CASIO CELVIANO GRAND HYBRID
Casio just raised the bar in the electronic piano world. Available in two models, the GP-500 and GP-300, the Celviano Grand Hybrid provides a realistic grand piano action using full-length wooden keys and a custom vertical-hammer system that was developed in partnership with artisanal German piano maker C. Bechstein. Add to that brand-new sample sets that are delivered through a multi-channel speaker system built into the instrument.
Utilizing Casio’s AiR Grand Sound Source, three different main grand piano sounds are included: Berlin, Hamburg, and Vienna, each with bright and warm variants. You can further customize the sound and playability by tweaking hammer response, damper resonance, string resonance, and piano lid position. The GP-500 provides additional nuances including open-string resonance (simulating the top octaves of an acoustic instrument), as well as mechanical noises for key-on, key-off, and pedal.
Additional sounds—stereo strings, electric pianos, and harpsichord among them—can be layered as needed. Duet mode splits the keyboard into two equal pitch ranges for side-by-side music teaching. The Concert Play feature offers simulated orchestral accompaniment, with adjustable tempo.
Both pianos include a six-channel sound system that routes sound to speakers based on your settings and how you play, realistically simulating what happens to the sound from a real grand once it’s “in the air.”
Rounding out the feature set is built-in audio (and MIDI) recording, capturing 16-bit WAV files directly to connected USB memory. With 256-note polyphony, you’ll have to try really hard to hear voice-robbing.
CGP-500: $5,999 | CGP-300: $3,999 | casiomusicgear.com
NATIVE INSTRUMENTS SYMPHONY SERIES
As much musical ground as Native Instruments’ extensive and diverse product line covers—which is to say, pretty much all of it—they’re still not the first name to mind when you think of high-end orchestral brass and strings libraries. To change that, N.I. went to some of the guys whose names you do think of—with excellent results in our early play-testing. Symphony Series Brass was co-developed with SoundIron, with all-new sampling sessions recorded in San Francisco’s iconic (and acoustically ideal) St. Paul’s Church. Ensemble and Solo libraries (also bundled) cover more than 194 chromatic articulations plus special effects such as valve noises, and feature “true legato” sounds that do exactly what the name implies.
Hot on the heels of Brass will be Symphony Series Strings, developed in collaboration with Audiobro, the makers of the hyper-professional L.A. Scoring Strings. Founder Andrew Keresztes traveled to Budapest to record some of Eastern Europe’s best string players for this ambitious ensemble instrument. Two-part divisi is carefully implemented to avoid the undesirable sample-stacking effect when playing chords.
The requisite features such as key-switched articulations, mixing of multiple mic positions, and loading only the samples you need are all present. However, what really struck us about both Symphony Brass and Strings was that although they have enough content to satisfy the Hans Zimmers and Jerry Goldsmiths of the world, you can also be a novice at orchestration, think and play like a keyboard player, and sound like an orchestral section. Symphony Series offers the best of both worlds in a way we definitely don’t see often.
Brass Ensemble: $299 | Brass Solo: $399 | Ensemble + Solo Collection: $499 | Strings: $499 | native-instruments.com