VI Labs Ravenscroft

The Technology

The Ravenscroft virtual instrument features four discrete phase-aligned microphone positions. A "Room" microphone position gives users access to additional depth and character. It works well for music production as well as composition!

Ravenscroft pianos are meticulously designed and assembled by hand in Arizona by Michael Spreeman and his team to exacting standards. They source only the highest quality components and pair that with an innovative and refined design that give Ravenscroft pianos a distinct edgy sound and quality rarely seen (or heard) these days. Click here for more information about Michael Spreeman and VI Labs.

Microphone positions

Four mic setups are included with the Ravenscroft 275 VI and were chosen to meet a variety of tonal choices and are able to mix well together. The Full patch loads the Close mics by default. You can load the additional mic samples by clicking the Load/Unload button, and once loaded, each sample group can be turned on and off with the On/Off button without having to load or unload the samples. The volume slider allows for mic mixing. The graphic gives a good indication of the physical location of the mics during sampling.

  • Close mics are inside the piano and have a detailed punchy sound with wide stereo image.
  • Player mics are from the player's perspective and have a bit more distance and a detailed attack.
  • Room mics are considerably more distant and sound great blended with any of the closer mics, but they also sound great alone if a closer sound is not wanted.
  • Side mics are a mid-side setup and have a nice balance of warmth and body with a more focused stereo image. Being mid-side, they are fully mono-capable.

Advanced Settings

The Ravenscroft 275 virtual instrument was designed to bring you the sound of one of the finest grand pianos in the world. It features an easy to use interface that gives you deep control over many mechanical aspects of the real piano as well as microphone selection and mixing plus MIDI response. The library contains five patches: a full patch in which all samples and mic setups can be loaded, and four separate single mic patches for quicker loading. Once a patch is loaded, click on the Preferences button at the top right corner to open the main interface.
On the left portion of the interface, you'll find controls for Release Volume, Pedal and Key Noise, Repetition Strikes and Silent Strikes.

  • The release trails are an integral component of the sound of an acoustic piano. As the felt dampers fall back onto the strings as you release a key, the sound doesn't stop immediately but instead is dampened based on length of the string, how hard the key is played and the duration the key is held before releasing. Numerous release samples are used including true staccato trails and a release sample for every sustain velocity level. The default volume matches the original piano. Increase the volume for the effect of looser dampers for more legato playing, or decrease for a tighter staccato effect.
  • Pedal noise is the sound of the damper pedal action on the real piano. If you use a continuous control damper pedal, the sound responds to the pedal up and down speed. You can raise or lower this to taste, or turn off if desired with the Pedal Noise knob.
  • Key Noise is the mechanical sound of a key being released resulting in a small thump. It is off by default, but you can set this to taste if you want the thumping sound. It's more noticeable on mice that are close to the piano.
  • Repetition Strikes creates the natural variation heard when quickly repeating single notes on the piano. It's heard mostly when playing a repeated note with sustain pedal down. This can be turned off if desired and is on by default.
  • Silent Strike is unique to the Ravenscroft 275 VI and is the faint sound heard when a key is pressed so slowly as it doesn't "play" but instead causes a small thump of the jack escapement, felt damper lifting from the strings, or a combination of those mechanical sounds. The volume can be adjusted for these samples alone with the Silent Strike volume knob.

Complete sound control

The bottom corners of the interface contain the Stereo Width and Channel Flip functions, Tone control and Timbre Shift on the left with Reverb level and selection on the right.

  • Stereo Width is a new feature of the Ravenscroft 275 VI and allows you to have a more narrow stereo image if desired or create a full mono signal. The default of 100% is the sound as recorded by the mics. If it's set to 1%, both left and right mice are summed mono. However, if this knob is set to 0%, only the Right microphone is heard as the mono source. If the Flip button is turned on, the mono source comes from the Left microphone instead. This allows for a clean phase-free mono sound. The Flip button above Stereo Width swaps the Left-Right image when Stereo Width is anywhere from 1-100%
  • Tone control allows a quick way to brighten or darken the sound with a single knob.
  • Timbre shift is another new feature and works by shifting the root pitch of the samples up or down to create a darker or brighter tone. It can be raised or lowered by 12 steps for a dramatic effect on the sound.
  • You can choose from a variety of Impulse response, from large halls to churches or intimate piano rooms.

Controllers

The section below mic mixing allows additional samples to be loaded as well as adjustments to pedal setup, polyphony and dynamics controls. This is where you enable pedal features like una corda, half pedaling and, sostenuto and the mute strikes.

  • Una Corda is a function on a grand piano where a pedal shifts the entire action so a softer part of the hammer hits the strings. If you have a pedal or other MIDI controller to use, load the Una Corda samples to enable this feature. These are separate samples including their own release samples which create a very realistic soft pedal effect and thus more dynamics and voicing control as you play.
  • Muted Strikes are unique to the Ravenscroft 275 VI and are multi-velocity samples of each key, but with the strings muted for an interesting effect. Load these samples, then assign the Muted Strikes CC to a controller of your choice. For example, if you have a mod wheel, set the CC value to 1. The Muted Strikes CC is the controller used to switch between normal sustain samples and the Muted Strike samples. If you don't have a mod wheel, the UVI Workstation keyboard at the bottom has a mod wheel you can use.
  • Half-Pedal is a function that allows fine variable control of the damper pedal action, and discreet samples are used for this feature. Load the Half-Pedal samples if you use a continuous control pedal as opposed to an on/off style pedal and wish to be able to vary the blending of pedal fully up and fully down. The Half-Pedal Max and Min CC allow you to adjust the range in which the effect occurs for a better match to your particular pedal and playing style.
  • All three pedals including Sostenuto function can be assigned a MIDI CC input other than the default values. If you have any other controller besides a typical pedal using the standard MIDI CC, you can use this controller by assigning its CC value in these fields. For instance, if you don't have a second pedal but have a mod wheel and you want to use the Una Corda feature, assign Una Corda Pedal CC to 1 so it responds to the mod wheel.
  • Polyphony is set to Default (Def) upon loading the library, but you can reduce or increase polyphony as desired to balance number of voices with CPU and disk usage. There are five values: Minimum, Medium, Default, Full and Max.
  • Dynamics and Sensitivity allow control of volume range and the volume curve from softest to loudest. The Dynamics knob is at 96% by default. Increasing this value gives more total volume range resulting in the softest dynamics being lower in volume, while decreasing dynamic range causes soft dynamics to be louder in volume. For example, setting this knob to 0% results in no dynamic range and everything is the same volume. The Sensitivity curve determines how the volume reacts in between loudest and softest playing dynamics. Pulling the curve down creates more range in volume while pushing the curve up ramps volume up faster without affecting minimum volume. Experiment with both values along with the MIDI response panel to dial in the best "feel" for your playing style and keyboard controller.

Pedal Action and Resonance

On the right portion of the interface, you'll find controls for the Pedal and Sympathetic Resonances as well as True Pedal Action and Repedal functions.

  • Pedal Resonance is the lush sound of all strings vibrating sympathetically with one another when the sustain pedal is used during play. This feature is entirely sample-based, and you can control the volume of these samples with the Pedal Resonance knob.
  • True Pedal Action emulates the way an acoustic piano responds when a note is played and held followed by pressing the sustain pedal down. The resonance of the other strings is tied to the sustain pedal itself—notes played and held cause the resonance to come in with pedal down and be muted when pedal comes up. This function enables it to respond naturally as you'd expect to hear with a real piano. Turning this off with the True Pedal Action on/off button does offer some CPU savings.
  • Repedal allows the sustain tone to continue playing if the pedal comes up to mute the string then goes back down quickly. On a real piano, the damper doesn't immediately stop the vibration of the string. So by lifting the dampers with the pedal before the string has fully muted, the effect of repedaling is heard. You can turn this feature off if desired with the Repedal on/off button.
  • Sympathetic Resonance and Sympathetic Polyphony are for the resonances heard as one key is pressed and held, then others that are harmonically related are struck causing those partials to be heard in the key that is held. This is an integral part of the piano sound along with Pedal Resonance and is entirely sample-based. Adjust the volume of these samples with the Sympathetic Resonance knob, and specify how many voices are allowed for this feature with the Sympathetic Polyphony quantity. Increasing this polyphony results in more CPU and disk usage but allows for a thicker resonance effect especially when using the sustain pedal a lot and playing big chords.

MIDI and Tuning

There are two extra panels that let you control the MIDI response as well as the tuning.
To customize the MIDI response from your controller, click on the "Open MIDI Panel" button at the top right next to the Preference Panel button. This brings up the MIDI panel which is a powerful tool to customize how the Ravenscroft 275 responds to your MIDI input.
You can also customize the tuning of the piano and apply Microtunings or simply tuning presets.

  • The MIDI panel lets you control very precisely how the Ravenscroft responds to your keyboard. The Velocity In and Out displays what's coming from your controller or MIDI input and what's being sent to trigger the samples in the engine. Start with the Bend knob to increase or decrease MIDI velocity sensitivity. You can also set limits on incoming and outgoing MIDI velocity values with the four corner points for Minimum Input and Output velocity as well as Maximum Input and Output velocity. For example, if your controller isn't inputting lower than 14, you can drag the Minimum Input Velocity over to 14 which allows the softest samples to be heard even though the controller isn't sending values lower than 14. Or if your controller requires a lot of playing force to output the highest velocities, you can move the Maximum input point to the left so high velocity samples can be heard. You can also manually draw on the table itself to create a custom curve which can be saved and recalled with a UVI Multi file. Click Reset at any point to reset to default values.
  • The Tuning Panel offers the ability to set a Base tune for the entire piano as well as create your own tunings. Values can be set for each key in the octave in either Cents or Ratio. Enter the values by double-clicking on the value, or click and drag with your mouse. Equal Temperament is the default, but you can select from other tunings in the Tuning Presets menu. Any custom tuning you create can be saved as part of a UVI Multi file.

Presets

To save your own presets, UVI creates a snapshot of the entire Workstation and all your settings as a UVI Multi file with .uviws file extension. You must first enter the Multi view by clicking the Multi view button in the top center of the UVI Workstation. Look for the wrench icon on the far left and choose "Save Multi" to save your preset. You can then load this file at a later time with all your settings intact. Choose "Load Multi" to load your preset, or double-click one of these files on your computer hard drive, and UVI Workstation will launch and load the Multi automatically.
Keep in mind that if you save a Multi with many sample groups loaded, it may take some time to fully load the library with your settings.

PG Music Inc. 29 Cadillac Ave Victoria BC V8Z 1T3 Canada
Sales: 1-800-268-6272, 250-475-2874, + 800-4746-8742*
*Outside USA and Canada where International Freephone service is available.