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Synthogy Ivory Upright Pianos (Mac/Win) Quick Pick Review

January 1, 2010
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Synthogy Ivory Upright Pianos brings the flavor of the Old West into your DAW.

Synthogy Ivory Upright Pianos brings the flavor of the Old West into your DAW.

Following up on the success of its universally praised Ivory Grand Pianos library, Synthogy now presents Ivory Upright Pianos ($299). This library features four very different uprights that have been scrupulously sampled and meticulously programmed to yield a terrific sounding, greatly detailed and charming package of piano sounds.

Upright Pianos uses the same Ivory engine as Synthogy's Grand Pianos and Ivory Italian Grand libraries. For more information on the Ivory engine, see the review in the August 2006 issue of EM (available online at emusician.com/sftinstruments/emusic_synthogy_ivory_macwin/). Upright Pianos runs on 1.0GHz Mac G4s and later as AU, RTAS and VST 2 plugs-ins, and on 1.3GHz PC Pentium 4s and later under RTAS or VST. A stand-alone version of the player is provided for both platforms.

There are about 20 presets per piano, offering different levels of resource usage and a variety of effects and settings. Some presets incorporate synth layers to add understated pad sounds. Although they're not authentic to the genre, these pads are unobtrusive and could add a nice bit of fill to pop songs.

BARROOM AND VINTAGE

The next time you score a Western, Ivory Upright Pianos' 1915 Packard Barroom Upright will bring back the feeling of six-shooters, 10-gallon hats and sheriffs taking on the cattle rustlers (see Web Clip 1). The tinkly sound of this nearly century-old piano has a metallic top end, thin bottom and sharp attack. The piano is in tune (unless you detune it purposely for added authenticity), but there is a subtle warble to the pitch. This piano is perfect for ragtime, honky-tonk, old-time rock ‘n’ roll or just adding loads of charm and character to a modern track.

The Vintage Upright piano, based on a 1914 A.M. Hume piano, brought me right back to my earliest piano lessons. This instrument has a mellower, creamier sound than the Barroom Upright (see Web Clip 2). The upper strings have a delicate, flowery flavor with just a touch of metallic upper harmonics; they sound particularly characteristic for melodies played in octaves. This piano is perfect for playing classical music, and a few brighter presets are excellent for recreating '50s-era rock ‘n’ roll.

MODERN AND TACKY

The Modern Upright, a Yamaha U5 upright, is my least favorite of the bunch. Synthogy did a fine job of recreating the original, but the piano itself is a clean, flawless instrument, and it lacks the vibe and character that make the other three pianos in this collection so interesting. To be sure, you'll find some bright, punchy presets that could make it useful in a rock mix, and I like the intimate nature of the recording (see Web Clip 3). But I'd probably pick Ivory Grand Pianos in most circumstances when I might choose the U5 upright.

Tack pianos are created by pressing thumbtacks into the felt hammers where they strike the string; this gives the instrument a sharp attack and a metallic bite. Such disparate artists as Ray Manzarek of the Doors, Joe Zawinul of Weather Report, and classical luminaries Glenn Gould and Conlon Nancarrow have used tack pianos for their distinctive sound.

Synthogy's Tack Piano has a sharp, noisy attack that is especially prevalent if you play a lot of notes quickly. The body of the sound is somewhat thin, as you would expect for the type of piano that would be sacrificed by ruining its hammers with tacks (see Web Clip 4). When you play with the sustain pedal down, the instrument sounds like a curious cross between piano and auto-harp. Experiments with the onboard chorus and reverb can reveal lush, otherworldly sounds to get lost in.

CREAKING AND GROANING

The uprights recorded for this library were meticulously maintained to create the cleanest sound possible. But Synthogy included a separate layer of wood creaks and clunks that you can add to the mix for a bit more old-time authenticity. You can set these sounds to play at random or record them as a separate track for more control. When used sparingly, they add a nice extra dimension of subtlety to the piano.

Unless you own a piano warehouse or work at Abbey Road, the likelihood that you will have access to this variety of novel piano flavors is remote. There is nothing like the gorgeous sound of a great grand piano. But if your song calls out for a more intimate, charming sound or you are scoring a Western or you simply want to channel the ghost of Conlon Nancarrow, Synthogy's Upright Pianos is the library for you.


Overall rating (1 through 5): 4
synthogy.com

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