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Taking my first step into a larger world (orchestral libraries)...

ScotDP1970

New Member
Hi folks,


Cutting to the chase: which decent-sounding orchestral library would you recommend? I love the Spitfire Symphony Orchestra, but does their cheaper alternative Albion One really cut it?


Taking the scenic route: pardon the Jedi plagiarisms in the thread title, but it sums up where I'm at. I have just invested in a Mac and Logic Pro, so I have all the Logic instruments plus the Garritan Personal Orchestra library. I have just begun composing (I'm looking for a decent composition/music theory teacher in LA if you know of one), so I'm pretty new to this game.

All the music I have in my head is orchestral, be it a film score sound or something more traditionally symphonic and classical. However, I'm already frustrated by the lack of realism and mostly unpleasant sounds of the Garritan library, so I've been looking at more realistic libraries out there.

OMG, my head is spinning. There are so many. However, after many reviews and YouTube demos, I feel that the Spitfire libraries sound better to my ears than any others. They also seem less processor heavy than, say, EW Hollywood Orchestra.

The most realistic and versatile package is their flagship Spitfire Symphony Orchestra, but it is big bucks at $1699 and you'd still have to get the percussion library separately. Spitfire do Albion One for $449, which seems more geared to quick realisations of film/gaming cues. It covers all the sections of the orchestra, but not as individually as the SFSO. They also offer a starter pack for $1099, which includes Albion One, Harp Redux, Sacconi String Quartets and the Orchestral Percussion pack that the SFSO is lacking.

So here are my questions: what do you reckon, should I dive straight in with the SFSO or do the starter pack? Can you do more subtle and nuanced scoring with the Albion One? Is it worth the cash? Should I get the starter and then upgrade to the full SO later on (I'd already have the percussion library)? Or is there a better (and cheaper) solution out there that I've missed?

Thank you. I appreciate any advice you can give.
Scot

I need to lie down now with a nice cup of tea.


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iMac (Retina 4K, 21.5-inch, 2017)
Processor: 3.6GHz Intel Core i7
Memory: 32GB 2400MHz DDR4
Storage: 1TB fusion drive
 

JMJ33101

Member
Eastwest has Hollywood percussion which is on sale at the moment for 132.50. You can try mixing different Companies for different sections. Like Hollywood strings gold from Eastwest and maybe Cinebrass from Cinesamples. Symphony Series Percussion is a good option for also for percussion
 

JT

Senior Member
It depends on how you write. If you want to use individual instruments, then Albion wouldn't work for you. If you're comfortable writing with ensemble patches then it would work. You can't get as detailed with ensemble patches, but you do get more instant gratification.

If you're new to this, I would hesitate to jump in the deep end and buy tons of libraries. If you like Spitfire, I'd suggest getting the Chamber strings library first. It's very versatile. See if you're comfortable with the Spitfire interface. You can make a lot of different styles of music using just this library. If you want to expand in a few months, the Black Friday and Christmas sales are easier on the wallet.
 

NoamL

Winter <3
Hi Scot welcome to VI-C!

Can you tell me where you're at in your music journey? You said you'd just started composing, but do you play an instrument? Is your background orchestral, rock band, etc? How familiar are you with orchestration and what the different instruments of the orchestra can do? I ask these questions because I have two or three recommendations in mind but it depends on your level of comfort & familiarity with all the individual instruments of the orchestra. From your post I also gathered that this might be your first time working with MIDI instruments, let me know if that's incorrect.
 

miket

Senior Member
Here is my gut response, without the relevant and deeper questions/points made above. It's what I would say to myself if I were starting right now and could afford the choices you're considering, in order to spare the years I wasted (and am still wasting, quite frankly) on toying with sonically subpar options (including your current library) instead of actually just being free to make some damn music.

Get yourself SSO and start using it. And definitely don't go looking for anything else unless you *really* need it.
 
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bigcat1969

Senior Member
I'm no expert, but if I had it all to do over again, I'd get either Spitfire or Berlin's mainline orchestral stuff and not bother with anything else. If you mix and match and buy on impulse you will spend thousands of bucks in a year and not have anything close to SSO.
 

LamaRose

Gato Mighty!
1. What particular pieces of music do you really dig? And this would include specific orchestrations/performances.
2. What instruments do you gravitate to when listening to these pieces?

These two questions will get you in the ballpark. Once there, there's a lot to choose from. It can get very confusing and overwhelming, especially if you're on a tight(er) budget. Be patient. Take your time and listen to all the walkthroughs and demos that you can. Read the reviews and comments on VI-Control.
 
OP
ScotDP1970

ScotDP1970

New Member
Thanks, folks. Some great responses. To reply to Noam L: I’m just starting out. No real formal training but lots of listening to classical music. 20yrs or so, so I have a good idea of what sounds right, orchestrally. I’ve recorded orchestras for a couple of commercial releases so I’m pretty tuned in to the sounds of an orchestra and their instruments.
Miket: That’s my feeling too, but I’d need to buy a percussion package as well. The complete SSO package comes to almost two grand, which is a lot, but I guess that’s all you’d need, which addresses the point you made, bigcat.
LamaRose: 1. I really love the Romantic/Late Romantic music of the latter 19th/early 20th Century, the symphonies of Dvorak, Bruckner, Sibelius, Mahler & Vaughan Williams.
Performancewise: I tend to go for a balance between expression and subtlety. I love extremes when I feel it’s called for, but that depends on a conductor’s interpretation, so I have to listen to a few performances before I find one that works for me.
2. I just love the expressiveness, versatility, dynamic range, power, emotion and just the sheer beauty of a full orchestra (probably why I love Spitfire with their gorgeous tone and rich, natural acoustic). I listen a lot and on fairly good equipment and have been doing so for twenty years but I’m only just beginning formal lessons in music theory and compositions.
I love expressive brass, but I find a lot of loud and percussive scores (especially for games) have that same very loud brass sound (that typically accompany those thumping Hans Zimmer drums). I find that a bit boring now.
I want the ability to write something as big and as powerful as Mahler but also as soft and gentle as Debussy.
 

keepitsimple

Active Member
Maybe also take a look at Orchestral Tools Inspire 1. It has a comprehensive number of patches/articulations that cover the basics, while sounding pristine at the same time. You get also get plenty of details from it hence it includes patches like "first chairs" and solo woodwinds etc..
 
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Vik

Scandi Member
There are so many options out there.... for instance, there a more than 100 string libraries. And even if there have been many improvements over the last few years in terms of playability etc, you won't necessarily get the best results by using only instruments from, say Spitfire or Orchestral Tools. So - if you've just begun composing and just got Logic, I'd actually not buy a full orchestral library yet. By the time you need all these 'sounds', there are probably both new libraries out there and updated versions of what we have now.
Just learning Logic properly takes some time. And I don't think that having hundreds of string/brass/woodwind and perc presets will improve your composing much - yet.
Of course I may be wrong, but since your head is spinning already... :) ...why not just go slow and start with something you can use to compose with, and then - by the time you need more instruments: invest in what you feel is the best deal then.

Here is, btw, a poll showing many if the existing string libraries: https://vi-control.net/community/threads/poll-what-are-your-favourite-non-solo-string-libraries-and-why.60460/ This poll doesn't show which of these libraries that are best in a fair way, since come libs are more expensive than others, some of them are very new while others have been around for many years and so on.

Personally, I have (to my surprise) found that even in terms of strings only, I probably won't be using the same library for each of the 4 main string instruments, so relying on only one company for all one's instrument needs isn't the way to go for me. That, and the fact that virtual instruments get better and less expensive by every year are probably the main reason why some of us never planned to start out with a full orchestral library (from one company).

But who knows.... we're all different, and maybe it will work well for you? :)
 

Michael Antrum

Only the good die young....
It sounds like you're a big Spitfire Fan. I have their orchestra and it is very good indeed, but knowing what I know now, this is what I'd do.

Firstly I would subscribe to East West Composer Cloud for a couple of months, and start playing around with Hollywood Orchestra, just to make sure this hobby is something you're going to persist with. If you decide you are, then no harm done, but in case it's not for you, then you haven't spent a ton of cash on something you cannot re-sell.

By this time, Black Friday will have come around, and I would not at all be surprised if Spitfire do an amazing offer on their Orchestra - they did last year - and that is what made me buy the full Orchestra. The savings were not small - I wouldn't be surprised if you saved at least a third of the normal price, all for waiting a couple of months.

Another thing you may wish to do is get the Trial version of Steinberg Iconica (from the makers of Cubase). This is a full orchestral library created by Orchestral Tools for Steinberg, and there is a 30 day trial version you can download (150gb). It runs in Halion and I have heard good things about it - if it had been available when I started I'd probably have gone that route....

I kind of get the impression you have sold yourself on a Spitfire Orchestra - so if that is the case, I'd try to keep myself occupied until Black Friday.

Just my 2cents for what it's worth.....
 

aaronventure

Senior Member
Firstly I would subscribe to East West Composer Cloud for a couple of months, and start playing around with Hollywood Orchestra, just to make sure this hobby is something you're going to persist with. If you decide you are, then no harm done, but in case it's not for you, then you haven't spent a ton of cash on something you cannot re-sell.

By this time, Black Friday will have come around, and I would not at all be surprised if Spitfire do an amazing offer on their Orchestra - they did last year - and that is what made me buy the full Orchestra. The savings were not small - I wouldn't be surprised if you saved at least a third of the normal price, all for waiting a couple of months.

Another thing you may wish to do is get the Trial version of Steinberg Iconica (from the makers of Cubase). This is a full orchestral library created by Orchestral Tools for Steinberg, and there is a 30 day trial version you can download (150gb). It runs in Halion and I have heard good things about it - if it had been available when I started I'd probably have gone that route....
This is the best advice and the absolute best thing someone in your position can do.
 

pderbidge

Senior Member
This is the best advice and the absolute best thing someone in your position can do.
I second that. There is just way too much for someone in your position to learn before jumping in blindfolded. Speaking from experience, knowing what I know now I could have literally saved myself thousands of dollars if I had taken things a step at a time and resisted the GAS.
 

dzilizzi

I just hang around pretending I know something
I am not the best to give advice. But you can get EW Symphonic Orchestra Gold for about $223 at the jrrshop.com using the "group" discount code. This is, from all things I've heard, a really good starting orchestra that can later be layered with whatever you end up using. Plus it doesn't require a second computer and a ton of RAM to run. Because all these big orchestras sound great, but as soon as you start using them, you will discover you don't have the system to really use them properly.

Plus, you may find you hate it. And Spitfire is not resellable. I don't know about Berlin stuff. EW is also not resellable, but it isn't as expensive.
 

NoamL

Winter <3
It sounds like you're a big Spitfire Fan. I have their orchestra and it is very good indeed, but knowing what I know now, this is what I'd do.

Firstly I would subscribe to East West Composer Cloud for a couple of months, and start playing around with Hollywood Orchestra, just to make sure this hobby is something you're going to persist with. If you decide you are, then no harm done, but in case it's not for you, then you haven't spent a ton of cash on something you cannot re-sell.

By this time, Black Friday will have come around, and I would not at all be surprised if Spitfire do an amazing offer on their Orchestra - they did last year - and that is what made me buy the full Orchestra. The savings were not small - I wouldn't be surprised if you saved at least a third of the normal price, all for waiting a couple of months.

Another thing you may wish to do is get the Trial version of Steinberg Iconica (from the makers of Cubase). This is a full orchestral library created by Orchestral Tools for Steinberg, and there is a 30 day trial version you can download (150gb). It runs in Halion and I have heard good things about it - if it had been available when I started I'd probably have gone that route....

I kind of get the impression you have sold yourself on a Spitfire Orchestra - so if that is the case, I'd try to keep myself occupied until Black Friday.

Just my 2cents for what it's worth.....
Exactly what I was gonna suggest & excellent advice ;)
 

Fleer

Feeding the Trolls
Or get Presonus Notion to start composing. Includes some basic instruments.
Other than that, follow mikeybabes’ advice.
 

Vik

Scandi Member
I agree that it's not a good idea to invest in Spitfire's symphonic range right now, and not only because there's a good amount of money to save by waiting for a Black Friday (or similar) sale:

- SSS isn't their best string library, even according to SF.

- They have built their own sample player which don't have some of the major limitations Kontakt has. For instance, it can probably contain all the SSS articulations within one single instance, probably including a full blown legato articulation. In SSS, this requires four different Kontakt instances.

- For some stuff, SSS sounds too large/not detailed enough, and the legatos sound better in their Chamber Strings. But that's a small chamber orchestra (4-3-3-3-3). SSS is 16-14-12-10-8. So one needs layering etc to make SCS sound larger. What if SF soon announces a mid sized library?

- some of the most popular libraries on this forum have sizes between those two (Berlin Strings, Cinematic Studio Strings) which solves the situation above (as in not sounding too thing or too large).

- One could make SSS sound better by using their close ribbon mics, but you'd need an expansion pack for that, meaning higher price and even more instances of Kontakt to deal with.

-SSS was created before they had all the experience now - and is based on SCS, announced in Jan-2013 after 4 years of development.

-Their own player already does stuff Kontakt doesn't do after all these years of development, and their own player will most likely keep growing as well, since it's based on 'newer thinking'

OTOH: if you are sure that SSS/their full symphonic range is what you want - go for it! :) I just happen to support Noah and mikeybabes suggestion about waiting. Btw, I own SSS/SCS/CSS/Berlin Strings and more, and SSS is - is spite if it's many beautiful long note articulations - the library I use the least (that could change when I later will upgrade to the pro version).
 
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Vik

Scandi Member
According to SF, what is? (just curious)
They (Christian Henson?) wrote/said somewhere that that the Chamber strings is their favourite string library product. It seems that this generally is true among the Spitfire users on this forum as well (me being one of them) - almost as popular than CSS, even if it's both older and costs more.
 
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