Synthogy’s Joe Ierardi on new Ivory II Studio Grands and engine update

Over the years, Synthogy’s Ivory II pianos have been critically acclaimed for their incredible playability, expressiveness and realism, with Sound on Sound proclaiming “frankly, they don’t come better than this.” about the Boston-based developer’s last release – American Concert D.


This week we were thrilled to welcome the fifth collection to the Ivory II stable of virtual pianos with the release of Studio Grands – featuring a Steinway B Grand Piano and the Bösendorfer 225 Grand Piano. Not only that, Synthogy has also released a new version of it’s Ivory engine (v2.5) which, along with several new features, also now means users no longer require an iLok key to authorise the pianos.


We caught up with Synthogy Co-Founder Joe Ierardi to find out more about Studio Grands and the new engine…

Tell us more about the ‘Studio Grands’ and why they were chosen.

Most of the grands in the Ivory collection are 9′ Concert Grands, which are great pianos for the concert stage, but the instruments one might find more commonly in recording studios are 7′ Grands.  This preference is not just a matter of size and cost, but quite often the scale of these instruments tends to produce a remarkable treble range.  This is an all-important register in Pop, Rock, R&B, Jazz and other modern styles of recorded music.


Joe Ierardi

The Steinway B is one of the most frequently recorded pianos in history, and it has certainly been an often requested piano model from our users.  We were very fortunate to have the cooperation and support of Steinway & Sons for this recording, who invited us to hand-select the instrument from their factory in Astoria, NY.  The instrument was then carefully prepared and tuned by one of Steinway’s top concert technicians for the recording.

The Bosendorfer 225 that we recorded is an exceptional instrument with a rather distinguished history.  It was the studio grand at Firehouse Recording Studios in Pasadena, CA, and has the distinction of being recorded for a couple of Grammy Award-winning records, as well as several other Grammy-nominated hits.  Top LA session players and composers know this instrument well, so recording it for this collection was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.  When you hear it, you’ll know why, it’s got great tone and resonance in all registers.


Where were they recorded and what’s particularly special about these studios?

The choice of studio was very important for these projects.  The Steinway B was recorded at Power Station New England (Sonalysts) in Waterford, CT.  The room is a nail-for-nail replica of the famed Power Station/Avatar in Manhattan.  They literally laser-spec’ed it out.  If you’ve ever been to Avatar it’s almost spooky to walk in this place as to how exact the reproduction is.  The live room acoustic has that classic sound, it was the perfect venue for this recording.

The Bosendorfer 225 was recorded at Firehouse Recording Studios in Old Pasadena.  Their state-of-the-art Studio A was a great room, and ideal for our session.  Terrific acoustic, very quiet, and as I mentioned, the site of numerous acclaimed recordings.  Unfortunately, Firehouse Recording has relocated to Atlanta and the Pasadena studio is gone.  It’s sad, but all the more reason I’m grateful that we had the chance to record there and preserve something of its legendary sound in virtual form for this instrument.

What does the v2.5 update mean for both new and existing Ivory users?

Foremost what it means for new and current Ivory II users is the new authentication options available.  Ivory 2.5 supports PACE’s machine-based license authorization system as well as the traditional PACE iLok key.  This means users have the option to authorize their iLok key, or their computer directly without the use of the iLok.  I’m sure it will prove to be popular with the Ivory community, and we’re pleased to be able to offer it in Ivory 2.5.


Can you run through, in detail, the other features/highlights of version 2.5 of the engine?

Sure, there are a number of notable features in the plug-in for Ivory 2.5.


The Shimmer control is a new sound design feature that has been added to the Program page of Ivory 2.5.  Shimmer is a powerful feature that provides unique control over the decay/sustain portion of the piano note.  Positive values of the Shimmer control extend the decay of the higher harmonics of the piano notes played.  Small to medium (positive) values provide a longer, natural sounding sustain, which is a characteristic that many players like.  Extreme positive values can also yield some interesting synth like effects.  Negative values of the Shimmer control will shorten the decay of the higher harmonics.  Extreme negative values produce a muted type effect.

On the Session Page of Ivory 2.5 you’ll find some new Half-Pedal controls.  Ivory 2 has supported Half-Pedal (or continuous damper pedal) for years now, but with new controllers coming on the market these days and more of them supporting continuous damper pedal, it became apparent to us that not all of these continuous pedals have the same response.  Thus, the new Half-pedal controls in Ivory 2.5 provide the flexibility necessary to make the adjustments suited to your controller.  These controls are:

Pedal Start – defines the MIDI value of your continuous damper pedal (CC 64) that the Half-pedal effect will begin.


Pedal Active – determines the range that the Half-pedal effect will occur.


Reset Button – Resets the Pedal Start and Pedal Active controls to their Default values.


Pedal Track – Provides control over the volume tracking of the Pedal Noise sample.  With Half-pedal enabled, the Pedal Noise sample is triggered according to the “velocity” of the continuous damper pedal.  Slower pedaling produces a softer pedal noise effect.  Fast pedal motion will produce a louder Pedal Noise sound.  Pedal Track parameter allows a fine control adjustment for your controller, pedaling style or taste.


The Ivory 2.5 interface also includes a new visual graph to display how your Half-pedal controls have been set.


For the Ivory Standalone App (Mac) Ivory 2.5 provides the ability to assign MIDI controllers to any and all of the parameters in the Ivory 2.5 plug-in.  This capability has been available in previous versions of Ivory through the DAW hosts.  This is still supported in Ivory 2.5, but now you can also assign these controls when running the Ivory Standalone, and save them as part of your Session preset.


The Ivory 2.5 plug-in has also implemented support for the MIDI CC88 High Resolution Velocity prefix.  There is nothing you need to do for Ivory 2.5 to respond.  If your controller transmits the High Resolution Velocity Prefix, Ivory 2.5 will respond to the more than 16,000 velocity steps.


Thanks Joe! Click here to find out more about Ivory II Studio Grands, or take a look at our video walkthrough below…


Posted by Melanie Doidge

Having worked in marketing for over fifteen years with experience in various industries, Time+Space and the world of music production continues to be the most exciting of them all. With our brands consistently pushing the boundaries of technology with their products, the terrific DJs, Composers and Producers using them and the feedback from magazines and our customers, there's always plenty to tell the world about. Musical experience? I reached Grade 6 in piano back in my school days and am currently in the throes of trying to resurrect my abilities!


This article has 2 Comments

  1. The “assign MIDI controllers to any and all of the parameters in the Ivory 2.5 plug-in ” capability (in the standalone version) seems to be lacking.
    According to the manual there should be a button on the session page – which is not only absent here, but also in the video you made.
    Maybe something went wrong with the software release ?

    1. Hi Joh,

      The assign MIDI controllers feature in the plug-in is ONLY available when running in the Ivory Standalone. Otherwise MIDI controllers can be assigned through the host DAW application (as they always had been).

      The “controllers” button is indeed available and working in the center of the Session page just below “tuning” when running the Ivory Standalone.

      Hope this helps!


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