MANUFACTURER: IK Multimedia
PRICE: $14.99/monthly; $149.99/annual
Pianoverse is IK Multimedia’s newest plug-in. It combines the world’s finest concert-grade pianos with effects to create a virtual piano instrument set up in different environments and, potentially, with different effects.
Pianoverse lets users enjoy an acoustic piano and mess with it until you end up with creative textures. The interface is typically IK Multimedia — i.e., it’s in the best tradition of Italian design. It’s very user-friendly.
The four pianos that were included in my test package were good for some 60GBs of samples. And that’s for two mic positions only, close and coincidence. The four pianos in my test package were a Steinway Grand, a Boesendorfer, an upright Yamaha and a concert grand Yamaha. All were recorded at Fonoprint, a famous recording studio located in Bologna, Italy, founded in 1976. The facility is Dolby Atmos Music certified.
IK Multimedia opted for only two mic positions. You get to choose a space to place each piano into. There are a bunch of these, including one on Mars, and one submerged (I pity the pianist). Each has its own spatial sound characteristics that you can change with a dedicated EQ (graphic and parametric) and compressor (four types). Each space is also set to have a specific impact in terms of loudness that you can change as well.
When you adjust the space loudness to within a range of -6db to 0dB, use the close mic position and set the stereo width to 0 percent. You can clearly, though faintly, hear the mechanics of the piano as you play. The sampling is that detailed.
Although some sampled instrument plug-ins allow you to choose from a whopping 80 mic positions, I very like the two positions IK Multimedia opted for. I recall a classical music TV show a couple of years ago, where they invariably mic’d a Yamaha Grand from right above the strings, and it sounded shrill and distinctly metallic.
In the case of IK Multimedia’s positions, quite the opposite is true. In fact, if you hit a low note very briefly, but medium velocity using the close mic position, you’ll be surprised to hear a very dry sounding instrument. It’s a tad too dry to my taste, but it’s vastly better than the metallic sound you get out of many sampled pianos, including Orchestral Tools’s free concert grand offering, with its single mic position.
The sound is much more open in the second position, which is at about half a meter by the looks of it from the open side.
Use case scenarios
If you want to use Pianoverse as a piano instrument in its own right, it’s probably best to use the coincidence position, unless you want to recall a warm club sound with little reverberation from the strings sounding through. You can increase the resonance of the string and a bunch of other piano mechanics, but those changes are all subtle. However, if you’re going to use Pianoverse for creative purposes, like cinematic music, then both positions are equally good.
Many of the presets use the close position and add a good deal of special effects, with Pianoverse offering a dozen of them, including shimmer, granulation, reverb, etc. This means you can use Pianoverse for anything, from pure classical music to soundscapes and ambient music.
The spaces include several studios, theatres, monasteries, a cathedral and more. Those add coloration as well.
The mics and spaces each come with two EQs. One is a modern variant based on the API 560 graphic EQ, while the other is based on the Neve 1081 parametric EQ. Mics and spaces also each have four compressors, one based on a modern VCA compressor; a vintage one based on the Urei 1176 FET limiter; a British one, very aptly named “British,” based on the SSL G-Type bus compressor; and a Vari-Mu, based on the Fairchild 670 limiter.
I can only say IK Multimedia has nailed what a good piano sampling package should be about. There’s no metallic artifacts whatsoever in the natural settings, so if you want to play a pure Yamaha Grand without your ears popping from the shrill sounds that come with bad miking, you can.
By expanding this with spaces that range from the common to the over-the-top, and by adding to that a broad range of parameters and effects, you can create an instrument that no longer sounds like a piano, but still somehow recollects that sonic quality in your patches. And it’s not just massive reverbs or delays we’re speaking about, but even a granularity engine that borders on synthesis.
So, yes, I’m a fan, and I think you should at the very least give it a try. It’s subscription based, but that’s because on top of the eight already available/announced pianos, IK Multimedia plans to sample a whole lot more of them.
“All Access” plans include $14.99/monthly and $149.99/annual.
Author Erik Vlietinck can be reached by email at: email@example.com.