Like it or love it, Yamaha’s CP-80 elec­tric grand pi­ano is a bona fide clas­sic – so can this mul­ti­sam­pled soft­ware ver­sion do it jus­tice?

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A sam­ple-based em­u­la­tion of the clas­sic Yamaha CP-80 elec­tric grand pi­ano, as made leg­endary in the 80s by the likes of El­ton John, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Toto, Her­bie Han­cock and many more, Waves’ new in­stru­ment keeps things as sim­ple as such a thing should be, but still man­ages to work in a hand­ful of use­ful ex­tras.

Built on a 500MB bank of mul­ti­sam­ples cap­tured at a range of ve­loc­i­ties and with roundrobin vari­a­tions, Elec­tric Grand 80 (VST/AU/AAX/ RTAS/stand­alone) em­ploys sep­a­rate sam­pler engines for the Main, Key Up/re­lease, Me­chan­i­cal and Pedal sounds, and the four faders con­trol­ling them make it a cinch to get your de­sired blend of notes and noises. Re­lated to this, the Sus­tain Res­o­nance knob di­als in the sym­pa­thetic vi­bra­tion of nearby strings to those be­ing played when the sus­tain pedal is de­pressed, prov­ing most ef­fec­tive for adding power and weight to held low notes and chords.

All keyed up

The re­sponse of Elec­tric Grand 80 can be adapted to your play­ing style via the Ve­loc­ity Curve knob (from log­a­rith­mic when fully an­ti­clock­wise, through lin­ear at the cen­tre de­tent, to ex­po­nen­tial when clock­wise), while tonal and dy­nam­ics shap­ing is pro­vided by an on­board com­pres­sor, EQ, for­mant fil­ter and lim­iter. The Comp knob mixes in the out­put of the in­ter­nal com­pres­sor for an in­creas­ingly punchy, less dy­namic sound – al­though with no ac­ces­si­ble con­trols, this is some­thing of a ‘take it or leave it’ propo­si­tion. The three-band EQ is the same as that on the ac­tual CP-80 mi­nus the Bril­liance switch, with a gain knob for each band. The Bass band is a low shelv­ing fil­ter, cor­ner­ing at 203Hz; Mid is a bell fil­ter at 900Hz; and Tre­ble is a high shelf, cor­ner­ing at 1.875kHz. All three of­fer up to 18dB of cut or boost, and are per­fectly ad­e­quate for ap­ply­ing quick tonal tweaks with­out re­sort­ing to an ex­ter­nal EQ plugin.

Def­i­nitely not some­thing found on the Yamaha orig­i­nal, the For­mant knob brings un­con­ven­tional fil­ter­ing into play. Rang­ing from -12 to +12, set­ting it to -5, say, changes the char­ac­ter – but, cru­cially, not the pitch – of the pi­ano to that of the notes five semi­tones be­low those be­ing played. It works well as a broad­strokes tone con­trol, com­ple­men­tary to the EQ.

Fi­nally, the master vol­ume con­trol is fol­lowed up by a 0dB brick­wall lim­iter on the out­put for pre­vent­ing overs; and the VU peak me­ter, cal­i­brated for 18dB of head­room, fea­tures sep­a­rate nee­dles for the left and right chan­nels.

Elec­tric Grand 80 sounds as near as dammit to the real thing as any CP-80 em­u­la­tion we’ve heard, with the four mix­able sound sources open­ing up plenty of raw sound cus­tomi­sa­tion, and the For­mant fil­ter mak­ing a help­ful part­ner to the stan­dard EQ. The ef­fects are a great touch, too, plac­ing enough sig­nal pro­cess­ing within the in­stru­ment it­self to en­able con­sid­er­able en­hance­ment, pol­ish­ing and trans­for­ma­tion with­out com­pli­cat­ing the work­flow.

If the very par­tic­u­lar sound of the CP-80 is some­thing you have a need for in your pro­duc­tions, Waves’ vir­tu­al­i­sa­tion of it is an af­ford­able, thor­oughly con­vinc­ing stand-in for the real thing.

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