As a pianist, I am very picky and choosy about the piano samples that I use.  I am equally picky about real pianos, of course, and I have long believed that the piano plays me as much as I play it.  So, if the sampled sound is not accurate, it really bothers me.  Chocolate Audio’s “The 88 Series Pianos” do not disappoint in any way. In fact, they are the best sounding sampled pianos I have ever played!  Not only do they sound great, but there are tons of customization and playability features included with this library – it is not just a set of pre-sampled sounds – you can really tweak them and make them your own.

I am also a recording buff, and these libraries give you the options to select from four different mics – 3 close and 1 room mic.  The room mic gives a nice natural reverb that sounds organic and natural. Chocolate Audio used great mic pres, and recorded everything at 96K (and then downsampled to 44.1K for the release.)  Other piano libraries that I have tried do not give this level of customization in the mics or in all the added effects; such as reverb, compressors, tape delays, ADSR, lid position, EQ and more.  These are fantastic libraries if you are a sound designer as well – you can really process the heck out of the core sounds and come up with something very original sounding!

Here is what Chocolate Audio Founder, Simone Coen, says about two of the features that make this piano library special:

1. The Piano Tone control which can be really effective in changing the piano sound (it gets rid of lower or higher dynamics).

2. Touch Response is actually “modulating” the point of sample start… Higher values cut further into the piano attack phase making it more reactive and lowering the perceived latency.

Lower values will play a portion of pre-attack in each sample that better represents the true touch response of the piano while introducing some compulsory latency.

An issue with piano sampling is that piano players are used to perceiving the attack when the hammer hits the string.  In reality, the sound made by the finger on the key and the action of the mechanics is part of the perceived sound, but it happens before the hammer hits the string.  Thus, there can be no solution to this with MIDI keyboards unless there are controllers that react at the time of the player touching the key – and not after it is already lowered.

Pros: Superb sound and tons of tweakability!  Perhaps the best sampled piano sound we have ever played.

Cons: Samples sometimes take a while to load when changing presets, but this means that you are getting new samples not just some algorithmic processed changes!  An SSD is recommended for fast loading times.

List Price: Pianos range between $79 for the Electric Grand, $99 for the Steinbach Upright, and $129 for the Model 7 and Model D.  The bundle is $299.


Review Version: 1.5


The 88 Series – Four Fantastic Pianos

There are four pianos in the series. The total size of all four is 26 GB and contains over 26K samples.  They were recorded at 96K and released at 44.1K.

C7 Grand

The first is the Model 7 Grand, which was impeccably sampled from a Yamaha C7 Grand piano with 11 sustains and 12 release dynamics.  This was recorded in a large room.  This is the choice of musicians who like a bright sound and very fast action on the keys. When played with all mics on, this piano can really cut through the mix and sound great in an ensemble as well.



D 274The second is the Model D Grand, sampled from a Steinway Model D 274 that was built in Hamburg in 1939 and faithfully restored and maintained by Italian artisans.  This was recorded in the same large room as the C7. This is personally my favorite piano, as I was brought up playing Steinways and have since become accustomed to the action and rich sound of the brand.



steinbach_108diThe third is the Steinbach Upright, which was hand-picked for its beautiful tone.  This was recorded in a medium room.  It sounds amazing for an upright, as you will hear in the in-depth review below.




Cp802The fourth piano in the series, the Model 80 Electric Grand, is sampled from a restored and delicately mic-ed Yamaha CP80.  This is one of my absolute favorite sounding electric pianos, and the customization features on this instrument are as mind bending as they are sound bending.  Check out the in-depth review to see and hear what I mean.




Model 7 Grand in Depth

Demo Songs for the Model 7 Grand



Model D Grand in Depth


Demo Songs for the Model D Grand


Steinbach Upright in Depth

Demo Songs for the Steinbach Upright


Model 70 Electric Grand in Depth

Demo Song for the Model 80 Electric Grand


Official Trailer from Chocolate Audio



About Chocolate Audio

Chocolate Audio is based in Italy and was founded by master sampler Simone Coen in 2003 after a series of successful 3rd party projects. You can check out this interview that Lawson Madlener conducted at NAMM earlier this year.  He is talking about another library, “The Black Album Drums” which we will be reviewing in another article:




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