Over the better part of a decade, AcousticSampleS have consistently proven themselves as purveyors of fine quality sampled instruments. It is evident in each one of their products that a careful balance is maintained between library size and sonic realism. The question could be asked: “What good is ‘realism’ if the instrument that’s been sampled isn’t pristine in its original state?”
Mark79 may certainly be categorized as a classic, vintage instrument. Here, we are presented a superb sample library of a classic 73 key ‘suitcase’ Fender Rhodes® Mark II, circa 1979. The samples were recorded dry via studio-grade DI into a high end tube-powered preamp. From the moment you play your first chord or riff, your ears are greeted with authentic Rhodes character a-plenty. The tone is rich, full and very well-balanced. All of this sumptuous tines n’ tone can be had for the reasonable price of 79€ / $87 (USD)
As regards space requirements, there are close to three and a half gigabytes of uncompressed samples packed into this library - these generously feature TEN layers of sustained note *and* TEN layers of release samples. Thankfully, the samples have been compressed in lossless FLAC format and only require 1.46 GB of hard drive real-estate. By today’s large, multi-gig standards, this is a very manageable library size. The samples load quickly and are ready-to-go within just a few seconds, from a cold state.
Once a purchase has been transacted, the buyer receives an emailed invoice listing a personalized serial number. Presumably, a customer has created a User Account at acousticsamples.net whereby the serial number can be registered and authorized. Once this has been accomplished, download links are provided in the “Downloads/Serials” section of the user’s online account. The process is simple and efficient. There aren’t any restrictions placed on the frequency or availability of purchased downloads.
* The latest AcousticSampleS iLok licenses can also be machine activated/authorized.
Mark79 does not disappoint one’s ocular senses. The GUI is comfortably proportioned within the typical UVI Workstation’s dimensions of 720px wide x 716px high and shows off eye-pleasing photo-realistic graphics. The presentation here is an excellent balance between functionality and visual appeal.
The onlooker is immediately struck with the impression of an old Rhodes e-Piano that’s been well maintained. Delicate, graphical application of lighting, shadowing and reflective effects divvy up a tasty dish of visuals.
We’re supplied a conventional yet satisfying array of controls for manipulating both Electric and Acoustic levels, bass and treble EQ, Vibrato speed and intensity, Distortion (or more accurately, overdrive), Reverb, Cabinet modeling, and Release & Pedal volumes. Each of these responds smoothly to mouse movements. All of the control labels are legible and clearly seen. There are three amply-sized push buttons for Distortion, Reverb and Cabinet emulation which brightly indicate their ‘on/off’ status. A small dip switch facilitates switching the vibrato from off, pan, or traditional volume oscillation.
Making changes to any of the knobs or EQ sliders results in smooth, gradual changes to the instrument’s sound. The stereo-capable vibrato/panning feature is particularly pleasing. Double clicking on any of the user-adjustable controls allows for direct value input from computer keyboard, which is most convenient. Although it’s super simple to dial up a *great sound in “Mark79”, I was surprised that the library doesn’t include at least a smattering of presets. (I’m reaching to find something slightly negative to keep this review balanced) *Smile.
This library yields ten true velocity layers for both natural sustained notes as well as an equal number of release noise layers. The UVI scripting ‘under-the-hood’ performs admirably and ensures seamless, intelligent cohesion between the various sampled elements. Of course, the raw, unamplified acoustic samples can be mixed in according to a player’s own discretion. There is a lush pool of pedal and release samples flawlessly integrated, which greatly increases the perception of realism. These are easily blended with actual sustained (*normal) notes. Each can be set between -20dB to +8dB.
As mentioned earlier, there is an independent “Acoustic” volume knob. AcousticSampleS haven’t gone to the extremes that SonicCouture have with SC’s “EP73 Deconstructed” Kontakt library, but there is still ample mechanical-noise realism to be experienced here. Most professional recordings do not include a Rhodes’ acoustic, mechanical ‘noise’; this is a authenticity bonus for the player.
To the immediate left of the aforementioned pedal and release knobs, we have a small, white icon shaped like a midi din-port. Clicking on this reveals a handy keyboard dynamics panel containing a pair of knobs for fine-tuning ‘Dynamics’ and ‘Sensitivity’ respectively. These controls in conjunction with the velocity curve parameter, allow a user to tailor the instrument’s midi and velocity responsiveness proportionate to his/her keyboard.
"This sample library certainly produces faithful and believable sounds, but it does so with scrupulously credible responsiveness. More so than many similar products, Mark79 'feels' legit."
Genuine bark, tine tinkle, and gorgeous, rich tone are all here in spades. I go so far as to say that if one could afford to have only a single Rhodes library, due to finances or due to hard drive limitations, “Mark79” would make an excellent choice. This sample library oozes vintage Rhodes tone and is fairly dripping with even-tempered ‘Rhodesy’ character. I honestly can’t find a way to make it sound bad. If there was some degree of sample looping used, I can’t detect it; notes decay smoothly and evenly. There is, however, just enough variance to impart a convincing savoir-faire.
When you engage the reverb, your ears are massaged by starkly realistic convolution loaded up with a deliciously ‘sproingy’ spring reverb IR (impulse response). Time-honored ‘amped’ tones are realized further by turning the Cab feature on – which, by the way, can be reminiscent of a 2x12 Fender Twin™ guitar amp sound with the correct IR selected.
Wide, pulsating, stereo panning is just a mouse flick away, or you can opt for a traditionally oscillated volume vibrato. In either case, the effect is pleasing and well implemented.
Across the full 73-key spectrum, the tone remains authentic and captivating; it’s an absolute joy to sit in front of a pair of good monitors and just . . . play. At its default EQ settings, the instrument exhibits full, even tonal quality. Beyond that, with some EQ adjustments, the lows can thunder and the upper range is capable of plenteous sparkle.
Of importance to any *real* Rhodes player is the immediacy and genuineness of note attack and tactile sensitivity. We are all too well aware of the many vhirtual Rohodes choices available in the present digital domain. Where dissecting some of those choices becomes interesting, is not only the authenticity of the sound, but the actual 'feel' and playability of the perspective choice. This is an area where "Mark79" excels, and perhaps bests many of its competitors. This sample library certainly produces faithful and believable sounds, but it does so with scrupulously credible responsiveness. More so than many similar products, Mark79 'feels' legit.
I‘ve been bench-testing/reviewing “Mark79” on an Intel i5 2650 laptop using a 7200 RPM HDD – performance has been excellent. I’ve not experienced any drop-outs or glitches. While monitoring with the Windows 7 (64-bit) Task Manager, I’ve not seen CPU spikes rise above 10 percent while keeping the sustain pedal depressed and playing as many (random) notes as possible. Actual playing sees a CPU demand of approximately three to seven percent.
AcousticSampleS have hit a home run with this one. “Mark79” looks good, ‘feels’ good, and sounds good. In this writer’s opinion, it accurately renders a highly usable and enjoyable vintage electric piano experience. While it’s true that iLok dongle protection can be annoying for laptop users, it is also convenient. No need to worry about reactivating your software on a new computer using any type of “Service Center” or “Authorization Manager”. As long as you keep your iLok dongle safe, you’re good to go.
- Winning interface design.
- Even-tempered, realistic-sounding Rhodes library oozing with character.
- Affable value vs. Cost ratio .
- Simple to configure & Easy to dial up great Rhodes sounds.
- Although basic, the effects are high quality and sound wonderful.
- Modest system requirements.
- Plenty of control over midi dynamics and sensitivity.
- Large collection of convincing cabinet impulse responses.
- Honourable, customer-oriented company.
- Available for both MAC & PC (32 & 64 bit, including AAX)
- It would be nice to have a few presets. Since this is a UVI-powered sample library, some useful presets including phase, chorus, delay, and etcetera would add an additional degree of “out-of-the-box” convenience.
- I’m not particularly struck on iLok protection for laptop use, but generally, it is a reliable and trouble-free copy protection system.
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Brother Charles is a freelance writer, Gospel music artist and minister. Charles had been a professional touring musician during the nineties; working primarily as a lead guitarist in the Canadian country music industry. Brother Charles is also involved with music production and quality home recording.
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