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Synthogy Ivory II Studio Grands

Because sometimes you can't fit a grand piano in your studio ...

 

by Russ Loeffler

 

 

Synthogy has introduced two new virtual pianos to their Ivory II series - the Ivory II Studio Grands. The Steinway B Grand Piano was recorded at the Power Station New England in Waterford, Connecticut, while the Bösendorfer 225 Grand Piano was recorded at the Firehouse Recording Studios in Pasadena, California- both world-class studios.

 

 

Boasting a 112 GB library, Ivory II Studio Grands is the largest Ivory product yet, and with good reason. Each piano includes up to 24 velocity levels, with more release samples, and soft pedal samples for greater sampling detail than any Ivory instrument to date.

 

Click here for the product landing page with Synthogy's description of the two new pianos, which are the first to ship with the new Ivory 2.5 piano engine. For the specs, click on page's Highlights tab. The page also has a tab for System Requirements (at least a 2 GHz quad-core processor, with 112 GB of free hard disk space).

 

What You Need to Know

Ivory II Studio Grands is a free-standing virtual instrument, and you don’t need a previous version of Ivory installed. Studio Grands includes its own host program, Cantabile; this acts as a stand-alone host, but it also provides some basic digital recording functions if you don’t have a DAW (digital audio workstation). 

 

 

 

Studio Grands includes effects such as soft pedaling, piano keyset, release samples, chorus effects, room effects, and synth layers. These effects make Studio Grands an incredibly versatile and powerful instrument. However, these effects require more RAM and CPU power from your computer. If you don’t need these effects, turn them off. It's worth your time to read the comprehensive manual included with the software, and learn more about which effects require additional CPU power and RAM.

The Program and Effects pages provide numerous controls, parameters, and settings. You can start with some basic, “dry” piano samples and start tweaking to get a feel for all of the controls. Another option is to run through the several presets for the Steinway Model B and the Bösendorfer 225. This is great way to learn the various settings and start as a base for creating your own presets. 

  

The Session Page

 

 

The Session preset starts with a default setting. You can create your own presets and store them. If you plan to use more than one MIDI keyboard, this is where you can dial in your preferences with the Velocity Map Preset and Half Pedaling for each keyboard. If you have a standard 88-key controller, you can transpose down one octave to capture the lowest register of the Bösendorfer. You can also set the number of voices if you want to reduce CPU power requirements.

 

The Program Page

 

Most of the program presets are excellent and they reveal the surprising versatility of each piano. Within each Program preset, you can apply a preset for the Keyset as well. Release and Soft Pedal samples can be turned off and on independently. All of the control settings can range from subtle to extreme. There are different lid positions, but the Full Stick preset sounded the best to me and is one of the presets that uses the least CPU power. The Stereo Perspective options between Perform and Audience are effective in capturing your physical position with the piano.

The Synth Layer provides preset classic synthesizer sounds. Most of them sounded (to me) like 80s synth patches. That’s not a knock on the quality of the sounds, because they are very good. The synth decay, release, and gain settings allow for very subtle enhancements to the piano to full blown synth sounds. I suspect that people who are very focused (obsessed?) on the synth sounds will prefer to layer their high-end synth plug-ins.

 

Effects Page

 

 

The effects page offers EQ, Chorus, and various room presets. There is a high EQ, low EQ, and parametric midrange EQ. The chorus includes the standard controls that adjust the parameters from subtle chorus to flanger. The Ambience includes room, studio, jazz club, recital hall, concert hall, and curved space. The “size” control is a very helpful feature that works well with the wet/dry, predelay, and damping controls.

Some people will prefer to use separate plug-in effects. This is not because Ivory II effects aren’t high quality, but separate plug-ins will allow for applying effects after the recording and during production.

 

 

The Preferences Page

 

Most users will work with the default settings. Knob Tracking allows setting the knob controller motion as linear or radial, depending on your preference.

 

Limitations

 

There really are no limitations, provided that you have sufficient computing power. The range of sounds from the two pianos is much more than I expected.

 

Conclusions

The Ivory II Studio Grands is truly a stand-alone package. If you don’t have (or want) a DAW, this package provides everything you need to play and record two world-class pianos. If you have a professional or home recording studio and you have been wanting to upgrade your library with high quality, realistic piano sounds, Studio Grands is a great choice. There are so many parameters and effects that you can control, it sounds like you are getting much more than two pianos.  - HC -

 

 

Resources

This is a link where you can hear some recordings of the Studio Grands Steinway Model B and Bösendorfer 225.

 

 ___________________________________________

 

Russ Loeffler is a contributing editor to Harmony Central who covers trade shows and live events when he is not fine-tuning his guitar chops. He is also a  gear head with a passion for good music, great tones, and music that is much easier to listen to than it is to play.

 

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