VSL elite strings vs CSS

Somewhere in the distant past I remember hearing a comic impersonation of Margaret Thatcher saying … “If I spoke any more slowly… I wouldn’t speak at all”

That’s me in my slow stepwise assembling of a system

There are two main objectives, beauty of the libraries and ease of use. My projects are mostly in the line of chamber music and setting up beautiful strings are the next move

VSL is currently first pick and close second is Cinematic studio strings + solos. Both are beautiful and I lean toward VSL Elite. Their duality stuff is also beautiful.

In the interest of simplicity I’m keeping as much as possible within NotePerformer and both of those have nppe’s. (Soon as Wallender makes them for synchron’s pianos and harp I’ll have those as well)

My first question is are there any differences in usability and results or are they equals in Noteperformer?

And despite the many YouTube reviews etc opinions are valuable though I realize it comes down to personal taste


I love Cinematic Studio strings but if you really only write for chamber forces, you may find the sound too warm and enveloping. As I respect but don’t use Elite, someone else will need to comment on any specifics regarding usability issues

I use Elite sometimes (but have never owned or used CSS). The CSS ensemble is a mid-size string section, 10/7/7/6/5, whereas Elite is smaller and closer to being something like a chamber group at 6/5/4/4/3.

I like Elite for chamber compositions. It sounds generally nice, articulations are really well balanced across the board (I’m using the NPPE). It can at times sound a little “cold” and slightly synthetic; sometimes I feel like it lacks a bit of warmth and character. But all around it works very well, is functional for all kinds of articulations and is one of the better chamber-ish sized string sections which is useable with NP. Plus the NPPE loads pretty quickly.

If I recall VSL does have a return policy within 14 days, and of course you can demo the NPPE before buying that, too.

I can vouch for Elite strings as well (with NPPE also). It’s an intimate sounding string ensemble. I also own and use CSS but I wouldn’t consider it a chamber sounding library even though fewer forces than some of the ‘big’ libraries.

As far as NPPE support for harp and piano I wouldn’t see that coming to fruition since those would be different engines and the ROI would probably be pretty small. That’s just my opinion and I would welcome those playback engines. I do use those libraries apart from NPPE and just use expression maps. It works fine and timing so far hasn’t been an issue.

For what it’s worth, I own quite a few string and orchestral sample libraries. In my opinion, VSL is the most pristine, flawless, and accurate. That very quality means it sometimes does not sound as lush and full as other libraries that are not as precisely dead in tune on every note.

For chamber music, I always use VSL because it is so clean.


From WI tech support about the piano libraries

"Thank you for reaching out!

Unfortunately, our Synchron Playback Engine does not yet support the harp and piano libraries, but we hope to do so in the future."

To avoid embarassment i wont ask questions like What’s an expression map? or Where can i get one?

That said i do want to use some of those beautiful libraries

I can barely sort out the software essentials though so it depends on the answers to the above questions

Thanks again for the input it’s all been helpful

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Though I have NPPE’s for BBC (and as of yesterday the SSO 2024 support), if I’m doing fast ostinatos, arpeggios, runs, or rapid string crossings/slurs, I will invariably use VSL because by far it sounds the most clean, tight, and predictably consistent across all kinds of compositional styles and contexts. Small tradeoff for the fact that it’s not always the most lush or warm, I would rather the players be in time and in tune (call me crazy lol)!


And I’d rather the samples express something rather than being strictly in time or tune (which of course real musicians often are not) which is why I’m lukewarm about a lot of VSL these days despite the decent level of programming

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Oh yes I wholeheartedly agree, VSL is actually my second-choice backup in case things don’t work with my more emotive/expressive libraries. I usually find I have to switch to VSL for faster stuff, like 16th note slurs or arpeggios & ostinati, where tight rhythm in a dense arrangement is crucial – there are times with my Spitfire stuff where the players literally sound drunk, playing incredibly sloppy rhythms and rather noticeable tuning issues. It’s a fine line but sometimes if it sounds like a drunk circus act, I reach for VSL – while less expressive, is at least predictably consistent. But not so interested in it for exposed soloistic cantabile parts.

Hoping the newest updates to NPPE micro timings will fix a lot of that though!

The VSL player does somewhat randomized detunings of the notes by default, even though the samples themselves are perfectly in tune. This avoids issues you run into with some libraries where the samples themselves are out of tune and then you always get the same note out of tune.

I disagree about the VSL stuff being not expressive - I think it can be plenty expressive if you shape the phrase properly. What you put into it is what you get out. Their vibrato is generally less extreme than a lot of libraries that are strongly geared towards film scoring, so if you want that really extreme vibrato, you’ll need to use something else or layer it with something else. This is the only regard that it is less emotional, to me.

But I love the fact that you can basically write anything for the VSL libraries and it sounds good, unlike some sample libraries that have more “expression” built in but box you in to writing lines that only work well with that library and do poorly with certain lines that work great with the real instruments.

So for me, the VSL libraries are really the backbone of what I use. Anything new VSL is almost an instant-buy for me, while I’m very cautious about other purchases in general.


Until a week or so ago I hadn’t even heard of VSL re it was hidden in the NotePerformer list as Synchron

After way too much deliberation about which one to go with, CCS or VSL, the answer is … both

Their other string libraries are intriguing and their pianos and harp are beautiful. Then there’s the rest of it to match it all up with meaning woodwinds horns etc

How easily things can get out of hand with all these great tools out there


Anyone with experience w the woodwinds libraries from VSL or CSSeries

opinions are valued

Samples on their sites are beautiful but I think they would have been played into a DAW

So again in the context of Performer I’m wondering what folks think of either

Maybe this should be a separate thread

The VSL Bosendorfer Imperial or any of their pianos

The VSL Pianos are generally superb, although they don’t currently work with NotePerformer. They are sampled with so many layers that they can be quite taxing on a system, so that can be something to consider.

Synchron Woodwinds is good, but had particularly weak legatos for exposed melodic lines on the lead instruments until the new upgrade added the lyrical legatos a few months ago. I’m not sure whether NotePerformer has been updated to leverage the new lyrical legato samples as I normally use them directly in Dorico. Not everything has the lyrical legatos yet, there’s another update coming out in the next few months to add lyrical legato English Horn and Alto Flute I believe.

The older VSL Synchron-ized Woodwinds is perhaps even better in some ways, and was top of the line back in its day (it originally came out in the mid 2000’s under a different name), but is an older dry library that uses convolution to simulate the Synchron hall. I use it less than Synchron Woodwinds as a result, but until VSL finishes releasing the lyrical legatos for some of their other Synchron Woodwinds instruments like the English Horn (recorded but not released yet), I’m still using this.

I don’t have Cinematic Studio Woodwinds but I think they sound really good to me. When I’ve heard other people use them they’ve always sounded great on exposed parts, pretty convincing. Probably a bit better than the VSL options at least until VSL finishes adding the new lyrical legatos. The downside to my knowledge is only having one of each wind instrument instead of two like you get with VSL.

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In Dorico you have all the tools to make a convincing performance with VSL instruments, especially when you use Vienna Ensemble Pro to put your instruments in. At this point Dorico is equivalent to a DAW in my opinion.


And I agree with @mducharme what he writes about Synchron Woodwinds and Synchron-ized Woodwinds.
Concerning the new legato patches of Synchron Woodwinds, it is often good possible to make beautiful melody performances without them. But indeed, the last legato patches are better.
The benefits of Vienna Ensemble Pro are among others a better overview of the instruments, the instruments keep loaded when you change from one Dorico file to another, and more possibilities to automate plugins (equalizers, compressors, and such).

Vienna Ensemble Pro is a great tool but today many Dorico users are using an applicable NotePerformer NPPE with third party instrument libraries and I understand VE Pro and NPPE cannot be used together. Another factor to be taken into account…

Ok. Good to mention. I don’t use Noteperformer.

That’s one of the beauties of the old Vienna Imperial: heavy when first came out, it is now a reasonably light library. And it’s still my personal favorite.


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It should. You just can’t use the one inside the other.


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