Many developers have sampled grand pianos and offered them up to us in their palette. Impact Soundworks have chosen the Yamaha C7 Grand as their flagship piano instrument, and created their new Kontakt based sample library, Pearl Concert Grand. They have recorded more than 14,000 samples, and programmed it with 8 dynamic layers per note (from pp to ff) and 2 round robin variations (with the possibility of adding an extra scripted round robin from within the interface). Pearl Concert Grand is designed for Kontakt version 5.3 (or higher), and is Kontakt Player compatible. You can have it today for $119.
Below is the official description from the Impact Soundworks website:
When we first played this magnificent grand piano in its concert hall, we fell in love. We decided we simply had to capture it and craft a timeless virtual instrument – and that’s exactly what we did. The beautiful tone of Pearl, captured through each of the four microphone positions, truly ‘sings’ with each key press. The default tuning, velocity curve, and mixing settings are all set to inspire your compositions and musical creativity.
A powerful yet unencumbered user interface provides very easy control over all aspects of the sound, such as mic mixing, channel EQ, tuning, and velocity response. By simply adjusting the mic mix alone, you can achieve drastically different timbres.
We know that as soon as you load Pearl and beginning playing, you will have the same reaction we did when we played this piano for the first time.
After purchasing Pearl Piano, you will receive an email with download links for RAR archives, containing 16- and 24-bit samples. You can install one or both sets of samples (which together amount to almost 40GB of samples, split 12GB/27GB). I would have expected a more advanced installer of some sort, but it’s all good – manual downloading and extracting samples is still OK. Update: Impact Soundworks have since provided a dedicated installer app on their website, where your entire order history can be accessed and downloaded at any time. It works simply and easily, and its speeds were comparable to other download managers used by other developers, such as Spitfire Audio’s Library Manager and Continuata’s Connect. So no complaints here.
Even though the Pearl Concert Grand interface is intuitive, I prefer reading the manual first to ensure I don’t miss any features. After familiarizing myself with the manual, everything was clear for me, and I was able to set up anything I wanted. The interface consists of 3 different sections: Main page, Settings page, & Effects page.
On the Main page, you can affect the overall sound of Pearl. There is a drop-down menu with 13 ready presets, four different microphone positions, and volume and transpose knobs. Check section Sound below for more details on their functions.
On the Settings page, you can change the velocity table, either by loading a table from one of the factory settings, or by drawing cruves to create custom velocity tables. I appreciate that the developer has given us the possibility to change the velocity table and change the piano color to our needs. I find that Pearl plays perfectly at soft dynamics, and the 8 dynamic layers make the transition between soft and loud smooth. You can spice up the sound with key and pedal noises, as well as involve little tuning “problems”. If 2 round robin variations per note are not enough, you can add more random round robin variations, scripted with a variant of the tune/transpose trick (disabled by default).
There is also an Effects page that includes a rack of five effects:
- Compressor: An analog-modelled compressor (Kontakt’s Solid Bus Comp) with controls for threshold, attack, makeup gain, ratio, and dry/wet mix.
- Tape Saturation: A vintage tape saturation & warming effect with controls for input gain (saturation amount), warmth, and high frequency roll-off.
- Transient Designer: A specialized compressor that enhances or attenuates transients and sustains, with a separate control for input gain.
- EQ: A four-band parametric EQ (Kontakt’s Solid G-EQ).
- Reverb: A powerful convolution reverb send with 31 custom impulse responses (IRs) created by Impact Soundworks. These range from small rooms to halls, from dreamy and digital to realistic. Controls are offered for reverb highpass and lowpass filters, as well as size (reverb length multiplier) and wetness.
Pearl Concert Grand has four different microphone positions recorded: Close, Stage, Pedal, Hall, and you may set the volume, sample start offset, or stereo width, as well as control mic effects like EQ or compression, for each mic position individually. Impact Soundworks have created 10 different presets for instant application, which affect all parameters – this includes mic mix and purge state, volume, tuning, velocity, effects, etc. You can choose from default factory presets, with self-descriptive names, like Concert Grand, Live Concert, Lovely Mono, Reverse Piano, On Stage, Newman Close, Vintage Dark, Beach Song, In the Hall, Sparse Dreamy, Pad Nostalgia, Old Grand and Staccato Dance. You can also save or load your own presets by going to the Save Preset or Load Preset options.
One would expect that just one patch would be necessary for a grand piano library, but Impact Soundworks have created four different patches for Pearl so that you may choose the right patch to save on CPU and RAM. Not every project needs a 5 GB piano patch. The lightest patch (Pearl Grand Piano Lightest) omits round robins, sustain pedal samples and uses sampling on every other note, instead of every note. It takes only 251 MB of your RAM with one microphone position engaged, as opposed to about 4.63 GB in the full patch with all the mic positions on.
The main marketing phrase is “Pearl is true joy to play”, but trust me, it is not just marketing phrase, they are right! I was enjoying the simple act of playing it so much I almost forgot to test all of its features. There are many ways to customize its sound on your own, but I like that Impact Soundworks have crafted many presets, touch responses, mic positions for me to use. My 88 key Yamaha keyboard with GHS (Graded Hammer Standard) weighted action, together with Pearl, is the perfect combo for grand piano playing and recording.