This article includes:
- The Ultimate Model of a Model B
- Introducing UltraResonance™ Technology
- Simple Control of Perfectly Placed Mics
- More Modern Textures
- System Requirements
- Quick Start
- The Ravel User Interface
- Advanced Features (MIDI CC and Automation)
Universal Audio's first acoustic instrument model, Ravel, is a breathtaking emulation of a Steinway Model B grand piano.* Building upon UA's industry-leading physical modeling techniques, Ravel goes far beyond other piano plug-ins and sample libraries with its unprecedented realism and resonant dynamics.
Ravel gives you an immaculately captured, iconic studio grand piano recorded at United Recording Studios (formerly Ocean Way Studios) by famed engineer Allen Sides with his vast collection of vintage mics. Purpose-built for modern music productions from pop to rock, R&B to hip-hop, and more, Ravel gives you album-ready sonics and inspiring playability.
Now you can:
Play and record the most organic, responsive, and expressive software piano ever made
Harness UltraResonance™ technology for unparalleled realism, dynamic sensitivity, and timbral characters
Easily mix between close and room mics, expertly placed by Allen Sides at United Recording
Animate your tracks with unique reversed-piano sounds that can add thrilling textures and haunting atmospheres
The Ultimate Model of a Model B
The 6' 11" Steinway Model B is the most recorded studio piano for a reason, delivering the ideal, mixable studio grand sound as heard on countless modern hits, across every genre. Its rich tones blend perfectly with drums, bass, electric guitar, and other surrounding instruments — never muddying up mixes and instead giving you a balanced, mix-ready piano track every time.
Introducing UltraResonance™ Technology
Sympathetic string resonance — or the phenomenon of undamped strings and the soundboard vibrating in response to other strings being played — is often the Achilles' heel of virtual pianos. Using proprietary modeling and sampling techniques, UA's exclusive UltraResonance technology exactingly recreates these complex interactions, giving you the airy, evolving palette of harmonics that allows notes to melt into each other. From soft muted notes to languid, pillowy nuances, UltraResonance™ sets a new benchmark in resonance and realism.
Simple Control of Perfectly Placed Mics
Designed to give you a professional, record-ready sound right out of the gate, Ravel's easy-to-use interface lets you sculpt your piano sounds with three pairs of hand-chosen vintage mics from famed engineer Allen Sides' mic locker. Featuring only the controls you need, Ravel ensures you'll never get lost in confusing menus. Easily tweak Ravel's Volume, Tone, and a microphone Close/Room slider, letting you go from intimate tones to a lush room sound, and everywhere in between.
More Modern Textures
Looking to add drama, suspense, or other left-of-center timbres? Ravel's Reverse feature lets you easily add unique atmospheric piano sounds. Use the Mix control to add in subtle reverse textures to your normal piano playing, or go completely "backwards" for all kinds of fun. You can even "play the control" for surprising real-time performance changes.
Ravel has the following requirements:
- SSD drive with 10 GB available storage
- SSD drive must be formatted as APFS (Apple File System)
- External SSD must be within a USB 3.0, USB 3.1, PCIe, or Thunderbolt enclosure
- Spinning hard drives and macOS Fusion drives are unsupported
- SSD drives formatted as ExFAT, FAT, and Mac OS Extended are unsupported
We know you might be excited to start playing, so let's take Ravel for a quick test drive before diving into the details. After the instrument is loaded:
- Play the piano to get a feeling for what Ravel can do in your music.
- The basic user interface view has a single volume level slider. Click the UA icon near the top right, or the chevron (down arrow head) at the bottom of the Main View to reveal various option sliders. This section is called Controls view.
- Here you can fine tune your sound by adjusting any of the sliders. For example, if you would like the piano to have a brighter (or darker) tone, drag the TONE slider and play a few notes to hear the result. If you would like to hear more or less of the room microphones, drag the MICS slider. Feel free to keep experimenting with various sliders.
- When you are happy with your results, click the UA icon or chevron (up arrow head) again to close the Controls view and enjoy playing the piano!
The Ravel User Interface
Ravel features an elegant, distraction-free interface so you can keep your focus on the music. The interface has four views,
Main View is what you see when Ravel is launched. It has only one slider:
This slider sets the output level of the instrument.
Controls View is revealed by clicking the UA logo or the chevron (down arrow head) in Main View. Doing so reveals additional options beyond the volume control available in Main View. Click the chevron again to close this section and return to Main View.
Ravel includes a single-control EQ whose underlying parameters "morph" behind the scenes to alter the overall tonal character of the master output. It ranges from a "dark" setting (fully left) through a flat setting (middle) to a "bright" setting (fully right) and can be used to help fit the piano into your mix.
This slider lets you adjust the responsiveness of the instrument by scaling the incoming MIDI input velocity to place more or less emphasis on softer or louder sounds in Ravel. The default setting at the midpoint provides an optimized response that should work well for most musicians. Moving the slider to the left scales the MIDI input velocity to make it easier to play low velocity notes; moving the slider to the right does the opposite and makes it easier to play higher velocity notes.
Tip: Adjust this slider to suit your individual preference. Some players prefer a light action that makes it easy to reach high velocities with minimal effort (set the slider closer to the right). Others prefer heavier action in which higher velocities require more forceful playing (set the slider closer to the left). There is no "correct" method and how you set this is entirely a matter of personal taste.
This slider lets you crossfade between the regular piano samples and the reversed piano samples.
Tip: The reverse sounds are available to play in real time or automate within your DAW. Used sparingly on tracks, they can add some unique "flavors" with musical phrases. Ravel's reverse sounds are not tempo synced, but you'll find that many tempos work well with the various lengths. When reverse sounds are used, more sample data is being used, and more CPU resources on your host computer, so if you are not using reverse sounds, it is recommended to keep the slider fully off.
This slider sets the length of the reversed piano samples and has 12 separate sample length positions ranging from 300 to 3500 milliseconds.
Note: Changing the Reverse Length slider loads a new set of seed samples into Ravel. While samples are loading, the "reverse" sounds will be briefly muted.
This slider crossfades between the "Close" (close mic'd) and "Room" microphones. Dragging this control reveals the Mics View to help you visualize the blend of microphones. This is described in detail in the "Mics View" section.
When dragging the Mics slider, a new background is revealed to visualize Ravel's microphone mix balance. As you adjust the slider, the brightness of lighting over the mic pairs changes to provide a visual reference of the mix balance between the CLOSE microphones (near the piano) and the ROOM microphones (positioned further away).
Note: When the Mics slider is set to 100% CLOSE or 100% ROOM, the unused microphone channels are switched off and you may notice a reduction in CPU load as those samples are no longer played. It's best to keep the ROOM mics fully off if you're not using them so that CPU load is minimized.
Clicking the Gear icon opens Settings View, where you can adjust six additional settings for Ravel. To exit Settings View, click anywhere outside the central area.
Note: These parameters are global, meaning that they are not stored within a preset.
Sets Ravel's tuning reference in Hertz. Adjust this parameter by dragging up or down or by double-clicking the field and entering a number directly. You can also use your computer's up and down arrow keys to set this value in increments of 0.1 Hz.
Pedal Noise Volume
This drop menu lets you set the loudness level of the piano's mechanical pedaling sounds. There are five options ranging from FULL (the mechanical sounds are played back as recorded) to OFF (no mechanical pedaling sounds at all).
Key Noise Volume
Adjusts the volume of subtle key noises heard on note off (when a key is released). The default value of 100% is the level as recorded. You can reduce this value for less key noise.
Silent Note Velocity
On acoustic pianos, pressing a key very softly results in a "silent note" since the hammer does not have enough inertia to actually strike its associated string. While silent notes do not produce a tone, the mechanical sound of key and hammer movement can still be heard very softly. The Silent Note Velocity parameter sets MIDI velocity values below which silent notes occur in Ravel. The Silent Note Velocity range is 0–15. Ravel defaults to a Silent Note Velocity of 10.
Note: This setting applies globally to all instances of Ravel and is not saved individually with each instance of the instrument.
Sets Ravel's total polyphony. This parameter has a meaningful impact on CPU usage; you can choose a lower load setting if CPU power is constrained. The default MEDIUM setting works well in most cases. If you have a sufficiently powerful computer or are recording a solo piano project, you may consider setting polyphony to LARGE, which allows the most natural pianistic response at the expense of greater CPU usage. If you have an older computer, or you are running complex sessions, you may need to consider using the ECO setting.
Tip: When performing a non-realtime mixdown of your performance, set Polyphony to LARGE as the computer can handle the load when it is not playing back in real time. This can give you the best possible pianistic result during a bounce, and you can set Polyphony back to MEDIUM or ECO after your DAW completes the bounce if CPU resources are limited.
Ravel supports both traditional "footswitch" style sustain pedals as well as specialized "continuous" sustain pedals. Most sustain pedals offer simple on/off switching. However, some advanced sustain pedals can generate a continuous range of data, allowing for half-pedaling techniques. This is described in detail in the next section of this guide.
Check this box if your MIDI controller and sustain pedal both support continuous sustain and you would like to make use of the specialized feature. However, if your hardware does not support this, leave this box unchecked.
Resonance to Reverse
When switched on, the reverse samples are fed at lower level into Ravel's Ultra-Resonance model to add some soundboard and string ambience and reverberation. When switched off, only the regular (forward) piano samples are processed with Ultra-Resonance.
When creating Ravel, the source acoustic piano was sampled with an extremely wide dynamic range to ensure that the original instrument's entire range was fully and faithfully captured. As a result, the loudest samples at the highest possible velocity layer are louder and brighter than what is possible in typical chordal playing. On an acoustic piano, this layer would be the equivalent of a player bracing fingers together and striking one note with as much power as possible. It makes a powerful sound, but playing at this dynamic would sound very unnatural and overly "hard" if used throughout a song.
The HIGHEST DYNAMIC feature adjusts Ravel's loudest-possible layer of samples. The choices for this setting are included because many lower cost MIDI controllers tend to output maximum velocity MIDI notes easily and this can sound unmusical with Ravel's high dynamic range sampling.
We recommend using the default LIMIT option when working with standard spring action MIDI controllers.
- The LIMIT setting allows access to the highest possible velocities but only when individual notes or parallel intervals are being played (the system prevents the highest layer being triggered by chords).
- The FULL option allows access to the loudest sample layer just like any other layer. Use the FULL setting with a weighted MIDI piano controller keyboard that supports wide, realistic response velocity curves.
- The OFF setting switches Ravel's very highest dynamic levels off entirely. OFF can be the best choice for budget MIDI controllers; with a less responsive controller, experiment with LIMIT and OFF to find your preference.
Advanced Features (MIDI CC and Automation)
Ravel responds to all three standard piano pedals: Sustain (or "Damper"), Soft Pedal (Una Corda), and Sostenuto. The sustain pedal responds to continuous control if supported by your hardware.
On an acoustic piano, the sustain pedal acts to lift all of the felt "dampers" that keep strings from ringing. When the pedal is depressed, the dampers are not in contact with the strings, notes sustain naturally, and notes don't stop ringing when your finger leaves the key on the note struck. When the pedal is released, the dampers return to the strings, so strings don't ring any longer unless keys are held.
Experienced pianists know how to "ride the pedal," carefully controlling when notes are sustaining and ringing. Careful control of pedaling can produce what is called "half pedaling" where the dampers begin to touch the piano strings, but do not entirely cut off notes that are ringing. By using a continuous sustain/damper pedal—an option that many keyboards support—you can take advantage of Ravel's sophisticated behavior and sounds for pedaling, and get a natural pedaling effect, combining the response of Ultra-Resonance and the mechanical sounds of pedaling, which greatly adds to musicality and realism.
For the most realistic piano experience, you will want to use a continuous sustain pedal. For this, you will need a pedal that's capable of sending continuous messages, and a keyboard that is capable of receiving them. Most spring action (non-weighted or semi-weighted) keyboards don't recognize continuous messages from the sustain pedal jack. Often continuous control is only available from an input meant for an expression pedal (similar to a volume pedal or wah). Here's what you need to know:
- Most hammer-action keyboard controllers do accept continuous control for at least sustain pedal (cc64). Check your controller's manual to be sure.
- If using a spring-action keyboard (or if your hammer-action keyboard does not accept continuous messages via sustain pedal input, check the back panel or user manual to determine if it has an expression pedal input
- You will need to change the input CC to 64 (it is usually set to 11)
- You will need a piano-style continuous pedal (such as the Roland DP10 or Yamaha FC3A)
Ravel will auto-detect whether your pedal is switched or continuous.
While Ravel has a simple user interface, we've made sure to include MIDI parameter automation control. Having access to automation and MIDI CC control can make life easier during a live performance (for example, changing parameters "on the fly" from your MIDI controller without looking at your computer). It can also open up creative sound design possibilities during a mix.
MIDI CC Number
Una Corda (soft pedal)
All Notes Off
* Ravel performs an "All Notes Off" (sometimes called "MIDI Panic") procedure any time it receives a non-zero value on MIDI CC123. This means you can, for example, map any momentary button on your MIDI Controller to send a "127" MIDI message on CC123 when pressed, and a "0" message when released. Doing so will convert that button into an All Notes Off control.