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Topic: Akoustik Piano (very short review)

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  1. #1

    Akoustik Piano (very short review)

    Just got Akoustik Piano from NI. Installed 24-bit version. So far I tried mostly Steinway D and these are the first impressions:

    • 10 velocity layers are really 5+5. I'm guessing 5 for pedal down and 5 for pedal up
    • very good quality piano was sampled (not just because they said so, but because it really sounds as it was in good shape)
    • EQ that is provided works good
    • it has a nice way to adjust resonances (both sustain and release)
    • good sounding convolution reverb with 4 different spaces
    • microphone position can be adjusted but it's just simulated, not real samples
    • dynamic range for the attack portion of samples was not what I expected based on the marketing information (only about 15-17dB range between loudest and softest samples for pedal up and about 8-9dB for pedal down)
    • only white keys were sampled
    • there is a good review in Keyboard magazine December 2005 issue (they didn't figure out that it has only 5 layers and that dynamic range is not that great as a consequence...)

    In summary, this is very good piano that has only one problem. The dynamic range is too narrow. The pp or ppp velocities sound as mf with turned down volume (if pedal down) or p with turned down volume (if pedal up). The timbre of the soft notes is not satisfactory. So, if you play pp or ppp and switch pedal up and down as you go, it would sound bad.

    However, it was very well tuned and with very solid mechanics.

    If you use this piano within a recording that has more instruments, most of these little problems would be masked anyways.

    If you use it as a solo piano, you should play only at or above mp or mf. The p and below will not be that good. So, it will not work that good for soft played Jazz trio or similar combos.

    This library is worth having.

    But, I'm still looking for one that would have all that this one has plus better dynamic range that is real, not simulated by turning volume up or down.

    This piano is so far the closest to the real thing. It's a shame they did not do a bit more balanced sampling and did not provide more real velocity layers rather than only 5 loudest ones.

    Bogdan

    P.S. I'll create another thread regarding piano velocity layers in general to check what you guys think about some ideas that crossed my mind recently.

  2. #2

    Re: Akoustik Piano (very short review)

    Try Sampletekk's new TBO (The Big One). 31 sampled velocities per note pedal up, 31 velocities per note pedal down, and 31 release velocities per note. It's awesome. It's the (sampled) expressive piano I've been waiting for for years. pp to ff, no problem.

  3. #3

    Re: Akoustik Piano (very short review)

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogdan
    10 velocity layers are really 5+5. I'm guessing 5 for pedal down and 5 for pedal up
    Not right : it's 10 velocity layers for pedal up, 1 for pedal down, and 1 for release.
    When I was working on the August Foerster in K2 sound library, I gave NI a soluce to use only 1 "pedal down" layer and however to sound real (a sampling soluce only for pedal down samples). They used this idea on the August Foerster and I assume they used the same idea in AKP.

  4. #4

    Re: Akoustik Piano (very short review)

    I also recall the video that introduced Akoustik, and the dude talked about some kind of processing to give many layers, some real and some virtual, I would assume.

    How does it play?

    Does it "feel" and respond like only 5-layers?

    BTW, thanks for the review.

    Lawrence
    Melodialworks Music
    Music for Relaxation and Inspiration
    www.lawrencelougheed.com


  5. #5

    Re: Akoustik Piano (very short review)

    Sure it do not sound like a 5 layers... because it has 10 (see my previous post).

    NI used K2 script to smooth transitions between layers, so it appears as if it has more than the 10 recorded. This script is a very good idea and is well programmed. It uses features from K2.0.8.002. from which Akoustik Player is issued.

  6. #6

    Re: Akoustik Piano (very short review)

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogdan
    This library is worth having.
    Thanks for posting this review! It's helpful. The jury is still out on this one for me. After Bruce's comments on the TBO that will likely be the next purchase, then I'll think closely about this one.

  7. #7

    Re: Akoustik Piano (very short review)

    Quote Originally Posted by xav93
    Sure it do not sound like a 5 layers... because it has 10 (see my previous post).

    NI used K2 script to smooth transitions between layers, so it appears as if it has more than the 10 recorded. This script is a very good idea and is well programmed. It uses features from K2.0.8.002. from which Akoustik Player is issued.
    Interesting. I listened to the wave files for various notes on Steinway D. They are grouped as 5+4+1. The last in a group is the loudest sample.

    Now, I did see also additional resonance samples as well as something that could have been pedal down (single sample).

    So, if you're right the problem might be that the timbre of the 10 (5+4+1) layers that are provided is not real good in terms of dynamic spread. The softest sample sounds more like p, not ppp. (timbre-wise) I tried processing samples and reducing volume to see if scaling was done on the two groups. It is possible. However, the layers are very close to each other in terms of timbre. I don't like that. Steinway doesn't sound like that at ppp. The recording process did not appear to be uniform as far as I could see. Maybe the issue was a choice of Mic or Mic placement, or the force they used for triggering the notes when sampling the sound.

    I was listening to the raw wave files for the individual notes trying to find which ones would be ppp or pp samples. Didn't find any that sounded softer than p regarding the timbre, even after processing them.

    So, when I played piano (a duet with Bass and Piano), I noticed that some low register notes do not sound right when played soft. That correlated with previous observations I made. (I tried velocity curves, etc. as one would do before starting serious testing or playing, I also monitored the actual ppp or pp assignments in their window - very nice feature!)

    If they have 10 layers for pedal up it was done in such a way that you hear really only 4-6 or so since they are spaced very close in terms of timbre. When playing pedal up/down it doesn't sound good. (as far as I'm concerned)

    Maybe the reason for a weird feel when playing this piano is that they really used only one layer for pedal down and they did crossfading into scaled pedal down immediately following the attack portion of the pedal up sample. Well, it didn't work well for my music. Most likely since the pedal down phase properties over the duration of a sample will not be proper for all velocity layers. ( a little bit of a Frankenstein type sound design, I guess

    Next, the method they used for crossfading layers might be nice (in theory) and it does make it hard to hear where the switching occurs (if you just consider loudness). However, it makes the piano sound a bit artificial since the timbre change does not follow the loudness change. That is, they failed short from getting proper timbre changes as they go between the layers. (especially when you use pedal down) You can't get proper timbre change between layers by simply using linear combination of two layers (doesn't matter what curve you use, the operation is linear which is not what happens in a real piano)

    They may have provided more layers above f toward the ff and fff (that 4+1 group could be that), with possibly 5 layers between f and p.

    It is possible that since they use a single pedal down sample (with attack portion cut off?) they could not really use any softer pedal up samples than 'p'. The attack portion of softer pedal up samples may not "connect" as good to the single available pedal down sound that would follow?

    We should keep in mind that if you play a pedal down note a few times in a row with different velocity, you do not want to hear the same timbre resonating out each time you play the note... This is possibly a single thing that kills the otherwise great performance of this piano!

    Having said all this, I still think the piano is good. Don't get me wrong. It is well tuned (only one or two notes in the low and one or two in the high register may stick out a tiny bit). Mechanics was in a great shape as far as I could hear.

    So, the piano is valuable and I will be able to use it. But, I may have to do a lot of EQ and tweaking to get it to sound right and smooth in solo pieces or small jazz combo sets.

    Thanks for pointing it out that only one pedal down sample might be used here.

    Some people may found this piano to be a cheat. When I see 10 layers advertised, I would like to get 10 for pedal up, 10 for pedal down as a minimum! It is as simple as that. I know from the experience that trying to do "traditional" processing (including advanced DSP) will not help you get a single pedal down layer to sound like 10 (unless you do some serious physical modeling of the piano acoustics )

    Regards,
    Bogdan

  8. #8

    Re: Akoustik Piano (very short review)

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogdan
    Interesting. I listened to the wave files for various notes on Steinway D. They are grouped as 5+4+1. The last in a group is the loudest sample.

    Now, I did see also additional resonance samples as well as something that could have been pedal down (single sample).

    So, if you're right the problem might be that the timbre of the 10 (5+4+1) layers that are provided is not real good in terms of dynamic spread. The softest sample sounds more like p, not ppp. (timbre-wise) I tried processing samples and reducing volume to see if scaling was done on the two groups. It is possible. However, the layers are very close to each other in terms of timbre. I don't like that. Steinway doesn't sound like that at ppp. The recording process did not appear to be uniform as far as I could see. Maybe the issue was a choice of Mic or Mic placement, or the force they used for triggering the notes when sampling the sound.

    I was listening to the raw wave files for the individual notes trying to find which ones would be ppp or pp samples. Didn't find any that sounded softer than p regarding the timbre, even after processing them.

    So, when I played piano (a duet with Bass and Piano), I noticed that some low register notes do not sound right when played soft. That correlated with previous observations I made. (I tried velocity curves, etc. as one would do before starting serious testing or playing, I also monitored the actual ppp or pp assignments in their window - very nice feature!)

    If they have 10 layers for pedal up it was done in such a way that you hear really only 4-6 or so since they are spaced very close in terms of timbre. When playing pedal up/down it doesn't sound good. (as far as I'm concerned)

    Maybe the reason for a weird feel when playing this piano is that they really used only one layer for pedal down and they did crossfading into scaled pedal down immediately following the attack portion of the pedal up sample. Well, it didn't work well for my music. Most likely since the pedal down phase properties over the duration of a sample will not be proper for all velocity layers. ( a little bit of a Frankenstein type sound design, I guess

    Next, the method they used for crossfading layers might be nice (in theory) and it does make it hard to hear where the switching occurs (if you just consider loudness). However, it makes the piano sound a bit artificial since the timbre change does not follow the loudness change. That is, they failed short from getting proper timbre changes as they go between the layers. (especially when you use pedal down) You can't get proper timbre change between layers by simply using linear combination of two layers (doesn't matter what curve you use, the operation is linear which is not what happens in a real piano)

    They may have provided more layers above f toward the ff and fff (that 4+1 group could be that), with possibly 5 layers between f and p.

    It is possible that since they use a single pedal down sample (with attack portion cut off?) they could not really use any softer pedal up samples than 'p'. The attack portion of softer pedal up samples may not "connect" as good to the single available pedal down sound that would follow?

    We should keep in mind that if you play a pedal down note a few times in a row with different velocity, you do not want to hear the same timbre resonating out each time you play the note... This is possibly a single thing that kills the otherwise great performance of this piano!

    Having said all this, I still think the piano is good. Don't get me wrong. It is well tuned (only one or two notes in the low and one or two in the high register may stick out a tiny bit). Mechanics was in a great shape as far as I could hear.

    So, the piano is valuable and I will be able to use it. But, I may have to do a lot of EQ and tweaking to get it to sound right and smooth in solo pieces or small jazz combo sets.

    Thanks for pointing it out that only one pedal down sample might be used here.

    Some people may found this piano to be a cheat. When I see 10 layers advertised, I would like to get 10 for pedal up, 10 for pedal down as a minimum! It is as simple as that. I know from the experience that trying to do "traditional" processing (including advanced DSP) will not help you get a single pedal down layer to sound like 10 (unless you do some serious physical modeling of the piano acoustics )

    Regards,
    Bogdan
    To be honest, I favour the Bechstein over the Steinway!
    Tony

  9. #9

    Re: Akoustik Piano (very short review)

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogdan
    If you use it as a solo piano, you should play only at or above mp or mf. The p and below will not be that good. So, it will not work that good for soft played Jazz trio or similar combos.

    I'm not agree with that


    This is a personal record with the AP Steinway D: Over The Rainbow
    Sorry if my english is not very clear, I'm french !

  10. #10

    Re: Akoustik Piano (very short review)

    All you quote here is for a "traditionnal" mapping and programmation.

    When I talk about the only pedal down layer, you think that it has been traditionnaly recorded and traditionnaly programmed. That's far not the case. I don't think you know how it has been recorded (and how it's simple to do it), but it makes difference with all classic sampling. I can give you a clue : maybe in analysing only the pedal down samples with a spectral analyser you will understand... But I don't want to tell all making's secret...
    The timbre when you play pedal down is far to be the same as you believe. Because I said there is only one pedal down layer, you imagine false things. It seems your ears betray you.
    You speak about crossfading : who talked about crossfade? You only suppose and that's not the case.

    But I agree with you about the fact there are not enough layers in ppp.

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