Wouldn’t it be great…
…If you could produce cymatics with the quality of Mozarts ensemble?
Yeah, I thought so too!
Unfortunately, I’m not Mozart or Bach…
But here’s the exciting thing!
Nowadays you can compose an extremely impressive orchestra…
without having a stage with sections full of professional session players.
So what’s the secret?
Orchestra VST Plugins make producing scores “easy” while still sounding realistic.
Sounds like a appealing idea right?
So let’s look at 14 of the Best Orchestra Plugins I’ve found which are totally convincing to my ears!
East West Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra
East West’s productions are truly amazing. It’s like you’re listening to a real instrument reproduced digitally.
Quantum Leap pianos was a cut above the rest in terms of natural-sounding piano’s and genuinely remarkable ambience and tone for their pieces.
Now is the Symphonic Orchestra. I expected great things from this VST when I opened it and…
Boy was I not disappointed.
This is Hollywood-level production. Either you can play it in your Kontakt Player, or you could purchase the Play edition of this VST.
The realism of this orchestra is stupendous to the point I can’t believe myself I’m controlling everything using a keyboard. Sections can be assigned to your keyboard. You have a huge roster of instruments recorded carefully by classical recording engineer, and 11-time Grammy nominated Professor Keith O. Johnson
The Platinum Complete Plus 24 Bit and 16 Bit edition is a hefty 194GB of pure awesomeness. I say it’s truly worth it.
Note that this is focused on the cinematic. If you’re looking for an East European small orchestra or London Symphony-ish sound, it’s not here.
Project Sam – Symphobia Series
If there’s one thing I love, it’s the Symphobia Series’ focus on opera as well as Hollywood-quality trailer-esque sounds.
But what made me fall in love with it is its ability to enthrall you with its choral voices. Opera, as I said, is a focal point of Project Sam’s Symphobia Series. Where East West dwells on the action and intensity, Symphobia has this distinct, dark or “blue” – ish sound that lures you into fantasy, similar to an appeal to fantasy or game music scores.
If you’re a game score producer, this is the right tool for you.
I couldn’t think of any convincing harp, tin whistle and a full suite of bells for scores.
PS: The Dystopia section, that’s where game score producers should head first.
Trust me; it’s dazzlingly brilliant.
The Symphobia series had always been about delivering a digital-sized package of the most cinematic-sounding orchestras around.
Whether you’re an EDM or rock music producer in need of an orchestra that delivers a grand rather than intimate sound to your strings, the Symphobia 1 is a great starter.
Symphobia 1 is more on exploring a composer’s musical side. With a touch orchestra complete with ensemble performances multi-sampled in numerous arrangements for orchestral sections.
The only downside is that some articulations may not be available with Symphobia 1.
If you’ve used large-sample libraries, such as East West’s Quantum Leap series, you might find this on par with the power of Garritan Personal Orchestra or Miroslav Philharmonik I.
But it works for quick scores that need to be done in a jiffy.
Perhaps the newest addition to Symphobia 2 is its powerful new Dystopia III package.
Dystopia I and II in the original Symphobia had some synthetic variations on legato (although barely noticeable).
Project Sam upped the notch further by recording real legato transitions, which makes the entire experience of using the legato ensembles pleasing to the ears of a seasoned composer.
Other additions include minor and major DXF trills, some new powerful crescendo-descrescendo, new crescendos and spiccatos. That in itself is enough for me to buy it.
Of course, they also helped improve the original by introducing further samples to the articulation of ensemble instruments.
Although this had notched the library higher to 26GB from 12, no doubt this is the right tool for music scores.
The choir is probably the biggest addition to the latest installment of Symphobia. While there are smaller ensembles when you’re uncertain to go for an intimate sound.
You also have new instruments including a powerful grand piano (guessing it’s Steinway) a harp and powerful percussion instruments.
Perhaps it’s time to venture into the world of mystery and surprise.
That’s where Symphobia 3 wants you to head.
Have a celtic harp fill out the little melodic passages transitioning to smoother phrases.
Maybe a little tin whistle to make it sound more joyous.
Or even more solemn, with a full bell tower.
Maybe it’s time to make some music scores for cartoons or fun games.
IK Multimedia: Miroslav Philharmonik 2
Miroslav Vitous wanted a sample library of a complete symphony, and he didn’t fail with the first iteration of Miroslav Philharmonik.
Now Miroslav Philharmonik 2 still involves the visionary jazz bassist with over 58GB of symphonic instruments with over 2,700 instruments. This is much more than the 7GB original size of the first Miroslav Philharmonik.
Now, with multiple musical articulations of real musicians (compared to just a few “necessary” articulations there are), I could say the orchestra is “complete” with its “live concert” setup that sounds truly convincing.
It’s no surprise that most producers use the Philharmonik to produce major motion picture scores and compositions.
According to Miroslav Vitous, it’s not for the money or the hype, but for the music.
Indeed. I’ve been won over by the first Miroslav Philharmonik and this one does not disappoint at all.
Garritan Instant/ Personal Orchestra
This one may disappoint fans of hyper sampled layers of articulations of musicians.
The Garritan Instant focuses on “immediate” direction to your composition by introducing a high-quality library of orchestral combinations and soundscapes.
They’ve been pre-made for you and you couldn’t introduce individual instruments.
It’s not for those who want the nitty-gritty of sounds.
However, it doesn’t mean it’s a lousy product.
The sound is genuinely compelling.
With a small footprint, there’s not much trouble at all.
This is a tool for convenience; if you have to submit a score within three days, this is the tool for you.
If you have all the time in the world, use any other VST with convincing orchestral instrument sounds.
Indeed, it takes you directly to where the music happens.
This is a tool for songwriting and unfortunately, not for creating new sounds or fancy orchestral phasing and the like.
It’s a patch-based, not an instrument-based tool.
But it does have extremely-convincing tones, to be honest.
Pretty useful in a bind!
Spitfire Audio Albion Series
It runs on Kontakt Player. But I daresay it’s worth it.
Paul Thomson and Christian Henson are names we probably not know.
But they’re behind most TV series orchestral arrangements.
Most of these are also in film and even used in commercials. Tired of lugging a huge-piece orchestra for their recording needs, Spitfire Audio offered to sample their entire orchestra.
The 39GB collection of orchestral ensembles and atmospheres recorded from multiple microphone positions isn’t a must for detail-hungry composers who want each instrument fit to their needs. But it is a must for someone who needs a balance of ready-made orchestral ensembles and high-quality sound.
In a bind this VST is useful. Your controls are only microphone positions. On your keyboard, divided are each ensemble. In violins, the first and second violins play octaves. The double-octave doubling is a recurring feature for most string and sustained instruments.
It sounds convincing, but like the Garritan Instant Orchestra, it’s not for everyone.
Spitfire Albion I
As Albion is a project Spitfire wants as a touch orchestra for quick composers, the very first Albion was designed to deliver for composers.
Sampled by renowned composers and producers who had won awards from the Academy to the Golden Globe, the tool understands that you need to produce something amazing within a short period of time. There will be no time to write notes and sound them off to a real orchestra.
The samples alone in Albion I are already amazing. The only trouble is if you’re not a fan of NI’s Kontakt Player, from which it uses to run. But some of its songwriting or “inspiration” features, such as the “ostinator”, which creates patterns that make things Hans Zimmer-like, are truly useful.
Spitfire Albion II
The newest features of Albion II is more articulations for your string sections. Dubbed as the “Loegria” sessions, the strings function more to introduce intensity. Meanwhile, according to its official publication, it would focus the wood and brass sections towards a more “choral” use instead of solo.
I’m actually a power user of wood and brass sections and I’ve tried many ways to double their sound. When I tried the Albion II, it was quickly achieved, more so than what I expected.
This was amazing because despite being an epic orchestra model, it can also create intimate articulations due to added strings and smaller ensemble options.
Spitfire Albion III
Cellos took the backstage from the Albion II. In fact, some of the basses really left the stage a bit with the earlier Albions. But these score compositions worked without bass, unless you needed true, immense intensity.
Described by Spitfire as “the cricket bat, a mace, a large trunk of blunt tree to bludgeon to death any track.”
Sounds like a metal band. Anyway…
I’ve tried this with rock music and indeed, it does deliver especially for epic scores in the middle of songs. But it’s also easy to get epic sounds similar to Game of Thrones cinematic compositions or even powerful sci-fi dystopian themes.
Which makes this work well for dubstep too.
Expertly-crafted “progressive” techniques, so it says on the package. But no doubt, Albion IV is the crowning glory for this amazing suite of orchestral tools intended to save you time and headache from stressful film, TV or video game scoring.
The newest features of the progressive line of instruments include new long evolving pads that do not sound like a synthesizers. This is because it is a sampled sound of an ensemble of high and low strings and woodwinds delivering some eerie sounds. If you need moving longs, pulsating slurs, fluttering longs crescendos or 10 quarter movements, you just need to click and they’re there.
Pretty amazing stuff if used properly. Was amazed how it fit right into a hardstyle-type track when I needed strings.
Big Fish Audio: Complete Orchestral
When they tell you it’s complete orchestral, you definitely expect it to be complete and chamber-like.
If there’s anything I like about this Kontakt Player-reliant pack is the fact that I feel elated when using it. Opposed to the Symphobia’s dark and mysterious tone, this one has a majestic, powerful tone to it. The violins are powerful and the brass sound majestic. They’re quite sensitive to velocities.
While smaller than Miroslav or East-West Studio’s Quantum Orchestra at 26GB of uncompressed sample content, it’s samples are truly convincing and lovingly powerful that I bet it fits right on the money for a movie or game score.
In addition, Big Fish audio also gives you some newer released chords, excerpts and moods to add to yoru package with the String Tools. That means you get a quintuple alternation switch that allows you to go immediate staccato and quarter notes, which indeed has me focus more on the music rather than the nuances of my instruments (whether they’re playing fine or not.)
Vienna Symphonic Library
Harking back to 2008, the Vienna Symphonic Library has been truly outstanding. Still at its prime with an 81GB collection of orchestral instruments and recorded in Vienna’s Silent Stage, it captures the sound of a Viennese orchestral performance (which I’ve been lucky enough to witness to be honest).
Just like Big Fish’s own Sypmhonic Suite, it has its own elating and glorious-sounding tones. But if done right, I think tweaking just a bit when it comes to the string, wind and brass nuances, I’ve actually accomplished a dark tone similar to Symphobia. I don’t know but maybe that’s just my ears.
With its own player, CPU load is very small. However, the footprint on your drive can be quite large. But who can blame you if you’re getting the best quality of articulations available, then it’s awesome.
Danny Elfman, a famous TV music producer who had done music pieces for different series, had used this for quite a while in his new projects, as I’ve heard.
SONiVOX Film Score Companion
As the name implies, it’s intended for film and cinematic scores. If you’re a fan of Spielberg, SONiVOX’s suite is just for you.
It contains SONiVOX’s Orchestral Companion Brass, Strings, Woodwinds, its famous Eight-Eight Ensemble and Big Bang Cinematic Percussion. You might say it’s a really, really huge file footprint on your end. But with that kind of sound quality, you couldn’t go wrong.
It also has its own player – which makes the footprint on your CPU smaller than it should be. Perhaps the only trouble I’ve found with this suite. What I’ve heard is definitely a “front hall” sound as if you’re seated in the best place and the most expensive area in the house.
As with largely sampled and articulated sets, you get huge load times with the many velocity layers you contend with using the Film Score Companion. Descriptions in patches truly help you find the mood you need to succeed in your composition.
UVI – IRCAM Solo Instruments
Not everyone needs an orchestra but one may need an instrument handy to use at any time. That’s where the IRCAM Solo Instruments suite come in. UVI focuses on portability and compact use for their samples.
But according to official publication, it had taken them 10 years of research, recording and editing as they’ve worked with the Institute for Music/Acoustic Research and Coordination (IRCAM)’ crew. And indeed, they’ve replicated a 16.32GB library capable of delivering a true performance that sounds convincing from the brass to the strings.
The small carbon footprint sounds more jolly and emotive. When used in a darker passage, they tend to sound bright but dramatic; a hint towards sarcasm.
Jazz bands in need of a great orchestra suite will definitely love using one of these!
8 Dio -Majestica
At $600 I was initially baffled at how intense 8Dio’s own orchestral suite truly is. But based on its packaging and cover, it appears to focus on movie scores that are relatively ‘epic’ and ‘powerful’.
But I trust 8Dio; their past works have been completely amazing.
Produced by Award-Winning Composers and Producers Troels Folmann and Colin O’Malley, Majestica sounds more of a power-focused orchestra rather than something that focuses on cinematics and of course, epicness.
Perhaps the only trouble is the ability to bend things as you want to articulate or effect them or however you want. But these already sound excellent. If it’s good enough for Troels Folmann, it’s good enough for me to be honest. His works are truly inspiring and are of high quality.
Indeed, the recording of the suite is almost near perfection. It involved 240 players with over 100 players on strings, brasses on 60, woodwinds on 60 and percussion on 20. That’s a large orchestra, which explains the huge, powerful sound of this symphonic suite.
8Dio – Grand Ensembles series
The Grand Ensembles Series was sampled by 8Dio in the same space they sampled Majestica. While at almost half the price of Majestica, the Acoustic Grand Ensembles series is more of a complementary (a necessary complement, to be honest) to Majestica.
It contains a Concenrt Grand Piano Ensemble, Acoustic Guitar Ensemble, Xylophone Ensemble, Glockenspiel Ensemble and Tubular Ensemble.
What’s great about it is you could now control the microphone positions – well, their volumes – to give them the dimension and subjective ‘fullness’ to the instrument.
It also has the small footprint of 28GB similar to 8Dio’s Majestica. But the price is truly worth it for both footprint and actual wallet dent. The sound is too amazing to pass up to be honest.
UVI Orchestral Suite
Is there anything magical in the UVI Orchestral Suite? You bet there is.
Almost every orchestral suite has a magical moment that it just feels very natural when you listen to it. While UVI’s Orchestral Suite isn’t that large with just 60 classical instruments recorded by multiple musicians, it’s a convincing 5GB of samples with the “just-right” amount of orchestral instruments.
Now, it’s not as cinematic as 8Dio’s Majestica, but it has its own charm. It’s pretty useful for non-demanding arrangements. While not really something I’d use for a cinematic score project, it’s something I’d use for simple RnB orchestration or strings for example or an accent to rock music if it needs a handy string section in a jiffy.
Perhaps the biggest and most winning factor for the UVI Orchestral Suite is probably its intuitiveness. It gets me right into the composition zone without much messing around of articulations unless needed.
A must-have writing and composition VST as well!
East West Quantum Leap Hollywood Orchestra
Slap the word “Hollywood” around a VST instrument and you probably feel that it’s essential to make a cinematic score. Some companies do it right. Some don’t hit it.
But for East West, who I trust with their attention to detail, articulations and the like, the Quantum Leap Hollywood Orchestral Series is worth all my money that I spent on it.
How can you not trust the names Doug Rogers, Nick Phoenix and Thomas Bergersen with the awesome tech work of sound engineer Shawn Murphy?
Maybe you don’t trust that it was recorded with just five microphone positions. But when you take a listen, the depth is amazing. If you heard the Lord of the Rings music score, well this comes the closes to that sound.
I mean seriously, just try it and you’ll really love it.
East West Symphonic Choir
If I had a cent for every time I would say “East West is amazing” I would be rich by now. But I’m not.
But if you were to choose between an “oooh” or “aahhh” choir, you’d rather choose the East West Symphonic Choir.
Never mind the samples – they will always sound amazing as I’d expect from East West. The articulations, now, that’s another story.
Symphonic Choir has an editor for syllables. That means you could have the choir – a choice of male, female or mixed orchestras – and have them say the things you want them to say.
Of course, it isn’t as easy as typing it and having it read it like a human being. There’s the task of dividing the word’s syllables so that the choir can pronounce it perfectly. The diction depends on how meticulous you could insert your syllables at the proper timing or midi note.
But that task pays off because – you’ve got a choir that can sing your name in a song. If that’s not cool, I don’t know what is!
These 14 convincing orchestral VSTs today aren’t necessarily a fit for everyone. But these are some of them I’ve discovered and found to be truly useful especially when you’re feeling a cinematic drama going on in an orchestration.
Get ready for epicness!