What FX do you use to improve classical music and orchestral film music?

Cubase comes with tons of FX for all kinds of music and within each of them, tons of presets for different genres.

What I hardly ever see, either in Cubase FX or third party ones are presets for strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion, etc. Most of them are for rock, pop, hip hop, etc.

But to be honest, I’ve only been learning this stuff for a year, and Cubase itself since March of 2023, so I haven’t tested each and every preset of every FX that comes with it, because well, I have a life and as much as I would love to, I can’t spend all day long learning Cubase.

So for the more seasoned Cubase users, what do you use for classical music and orchestral film music, both in Cubase FX and third party ones?


As you are talking about the sample libraries, they are processed already. You don’t need a compressor, which you would definitely need for the life recording. You would need an EQ and if there is no Reverb on the library already, you will need a Reverb.

Well, it depends on which one. Some are processed, some are not, some in between.

But I mean more specifically, what Cubase FX and also third party FX do people use professionally when mixing and mastering orchestral music.

Orchestral music requires the lightest of light touches. The heavy compression and EQ used for pop/rock would completely destroy the dynamics of an orchestra. (Unless that is what you’re going for - film music, for instance.)
For sample libraries, I’d be inclined to use Frequency to rein in any “screechiness” in the strings, and a single reverb - Reverence is as good as they come, and the internet is replete with IRs.
On the other hand, if it was a live recording, I’d be more focused on cleaning up the audio, getting rid of any very low frequencies, hiss, and the like.

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Many paths can be taken here, even with sampled instruments. Some do sound great out of the box, but not always with other instruments from other developers. Others require some dressing up depending on how you use them. Many people will swear by a lot of the same plugins used in the production of other popular genres, when it comes to compression, EQ, etc.
If you use a lot of individual instruments/sections (as opposed to ensemble patches a la Spitfire Albions), using EQ to tame the accumulating frequencies is paramount, and can be done with any parametric EQ. It’s common to separate long and short articulations, with the intent of applying compression differently to each. As stated before, a light touch here is all that is needed, unless you need something more aggressive.
I’ve taken to running different types of brainworx channel strips per section, depending on the sound I’m trying to emphasize with each, and I just rely on the dynamics and EQ outside of anything corrective provided therein. I’m avoiding specifics because it really depends on the sound you want, but whatever you choose the name of the game is subtlety. I will concede that House of Kush’s Clariphonic DSP MKII is great on your mix bus to add a bit of sheen to your track, but that and everything else is debatable of course.

Yes, film music would be my choice, which of course has much more processing than classical music. And when I have different versions of a classical music piece, I tend to choose the one that sounds more “spicy”.

Your question is way too broad. “Film music” isn’t even really a genre; there are all kinds of approaches within that, covering a wide variety of genres.

There are no short cuts here. You need to learn why plugins are used in what contexts and try to apply that to the specific piece of music you’re making - and that will depend on things like the music libraries you’re using (which as you said will vary in terms of amount of processing) as well as how those libraries interact with eachother.

Short answer - forget about presets, whatever the genre. Start with the basics of production and things will start to fall in place.

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I wonder why every time I ask other people in this and other forums for opinions on what filters they use, or what libraries, etc, I keep getting the same answer with similar semantics. “There are not shortcuts here.” “There’s no one trick pony.” “You have to learn blah blah blah”.

Look, I’m just a guy learning all this stuff for about a year now, and I never asked anyone “Is there a piece of software that will just make music for me and make it sound like the best recording in the history of the world?”

No. I’m simply trying to get an idea of what professionals use, since I don’t have access to a professional studio to see what they use. So the only way to get an idea is to ask people in online forums, and I assume that at least some here work professionally in music production and might know these things, or at least give me their take on them.

Yet I keep getting these kinds of answers, like I’m not entitled to know these things. Not everybody has the age, money and choice of going to some music institute to study music production. I wish I was decades younger and had the money for it, but I’m not, and I don’t. So I try to learn by myself, and part of that is to ask questions, although most of the time it means sitting at my machine learning Cubase and sample libraries.

Is that so wrong?

I’m not trying to sound elitist or gatekeep. I’m really just telling you what I had to learn, which was that presets didn’t help me become a better mixer and in fact PREVENTED me from becoming a good mixer.

The fact that you’re asking for specific presets for classical/film music is odd because the genre presets really should work just as fine in those settings. The only secret with presets is that the genre/names are mostly made up marketing tools. If anything they are the broadest of suggestions, and any hip hop mix preset can easily be used in the right cinematic context (even orchestral music).

I hope that helps. I find iZotope’s you tube channel to be a great place to start learning as their tutorials are extremely deep.

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Watch “Studio time” and “FILM SCORING” series on Tom’s (JunkeXL) youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/junkiexlofficial/videos
There is nothing better on the topic :wink:
I would suggest plugins from Acon Digital, Softube, Valhalla.

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On classical music (based on sampled instruments) I use EQ, reverb and compression.

Unfortunately it’s true that there are no out of the box solutions.

In terms of plugins, the cleanest EQ I’ve come across is the TBT Kirchhoff EQ. It’s great for acoustic instruments as it has quite amazing clarity and a lack of side effects.

Compression I use very gently, ie with low ratios, or not at all. There are lots of good compressors out there, I tend to use Fabfilter’s Pro C2, which is pretty good.

Classical music is often recorded in quite reverberant acoustics, which tends to even out the sound to some extent.

If you have close-miked sounds, then some compression and reverb can help. I use Fabfilter’s Pro-R.

In terms of presets, I use them for reverb, but not EQ and compression. There are too many variables for presets to work in those cases. For example, with compressors you have ratio, attack, release, threshold, knee settings and make up gain to adjust.

My mastering engineer uses additional EQ and compression (often multi-band) where he needs to.

The aim with classical music is to make everything sound like a unified performance, even if you’re using multiple mics or different sample libraries.

I don’t think people are being patronising or trying to exclude you from the knowledge of how things are done. There really aren’t any simple answers. The equipment and plugins used are secondary to the skills you need.

There are two main skills - hearing what needs to be done, and knowing how to fix it.

If you want to develop both of those skills in the context of general mixing, then a great place to start is Mike Senior’s book ‘Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio’.


Maybe this video will give you some ideas?
It is also with Junkie XL and more specific about plugins. Don’t forget, this guys has a bigger budget than most of us. :grin:

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RE: Presets
I don’t use them except when I have just installed a new plugin and am trying it out. They’re useful stating points for plugins with which I am unfamiliar.
Try experimenting with extreme settings on compressors, those settings that break the “rules” - you can learn a lot about compression that way. Then you can go back to the more sensible settings for the actual mix.
If you’re recording, record everything as dry and straight as possible - if you add too much processing it’s hard to remove later.
@RichardTownsend mentioned Mike Senior’s book ‘Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio’, I second that. (Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio (2nd Edition) - there’s some free stuff there, too.)


Thank you all for the great tips, I will definitely look into all your suggestions as time allows.

What’s your opinion on LiquidSonics Cinematic Rooms and Seventh Heaven? That’s what I use the most, but I must confess I normally just use Cinematic Rooms. But I wonder if my hearing is good enough to tell reverbs apart, because to me they all sound about the same. I can obviously tell the difference when I turn up and down the time, and if it’s a creative type of reverb that doesn’t behave like a typical one, I can tell the difference, but if you make me listen to the same thing using Cinematic Rooms, Roomworks, Walhalla, etc, and they are in a standard setting, I just can’t. It’s just a reverb.

The reverb I love is u-he’s Twangström, a “spring reverberator”, which I got for half price during their Xmas sale. Can be used as a standard reverb, or for sound design. All kinds of crazy presets.

And also great for reverb, Sixth Sample’s Deelay (Deelay | Free Versatile Delay Plugin) which is free and even if it’s a delay, it also has reverb. It’s amazing that they give that for free. They also have a paid version for like $25 that I bought because I was feeling bad about having something so good and not paying for it.