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.