Available as a download, Addictive Keys offers a
standalone version and supports AU, VST, and, RTAS plug-in formats. The
sound library can be purchased individually, comprising three main
instruments: Grand Piano (Steinway D), Upright (Yamaha U3), and Rhodes
Mark I, but you’ll be surprised by the depth and breadth of timbres
issuing from the three basic instruments. This is largely due to a
respectable and well-applied synthesis and effects engine, but also
because of the inclusion of many keyboard artifacts. Aided by a well
thought out user interface, the results can range from subtle to
Addictive Keys hosts roughly 3.6GB of samples. The
acoustic pianos are about 1.6 and 1.25GB, respectively, with the Rhodes
weighing in at 930MB. Although that’s nowhere near the multi-gigabyte
instruments available today, you wouldn’t guess that from hearing them.
These are lively, playable instruments with natural decays that respond
realistically to dynamics. There are no end-of-loop artifacts, and
though the documentation doesn’t make clear how many velocity levels the
samples use, it sounds as if there’s sufficient range, as a cursory
glance showed that most of the grand piano patches had the filter
disabled, the filters being reserved for more obviously synthetic
Addictive Keys is easy on the eye, and facilitates a
number of ways to sort through and choose patches. When you first launch
it, you’re in the Gallery section, with the default “Studio Grand”
loaded. Left and right arrows navigate to each of the three piano types,
and below, icons in the ExploreMaps section lets you click through
variations. Quick-edit knobs for customizing the timbre let you carve
out what you need in a hurry. At the top left of the instrument’s header
is a Memo button, which lets you record MIDI data that you can later
drop into a track in your DAW: a nice touch. Sample loading is smooth
and remarkably swift.
Addictive Keys’ editing screen ofters mic and amp modeling, EQ, a phaser, and synth-like filters and envelopes.
At the top left of the acoustic instruments are controls
for tweaking the strength of the soft pedal, pedal noise, and the amount
of body resonance and noise. If you need to restrict the timbre of the
instrument, you can scale the instrument’s velocity switching response,
limiting the timbre to one layer if need be.
Controls for pitch, filter, and volume show up under tabs
on the upperright of the edit screen, with controls for pitch exposed as
a default. There’s no global transposition; instead, you can transpose
up or down an octave on a per-patch basis. A Dissonance knob can alter pitches randomly from very subtle variances well into experimental territories.
A common programmer’s trick to create brighter or warmer
instruments is to move the root pitch of a sample up or down, and the
Sample Shift knob can add overall brilliance or darkness to the piano
quickly. You may not think you’ll need vibrato or a pitch envelope for a
piano [Josef Zawinul might disagree. –Ed.], but this is, after
all, a synth; extreme vibrato added a gritty front end, and rapid pitch
envelopes added cool clicks to the attack.
If you want to change the overall tonal quality, click on
the Filter tab. You get a choice of a lowpass highpass, or bandpass
types. You can defeat or invert the filter envelope, scale the response
over the range of the keyboard, adjust resonance, and set the envelope’s
velocity response, all of which—combined with the envelope’s five rates
and four levels—can take the otherwise unalloyed piano tone deep into
synth territory (listen to Audio Clip 1 online).
Each instrument was sampled though multiple mics in close
and other perspectives. The Rhodes includes a line out, a direct box,
and an amp, in addition to several mic perspectives. You can’t alter mic
distances, although you can alter levels and effects sends of
individual mics, which can achieve similar results. Addictive Keys also
lets you mix in ambient noise ranging from mic self-noise to DC hum to
the fuzz of an Electro-Harmonix Muff stompbox. The tweakage ensues with
three-band EQ and a small set of selectable effects processors,
including chorus, phase, and the oddly named Delerb, which proves to be a
hybrid of reverb and delay whose reflections are continuously variable
from one to the other. Modulation effects can sync to tempo.
Finally, the Session Settings page provides access to
global parameters, including a wide range of selectable tunings, with a
stretch-tuning knob. This is where you set modulation and automation
sources, which apply to a limited batch of parameters, such as filter
The acoustic pianos shine, and there are variations
suitable for practically any musical genre. The “Studio Grand” preset
will serve well solo or behind ballads. The enhanced brilliance of
“Intense Keys” offers a more cutting tone better suited for ensemble
jazz than the mellower “Jazzish.” Upright pianos are more in-your-face,
with a sweeping resonant decay. Some of the synth patches here are
standouts; my favorite is “Woody Pizzicato,” which suggests a hybrid of
piano and acoustic bass, and makes a wonderful, if unorthodox clavinet
(Audio Clip 2).
My first impression of the Rhodes presets was that they
were a trifle bland, but some judicious tweaking proved otherwise.
“Vibrotwin,” for example, is clearly an attempt at producing a dirty,
Wurly-like tone from the Rhodes, and if you’re not a purist, its gritty,
square-wavy sound can carry the day, particularly in the low to
midrange frequencies (audio clip 3).
There’s a lot to recommend Addictive Keys. In addition to
its overall sonic excellence, the wide array of timbres and perspectives
make it easy to fit into almost any mix, the patch loading is swift,
and the engine is efficient and stable. The interface is gorgeous, and
the price is right. If your sound library needs a piano or 20, check
Addictive Keys out.
Great basic piano and EP sounds with plenty of variations. Elegant user interface encourages programming. Patches load quickly.
Modulation routings and automation assignments are global, with a limited choice of destinations.
An outstanding value in a one-stop-shop virtual instrument for acoustic piano and Rhodes.
$179 list | $149 street | xlnaudio.com