This post is a long due on my schedule, I prepared everything during mid 2015 and then…nothing. It’s time to wrap it up and maybe also do a little update, 5 years in the world of sampled instruments are like a whole new era. Anyway, the main question behind this post was “Is there any good free piano sample library/VSTi?” and with the word “free” I mean totally free. As you can imagine, this statement puts out of the way every third party Kontakt library because if you want to use the free Kontakt Player, you have to stick with Native Instruments “official” libraries, which of course don’t include any piano for free. Which is a pity.
That being said, what if I need a good piano and I don’t have any money to afford a paid version of Kontakt Library or VSTi? When I prepared this post 5 years go, I really struggled to find good ones, because there are tons of piano libraries but very few of them are good enough (and don’t need full version of Kontakt). Here’s list of the best ones I found out:
- Piano In 162 by Ivy Audio (in SFZ format)
- Grand Piano 1 SE included in Sampletank 3 by ikmultimedia (now simply Sampletank Custom Shop)
- Piano One by Sound Magic
- VS Upright 1 by Versilian Studios
Please note that these are the ones I found out 5 years ago, at the end of this post there’s a quick “state-of-the-art” check for 2020.
What did I test to check for these libraries quality? The most important thing I was looking for, besides the actual sound of course, is dynamics. The more, the better (more or less). So, I quickly googled for a good MIDI of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, and run it through all these libraries. The results are right below, you can judge by yourself!
(please note: all screenshots within this post were taken in 2015, all UIs now could be different)
Piano In 162
This is the most accurate one in terms of dynamics in my opinion, up to the point that is even too much for what I need. I loaded up 2 instances of Sforzando to use both mic positions, “close” and “ambient”.
Grand Piano 1 SE
This is probably my favourite, it has a good dynamic range and a richer sound than the previous. Honestly, for a free piano which take just 500MB, this is amazing.
This one stands between the previous ones, I don’t know if I really like it or not, but it’s very good anyway.
VS Upright 1
Maybe the comparison here is not completely fair, as this is an upright piano while the others were all grand pianos. And of course we have a completely different sound. I just decided to put it in the list because I still think this is a very good free VSTi.
And now, as I promised, here you are a state-of-the-art check for 2020 by Echo Sound Works. As you will see, he still mentions the ones I found out 5 years ago (Sound Magic has also improved Piano One UI) and listening to their Denver Grand Piano I think I have a new one to add to my list but it requires full version of Kontakt…and here we are again…
What’s your favourite one? Let me know in the comments!