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So what's the concensus on Electric Keys!?

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Postby corbo-billy » Thu Jun 12, 2008 6:10 pm

I come to acquire this virtual instrument and not myself am served a few hours.
Nevertheless, I find it rather hard in your judgement _
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Postby monkey man » Fri Jun 13, 2008 8:24 am

FWIW, I think MLC was a little (or a lot!) unfair in his criticism of EK.
I too have only heard the demo mp3's, and I believe much of the glory of the VI is swamped in the various mixes.

To my ears, based solely on the demo, it's a fine, natural-sounding classic key VI that's more than sensibly priced, as are all of MOTU's VIs, IMHO.

Sorry Magilla - I meant to say something yesterday but hadn't the time.
I'd err on the side of caution when negatively criticising a VI based solely on an MP3 demo, FWIW.

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Re: So what's the concensus on Electric Keys!?

Postby David Polich » Thu Oct 02, 2008 3:28 pm

The problem with many sample libraries, not just this one, is often the
programming of the sounds, not necessarily the samples themselves.
I expect that EK was programmed using a proprietary editor, not
available to the public. We don't know what was (or wasn't) available
to the programmers within the editor, it may well have been
very limited, with just two or three velocity-switched layers,
lack of key-off elements,limited breakpoint scaling of
amplitude and filter, things like that. I've only seen the
screenshot for the "Advanced Features", so I don't know
if they just had the VI's own editing features to work with, or if
MOTU supplied them with an editor that had more.

One of the things I've often encountered in my many years as
a sound designer is that often, younger programmers have the
mad skills but lack familiarity with the instruments in question.
One of the instruments programmers get "wrong" most of the
time is the Yamaha CP70/CP 80 electric grand. Particularly
with respect to the attacks. The Electric Grand had odd
attack characteristics, in the very very lowest register, those
wonderful bass notes had a sharper attack, then as you moved
upward to the middle octaves the attacks were more "Rhodes-like",
and finally in the uppermost octaves the notes sounded closer
to an acoustic piano's undamped keys.

If note-off sounds are included, there has to be a way of
assigning them to a separate velocity-controlled layer so
you can adjust the "amount" of note-off sound. Additionally,
note-off sounds, per instrument, don't track pitch-wise
in the same way as the normal notes do. Pitch will often
track on a shallower logarithmic scale, sometimes reverse to
what the normal notes do, and sometimes note-off sounds
don't really have much of a pitch fundamental at all, or they
maintain a more or less fixed pitch across the keyboard,
with exceptions in the bottom two octaves and the top octave.
If you can't control this type of pitch tracking, AND you are not
familiar with how note-offs and resonance sounds for a particular
instrument track, you are going to end up with a less
realistic emulation.

Note-offs are a HUGE part of a "realistic"
instrument sound, we don't really notice them as separate
from the sound, but when they are absent our ears tell us
we're listening to something that's somewhat "fake". The next
time you get anywhere near a Rhodes, hit a key and release
it and listen to what happens.
It's really pronounced, and when you train your ear to notice
it, then it sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb.

The "tine" part of a Rhodes sound usually resides somewhere
around a 9th or 11th interval relative to the fundamental,
and tracks at around a 12 -25% slope positively starting with
a base point at the lowest note the Rhodes can play. That's
another thing programmers can miss, I forget it myself
at times. Wurlitzer pianos have a top octave that really sounds
more like the undamped notes on an acoustic piano, in the
bottom octave the notes "squawk" more than the notes
elsewhere (there's literally no "squawk" with the top
octave notes on a Wurli), and the lower notes have very
little release. Here's another example -
the harp resonance of a CP80 grand. When you
strike a note quickly and don't hold it, you'll hear the harp
assembly react, with what sounds almost like a very
thin , high-pass filtered metallic "repeat" of the note you played,
ringing out at a pitch somewhere about an octave above the note you
played. The resonance is fainter than the primary sound,
but it's there nonetheless. The pitch of the resonance
doesn't exactly track the keyboard either, and it is
louder in some regions and quieter in others.

If you actually have the real
instruments around for a reality check, you'd be amazed
at how many "vintage keyboard" libraries really don't sound
close to their real-life counterparts. Or should I say, they
don't "behave" like their real-life cousins.

Believe it or not, the Yamaha Motif XS, with its 8
individually programmable elements, is one of
the most flexible platforms for sound design with respect to
"vintage" keyboard sounds. I have a Korg M3 and up
until recently had a Roland Fantom X6, neither one of
these allowed as much flexibility in sound design
as the Motif XS. And that kind of flexibility is not even
available for Electric Keys, or indeed most software
sampler instruments, including Scarbee. You pretty
much get what you get, and have access to very
few parameters that really let you dig in "under
the hood" and customize the sound to your standards.

By the way, I've left messages for Jim Cooper offering
my programming skills to MOTU, but have never gotten
a reply.
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Re: So what's the concensus on Electric Keys!?

Postby MIDI Life Crisis » Thu Oct 02, 2008 3:58 pm

David Polich wrote:The problem with many sample libraries, not just this one, is often the
programming of the sounds, not necessarily the samples themselves...


And in large part that is what I am willing to pay for; good programming. IF I have to program the sounds after I buy a package I might was well sample the sounds myself. Of course, I don't have regular access to the Vienna Phil. or a few banks of Schoeps mics sitting around, and that is also some of what you pay for. But the bottom line in these packages is the programming and in the case of EKeys, I remain unimpressed. When I was at a West LA Music event with Frodo they were doing a raffle. When I heard the prize was EKeys, I didn't bother to stand in line to fill out a ticket. I'm already backed up on my eBay sales... :)

Harsh? You bet, but no harsher than my audience or clients. (Probably more so.)
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Re: So what's the concensus on Electric Keys!?

Postby Kubi » Thu Oct 02, 2008 5:31 pm

I'm using Electric Keys on my current project and find it extremely useful... I do find myself bypassing the effects section in favor of my own, but I have a few really choice ones that cost a lot more than eKeys, so that's not saying anything against the built-in effects. And as all sampled instruments, it benefits immensely from being either piped out through an analog pre, or else through one of the choice new 'fake circuits' a la URS saturation.

But I find it indispensable in this project. Just goes to show you - one man's trash... :D
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Re: So what's the concensus on Electric Keys!?

Postby David Polich » Thu Oct 02, 2008 10:55 pm

Since I don't own Electric Keys, I can't say anything about it
from experience. My previous post was a comment on sample
libraries/virtual instruments in general, not really a
swipe at EK. I own Ethno and really like it, and I've read
negative comments on it as well. So really, if the product
suits your needs and you like the sounds, that's
what is most important.

Besides, it's difficult to "describe" sound anyway, except
through comparisons to common frames of reference, as in
"woody", "thin", "fizzy", "metallic", or to existing/previous
products - "it reminds me of the Korg M1", "it sounds
like a DX7 piano", " it's like all the sounds are going
through an old Alesis Midiverb" etc.
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Re: So what's the concensus on Electric Keys!?

Postby corbo-billy » Fri Oct 03, 2008 1:38 am

I have not managed to translate the lengthy previous messages but I compared the sounds of E.Key with the instruments in Logic Pro 8 and the Fender Rhodes & Electric Pianos emerge more and are more presents with MOTU Application _

But it is true that we hear much talk !
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Re: So what's the concensus on Electric Keys!?

Postby scottlawson » Tue Mar 24, 2009 6:08 pm

I'm somewhat amazed that folks seem to have abandoned E-Keys from the get-go. And, considering the absence of even the slightest corrective update, this apparently includes MOTU as well. This was a massive undertaking on MOTU's part, no matter how you look at it. Daunted by the negative feedback, I actually delayed in even loading it. I finally forced myself to take the 90 minutes (with a Firewire 800 connection) to load all the samples. Following the great advice here, it all went without a glitch. I have to say that the sounds are generally, well, fantastic. They've tackled a whole slew of highly-nuanced keyboards and have more than done them justice. I toggled through a huge variety of different samples and found them to be uniformly excellent. Are there a few that are less well-realized than others? Of course. Are the load times slow? Yes, a little. But the things one really cares about here are extremely well done. I was fully prepared to be completely disappointed. Quite the opposite. This is a great--and extremely broad--set of very-well-sampled keyboard sounds. I hope MOTU doesn't give up on supporting this excellent product and I hope that those of you on the fence about this take the plunge. I love the NI stuff and have used the B4 for years, but this is a very serious player in this space. Well worth the (I think) reasonable price.
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Re: So what's the concensus on Electric Keys!?

Postby FrankW » Tue Aug 04, 2009 12:45 am

Wow. I'm also surprised so few people like EK. I think it BLOWS NI's EP out of the water. I too bought it strictly based on the Rhodes sounds with everything else being 'extra'. Plus I got it really cheap from a guy that had to sell it. Lucky, 'cause I was going to buy it anyway. The MKII seems to have some weird high frequency distortion in it, which makes it pretty much unusable for me. But the MKI's make up for it. The MKIV is nice as well. I think they could have done better with the 'Tape Sampler', but I have M Tron, and several other Mellotron sample sets. So, that's no biggie. And the other almost secret bonus in this set is the really good CP80! Really nice electric grand piano. And I'd been wanting this sound. Now I got it! Just goes to show ya, one man's junk....
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