Modartt Pianoteq 2

Modartt Pianoteq 2

While there are lots of controls for tweaking the sound, you’ll fall in love with Pianoteq by just playing the darn thing.


While the digital music world is ruled by gnarly synthesizers, decked-out drum machines, and spacey sound effects, most musicians will tell you that the Holy Grail of software is one that can emulate the good old acoustic piano. Sampled piano instruments typically require sample libraries that eat up between 15 and 30 gigabytes of hard drive space, and are constrained by the limitations of sampling technology. Well, fear not: A group of French geniuses have come up with the ultimate nonsampled piano, and it’s downright luscious.


The very first thing you’ll notice when you install Pianoteq is its tiny footprint—the entire plug-in weighs in at around 16MB, which is ridiculously small for any software instrument, much less a piano. Copy protection consists of a serial number and Internet activation, and installation is effortless.


We tested Pianoteq as an Audio Units plug-in inside of GarageBand, Logic, and Ableton Live, and its responsiveness and wonderful aural quality thrilled us immediately. While nothing is likely to ever match the full majesty and presence of an actual Steinway, Pianoteq comes close. Just plug your own weighted 88-key controller and sustain pedal into your Mac, and you’ve got an awesome piano that never needs to be tuned or polished. It’s a glorious experience, and your audience probably won’t believe that you’re not stroking actual ivories.


There’s a decent amount of control over the particulars of the piano sound, with a nice handful of presets to get you started. Want to change the size of the virtual piano? Open or closed lid, or perhaps half-open? The app gives you lots of options for changing the sound of the instrument in subtle, and not-so-subtle, ways.


The hammers that strike the strings in a real piano have a significant influence on the overall tone and timbre, and Pianoteq delivers deep control for tweaking the dynamics of the hammers and how they interact with the virtual strings. It’s not difficult to quickly come up with extreme versions of your piano that start to sound like a marimba. Other utilitarian tools let you tweak the overall tone; for example, the built-in graphic equalizer and reverb both offer the perfect pinch of sonic seasoning for your sound.


If you don’t want to wrap your brain around the science of piano engineering, grab some of the free presets from the Pianoteq website that deliver renditions of everything from the venerable Yamaha CP-80 electric piano to a 270-year-old harpsichord, each with its own unique tones and voicings. The range of sounds that emanates from this instrument is quite stunning, and eminently useful in a musical context. It’s clear that the folks who created this marvel did so out of a deep love for the piano, and this is really what makes Pianoteq shine.


Every nuance of the sound of Pianoteq is created on the fly, and as you might expect, this places a definitive strain on a Mac’s processor, but even so, we found it to be highly efficient. Holding down a sustain pedal and running our fingers up and down the keyboard started to tax our 2.0GHz Dual Power Mac G5 (with 2GB of RAM), but our 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro (with 3GB of RAM) had no problems keeping up with dense chords and sustained notes.


The bottom line. If you’re using your Mac to make music, you need to stop reading this review right now and download the Pianoteq 45-day demo. This is one of the most enticing and useful software instruments in existence, and even though it’s not cheap, it’s a lot easier to lug to a gig than a real piano—and sounds about as good. Did we mention that it never goes out of tune?


COMPANY: Modartt


PRICE: 249 Euros (about $384 at press time)

REQUIREMENTS: 2GHz or faster G5 or Intel processor, Mac OS 10.3.9 or later, 512MB RAM

Outstanding sonic quality. Decent processor load and memory footprint. Terrific value. Universal binary.

Nothing, really.




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I have this instrument. It's totally amazing, considering what it costs, how small and simple it is, and how it sounds. This is the most playable and realistic piano instrument currently out.

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