I have an IBM thinkpad A31, 1.8 Ghz, 512 MB that I hope to upgrade to 2.6 Ghz, 2GB. But for now, I need advice about sampler software and piano libraries. This machine is for my non-technical wife. I set it up. She plays it. She doesn't want to hear any non-piano noises, and she would like it to be as realistic and beautifully toned as possible.
1. As the machine now stands, what sampler-library combination will likely give her the least grief?
2. As upgraded, which sampler-library combination is likely to be most rewarding?
Although I am a newbie here, I have read a good number of posts on this forum, and I do realize that there are a number of subjective preferences at work, starting with the partcular piano being sampled. What I need to find for her to begin with is a sampler/library combination that will be better than the sounds built into her Roland PT 2000 digital piano. We chose this instrument some years ago for its excellent feel, but we do want to upgrade its sound. I have a good external amplifier and fine speakers to dedicate to the piano.
is the current system a core2duo 1.8ghz I presume? If so, it's quite good for sample playback I think. Only problem is going to be with the hard disk. You will probably have to get an external HD that is 7200rpm to get steady output.
If not, you can try truepiano ($180), which is not sample heavy, and I think not quite as cpu intensive like pianoteq. Pianoteq will be a good choice if it isn't too much for the CPU. You can try their demo.
With a 2.5ghz core2duo, +4gb ram, you'd able to play most anything.
I think the biggest limitation of your current system is ram. Try to upgrade it, those things are cheap like cookie these days.
If you're on a budget, I recommend packages that have the sample player built into it. like ArtVista Virtual Grand (very soft and mellow) at $200 or Garritan's Virtual Steinway (VERY good) is $99 for basic, and $199 for standard.. Sampletekk pianos a great, and cheap, but you need kontakt, which will be like $400 + sampletekk black grand is at cheapest $99. (you can buy different mic positions separately, you most likely only need one. Ambient or Close depending on taste) Sampletekk TBO (the big one) is the one I currently use, with so many layers that it's just a joy to play, but again, you need kontakt for that. All in all, I would recommend Garritan's Virtual Steinway, I think it's a great product.
Either way, I think any one of these sample libraries will kill any hardware so bad, that your wife will never be able to play a hardware digital piano's internal sounds again.
Also, have you thought about getting a cheap audio / MIDI IO for your notebook? Or are you already set on that? You could get a cheap one from m-audio. Just google and you should find a cheap usb one. Either way, though, it may not come out as cheap as you may expect it to be.. even with the current system, ram + ext HD + library would be like $100 + $200 + $200. So, that's the overall market I guess.
i used to have truepianos on a t42 pentium m 1.73 ghz thinkpad.
it works - if your wife is not extremely virtuous and doesn't need really high polyphony - then it starts to stutter.
the diamond module seems to best the least ressource demanding one, the other started to give problems earlier.
i would also suggest the galaxy II download edition pianos. i don't know what the difference is, but playing the sampletekk/PMI bösendorfer 290 (it's the only one from sampletekk i have and can judge) uses quiet a lot of cpu and causes stuttering when heavily played, whereas the galaxy II bösendorfer (which has its own kontakt 2 player and also is approx. 2 gb in size) uses much less. i think it has something to do with the (resonance etc.) scripting which is used for the PMI/sampletekk pianos.
(i don't want you to talk out of the PMI stuff; i like the sound very much and do not want to say bad things, it's just my observations!)
EWQL, or East West Quantum Leap, made a Steinway B many years ago. They updated that sample set and included it with EWQL Silver orchestra software. I've used it on my Dell Celeron 2.53Ghz laptop with 768mb RAM and a 5400rpm hard drive and it works great, sounds quite good too.
It's a roundabout way of getting a good piano sample set, but it's not processor intensive, and, as far as I'm concerned, the orchestral stuff is a bonus. It's a bit over $200, but you might find it on sale.
Just for gits and shrins I put ASIO4ALL along with Forte' VST host, Truepianos and B4 on an Evo N410c 1.2ghz laptop running with 512 megs of RAM and a 7200 rpm drive, just to do a "ball park" check to see if it had potential for jam sessions. This was quick-n-dirty so I used USB-powered Roland SC-8820 as a USB midi interface. Audio is set to 44.1khz with single 128 sample buffer giving a stated latency of 2.9 ms. DAW optimalization is minimal: classic interface with "optimize for performance", "optimize disk when idle" (FAT32) off, restore off, remote assistance & desktop off, fixed size page file, priority set to background tasks. Forte's CPU utilization display is turned off.
The system actually works down to a 64 sample buffer but it appears that the usual problems with using the C: drive for samples occur i.e. some Windows process starts playing with the disk and the audio turns to poopoo. Turning Forte's audio engine "off" and "on" restores it. Using an external USB/Firewire drive should fix it if you need lower latencies but I haven't confirmed it.
I just started up that system again and it works really well. Latency is more than I like for piano (might be partly the USB interface) but acceptable and there are no glitches or dropouts, even when I'm standing on the sustain pedal. That's pretty amazing when you consider the age, the current under $200 Ebay price of the laptop and the fact that I'm using motherboard audio. Note that the software was installed right after a clean install of XP. If I was going to use it for an instrument I would assume that it would be dedicated and remain pretty barren. Note too, that I have not tried to use it as an ensemble but it had no problem with both B4 and Truepiano VST's playing at the same time.