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Audio Brewers – The Upright (Review)

audio brewers the upright piano

A good piano library is a must-have for any composer. Today we’ll take a look at The Upright by Audio Brewers. Audio Brewers is a boutique library founded by Alejandro Cabrera, former Creative Director of a well-known US-based sample library company and responsible for the production of over 100 products there.

Audio Brewers provided us with a review copy so we could check out everything it offers in more detail below.

OVERVIEW

The Upright is a beautiful-sounding 1989 upright piano fully recorded, mixed, and delivered in both Ambisonics and stereo. The product is going to be structured into various volumes, starting with Volume 1: The Upright on release. At later dates, additional volumes will follow such as Volume 2: Felt Keys, Volume 3: Una Corda, and Volume IV: Prepared Piano. I had the chance of checking out all of the four volumes for this review.

WHAT IS AMBISONICS?

Originally developed in the UK in the 1970s, Ambisonics is a “full-sphere” surround sound format that is becoming more and more popular in the VR and videogames industry. Besides the horizontal plane from left to right experienced in traditional stereo recordings, Ambisonics also includes sound sources both above and below the listener. It’s as if the sound “follows” a listener’s head position at any angle. 

Ambisonics allows producers and composers to think in terms of sound source directions rather than speaker positions. On the flip side, it gives the listener a considerable degree of flexibility by accommodating any number of playback speakers. 

One downside of the Ambisonics format is that it requires a third-party decoder like Waves Audio’s Nx plugin to support it. In other words, if you don’t have a decoder, you’ll have to be content with using only the 2-channel stereo samples of The Upright sample library. The good news is the Audio Brewers support team provides plenty of additional resources to learn how to decode Ambisonics in your DAW.

The Upright is also a hefty download at over 40GB (including all four volumes), so make sure you have plenty of hard drive space before proceeding. You’ll also need the latest version of Kontakt to run it since it will not work with the free Kontakt Player.

WHAT’S INCLUDED?

Here’s “what’s in the box” after downloading via the Pulse app and installing the library with a proprietary serial number:

  • Recorded, mixed, and delivered in Ambisonics
  • Additional stereo version included.
  • Three mix configurations (Native Ambix, Presence, Mix).
  • Over 42.000 samples (including all Volumes)
  • Total size (including all Volumes) 100GB compressed to 49GB (Lossless)
  • Pristine 24bit / 48kHz resolution
  • ~14 velocities for hyper-realistic playing
  • Introducing a versatile and clean engine.
  • Natively compatible with Stereo, Surround, Binaural, VR, and any speaker array configuration
  • Requires a full version of Kontakt, version 6.2.1 or above

HOW IT SOUNDS

Overall, The Upright has a beautiful, intimate sound, which is great for cinematic and emotional cues. The full library comes with 2 sets of 12 .nki patches, one in Ambisonics and the other in Stereo. The patches are further subdivided into “Layered” and standard versions. 

The Upright – Stereo Instruments Folder

The standard patches sound very similar to other upright pianos such as Native Instrument’s The Gentleman and EZ Keys Upright and are great for compositional sketching or general playing. The felt piano is especially intimate and lovely.

But besides Ambisonics, the flexible articulations within each patch are what really make this library stand out from other upright piano libraries. Various articulations let you dial in keystroke, sustain, resonance, and pedal settings. You can also turn any of these on or off for sound design purposes.

For example, turning off the sustain articulation on the standard Upright NKI patch allows you to create percussive sounds using only the sounds of the keystrokes themselves.

All patches allow quick customization with easy access to attack, release, lo-pass & hi-pass settings, along with modulation, mixer settings, and effects that include saturation, bit crusher, delays, and reverbs.

The Upright – GUI

LUXURIOUS LAYERS

While you can do effective sound design with any patch, the layered patches have the most flexibility. The idea with these patches is to be able to assign any of the articulations to any or all of the layers you might want to use.

Each articulation contains toggle buttons that enable/disable the articulation from passing through layers 1 to 5. This lets you customize which sound goes to which layer. You can further apply effects and modulators to each layer. For example, you could apply distortion to layer 1 while adding reverb to layer 5.

The combinations are endless, making The Upright an excellent tool for sound design, too. You can create a wide variety of textures, from subtle drones to out-of-this-world-sounding metallic scrapes.

The Upright – Layered Articulations

CONCLUSION

Whether you use it in Ambisonics or traditional Stereo, The Upright by Audio Brewers is a beautiful sounding upright piano with lots of creative possibilities for sound design. It’s an excellent value at the intro price of €99 through December 29th (regular price: €199). Intro pricing includes all future volumes released in 2021 and beyond. Check it out at the Audio Brewers online store.

Pros

  • Beautiful, intimate, up-close sound
  • Good variety of sound-shaping tools
  • Some patches can be used for Sound Design

Cons

  • Ambisonics requires 3rd-party decoder
  • Library is big at over 40GB
  • Some patches are a bit bass-heavy in the low register

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Audio Brewers provides a full Walkthrough video to explore the library even deeper:

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