Native Instruments Alicia’s Keys Review © Virtual Piano Domain 2010. All rights reserved Made with Xara Native Instruments Alicia’s Keys Review  When Native Instruments (NI in short) firstly released Alicia's Keys, it leads to a big controversy. Alicia's Keys is not  only the first virtual piano in a PINK GUI, but also the first one named after a famous artist. It is a sampled Yamaha  C3 Neo Grand with latest Kontakt 4 Engine. C3 Neo is an expensive and rare grand so many people who love its  sound hold their money but could not find somewhere to buy it. Needless to say more, let's start our test from  dynamic. Please note it is necessary to read our review instructions before you read the review, we have detailed  explanations and procedures in review instructions.  1. Dynamic   5.5 of 10 Data 1   C8's Dynamic Range 29.9dB Data 2   A0's Dynamic Range 34dB Data 3   Average DR (C3, C4 and C5) (31.2+31.9+29.6)/3=30.9dB Data 4   Dynamic Curve: linear and so on, 10 types in all  Data 5   Peak Level -6.3dB From recorded test file, we gathered data shown above. The three dynamic of Alicia's Keys are nearly larger than  30dB. That's a pretty good result. But compared to true piano dynamic, there is no significant dynamic range  difference between lowest note A0 and highest note C8. And it is strange that C8 even has less dynamic than  A0.This clearly shows Alicia's Keys only use a single layer interpolation on all notes' dynamic, which is not an  accurate reproduction of natural dynamic of an acoustic piano. Thus Alicia's Keys lost 3.5 marks on this issue. The  Peak level of single note is about -6.3dB, very close to -6dB so we decide not to take off marks for this issue.  There are 10 types of dynamic curve to choose in Alicia's Keys. It is fairly enough to cover the common curve types.  But it is a great pity that Alicia's Keys does not allow users to set lowest and highest velocity. So dynamic range is  fixed and some keyboard may not suitable for it.  We have to take 1 point off for this weakness. 2. Sample Layering, Velocity Transition and Sympathetic Resonance  9 of 10 Alicia's Keys is every key sampled without looping, this leads to a result of every long note of Alicia's Keys sounds  naturally. Alicia's Keys announced every note has 8 velocity layers. But as we look the velocity transition, we found  there are several velocity jumps. This will cause sometimes lower velocity sounds louder than higher velocity. There  are 5 small velocity jumps exist in A440. So we have to take 1 mark off for this issue.   Alicia's Keys has a very beautiful Sympathetic Resonance sound. And it has enough controls. You can control  volume, voices and even separate pedal up and pedal down's sympathetic resonance. Users can hear beautiful  Sympathetic Resonance during playing the piano. It is a really good feeling when you play it and it makes you hard  to forget it. We admire what Native Instrument achieved in Sympathetic Resonance. It did an excellent job and  Sympathetic Resonance will surely become one important factor that users choose Alicia's Keys.   3. Pedal Activity and Microphone Positions  4.5 of 10 Alicia's Keys responds to sustain and sustenuto pedal well. But it failed in soft pedal. The volume has no change  after you press soft pedal. Also Alicia's Keys could not respond well to Half pedaling which also misses in many  virtual pianos. NI said it support half pedaling. But during our test, we cannot see and hear less sustain effect when  pedal is half pressed. Repedaling function is still a technology difficulty for virtual pianos; Alicia's Keys succeed in  the first test but failed in second test. It is great that Alicia's Keys has pedal noise, which could add extra realism to  the sound. In general, here we have to take 2.5 points off. Alicia's Keys has two static perspectives, performer and audience. But you cannot freely adjust them or mix between  them. Here it loses 3 marks.   4. Performance  6 of 10 Alicia's Keys take about 7GB space on your hard disk. It is the first virtual instruments using NI's lossless  compressed format. It is said that 7GB compressed data equals 14GB wave data. As Kontakt 4 engine will need an  additional step for decompressing sample data, we do not expect it too much on performance issue.  During our test, Ivory piano has a 10% CPU usage when playing 128 polyphony. That's a very impressive CPU usage  for its size.  But when we check latency performance, Alicia's Keys does not give us a good result. It is obviously could not run  well (without pops and clicks) under 128 samples. Finally it can run well under 256 samples.   We concluded that if you want to run Alicia's Keys without any performance issues. You should prepare a modern PC  for it. CPU should be at least a Dual Core and of course, a 7200RPM hard drive is best.   5.  Features  10 of 10 Alicia's Keys has many exciting features. One of them is certainly the release trigger. It lets the release tail sound  very similar to real pianos. This will also emphasize the feeling of space and the size of piano's wood body.  Then we cannot forget to mention that Alicia's Keys' powerful convolution reverb effect, it is carefully designed and  has very good quality, which add extra value to Alicia's Keys.  Alicia's Keys also provide finger attack, which is an important performing skill for pianists.  Alicia's Keys has detailed settings for repetition. So it can avoid machine gun effects in some degree.   Alicia's Keys has many noise types which could add realism to the overall sound.   6. Sound   5 of 5 The overall sound of Alicia's Keys is very clean and really singing. They did an excellent recording job to catch the  soul of Yamaha C3 NEO. The highs are clean and sweet, and people could really be fascinated by its sound. It also  has a lot of wooden flavor when you play soft. The only weakness is that the low are not strong enough. But  considering C3's size, it is not a big problem. In all, we give Alicia's Keys a full mark for its perfect sound.   Best Use Alicia's Keys is fit for most people's taste on pianos. Alicia's Keys is suitable for those busy musicians who need  transparent piano sound in pop music, who does not want to waste so much time on tweaking sound. PROS:  Good Overall Sound  Excellent Sympathetic Resonance Different Noise types  Excellent Reverb Effect Detailed repetition settings  CONS:  Dynamic is not very good and it is not true piano dynamic  Exist Velocity Jumps  No Soft Pedal No Partial Pedaling  Dynamic 5.5 of 10  Sample Layering, Velocity Transition and Sympathetic Resonance 9 of 10  Pedal Activity and Microphone Positions 4.5 of 10  Performance 6 of 10 Features 10 of 10 Sound 5 of 5 Overall Rating: 80 (3 stars)