Pianoteq 4 'Stage'.
Modartt has, at last, made me a convert! The last time I tried Pianoteq it was the late editions of Rev 1 to early Rev 2 offerings. After spending some time even with those early demo versions, it was obvious that they were on the right track, because, most of the elements that give an acoustic piano its overall character were there. But, the actual tone was lacking (a bit thin) and sterile sounding, especially noticeable when playing single notes. But, in my opinion, this new Rev 4 has made Pianoteq a serious and viable contender adding a richer resonance to its tone. If you owned an acoustic grand piano and could place it in the hands of the skilled technician who performs the final stage piano regulation at Steinway and Sons, or any of the great hand produced piano manufacturers, you would end up with an instrument that has an absolute uniformity of feel, a truly responsive action and an evenness of tone and overall response from one end of the keyboard to the other. It would have a warm, rich sound with true sympathetic resonance. Simply put, it would be an expressive joy to play.
By removing samples from the equation, Modartt has eliminated the inherent problems and, most importantly, the apparent inconsistencies across the entire range of the keyboard. So from tonal and responsiveness perspectives they have virtually created a perfectly regulated piano, sans warts. It has the potential for an enormous dynamic range which can be fine tuned by the end user. Samples are always the problem and limiting factor of a natural sounding acoustic piano recreation. To do the job correctly, using samples, it could take up the entire space on a hard drive, be far too CPU intensive and face it, just too impractical to be truly useful, certainly if you were to consider it for a live performance situation. And you could still end up with a few of those warts, in the mix.
I never even consider those enormous giga piano libraries. My favorite truly usable pianos, to this point, have mainly used a marriage of sampling, morphing and modeling techniques. By combining these elements the user ends up with a fairly expressive, decent sounding piano that doesn't eat up half of your hard drive and consume most of your CPUs processing power. But, even the best of those types of pianos end up with some slight inconsistencies. Being a totally modeled instrument, Pianoteq has eliminated those often annoying anomalies in the sound, touch and responsiveness. The sound and playability of an acoustic piano, more than almost any other digitally recreated instrument, is such a subjective thing. If the software has all the key elements required to reproduce the instrument's full and varied spectrum and enough flexibility in its controls to shape the sound to your liking, you should end up with a truly satisfying acoustic piano playing experience. I have been auditioning Pianoteq 4 'Stage' for the past several hours, comparing it side by side with all the other pianos in my arsenal. This newest piano from Modartt has convinced me that my initial impressions of Pianoteq's potential can now be realized. If you're not a hardcore tweaker, download the Pianoteq 4 'Stage' demo, not the 'Standard' or 'Pro' version. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the various parameters and really listen to how they affect the sound. As someone else in this forum pointed out, the equalizer in Pianoteq is not a typical tone control type. It is a truly powerful sound shaper. Spend a little time with this tool and you will be amazed with the results. There aren't an overwhelming number of parameters to adjust in the 'Stage' version, just enough to allow you to tune in the perfect piano or pianos to your liking. Pianoteq is a product of vision that has shown definite improvement in its revisions. And, I believe it will only get better.
Day Two testing Pianoteq 4 'Stage'.
The more time I spend with this instrument the more floored I am with its overwhelming sound potential. I have owned and used synthesizers for decades. In fact, I owned one of the first ARP Odysseys when they were new to the market. That's how far back I go with them. My current synth of choice is the new Kurzweil PC3. So, that should give you an indication of how seriously I take my commitment to quality sound. The greatest compliments I received from other musicians were when they would tell me how much they loved the quality of sounds I added to the band. Because, back in the days before sophisticated sampling and modelling, most synths had less than a half dozen very basic, raw waveforms from which to create all your sounds. It took me many hours of listening to how all the different orchestral instruments played, all the nuances that were different from instrument to instrument. Then spending countless hours programming various synths to emulate those sounds as closely as possible. I am certainly not suggesting that I am 'THE GOD OF HELL FIRE' when it comes to sound. But, I know that I have a good sense for it. The funny thing is that I have not had the desire to go back to any of my favorite pianos since I started playing around with Pianoteq Stage. I admit I am currently smitten with this new toy. But, it truly has the complete package of all the elements that interact with each other inside a real acoustic piano. One of the finest examples of modelling is Genuine Soundware's VB3(the virtual Hammond B3 and Leslie speaker combo). Even though Youtube does not provide the greatest quality audio, go there and listen to as many examples of Pianoteq and VB3 and Roland's V-Piano as you can. None of these impressive sounding instruments use any samples at all. Their sound is created in real time, just like a real acoustic instrument. You will see that modelling technology may very well be the future for all acoustic instrument emulations. This is pretty exciting stuff.
After back to back comparisions to my favorite pianos, Pianoteq excels in all aspects. It has captured and delivered all the elements of the acoustic grand piano experience. The file size of this piano is approximately 20MB. So it loads instantly. You can adjust the aspects of it to create the piano or pianos of your dreams. This is something you really cannot do with samples. Since I play only in a band situation, I need a more up front, in your face, piano experience. My piano has to be able to cut through the mix. So having the ability to place virtual mikes at various distances from the piano for ambient affects, as Pianoteq Standard and Pro has, is really of no benefit to me. All of the piano models are exactly the same, no matter which version of Pianoteq you purchase. Pianoteq 'Stage' is a must have for me. I don't see the need to use disk hogging, CPU demanding, limiting, sample based pianos ever again.