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Synthogy Ivory II - Italian Grand (Boxed)

Synthogy Ivory II - Italian Grand (Boxed)

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Synthogy Ivory II - Italian Grand (Boxed) - Press Reviews

Reviewed by: Playmusic Pickup
March 2011
Synthogy’s original Ivory piano software has arguably been the industry standard sampled based piano software for longer than any software has a right to do in these days of rapid progress. Originally featuring unprecedented levels of sampling detail combined with truly great sounding pianos, it’s not hard to appreciate Ivory Pianos’ enormous popularity. Latterly, the upright pianos were added to the set (which we have looked at previously) and Synthogy have now updated the Ivory software to version 2 so what better excuse… ahem… I mean time, to take a look at this Italian Grand.

Now before we look at the piano itself let’s see what is different with Ivory’s version 2 software. First of all is the increase in sampling detail. Whereas the original software sampled at up to 12 different velocity levels the new Italian Piano takes this up to 18 levels, in addition to this, Synthogy claim an improvement in their Sample Interpolation meaning that the transition between samples is seamless.

To be honest with you, I already thought that the original was seamless, so this one really tests your ears! Whereas the original Ivory used sampling for everything, Ivory 2 now incorporates some modelling technology to help simulate the small but important details like Harmonic Resonance Modelling which intelligently simulates the way in which other strings will resonate in sympathy when undamped, just like a real piano. Ivory 2 also now supports half pedalling as well as selectable lid position, pedal noise and different tuning tables; an interesting sounding feature is the Timbre Shifting Control. Carried over from the original software are the effects (chorus, reverb), parametric EQ and the synth layer samples.

Italian Grand is the smallest of the Ivory libraries; it still weighs in at a whopping 28GBs but remember all of this is completely devoted to recreating one piano! Installation is never going to be quick at this size but it was only half an hour or so on my machine. Bearing in mind that Ivory uses disk streaming (whereby the first portion of each sample is loaded into RAM and the rest is streamed off the hard disk) it is probably best to install the library to a separate hard disk from your operating system; either an external Firewire/USB2 drive or a separate internal drive (like I use for all my sound libraries). Storing your libraries on a separate drive like this has two benefits, firstly it allows you to obtain maximum performance for your sample libraries meaning maximum polyphony with no glitching and also meaning that in the event of a major computer crash your library is safe meaning you won’t have to send a week reinstalling it all! The GUI looks very similar to the last with a few extra controls to cover the new facilities, but is essentially the same with different tabs for effects etc.

Synthogy make no claim as to what the Italian piano in question actually is other than being Premium 10 foot concert grand piano, the only name that comes to mind is Fazioli which is no bad thing based on reputation. Firing up the first 18 velocity level preset I was greeted with an expressive and wonderfully delicate grand piano. It transpires that most of the presets include two versions which adapt the velocity switching for different playing styles. This first type required me to change my playing style whereby I had to be much more careful through the middle dynamic range/ The second setup suited my, shall we say, less subtle playing style far better, however I imagine for those with a more controlled style the first setup will feel much more convincing.

For no particular reason I was expecting the piano in this library to be very classically orientated (which is probably a fair assumption considering that this is based on a 10 foot grand), and my own attempts at the Beethoven classics Fur Elise and Moonlight Sonata certainly bore this out, however this piano is much more versatile than that. I have often found the thing that separates real pianos from samples is that sampled pianos often only seem to work with a few genres whereas a real piano seems to respond to your playing style and just sounds inherently ‘right’ whatever you play.

The Ivory 2 Italian piano also has this ability in spades, whatever I played just seemed to work; classical music had the required expression between the gentle, quiet end and becoming powerful but always with an astringent quality when increasing the playing power. Jumping over to a Rock n Roll style of playing, the Italian piano simply took on a completely different attitude! Slowing things down with a pop style ballad and Ivory 2 softens up and allows things to breathe more. Put simply, this feels brilliant and is something I have often struggled with when using lesser libraries. I simply can’t tell you whether it is more to do with the original piano that Synthogy have sampled or the Ivory 2 software, but to be honest it doesn’t matter… Unless you need a honky-tonk upright it would seem that this Italian piano library pretty much has it covered.

However, the versatility doesn’t stop there. The sound can be changed still further using the ‘lid’ control, the parametric EQ and my personal favourite ‘Timbre Shifting’ control. Little detail is given for this last control so I’m not sure whether it uses impulse responses, physical modelling or preset EQ but the range of sounds from this control is excellent. As versatile as this piano is, the Timbre Shift control actually changes the fundamental tone of the piano itself. It is very easy to experiment with all the controls and learn what they do but Ivory 2 now contains a selection of well programmed presets that cover most bases perfectly. Most impressively, the timbre control allowed me to coax anything from a bright 1980’spop piano all the way to the slightly muffled piano tone of something like Carole King’s Tapestry album.

Should I buy one?
As you can see, I’ve pretty much fallen in love with Synthogy’s Ivory II Italian piano library. The version 2 software itself includes subtle but worthwhile improvements over the original and in the studio the Timbre Shift control is seriously useful! To be honest, it doesn’t really matter what brand of Italian Piano as sampled for this library, I personally find this stuff interesting but this software sounds great so that the source becomes largely academic! I honestly believe that using 18 velocity levels over the original 12 made no difference with own playing style and beleaguered ears but I am sure better layers will find a worthwhile difference, and anyway, it didn’t seem to tax my computer any more that the last version so why not?

The only downside I can see is from Synthogy’s own point of view as the library seems so versatile it’s hard to imagine why you’d need to get the standard Ivory libraries too! Still, with the Ivory range giving you easy access to so many great sounding pianos, there are certainly worse problems for us to have.

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