Another piano? I hear you say. Well Garritan thought there was room for another sample-based piano plug-in, especially when it's a pristine Yamaha CFX Concert Grand recorded in Studio One at Abbey Road Studios with an armoury of expensive microphones and experienced Abbey Road Engineers...
On opening the box I was pleased to find a USB key for installation, making installation as hassle-free as possible, installation/activation instructions, and a nice little booklet about the piano, studio and techniques used on the project. A quick look at the spec's to make sure I was OK - Windows 7+ / OSX MAC OSX 10.7+, 50gb drive space (note to self - must buy a another SSD drive!), and 4gb RAM (ideally 8gb).
With CFX Concert Grand you are offered three "perspectives" or microphone set-ups: Classic, Contemporary and Player. Classic is described as "capturing the natural tonal character, clarity, and nuance of the instrument, Contemporary "produces a bright and brilliant sound with definitive attack from the hammers, while Player is recorded from the players perspective sitting at the piano.
Garritan promise that every facet - the room, the engineers and the microphones "reflect the perfection only the most passionate can produce". So was I transported right into Abbey Road Studio One to play one of the best pianos in the world as I have been lead to believe?...
Initial loading of the patch was a bit slow (I said I needed another SSD drive!), but once one of the three perspectives are loaded, everything else is instantaneous with no glitching as any parameters are tweaked. There are "compact" versions that can be loaded if your computer lacks resources, and these are, of course, also quicker to load.
A few presets are provided for each mic perspective, so flicking between these I soon got a feel of what CFX was capable of. Initial thoughts of the samples was that they were bright and lively, nice and responsive, and would certianly be able to cut through on stage or in a mix.
I was comforted to see that within each each perspective you have the abilty to control the levels of the close and ambient mic's - giving the flexibilty of traditional mic techniques. Other notable options to play around with include various tunings, convolution reverb, studio EQ, graphical velocity curve, piano resonce and release adjustment, lid position and pedal noise.
Although pretty much always sounding like a "real" piano, using the various options does allow for a enough control to taylor the piano to what you want. Everything from classical to jazz, rock to pop are catered for, albeit in sometimes subtle ways, but I think that's the key point of the CFX Concert Grand - it is a good sounding grand piano, recorded using tried and tested microphone techniques, giving you the same tools that are available to a professional recording engineer in a great studio (plus some piano "behaviour" tweaks).
Other piano plug-ins might give more choice as to the number of pianos, but Garritan have opted to make the control of the "recording" important, and there is no denying this is a very good set of recordings of a high quality piano.
So am I convinced?..
If I could hire Abbey Road for a day, record a piano part or two, and get quality "recordings" like this I would be pleased. As I have the luxury of MIDI editability with a virtual instrument, and multi-mic'ed high quality samples of a fine instrument, I could argue it's actually better than being at Abbey Road. It would certainly save you a few bob or two.
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