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Bluthner Digital Model One
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Competitive Comparison

The four demo mp3 sound files are

This is a comparison of two passages one pianissimo and one forte from Chopin's Scherzo in Bb Minor No. 2 Op 31 (1837) as performed by 7 well know recording artists Alexander Paley, Artur Pizarro, Artur Rubinstein, Mikael Pletnev, Yundi Li, Jennifer Lim and Martin Kasík.

The same passages were also played back on 6 digital piano sampled libraries The Bluthner Digital Model One, Garritan's Steinway, Quantum Leap Pianos, Ivory (Bosendorfer and German D), Pianoteq, and Galaxy (Bosendorfer & Steinway).

These demos were mean to illustrate how close sonically a sampled piano library approaches the sonic qualities of real world acoustic recordings. To accurately hear the differences in each of these recordings one should listen on high quality headphones if you only have speakers then listen to the recording fairly loud so that you can hear the subtle tonal variations.

Suggestions on how to listen

First listen to either the pianissimo or forte acoustic recording in its entirety - this helps you build a sonic reference in your mind. Then listen to the matching sampled piano library recording in its entirety.

Next use a sound editor - if you do not have one download Audacity (a freeware sound editor application that is available for either the Mac and PC). Listen to each recording comparing individual sampled piano libraries with each other or comparing an individual acoustic recording with a particular piano library. Sometimes it makes sense to listen to 2 or 3 acoustic recordings first before listening to a single sampled piano library - this helps in focusing the ear to subtle differences between the acoustic versus the sampled domains. Fast switch between various recordings only confuses the ear and make it very difficult to hear exactly what is going on in an individual recording when compared to another group of recordings.

What to listen for in the pianissimo passages

In the acoustic recordings the overall tone heard is soft full or round tone with a prominent low end in other words it should have a tranquil or very calm tone. The piano timbre should not should not have a thin, cool or nasal quality. The attacks of the piano should also not be prominent instead they should blend in with the ringing or singing element of each piano note. Prominent piano attack in soft passages is a common problem heard in many sampled libraries one can clearly hear in real world piano recordings that this should not be the case if tonal accuracy is a goal.

What to listen for in the forte passages

In the acoustic recordings the bass part theme is very strong in most of the interpretations even thought there are fast runs in the right hand they do not dominate the overall sound instead they sonically sit further back in the overall sound. In many of the sampled piano libraries the right hand runs are often much more prominent than they should be when one references it to these acoustic recording.

After listening to all the recording I feel that the closest match for emulating acoustic pianos is The Bluthner Digital Model One. The only acoustic element that it does not reproduce is the sustain pedal noises.