Review – Mercury from Wavesfactory
Wavesfactory’s Mercury is a Kontakt Player piano sound library that features the Fiazoli Grand Piano that was owned by no other than the great Freddie Mercury.
by Luka Sraka, November 2016
Wavesfactory produced a new piano sample library that features a Fiazoli F228 that was owned by Queen’s Freddie Mercury. This same Piano was used to record Adele’s award winning Hello. But there is more to the Wavesfactory Mercury virtual piano that meets the eye. Behind the flashy names and nice graphic user interface hides an amazing sounding and powerful sample library
Overview and Features
Fiazoli Pianoforti is a high-end piano maker from Italy. Their pianos are a household name in many concert halls around the world. The Fiazoli F228 featured in the Mercury virtual piano is a great grand piano, only a bit smaller than a full concert grand. It has a powerful bass and rich timbre that makes this piano an ideal instrument for chamber music or solo repertoire.
The F228 featured in this sample library is situated in London’s Metropolis Studios, a studio that recorded many iconic records by Queen, Adele, Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Led zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and many, many more. Needless to say, the Metropolis Studios was the best choice to record Wavesfactory Mercury.
Mercury was recorded at Metropolis Studio A using five microphone perspectives. First is Ultra Close, an X/Y perspective using Sennheiser MKH40 positioned right above the hammers recorded trough API 512 preamps. The Close perspective was recorded with a spaced pair of Neumann KM84 mics positioned at the edge of the lid and recorded through NEVE 1081. The Mono perspective was recorded with a Coles 4038 ribbon microphone trough Meris 440 preamp placed at the end of the pianos tail. The Mid perspective used an X/Y pair of Neuman U87 in figure-8 polar pattern through Prism MMA-4 preamps. Finally, the far perspective used a spaced pair of Telefunken AK47 placed at the far end of the room for a wider stereo image and a sound with rich room reflections recorded through Prism MMA-4 preamps. You can choose and mix between all those mic positions with great ease, but more on that below.
The Metropolis Studios have also great EMT140 plate reverbs. Wavesfactory made several impulse responses of valve and solid state plate reverbs and included them in the library. The effects section features also a compressor, EQ and chorus modules, effects that are generally very useful for mixing a piano.
The Mercury features a comprehensive settings page where you can adjust various parameters to finely tune the piano to your personal liking. You can select the number of round robins and extended repetition for up to twelve non-repeating samples. Velocity curve is easily adjustable to fine tune it to your MIDI keyboard. There are tree piano lid positions to choose from: open, mid and close. You can adjust the key and pedal noises. Last but not least, you can temper with timbre range, temperament and other sample settings.
Mercury features also a high-quality (HQ) on/off settings. High quality on enables the velocity morphing, a setting that applies seamless transitions between velocity layers. The sample library was recorded with eight dynamics but the HQ mode increases the number of dynamic layers to 127. While the HQ mode sounds phenomenal and a bit more natural, it is very CPU-intensive, especially with more keys pressed and/or the pedal on. Recording with HQ mode off and then bouncing the track in HQ mode on worked for me.
There are several very useful pre-sets ready to use which provide a great overview of what this sound library is capable of: from natural sounding to effect-filled sounds.
I was amazed by the sound quality of this virtual piano. The Mercury sounds amazing straight out of the box. When it comes to piano I tend to find something that bothers me in every piano sound library I come across, but Mercury sounded perfect to my ears even without playing around with the settings.
The User Interface
The main page that appears when you load the Wavesfactory Mercury is quite simple. There is photo of a grand piano in a nice penthouse with Freddie Mercury’s cape and microphone on the piano bench. There is also a Vox amp in view, definitely a sight one connects to Queen. At the bottom of the page there are the HQ on/off button, the animation select switch and the mixer, effects and settings buttons. When you select one of the three last mentioned buttons the user interface moves in the 3D fashion to the side and the selected window opens.
While being quite amusing at first, the 3D animation feature quickly becomes redundant and that’s where the Animation select-switch becomes useful. Deselecting the 3D view quickens the user interface since you don’t have to wait for the mixer window or any other window for that matter to pop up.
To be really honest I don’t especially like the main view and the 3D function, but I guess that’s a taste thing and, all in all, it doesn’t affect the sound quality or the workflow.
The mixer window is nicely set up. You can mute or solo any of the five microphone positions and you can adjust the level of the individual mic positions with a fader. The width control on stereo channels converts the signal from mono (full left) to stereo (full right). The mono channel (ribbon microphone) features the pan knob instead of the width knob. There are two more buttons on every channel, the stereo inversion button that flips the left and right channels. By default it is set to the player’s perspective with the low notes on the left and the high on the right. Last but not least there is a phase shift button. The recording was done with great care to the phase response but just in case you need it, the phase shift is there for you. Each channel also features an output selector to choose the output channels of your Kontakt Player when working with it as a multi-output plugin.
The level of individual stereo channels can be adjusted manually, but Mercury has another trick up its sleeve. The position enhanced mode (enabled with a button bellow the mixer) is an innovative way of mixing the different microphone positions. When enabled a slider appears which moves from close to far, and it automatically adjusts the channel level accordingly. When on the close side, the ultra-close channel is the most prominent and the far channel is off, and vice versa. I found this feature very useful for quickly finding the desired combination of the channel levels, and then adjusting the individual levels for further fine tuning.
Mercury comes with the four DSP effects as mentioned above: plate reverb, compressor, equalizer and chorus.
The Effect page is very simple to use with a no nonsense user interface. You can enable each of the effect by clicking on the On light above the effect name.
The Plate is a reverb that uses the impulse responses from Metropolis Studios EMT140 plate reverbs. You can chose between solid state and valve reverbs on short, mid and long settings, with further controls such as: predelay, high pass, low pass and wet controls.
The compressor effect is the “Pro” compressor from Kontakt. According to the developers it suited this piano the best. It comes with the usual array of settings: threshold, ratio, attack, release and output or make-up gain.
The equalizer effect combines two filters, a high and a low-pass filter with a tilt style EQ which boosts the high frequencies and cuts the lows when set to the right, and does the opposite when set to the left. The center button adjusts the crossover frequency, the frequency that separates the low and the high band.
The fourth DSP effect is the chorus effect with depth, speed, stereo and wet controls.
I find the on board effect very useful, for quickly mixing your piano sound. The reverb sounds truly amazing. There is not much to choose from here, but it is a great starting point and with a piano sample library that sounds so good you won’t need much more.
The third and the last page is the settings page. Here you can adjust all the parameters that I wrote about in the overview and features section of this review. The settings page is pretty much self-explanatory and I will only briefly elaborate. I like the fact that you can adjust pretty much any detail of your sound with great ease. I especially like the Round Robin or repetitions per key settings. Mercury offers four repetitions per key and per velocity. You can also enable the neighbour borrowing mode where samples from adjacent keys are used and are tuned a half step up or down. This results in a very natural sounding virtual piano. With all the settings at hand you can create variations in your instrument so that it sounds truly unique.
Behind the flashing names and pictures hides an amazing virtual piano. The attention to detail is seen, or rather heard, in every aspect of this sound library. I can’t say enough about how realistic it sounds, but more than that it is truly a charm to play. The user interface is easy to use and extremely intuitive. The built-in effects are very useful and simple enough not to distract you, and the settings section is very detailed. With the HQ setting on the Mercury can be very CPU hungry, but the developers have thought things through. Disabling the HQ mode when recording and enabling it again when bouncing to disk is a nice workaround for this.
Waves factory Mercury: €149 EUR
RAM usage: -300MB per mic and RR.
Recommended Settings: SSD and 4GB of RAM.
Kontakt version: Kontakt Player 5.5.2.