Abbey Road Keyboards'' Combinator patches combine multisampled NN-XT patches for individual mic placements with mixing, effects processing, and global controls.
The Abbey Road Keyboards ReFill ($229) for Propellerhead Reason is an exquisite collection of sampled vintage keyboards. All of these keyboards have been featured in countless popular recordings and film scores over the last half century. For this library, they were recorded in Abbey Road's Studio Two using classic and modern mics along with the console and signal processing that made these instruments famous.
The ReFill comes in 16- and 24-bit versions, and you can keep them both installed as long as Reason can't see them simultaneously. That's nice when you need 16-bit economy for tracking but want 24-bit quality in the final mix. For documentation you get a PDF Quickstart guide, which is all you need to use the library. As a bonus, you get a 40-page color booklet by Mark Vail detailing how the library was made. Installation is drag-and-drop with online registration needed to access updates.
The ReFill is built around Reason NN-XT sampler patches. Each NN-XT patch captures one instrument with one mic placement. Samples are taken at every third note on average and at four or five Velocity levels. Additional samples of characteristics such as hammer noise and release resonance are included where appropriate. Propellerhead calls this multimiked multisampling method Hypersampling. In contrast to gigantic sampled-piano libraries, which capture every note at ten or more Velocities with separate sustain-resonance samples, this library is fairly compact (1.7 GB or 4.2 GB depending on the bit rate), but for the included instruments and intended purpose, it does the job nicely.
You can use the NN-XT patches right out of the box, but you'll more often want to combine several mic placements and throw in a bit of processing. For that you get Combinators containing preconfigured setups in four categories: Preset, Producer, Style, and Template. Preset Combinators typically include two or three mic placements along with basic processing such as EQ and compression. Producer Combinators are similar but offer more mic placements and are designed to blend into a mix. Style Combinators aim to emulate sounds used in classic songs. Their names hint at the source, and they often use several instruments and more-extreme processing. They make good starting points for creative sound design. Template Combinators contain empty NN-XT samplers ready for you to load with patches of your choice.
Abbey Vintage 1960
The library samples seven instruments — two upright pianos, two organs, a celesta, tubular bells, and a Mellotron. The Steinway upright, called Mrs. Mills Piano, is out of tune and has a hard sound owing to its lacquered hammers. On the other hand, the Challen Studio Piano is warm and woody sounding with lots of sustain. The organ, a Hammond RT3, is larger than a B-3 and has more features, but it has the same distinctive Hammond sound. It is sampled through a Leslie Model 122. The Mannborg Harmonium is a pedal-driven reed organ with a split keyboard for playing different reed combinations and knee levers (replicated by the MIDI Mod Wheel) to alter the timbre.
The Schiedmayer celesta and Premier tubular bells are bell-like instruments. The celesta has a soft, intimate sound, whereas the tubular bells are in your face and ring forever.
Before there were samplers, there was the Mellotron — heard on countless records, usually noisy, and often out of tune. In short, its 35 keys control 35 tape transports to play sounds recorded on 6-foot strips of tape. These are not tape loops; hold a key too long, and the tape runs out. Here you get Mellotron M400 flute, cello, and strings.
In addition to the wonderful collection of vintage keyboards, two things set Abbey Road Keyboards apart from the pack. The first is the Hypersampling technique of creating a separate multisampled instrument for each mic placement. That gives you unprecedented real-time control over ambience (see Web Clip 1). Being able to combine several multisampled instruments along with a selection of effects in a Combinator, a process akin to creating modular presets, is the second important advance (see Web Clip 2). The included Combinator patches offer a tantalizing preview of where a little imagination can take you with this ReFill.
Value (1 through 5): 4
Web Clips: Listen to audio clips played by Abbey Road Keyboards 1.1