Today we will be reviewing Intimate Grand Piano, a recent addition to Spitfire Audio’s Originals range. Priced competitively, the goal of this library is to provide an effective alternative to cinematic felt piano libraries for modern scores.
Does the library deliver as promised? Spitfire Audio kindly gave us a review copy to check it out.
Intimate Grand Piano features a Steinway model A Grand piano recorded at Castlesounds Studios in Scotland. Spitfire Audio customers might be familiar with the sound of this recording studio as it was already used to record the acclaimed Albion Solstice.
Intimate Grand Piano is part of Originals range and is therefore meant to offer an entry into the sound of Spitfire Audio at a very affordable price.
Focusing on soft playing dynamics, the library was recorded with a selection of different microphones perspectives including Condenser mics, Ribbon mics, and a Binaural head. In addition to the microphone options, the piano library features 8 different sound presets.
After the download and installation through Spitfire Audio’s download manager, Intimate Grand Piano takes up 4 GB of hard drive space.
Intimate Grand Piano is powered by Spitfire Audio’s dedicated sample player plugin. The interface is sleek and features the typical gradient grey color now associated with all Originals releases.
Those familiar with the Spitfire player will find all the usual controls in place with Intimate Grand Piano, too. Each of the 8 included presets can be selected through the dropdown menu at the top of the interface.
The central part of the GUI includes controls for expression and dynamics, the latter acting as a sort of a compressor, limiting the lowest velocity playable.
The bottom part of the interface also includes microphone faders. That way you can independently control the gain of each microphone position included. A few other parameters are also available: reverb amount, sample tightness, as well as hammer and pedal noise amounts.
SOUND & MICROPHONE POSITIONS
Modern media composers have featured soft pianos quite extensively in the last decade. Upright felt pianos have been the obvious choice for this type of sound due to their unique sonic signature. As Spitfire Audio also offers a comprehensively sampled Felt Piano, the Intimate Grand Piano aims to be an alternative to that.
The Steinway Grand Piano used for sampling was recorded and processed in such a way as to focus on the softer dynamics. This was done by removing the piano lid, using a combination of certain microphones, and shaving off the top dynamics.
As expected from Spitfire Audio, the sound quality of the recordings is excellent. The piano has 3 dynamic layers and 3 round robins. That is not a lot, but it is in line with the library’s price point and is enough to get convincing results quickly when scoring to picture. While Intimate Grand Piano is not meant to be a competitor to full-fledged piano libraries, the absence of the top dynamics makes it actually even easier to play in that typical Scandi-Noir style, even for non-professional piano players.
The interface’s controls are clear and very useful. While hammer and pedal noises are featured in many emotional and dramatic scores, they can sometimes be a nuisance depending on the context, and it is very handy to be able to dial them down if needed.
The library offers 3 microphone signals: ribbon, condenser, and binaural. These are genuinely distinct and allow for really varied performances.
As expected, the ribbon mics are particularly fit for purpose, as they give a warm, “round” sound, with a tasteful softening of the transients. The condenser mics present a more direct sound, closer to what we would expect from a modern grand piano. The binaural mics – replicating the sound reception of a human head – give a very interesting stereo image, with a soundscape that emerges the player almost surround-sound-like.
To help users get a headstart, Intimate Grand Piano includes 8 presets with different combinations of said mic positions and noise parameters. The presets are functionally labeled: “Direct”, “Intimate”, “Broad”, “Soft Drama”, “Subdued”, “Reverberant Ribbons”, “Ambient”, and “Dynamic”.
Inspired by the preset “Soft Drama”, I have written a short track in the name-defining style. Below you can find the same composition played through various presets. There is no additional processing except for a limiter that has been applied for gain staging reasons. I didn’t normalize the demos on purpose to give you a sense of the nuances of the different presets.
Compact in size but beautifully recorded, Intimate Grand Piano delivers on all its promises: offering a different piano tone for modern media scoring and a good alternative to the sound of a soft felt piano.
While we would have wished for more dynamic layers, what is on offer here is coherent with the product’s price point. The library’s inherent simplicity (along with the well-edited samples) could also be viewed as an advantage. It always sounds adequate – not too harsh, not too soft- and thus allows for fast and effective results, even for beginner piano players.
All in all, this latest addition to the Originals range is a winner. It is a good contender for media composers who are looking for an efficient and affordable tool to score intimate drama and emotional music.
Originals Intimate Grand Piano is available for €29/$29 via the Spitfire Audio online store.