Viscount Legend ’70s Review – Vintage E. Piano Meets Modular

Viscount Legend '70s
  • 85%
    Sound - 85%
  • 90%
    Features - 90%
  • 100%
    Ease Of Use - 100%
91.7%

SUMMARY

The Viscount Legend ’70s (starting from $2120/€1770) is a strong new contender in the stage piano market. It offers quality sounds, a unique modular concept, a solid build with a vintage look, and performance-friendly features. It should definitely be on your radar!

PROS

  • Vintage-meets-modern aesthetics
  • Modular platform with room to grow
  • MUCH lighter than a Fender Rhodes
  • Great-sounding physical models
  • Powerful software editor
  • Stage-friendly design & features (navigation, Song Mode, etc.)
  • Flexible connectivity

CONS

Splice Rent-to-Own

  • Noisy keyboard mechanic (on the Compact and Artist models, not on the Artist-W)
  • Not cheap if you keep adding modules

 
 

 

 

Lately I had the chance of checking out the Viscount Legend ’70s, a vintage-looking stage piano with a modern heart.
Fully made in Italy, the Viscount Legend ’70s is the first stage piano with a modular concept. What do stage pianos have to do with modules? Well, let me explain…

The modular concept behind the Legend ’70s allows users to customize the instrument according to their needs. Basically, you get a stage piano that gives you the option of adding extra types of sounds “à la carte”, through small hardware modules. In a way, what Viscount is doing with their Legend ’70s business model is what the mobile software industry did with in-app purchases, and might be also inspired by the growing interest in the modular synth market.
Will this become a new model for the synth and keyboard industry? Hard to say, but I find Viscount’s experiment quite intriguing.

One of the Legend ’70s modules, Clavi, with its ribbon cable

How does this benefit musicians? A common live setup with electric pianos, clavinets, string machines, synths means a lot of gear and weight (especially if vintage instruments are required). Some musicians opt for “the laptop route” and just use one or more controller keyboards. Certainly convenient, but not always an ideal option – i.e. possible technical issues, lack of “feeling” with the instrument, etc.

On the other end, many keyboard players opt for “the Swedish route”, with the tried and tested Clavia Stage line, a modern classic (I could never stand its look though!)

That said, in the past few years we’ve been noticing a growing interest in a new generation of stage pianos, and that’s why we were curious to put our hands on the Viscount Legend ’70s, a strong new contender in this busy market segment, with more than one ace up its sleeve.

A cool jam session showing multiple Legend ’70s sounds

Always Growing – The Modules

Viscount is using the “always growing” tag line to define their Legend ’70s stage piano, and I find it quite appropriate. The Legend ’70s, thanks to its modular concept, is something more than a regular stage piano. With an easy install mechanism, users can quickly install and swap modules (it literally takes a couple of minutes to do it, and if you ever used a modular synth you’ll know what I’m talking about).

At the time of writing, Viscount offers 6 different modules: E.Piano, Sound Collection, Synth-8, A. Piano, Clavinet, and the External module (this one can be used to control external MIDI devices, effectively transforming the Legend ’70s in a master keyboard controller).

The first two modules in the list, E.Piano and Sound Collection are installed by default in every version of the Legend ’70s stage piano – Compact, Artist, and Artist-W (the difference between them being the keyboard mechanism and the number of keys, from 73 to 88, more on this below). I also had a chance of testing the Synth-8 and A. Piano modules.

By the way, did you know that the Legend ’70s modules come in a pretty “shoe box”?

Optional modules come in this box. Italian style, right? 😉

Electric Piano

E.Piano is the main module of the instrument. It includes 8 physical modeling electric piano sounds (5 Rhodes, 2 Wurlitzer, 1 E.Grand – Yamaha CP-inspired), with incredible reliability and easily editable through the front panel controls or the available dedicated editor.

This is very likely the module you will be buying this instrument for, so let me tell you right away, it sounds great. I won’t enter the modeling vs. sampling debate here (pros and cons in each of these technologies, and I still love classic sample libraries such as the Scarbee ones). All you need to know is that Viscount did a great job with these pianos, and you’ll find several helpful presets to start enjoying them right away.

If you feel like customizing your electric piano sound, it’s super easy. The beauty of physical modeling is that users can further fine-tune them according to their taste, just modifying a few key parameters in the editor (available for free, on Windows, MacOS and iOS devices).

A detail from the Rhodes editing panel

I really enjoyed my experience with the Legend ’70s electric pianos, not only because of their sound but because of the feeling with the instrument as a whole. With the Legend ’70s, it doesn’t feel like you’re just in front of a controller keyboard playing some kind of plugin.

I know, that’s what essentially modern digital instruments like this one are, but not all of them give you that satisfactory feeling of playing a “real” instrument. In this case, Viscount really nailed the integration between the keyboard, the tactile interface and the instrument engine, kudos to them!

I also appreciated the fact that the Legend ’70s includes an “Amp” feature, which allows you to emulate the classic piano-into-amp signal chain. And yes, you’ll also find a Twin emulation among the ones modeled by Viscount. Needless to say, if you’re a purist and amp modeling is not your kind of thing, you can bypass the processing within the instrument and plug the piano into a traditional amp, exactly as you would do with a real Rhodes or Wurli.

Sound Collection

This module is exactly what it says on the tin, a wide range of sampled classic sounds (synth pads, strings, organs, basses, brass, choir, a celesta and even a simple acoustic piano). There’s a reason why these sounds are there. If you are a keyboard player, you’ll likely need to use some of these sounds in your gigs, sooner or later. It’s the kind of stuff you would also find in most workstations/ROMplers (without their bloat!), and the Sound Collection module does the job.

The benefit of having such a module in the Legend ’70s environment is that you can make all kinds of combinations with the sounds from other modules (so electric pianos, synths, etc.), creating layers and splits. The Sound Collection module can infact play two different sounds at once (which can also be layered with sounds from other Legend ’70s modules – with 128 notes poliphony you should have no problems playing your wall of sound!)
This can be useful for both performance artists and studio musicians/producers. While the Legend ’70s is clearly a stage piano, nothing stops you from using it also for some sound design. For instance, I had fun creating some trippy mixes of Wurli and Celesta sounds, slightly detuned and going through modulation effects, to create some eerie vibes…

Synth-8

According to Viscount, the virtual analog Synth-8 is a 2-oscillators 8-voices synthesizer with a faithful reproduction of a classic American multimode analog filter with saturation, 12dB and 24dB roll-off and gritty resonance.

The synth architecture is easy to understand and operate but has unique features: classic waveforms with waveshaping and detuned doubling of the oscillators with “Fat” modes, dedicated envelope for the noise, Ring Mod, Hard Sync for all oscillator modes, velocity controls for filters and envelopes.

Finally, the Unison modes allow stacking up to 8 voices: with “Fat” oscillators this makes a total of 32 detuned oscillators at once!
The module panel provides quick access to the user’s preferred parameters by four assignable knobs.

After installing the module I checked the O synth preset bank on the instrument (each bank, identified by a letter, provides a number of presets for a certain module, or a combination of them). Well, to be honest, I wasn’t really impressed. I found most of those 16 sounds not particularly inspiring, especially after reading the specs of the synth.

Then I went to the Viscount website and found some extra preset banks. I fired up the software editor and I started changing my mind about the module. As I guessed, it turned out those presets in the O bank don’t really give justice to the potential of the Synth-8 module.

Ok, it won’t replace the pricey vintage synths in your collection, but the module is capable of a solid range of sounds, even beyond the “bread and butter” timbres you would expect from a product like this – classic prog, fusion, electro and even more experimental modular/West Coast sounds and more are ready to play for your next session.
Needless to say, you can also program your sounds from scratch, using the matrix editor and the knobs on the module (or more conveniently, through the editor on your device).
The editing experience directly on the module is obviously not as enjoyable as having a one knob per function-synth, but it’s doable without too much effort (DX users in the ’80s had it much worse, believe me!)
Alternatively, the software editor, with its clear and intuitive layout, makes editing and saving sounds a breeze.

In the end, I liked what Viscount did with the Synth-8. Despite the obvious tactile and structural limitations (2 oscillators and 2 LFOs), I’ve been able to conjure up some pretty cool sounds with it. I recommend trying out the various Unison detuned modes, there’s some pretty edgy stuff you can get from them. Whether the Synth-8 module is enough for your synth needs during your performances, or not, is up to you to say. In my opinion, if you don’t need very peculiar sound design needs, and you don’t need to do lots of real-time modifications to the sounds, the Synth-8 module could easily replace your laptop or virtual analog synth.

Acoustic Piano

This module features 8 different acoustic pianos (picked among American, German and Japanese classic models), powered by Viscount high definition samplings that capture the nuances of a real piano (including damper resonance and pedal noise). Through the software editor, you can also select and use 2 extra piano sounds.

Sampled pianos are a bit like perfumes. It’s an extremely subjective topic, and it’s almost impossible to please everyone. As for me, I liked what I heard from this module, especially in a live music perspective. I think it’s pretty flexible, it seems to cut through the mix and it offers a wide range of sounds for the most common purposes (rock band, singer/songwriter, pop, jazz, etc.). Also, presets like “Mellow” and “German Grand” make the Acoustic Piano module suitable for more cinematic and intimate settings (and again, why not, for studio productions). I would have liked to find a more vintage-sounding, “wooly” and “imperfect” piano to complement the rest (there’s a Honky Tonk type though, if you’re into that kind of stuff).

Needless to say, this is a module for a stage piano, and therefore more limited in scope and pure horsepower compared to high-end dedicated sample libraries. Just don’t expect it to compete with those huge Kontakt libraries you might have on your computer.

Actually, if I was in charge of this project, I would have focused on not more than 3 or 4 pianos (2 modern grand pianos, 1 vintage sounding one and 1 upright) in order to have a higher detail and “resolution” in the individual sounds, but I guess for some users the more the better.
FYI: I’ve been told Viscount is actively working on some improvements to the sounds of this module, so stay tuned for the update.

I really enjoyed my experience with the Legend ’70s electric pianos, not only because of their sound but because of the feeling with the instrument as a whole.

Interface

Speaking of the interface, the Legend ’70s is a joy to use, especially on stage. The screen is small but highly readable, and everything is very intuitive. Most functions are one or two clicks away, and you probably won’t even need to rely that much on the (nicely printed, or pdf-based) manual.

Live performers will appreciate nifty touches such as the Song mode, which allows you to create a group of 4 Programs (presets, in Viscount’s terminology). Let’s say a certain song in your gig needs you to play different sounds in different sections of the song (a pad during the verses, a lead for the solo, some extra sounds, etc.). With the Song mode, you can go back and forth through your previously selected presets just touching one button, instead of having to scroll through the entire list of presets.

Speaking of performance-friendly features, the software editor goes even further thanks to its Live Sets feature (more on that in the editor section below).

Effects

The Legend ’70s comes with a reverb section and a multi-effect section, that allows users to select two different effects (either in serial or parallel mode).

As for the reverb section, I found it quite exhaustive. On top of the classic hall, room, plate and stage types, the Legend ’70s also features spring and tape reverb models. I especially liked the tape settings, as they add some extra dirt to the electric piano sounds.

The main panel with the reverb and effect section

The multi-effect section features the following algorithms:

• Tremolo • Chorus • Flanger • Phaser • Wah • Amp • Delay • Others (EQs and compressors).

For each of these, you can pick from different types or emulations, more or less clearly named after their base models (i.e. for the Wha you’ll be able to choose between Cry-Wah, Gun Wah, UK Wah, Auto Wah, etc.)

All in all, the effect section provides users with a solid selection, carefully tailored to the sounds of the instrument.

Splice Sounds
A detail from the back panel

Connectivity

The Legend ’70s is quite versatile in this regard, with a few extra benefits you don’t always find on stage pianos. The instrument boasts 4 audio outputs (2 main and 2 aux ones). The modules or effects output can be routed to the aux audio outputs instead of the main outputs, either stereo o mono. Also, you’ll find two different USB connections, named To Host and To Device. To Host allows you to connect the Legend ’70s to a computer, or an iOS device (through the usual Apple adapter). This is the connection you’ll need to use to let the Legend ’70s editor talk to the instrument. Also, the To Host connection doubles as a MIDI IN/OUT port and digital audio input.
The Legend ’70s can receive USB Audio stereo signal, that can be played through the outputs AUDIO OUT MAIN [L/MONO] and [R].

TIP: when using the Legend ’70s as a MIDI controller keyboard with your computer (i.e. to play some virtual instruments), you can also assign the VST audio output to the Legend ’70s analog outputs. This will allow you to use either the internal effect section, or (even better!) any pedal combination you fancy. How cool is that?

As for sending audio through the USB port, well I can only assume the instrument is perfectly capable of doing that, theoretically. It just needs to be implemented. Let’s see what the next firmware updates bring…

The To Device jack allows you to use a USB drive, in order to save and load settings and programs, and to update the operating system or module firmware.

Last but not least, you’ll find the good old MIDI DIN connections, 2 foot switches and 2 foot controllers jacks.

Construction and Keyboard Mechanic

The Legend ’70s comes in a big box, but don’t be afraid of its weight. Thankfully, it’s just a fraction of the weight of a vintage stage piano (it goes from 16,2 Kg/35,7 lbs to 19,5 Kg/42,9 lbs, according to the model you pick). There’s an optional dedicated stand, which I would recommend getting – it’s lightweight yet stable, easy to install, and makes the instrument look cooler.

The Legend ’70s with its stand

Going back to the instrument, pots, buttons and knobs feel solid, no complaints here. I love the fact you can use the flat top to add an extra keyboard, or a mix of laptop, tablet, controllers, pedals and mini-synths, according to your needs.

As for the keyboard, I got to check the Legend ’70s Compact version, the smallest and most affordable of the Legend ’70s line. As said above, the Compact comes with 73 Keys, Hammer action, velocity-sensitive with triple sensor.

The keyboard is based on the Fatar TP100LR mechanic. Now, there’s something you need to know about this. While I think this mechanic works great in this context, especially with electric pianos, it’s definitely not the quietest on the market. Also, at high velocities, it can create a “resonance” with the metal case of the instrument.

Mind you, it will NEVER be an issue if you’re playing with a band and/or in a loud environment, but it might be slightly annoying if you’re playing at home or in a noise-sensitive environment. I’ve been told it’s possible to find some DIY workarounds (foam, etc.), but I didn’t have time to try them yet.

FYI: the Artist-W model, with graded action and wooden keys (which emulates the response of an acoustic piano), is based on a customized mechanic, a big plus if you need a dead-quiet keyboard.

The wooden keys of the Artist-W model

Compact, Artist and Artist-W: What’s The Difference?

In a few words, different keyboards for different needs. The Compact, Artist, and Artist-W versions of the Legend ’70s share the same engine and differ by size (number of keys and module slots) and keyboard mechanic. All models include a sustain pedal. You’ll find the full price list below, after my final thoughts.

Compact – 73 keys

The Compact is the most portable stage piano with vintage aesthetics. Equipped with Hammer action, velocity-sensitive with triple sensor keyboard, it comes with 4 module slots. The basic version come with 2 modules built-in: Electric piano and Sound Collection.

Artist – 88 keys
The Artist is equipped with 88 keys Hammer action, velocity-sensitive with triple sensor keyboard and comes with 5 module slots. The basic version comes with the Electric piano and Sound collection modules.

Artist-W – 88 wooden keys
The Artist-W is the top choice for pianists. It is equipped with Graded hammer action, wooden keys, velocity-sensitive with triple sensor keyboard.

The Artist-W model with extra modules

Legend ’70s Editor – The Icing On The Cake

As said, the Legend ’70s is a really well though-out instrument, intuitive, and easy to use. Still, a modern digital instrument is not really complete without a proper software editor. Viscount must have felt the same way, and with the Legend ’70s editor they really added some extra value to their instrument.

The Legend ’70s Editor is a free application available for Windows, Mac OS and iOS, which allows real-time adjustment and storage of all parameters available in the Legend ’70s instrument. The application also allows the selection of various instrument models and the adjustment of additional sound parameters of the E.Piano, Clavi and A.Piano modules. Funnily enough, you cannot use the editor to update the instrument’s firmware or its modules (you’ll need a USB drive for that, as said above in the Connectivity section).

You can also save any Program on your computer and reload it quickly and easily. The Legend ’70s Editor has a clear and simple user interface, which works with any screen resolution.

The Legend ’70s Editor allows you to:

  • select the instrument’s Song mode and select the Songs and Programs they contain.
  • select the instrument’s Program mode and select Programs.
  • turn on/off and adjust the volumes of each installed module in a single screen.
  • create Live Sets, i.e. groups of up to 24 Programs that can be quickly recalled with a simple click. program Songs and Lists.
  • adjust all Program parameters.
  • save the Programs to a computer and reload them back to the instrument when needed.
  • select the desired instrument model for each position of the E.Piano, Clavi and A.Piano timbre selector. adjust additional sound generation parameters of the E.Piano, Clavi and A.Piano modules.
  • adjust the main parameters of the instrument’s System menu.

On top of what we already said, speaking of the modules, the Live section of the Legend ’70s Editor is a welcome addition to what you can already do with the Song mode directly on the instrument (see above). I wish I had features like this one back in the days, when I had to go crazy in order to change the sounds during live performances!
I just wish Viscount added the possibility to navigate the set with the cursor keys (I tried but it doesn’t work, at least on my Mac). Next update, maybe?

The Live Set section, with 24 programs or presets S

The Crystal Ball: What Future For The Legend ’70s

Being the Legend ’70s a modular instrument, I wonder what the future will bring. I’m told the platform is under active development, so I assume we will see further refinements in terms of firmware upgrades for both the system and existing modules. Also, I expect to see some more modules, for an even wider sound range (organs could be next, given Viscount’s expertise in the field, but who knows?)

Looking into my crystal ball, I think the Italian company has two possible paths for the Legend ’70s. They can try to keep it as a Nord Stage competitor, replicating its sound palette to satisfy all the most common needs of live performers. Which is fine, of course. In my opinion though, there’s an even bigger potential in the Legend ’70s platform. I think Viscount could really take it to the next level (and possibly find a bigger audience), making it also at the same time a sort of “laptop/VST killer”.

On top of all the bread and butter sounds a stage piano should have (and the handy External module), think how cool it would be if the Legend ’70s would host more unique sounds such as the ones that have made waves in the past few years in the VST and sample library market? I’m thinking, for instance, felt, lo-fi pianos, retro-FM style synths, ambient-cinematic granular stuff, etc.
I think a lot of musicians, producers, and composers are tired to be staring at a screen to play those sounds, and it would be great to have an option to have stuff like this inside an instrument like the Legend ’70s. Wishful thinking maybe, but you never know…

If you’re shopping for a cool-looking stage piano, versatile enough to carry out extra duties both live and in the studio, the Legend ’70s should definitely be on your radar!

Final Thoughts and Prices

I truly enjoyed my time with the Viscount Legend ’70s. It offers quality sounds, a unique modular concept, a solid build with a vintage look, and performance-friendly features. The software engine behind it feels reliable and stable as well.

Is the Legend ’70s a must-buy? If you’re shopping for a cool-looking stage piano, versatile enough to carry out extra duties both live and in the studio, the Legend ’70s should definitely be on your radar! To me, it sounds better than some popular competitors (KORG SV, for instance) and it’s obviously way more versatile than the Crumar Seven.
The Electric Piano sounds are top-notch, the Sound Collection module has plenty of useful sounds, and the optional modules are all pretty interesting (the Acoustic Piano is probably a must if you’re playing live, as well as the Clavinet one – I haven’t tested this one, but it sounds wonderful from what I’ve heard). The Synth-8 module can make your gig setup much lighter and portable, while the External module can prove handy if you need to control other MIDI devices directly from the Legend ’70s (I would still put a nanoKONTROL or a similar compact controller on top of the Legend ’70s, there’s a good amount of space you can use there!)

To learn more about the Viscount Legend ’70s, please visit the official website. Here below you’ll find the official pricing for the different models.

Prices:

Europe

Compact     1770 €

Artist           1985 €

Artist-W       2299 €  

US

Compact      $2120

Artist            $2365

Artist-W       $2865


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