Recommended solo strings VST

Hello everyone, looking for some advise on purchasing a better solo strings VST. I’m currently using Noteperformer, which is considerably better than the included HALion library, but while the woodwinds and brass are surprisingly good, the strings are the weak point. One important point for me is it must absolutely be able to perform without any vibrato and have accurate intonation–I use Dorico to write microtonal music in extended just intonation and very precise tuning and an absence of vibrato is necessary for me to accurately hear some of the intervals I’m targeting clearly. For example, I just posted this sketch yesterday:

Ideally I’d like to get an expression map together so that I could mostly rely on the written notation, but for final mockups I’m willing to do some fine editing and key switching by hand (though this has to happen all in Dorico, since Dorico does not export midi+pitchbend). I’d like to keep this within the couple hundred dollars range if possible.

Thanks for any help!

I swear by CSS and Spitfire.

1 Like

Dan, how are you driving CSS? Is there an expression map?

Yes, you can find an expression map here:

I love my spitfire solo-strings. Easy to handle, great sound. BUT they don’t have glissandi - which is strange for such a good library. For that I bought the VSL Solo-Strings and sold it again after 2 weeks cause I don’t like the Vienna-player. I prefer working with Kontakt. And the way Spitfire works with Kontakt is just perfect.

1 Like

Did you tell them that? If not, please do :slight_smile: Arne Wallander is a genius, no doubt about it, but there have been several threads on other fora expressing similar views on the strings. He seems to do everything right, building sections from individual players etc.etc, but still… something is wrong. And it’s mostly wrong with almost every other library too. We’re waiting for a breakthru here (of black hole magnitude) … :slight_smile:

Personally, I do think NP’s SOLO strings CAN, in certain circumstances, sound quite convincing … Spitfire solo strings are great, but you could have a look at e.g. Xsample and praguesounds 2 .Not the most famous, but, at least for classical use, their timbre is pretty convincing. Also check out Chris Hein solo strings

For that kind of price it may be worthwhile checking out The Solo strings all have separate Vibrato depth control and around a dozen articulations. The reviews for the library have been positive and it’s excellent value.

For the money, I find the Garritan strings very good, though I’m sure some may have reservations. There are expression maps for them available.
In the sticky thread about Expression Maps, there’s an example string quartet project and audio rendering using GPO (somewhere).

I don’t know how they cope with microtonals, though.

My recollection is that Garritan strings do not have adjustable vibrato; for all the good things about them, that ha been one comment/question I have noticed a bit on their forums.

NotePerformer solo strings is getting better and if you turn down the vibrato, it’s almost useable for lyrical passages. In faster, spiky music it can actually be pretty decent. I actually find the ensemble strings can be good but are a bit inconsistent at lower registers in particular. The greatest strength of NP is the blend which usually sound clear and musical.

I use VSL and am looking forward to seeing how it works in Dorico in due course. The programming for Sibelius is rather idiosyncratic and it’s perfectly obvious that the excellent demos are not done in notation software and take a lot of effort. The only other solo strings library I’ve heard which is any good is Spitfire though I hardly claim to be an expert. If there’s anything for under 200USD which is worthwhile then I haven’t heard it, I’m afraid.

Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I’m strongly considering ponying up for CSS solo strings or the Spitefire quartet. I also need to dedicate myself somewhat to learning how to edit the note data to get more human sounding performances–I’m an amateur, and working with microtones doesn’t exactly help with getting pieces read, so a good mockup is likely the best I’m to get for anything I can’t personally perform. Unfortunately, Dorico does not export midi+pitchbend, so for microtonal music you can’t really export to a DAW to work with different libraries and use a different editing environment, so it’ll all have to happen in Dorico–at least until mixdown as audio tracks.

To be clear, the NP strings aren’t atrocious, but it’s dramatic how much worse they are compared to the woodwinds and brass. They sound thin and sterile. This is really noticeable if a string section is contrasted with the winds, or just gets to be a drag when writing for quartet, as in my posted example. Even then, I’ll be the first to admit that careful editing of the short piece I posted would do a lot to improve it.

I have SWAM Solo Violin, which is physically modeled and therefore supports non vibrato and microtone production. However, it doesn’t support the VST2 detune parameter – it needs to be fed specific MIDI messages instead.

This looks cool, but yeah, definitely a non starter for me if it doesn’t take VST2 detune. Also–sigh–12 note microtuning support. Useless to all but a minority of microtonal composers.

This looks cool, but yeah, definitely a non starter for me if it doesn’t take VST2 detune. Also–sigh–12 note microtuning support. Useless to all but a minority of microtonal composers.

Dorico’s Play mode has a panel on the right-hand side for MIDI Instruments. On Mac, this can include virtual ‘pipes’ to other MIDI applications. I’m sure there’s a Windows equivalent. So you can pipe Dorico’s MIDI live data to a DAW. This should include the pitchbend and other data that exporting a MIDI file does not.
For instance, I have Dorico projects that play samples through Logic Pro (using Audio Units, not VSTs).

Screenshot 6.png

Ben, you can do the same thing on Windows, but it doesn’t solve codyhallenbeck’s problem, because the “VST detune parameter” that Dorico uses isn’t MIDI data. It’s an extra piece of information attached to each note that is sent to the VST instrument.

For microtonal music, MIDI pitchbend is only useful for monophonic instruments, because it affects all notes being played, and it retrospectively affects notes that are already playing, which is good if you want make a glissando but not so good if you just want to microtune individual notes. That’s why VST invented something different.

Yeah, the other workaround is MPE, which basically uses 16 channels per instrument to get 16 voice polyphonic pitch bend (and other ccv) information. I genuinely hope MIDI 2.0 helps with some of this. Still, pitchbend would be great, even if it glitched polyphonically. I mostly have been writing for monophonic instruments, anyways.

I haven’t tried it for myself, but Embertone’s string lineup looks impressive.

Yes, Embertone’s means of vibrato control makes it my favourite for most projects. Well worth a look. Spitfire also very good.

Just to be sure:
If I use Plug-Ins within a Kontakt 5 player, Dorico won’t playback any written microtonal differences.
Microtonal playback only works when using HELion instruments. Right?