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Virtual Grand Piano
Reviewed By pethu
November 28th, 2005

This is my favourite solo piano, period. It has a lush, "classical" tone that sounds much more like a true live recording than most competitors. And this is accomplished without using any "state-of-the-art" gimmicks and techniques like convolution verbs, extra release samples etc. Just careful recording, programming, and lots of samples for each key.

This piano is not a jack-of-all-trades: Although it comes with lots of presets mimicking various "recording styles" by varying EQ etc., I would say at its base level, it is very much focussed on preserving the ambience of one very good-sounding piano recorded in one very good-sounding space. There are no close-miked or dry samples here: There are "dry" programs, but they are, in fact, the same samples with the reverb tails cut short, which isn't exactly the same thing.

That said, if you have to pick one single basic piano sound, it is hard to think of a more useful one than this for most classical, jazz, and ballad pieces. When it comes to contemporary and rock piano backing, you might want to look at alternatives. (I use Vintaudio's Bright and more in-your-face Yamaha C7 for this.)

The Virtual Grand Piano comes with its own player program, which works in both stand-alone and plug-in mode. Like so many these days, it is a version of the Kontakt 1.5 engine. There are hundreds of different presets to choose from, though many are due to the fact that each program is duplicated for a number of different keyboard sensitivity settings - once you find the bank that responds best to your keyboard controller and playing style, you should probably stay within that all the time. 8 controller knobs in the interface and MIDI CC mapping of all important parameters means further tweaks are very easy. Then again, it's a piano -- I have to admit I use the basic Medium velocity, Classical, Wet program 95% of the time!

My only real complaint regarding the player is that just like other Kontakt 1.5 creations, pedal-down note stealing doesn't work properly. Not that it matters often in real-life, but I like to be able to keep the pedal pressed to the floor while playing broken chords 'til the cows come home! I've tried loading the samples into Kontakt 2 and they work, but Hans' fantastic programming gets lost in the process, so I urge everyone to stick with the player.

Being a Kontakt instrument, this also means it uses the Native Instruments challenge-response registration process for copy protection. I have no problems with this, and prefer it over most systems, but I do know some people hate it.
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