Session Keys Acoustic Bundle by e-instruments Review
There are so many piano libraries available you could get dizzy just looking at half of them – but today we’ll have a look at a collection that’s balanced, well priced and well worth a look – Session Keys Acoustic Bundle from e-Instruments.
I’ve long been a fan of their Session Strings and Session Woodwinds lines, but this is the first time I’ve looked at the Session Keys line. As always, they have made sure to give us a diverse collection with all kinds of sampled keys from grand pianos, funky upright pianos, EPs, Wurlitzers, and more. We also get nice and varied accompanying instruments like guitars, mallets, and shakers which can add flavor to your songs in many ways.
e-Instruments are probably best known for partnering with Native Instruments to release libraries like Session Horns Pro and Session Strings Pro. The Session Keys Acoustic Bundle is a package containing three pianos that can also be bought separately – Session Keys S, Session Keys Y, and Session Keys Upright. E-instruments did send a review copy with no strings attached.
All three libraries sport precise deep-sampling and tone controls – the grand pianos were sampled with their lid both open and off completely, while the upright was sampled with the front panel both on and off.
Session Keys Acoustic Bundle Installation
The library is downloaded in parts (there’s a fair bit of content) and then each piano library can be unzipped to your folder of choice. Then you simply log in to the Native Access program (which can be downloaded from Native Instruments’ site) and add the library to your account by activating the serial number you were given at purchase and pointing Native Access to where you unzipped the folder.
Session Keys Acoustic Bundle Sound
Overall, these three pianos sound immaculate. The recording is crystal clear, perfectly balanced and they all feel great to play. You can get a sense of the weight and presence behind each key even when using a standard MIDI keyboard because the transient detail has been captured very carefully.
Session Keys S
Let’s start off with the “Standard” in this bundle which has everything you need for your basic piano library. Here are some demos I’ve put together of the Session Keys S in action with some accompaniment from my fellow musicians at CMH Label Group.
First up is a ballad played on the grand piano. It’s so clean and natural-sounding that it really evokes the feeling of being there in the room with the piano. Then we have a jazzy “Elvin-ish” number. You can hear all kinds of little details in this one, even when the track begins to get busier.
The upright piano is a classic jazz staple, and this one does not disappoint. Then we have a funky number played on the upright accompanied by some guitar for extra texture. This piano has a very distinctive sound that I’m really liking – it reminds me of old blues recordings from the 1920s.
Session Keys Y
The Grand Piano was carefully chosen, meticulously tracked, and programmed with an inventive feature set to provide unrivaled flexibility in this amazing collection of instruments.
Grand Y is able to reproduce the clean, transparent, and dynamic sound of a Yamaha CFIIIS. This remarkable instrument has clear overtones, brilliant high end, and a powerful bass range.
The Sessions Keys Grand Y is the first intelligent instrument with a new level of sound design and music production capabilities.
The Pentamorph controller allows piano users to effortlessly change the instrument’s acoustics, from conventional characteristics sounds to atmospheres that extend far beyond what a single knob can do.
The Animator may produce genuinely beautiful piano pieces in the most adaptable manner, thanks to its ability to generate completely musical piano songs. The Animator’s unique interface makes it easy to construct flexible piano phrases that follow your harmonies, offering you the ultimate source of musical inspiration.
With smart chords, you may create harmonic power with little effort. – Session Keys Smart Chord Mode gives a completely new and unique approach to adding musical expression to your project by allowing you to make instant piano chords at your fingertips. Chords or Animator riffs can be played on the pad controller or single keys, depending on your song’s key: simply select the key of your song and Smart Chord Mode will generate the harmonies for you.
The Effects and Detailed Editing – The distinct resonances and noises that define an instrument’s sound character are essential to achieving great sound. Every aspect of the Session Keys grand pianos’ parameters, in addition to the Pentamorph controls, may be accessed and modified in fine detail to enhance the instrument’s individuality and expressiveness. All of these Reverb and FX plugins include a wide range of controls for creative sound design, allowing you to freely shape your sound with no limits.
Session Keys Upright Y
The Grand Y is able to reproduce the clean, transparent, and dynamic sound of a Yamaha CFIIIS. This remarkable instrument has clear overtones, brilliant high end, and a powerful bass range.
This all-new upright piano offers an unprecedented level of realism in both sound and playability.
Some gamers claim that an imperfectly reproduced piano sounds more lifelike, yet e-Instruments has been able to obtain a life-like tone and feel while remaining clinical throughout the recording process – not an easy accomplishment.
Session Keys Upright Smart Chords
This Grand Y is able to reproduce the clean, transparent, and dynamic sound of a Yamaha CFIIIS. This remarkable instrument has clear overtones, brilliant high end, and a powerful bass range.
The Session Keys Upright Smart Chord Mode gives you instant access to perfectly composed musical phrases and chords. Simply select the chord and play the pad controller or single keys for each note you want to use, depending on your song’s key: simply select the key of your song and Smart Chord Mode will generate the harmonies for you.
The S Piano has a wonderfully clear and crisp tone that will fit perfectly into pop, rock, cinematic and electronic music. It’s definitely a piano you can put into your “does everything” folder.
The Y Piano has a slightly more singing tone, and while it can handle the same tasks as the S, it’s especially useful for more intimate and warm passages, especially when playing the lid-off version with the softer dynamics active. It’s hard for me to name a favorite of these two grands, because I think they’re both stellar in their own ways. Then we come to the upright.
Personally, I’m a very harsh critic when it comes to upright pianos – there is a particular sound I like, and I’m very adamant about it. Needless to say, Session Keys Upright didn’t quite appeal to my tastes – I prefer a full, resonant and dark tone – whereas the Session Keys Upright has a brighter, thinner and more classical sounding tone. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, as this upright is by all means a beautifully sampled instrument with plenty of that upright character, and it’s near flawless. I just prefer my uprights to have a darker character, so it comes down to preference in the end. The upright still gets top marks disregarding my personal taste.
Session Keys Acoustic Bundle User interface & Usability
The interface for each piano is elegant – pop up pages are provided for tweaking the EQ, Compression, Reverb and such, as well as a page for dialling how much in-harmonic, harmonic and sympathetic resonance you’d like to have, as well as key, pedal and release noise. Combine this with the handy mechanical sound boost provided on the front page and you can get some pretty rich and full on tones from each instrument. This is a great thing, because if you don’t quite like how “perfect” each piano sounds, you can dirty it up and make it as noisy as you want. Add in a dynamic response knob, a smart chord creator and a soft pedal that puts the spotlight on the softer dynamics, and you get a piano collection that’s easy to customise to your taste no matter what style of music you’re composing in. It’s quite an accomplishment all said and done.
As far as usability, sound, tweak-ability, and value for money are concerned, Session Keys Acoustic Bundle is hands down one of the greatest collections you could ever invest in. Pianos can be a rather personal thing to a lot of composers, and personal taste plays a lot in purchasing and using these libraries, so inevitably there will be those who won’t like this collection.
But sufficed to say, I’ve played and owned countless piano libraries and can be a bit of a snob when it comes to criticising piano tone – and I couldn’t help but eventually fall in love with Session Keys after weeks of constant testing and comparing to other heavy hitters like Keyscape from Spectrasonics, Definitive Pianos from Galaxy Instruments, and Walnut Steinway from Imperfect Samples.
Rating: Five out of five stars
e-Instruments have essentially pulled off a miracle by creating a library that can satisfy almost any composer’s hunger for an ideal piano sound with a little tweaking. Whether you’re an eclectic composer, a piano snob or just a piano library collector, Session Keys Acoustic Bundle deserves to be at the top of your list.