Fortunately for us, company founder & owner, Arnaud Sicard, and his team at AcousticSampleS, sonically capture some of the best-sounding instruments available in the world. Mark79 is such an example of Parisian craftsmanship, par excellence.
This engaging instrument is experienced within the proprietary “UVI Workstation” sample player format, freely downloadable from UVI.net. Definitely a qualifying contender for audio quality supremacy, the UVI format provides convenience, ease-of-use, and exemplary built-in effects (including a streamlined version of UVI’s fabulous algorithmic reverb, Sparkverb). As with other sample players, such as Kontakt, a user can configure disk streaming, RAM consumption, ADSR, and most nearly any other pertinent option thinkable. Personally, I really like the UVI platform and I find it very comfortable to use.
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)
If you read my earlier review of SonicCouture’s remarkable “EP73 Deconstructed”, you’ll know that I hold it in very high esteem. That said, standing proudly beside it is this equally impressive rendering of Rhodes sound. In all fairness, the two sample libraries can’t be directly compared; they are demonstrations of differing keyboard models. What can be compared, however, is the respective sound quality of each one, which is very good indeed. Where the “EP73” is a unique library capable of a divergent degree of sound creativity, AcousticSampleS’ “Mark79” is a more straight forward repository. This one is dedicated to accurately representing a Mark II Fender Rhodes® electric piano in as pure a fashion as possible.
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.
Installation and Authorization:
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.
Personally, I prefer personalized serial number or digital water-marking over ‘Challenge/Response’ activations or dongle protection. Nevertheless, I of course, understand the necessity of developers making efforts to protect their businesses from flagrant software piracy.
* The latest AcousticSampleS iLok licenses can also be machine activated/authorized.
The keys seem to ‘reflect’ off the metal panel behind them and beckon a player to “come hither”. All user-adjustable controls are laid out as one would expect, respectfully mimicking the physical instrument’s front panel layout. The instrument’s GUI is charming, functional and implies an authentic Rhodes experience. J’aime Ça!
Operations & Control:
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.
The original release of “Mark79” incorporated a single, 2x12 speaker cabinet IR (impulse response). AcousticSampleS have upped the ante considerably by bundling together a liberal helping of 25 good quality IRs such as: Rhodes amp, Twin, Bassman, Silverface, Mesa, Markbass and many more. These are actually a culmination of the various IRs used by other various AcousticSampleS libraries.
"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.
I apologize to Monsieur Sicard for taking so long in getting ‘round to this review, but it certainly has been a pleasure for me to finally experience this exemplary sample library. I’m an e-Piano fanatic and I promise you, dear reader, that this one does not disappoint.
- 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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