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Review: Spectrasonics Keyscape

December 22, 2016

The first time I played a really good sampled piano plug-in, I knew right away that everything was about to change. It was like having a concert grand you could carry under your arm. With today’s mega-gigabyte sample libraries and advances in modeling instrument behavior, music technology has advanced almost immeasurably since then.

Keyscape, from the company that makes Omnisphere 2, is a virtual instrument plug-in featuring 36 sampled keyboard instruments and more than 500 patches. Alongside an outstanding concert grand piano, you’ll find a unique upright piano, numerous electric pianos, plucked keyboards, keyboards that play bells, keyboard basses, and even a miniature electric organ. Most are acoustic or electromechanical, with three synthesized pianos. Extensive multisampling encompasses all the velocities, mechanical noises, squeaks, resonances, and release overtones that capture the imperfections and idiosyncrasies needed to breathe life into virtual instruments.

When you install Keyscape, you can’t install only the instruments you want. You must choose either the Full or the Lite installation, selecting content for all 36 or for only 8 sampled instruments. If you choose Full, 77GB of data will be installed. If you choose the 30GB Lite installation, you’ll get six electric pianos, a Yamaha grand, and a Clavinet C–essential instruments for live performance. If the sample data were uncompressed, installations would require three times as much drive space, according to Spectrasonics.

KEYS TO THE KINGDOM

Keyscape’s user interface resembles Omnisphere 2’s, with a patch browser on the left and controls on the right. Instruments are divided into families—acoustic pianos, Clavinets, and so on—with patches furnishing variations of each instrument. Keyscape is not multitimbral, meaning it loads only one instrument at a time. Its parameters are tailored to individual instruments, and they duplicate the original instrument’s controls when possible.

Dominating the non-resizable GUI is a graphic image of the active instrument, with tabs that determine the knobs, buttons, and menus displayed below. Tabs vary from one instrument to another, but Main, Settings, and Info are always available. Depending on the instrument, one or two additional tabs may be labeled EQ, Tone, Amp, Effects, Wah, or Comp. Even the Main parameters depend on the selected instrument and may include sections for Mix, Timbre, Character, Performance, and so on.

You can begin playing an instrument almost as soon as you select it, even before it’s finished loading. However, sustained notes from the previous instrument will be cut off when you select a new patch.

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