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Session Keys Upright Piano (E-Instruments) Review – Is It Worth It?

You probably landed on this article because you’re on the fence about getting a paid piano VST, and want to see if the Session Keys Upright Piano is really worth your money. With so many realistic-sounding piano VSTs on the market, it's difficult to choose the right one to suit your needs. In this article, we’re going to review the Session Keys Upright Piano, to put it to the test and see if it’s really worth getting.

Session Keys Upright Piano (e-instruments) (Quick Review)

whippedcreamsounds

Sound quality of the piano samples
Feel, touch, response, and realism of the piano.
Pentamorph function.
Versatility across various genres.
GUI, Navigation & Resizing.
Sample size. CPU-friendly.
Ease of use for a recent buyer.

Verdict

The Session Keys Upright has a perfect blend of classical piano sounds with modern lo-fi, ambient, and cinematic textures. Being able to instantly browse between various textures, the native Pentamorph dial gives you tremendous flexibility. The Animator section and the smart chord, make it accessible for users without advanced keyboard skills.

4.8

Is The Session Keys Upright Piano Worth It? (Quick Answer)

Compatibility: Win 7, 8.1, or 10, Mac OS X 10.10+, VST, AU, AAX, 32/64 bit. Intel Core Duo, 4GB RAM
Price: $99

At $99, the Session Keys Upright is worth it. The sound design possibilities are remarkable, with two meticulously captured pianos offering a rich palette of sounds. With realistic piano phrases that can be incorporated instantly, you don't need to be a piano virtuoso to use it to its potential. At 20GB, the only downside could be the size.

Pros

✅ Realistic upright sound, with great feel and attention to detail.

✅ Pentamorph lets you transform classical playing into ambient cinematic drones in an instant.

✅ Sympathetic resonance and key noises add character and richness to the sound.

✅ The smart chord mode creates instant piano chords.

✅ The animator riffs provide instant inspiration with a plethora of ideas.

✅ Intuitive interface design with an easy learning curve.

Cons

❌ Sample sizes might be too heavy for weaker systems.

What Is The Session Keys Upright Piano & What Does It Do?

The Session Keys Upright is an upright piano VST that is as useful for a trained pianist as it is for a sound designer. With the native Pentamorph blurring the lines between an acoustic piano recording and a reversed, drone-like cinematic soundscape within a few clicks, this upright VST is a multi-purpose production instrument.

session keys upright test

With intricate functions controlling the sympathetic resonance and key noises, the tonal shaping possibilities are fantastic. The settings section allows you to change the tuning from equal to stretched, offering great possibilities for ambient soundscape design.

How Does It Sound?

Both the open and the closed pianos sound extremely realistic, owing to a rich harmonic structure. Tweaking the tonality and Pentamorph sections on the pianos can drastically alter the sound, going from a classical piano to cinematic reverses and 10 Bit-lo-fi sounds in no time.

The Open Upright Piano Sound:

The open piano sound, which is a key facet of the Upright Piano sounds quite realistic. This is achieved by detuning the strings of the piano by a few cents.

The piano's front lid was removed and recorded in a room that had a lot of reflectors. Multiple microphones were used to capture the details of the strings, dampers, and the instrument's resonant wood, along with the room mic.

Due to this, the resonant overtone frequencies of the notes are highly noticeable, giving them the characteristic upright piano sound.

The Closed Upright Piano Sound:

The Closed Piano's sound has been captured with accurate tunings, with all the covers in place. More close mixing techniques were applied, resulting in a sound that is crisp, with a sharp attack.

The room also plays a part as the closed piano was recorded in a dry living room where diffusion and pre-delay are less likely to dampen the early reflections coming off the surface of the walls.

We've listed some sound samples below so you could get an idea of the potential of the Session Keys Upright.

Closed Piano Sound

Cinematic preset used to demonstrate the difference between the open and closed pianos.

Closed Piano (Before)

The default closed piano is used here in Acoustic mode before we switch to Aerial.

Open Piano (Before)

The default open piano is used here in Acoustic mode before being reversed.

Open Piano (Animator Mode)

Pattern generated in Animator mode.

Open Piano Sound

Switching to the open piano instantly increases sustain, resonance, and diffusion.

Closed Piano (After Pentamorph Aerial)

Pentamorph Aerial used on a dry closed piano sound.

Open Piano (After Pentamorph Reversed)

Pentamorph Reversed used on a dry open piano sound.

Open Piano (Animator Mode) (Added Mechanics + Sympathetic Resonance)

Pattern generated in Animator mode. Added sympathetic resonance, increased Timbre. Recorded Mechanics mode in parallel to the dry open.

What Features Do I Get?

Innovative Tonal Sculpting Possibilities:

The qualities of the open and closed piano can be further tweaked in the ‘Tonality' section. With dedicated sections which can completely morph your initial piano sound, the Tonality section is as comprehensive as it is intuitive.

With the sympathetic knob, you can control how the other keys react to the ones being played. Sympathetic string resonance is a way of achieving a fuller sound in Asian stringed instruments, like the Sarod, Veena, Sitar, and the Afghani Rubab.

The sympathetic strings, which are much thinner, are tuned to the scale of the composition and vibrate in unison with the plucked notes. Based on a similar concept, Session Keys have added a sympathetic control knob, to be able to tame or enhance the sympathetic resonance of the dormant keys.

Increasing the sympathetic resonance, key noise and pedal noise is recommended if you're incorporating a solo performance for piano in your composition.

However, the envelopes matter a lot in session keys upright as the attack and decay are highly sensitive. They can easily override the other parameters with a few milliseconds of changes.

Taming the key noise and sympathetic resonance in the open piano setting in an ensemble setting becomes important, as the sounds tend to occupy a large part of the mid-range in the mix.

While a lot of the tonality settings are designed while keeping the solo piano in mind, they are extremely useful in the reverse and aerial modes, allowing you to quickly create lo-fi, or cinematic textures within no time.

Instant Inspiration With The Session Keys Animator:

The Animator section is the most exciting part of the Session Keys Upright. With a variety of songs, hosting intricate arpeggio sections, the Animator can be your go-to section for instant inspiration.

As each white key would have the six sections of a song, from chorus to verse to the bridge, assigned to it, you can easily browse through different preset patterns in no time.

With a ‘Chord Detection' meter on the bottom left corner, you have instant visual feedback of what you're playing. Great for non-pianists, the Animator section can help you put down interesting chord progressions in no time.

The ability to morph the dynamics between ‘Pitch Bend' mode and ‘Key' mode, allows for greater control. You should be able to choose whether the velocity of your fingers on the keys takes precedence over the pitch-bend and vice versa.

For example, you could hold down a chord and keep moving the pitch bend for long-lasting sustain. You'll be visually shown its effects under the “Dynamic” section.

Moving the mod wheel higher allows you to add more complexity to the phrases you're playing. You can go from values 1 to 3, as the phrases add more detail.

The 2x Tempo feature on the right-hand side is an invaluable resource if you have issues recording complex musical figures and fast arpeggios with accuracy and feel.

Overall, the Animator is one of the highlights of the Session Keys Upright and totally worth checking out.

What About The Technical Stuff?

How Hard is Session Keys Upright On The CPU?

We stress-tested the Session Keys Upright on the Mac Mini M1 2020, running Big Sur 11.2.1 with 8GB RAM, an 8-core CPU with 4 performance cores, and 4 efficiency cores. With 15+ instances of the piano open simultaneously, there weren't any glitches or changes in the performance. Though the computer was unable to run smoothly, due to the weight of the samples.

You can tweak your dials as freely on the 15th track as you would on the 1st, as long as your computer handles the sample sizes well.

The Animator, Pentamorph, and Smart Chord mode generate larger sample counts which make the plugin quite heavy. The manual suggests using the sample purge function if you're facing issues with the processing.

What Does My System Need To Run Them?

Mac

  • Mac OS X 10.10 or higher.
  • Intel Core 2 Duo.
  • 4 GB RAM.
  • Free Space for Installation: 40 GB. 20 GB (lossless compression)
  • Needs 24 bits. 44.1 kHz.
  • Needs the free Kontakt 5 player or Kontakt 5.6.8 or higher.

PC

  • Windows 7, 8.1 or 10.
  • 32/64 bit.
  • Intel Core Duo or AMD Athlon 64.
  • 4 GB RAM.
  • Free Space for Installation: 40 GB. 20 GB (lossless compression)
  • Needs 24 bits. 44.1 kHz.
  • Needs the free Kontakt 5 player or Kontakt 5.6.8 or higher.

What Is The UI Like? How Realistic Is The GUI?

When you open the Session Keys Upright, the first thing you notice is how cool it looks. The vintage look and feel of the open piano, with ruptured walls, is highly realistic. Working on the Pentamorph is quite intuitive, and the quick results are highly encouraging to a new user.

While re-sizing is available, shrinking the size makes the Pentamorph and Animator sections inaccessible. The plugin is best used in its full size.

Switching between the Tonality, Effects, Smart Chords, Animator, and Piano section are quite straightforward.

Overall, the learning curve on the plugin is quite short. While some terms might have you run for the manual, it doesn't take long before you know what most things mean. The intuitiveness of the plugin is quite remarkable.

What Are Others Saying About The Session Keys Upright?

After scouring the internet, we found a lot of happy customers appreciating the nuances that this Upright captures. Similar to what we feel, playability is highly enhanced due to the accuracy of modeling. While the sound quality is widely appreciated, some prospective buyers have been put off by the huge 18GB download size.

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How Does The Session Keys Upright Stand Up To The Competition?

With six different microphone types and abilities to change the room tone, the 8Dio's 1901 Upright offers the most mileage. While 8Dio is twice the price, Native Instruments' The Giant and The Gentleman are both priced like the Session Keys Upright, at $99 each. Bringing equal levels of realism, it's difficult to choose between them based on sound quality alone.

As upright VSTs are generally a part of a pack, we recommend choosing a bundle to get a better deal.

The GiantThe MaverickThe Gentleman, and The Grandeur can either be purchased all together as a part of the Komplete Bundle($599), or just the latter 3 as part of the Definitive Piano Collection bundle($199), which doesn't include The Giant.

While $599 seems a lot for the Komplete Bundle, it's great if you're interested in the other instruments and effects that come along with it.

But, we really recommend going for the Session Keys Acoustic bundle ($299) if you fancy the sound of Session Keys. Along with the Grand S and Grand Y, you have a formidable piano collection for all your production needs.

We highly recommend keeping an eye out for Black Friday sales, as you could pick up the Session Keys Upright for as low as $49!

Session Keys Upright Piano (e-instruments) (Quick Review)

whippedcreamsounds

Sound quality of the piano samples
Feel, touch, response, and realism of the piano.
Pentamorph function.
Versatility across various genres.
GUI, Navigation & Resizing.
Sample size. CPU-friendly.
Ease of use for a recent buyer.

Verdict

The Session Keys Upright has a perfect blend of classical piano sounds with modern lo-fi, ambient, and cinematic textures. Being able to instantly browse between various textures, the native Pentamorph dial gives you tremendous flexibility. The Animator section and the smart chord, make it accessible for users without advanced keyboard skills.

4.8

FAQ

Does it help to get a paid Piano VST? I already have free ones.

While you may get by with a free piano VST, a high-quality one, such as the Session Keys Upright, is suggested owing to the realism it gives, not to mention the Animator feature. The amount of work put into micing the piano is evident in the level of detail captured by premium VSTs. The sound quality alone makes it worthwhile to purchase a premium piano VST.

Should I wait for the Session Keys Upright to go on sale?

If you're not in a hurry, it's not a bad idea to wait, as the Session Keys Upright does go on sale often. You can keep an eye out on forums or for Black Friday sales. We've seen the Upright drop to $49 during a sale.

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