Applied Acoustics Systems has a hands-down winner with Lounge Lizard EP-3 ($249; upgrade, $49). Physical-modeled Lounge Lizard is arguably the best virtual electric piano on the market, and version EP-3 sports a variety of enhancements along with an expanded preset library.
Lounge Lizard runs standalone as well as in VST and DXi plug-in formats for Windows and VST, AU, and RTAS formats for Mac OS X. Challenge-and-response authorization is required within 15 days of installation and can be carried out online, by fax, or by phone.
EP-3 has a somewhat expanded and logically reorganized control panel for the physical model of the electric piano. A completely revised and more flexible effects section with its own panel makes programming EP-3 much clearer.
FIG. 1: The Lounge Lizard EP-3 control panel B houses the physical-model controls, which have been slightly expanded and rearranged
As with previous versions, EP-3 has separate controls for the four elements of the electric-piano action: mallet, fork, pickup, and damper (see Fig. 1). Although some of the control names are the same as those of typical synth and sampler controls, their effect is not produced with standard synth modules such as filters and envelope generators. Rather, each control affects the workings of the physical model, and the results are more realistic and more varied than can be produced with a synth or sampler.
The Release section of the panel has been renamed Damper, its release-time control has been moved to the Fork section, and an attack-decay-balance control has been added. In the Pickup section, the pickup-type choices have been changed to R for a Rhodes-style electrodynamic pickup and W for a Wurlitzer-style electrostatic pickup.
The output of the physical model feeds a 3-band EQ consisting of two shelving filters and a peak filter. All three filters can boost or cut and have adjustable frequency. Having an EQ before the effects section is a welcome addition.
The biggest changes in EP-3 are in the effects chain: there are now two multi-effects and a reverb, each of which can be disabled. The two multi-effects come before the reverb and can be arranged in series or parallel.
Lounge Lizard 2's stereo delay has been replaced by three delays: ping-pong, digital, and tape. The digital and tape delays are 1-tap feedback delay lines, but the tape delay adds a lowpass filter to the feedback circuit to emulate analog tape's attenuation of high frequencies. As expected, the ping-pong delay bounces between the left and right channels of the stereo output.
In addition to the original phaser, EP 3 now has stereo and mono chorus and flange as well as an LFO-controlled notch filter. The LFO-controlled wah-wah has been augmented with a new auto-wah, in which Velocity controls the amount of a single wah. Vibrato and overdrive distortion round out the new effects.
All of the time-based effects, including tremolo, offer tempo synchronization. Furthermore, EP-3 has a built-in clock for tempo synchronization in standalone mode. The built-in clock can also be used when EP-3 is running as a plug-in, and in a very nice touch, the tempo can be controlled remotely by MIDI. You can use that for Echoplex-style delay effects, for example.
A Matter of Convenience
EP-3 introduces several new conveniences. For starters, the presets browser can be resized, and output metering is now stereo. A built-in audio recorder allows you to capture your late-night muse without launching your DAW. Although clock and effects settings are saved with individual presets, lock buttons let you preserve the current settings when loading new presets.
The new keyboard section of the control panel presents a variety of options. The whole piano can be transposed in semitones and octaves. The tuning reference pitch can be changed. Scala microtuning files can be imported, and the amount of stretch for standard equal-tempered tuning can be adjusted.
The EP-3 preset library has been completely reworked, and the presets are both more varied and better categorized. You'll find plenty of classic Rhodes and Wurlie sounds waiting to be tweaked as well as loads of custom presets ranging from the eminently playable to the barely recognizable (see Web Clip 1).
Lounge Lizard EP-3 is equally at home in the studio and on the gig. It is CPU efficient and runs well on a reasonably fast laptop. It offers far greater programmability than sample-based electric pianos, and there are no streaming or RAM issues. If you're looking for a virtual electric piano, this is the one.
Value (1 through 5): 5
Applied Acoustics Systems