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Topic: Not quite happy with Authorised Steinway

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  1. #1

    Not quite happy with Authorised Steinway

    I recently purchased the professional version of the Authorised Steinway virtual piano. I must admit that, so far it lies far lower than what I expected. And I expected quite a lot since everyone here seems very happy with it, Garritan site is over-thrilled with their production (I guess that's part of marketing) and official Steinway lips endorse the effort.
    So, despite that I was not at all impressed by the demos, I decided to go for the 24-bit version. Before I lay down my complaints or doubts about the product, I must say that my perspective is that of a pianist. I am not a composer, nor an audio engineer, nor a producer. Just a pianist. As such, I had reservations about sampled pianos having some dreadful experiences with digital pianos over the years. I own a real Boesendorfer and I know first hand what a high-end piano sounds like and what feeling it communicates.
    I am not a Steinway fan but these pianos have their own strong character and some of them can be quite thrilling when played.

    I have purchased some of the big names in the current virtual piano world partly for hobby, partly to get acquainted with different sounds and largely for night practice which is really hard to do with a real grand piano.
    Here are my impressions of the Authorised Steinway:

    - I am not happy with its sound. I find it to be average and comparable to other virtual pianos. In fact, one or two contenders, having sampled a Hamburg Steinway, clearly have a better sound and a better instrument.

    - Even the under lid perspective cannot fully provide a focused sound when a bunch of notes is played together. The result is somewhat blurred, not clear, not specific. And I have checked this with resonance off and pedal up.

    - The sound volume is unacceptable. It's low, very low. I do not know the reasoning behind this but whatever this might be, they should provide a volume slider. Please! The standalone application is useless because of this.

    - The velocity curves cannot be edited at least on their highest or lowest levels. Even with the best MIDI keyboard, you will need to fine tune the velocity curves and their highest and lowest settings. My SL 88 keyboard is a few months old and I regard it to be more than adequate. And yes, it produces all velocity levels from 1 to 127, I have checked this. The other sampled pianos, especially the big names, have full velocity curve controls.

    - I do not like the sympathetic resonance. I think it's not there when set low, and it's damaging when set high. I am not biased having read that it's DSP based. It's just not good.

    - I must say that a MIDI file played back with the Authorised Steinway sounds better than when it is recorded. I understand that many people will just stay there. I mean making a rough MIDI recording and step editing everything from there on. And in this manner, the piano may be good for them. But its playability is a lot way down. It's not a virtual instrument which will attract the musician. It may attract a producer or an arranger but not a pianist. Other virtual pianos, some quite old with no special rings and bells, provide extreme playability.

    - The price is too high. I am a little disappointed here. The instrument is not worth this price. No way.

    Anyway, I know that the above is not mainstream at least in this forum with nearly everyone praising the Authorised Steinway. And I know that selecting a virtual piano as any other instrument for that matter, is very subjective. But I paid for it I think I am entitled to say that no, I do not share the enthusiasm.

  2. #2

    Re: Not quite happy with Authorised Steinway

    I'm running out the door, and don't properly have time to post a reply to your thread, but I wanted to comment and say....

    I'm sure you already know this, but if you move the "DRY" slider all the way up, then adjust "WET" accordingly to your tastes, your volume output should be much better (although admittedly still lower than desirable.)

  3. #3
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    Re: Not quite happy with Authorised Steinway

    I am not happy with its sound. I find it to be average and comparable to other virtual pianos. In fact, one or two contenders, having sampled a Hamburg Steinway, clearly have a better sound and a better instrument.
    This piano was hand picked by Steinway. They picked the recording engineer and supplied the technician. Maybe this is what Steinway considers the Steinway sound.

    Jim

  4. #4

    Re: Not quite happy with Authorised Steinway

    I wonder if the Steinway is illustrating some problem in your system? Sometimes some new s/w will have a problem with something that others may seem to work fine with. Possible suspects?

    - Midi (could there be any note doubling going on?)
    - Do you have the ASIO driver for your specific card? Are you using ASIO?
    - What sound card are you using? Any possibility of sample rate/conversion issues? perhaps try a different sample rate. Do you have the latest driver for that card?

    I sounds like there's something going on that's impairing your fidelity with this product.

  5. #5

    Exclamation Re: Not quite happy with Authorised Steinway

    If you're "just a pianist" you should have simply put your money into a pair of decent microphones to record your own acoustic piano the way you like it - particularly since you claim to have not liked the sound of the demos...



    In response to the invisible wedge that you're trying to portray, I've got to call bull~~~~. I'm a composer with a degree in audio engineering - but - I've also spent many, many years playing all types of acoustic pianos, primarly being schooled on the Yamaha C7 and Steinway model B and D (including helping to restore a vintage instrument one summer), but I also had quite a bit of time playing on various Baldwin and Boesendorfer instruments since I worked for a piano dealer while in school. So get off your high horse about what an instrument "does" or "does not" sound like - claiming that you're "just a performer" doesn't gain you any clout beyond being just another guy with a different opinion.

    How about supplying a few samples of your own work, and perhaps a virtual rendering of the Authorized Steinway that illustrates its shortcomings compared to what you prefer? That would give much better context to your criticisms.
    Houston Haynes - Titan Line Music

  6. #6

    Re: Not quite happy with Authorised Steinway

    @Haydn
    This piano was hand picked by Steinway. They picked the recording engineer and supplied the technician.
    Surely, but in-between the product has undergone additional processing, sample editing, normalising(?), de-noising(?), rate conversion, layering and all the rest. Anyway, as I said, sound may be subjective. That's not my concern. I have other virtual pianos which don't sound nice to me but I have to admit that they hold character, attitude and playability.

    @elcabong
    I wonder if the Steinway is illustrating some problem in your system?
    I would say no. No ASIO, no suspicious or doubtful drivers. My computers are all Macs and my sound cards (MOTU 896HD, Apogee Mini-DAC) are Firewire CoreAudio compatible. MOTU's drivers are and always have been beyond criticism while Apogee works with the latest Apple FW driver. Both provide very low latency. Bit depth is obligatorily 24-bit for these. No sample rate conversions. Every software instrument works fine with them.
    Besides, my equipment fulfils all Garritan requirements, one by one. Audio output goes to Beyer-Dynamik phones and ATC active monitors.

    @Houston Haynes
    If you're "just a pianist" you should have simply put your money into a pair of decent microphones to record your own acoustic piano the way you like it
    I have actually. My rig consists of two Neumanns coupled with Apogee pre-amps and converters. Since you are an audio engineer you obviously know that recording a grand piano is not the easiest task. In fact it is very difficult to get a recording "the way you like it" in the limited space of a home studio. That's one reason why audio and sample experts sell products like the Authorised Steinway. They are supposed to have the expertise, resources and taste to record a high-end piano and produce a playable virtual instrument from it.
    But I already mentioned that I did not buy the Authorised Steinway to record music. My main reason was to practice and just play having a close experience of the finest piano (as advertised) since I do not own the real instrument.

    How about supplying a few samples of your own work, and perhaps a virtual rendering of the Authorised Steinway that illustrates its shortcomings compared to what you prefer?
    I could do that but it would prove very little. It would be just like all other demos. Once recorded to MIDI and after a little tweaking on velocities and pedalling you have a nice piano recording. I may prefer the Hamburg Steinway (experience with New York Steinways is extremely rare in Europe) but this, as you said, is just a different opinion. As a matter of fact, I am sure that a skilful producer can present a project, using the Authorised Steinway, in a way that even people owning the thing would be impressed or intimidated by.
    But that's not the point. If you read my initial comments carefully, you will see that my main complaint is about playability. The sound you hear when you play, the velocity curves, the low and pale volume and generally the playing experience is poor. I can't play the damn thing! And this affects the quality of playing and time spent on it.

    So get off your high horse...
    If it was advertised as a production tool, then this would be fine with me. Instead they claim, and I quote from the Garritan page, "Advanced programming also makes this a truly 'playable' and responsive library." That's what I fell for. Together with the high talk about official endorsement, hand-picked instrument by Steinway themselves and the rest of the hype and also reading flattering comments all over this forum, I was convinced.
    From my point of view I have got an average sound-wise and mediocre software-wise virtual piano which urgently needs at least an update.
    Couple this with four hundred dollars for only a single instrument and you should honestly wonder who really rides the high horse.

  7. #7

    Re: Not quite happy with Authorised Steinway

    OK - whatever. This can go round and round in an endless circle, because the people that claim that the Authorized Steinway is "too soft" and like complaints refuse to accept that their keyboard is not really sending the full range of MIDI NOTE ON values that it *should* be capable of to express the full dynamic range of the keyboard.

    I'd be a month's salary that you couldn't get your controller to express your softest playing to your hardest playing in a value range from 1 to 127 without a standard deviation of less than 5. When I calibrated my Kurzweil MIDIBoard (which had both hard and soft controls for scaling the velocity and aftertouch response) I could go from 1 to 127 with a deviation of less than 3 without even thinking about it. It translated to getting a very smooth even response from most of my virtual instruments - and showed others (particularly piano libraries/VIs) to still be quite compressed in their output.

    If you have another VSTi that feels more "playable" to you, it's because you happened upon a combination of plugin and keyboard controller where the dynamic range of the mechanism, and the NOTE ON values it produces, matches well to the way you *think* the piano should sound when played from a MIDI controller. That's all to the good. But it begs the question *why* did you buy a yet another virtual piano VSTi when you already had one you were happy with? This is *particularly* puzzling when you say that you didn't like the Authorized Steinway demos. Did you listen to the demo of "Song without Words" demo where they intercut the live playing in Troy Music Hall against a MIDI version using the VSTi? If you didn't like the sound - even when a demo had portions of an original live recording from the space intercut into the cue, you probably should have passed entirely, regardless of whether "playability" is a real or imagined factor...




    ...I smell a shill...
    Houston Haynes - Titan Line Music

  8. #8

    Re: Not quite happy with Authorised Steinway

    I've gotta say something here. I find Gary to be a very reasonable and respectful guy who is always trying to do the right thing by his customers. But the user base reflected in this thread seems far from reasonable and respectful at all. Please allow for the occasional dissenting opinion without jumping all over the guy.

  9. #9

    Re: Not quite happy with Authorised Steinway

    Wiserguy,
    I am 52 years of age and have been a recording engineer for at least thirty years. I only had three months of piano lessons at the age of seven, but even to this day, all I can do is hunt and peck. I understand your disatisfaction with the Garritan Steinway's "playability". I can't disagree with you about your opinion of it because your opinion is exactly that. What I can disagree with you about is your belief that it is not playable to a very satisfying degree of joy. When one considers it is only a virtual instrument, and is played on a midi keyboard which does NOT have the mechanical qualities of a real piano,... there will be naysayers.

    In my years of recording, I have come across quite a few pianists as you can imagine, and they all pretty much have the same complaint. They find themselves fighting the instrument and their musical abilities are sacrificed while they adapt to it.

    Even though I don't play well, I can sit down to any piano and immediately hate it or love it. The problem that I experience with pianists in general, (MOST) is that they are never happy with any piano. Garritan does not expect every pianist to love this virtual instrument, but that is their genuine desire.

    Because the real piano is an instrument that has so many mechanical things going on, it is easy to understand why someone may not like it, even if they liked some of the demos. This brings me to the point of responding to your original complaint and that it is not playable. I could not disagree with you more about this. To me... and Houston, this playability is totally dependant on your keyboard and monitoring setup. Of course the Steinway has a velocity curve to accomodate a myriad of different midi pianos.

    If I am correct, the update will have a more flexible velocity curve. Don't quote me on that. The dry fader is used to adjust output level, and can produce enough level to overdrive any DAW's levels.

    Garritan is always interested to hear from his customers, including the ones who are not happy.

    Quote Originally Posted by wiserGuy
    So, despite that I was not at all impressed by the demos, I decided to go for the 24-bit version.
    Personally, I would not have purchased this library if I did not like any of the demos. That part is still confusing to me.
    Be assured that Garritan will have updates for you, and they will be free.

    Dan

  10. #10

    Re: Not quite happy with Authorised Steinway

    @Houston Haynes
    But it begs the question *why* did you buy a yet another virtual piano VSTi when you already had one you were happy with?
    Because I like to try things. Because I like to keep an open mind as a player especially when it comes to new sounds, new instruments. In the past we did not have the opportunity to play on a variety of excellent pianos. Digital technology has made this possible even with limitations. So I would want to play and hear a 1790 forte-piano, an old Bechstein or a 1900 Pleyel. The same stands for the officialy endorsed and hand-picked New York Steinway.
    And finally, because I have collected many VSTis, I know that each new one may have a certain quality that helps to broaden one's musical horizon.

    As for being a "shill"... well I had to look this one up. No, I am not one, if I understood correctly what it means by what I read.

    @jjloving
    LOL, for real? seriously? What did you expect to find on the forum space that Gary is paying for to allow his customers to come together and discuss and help each other out?!
    I didn't know that. Honestly. I just read the forum agreement and it mentioned no such thing. I thought I had the freedom to express opinions even unpleasant ones for the forum owners.
    At least this is my limited experience from similar fora of other VSTi vendors. I would not want to refer by name to other vendors but there has never been an issue with expressing complaints, mine or others'.

    Anyway, I am not a forum guy. I only post something when I feel I have something to say.

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