Using string samples instead of real ones offers a lot of obvious advantages for the average home producer or songwriter. Just from a logistical standpoint, booking studio time and hiring musicians is costly and time consuming. But with samples, you can write string arrangements on-demand from your bedroom. The best orchestral string VSTs sound incredible, and even though there’s no one-size-fits-all library, there is enough variety to accommodate most needs.
Which orchestral strings are right for me?
Most of the best string plugins out there have great sound quality. These are well recorded samples played by skilled musicians on high quality instruments. Of course, the “best” string VSTs for one producer may not be the best for another, so it’s important to look at pricing and features to determine what’s right for you.
Many orchestral string plugins offer advanced control over articulations. This includes things like legato, staccato, and more, all at varying degrees of intensity, from soft to loud. Having that much control ensures your strings sound natural and like “the real thing.”
Other features to consider are how many instruments the library contains. Are you looking for a small ensemble just to add some depth to your arrangements, or do you need a larger selection of sampled instruments to compose symphonies or scores? Personal intent will play a huge part in which orchestral string VST you choose.
Best Orchestral String VSTs
Berlin Strings combines five meticulously captured string sections with a wide array of articulations and exceptional dynamic range. Over the years, it’s earned a reputation as the definitive orchestral strings VST. These mid-sized ensembles provide exceptional detail and definition, enhanced with multiple legato modes, tempo-synced runs, and even a choice of attack options for long notes.
Recorded on the Teldex Scoring Stage in traditional seating positions, the sound is natural and balanced. You’ll also have a choice between four different mic positions to adjust the sound, in addition to a concert “master” microphone. Sampled instruments include eight first violins, six second violins, five violas, five cellos, and four basses.
Price: 840 €
Berlin Symphonic Strings is an excellent library for creating huge, cinematic arrangements using large instrument sections. Like Berlin Strings, the sound is pristine and highly “playable,” but Symphonic Strings features a large-scale orchestra.
Highlights include 68 instruments recorded in five sections, three legato modes for added realism, four dynamic levels, and multiple articulations for the most realistic expression. Berlin Symphonic Strings are definitely a top choice for orchestral string VSTs.
Price: 549 €
The EastWest Hollywood Strings production team includes the renowned Shawn Murphy, who has recorded and mixed the scores for over 400 films. Virtual instrument producers Doug Rogers and Nick Phoenix contributed, as well as and composer and orchestrator Thomas Bergersen.
Recording sessions for Hollywood Strings took place at EastWest Studio 1, where many Hollywood soundtracks and television themes have been recorded over the years. Hollywood Strings has a ton of amazing features, like user-controllable finger position, so you can play as far up the strings as you want. Vibrato intensity and extensive dynamics are customizable, and they’ve thoroughly sampled legato. Finally, you’ll be able to choose from five different mic positions, including a vintage 1945 RCA ribbon room mic.
LASS is Audiobro’s famous original 60-piece multi-instrument string library, painstakingly developed by recording three different divisi sections on a trusted scoring stage. They have also recorded First Chair players individually, so you can layer them with the sections or use them as soloists.
LASS 3 captures all of the expressiveness and diversity of orchestral strings by offering 17 different articulations in four different categories (sustains, legato, shorts, and misc.). Plus, you’ll be able to customize the overall “size” of your strings by engaging or disengaging the three divisis (i.e., sections).
Anthology Strings is a 66,902 sample strong Kontakt library. It features three mic positions and three section types, including ensemble, chamber, and solo.
The ensemble section is rich and expressive. It includes a deep set of articulations, including a fully developed group of true sordino articulations. The divisi chamber section is smaller and more intimate. It sounds great with the custom close microphone position. Finally, the solo section completes the experience with access to four virtuoso instruments, including Solo Violin, Solo Viola, Solo Cello and Solo Bass.
Its competitive pricing and large array of samples makes it one of the best orchestral string VSTs.
Spitfire Audio considers their Symphonic Strings library a summary of their entire technical and philosophical approach to sampling orchestras. The team recorded this orchestral plugin at Lyndhurst Hall, AIR Studios, in London, hiring the same first-call session players who play on scores and compositions.
It features 60 players performing 175 articulations each, including 59 shorts, 94 longs, and 5 legato patches. Spitfire calls it “the ultimate encyclopedic collection of symphonic strings sampling.”
“Chamber” describes anything smaller than an orchestra. That includes anything from a quartet to 40 players. Spitfire’s goal with this library was to provide users the sound of blockbuster picture scoring, but with precise detail and intimacy you get from smaller groups of musicians.
The result is 16 world-class players: four first violins, three second violins, three violas, three cellos and three basses. You can select from over 244 articulations, including 38 shorts, 53 longs, 19 FX, and 45 legato patches programmed by Andrew Blaney. Each sample has been recorded with multiple round robins and dynamic layers, presented with three essential and versatile microphone positions. In addition to each individual section, Spitfire also included a comprehensive selection of articulations and techniques presented in an “ensemble” format, designed for sketching and composing quickly.
Here’s a unique addition to our list of the best orchestral string VSTs. Unlike most of the selections so far, which focus on big, cinematic sound, NI’s Session Strings caters to more contemporary musical stylings. The small 11-piece string ensemble is ideal for modern pop, hip-hop, R&B, and EDM.
The sound is detailed and intimate, and features like “smart play assistance” help you compose parts intuitively—so you can stay in the creative zone.
Chris Hein Solo Strings features some of the most realistic multi-sampled solo string instruments available. Whether you’re writing for jazz, gypsy or orchestral, this orchestral plugin is flexible enough to handle a variety of genres. The goal was to ensure the instruments always sound completely authentic, either within an ensemble or performing solo.
Solo Strings EX (extended) added eight new instruments on top of the original six. The original instruments included over 10,000 samples and 38 articulations, while the latest additions feature 18 articulations. You’ll also be able to shape the sound with an overwhelming 102 different attack shapes for each and every note.
EastWest Symphonic Orchestra contains hundreds of instruments—strings, brass, winds, percussion, and others, each with their own articulations—in a 30GB sample library. It’s all packaged in an easy-to-use custom interface/engine, which EastWest calls the PLAY 6.
PLAY 6 provides unparalleled control of the instruments within, in any arrangement, complete with the ability to alter the articulations of each instrument in an intuitive way. Symphonic Orchestra has won may awards, and at the current sale pricing, it’s a steal for the level of quality and precision.
Spitfire partnered with BBC Studios and the world-famous BBC Symphony Orchestra to produce this one-of-a-kind library. Meticulously recorded at Maida Vale Studios, which played host to the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and David Bowie in its prime, the BBC Symphony Pro collection is Spitfire’s definitive orchestral VST.
This massive collection contains over one million samples in a 600+GB package. BBC Symphony Pro is ideal for the most demanding professional users.
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