Acoustic piano is one of the hardest instruments to sample realistically. From the thunderous 97-note Bösendorfer 290 piano, sampling master Michiel Post has created an excellent virtual instrument especially suited to classical styles. Post Musical Instruments (PMI) Grandioso Bösendorfer 290 ($199.95) is available as a 24-bit plug-in and standalone program, as 16-bit sample libraries for EXS24 and GigaStudio, and as 16- and 24-bit sample libraries for Kontakt and HALion. Light Edition (LE) versions ($95) are also available in both Wet and Dry varieties for those four sampler formats.
The PMI Grandioso Bösendorfer 290 comes on a DVD that also includes the popular Native Instruments Kompakt Instrument player, so a separate sampler is unnecessary. The software supports operating systems from Windows 98 and Mac OS 9.2 through Windows XP and Mac OS X. In addition to VST, DX, RTAS (not for Mac OS 9), and Audio Units formats, it supports ASIO, MME, DirectSound, and Sound Manager, so hardly anyone should feel left out.
Two mic positions (close and ambient) were sampled in a European concert hall, and certain programs let you blend them with the mod wheel. If your CPU is robust enough, you can play patches that have 16 Velocity layers; more modest systems can use the 8- or 4-layer versions. (When I played the 16-layer patches on a dual-processor Mac G4/800 MHz, disk streaming had problems keeping up.) Several programs use true-release samples that greatly enhance the piano sound's authenticity and ambience. All programs supply pedal-up and pedal-down samples, creating a lush, three-dimensional sound when the pedal is depressed. Some patches take advantage of Kompakt Instrument's onboard reverb, chorus, delay, and filtering capabilities. The FX programs have a collection of sounds that would be great for film scores, and the Wet and Dark patches sound especially good in orchestral settings. For a single piano, these patches cover a lot of territory.
The Sound Resounds
Post has done an excellent job of sampling this beast of a piano; I was particularly impressed by the instrument's expressiveness. Like many piano players, I have a hard time finding any sampled piano that responds well to Velocity and feels good to play; this one definitely feels better than most. The switching between samples from very soft to very loud is quite smooth and mostly undetectable. That kind of responsiveness makes for a piano that is very playable, and on playback, very satisfying to listen to.
In general, the Bösendorfer 290 has a dark, ambient tone, even on the close-miked samples. Don't expect these samples to produce a bright, in-your-face sound that's as suitable for pop or jazz as a Yamaha C7. The B290 Dry Bright patch comes close, but the Bösendorfer's overall tone is rounder than the Yamaha's, and the samples always give you a sense of the room. That's not necessarily a bad thing; I just wouldn't choose this particular piano-and-room combination for every project. I recommend that you listen to make sure it suits your style of music, because you are, in essence, considering a particular instrument. (You can hear audio demos at http://www.soundsonline.com/sophtml/details.phtml?sku=EW-157.)
That said, the piano and environment represented here have been faithfully re-created in a well-programmed, very musical software instrument. PMI Grandioso Bösendorfer 290 sets a new standard for sampling the grand piano.