Good lightweight sample libraries?

By lightweight I mean similar to HALion resource wise, or not too much greater. It needs to be fast, responsive and not too large on disk or memory/cpu taxing. I’m finding the big iron libraries cumbersome, especially when initially working. Something lighter weight but sounding good would be helpful. In this regards HALion is pretty good, wondering if there’s something that sounds better.

I doubt this is what you’re after, but I feel duty bound to beat umpteen other people to the punch: have you considered noteperformer? If you’re just looking for easy mock-ups, that’s the way to go. If you’re looking for finer control or to do specific things in a daw, it’s not the right choice.

I pre apologize if any of this is painfully obvious to you; I know you are a regular contributor to this forum.


Oh dear lord, that slipped my leaky brain, downloading … yeah something for mockups. Also should have mentioned NO DONGLES (only one USB port on this laptop), and ideally can run on multiple computers. Note Performer should fit the bill and has good reviews around here, but I’m open to other suggestions.

On that, I do need a good piano library too (I use Ivory but it’s a little heavy and requires a dongle). Probably some other instruments I’m not thinking of, but any recommendations welcome.

  • Easy licensing
  • Light weight (ish)
  • Sounds good
  • Minimal fuss
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Pianoteq. Can’t beat it, small footprint.


+1 for Pianoteq. As a sample-modeled instrument, the RAM requirements are negligible. Also, the lowest-cost “Stage” version lacks some of the customization options but otherwise provides the same quality sound as the higher-cost versions. Pianoteq is also VST3 which is convenient even if not strictly necessary.


I think you’ll struggle to do better than Note Performer (1.5 Gb) and Pianoteq (50 Mb). Both are fast and responsive and both sound good.

The next step up from there involves serious amounts of RAM, a lot of editing to get the sound you want and, of course, expense.


The laptop has an 8 core i9, 32GB, 1TB NVMe & 3070 so it can handle the big iron, but the idea is ‘less fuss more work’. I realized I’d be better off if I start writing with something lightweight, then convert to a BBCSO or whatever playback when it’s audio engineering mode.

So yeah you’re point about editing is spot on - I did some work last night with the Note Performer demo, can see why people like this! Instead of having to worry about CC’s and samples, it just listens to velocity and duration to pick a likely output. Actually I didn’t look at the playback, maybe it’s using CC’s, anyhow I got good results and it kept me out of the MIDI.

Speaking of which, I honestly don’t know how people can compose in MIDI in a DAW like Cubase. I can’t think unless I’m looking at a score, and even having a sensitive library in Dorico has been getting in my way. I have to keep MIDI out of the composing process, the way Dorico handles it is perfect. I can put on a ‘MIDI programmer’ hat when something is ready for it.

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I use NotePerformer a lot of the time. The only downside is that you are restricted to its built-in articulations, so you can forget sul pont!

Have you tried working with the Silence playback template loaded? It removes all temptation to be distracted by sound.

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:grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: can’t tell if you’re joking but it’s a good one

I’m inspired by having instruments play back at me, I don’t subscribe to the academic purism of ‘real composers hear it all in their head’.

No problem, I can muck with that kind of thing in a bigger library when its time for final stems

Nor do I. I compose at a keyboard (piano or organ) and it works very well for me. It’s hard to parse out harmonies otherwise.

Have you tried working with the Silence playback template loaded? It removes all temptation to be distracted by sound.

That TOTALLY made my day!! You won the Interwebs for today!! Thanks for a good laugh!! I am a +1 for NotePerformer. I heard (on the FB page) someone who did a Mahler piece (I think his Seventh) in NotePerformer. I was sold! I haven’t tried Pianoteq but might give it a look-over.

I really REALLY want BBS SSO but I don’t have the space nor the $$$ to get that. Maybe when I become rich and famous (and my name’s not Rich so that’s a strike against me laugh)

BBCSO is a great library, better than EWHO IMO, more cohesive and easier to use, and the plugin is much better than buggy Play. It does take fiddly however to get it to sound good.

On the piano side, Arturia do a physical-model instrument in their V series. You can demo it.

for a lightweight library then most would go for NotePerformer as it is fairly inexpensive and is undemanding of resources. The BBC SO Core version requires little disk space, is inexpensive on sale but uses more CPU than something of its specs should. I use both (although NP less in Dorico than I used to in Sibelius). When competently programmed – and it’s not the easiest – it can be a very involving and spontaneous performer

Piano. I got PIanoteq 6 a few years ago and was pretty happy. Being modelled it’s easy to play and fairly easy to programme. More recently I have increasingly found the actual character rather tame – it’s well behaved but doesn’t somehow sound like a piano in the lower register in particular . A low budget, modest in resource requirements and simple to use piano can be found from Cinematic Strings. It’s not as deep sampled as their orchestral libraries but you can get quite a variety of tone by adjusting the 4 microphone positions supplied. Although it may not have the character of the greatest sample pianos (which is of course not what you’re asking about), it blends well into chamber or orchestral arrangements. Listen to the demos on their website!

Noteperformer is pretty good, and excels at articulations. So a +1 for that.

I’ve been using note performer which is giving good results mostly. Some of the timbre’s are pretty cheesy though. Piano is awful, sax and bass guitar too. The brass sound good. Physically modeled instruments I suppose, anyhow it’s doing the job because I can get good sound without fuss so no inclination to mess with the MIDI when composing (and better than the Silence Template!) Would be nice if they could work on some of those instruments though.

Why didn’t I think of that? I’ve got BBCSO Pro which obviously includes the others, my issue is disk size, at 800GB, with a single 1TB NVMe in this laptop that’s too much. Core would do nicely, and the scores should convert to Pro no problem.

With Core, we’re around 27Gb in total. because there is only one microphone position, which greatly reduces system requirements all round. Remember that the articulations are identical in Pro and Core and you can indeed use a Pro template with Core – it will emulate any missing instruments with a reduced sample set (unless there is a clever way of actually using any missing instruments from Pro you might want) and is quite clever, I find so you won’t need to worry too much about playing your Pro scores through Core.

<<<< Bug Eyed >>> I have single instruments for EWQL bigger than that. I will say I have been buying a few solo instruments and the like from Spitfire lately whose quality (IMO) and smaller relative size run rings around the other libs I have.

Best part of Spitfire is the quality of their plugin. East West Play is total crap bug smear, and now with the updated Opus plugin of course they expect us to pay for it. Second thing is that they support multiple installations (desktop/laptop) which is a huge benefit! EW is miserly.

Otherwise I’m not fond of the samples themselves, especially the Air stuff (most of it). BBCSO is an exception - my favorite library, and I’m looking forward to Abby.

Some of the organ samplesets for HW require computers with 128gb ram. Many samplesets can EASILY max out 64gb machines (and not a few 96gb machines). My current imac only has 32gb and I’m waiting for the new M1x/M2 machines in the hopes that they will up the ram limit to at least 64gb. If not, I’ll have to switch to windows soon since I can’t load the ones I have in full resolution.