OT: String Quartet VST

A composer I’ve worked with for close to a decade has received a rather large grant to have his string quartet music copied. Apparently this grant money also involves a performance so he doesn’t actually “need” mockups, but it will be a nice chunk of $ for me so I’m looking into a decent VST library to do some mockups anyway. Everything I currently own is in my signature below.

BBC Sacconi sounds good, and I can get the educational discount, but I don’t own the full version of Kontakt already, so it is kinda pricey. It would be great to stay under $400. I haven’t seen any music yet, but if it’s like his other works he writes more bitonal or atonal orchestrations of simple folk melodies (Charles Ives-ish) than some composers with a lot of contemporary techniques.

The solo string samples in Garritan GPO5 are what I’ll probably use unless I upgrade to something more current. Does anyone have a good recommendation for VSTs for string quartet?

I’ve heard this is really good, and I’m not just saying that because of the name: https://www.spitfireaudio.com/shop/a-z/sacconi-strings-quartet/

Oops, yeah I meant Spitfire Sacconi, not BBC in my initial post. Problem is I gotta buy Kontakt too. Obviously I could use Kontakt for other stuff too, but it ends up getting a bit spendy. Not necessarily opposed, but ideally would love to stay a bit less expensive as this isn’t exactly “required” for the job.

I don’t own this myself, but the demos are very impressive.

Kontakt 6 is half off right now so $199. If I get the educational discount for Spitfire Sacconi that’s $349+199 so not too bad I guess. Still twice as much as Spitfire Solo Strings at $279 which doesn’t need Kontakt. Has anyone tried Cinematic Studio Solo Strings? $299 plus a 25% sale starting soon, or some sort of educational discount too (they don’t state how much). This isn’t something I’ll want to revisit anytime soon, so if Sacconi is that much better I’ll probably go that route, it just would be great to do this a little cheaper.

Thanks, that one wasn’t on my radar. Checking it out now.

The top note of the Sacconi violins is only C7?

Again, I haven’t seen the music yet, but this doesn’t really cover a professional range, does it?

That’s surprising. I would think the library should extend to G7 at least, perhaps A7. (I don’t write that high myself, but…)

Aside from harmonics, E7 is a reasonable top note for orchestral parts. The easiest artificial harmonics on the top string go up at least an octave starting at E7.

You run out of fingerboard around C8. Running out of fingerboard doesn’t matter too much, but the string length is getting too short to make anything but a squeak and the finger positions for semitone intervals are very close together.

Embertone Frielander only goes up to C7 as well, though their Joshua Bell violin goes up to G7.

The Sacconi cello range is even shorter:

I just checked the Ravel quartet and the Debussy G Minor and both have cello parts that exceed that range. I’m sure there are plenty of 20th/21st century quartets that will easily exceed it. Kinda surprising. I wonder why they limited it so much? I guess it’s probably more for film scoring types of mockups rather than actually reproducing published music.

A5 or C6 should be the top of the cello range. A7 with harmonics. Even beginners (after learning 3rd position) can play A4.

In fact the cello has the widest practical range of any of the orchestral strings.

Is this sample set only meant for 18th century music, I wonder? The human Sacconi quartet plays plenty of contemporary music, though.


I can recommend CSS solo strings, which I have. It sounds very good, the interface is simple and it’s not too heavy for the computer. Violins go up to D4 (if C1 = middle C) and cello goes up to Ab2. I think viola was Db3, so not very high actually.

The legato is very well made and there’s also a marcato patch which works quite well for faster runs. Overall the library is very well balanced and it is easy to expand it with the CSS if you would one day feel like it. I also like that it has recorded re-bows.

I compared the CSSS to the spitfire BBC Section leaders and at least the legato scripting is way better in CSSS. Legato of the BBC felt very limiting to play, it only really worked for really slow phrases. However, the BBC Cello section leader has really amazing sound, it’s a pity that the legato is not that well scripted… But also CSSS has a great cello patch and there are no major problems with the legato.

For me VSL Synchron-ized solo strings work very well. With the stretch option you can edit vibrato, velocity XF works often very well, many articulations. They can be very expressive. I have several violin libraries, bur every time I turn back to VSL. They are rather expensive (€595) but with their black friday offer you can buy 3 vouchers of €100 and get one free. That means a discount of €100. And there is an educational discount of 25%. That means: first - 25% and then - €100 = about €350.

The four company names which seem to crop up most often for a quality string quartet ensemble are Berlin, CSS, Spitfire and VSL. VSL has as far as I’m aware the biggest selection of articulations and six different instruments in the Synchron version. Some find the tone too raw and I would agree with that in some music. There are some comparisons around but here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ux5qYqkUXso&t=535s you can find the same short lyrical piece played by libraries from all four vendors which, although the programming may not be optimal, does give an idea I think of the relative qualities on offer in that style of music.

For me, for music which concentrates on pure beauty of sound as opposed to wild and impassioned or contemporary where the widest selection of articulations is essential, CSS is the best and I’m strongly considering adding it when the sale starts, as are a couple of others I know. Being the cheapest does no harm as well.

Thanks, I guess getting both is an option. It’s surprisingly hard to find the complete ranges of a lot of these VSTs. I contacted support for a few of them asking as I’m now a bit wary after seeing the Sacconi range.

Yeah, it’s a bit confusing why they would develop such an elaborate library, but cripple it so much. I’m guessing it’s more for DAWs than notation software, but even then it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’m probably gonna pass on that one as it’s pretty pricey and is unlikely to cover the ranges I’ll need.

Do you own the Solo Strings set? Does it offer a more complete range than the Sacconi? I didn’t see ranges listed in the documentation. Requires full Kontakt, but as it’s on sale right now, I’m not really opposed to that.

Sorry, I’m not used to that naming convention so just wanted to clarify. The Violins go up to the top D on a piano? Cello top range is a major 7th above the A4 of the Sacconi? The following image was a bit concerning, but Dorico’s playback features are so much better that Finale’s that I assume it won’t be much of an issue. It works fine with Dorico, right? This is definitely a front runner right now.

Thanks! I’ll check them out as well.

Thanks for that link, checking it out now! Yeah, the 25% off sale starting in 2 days is definitely enticing. This is probably the route I’m most considering.

I own the saconi which is OK.
You do have a legato patch with transitions, and a patch with the different articulations that you can key switch.
It sounds good but not as modern as the spitfire solo strings f.e.
There is also the Cremona Quartett from NI… But don’t know it well.
Best. Go.

Thanks, it looks like the Strad Violin has an additional 4th and Cello has an entire octave more than the Sacconi.