Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey

Posted by: o0Ampy0o

Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/09/13 09:34 PM

Survey

(This is an informal experiment I am conducting to see what people think of various tones used in the samples below.)

One melody using a MIDI file* played through a variety of piano software plug-ins.

__________________________

Sound files located here:

1. Choose the top five
2. Order from 1-5 best to worst
3. Choose one that is the overall worst sounding

Your selection results should have 6 total each: the top five (#1-#5) and the overall worst (#6).
__________________________


You may notice some variables in atmosphere between different examples. I did not spend a lot of time attempting to make this a level playing field but I did avoid relatively significant differences. The survey is focused on the sounds you prefer rather than making it about one plug-in vs. other plug-ins. Eventually, responses may reveal opinions of certain products by accident as I am withholding the software used in each example. Also, volume levels are inconsistent so you will need to compensate with your volume adjustment when listening to a few.

Note: I may have made this more difficult by having so many examples (18) to choose from. Just run through them taking note of your impressions. Make a couple of passes if necessary listening, making notes and eliminating. Then from what is left decide how to rate them.

Tip: When on the Soundcloud page do not double-click on any files. Instead, hover your mouse cursor over the first file and click on the play arrow from there. This will trigger the first file to play and each will automatically play when the previous file has ended.

=>Note: You should see the letter of the file that is playing at the top of your browser or tab label. When the last file ends it does not necessarily go back to the first file automatically. For some reason it can become random.

Thank you for participating!


*Forum member Allan Wang originally performed this melody for another thread question. I thought the piece worked really well to show off characteristics in software piano plug-ins. Thanks Allan!

EDIT Sound sources revealed here:
EDIT Correction made in one file ID
Click to reveal..

Sound Sources:
"Custom EQ/Processing" generally involved adjustment of tone (usually to brighten) and/or adding some reverb.

A: Galaxy The Giant Pop preset -custom EQ/Processing
B: Native Instruments Berlin Mood -custom EQ/Processing
C: Garageband Grand Piano with custom EQ/Processing
D: Galaxy Vintage D with custom EQ/Processing <= Note Correction**
E: 8DIO Legacy Grand Player Mic Hi
F: Native Instruments New York Production with custom EQ
G: Galaxy The Giant Vibrant preset
H: Native Instruments Upright with custom EQ/Processing
I: Galaxy The Giant Upright preset
J: Galaxy The Giant Hard & Tough preset
K: Native Instruments New York Showcase with custom EQ/Processing
L: Galaxy The Giant Pop preset
M: 8DIO Legacy Grand Close Mic Hi
N: Ivory II American Concert D
O: Imperfect Samples Fazioli
P: Imperfect Samples Steinway
Q: Steinberg HalionSonic Bright Acoustic Grand with custom EQ/Processing
R: Steinberg HalionSonic Acoustic Grand with custom EQ/Processing

**Please note correction:

I incorrectly identified a sound source D as Garageband/Pianoteq when D is Galaxy Vintage D with custom EQ/Processing.

How?
When I originally created the DAW working files I pretty much stuck with one product then moved on. Sometimes I went back to rework something or to dig through additional presets. I created several DAW project files. I could not use one for all of this because it taxed my system.

When I was ready to make mp3s I opened the projects and exported sound files naming them A-P. I made notes on an index card. Initially, the designated letters of the mp3 files showed a pattern as they were grouped together according to the software.

The final step in the process was renaming the files to shuffle the sequence to make it random. I manually randomized the sequence making additional notations in my notes. Many people said 18 files were too many. I had more that I did not include. I misread my notes thinking I had uploaded the Garageband/Pianoteq file.

I thought of using HalionSonic after I had completed and uploaded the others to SoundCloud. With 18 files, having a couple made with the same product next to each other would not matter. I ended up with both HalionSonic files (Q&R) back to back at the end.

Sorry frown

Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/09/13 10:11 PM

So hard to compare different pianos when they have different reverb situations...

These things are always fun, though.
Posted by: o0Ampy0o

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/09/13 10:40 PM

True, that is why I made this a question of what sounds better to you rather than any attempt to choose the better plug-in itself.

It may help if you ignore the possibility that each is a different plug-in and just think of each as a different preset.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/09/13 11:18 PM

Cool. I'll put my opinions in a spoiler window so it doesn't affect anyone's opinion before they do the test.

Click to reveal..

Plugins I like:

1. D
2. C
3. J
4. L

I couldn't really pick a fifth favorite. I thought P, A, B, E, and G were more or less in the running.

As for plugins I don't like:

F -- Total lack of detail and bass sounded horrible.

R -- recording seems broken. Super far away and almost under water. Possibly a change of presets might help this one. Q was the same way but not as bad.

N -- Actually the tone was ok but there was very little tonal variety. It would be a bit frustrating to play, I imagine.


Unfortunately these types of blind experiments often don't get a lot of takers. Still, I'll be interested to see what other people think, and of course to find out the identities.
Posted by: MacMacMac

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/10/13 05:09 AM

G first
L second I could probably swap the ranking on G and L. I liked both.
D third
J fourth
A fifth A bit too bright for me, but better than the next thirteen choices.

Q worst Horribly thin. Sounds a bit like my Clav. Not good.

Note: "C" is also pretty bad. It's hard to decide which I dislike more: "Q" for its thinness or "C" for its thin but muffled sound. I also disliked "I".
Posted by: toddy

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/10/13 07:47 AM

Your head spins with so much choice but, sticking to your rules for bare life, I thought the best four:

j' big lively sound
g' big engulfing powerful
c' strong clear
k' pretty and nice detail

and worst:

i' tinny and sounds as if it's on the other side of a broom cupboard - h' was nearly as bad.
Posted by: toddy

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/10/13 08:04 AM

...since we're allowed 5 good ones, I also think D is one of the best, all round. And because it is relatively pure, I used this (D) and 'A' as references for the others.

ps - interesting to see some coincidences between members' choices here. When will the names be revealed?
Posted by: o0Ampy0o

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/10/13 02:21 PM

Originally Posted By: toddy
When will the names be revealed?

I'd like people to have a chance to participate before revealing what each tone is.

Maybe in a week or two.

Plenty of people have viewed the thread.........I know I put up a lot of choices........I hoped the instructions to simplify the process would make things more appealing.
Posted by: Temperament

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/10/13 03:34 PM

1. B (Steinway?)
2. C (Bösendorfer?)
3. D (Steinway? Fazioli?)
4. L
5. M
---------------------
6, Worst: Q, R, H in this order, all three bad enough

Nice Job, Ampy, by the way, particularly after Purgatorycreek seemed to be dead since a while.
Posted by: JFP

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/10/13 03:53 PM

Very difficult and dangerous comparison. If you would ask the same thing about wine ; people really don't recall the exact taste of the glass nr 1 , when they are at number 3 or 4 . Also the judgement will be colored in respect to the other samples you hear, because you hear differences "in relation" to the other sounds, not completely on it's isolated own. It will be quite easy to distinguish the best ones from the real bad ones, but in the middle range it is very hard and may even vary when you listen at different times, under different circumstances and in relation to other samples than before.

Therefore I hope it will not be a 'contest' to decide what's the best sound; it's not unbiased and scientifically correct setup to determine that. Due to the human factor 'taste' that's also not possible. The reason I say this, is because readers might take the final outcome (with real product names) for granted and once it's out on the web it starts leading it's own live and may mislead readers into thinking product A is better than product B, because these results say so. Turning on or off a (bad ? ) reverb on one sound and not on the other can already completely distort judgement.

So..that's of my chest; now I must confess the test is interesting and I will try to do it later on and I applaud the effort ! Just hope it will not be a naming game in the end , without taking into account the samples may be too different in settings and the test too unscientific to make a pure unbiased judgement.
Posted by: o0Ampy0o

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/10/13 04:10 PM

JFP,

I agree with your feelings about the potential confusion and outcome of a survey like this. That is why I have set up the rules to eliminate the large middle range between the best and worst. It is not even that important to order the top five, just picking the best 5 out of 18 and a worst would work. This survey is about the sounds you like and dislike the most, not about the software.......yet it will be interesting for people to see what is what.
Posted by: JFP

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/10/13 04:38 PM

OK , that's fine then. When I find the time, I'll add my list...
Posted by: 7notemode

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/10/13 07:40 PM

Before looking at anyone's post, I picked D as number one. It sounded really usable. That said, settings make a world of difference, so it may be it just had the most pleasing setting. I couldn't use any of the settings...too much dreamy reverb in them all, so I had to listen "through" that to discern the underlying tone. Still, very entertaining and interesting. This must have taken some time and effort, thanks for posting it. I look forward to the big reveal!
Posted by: Marco M

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/11/13 05:29 AM

would spend money for it:
L
G
C

maybe for adding an alternative sound to my DP, if I could get it free of costs, sounds do almost reach the quality of my Roland SN:
H, J, N, R, K

better than nothing:
many

sounds already unacceptable like in a 300$ toy piano:
E, I

worst of all:
A, F,
Posted by: spanishbuddha

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/11/13 11:21 AM

I didn't listen to them all, sorry, started to go mad!

Best B,C,D,E,G (maybe D and G top)
Next H,J
Dreadful A, F, I
Madness descending ...
Posted by: 36251

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/11/13 11:46 AM

I'm interested in the results. For me to pick though, I would need something simpler, such as chords, bass and treble notes hitting octaves, repeating with different pedal pressures. These are the kind of things I do before playing actual music, to determine the intimacy the sound creates.
Posted by: o0Ampy0o

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/11/13 04:34 PM

Originally Posted By: Marco M
I only find letters A to J, don´t know where you picked up the other letters???

Hit Refresh/Reload to reload the page. It seems that the entire page did not make it to your browser.
Posted by: kurtie

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/11/13 06:31 PM

Hi,

Blind tests... I like blind tests smile

Promise I've taken the test before seeing what others were answering for not being influenced by others responses:

Best: D, L, B, N, C
Worst: Q

Anyway, is very hard to compare 18 different piano sounds.

Regards,
Kurt.-
Posted by: Marco M

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/12/13 07:19 AM

Originally Posted By: o0Ampy0o
Originally Posted By: Marco M
I only find letters A to J, don´t know where you picked up the other letters???

Hit Refresh/Reload to reload the page. It seems that the entire page did not make it to your browser.


I stupidly mised to see the scroll bar on the right: yes there are letters A to R. So I will repeat my test including the other samples as well, ...but this will take some time, maybe 2 days until I found time for it.

UPDATE: I repeated my test listening now to all samples, and subsequently edited my former post to only show my final findings
Posted by: MacMacMac

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/12/13 08:37 AM

Upon re-listening to the samples I'm beginning to think the most (but not all) of these samples are really the same piano, but with different tone/timber/hammer adjustments. smile
Posted by: erichlof

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/12/13 12:03 PM

I love a good Blind Taste-Test! If I may, let me add a letter 'S' to this fine group:

https://soundcloud.com/wurmph-fernburger/s

Hint: it was created with software of which the name starts with the letter 'P'. smile

Best of all, the piano plugins used were free! All I paid for was a $50 licence for my Reaper audio workstation software that exported the mp3 file.

p.s. from the OP's previous list, I liked 'N'.
Posted by: Marco M

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/12/13 01:02 PM

Let me know what S is! Getting it for free is a good choice!
Posted by: Marco M

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/12/13 01:17 PM

Originally Posted By: MacMacMac
Upon re-listening to the samples I'm beginning to think the most (but not all) of these samples are really the same piano, but with different tone/timber/hammer adjustments. smile


All have a somehow metallic character, some extremely, but some others so subtle that I couldn´t decide if they really all have the same base underlaying or if they are actually different ones. But, so many forum members who point out that the software pianos would be so nice. I only found 3 worth to _maybe_ one day spend money for them - but didn´t feel at all any need to change what I have. The newly submitted sample "S" is at least as good, and if really available for free, then I could give it a try. Paying for any of A to S at the moment? I am much reserved about this.
Posted by: erichlof

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/12/13 04:13 PM

Originally Posted By: Marco M
Let me know what S is! Getting it for free is a good choice!


Hi Marco,
Not wanting to hijack this thread, I will spill the beans about sample 'S':

It is a hybrid of "Piano One" by Sound Magic and the demo version of Pianoteq (Bluethner Model) by Modartt. So they both indeed start with the letter 'P' but there was a little trickery involved. smile

Piano One is a sleeper in my opinion as a source of really good, clean, unlooped samples for free. However, it, like most piano software out there, is lacking in the sympathetic resonance department. This is where Pianoteq comes in.

Pianoteq is being mixed together at a lower volume with Piano One on top. They both are running at the same time and reading the same MIDI file. The reason I need Reaper is that this program allows me to run both and render to mp3. Plus, I really like Reaper and its philosophy so I support them.

Piano One is fully featured and free to download and use. Pianoteq's Bluethner demo version is missing some notes (in order to make you pay eventually), but used in this context, I can get away with the free demo version. It is just under the hood, adding support, body and life to the Piano One samples.

I am certainly not the first to try this hybrid approach of modelling and sampling, but I think that this will be the likely piano software/DP future, if we ever want anything better than what's been posted here already. smile
Posted by: Vectistim

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/12/13 05:09 PM

I have a top five, but I don't know about an order for them
D,B,J,K,N

I have a bottom three, Q & R because they both sound fuzzy to me, and E because it sounds like I'm listening with my head in the piano.

This is listening with Sennheiser HD598s on, I would probably give different answers through my PA system.
Posted by: anotherscott

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/13/13 02:12 AM

Relevant to some conversations in other threads, it's apparent how wildly different people's opinions can be about which sounds are better than which!

I wish there had been some more held notes and chords without motion underneath, the sample seemed lacking in that.

I'd rate them in roughly this order, with skipped lined to delineate where I found bigger jumps:

D
N

F
C
G
H
J

B
E
I
A (ff is bright and brittle, reminds me of some Rolands)

I didn't want to listen to the really bad ones multiple times to try to determine which was worst out of a bad batch. ;-) But really, a lot toward the end started getting pretty bad, starting with K. From there to the end (except for N) each one seemed probably worse than the one before. So I guess the worst one is R.

But who knows. Maybe tomorrow, I'd come up with some different answers ;-)
Posted by: o0Ampy0o

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/17/13 05:32 PM

Sound Sources Revealed:
EDIT: Correction made in one sound source ID
Click to reveal..

"Custom EQ/Processing" generally involved adjustment of tone (usually to brighten) and/or adding some reverb.

A: Galaxy The Giant Pop preset -custom EQ/Processing
B: Native Instruments Berlin Mood -custom EQ/Processing
C: Garageband Grand Piano with custom EQ/Processing
D: Galaxy Vintage D with custom EQ/Processing <= Note Correction**
E: 8DIO Legacy Grand Player Mic Hi
F: Native Instruments New York Production with custom EQ
G: Galaxy The Giant Vibrant preset
H: Native Instruments Upright with custom EQ/Processing
I: Galaxy The Giant Upright preset
J: Galaxy The Giant Hard & Tough preset
K: Native Instruments New York Showcase with custom EQ/Processing
L: Galaxy The Giant Pop preset
M: 8DIO Legacy Grand Close Mic Hi
N: Ivory II American Concert D
O: Imperfect Samples Fazioli
P: Imperfect Samples Steinway
Q: Steinberg HalionSonic Bright Acoustic Grand with custom EQ/Processing
R: Steinberg HalionSonic Acoustic Grand with custom EQ/Processing

**Please note correction:

I incorrectly identified a sound source D as Garageband/Pianoteq when D is Galaxy Vintage D with custom EQ/Processing.

How?
When I originally created the DAW working files I pretty much stuck with one product then moved on. Sometimes I went back to rework something or to dig through additional presets. I created several DAW project files. I could not use one for all of this because it taxed my system.

When I was ready to make mp3s I opened the projects and exported sound files naming them A-P. I made notes on an index card. Initially, the designated letters of the mp3 files showed a pattern as they were grouped together according to the software.

The final step in the process was renaming the files to shuffle the sequence to make it random. I manually randomized the sequence making additional notations in my notes. Many people said 18 files were too many. I had more that I did not include. I misread my notes thinking I had uploaded the Garageband/Pianoteq file.

I thought of using HalionSonic after I had completed and uploaded the others to SoundCloud. With 18 files, having a couple made with the same product next to each other would not matter. I ended up with both HalionSonic files (Q&R) back to back at the end.

Sorry frown
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/17/13 06:25 PM

Interesting. American D was actually on my least favorite list. Guess I won't be buying that one any time soon. Of course, settings and maybe even velocity curve could have made a difference here.

Lots of love for Garageband Grand blended with PianoTeq. How much of each was in there?
Posted by: anotherscott

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/17/13 07:01 PM

Although there was a good deal of variance in people's opinions, all but two people put D at or near the top, Could you give a little more detail about how that one was designed?
Posted by: 36251

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/17/13 07:09 PM

Besides having fun participating in this survey, what can we learn from this? Is it that each software program can be EQ'd an processed to sound pretty good or very bad. Seems like a waste of time to me?
Posted by: MacMacMac

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/17/13 07:26 PM

What surprised me is that four of my top five choices were variations of The Giant.
I have The Giant and I like it somewhat, but it has a plunky sound so I don't use it much.
Now I think I'm going to try your chosen presets, especially the Vibrant preset.
Posted by: Hookxs

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/18/13 04:50 AM

My results (before reading the revealation and other people's comments):

Best five: DFK NB (DFK being the best, in no particular order, followed by NB in no particular order). But the distinction is difficult to make.
I also liked: CL
Worst: Q (along with AORHM... to many to choose from).

I did the test twice with about a week apart to "forget the results" and while the result was sligtly different, I was basically consistent with my lineup.

Side note: I downloaded and tried PianoOne (as suggested somewhere in the thread) and I was SUPER unimpressed. I believe the next discussion about playability could be resolved by simply by pointing out this software. It sounds good "one paper", yes. I like that it's free, of course.

Now I'm going to read the "correct answers", looking forward to it:-)
Posted by: Marco M

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/18/13 05:42 AM

I have a GIANT in my top favorite list, and in my list of the worst as well.

I will listen again to the samples, this time having in mind what others preferred. Maybe I will get my ear accustomed a little bit better towards the kind of mainstream taste. Could be interesting to know for the case that I once would play for audience...
Posted by: JFP

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/18/13 06:54 AM

Since you we're ready to reveal the names of the candidates anyway in the end, I don't know what the purpose or value of this test is supposed to be, other than some fun hours comparing the sequenced samples for the interested ones. The sounds we're tweaked, layered with other products and processed. Hard to give an unbiased judgement about them, apart for the really poor and very best ones. Exactly what I was afraid of earlier on.

When you are entering product names into the equation, why not do a fair and more scientific test with a broad range of different types of piano passages and playing styles and all instruments with their best grand preset without alterations (usually the fist grand preset) ?! Of course recorded in the same way at the same level. With acoustic effects (reverb!) turned off to be most neutral. That would be more useful for people trying to form an opinion on the different AP simulations available. You already created a workflow and platform to set up something like this - so perhaps it could be a next , IMHO , more useful implementation of your initiative.
Posted by: o0Ampy0o

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/18/13 08:53 PM

I incorrectly identified a sound source file and have edited the "revealed" posts.

As for the point of this survey, it was intended to be fun.

BTW, after editing the two "revealed" posts I noticed that HalionSonic was not the only pairing of the same software. I thought of Imperfect Samples as two different pianos but there is a paring of The Giant with different presets also. Oh well...
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/18/13 09:24 PM

Ahh, that makes more sense. Galaxy Vintage D for the win again.

I was very, very surprised when I saw that garageband + pianoteq was the general favorite.
Posted by: 36251

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/19/13 05:42 AM

Originally Posted By: gvfarns
Ahh, that makes more sense. Galaxy Vintage D for the win again.

I was very, very surprised when I saw that garageband + pianoteq was the general favorite.
3hearts
Posted by: MacMacMac

Re: Piano Software Plug-in Sound Survey - 02/19/13 07:37 AM

Well, imagine my shock at seeing a Garageband/Pianoteq blend at the top of the list. My ears could not believe what my eyes were reading. ... until you corrected it. Now it makes sense. Vintage D and some of the Giant presets topped my list. (I own both.)

The Vintage is no surprise as a list topper. The Giant was a surprise, though. I'll have to try some of those alternate Giant presets one of these days.