I got to thinking, why is it so hard to decide on a piano sample?
It's hard because:
Our ears and brains and tastes get used to the kind of piano sound we grew up with; that we're currently using; or that our particular system, including software, hardware, especially headphones and/or speakers--as opposed to some other system-- produces.
In short, our ears and brains accommodate to specific piano sounds. We get used to those sounds. We get to like them, even if they're not actually that good. IE: "The old upright piano that I played on for 30 years sounded so good to me until I heard that Hamburg Steinway the other day."
But besides that, it seems to me that there are fundamentally two different kinds of piano samples out there:
1. the sample that gives you, for better or worse, the raw, unadulterated sound at different volume levels (the more the better); and
2. the sample that juices up the raw data, in various ways, mainly to make the sample as playable as the real thing.
So I've been "playing" with some of the oldies, like Black Grand and PMI Bos, and realizing that they still sound very accurate. The catch is, they don't play that well. In other words: these pianos are examples of sample type 1: great for making recordings; lousy for playing.
Significantly, hearing the demos made from these sorts of samples can be very misleading. They can sound fantastic.... but the sample may not be all that great for playing. Phenomenally accurate sample. Makes great recordings. Not great to play.
An example of the other type of sample--Sample "type 2"-- is the Galaxy Vintage Steinway and, perhaps even Alicia's Keys.
These samples are great to play. But they are merely good but not "great" to make a recording with: (a solo piano recording, not a recording of a piano in a mix).
So when I go looking for a great sample, I have to ask myself, is this a sample made for accuracy (raw untouched samples) or for playability (compressed or otherwise fiddled with)? Almost ALL the new samples are about playability, as far as I can tell. So the search is not easy: I want sample type 1; and they are becoming a rare commodity.
OK.... I'm I wrong in making this distinction? Playable vs. Recordable.
I admit, it's getting harder now to make it. But I still think piano samples can be divided into one of the two categories. I own the Vintage Steinway, for example, which I'm pretty sure I could make a recording with, ie., a pretty close to "real"-sounding recording of solo piano music. But "pretty close" isn't good enough if the purpose is to completely fool the ear, ie., get the issue of sampled or real out of the way.
Ironically, the much older and cruder pmi bos, or Black Grand, would do a better job of making a convincing recording in the end: not as playable, but a more accurate rendering of the piano.
I wonder where the recent EWQL pianos fit? Is this mainly a souped up super-playable monster sample (assuming you got state of the art equipment, because nothing else will run the thing, apparently). Or is the focus on accuracy of sound? Are the samples totally "raw"? Or have they been fiddled with?
John, I'd suggest you check out the pianoworld forums (pianoworld.com) as they have some discussions about the piano. My guess is you might actually do ok listening to demos since you don't seem to be concerned with playability.
I'm quite certain there doesn't need to be a trade-off between accurate playability and sound, but I agree that a number of sample sets could probably be put in one category or the other - probably more often toward the sound category.