Virtual instruments let musicians integrate a wide variety of sounds into arrangements, and they eliminate the tedious steps required to set up and record the real thing—provided the musicians even have access to the real thing. But the downside of virtual sounds is that they can sometimes be “good enough,” rather than convincing and truly musical. This is not the case with Synthogy’s Ivory 1.0, which provides the sound of three beautifully rich and full virtual grand pianos.
Synthogy’s engineers, formerly of Kurzweil Music Systems, stereo recorded every key on three distinctive grand pianos—a German Steinway D 9-foot Concert Grand, a Bosendorfer 290 Imperial Grand, and a Yamaha C7—from key strike to final decay, multiple times and at a variety of dynamic levels, including at a muted level. The resulting presets are superb, but Ivory also offers a complement of controls—from tuning, timbre, and release points to sustain resonance—that affect sound characteristics. You can even specify the amount of sound made by the physical mechanics of playing the keys and made by string vibration. There are also digital effects for chorusing and equalization, and Synth Layer—which lets you add string and synth pads—for fleshing out an arrangement.
The three piano-sound libraries, totalling 32GB, can be loaded individually or all at once—a process that took an hour and a half with a dual-1.25GHz Power Mac G4. During play, Ivory puts heavy demands on your Mac. It requires 512MB of RAM and a 450MHz G4 CPU, but Synthogy recommends 1GB of RAM and a 1GHz CPU in order to utilize all the program’s voices and controls. The manual provides ample information about optimizing Ivory for various system configurations.
Ivory runs in OS 9 and OS X, and it has plug-in modules for RTAS, VST, and Audio Units-based sequencers. The Audio Units version crashed Apple’s Logic Pro 7 in our tests, but an update that fixes this problem is available on Synthogy’s Web site. A stand-alone version of Ivory that enabled you to play gigs without having to launch a resource-draining sequencer would be nice, but you can use Granted Software’s $29 Rax (
) to make Ivory road-friendly. And because you can authorize three installations of Ivory, you can comfortably take one with you on the road.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
If piano sounds play a significant role in your song arrangements, Ivory 1.0 is a must-have product. It provides superbly recorded instruments and offers plenty of controls to help you achieve the specific tone you’re seeking.Truly Grand Pianos Choose from Ivory’s more than 40 preset sounds, or pick one of the unaffected pianos (shown here) and modify it.