Native Instruments The Giant
By Marty Cutler
Wed, 29 May 2013
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The upright piano is frequently regarded as the “poor relation” to the grand. With Native Instruments The Giant, any comparison becomes one of apples and oranges—or even fish and bicycles. It helps that The Giant isn’t derived from just any garden-variety upright. The source instrument, a Klavins 370i, boasts a soundboard that’s over twice the size of that of a nine-foot grand piano. Second, it’s built into a wall—talk about a resonating chamber! What you get, consequently, is significantly more than a simple hybrid of an upright piano and a concert grand.

Sounds sort into two main categories: Giant Cinematic and Giant. You might be led to believe that there are only two presets available. In fact, there’s a second menu from which you can choose from a great bunch of sounds that illustrate how far imaginative programming can carry a well-sampled instrument. Overall, the Giant category comprises a good number of piano variations with a fast response and a lush, blooming tone. Compared against some of the acoustic grands included in Komplete, The Giant has a dramatically pronounced low end, and more prominent resonance in the lower octaves.

The default preset is a rich, but relatively unadorned piano, graduating to presets benefiting from a nice array of additional effects and event processing. For instance, “Emotional” has an extremely broad timbral response tied to velocity; you hear the instrument faintly at the lowest velocities, and as you bear down, the instrument graduates from soft and dark to loud, rich, and full. Granted, that’s the expected tactic for sampled acoustic instruments; nevertheless, it’s exceedingly well done here, and the resulting preset is perfect for a solo instrument or as the lone instrument accompanying a vocal ballad (listen to web audio example 1). “Hard and Tough” has predominant hammer noise, and sounds great for percussive rock comping. There are plenty of patches suitable for jazz, pop, ballads, and many will do nicely in exposed and solo settings.

Although The Giant draws on filters, envelopes, and the typical daily bread of synth programming, it also draws on Kontakt’s scripting and convolution capabilities. The more conventional, pianistic bank of instruments enriches realism with impulse responses of piano resonance, release samples, pedal and half-pedal artifacts, hammer and string noise, all coupled with an especially sweet-sounding convolution reverb. All of this is easy to access and tweak. Click on the Tone button—which is fronted by a Color knob and an XXL (sample size) button—and a panel consisting of EQ, a transient shaper, and a compressor open up, granting access to a more detailed set of parameters. Below the Tone area are the Anatomy controls, and these deal with imaging, harmonic content, release samples, performance artifacts that make up a detailed, convincing piano. 

The Cinematic bank is where The Giant cuts loose. Twenty-three patches depart from the piano launch pad and land on another planet. Giant Noises is a menu of piano scrapes, taps, and slams, dressed in a huge, reverberant ambience perfect for creepy, wide-screen sound effects. That is only the beginning; to the right, you can enable and mix tonal components, plucked strings, resonance, overtones, and more. Just below, a second set of impulse responses lets you alter the very character of the sound. IRs include instruments, reversed, sampled resonance, bells, even tempo-synced impulses, and more; these have a major effect on the sound, generating radically different variations from the starting patch, far beyond the simple layering of disparate sounds. You can mix the amount of convolution to alter the sound less drastically (web audio example 2). The net result is a handsome set of pads, cymbalum-like keyboards, atmospheric drones, and solo instruments with an organic and often folkloric ethos that reminded me of Weather Report’s tune “Jungle Book.” 

The Giant is an almost infinitely variable and eminently playable instrument. If your tastes are more conventional, you can mold The Giant into a piano with sound and response suitable for practically any genre you can throw at it. The set of impulse responses and Kontakt’s convolution capabilities expand the possibilities exponentially, but what makes The Giant something more than a simple chameleon is its unique character, which shines through every patch.

Pros: Exceptional and versatile piano sounds from an unusual instrument. Cinematic bank provides earthy as well as organic alternate sounds. Sweet convolution reverb. Highly programmable.

Cons: None significant. 

Bottom Line: Utterly unique among sampled virtual pianos.

$119 direct | native-instruments.com

 
 
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