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