Resource efficient orchestral library

I have a Mac mini with M1 processor and 16 gb RAM. I normally use NotePerformer for orchestral scores and am generally happy with that (and prefer it to the included Steinberg orchestra) but would be interested in supplementing NP with an orchestral library having better quality raw sounds. I understand that BBC SO is resources hungry and especially in a big orchestral context, requires a powerful CPU, lots of RAM and a fast hard drive and wonder what other orchestral libraries are less demanding, especially in terms of RAM. (I will use any orchestral library mostly with music from the past 200 years.)

You might have a look at Garritan Personal Orchestra® 5 and see if it will meet your needs. It now runs native on the M1.

1 Like

The new VSL Synchron Prime might be interesting. It just came out this week, seems reasonably priced, and John Barron posted on the Dorico FB page that it comes with Dorico expression maps which would certainly save you time if you would need to create maps for another library.

I haven’t heard them other than the samples on VSL’s site. Perhaps someone here already purchased it and can attest to how resource heavy they are.


One of the challenges with these high-quality sample libraries with notation programs is that the balances between articulations and instruments can be quite ”all over the place” compared to note performer (which is very well balanced).

But I’ve understood that VSL has a reputation of producing very balanced and clean libraries, so perhaps this could work better with dorico? If someone has tried it, I’d be interested to hear about the results.


I’ve had good luck with VSL products and host everything in VEPro (with MIR 24) rather than in Dorico. I know some people here have way more of their libraries than I do, but I have their SYNCHRON-ized Special Edition bundles 1-4 Plus, which include Dorico Expression Maps, as well as a couple of pianos, and have been pretty happy with them.


Thanks to all for the helpful responses!

The Garritan Personal Orchestra 5 has the lowest cost and runs natively on Apple Silicon. Also, @benwiggy has prepared expression maps and also posted audio examples of scores using GPO playback. It is definitely of interest.

I am also interested in the VSL Synchron Prime collection, which was new to me. It appears to include lower resolution samples from the Synchron Pro series but the audio demos still sound great and Dorico expression maps are downloadable from the VSL website. I appreciate its limited CPU and RAM requirements (per the advertising). @FredGUnn, I wonder how you find the RAM needs of other, larger Synchron series, particularly as adding one or more of these would be an obvious way to grow if I eventually want more instruments or articulations.

The Iconica collections sound great but are much more costly and, at least from what I understand, not very straightforward to use with Dorico in spite of the Steinberg connection. From the size of the download, I also wonder about the RAM requirements when in use. At the time Iconica Sections and Players was introduced I seem to remember @dspreadbury saying something that I interpreted as a hint Steinberg might prepare a version of Iconica especially suited to Dorico but this doesn’t appear to be happening. However, I welcome comments from those who have used Iconica with Dorico, especially concerning Iconica’s RAM needs.

1 Like

The GPO samples are old, like, from the 90s. NP is just way better.

GPO version 1 was released in 2003. GPO5 was released in 2016 with some new samples in addition to those in GPO4, but I don’t know how much of GPO4 was the same as version 1.

I’d agree, however, that NP is the better choice, if you have to choose. They are both the only sub-$200 orchestral libraries in town. After that, the quality, file size and price increases exponentially for things like VSL, Spitfire BBCSO, Iconica, etc.

Yes, GPOs strings can be a bit artificial and the articulation set is limited. There’s some tweaking to be done, to get the best out (though that’s true for every library).
GPO’s wind, keyboards (piano, organ, harpsichord) and percussion are still pretty good.

If you’re into tinkering with stuff, the Garritan instruments are made from human-readable SFZ text files, so you can alter the existing instrument definitions (tuning, range, variation, filters, keyswitches, etc)

But for a quiet life, NP is mostly better, and easier. No doubt NP4 will seal the deal.


I read Arne Wallander’s comments on another forum (can’t recall which one) saying that NP4 will be a major upgrade focussed on improved sound quality for all instruments and will include native support for Apple silicon. One of the things this means is that NP4 will be VST3 and this will benefit all users of Dorico, regardless of the platform they use. Unfortunately, he also said the release date is not imminent.


The post about NotePerformer 4 can be found here:

We’re targeting native M1 support with the next version of NotePerformer. While at it, we must also drop 32-bit support, which means that NotePerformer 3 will be the last version to run in Sibelius 6 and Finale 2014.5.

Unfortunately, I don’t have an ETA or much information I can share. It’s not just an update but a major project. We’re attempting something new and ambitious, never done before, and it’s still in an R&D phase. Pushing technology boundaries into new territory takes time. I think you’ll find it worth the wait.

It is no secret that the compact soundbank is the main limitation of NotePerformer 3. Interpretation, speed, and user-friendliness are excellent as is. The challenge is to propel the sound quality without sacrificing any of that.



I have a lot of RAM (128 GB) so it’s not usually an issue for me personally. I also mostly do big band and chamber orchestra work now, so I’m not typically doing very large orchestra jobs anymore. Just wanted to mention the Synchron Prime library does not include a piano, so you may need an additional purchase if that’s a requirement for you.

1 Like

Isn’t VSL offering a free Soft Imperial Piano at the moment, perhaps as a loss leader?

1 Like

Yep, they have several free instruments now. With the switch away from the eLicenser I think they are trying some freebies to get more people into their stuff.

1 Like

For full orchestra, I use BBC Core, VSL SE (vol 1, 2, 5 and 7) and Cinematic Studio Strings. Orchestral Tools full Berlin series or perhaps Iconica will require more financial and other resources than what you’re looking at. I don’t regard Garritan as competitive regarding sample quality and would briefly summarize the main options as follows.

  1. VSL. You now have both the new Prime and the older Synchron-ized Special editions as contenders. Listen to the demos, check reviews and the articulations lists. In general, I find VSL the easiest to programme and they provide fairly predictable and decent quality results if you like the sort of sound they produce. Both should run OK with 16BG RAM as that’s what I had until fairly recently. The core Special Edition is vol 1 with the Plus add-on.
  2. BBC Core. Although the BBC Pro requires a strong system in every respect, the Core version is modest in terms of disk space but it still rather poorly programmed in terms of system resources though will generally run OK under Vienna Ensemble Pro with 16Gb. On sale (Back Friday mainly) the library is inexpensive and has a lot of musical character but does require getting use to.
  3. Cinematic Studio. About twice the price of VSL (percussion is not yet completed) and requires around 156Gb disk space for the three sections so a sort of “half-way house” between the full libraries of VSL or OT for instance. But the sound is warmer and more expressive than VSL in my view with outstanding legato transitions. Doesn’t require a particularly powerful system (mine is far from that) though upgrading to 32Gb RAM would be more comfortable. My overall first choice.

Safest overall recommendation is probably a VSL entry-level package though for me the sound is at its most effective with chamber to medium-sized classical arrangements rather than full later romantic orchestra.


I’m quite happy to read this and glad that Arne is still in active development. The only thing that saddens me is that his comments just came at the end of March! That means we have a goodly wait in front of us. Nevertheless, it will undoubtedly be worth the wait.

I didn’t spot the original comment on the VI Control forum and can only admire Arne’s ambition. Obviously the intention is to provide a (even) more substantial reworking than in the first couple of upgraded versions. At one stage (when using Sibelius), NP was often my first choice for orchestral mockups as it was punchy and so easy to use. That’s less so these days though it still has its uses and if there really is a big improvement in sound realism with v4, I can see it being even more popular than at present. It does seem further off than I’d expected, though.

just a heads-up on this – the VSL Synchron Prime is now available on a free 30 day trial so no risk involved in trying out for the OP or anyone else considering this library.