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Modartt Pianoteq 8

Modartt Pianoteq 8

Modartt’s modelled piano goes from strength to strength and is now, remarkably, available for iOS.

Pianoteq 8 has been out for over half a year now, so it was high time for a careful look at it in SOS. The more recent news, though, is the release of Pianoteq for iOS and iPadOS, supplementing the existing Windows, macOS and Linux versions. It’s good to see really mature, sophisticated apps being released for the platform, and we’ll assess it here in parallel with its desktop counterpart.

In case you’re new to Pianoteq, the main need‑to‑know feature of this virtual instrument app and plug‑in is that it offers the sounds of a wide range of acoustic and electric pianos, harpsichords, mallet instruments, pans, harps and more, but unlike most of the competition doesn’t use samples. Instead it works by modelling, computationally, the mechanics and acoustics of its included instruments in real time. Consequently the installation size on your computer is staggeringly small, at just 50MB. In the early days of Pianoteq, more than a decade ago, the corresponding ‘gotcha’ was whether your CPU could handle the maths; nowadays any half‑decent recent chip easily will. So Pianoteq’s modest demands on your computer are out of all proportion with the instrument library depth and notably fine playing responsiveness it offers. The computational basis also opens up possibilities for creative sound design that leave many sample‑based pianos far behind. Certain other aspects, like sympathetic resonance and subtlety of pedal behaviour (including a dedicated Celeste pedal, that can turn any piano into a felt‑hammered equivalent), are unparalleled.

Pianoteq 8’s new features are not Earth‑shattering, but they are diverse, and valuable. There have been general improvements to the sound and behaviour of all modern‑era acoustic pianos, the reed electric pianos and the Concert Harp. The user interface has been freshened up, with a new pictorial ‘shutter’ over the slightly esoteric Tuning, Voicing and Design parameter panels. Finally there’s a new €49 add‑on instrument pack, a classical guitar, which for the first time features playback features similar to sophisticated scripted sample‑based instruments. And then there’s the iOS/iPadOS version (which I’ll just refer to as iOS from now on).

In i Places

I did equal amounts of testing with the iOS and macOS versions of Pianoteq 8 (in its Pro tier guise, which offers the most in‑depth sound editing). On desktop installations v8 happily exists alongside early versions, so any existing DAW projects will be unaffected. Downloading and authorising the app on iPad was quick and straightforward, via the normal Apple App Store channels: the ‘Restore Purchases’ feature is used to tie in to any existing Pianoteq 8 licence on Modartt’s own servers, and an iOS unlock will use one of the three authorisation seats provided as standard. Although interestingly, using it on both my iPhone and iPad still appeared to only use one seat, so the authorisation count would seem to be on a per‑account rather than per‑device basis.

Pianoteq on mobile is, then, almost identical to its desktop counterparts. Certainly in all the ways that really matter: sound quality, responsiveness, availability of all instrument packs, provision of parameters for sound design, and even the Standard and Pro tiers’ Note Edit and Morph/Layers features. The only thing that really differs is some aspects of the user interface. On desktop the Pianoteq window is still close to square in shape; on oblong iPad and iPhone screens the so‑called ‘instrument’ and ‘audio engineering’ sections scroll up and down (with prompts to show you how when you first start the app). Additional views like a large keyboard and the MIDI file player are exposed by various swipes and drags. Equally though, if you open the Pianoteq 8 AUv3 plug‑in in a host like Kymatica’s AUM, it does appear square there, just like the desktop version.

One other slight difference on iOS is the scheme for storing user presets. On iOS, presets are saved deep in the file system, out of reach of the Files app. You can liberate them via a Share command from the dedicated preset browser, and load new ones as fxp files.

The performance of the iOS Pianoteq is remarkably good: it ought to be, of course, running on Apple A‑ and M‑series chips that are as powerful as many good laptop and desktop computers. I still occasionally had to pinch myself though, that here was Pianoteq, not watered‑down in any way, running on my phone... Modartt recommend “a recent iPhone/iPad model” but say it runs well on older models using iOS 15 or higher, including the venerable iPhone 6s, iPad Mini 4 and iPad 5.

On my fifth‑generation iPad Air, with an M1 chip, I never saw more than about 14 percent processor usage reported by Pianoteq itself, even when deliberately sustaining many low piano notes, which is computationally intensive. That was with a 128‑sample audio buffer, and 2.7ms latency. On an iPhone 12 from 2020, with its A14 chip and the same settings, it wasn’t much worse: 25 percent at most.

Pianoteq is gold standard iOS software. It’s easy, quick and intuitive to use, works beautifully via a touch interface, and has massive musical potential and programming depth.

All things considered, Pianoteq is gold standard iOS software. It’s easy, quick and intuitive to use, works beautifully via a touch interface, and has massive musical potential and programming depth. It’s a lot more expensive than most apps but, well, you get what you pay for.

Because Pianoteq is not replaying samples it offers unparalleled flexibility for tweaks and programming of various kinds. Shown here is its multi‑channel virtual miking feature and, in the next screen, the Note Edit view, letting you adjust parameters on a per‑note basis.Because Pianoteq is not replaying samples it offers unparalleled flexibility for tweaks and programming of various kinds. Shown here is its multi‑channel virtual miking feature and, in the next screen, the Note Edit view, letting you adjust parameters on a per‑note basis.

Modartt Pianoteq 8

Levelling Up

To get a sense of Pianoteq 8’s improved piano voicings, I went back to the Mac, where I could directly compare v7 and v8. I made presets in Pianoteq 7 and opened them alongside in Pianoteq 8. Then, after repeatedly rendering a single MIDI region, for a cross‑section of pianos and the other upgraded instruments, I could make a more meaningful and seamless A/B comparison.

These things are subjective of course, but Pianoteq 8 sounds significantly better to me. The various Steinways plus the excellent Grotrian I tested in depth all benefit from a smoother overall sound, less middle‑dominated and insistent, and with somehow more finesse and complexity overall. At higher velocities strong attacks seem to integrate better with the later decay phase too: this was not bad before, but it’s more coherent now.

The difference in Pianoteq 8’s Wurlitzer, ‘Vintage Reeds W1’, is much more pronounced. It’s got loads more ‘girth’ than in v7, is actually just more bassy, and like the acoustic grands is less liable to a congested tone in the upper mids. I don’t always go to virtual Wurlitzers expecting much sophistication or timbral depth, but this has it. It’s quite something.

Then, by contrast the Concert Harp is now less bass‑tilted. It sounds more precise and transparent now, in a good way, with a more extended top end and detailed attack phase, which very nicely communicates the sound of fingers gripping and leaving strings.

There are one or two interesting measurable differences between Pianoteq 7 and 8 too. Bouncing MIDI regions for the acoustic pianos in the latest version of PreSonus Studio One, Pianoteq 7 would often render at 12 times faster than real time, and not change much through the process. For Pianoteq 8 I’d see a similar figure for a moment, but then the render would drop to nearer four times real time. That implies that more maths is being done, which is in line with the claim of increased sophistication in the physical model. The harp, incidentally, went through equally fast, at 20 times faster than real time on both versions, so it’s a mixed picture.

Great 8?

Like many readers, I’m sure, I’ve been fascinated by the development of Pianoteq over the last 17 years: on a pure technological level, but also for what acoustic modelling can mean for us in terms of expressivity, usability and flexibility.

Version 7 was, I thought, a big moment for Pianoteq, delivering truly classy‑sounding pianos alongside fascinating new possibilities for sound design via Morphing and Layering features. My review from April 2021 ( goes into depth about that. Version 8, simply, is a good step better again.

The fact that Pianoteq can now be on your iPhone or iPad allows for even greater flexibility in how and where it can be used: that tiny installation size now makes more sense than ever. We’ve grown used to paying peanuts for apps, and in that context the €139 in‑app purchase cost to enable new purchasers to unlock the free demo might seem unreasonably high. Bear in mind though that there is almost nothing like it in the App Store. Yes, there are more virtual pianos there than you can shake a tuning fork at, but almost all are toys in comparison. The few exceptions include Synthogy’s Steinway soundsets for Korg Module Pro, and UVI’s Ravenscroft 275, but these are single pianos with limited scope for creative treatment, approx 1GB installation sizes, and nothing like the sophistication of Pianoteq. Also if you own any previous desktop version of Pianoteq then the cost of v8 is actually €29: that’s the single, across‑the‑board upgrade fee to get up to date, and at that point you can unlock the mobile app for nothing. If you’re able to benefit from that it’s a heck of a bargain.

Alongside Pianoteq 8’s flexibility, there’s a new standard of quality: it’s both rewarding to play and nicer than ever to listen to. Acoustic grands have improved significantly. The Wurlitzer and Concert Harp have both leapt forward in complexity and authenticity. There is very little not to like. Complaints about sound quality are now more a matter of taste than anything, and because you can try out all instrument packs in demo mode at any time there’s no reason to end up with anything you don’t want.

Then the Classical Guitar instrument pack. Not everyone will need or want this, but if you do then it’s a state‑of‑the‑art virtual guitar that sounds uncannily realistic.

The conclusion couldn’t be simpler. If you’re eligible to upgrade to Pianoteq 8, just do it. This is fabulous software that has reached new heights of sophistication. If you’re investing for the first time, it’s a great time to get on board.


Pianoteq has for a long time been more than just a piano library, and with the new Classical Guitar instrument pack it becomes more flexible again. Hollow, semi‑hollow and solid‑bodied timbres are available.

Pianoteq on iPadOS, with the new Classical Guitar instrument pack loaded. The keyboard graphic area shows labelled keyswitches and indicates how played pitches are being fingered.Pianoteq on iPadOS, with the new Classical Guitar instrument pack loaded. The keyboard graphic area shows labelled keyswitches and indicates how played pitches are being fingered.

It’s possible to play Pianoteq’s guitar as if it was a piano, but that would be missing the point a bit. Instead, a new guitar playback mode interprets your playing and intelligently apportions notes to the six virtual strings, which can be set to a standard tuning, drop D, or various open alternatives. You can have Pianoteq make all voicing decisions, or skew left‑hand position higher up or lower down the fingerboard — with corresponding changes in tone colour — using MIDI keyswitches. The six strings can also be made to respond to separate MIDI channels.

Additional keyswitches trigger harmonics (flageolet), a rasgueado mode, a thumb pluck, glissandos (via legato note overlaps), slide‑ins and outs, palm mutes, restrikes of held notes and left‑hand position shifts. A slider controls how likely you are to hear string squeaks and other non‑note sounds.

The sense of realism here can be staggering, even if you know nothing of guitar fingering and only stick to the main timbre, which is jolly convincing. Go deep into the keyswitches and it gets even more so. A few aspects of implementation are curious, like the Easy voicing mode sometimes not allowing intervals to sound that are clearly easy to finger, on adjacent strings, without stretching. But on the whole this is an amazing new development and a serious alternative to the many sample‑based alternatives out there. It sounds as good soloing as it does playing arpeggiated figures or chords. The basic nylon‑string timbre can take the onboard Amp effect well to tease out some jazz guitar and lightly overdriven timbres. Presumably there’s no reason we mightn’t see steel‑strung acoustics, Strats, Teles and Les Pauls in the future.

How To Buy

Pianoteq 8 comes at a range of prices, according to what you want from it. The most affordable option is the Stage version, at £119$139, which lets you choose two instrument packs but limits scope for creative tweaking. That price is the same for desktop and for iOS, via an in‑app purchase. The Standard version (£219$269) gives you three instrument packs, and opens up the vast majority of possibilities for sound tweaking, tuning, virtual mic placement and Morphing/Layering. On iOS you upgrade to Standard in‑app, for the same total cost. The Pro tier at £319$399 lets you adjust almost all main parameters on a per‑note basis, offers full overtone editing, supports sample rates up to 192KHz, and comes with four instrument packs.

Any Pianoteq version can extend its sound library further through additional instrument packs: all are £45$49. If you’re a have‑it‑all sort of person though, you might want to explore the Studio bundle from the outset. It’s a considerable £699$899 but gives you everything: Pianoteq Pro plus all currently available instrument packs. All prices include VAT.


  • Noticeable improvements to the sound of all modern acoustic pianos, plus Wurlitzer and Concert Harp.
  • Flawless, full‑fat implementation as an app and AUv3 plug‑in for iPhone and iPad.
  • New guitar instrument add‑on sounds phenomenal and is easy to play from a keyboard controller.
  • Cements Pianoteq’s position as one of the best virtual piano options out there, with staggering sound design possibilities.


  • Quality never comes cheap: iOS musicians might need to brace themselves for this app purchase, unless they can benefit from desktop version upgrade pricing; collecting additional instrument packs gets expensive too.


A valuable update to an already sophisticated virtual instrument, Pianoteq 8 sounds and looks better than ever before, and is available to iOS users for the first time. It has also taken up the guitar...


See ‘How To Buy’ box.

See ‘How To Buy’ box.