The Garritan Abbey Road Studios CFX Concert Grand places the user on the bench before the Yamaha CFX, an incredible concert grand piano characterized by a wide palette of tonal colors and the ability to create the most subtle, expressive nuances. This beautiful instrument is matched with the stunning acoustics of Abbey Road Studios’ legendary Studio One and the finest collection of microphones in the world.
All facets of this project – the instrument, the room, the mics, and the recording expertise – work together to create the finest sampled piano ever captured. Experience the passion reflected in every detail.
The Yamaha CFX Concert Grand Piano
The CFX piano marks a significant milestone in Yamaha’s celebrated 108-year history as an acclaimed world-class piano maker. In 1991, Yamaha began its most ambitious piano project ever: to create a new generation of grand piano for concert, conservatoire and studio performance.
The result was the CFX Concert Grand Piano, a revolutionary new instrument that embodies the concept of beauty and power. The rich palette of tonal colors and musical voices the piano can produce characterizes its beauty. The power comes from the CFX’s unprecedented tonal projection. The development and evaluation phase of this remarkable instrument took almost 20 years. During this time, a 40-strong team of the world’s most talented piano designers, technicians, craftsmen and, of course, pianists deconstructed the concert grand and began rebuilding it from the ground up. Every aspect of traditional piano design was questioned, evaluated, improved and relentlessly tested. Once the design was nearing completion, multiple prototypes endured thousands of hours of secret testing at concert halls across the globe.
Each CFX is entirely hand-built by a small team comprising some of the world’s most experienced and skilled craftsmen. All materials are meticulously selected and refined to ensure unprecedented music performance in the most demanding of situations. It offers outstanding expressiveness for a truly musical performance. With enough tonal presence to be heard over the sound of a full symphony orchestra in the largest of concert halls, the CFX is truly one of the greatest pianos ever created.
The sound of the Garritan Abbey Road Studios CFX piano was captured by a team of highly experienced Abbey Road recording engineers, each contributing decades of knowledge in recording pianos for a variety of applications.
Microphone set-ups, also referred to as perspectives, have a huge effect on the overall sound of the recorded instrument. Each set of perspectives speaks specifically to various musical settings.
The set–ups are a hybrid of classic techniques handed down from generation to generation of balance engineers within Abbey Road Studios since the 1930s, mixed with more contemporary and experiential arrays that perfectly complement each other. These set-ups have been and are continually used by the finest recording artists in the world and have been presented here for use as a sampled instrument for the first time ever.
To expand your creative possibilities, Abbey Road Studios’ engineers created three discrete microphone perspectives: Classic, Contemporary, and Player.
The Classic perspective most faithfully captures the natural tonal character, clarity and nuance of the instrument.
Close – 2 x Neumann M49 and 2 x Neumann KM184 Microphones: As every piano, recording venue, repertoire and pianist are different, the M49 and KM184 are used to capture a close detailed sound, which is especially good for chamber music.
Mid Field/Wide – 2 x DPA 4006 Microphones: The DPA 4006’s placed at each end of the piano create a wider and more spacious sound picture.
Main – 2 x Neumann TLM50 Microphones: The Neumann TLM50 are placed 2m away from the instrument and at 2.6m in height. This captures the overall complex frequency response and dynamic range of a grand piano.
The Contemporary perspective creates a piano sound that is bright and hard with lots of attack from the hammers, but also maintains the piano’s warmth with intimate ambience.
Close – AKG C12 & D19 Microphones: The AKG C12 is a bright sounding valve microphone with bite and some nice valve warmth.The mono D19 placed in the centre over the hammers was run via a classic REDD.47 valve microphone preamp, adding central focus and ‘poke’ to the close sound of this set up.
Ambience – Schoeps MK 2H Microphones: For the Ambience microphones Schoeps MK 2H are used in a close position. They are able to bring the sound of the room to the mix, without losing too much of the definition of the piano’s initial attack.
The Player perspective offers the experience of playing the CFX, from the piano bench, in Studio One, particularly when reproduced over high quality headphones.
Close – 2 x Neumann KM84 Microphones: This is a straight forward stereo pair placed closely and directly over the hammers. It provides an immediate sound of the piano with little coloration from the room.
Player – Neumann KU100 Dummy Head: The Binaural KU100 Dummy Head was placed directly behind the musicians head. This provides an intimacy to the instrument mixed with the unmistakable sense of playing the instrument in the acoustics of Studio One.
Garritan has worked closely with Abbey Road Studios to develop presets that are both functionally useful and inspiring to play. Research included artists and genres as well as notable recordings, cinematic settings and live performance examples to make the CFX as flexible and versatile a musical instrument as possible.
- Default – This is the default preset for the Classic microphone perspective of the CFX.
- Classic Rock – The M49s and KM184s combine with some EQ and a custom velocity curve to make a “Close” solid rock piano sound with depth for the classic perspective.
- Dark Cinema – This preset is designed to emphasize a darker tonal pallet. This has been paired with the “Dark Pad” convolution preset to add a moody and ethereal flavour to the piano.
- Dull Resonance – This highly resonant sound is muted with a closed lid position. Minimal dynamic range and a custom velocity curve give this muted sound some sudden timbre changes.
- Glimmer – The piano has been set to have a sharp cutoff when a note is released. This has been combined with “Vintage Algo” convolution reverb to create a glimmering after effect in the reverb.
- Goldberg1981– A famous recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations was used as a reference. There is a clear and direct mic position mixed with a more distant and quiet ambient response.
- Paul’s Perfect Piano – Both sustain and sympathetic resonance are boosted in this very ambient preset.
- Solo Piano 1 – A slight emphasis on the Close Mic make this an ideal setting moody classical pieces.
- Solo Piano 2 – Both close and ambient channels are set with short releases give a different shade of the CFX classic tone.
- Solo Piano 3 – This is a classic sound with the soft pedal engaged and a slight emphasis on the Ambient Mics.
- Vintage Evans – Smooth, balanced and classic vintage jazz piano.
- Default – This is the default preset for the Contemporary microphone perspective of the CFX.
- BBBBennie – This lively preset puts you on stage for a 70’s style pop hit.
- Big and BOLD – Saturation and ambient bass are pushed to limit in this bombastic sound.
- Bright Poke – The D19 and C12 microphones in the close channel with some eq boost create a hot saturated pop sound good for comping and stabs.
- Brighton Rock – Set up to bright and taught, this preset has a light touch and is EQ’d to cut through the mix.
- Chicken Wire – An alternate tuning, a slightly lighter touch and a closed lid give the piano a raw, moody flavor.
- Dark and Distant – This spooky preset is darkened with EQ and given extra space for a lingering suspenseful haunting sound.
- Mirek’s Rock Sound – Saturation and lower dynamic range with an easy velocity curve puts this piano right in your face.
- Newman Beauty – A melodic and ambient preset that is useful for a cinematic sound.
- Paul’s Pokey Piano – This whimsical preset cuts the bass and decreases stereo width while placed in a jazz club ambience. Great for that in the other room sound.
- Soft and moody – A warm atmosphere is created with the D19/C12 combination. Hi EQ is pulled back and a custom velocity curve restricts play to the quietest samples.
- Default – This is the default preset for the Player microphone perspective of the CFX.
- Big Head Space – The KU100 dummy head is soloed here with cuts in mid and low EQ. A light sound is created that echoes through a deep reflective reverb.
- Soft Player – This is KU100 with the soft pedal engaged for a soft and delicate touch and some “Deep Space” optional reverb loaded.
- Mad Hatter – A very dynamic and spritely feel that is great for various jazz and dance styles.
- CutnRun – Release Decay and Release Volume are set to 0, Release Crossfade is set to 3 and EQ’s are sculpted to give the piano a tight and lively flavor.
- Edward’s Reflection – Only the KU100 is engaged to capture the most natural ambience of Studio One from the bench of the CFX.
- Jamamatsu – Highs, Lows and Mids are sculpted with an adjustment to the velocity curve to give the piano a warm and open characteristic.
- Lately – The piano is set up to have a warm tone for chords and a shine for stronger lines.
- Village Grinder – An emphasis on the KM84 over the KU100 with a “half-stick” combined with some saturation and convolution reverb give this preset the flavor of a “working” piano in a Manhattan jazz club.
- Wendyhouse – Featuring a dramatic Scala tuning, this preset has an erie effect perfect for texture and mood.