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Viscount Legend ’70s Compact

Stage Piano By Hugh Robjohns
Published August 2022

Viscount Legend ’70s Compact

With its innovative modular approach to sound engines, this powerful stage keyboard should suit the needs of most performers!

Reviewing a stage piano is something of a poisoned chalice, as every stage keyboard player I know has strongly held views about the requirements and expected qualities. Perhaps that’s why there are so many ‘stage pianos’ on the market today, with manufacturers like Yamaha, Roland, Nord, Korg, Kawai, Kurzweil and others offering numerous models, usually with versatile multi‑instrument sound capabilities. And for the purists, there’s always the gorgeous Rhodes Mk8, of course which we reviewed in SOS January 2022!

However, what makes the Italian manufacturer Viscount’s new stage piano range particularly unusual is that it can be personalised and customised through the installation of as many (or as few) bespoke, high‑quality sound‑generating modules as needed. Before we get into the details of those sound‑generating modules, though, let’s look at the core instrument itself.

Stage Pianos

Viscount’s Legend branding depicts a range of modern realisations of classic vintage instruments. The Legend Organs range evokes Hammond’s timeless tonewheel console instruments in five alternative forms, while the Legend ’70s Pianos pay homage to the eternal Rhodes and Wurlitzer stage instruments.

There are three variants in the Legend ’70s portfolio. The model supplied for this review is the Compact, fitted with a 73‑note Fatar TP100LR hammer‑action keybed. This instrument nominally weighs a very manageable 16.2kg (half the weight of the Rhodes Mk8) and measures 1120mm wide, by 180mm high and 475mm deep.

The Artist version has a full 88‑note Fatar TP100LR key‑bed, weighing a couple of kilos more at 18.8kg, which is the same as my reliable old Nord Stage 88 Classic. Its height and depth dimensions are the same as the Compact model, but the extended keyboard pushes its width out to 1330mm.

Topping the model trio is the Artist‑W, which also has an 88‑note keyboard, but a bespoke, graded hammer‑action design with wooden keys. Despite its more complex construction, I was surprised this only adds a further kilo over the standard Artist instrument, weighing in at 19.5kg, which is still very manageable and far lighter than the Rhodes Mk8. The Artist and Artist‑W models share the same overall dimensions.

The keybeds in all three Legend ’70s stage pianos use triple‑sensor technology for the velocity sensing, and touch sensitivity can be adjusted through five settings from ‘very light’ up to ‘very hard’, which should cater for the preferences of most players. There is also a fixed‑velocity mode (with adjustable MIDI note value) for applications that don’t require touch sensitivity. The left‑hand cheek panel of all three models also carries pitch‑bend and modulation wheels, with the pitch‑bend at the front and the modulation behind it. It’s an unusual arrangement, but Viscount didn’t have any alternatives, really, and I found the arrangement workable.

When it came to unpacking the instrument, I had to call on some assistance, as the sturdy carboard packaging has extraordinarily wide flaps. While these undoubtedly provide good protection during shipping, they make it impossible to lean over and lift the instrument directly out of the box. Instead, I found it best to stand the box on its end and shuffle the (now vertical) keyboard out — with assistance to prevent the whole thing toppling over!

Included with the instrument is a simple sustain pedal (although half‑damper or triple pedals can be used, if preferred), an IEC mains cable, a hefty user manual (70 pages in English and the same again in Italian), plus a simple but stylish metal music rest. Available as optional extras are a dedicated and pleasingly sturdy metal stand, and protective soft‑bags for schlepping the instrument (and stand) around.

The Legend ’70s piano has a distinctly vintage style, with black wooden side‑cheeks and panels, highlighted with aluminium strips. When placed on the dedicated stand, its four angled aluminium legs enhance the retro styling of the whole ensemble very nicely. From a purely practical perspective, the piano’s wide, flat top is really handy as it allows a synth, laptop, mixer, or whatever else to be placed directly upon it without wobbling or rolling off!

Connections

Rear‑panel connectivity is the same for all models. Four audio outputs are presented on quarter‑inch sockets, but although the manual says “mono quarter‑inch jacks should be used for all connections”, these are, in fact, impedance‑balanced outputs — so TRS cables can be used to advantage when connecting to balanced inputs on consoles or interfaces. Standard unbalanced TS instrument cables will work perfectly well with amps and DI boxes too, of course.

The two primary outputs are labelled Audio Out Main, and provide a stereo signal from a built‑in reverb processor. Two further outputs are labelled Aux 1 and Aux 2 and sounds can be routed to these as required from individual modules and/or the instrument’s two internal effects engines as set up through the main control panel configuration menu.

Additionally, there’s a quarter‑inch stereo headphone output on the front left‑hand side of the keyboard below the keys, and a 3.5mm unbalanced mini‑jack input in the middle of the rear panel for connection of a smartphone or MP3 player to play backing tracks directly through the instrument’s Main outputs. It’s worth noting, though, that the replay level must be adjusted on the music player itself — it is not affected by the instrument’s master volume control and there is no volume setting for this signal path.

A grounded IEC mains inlet accepts 100‑240 V AC, and the external controller facilities include connections for a dual‑switch input to nudge the current program up or down, a sustain pedal, two assignable footswitches, and two assignable foot controllers. These pedal, switch and controller inputs can all be configured individually for different switch actions, wiring polarities and pot ranges.

MIDI In and Out are provided on standard 5‑pin DIN sockets, as well as via a USB‑B port — the latter providing a ‘To Host’ connection for a computer or tablet. Stereo audio (44.1kHz only) can also be replayed from the computer over this USB link and is routed through the Main outputs just like the mini‑jack input. However, while performance MIDI can be recorded in the computer, there is no facility to record the instrument’s audio signal over USB. A second USB socket (a Type‑A ‘To Device’ port) accepts a flash drive for saving and load instrument settings and programs, as well as loading firmware updates for both the main instrument and individual modules.

The rear panel sports a pair of Main stereo outs, plus two assignable Aux outputs and an auxiliary mini‑jack input. External control can be via the two footswitch inputs, sustain pedal input, two foot controller jack sockets and a program up/down footswitch. MIDI In and Out are present, while the USB‑A and USB‑B sockets cater for thumb drives and a computer connection.The rear panel sports a pair of Main stereo outs, plus two assignable Aux outputs and an auxiliary mini‑jack input. External control can be via the two footswitch inputs, sustain pedal input, two foot controller jack sockets and a program up/down footswitch. MIDI In and Out are present, while the USB‑A and USB‑B sockets cater for thumb drives and a computer connection.

Performance...

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