Orchestra samples and instruments

I posted a similar thread in the VST forum but it looks like no one is seeing it there.

I’m starting my journey into orchestration and string quartet composition. I am not a professional and will mostly be doing it for my own entertainment and enjoyment.

It looks like I’m going to need to expand on what comes with Cubase 11 Pro. I see that Stenberg offers various levels of Iconica but I would really like to do my due diligence researching other options. I have started looking at companies like Garritan and East West Studios. Unfortunately I really don’t know what the market has to offer and would like your suggestions. Because of my level of musical prowess I don’t need a full blown “producer” pack of options and instruments. I am looking for something around or below the $500 mark that would still let me create music using quality samples.

Anyone want to suggest or point me in the direction where I should be looking?


I would suggest you start with Spitfire BBC Discover. You can get it for free. You get a full orchestra in a very small package. It’s very limited, but sounds very real. I was very pleased with it, and people have done great stuff with it. I made a couple of tracks with it, but I haven’t posted them.

From there, you can upgrade to Spitfire BBC Core. This is a much bigger library (it’s 23 Gb on my computer). It’s listed at $400 at retail right now, but they have a 40% sale from time to time. With this library you can do a credible full orchestra, with lots of articulations and solo instruments in the wind and brass sections (not strings). It’s limited by the fact that you can’t change the mix. The placement of the instruments in the hall (Maida Vale studio in London) and the ambience cannot be changed. In my view, that’s not terrible for an orchestra, because it sounds great.

Here’s a piece I wrote using Core when I first got it:

The Spitfire site provides a lot more examples.

From there, there is a professional version that includes more instruments, solo instruments in the strings, and all of their mic positions so you can create your own ambience. I bought it, cost me an additional $330 on sale. My hope, not yet confirmed, is I will be able to give instruments a more intimate environment. Maybe even a string quartet in a small hall. But you should know that this edition is like 660GB. Includes close mics, tree mics, outrigger mics, ambience mics, I might have missed a few.

You really need a powerful computer, lots of main memory, and you must run from an SSD, or you’ll be spending your time waiting for instruments to load into memory. So far, I’m using instruments and not crashing.

I can’t compare Spitfire to East West or Garritan because I don’t have those. Spitfire also has an Albion library and and a Spitfire Symphony library, which I also don’t have.

I probably should have added that on Susie in Heaven, I used a couple of solo strings that were not from Spitfire BBC Core – violin and viola, if I remember correctly, which came from 8dio Anthology. I thought they sounded pretty good as well.

i use Garritan and find it very useful for my purposes. While the strings are not as luscious as BBC core, there are good articulation abilities. One day, I’ll buy BBC Core and mix the two to get the best of both.

All the best