**** 4/5 stars. Format: GIGA
Ever since the release of GigaPiano a couple of years ago, we've seen an increasing number of high-quality sampled pianos becoming available. As a pianist, I couldn't be happier: every piano has a different character, suitable for different situations, and since I don't really have space for one grand piano, being able to own imitations of several is a truly wonderful thing.
Post Musical Instruments' Grandioso is a sampled piano library, which modestly claims to be "the best sampled piano ever". Grandioso is huge, requiring 5GB of disk space, and really needs to run with a copy of GigaStudio, as opposed to another sampler offering a Giga-import facility.
The supplied manual is commendably comprehensive and describes the use of the instrument in detail (with handy GigaStudio screen grabs), in addition to offering background information about piano tuning, harmonics and the recording process used to capture the samples. The Steinway Model D3 Piano in question was built in 1965 and refurbished by Steinway in 1999, and the manual even goes so far as to detail strings, hammers, dampers and other technical aspects. This information is interesting, and it underlines the serious effort PMI have taken to ensure that the most important aspect of the library — the piano itself — is of the highest quality.
Grandioso consists of three Giga instruments, the main one being the so-called 'Classic' instrument, which is the part of the library you'll use the most. The default patch contains pedal up and down samples, each with four velocity layers, and a further four velocity layers for the release triggers. The programming is first-rate and you can control the volume of the release samples with the modulation wheel. The instrument is a joy to play and sounds fabulous, with the release triggers adding a stunning sense of realism, especially for dramatic endings. Potential users should bear in mind, though, that this piano has a serious tone, best suited to a well-controlled playing style rather than a rock or trance anthem.
The 'Classic' instrument also contains many variations, including eight-velocity-layer versions (but without using different samples for pedal up and down control), and a 16-velocity-layer version, which adds extra layers for smoother transitions. While these are good and useful, I have to confess that the first patch is the one I always reach for.
The next instrument is a lightly compressed version of 'Classic' (sonically, rather than data reduced), which removes the bright edges and leaves you with a darker, more romantic tone — think slow movement of the Pathetique. The final instrument is named 'Distant' and provides an ambient version of the piano, recorded with mics placed further back. Some of these samples are a little noisy, which is noticeable when using the sustain pedal, but fortunately this doesn't spoil their creative potential.
One of the features that adds extra realism to Steinberg's The Grand VST Instrument is its ability to crossfade between the sustain pedal up and down samples when you press and release the sustain pedal. While it's not currently possible to do this with GigaStudio, PMI will overcome this with a clever utility called Virtuoso, which provides the same functionality in GigaStudio when combined with the Virtuoso patches in the library. I say 'will' because although the Virtuoso patches are supplied, the Virtuoso utility itself isn't ready yet.
While I don't think any library could live up to the claim of being 'the best sampled piano ever', Grandioso is definitely one of the best sampled pianos currently available. If you're looking for a piano with a glowing, flamboyant tone suitable for popular styles, this isn't the piano for you. However, if you want a piano with an elegantly serious tone, with the versatility the Compressed and Distant instruments bring, you'll fall in love with this instrument.
Giga CD-ROM $295.
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