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Toontrack EZkeys Cinematic Pads

EZkeys Expansion By John Walden
Published October 2021

Rating: 4/5 Stars

EZkeys is the virtual piano player in Toontrack’s excellent ‘virtual musician’ product range. If you need keyboard‑based parts but don’t have keyboard‑based skills (or a budget to hire them), it’s a seriously good tool. Toontrack offer a whole range of EZkeys flavours, each featuring the same underlying performance engine, but containing different sample sets. And if you already own one EZkeys product, you can purchase these additional sound sets at a substantial discount. Initially, these sound expansions focused onf various styles of piano, but other keyboard‑based sounds have also been offered and the subject of this review is the latest of these: EZkeys Cinematic Pads.

ToontrackCinematic Pads is built around a collection of 17 underlying sampled instruments. Although there is a comprehensively sampled piano amongst these, those samples appear in a reversed format whenever blended into one of Cinematic Pads’ 70+ presets. The other sound sources include a number of analogue and modular synths and the exotic Togaman GuitarViol, a bowed instrument that is an amazing cross between a guitar and a viola. The presets are organised into six categories — Atmospheric, Bells, Fat Pads, Modulated, Saturated and Strings — and even a quick browse will reveal the underlying quality of the sounds. There are some wonderful textures here, with plenty of character and depth.

All the usual (very powerful) EZkeys MIDI browser/sequencing options are available so you can, of course, use any of the other EZkeys MIDI pattern content you own with Cinematic Pads. However, these are pad sounds, so sustained chords or slower‑moving passages are going to be the most appropriate starting points.

The EXkeys front-end also includes its usual macro‑style sound‑shaping controls. Attack, Release, Low‑pass Filter, High‑pass Filter and Ambience seem to be ever‑present, and an occasional additional parameter such as an auto‑wah speed control appears in some presets as required.

A limited sound‑shaping control set is perfectly understandable with the pure piano‑based sounds of the more mainstream EZkeys libraries, but it is perhaps a bit more restrictive in an instrument designed primarily to produce pad sounds. After all, lots of other pad‑based virtual instruments offer comprehensive synth‑style control sets for sound editing or creation. I suspect that control set difference is what will define the most likely users for EZkeys Cinematic Pads, making it most attractive to existing EZkeys users looking to add high‑quality pad options alongside their existing conventional piano sounds and EZkeys workflow. Synth‑heads who like to dig into filters and modulation options to roll their own sounds might find it less obviously appealing

 However, this observation didn’t detract from how impressed I was with the sounds themselves. Indeed, if you are already invested in the EZkeys platform, Cinematic Pads would make a great addition. Media composers will find plenty to sonically inspire, but the library would work equally well in any ambient music context alongside other organic or electronic sounds.