- Great choir sounds can’t be made by any old VST synth.
- Here are the best choir VSTs and Kontakt Instruments!
In Pursuit Of The Best Choir Plugins
The human voice is an instrument we all carry around with us. But even if we are fantastic singers, recording a choir is impractical, expensive, and time-consuming for all involved.
This makes it a particular challenge for producers to get useful choir sounds without a dedicated VST instrument or sample library. Because humans are attuned to the nuances of the voice, primitive VST emulations often come off as unnatural or gawdy.
Both the high demand for and the difficulty of producing choirs mean that the quality of the choir VSTs you use needs to be top-notch. That’s why we’ve rounded up the best choir VSTs out there so you don’t waste your time and money.
What are the Best Choir VSTs?
As with so many things in production, the answer depends on the application.
In modern (western) media, the most common demand for choir VSTs is to create epic orchestral music. Think trailer music for the next Avengers movie, in which case I recommend the award-winning Hollywood Choirs by Eastwest.
However, we’ve also included recommendations for producers of other needs:
- For more intimate and expressive lullabies, there’s Eric Whitacre Choir
- For hybrid sound design purposes, there’s Aeris Vir 2
- For “eastern” choirs, there’s Jade Ethnic Orchestra
- For people who just want the basic “epic film” sound, without the high cost or hassle, I recommend Olympus Elements
- For producers who just want a nice background ambiance, or for those on a budget, there’s LABS Choir.
1. Eastwest Hollywood Choirs
Hollywood Choirs is a beautifully recorded, all new, choirs virtual instrument from Doug Rogers and Nick Phoenix, the producers of Symphonic Choirs, the best-selling and most awarded virtual choir of all time.
- Curated by award-winning producers
- Type in your own lyrics!
- Unshackled dynamics and stunning realism
Hollywood Choirs won the 2019 NAMM TEC award for “Best Music Software” and it’s plain to see why. It is everything that a producer would need to recreate a full choir, and it would be especially apt in a soaring Lord of the Rings-style score (as the name Hollywood suggests).
This is the third generation of Hollywood Choirs, and the experience shows: the sampling sounds precise, made possible by a very low noise floor in the recordings, and it’s picked up by a 13-microphone set up.
These 13 microphones are divided into a few mic mixes: main (which is a preset mix to save CPU), close, stage, mid and surround. This is great for mixing in the choir at different depths.
However, what really sets Hollywood Choirs from other premium choir VSTs is its WordBuilder.
VST Highlight: WordBuilder
Forget about reusing the same generic Latin phrases that other compositions use. The WordBuilder allows you to type in whatever word you want into the engine to have it sung out by the choir. Entries can be both plain English and phonetic, which seems to work better.
This is a huge step up from most other phrase builders, which string together a preset group of 10 or so phonemes. Eastwest is able to do this by recording extra, new phonemes, which helps with the realism of phrases.
Each phoneme can also be individually controlled, stretched, or shortened down to the millisecond, which means even more control for producers.
But if you don’t want to create your own phrase, Eastwest also provides 781 phrases from English, German, Italian, Spanish and Latin (which can then be further modified to your needs).
If you want that big Hollywood choir sound, this is the VST for you, and its WordBuilder engine gives you all the customized phrasing to make do as many tracks as you’d like.
- Great sound
- Phrase customizability with Wordbuilder
2. Eric Whitacre Choir
Crafted and conducted by Grammy winner Eric Whitacre and showcasing his elite family of singers, this encyclopaedia of the voice will enrich your compositions.
- Crafted by Grammy winner Eric Whitacre
- Guaranteed to enrich your music
Coming from Spitfire Audio is “Eric Whitacre Choir” which features the eponymous composer’s hand-picked group of 22 singers and 170 vocal techniques.
Eric Whitacre himself is a Grammy award-winning composer whose music has been described as “spiritual” and “religious”. It’s no surprise, then, that his VST evokes the same beauty.
The VST promises to “capture the breathtaking range of our most personal musical instrument.” They deliver on this with a small choir with great clarity and detail, recorded at the hall of AIR studios. This means it will blend nicely with Spitfire’s other orchestral libraries, which were recorded in the same location.
Spitfire has stated that they didn’t want to just make a robust choir VST, but a VST to challenge their conceptions of what choirs can be used for. This is best exemplified by the Evolution Grid.
VST Highlight: Evolution Grid
The Evolution Grid is an array of “evolutions,” essentially choir articulations or phrases, that are mapped to your MIDI keyboard. The evolutions are categorized into broad emotional or abstract concepts such as “dynamic” and “clashes,” which really shows the intention of the VST: to give producers the full breadth of sonic inspiration without having the technical know-how of a world-class choral composer.
Different evolution categories can be mapped individually to different MIDI keys along the keyboard. This means simple chords easily turn into complex voicings and rhythms.
You can swap articulations methodically or with a randomizer. This means that the inspiration served up adapts to how much or how little you know about desired sound.
If you just know you need something that builds tension, try to use more “clashes” in the Evolution Grid. If you’re not even sure about what mood you need, you can start with the randomizer and begin tweaking to taste.
Eric Whitacre Choir provides new expressive capabilities and will greatly expand your choral palette.
- Great sound
- Broad range of articulation and phrasings
- No word builder
3. Aeris Vir 2
Aeris was designed to create a hybrid vocal library based on the incredible versatility of the human voice.
Aeris Vir 2 is based on recordings of two full choirs and four solo singers, and its default sound is comparable to what you would find on other premium choirs.
However, its main purpose is not realism like the others. Rather, it is the experimental sounds and textures that range from ethereal and angelic to dark and grimy.
It achieves this with its two pad engines, which can be individually adjusted, then fed into its Movement Module and a set of FX, including a nice convolution reverb.
Its patches are divided into 6 categories: Calm, Shorts, Distorted, Tension, Motion, and Effects.
Calm is reminiscent of the typical angelic choir you would hear in ambient music while Tension would be apt for a thriller film. Shorts and Motion use heavy LFO and arpeggiator modulations to provide rhythm while distortion serves up a few moody textures.
Effects, however, show the true power of this VST’s sound design capabilities, as it creates textures that could scarcely sound further from the human voice, despite being based on vocal samples.
VST Highlight: Movement Module
The movement module combines 4 LFOs and 2 step sequencers, which can be mapped to volume, panning, pitch, and filters.
The abundance of modulation options is something that you would typically find on a synthesizer like Massive or Serum and not on a choir VST. It provides the same sonic range that Massive might offer, but starts with a base of vocals instead of wavetables.
With smaller modulation times, the Movement Module can create a wide range of textures, some that seem inspired by Blade Runner and other SciFi films. With longer modulation times, it provides complete phrases that can be used within a composition.
This means that the Movement Module can serve as both a sound design and composition tool.
Buy this VST if you need more experimental soundscapes or fresh sound FX.
- Dual Pad Engine
- Movement Module
- No advanced phrasing emulations
4. Jade Ethnic Orchestra
A unique and breathtaking collection featuring some of the best Chinese musicians recorded in their country with state-of-the-art equipment and a deep sampling approach with up to 4 dynamic layers.
- Recorded with state of the art equipment
- A deep collection of amazing textures
- Modern but with an old-world texture
Jade ethnic orchestra was a monumental collaboration between film composer Seth Tsui and Strezov Sampling, incorporating a vast array of Chinese and Mongolian instruments. Even though it is meant to be an all-in-one for composing traditional Chinese music, I will limit our review to its choir patches.
Its choir patches include quartets and soloists, and it includes a few vowels as well as experimental singing techniques specific to the region. The true legato sounds as smooth as ever, and the samples crisply recorded.
Strezov’s Syllabuilder, seen on its other VSTs as well, fluidly brings together a realistic phrase. With it, you can assign specific rhythmic patterns to each syllable, easily providing extra detail to your compositions.
VST Highlight: Hoomai Men Experimental Legato Patch
The Hoomai Men experimental legato mimics this culture’s special method of throat singing, which emits two tones at the same time. Using key switches, you can gain access to Hoomai tones at different intervals (thirds, fourths, etc.). This patch reproduces a realism that would otherwise be impossible by simply playing the two notes simultaneously.
It immediately evokes not just a different place, but a different time—like a long-lost era. Even at the risk of being culturally inaccurate, these samples would also somehow feel at home in any horror movie set in any distant region and period.
In other words, this patch can be used as a reference to the region or it can be used to create otherworldly unrealism, given how unfamiliar the vocal technique is.
Jade Ethnic Orchestra’s choir is everything you’ll need to recreate the spirit of this region.
- Syllabuilder versatility
- Experimental articulation patches
5. Olympus Elements
Olympus Elements features a fully automatable custom user interface that allows for full control over sound shaping and performance.
- Freely adjustable note ranges (Male & Female)
- Advanced, configurable simulated legato
- Easy-to-use interface
Soundiron provides a scaled-down version of its Olympus Symphonic Choir but retains its epic sound with Olympus Sound Elements.
It contains all the main vowel articulations as well as nice legato sustains, which support up to six simultaneous harmonies. On top of that, Soundiron retained their phrase builder, which allows for custom sentences.
While it’s missing the mic positions or articulations of Symphonic Choir, what it does do, it does very well. All the patches sound realistic due to intelligent round-robin sampling, and each patch has a deep dynamic range.
There’s also a decent selection of more experimental ambient patches, including artificial sounds like the Mantronix patch. These would be good to explore if you’re looking for the unexpected.
Overall, Olympus Elements is a great starter pack for producers looking to include choir sounds in their compositions. Any money spent is also credited toward a potential purchase of Olympus Symphonic Choir, in case you find that you need more advanced features.
VST Highlight: Blend Control
Olympus Choir Elements includes a blend control, which is a dial that can blend between two different choir layers: usually the male and female choirs.
For instance, you can use a long sustain on the bass notes with the male choir to create a thundering backbone and then add short staccatos up top with the female choir for rhythm.
The Section X-Fade compresses overlapping ranges between the two choirs to create a smart balance between the choirs. When played with a midi controller, you get the impression that the two choirs are singing together and responding to one another rather than being recorded separately then mixed together by an engineer.
Olympus Elements provides a huge epic sound with minimal hassle and at a low $99, albeit without the flexibility of the Symphonic Choir.
- Strong sound
- Credit builds toward Symphonic Choir
- No solo samples
- No mic options
6. LABS Choir
LABS Choir features ever-changing choral samples, created by combining three evolutions from an epic vocal encyclopedia.
- Angelic and soft samples
You’ll remember our high praise for the Eric Whitcare Choir. Well, it’s back again—scaled-down and free!
LABS Choir draws on the same samples as the Eric Whitacre Choir but only includes the most basic long articulation—still just as beautiful as the premium version from which it came.
Intact are the same modulation controls (expression, dynamics, and ADSR), set within a zen Apple-like GUI. Simple but beautiful.
The patch that you receive is angelic and soft, providing a great atmosphere or background pad for your piece. However, the lack of articulations makes LABS Choir harder to use for other purposes. It would not be able to function as a lead instrument, for instance.
VST Highlight: Dynamics & Expression Controls
Dynamics and Expression controls together set the intensity of the note, but with more realism than a simple volume control. Toying with these two controls can help add to the overall phrasing of your piece.
While these controls are standard for premium VSTs, they are not usually found in free plugins because of the extra programming that they require. For example, you won’t find these types of controls in the Sonatine Choir, which sounds fake in comparison.
LABS Choir is a great sounding VST; and though it has limited usability, it’s free, so why not add it to your collection.
- Great sounding choir
- Absolutely free!
- Lack of phrasing
(Next check out 9 Of The Best Free Synth VSTs In Existence for the best free VST softsynths ever made!)