Ah, the plight of the Manhattanite: there is no room here for a grand piano. So I’m eager to try Native Instruments’ new introduction to the pile, Akoustik Piano.

The pianos: Three grands (Steinway D, Bechstein D and Boesendorfer Imperial) and one vintage upright (Steingraeber 130)

Did they finally get layering right? I’ve heard some beautiful, beautiful piano samples. And invariably, the layering is awful: you don’t get the sense of different velocities getting different timbres as on a real instrument. Native has added something called Layer Morphing Technology, but since I’m impressed by sound, not product names, the jury’s out.

Convolution reverb with different room types

Tricked out with extras: Adjustable mechanical noises of pedals and keys? Integrated metronome and recorder? 3-band EQ? (What, your Steinway grand doesn’t have an EQ on it?) It’s all in there.

With Ivory, Steinberg’s The Grand, samples from PMI, etc., etc. Akoustik Piano has some serious competition. If I can, I’ll run a giant throwdown of all of them, though. Better brush up my Chopin.

CDM 5 words: Crowded field, but it’s Native.

Pricing/availability: US$349, September 2005.

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, standalone, plugin, if Native doesn’t support it, it’s not a real format.

Do I want it? It’s a piano, and it has a standalone mode. Of course I do. But enough of these cheesadelic 3D graphics of the pianos, already!