong. Plain wrong. EP73 Deconstructed should be in everybody’s studio. And there we have it, I’ve descended into fanboy-dom, which I hardly ever do. Buy this and thank me later.