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Topic: 25 popular digital piano samples compared and ranked!

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  1. #1

    RESULTS: 25 popular digital piano samples compared and ranked!

    I found a site online (many of you have probably seen it) that played the same short MIDI passage through many popular digital piano patches and saved an .mp3 of each, making comparisons between the samples easy. Included were hardware boards, the major soft samplers, virtual instruments and straight samples.

    I chose twenty-five of those that I believe comprise the most popular and respected products on the market. I changed the name of each of them (randomly numbering them from #1 to #25) and posted them to a SoundClick site.

    Take a listen and rate each of them from 1 (poor) to 10 (excellent). Since the same MIDI file is playing through each sample, it only takes a few seconds each to rate them. You could do all of them in under ten minutes.

    As you listen, write your ratings down for each file as you go. When you're finished, reply to this post with your ratings. I have posted this request to several popular music forums and if there is a large enough response, I will compile the results and post them in a reply to this message board -- also revealing at that time which sample was which!

    Hope to hear from many of you!

    http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pag...m?bandID=479292


    By the way, here are *my* ratings:

    1, 6
    2, 4
    3, 8
    4, 6
    5, 4
    6, 6
    7, 6
    8, 8
    9, 5
    10, 7
    11, 7
    12, 6
    13, 6
    14, 7
    15, 8
    16, 7
    17, 7
    18, 8
    19, 7
    20, 8
    21, 7
    22, 4
    23, 7
    24, 4
    25, 6

    NOTE: The SoundClick site lists me as the artist because I used my own name as the "band" name. However, I don't want to take credit where none is due, because I didn't compose, perform or record any of these files. I simply downloaded the non-copyrighted, freely-available .mp3 files from a website -- the owner of which deserve the true credit and many thanks. I emailed the site owner detailing my intentions but received no reply.
    Last edited by scadh1; 02-09-2006 at 11:19 AM. Reason: Title change

  2. #2

    Re: 25 popular digital piano samples compared and ranked!

    The short piano pieces that sound better are:
    3, 10, 11, 15, 20 and 23.

    Just to my ears and IMHO!

    Best,
    Roberto

  3. #3

    Re: 25 popular digital piano samples compared and ranked!

    #15 by far sounds the best to me, for one thing I think it's using some sort of convolution/resonance and most of the others don't. But it's also a slightly different MIDI file, listen to it and some of the notes are different (and more "imperfect"). Almost sounds like a real recording to me rather than a MIDI file played through a sample player. #6 is terrible!

  4. #4
    Senior Member Tom Crowning's Avatar
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    Re: 25 popular digital piano samples compared and ranked!

    Isn't this question a little bit academic?
    I mean, e.g. example no. 3 sounds realy nice with it's panning of notes (lower
    notes more left, higher ones more right) but I'd never put this in a mix
    with other instruments, it'll destroy everything.
    Or the harsher, brighter pianos which most probably won't be rated very
    high, but will work much better in a pop/rock mix than the more pleasing
    pianos?
    My rating would be completely different with this background.
    Tom

  5. #5

    Re: 25 popular digital piano samples compared and ranked!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Crowning
    Isn't this question a little bit academic?
    I mean, e.g. example no. 3 sounds realy nice with it's paning of notes (lower
    notes more left, higher ones more right) but I'd never put this in a mix
    with other instruments, it'll destroy everything.
    Or the harsher, brighter pianos which most probably won't be rated very
    high, but will work much better in a pop/rock mix than the more pleasing
    pianos?
    My rating would be completely different with this background.
    Tom
    and therein lies another interesting point.
    Tom, you wrote of the panning of a piano and the likely effects of inclusion in a score. I thoroughly agree with this, and quite a few demos i've heard have been disconcerting to say the least, as the sounds travel from one side to the other.
    I use a soundfont of a steinway that remains centred, and its part in an orchestral setting works BECAUSE it doesn't 'travel'.
    It's also the only tone i use that can also be used stereo, and only then when the piano features in some way. Otherwise it stays mono. (I copied one channel from the original patch and built a second instrument specifically for orchestral inclusion)

    Great point, and worthy of mention to the developers.

    Regards,

    Alex.

  6. #6

    Re: 25 popular digital piano samples compared and ranked!

    Quote Originally Posted by beach
    The short piano pieces that sound better are:
    3, 10, 11, 15, 20 and 23.

    Just to my ears and IMHO!

    Best,
    Roberto
    Thanks for your response.

    Could you take a moment to post your ratings of 1 to 10 of all of the pianos? If I can get just a couple more ratings between this board and the other forums it is posted to, I'll be able to compile the results and post them to this thread.

    Thanks!

  7. #7

    Re: 25 popular digital piano samples compared and ranked!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Crowning
    Or the harsher, brighter pianos which most probably won't be rated very
    high, but will work much better in a pop/rock mix than the more pleasing
    pianos?
    My rating would be completely different with this background.
    Tom
    Agreed. There were recordings of this same MIDI file played through various pop/rock piano samples. I did not include them in this survey because they didn't stack up well against these pianos playing this particular piece. Good examples are the Akoustic Piano Steingraeber and the Sampletekk Rain Piano, both of which I love -- but they would suffer in comparison to grand pianos playing this piece. On the other hand, drop one of those into an Allman Brothers or Stevie Ray Vaughn song and they'd blow the grand pianos in this survey away.

    It's impossible to be all things to all people, so I elected to limit the options strictly to grand pianos playing a classical piece.

    Given that criteria, how would you rate each of them on a scale of 1 to 10? If I get a few more reponses, I'll post the results and reveal which sample was which.

    Thanks!

  8. #8

    Re: 25 popular digital piano samples compared and ranked!

    SURVEY RESULTS

    Between this forum and two others, I received ten responses -- hardly enough to be truly representative of everyone but enough that some general conclusions can be drawn. If additional ratings come in, I'll recompile the results and edit this post.

    First, here is the list of which piano sample was which. This is NOT the rankings, only an indicator to help you match samples up to the audio files. (Manufacturer - Product and/or Patch Name)

    1. Native Instruments - Kontakt 2, August Forster
    2. Post Musical Instruments - Yamaha C7
    3. Roland - Fantom X, Ultimate Grand
    4. Synthogy - Ivory, Yamaha C7 Grand
    5. Tascam - GigaStudio 3, GigaPiano II
    6. Korg - OASYS, St. Grand
    7. Native Instruments - Akoustik Piano, Bechstein D 280 Grand
    8. MOTU - MachFive, Soundlib Bosendorfer
    9. Post Musical Instruments - Steinway D
    10. Synthogy - Ivory, Steinway Concert D Grand
    11. Yamaha - S90, Natural Grand
    12. IK Multimedia - Sampletank 2, Concert Grand
    13. Q-Up Arts - Holy Grail Piano
    14. Kurzweil - SP88, Grand Piano 1
    15. Steinway - Concert D Grand (real)
    16. Native Instruments - Akoustik Piano, Concert D Grand
    17. Nord - Stage, Steinway D
    18. Native Instruments - Akoustik Piano, Bosendorfer 290 Imperial Grand
    19. Post Musical Instruments - Old Lady
    20. Sampletekk - Black Grand, Ambient
    21. Synthogy - Ivory, Bosendorfer 290 Imperial Grand
    22. Yamaha - Motif, Power Grand
    23. Native Instruments - Kontakt 2, Steinway D
    24. Korg - Triton, Concert Grand
    25. Post Musical Instruments - Emporer

    So, as many people suspected, #15 is a real Steinway Concert D Grand. Among the others, there are seventeen software samples and seven hardware samples.


    OVERALL RATINGS
    Manufacturer - Product and/or Patch Name (Average Rating)

    1. Steinway - Concert D Grand (7.80)
    2. Native Instruments - Kontakt 2, August Forster (6.90)
    3. Roland - Fantom X, Ultimate Grand (6.75)
    4t. Synthogy - Ivory, Bosendorfer 290 Imperial Grand (6.70)
    4t. Kurzweil - SP88, Grand Piano 1 (6.70)
    6. Yamaha - S90, Natural Grand (6.65)
    7. Native Instruments - Akoustik Piano, Concert D Grand (6.65)
    8t. Synthogy - Ivory, Steinway Concert D Grand (6.60)
    8t. Native Instruments - Kontakt 2, Steinway D (6.60)
    8t. Q-Up Arts - Holy Grail Piano (6.60)
    11. IK Multimedia - Sampletank 2, Concert Grand (6.45)
    12. Sampletekk - Black Grand, Ambient (6.30)
    13t. Nord - Stage, Steinway D (6.15)
    13t. Native Instruments - Akoustik Piano, Bosendorfer 290 Imperial Grand (6.15)
    15. MOTU - MachFive, Soundlib Bosendorfer (6.05)
    16. Post Musical Instruments - Old Lady (6.00)
    17. Native Instruments - Akoustik Piano, Bechstein D 280 Grand (5.85)
    18. Synthogy - Ivory, Yamaha C7 Grand (5.80)
    19. Post Musical Instruments - Steinway D (5.60)
    20. Post Musical Instruments - Yamaha C7 (5.05)
    21t. Tascam - GigaStudio 3, GigaPiano II (5.00)
    21t. Yamaha - Motif, Power Grand (5.00)
    23. Post Musical Instruments - Emporer (4.95)
    24. Korg - OASYS, St. Grand (4.90)
    25. Korg - Triton, Concert Grand 4.60)

    For all of our sakes, I'm pleased to say that the real Steinway Concert D Grand won hands down. It (obviously!) sounds natural and has noticably better expression. Except for one misguided soul who gave it a 5, it received no rating lower than 7.

    Native Instruments and Synthogy each fared well, claiming five of the top ten positions (three for NI, two for Synthogy). Interestingly, two of the three NI samples in the top ten came from the stock samples included with Kontakt 2; only one was from their flagship piano, Akoustik Piano. Post Musical Instruments did not do as well, with all four of of their samples finishing in the bottom teh. Korg, never known for the quality of their piano sounds, embarassed themselves: the OASYS and Triton finished 24 and 25, respectively.


    HEAD TO HEAD: Hardware vs. Software

    The average score of the seventeen software samples and the seven hardware samples.

    I was surprised that some of the hardware boards did as well as they did. Hardware scored three among the top seven, with the Roland Fantom X Ultimate Grand patch coming in 3rd overall. Conversely, hardware also scored three among the bottom four.

    1. Software (6.07)
    2. Hardware (5.82)


    HEAD TO HEAD: Ivory vs. Akoustik Piano vs. PMI

    PMI doesn't offer a collection like NI and Synthogy, but have sampled similar instruments. For this head-to-head, the score is the average of Akoustik's Steinway, Bosendorfer and Bechstein, Ivory's Steinway, Bosendorfer and Yamaha and PMI's Old Lady, Emporer and Yamaha C7.

    1. Synthogy - Ivory (6.37)
    2. Native Instruments - Akoustik Piano (6.22)
    3. Post Musical Instruments - Old Lady, Emporer & C7 (5.33)

    Note that if the two Kontakt 2 samples, Steinway D and August Forster are included, Native Instruments would average out higher than Synthogy.


    HEAD TO HEAD: Kontakt 2 vs. GigaStudio 3 vs. MachFive vs Sampletank 2

    Okay, this is not exactly a representative sampling because each contender had only one sample from the many each ships with included in the test, excepting Kontakt 2 which had two. Still, just for grins...

    1. Native Instruments - Kontakt 2 (6.75)
    2. IK Multimedia - Sampletank 2 (6.45)
    3. MOTU - MachFive (6.05)
    4. Tascam - GigaStudio 3 (5.00)


    One final note. The flaws in this survey are obvious and well-known. This MIDI piece probably sounds best only using the sample that way playing when the sequence was originally recorded. If the MIDI controller had very light or heavy action, the velocities recorded would undoubtedly suit some of these samples better than others. Additionally, there are issues with the quality of the computer/gear used to record the digital audio, etc. In short, it's admittedly not perfect... but it was fun. Finally, there are many, many more hardware and software samples playing this piece available where I found these. If you're interested in hearing more of them, go here:

    http://www.purgatorycreek.com/documents/25.html

  9. #9

    Re: 25 popular digital piano samples compared and ranked!

    A lot of harware companies have worked long and hard to come up with piano samples that sound realistic .....I think that for the actual size of the samples that some of these companies come up with, they are INCREDIBLE patches to say the least ....

    You omitted a few of my favorite piano samples ....What was NOT in the running was

    1) TBO
    2) White or Black Grand
    3) Vintaudio C7

    There are others, but for the instruments you had listed, it was interesting just the same to see the results using the instruments that you did ....Thanks for taking the time.....Jim

  10. #10

    Re: 25 popular digital piano samples compared and ranked!

    Quote Originally Posted by synthnut
    You omitted a few of my favorite piano samples ....What was NOT in the running was

    1) TBO
    2) White or Black Grand
    3) Vintaudio C7
    Black Grand - Ambient was included. It came in 12th with an average rating of 6.30. The average rating for all samples combined was 6.07, so Black Grand was better than average.

    Agreed about White Grand though! I was disappointed when it wasn't included on the Purgatory Creek site. When I get my new DAW set up, White Grand is going to be the first library I purchase. I actually don't play classical and I think the White Grand will sit in my mixes better than most of the samples in this test. If you'd truly like to hear for yourself, the MIDI file is available for download from http://www.purgatorycreek.com. If you do record the MIDI file with White Grand, send it off to Purgatory Creek and they'll post it to the site.

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