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).
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...