EASTWEST QUANTUM LEAP GOLIATH

Versions tested: PLAY 1.2.5 and 2.1.1 and 3.0.21
DAW: Cubase 4.5.2 and 5.5.1 and 5.5.3
computer: iMac 2.16 GHz Core2Duo, 3GB RAM
computer 2: MacPro 2.66 GHz Xeon W3520, 12GB RAM

INSTALLATION
I bought Goliath for $250 (including iLok + shipping) about one year ago when Soundsonline had one of their many 50% off deals. The package arrived promptly and I was brimming with anticipation, thanks to rave reviews and EW’s reputation for great sound.

The install took about two hours (6 DVD’s totalling 40GB) and required registering the iLok etc. For some reason the authorization failed and I was unable to use it. Thankfully, EastWest’s e-mail support swiftly replied, they uploaded the auhorization code to my iLok account and I was good to go. Or so I thought.

I started my DAW (Cubase 4.5.2 at the time) to immerse myself in some serious sound exploration, but when I opened an instance of PLAY (Goliath’s engine) Cubase “unexpectedly quit”. After several unsuccessful attempts I tried PLAY in stand-alone mode but fared no better. I managed to open the application but loading sounds would cause it to crash.

Again, EW support was most helpful. They always replied e-mails within 24 hours and did point me to the solution eventually, which turned out to be an updated version of Yamaha Studio Manager. It required some back-and-forth, reinstalling and updating but the issue was resolved so now I could finally go and get inspired.

SOUND
I have to say that I was not that impressed. Perhaps I expected too much but I found that Goliath is a few miles short of being the all-purpose workhorse it wants to be.

Let’s start with the positives. I like EW’s warm signature sound. The orchestral stuff is definitely a step up from other all-in-ones or hardware workstations, and the included reverb sounds great. The choirs and solo voices are wonderful, too.
Acoustic guitars sound very nice, there is a fairly realistic Lakland bass, decent acoustic drumkits, and some nice pad-like patches. Percussion sounds great too, as do many of the ethnic instruments.

The electronic drumkits are a mixed bag, with some of the sounds really knocking and some others sounding dated.

On to the negatives, with the undisputed #1 being the acoustic pianos. They suck. Really. This bit on the soundsonline site correctly states

“GOLIATH includes the entire 32 Gigabytes of content from Future Music magazine’s VIRTUAL INSTRUMENT OF THE YEAR – COLOSSUS, PLUS an additional 8 Gigabytes of new content from the latest EASTWEST/QUANTUM LEAP collections, including the Sound On Sound magazine 5 STAR awarded EASTWEST/PMI BOSENDORFER 290 PIANO”

which I find misleading as it had me believe that a stripped-down version of their QL Piano was included. Not so.

Perhaps there was a time that the PMI Bosendorfer could be considered great, but it certainly is not now. My hardware keyboards sound better and feel more like instruments, as does the $99 Garritan Steinway Basic.
Likewise, the Rhodes is pathetic. Maybe someone else could find a use for it, but not me, and I have tried. Clavinets fare no better, and Goliath’s only saving grace for keyboardists is the B3, which is pretty good to my ears.

The synthesizer section is mediocre. The aforementioned pad-like patches are fine, but the analog emulations are a waste of space. They could work for some non-critical parts, but PLAY’s inflexible engine and lack of tweakability really kill it as a synth.

PERFORMANCE
I have to say I like the GUI’s looks, but there are some ergonomic flaws. For example, the fact that you can’t input numeric values makes it hard to copy settings.

What’s more, on my machine (an aging 2.16GHz Core2Duo iMac with 2GB RAM, but well above minimum sys reqs) performance was unreliable, and I found that I had to bounce every instance right after creating the part.
Multi-timbrality is a no-go area, which is acknowledged sotto voce by EW as they recommend not to use it and open multiple instances instead.

In both standalone and VST mode I occasionally encounter the following problem: when I load and replace sounds frequently (like when I’m auditioning sounds for a part) some sort of high latency is introduced and it becomes unplayable. Only quitting the instance (or application in standalone) and reopening it resolves this issue.

On the upside, when I upgraded to Cubase 5.5.1 PLAY’s performance improved. It is pretty stable now, and appears to run a little leaner, too. After a few months of hassle-free operation I took the plunge and upgraded to PLAY 2.1.1

Maybe I should not have, because it immediately ‘unexpectedly quit’ Cubase again. It works for the most part, though, and the GUI looks a little better.

CONCLUSION
All in all, I am reasonably content with Goliath because I got a good deal, but I would not recommend it. It is not the allrounder EW claims it is and the PLAY engine hasn’t worked all that great on my machine. There are some sounds that I really like and use frequently, but the rest is just sitting there clogging up the hard drive. Had I paid the full amount for it, I would have felt royally screwed.

To be competitive it should be priced at $150-200, work flawlessly and have a smaller GB footprint. To be fair, other users may not have encountered these problems, but if the reports on the net are anything to go by, mine is not an isolated incident.

EW’s minimum system requirements are a G5 1.6GHz, 2GB RAM, Mac OS 10.4 or newer. I find that hard to believe. In my experience, you’d need at least double the RAM, a dedicated harddisk and waaay more CPU power. My computer hits the ceiling when I play 5 simultaneous voices with one of the choir sounds.

All this notwithstanding, Goliath has got me wishing for more of EW’s orchestral and acoustic stuff. A new computer should arrive this summer and if PLAY performs better on it, I might just want to give the Composer’s collection another look.

edit (September 24, 2011):

I installed PLAY 3.0.21 and it really makes a difference. Although my gripes with the UI have not been addressed, it is a major improvement in terms of stability and efficiency.
To give you an idea of the efficiency, it now runs leaner within Cubase 5.5.3 than Steinberg’s own HalionSonic, go figure.

I thought it would be fair to post this in light of the criticisms I have spouted above.

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