Best free VSTs and plugins: 8 of the best orchestral virtual libraries
Craft beautiful orchestral soundtracks with these high-quality, free orchestral sample libraries.
There was a time when the most realistic-sounding orchestral software was only available to professionals who could warrant spending thousands on vast libraries. Thanks to some generous companies looking to expand their user base, we can now enjoy premium-sounding products for free.
We’ve rounded up some incredible collections that put high-quality articulations at your finger tips – and they won’t cost you a penny.
Orchestral Tools – SINEfactory
You can sign up for free, then get email notifications when new instruments are added. There are currently 10 different instruments available, which include a string ensemble, grand and felt pianos, percussion, church organ and more.
All of them run in the free SINE player, which you can use for downloading libraries, editing parameters, and layering up sounds, and each instrument also contains a set of articulations with keyswitches.
Orchestral Tools – Layers
If you’re looking for a more pure orchestral sound, then Orchestral Tools also offers an incredible all-in-one free instrument called Layers. You get a full orchestral, plus studio-sized string, woodwind and brass sections totalling a massive 17GB of audio.
Each section is built around different chord shapes and articulations, and you can mix multiple mic positions to alter the sound and mood. As a nice touch, the full orchestra patches are layered so when you increase the mod wheel, it starts with strings then adds in the woodwind and brass for expressive dynamics.
Versilian Studios – VSCO 2 Community Edition
Versilian Studios’ free, open-source chamber orchestra library has been designed for composers, hobbyist sample library developers, and students around the world to learn more about sample library development. As such, there are multiple versions of the 3GB library doing the rounds, in various sizes and plug-in formats.
VSCO 2’s core package, though, contains 42 instruments, including woodwinds, brass, keys, mallets, strings and an eclectic range of percussion. You can also pay to upgrade to the larger packages, which include additional instruments, mic positions and articulations.
ProjectSAM – The Free Orchestra
This eclectic cinematic library includes 1.5 GB of sounds from across the ProjectSAM catalog, including some from the acclaimed Symphobia series. The Free Orchestra was previously available as a bunch of separate Kontakt files, but with the new version, everything has been brought together into a single Kontakt patch.
The 16 instruments feature evocative names such as Bombastic Basses, Heroic Horns, Ominous Lows, Dystopian Drones and Ghostly Clusters. sYou also get a bunch of 10 ensemble multis that layer up different combinations of instruments across the keyboard, and the new interface has some nifty features for editing and performing your sounds.
Vienna Symphonic Library – Free Big Bang Orchestra
Vienna Symphonic Library is a revered company in sample libraries, with a long history of providing world-class orchestral instruments. For Big Bang Orchestra, VSL has recorded the entire Synchron Stage orchestra at the same time through multiple mics, resulting in a massive, full ‘tutti’ orchestra sound.
The 1.4 GB of samples load into the free Synchron Player, and include staccatos, sustains, marcatos, swells and runs. You can use the software’s mixer to adjust the various mic levels and control the ambience of the room, or use the included presets to instantly dial in a modern, fat orchestral sound.
Hidden Path Audio – Orchestral Rise Builder
Hidden Path Audio’s free instrument requires the full version of Kontakt 5.5.1 or higher, and offers a focussed collection of samples for creating massive sounding crescendos.
There are 33 samples in total, split into short, medium and long risers. These are then further divided into full orchestra, strings, brass and woodwinds, so you can either play the layers individually, or combine them to create an epic, thundering rise.
It’s a no-nonsense instrument with no additional editing controls, but it’s quick to use and sounds superb.
Spitfire Audio – BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover
Get your hands on the sounds of the famous BBC orchestra with Spitfire Audio’s free, bite-sized plug-in. BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover features 33 instruments including strings, woodwind, brass, bass and percussion sections, but comes in at under 200 MB, making it a stellar choice if you’re lacking hard drive space.
We should also make a special mention of Spitfire Audio’s incredible, ever-growing LABS series, which features some unique and evocative instruments that are perfect for your next cinematic masterpiece. Check it all out at the link below.
Fanan Team – Gala Free
Gala Free is with something a little different from Fanan Team. The library mixes four waveforms with synthesised sounds, and has the ability to mix and match four instrument layers at once. There are 15 instruments to choose from, which include three pop strings, four cinematic-pop brasses, four clarinets and four saxophones.
Features include a synthesis section, 2 different MIDI velocity options, a global HP/LP filter, built in effects (saturation, chorus, phaser, tremolo, reverb and delay), draw-bars system per oscillator, an advanced mono mode, full MIDI map, stereo and gleam effect, and a resizable and customisable GUI.
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