Scarbee is proud to present the Scarbee W.E.P., the most accurately sampled Wurlitzer electric piano on planet earth!
The Scarbee W.E.P is a faithful reproduction of the classic Wurlitzer 200A Electric Piano, recreating not only its signature sound but also the unique dynamic response of the original instrument, hereby continuing the new Vintage Keyboard product line commenced with the recent release of the Scarbee R.S.P. \'73 (the Rhodes Stage Piano MK 1 - 73)
Although the EP200A is a small piano, the project undertaken to reproduce it in software has been huge. Prior to the commencement of two months of recordings, a painstaking process of restoration lasting six months was undertaken. This involved a range of measures aimed at creating a ‘super’ Wurlitzer piano which has perhaps the highest signal to noise ratio of any yet produced. Sources of noise and distortion, such as the power transformer, were made external to the piano and audio-critical components were updated with higher quality versions wherever possible.
The Scarbee W.E.P. was recorded at 24 bit resolution through a Mindprint En-Voice preamp (without any use of EQ, tube saturation or compression), and then digitally transferred to a Nuendo AudioLink 96 audio card.
How much detail is there in the instrument?
In order to accurately reproduce the original EP200A’s dynamics, both the sustained and release sounds of each of the 64 keys of the Wurlitzer has been sampled at 16 different velocities – resulting in a total pool of over 2000 24 bit wav files.
All samples are full length and unlooped. Just as we did with the Rhodes, release samples were recorded for each key. Not just one release sample per key, but one release sample to correspond with each sustain sample ( except those for the top 5 keys which have no damper, causing the keys to ring out to their end ). The release tone - the sound created when a damper bounces against the reed as a key is released, is an intrinsic element of what musicians recognise as the original ‘Wurlitzer Sound’.
During test recordings Thomas Hansen Skarbye determined that the dynamic response of the Wurlitzer was quite different to that of the Rhodes. The EP200A exhibits a high degree of ‘characterful’ timbral variation in the forte area of its dynamics. Unlike the Rhodes, the Wurlitzer piano’s action is very light, making it easy for a keyboardist to play continuously in this range of the piano’s timbre. In order to capture such a defining element of the piano’s personality, Thomas decided to increase the size of the Wurlitzer sampling project by 30%, with additional focus on the forte range of the instrument. Once this was accomplished, a proprietary system was employed to ensure that the sampler’s response to velocity variation was identical to the original Wurlitzer’s keyboard action.
To accommodate systems with RAM limitations, several ‘Lite’ versions of the piano are included. Lite versions contain the samples of the white keys, which are stretched down a semitone to cover adjacent black keys. (3 black keys were kept as they were the last of a reed type). Lite versions come in: white keys only 16, 12, 8 and 4 velocity layer flavours.
Why did we go to this much trouble?
Technology is moving at an increasing pace, with music companies releasing new (almost disposable) instruments every day, but still many of us find ourselves looking to the past for sounds which truly inspire us. Organic tones with inconsistencies and chameleon-like character flaws which are very difficult to programme into predictable digital instruments. However, the Wurlitzer is electro-mechanical and infamously difficult to maintain. The light action often results in the piano being played quite hard, which leads to cracked reeds, electrical short circuits and tuning problems. Finding a source of Wurlitzer reeds is itself a monumental task in some countries, and using a soldering iron to tune your piano isn’t anyone’s idea of a fun break before the gig. It won’t be long before it’s simply not practical to maintain fragile instruments like the Wurlitzer, let alone tour with them. To date several sample libraries have included limited attempts to describe the EP200A in software, but only recently has the very technology which is making the beloved Wurli obsolete supplied the tools we require to ‘capture the soul of the beast’.
With the Scarbee W.E.P musicians will have access to the inspirational sounds of the Wurlitzer Electric Piano for generations to come – vintage sonic lightning preserved in a cutting-edge software bottle.
SCARBEE W.E.P will ship in a multi format version containing 24 bit native Halion, EXS24 mk II and Kontakt versions on 4 CDs or DVD for $219 as well as a 1 CD 16 bit Giga version. Registered W.E.P users may purchase the alternate format for $49.00.