Virtual String Sample Libraries Round-up

Posted by Lincoln Jaeger on 21st March 2013 in General, Review

Hi

 

This is not the usual subject for one of our blogs, but we thought we might do a quick round-up of the string libraries that are out there to purchase right now, and which ones you might want to consider if you are on a budget. The list is not designed to be complete, but is designed to really look at the main players in the market. So, here we go:

 

LA Scoring Strings (LASS)

Pros:

  • True divisi articulations with a clever engine that will auto-split for you if needed (the only library to offer this)
  • Flexibility, with Violins 1, Violins 2, Violas, Celli and Basses in Ensemble, First Chair and Divisi articulations
  • Lite version is only $400 – a real steal. You don’t get the divisi articulations, but as it is always best to blend two string libraries, this is really not much of a drawback

Cons:

  • Samples are incredibly dry, and can at times leap out at you and be tricky to integrate into a mix, if softer sounds are required
  • The odd tuning issue here and there, though they are very minor
  • Con sordino (muted) strings cost extra

Hollywood Strings (EastWest)

Pros:

  • Great Sound
  • Available in 32 bit format
  • Gold version represents a great saving – you really only loose the fact that you have to live with 16 bit samples rather than 32 bit samples
Cons:
  • East West (the creators) are not known for fixing bugs quickly
  • Sample sizes are huge, so can put a real strain on your computer
  • No true divisi

Vienna Symphonic Library (VSL)

Pros:

  • Great Sound
  • Many different sample packs to choose from (Orchestral Strings, Chamber Strings, Appasionata Strings, Solo Strings)
  • Deep interface with many articulation options
Cons:
  • Pricey when buying all the options
  • The sound has a certain classical feel to it (slightly cold), rather than a Hollywood scoring feel

8dio Adagio Strings

Pros:

  • Great Sound
  • Some divisi sounds, but not as detailed as with LA Scoring Strings
  • Dynamic Bowing patches sound great
  • Easy keyswitching to be able to produce minute changes in performance
  • Many, many articulations available, some unique to Adagio Strings

Cons:

  •  Fairly new, so still has some bugs
  • Adagio Double Basses not yet available,
  • Pricey when all 4 sets (Violins, Violas, Celli, Basses) are bought

Spitfire Albion Volume I

This is actually not a string library, but an orchestral ensemble patch library. I mention this however as the string patches are sonically quite incredible. You basically have a choice of Violins in octaves, Violins with Violas, Celli and Bases in octaves or unison, and spiccato patches for Violins and Celli as well as full strings ensemble patches.
Pros:

  • Incredible sound, recorded at Air Studios in London onto physical tape, giving the sound an unprecedented richness
  • Great to use for blending with other libraries
  • Competitive price at £349 + Vat

Cons

  • Other than that you have not got articulations for each instrument of the orchestra separately (so Violins 1, Violins 2 etc), which it wasn’t designed to have anyway, there are none

Cinematic Strings

Pros:

  • Controllable vibrato using a MIDI CC

Cons:

  • Sounds aren’t quite as good as the other libraries

 

Conclusions:

  1. If you intend to buy any of these either sign up to the companies newsletter, or twitter feed, or like them on facebook, as you will get news of their offers, and these libraries always go on sale at some point (at the time of writing East West have knocked $100 off Hollywood Strings Gold, for example), and truly huge savings can be had. Try to never buy a library at full price.
  2. String libraries sound best when you blend two or more, so ideally you should buy more than one. Both the “lite” versions of Hollywood Strings (called Gold) and LA Scoring Strings (called Lite) offer a great starting point at $499 and $399 respectively. If you have not got a fast system, and the choice is between these two, go or LA Scoring Strings (LASS), as this will put a lot less strain in your computer.
  3. Listen to the demo tracks available on the website, but be aware that these can sometimes fool you a little, as they are really designed to sound as good as possible, using mostly lush legato articulation or short spiccato patches. But often articulations in-between these two are hard to get right, and 8dio’s Adagio package does especially well at catering for these.
  4. Spitfire Albion offers a great alternative, as you also get all the other orchestral ensemble patches for brass, woodwinds and some percussion, as well as some synths, and the sound is outstanding.
  5. Not previously mentioned here, but do not buy EastWest’s Symphonic Orchestra – this was a great product when it first was released, but is now 10 years old, but is really showing its age
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