So how does Vienna Imperial sound? Smooth, seamless, unflappable. As you might imagine, with 69,633 samples at hand, there never seemed to be a playing condition that left it at a loss for the perfect response, regardless of dynamic levels, releases, or pedaling. There was also no mistaking it for anything but a Bösendorfer—the tone was clean, clear, and distinctive. One thing I found enjoyable was recording using Preset 02 Player Default for the at-the-keyboard experience, then playing back using Preset 04 Distant Concert Piano Big Hall for the in-the-audience experience.

The two effects available in the native player software are Equalization and Reverberation. The equalization, or EQ, is a three-band parametric arrangement. A parametric EQ allows you to not only adjust the degree of boost or cut for a specific frequency range, but to move the center frequency of each range and to change its "Q," or the bandwidth of the effect. This is vastly beyond the control provided by your home or car stereo's Bass, Mid, and Treble controls.

The reverb control, too, goes well beyond the ordinary. Most reverberation schemes employed in digital pianos still rely on algorithms that provide the original sound with "reverb." With Vienna Imperial, VSL has seen fit to include convolutional reverb, which uses an impulse signal within a real acoustic space to sample the reverberation characteristics of that space. It's a lot like sampling the sound of a piano: an extremely brief "impulse" sound—an electric spark is common—causes an acoustic space to reverberate, and the result is captured as an acoustic signature. Convolutional reverb can impose this reverb signature on any given sound, resulting in the impression that the sound was captured in the originally sampled space. In this case your piano can be placed in any of the three different performance spaces of the Wiener Konzerthaus (Vienna Concert House).

Is Vienna Imperial worth the $875 investment? If you love the sound of the Bösendorfer Imperial but lack the $150,000, the considerable space required, or both, this may be your ultimate solution. If you're happy with the action of your digital piano—this always comes first for me—but feel you'd like to have more piano sounds, adding software-based pianos is a great option. But be warned: once you start down this path, there is a tremendous temptation to collect them all.

Vienna Imperial by Vienna Symphonic Library


System Requirements:

PC Intel Core Duo (or AMD 3GHz) or higher

Mac Core Duo, Intel Platform only

3GB RAM with 1.5GB memory available

Fast separate hard drive with 60GB free space

The White House Gold Grand Art Case Piano


SPRING 2010 -- page 148

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