- What are the best orchestral VSTs currently?
- What do I use an orchestral VST for?
- What are some useful tips for using orchestral VSTs?
- Also, check out our post on the best free orchestral VST libraries!
Classical composers, film scorers, and lovers of the traditional symphonic orchestra can all rejoice. There is an abundance of orchestral VSTs available in the modern era that can get you quite close to recreating the magic that a full orchestra provides.
However, not all VSTs are created equal, and orchestra instruments are especially tricky to emulate through a plugin or orchestral suite.
We’ve compiled a brief list of 7 of the best orchestral VSTs currently available. These include orchestral plugins for a range of budget requirements, as well as free orchestral VST options.
What Are the 7 Best Orchestral VSTs?
Orchestral VSTs can be exceptionally tricky to create, as it requires an incredible amount of sampling/modeling of a considerable amount of instrumentation.
Orchestral VSTs may also have to consider elements such as specific instrument articulations and expressions, as well as other common factors like usability and total library size.
We’ve considered all these factors when deciding on our list of the best orchestral VSTs today.
Our list of the 7 Best Orchestral VSTs reads as follows:
- Orchestral Tools Berlin Symphonic Strings
- Versil Studios Chamber Orchestra 2 (Best Free Orchestral VST)
- Spitfire Audio Abbey Road One Orchestral Foundations
- Chris Hein Solo Strings EX
- UVI Orchestral Suite
- IK Multimedia Miroslav Philharmonik 2
- EastWest Symphonic Orchestra
7 Best Orchestral VSTs (Paid & Free)
1. Orchestral Tools Berlin Symphonic Strings
Berlin Symphonic Strings is the latest addition to the acclaimed Berlin Series—the most comprehensive, integrated collection of sampled orchestral instruments available. All libraries were recorded with the finest musicians, in situ, on the same Teldex Scoring Stage in Berlin.
- Rich, cinematic sounds
- Three legato modes
- 68 instruments
- Price: $549
- Formats: VST, AU
- Size: 49 GB
- Sound Library: Strings
One of the most crucial factors that determine the quality of an orchestral plugin is realism. Orchestral Tools have had a reputation for high-quality sampling, which is evident in their Symphonic Strings plugin.
The key component behind Symphonic Strings’ quality is the recording method used for capturing every string sample. All sounds in this plugin were recorded at the famed Teldex Scoring Stage in Berlin.
Using a unique round-robin sampling technique, the Orchestral Tools team has created a considerably organic feel to the motion of all string movements. These strings are also recorded from various room points to allow for added spatial control while composing.
The Symphonic Strings plugin comes with a double set of Violin sounds, Violas, Celli, and Basses – all with their signature pack of various articulations, including legatos, staccatos, pizzicatos, etc.
There’s also a useful trill function, which is achieved by pressing two successive keys down simultaneously. The Symphonic Series pack works exclusively with the latest version of Orchestral Tools free Sine Player, which may dissuade those looking for standalone units.
2. Versil Studios Chamber Orchestra 2 (Best Free Orchestral VST)
Versil Studios Chamber Orchestra 2 is full of character and personality. You will find textures and timbres that have never been captured before. Chamber strings with a clean, intimate sound; rarities such as bass recorder, ophicleide, a circular alto horn, and an ethnic xylophone. Nearly every instrument has a variety of performers, articulations, and instruments to audition and explore.
- 2,000 recorded sounds
- Basic envelope, mix, and reverb controls
- 3GB in size
- Price: Free
- Formats: VST, SFZ
- Size: 3 GB
- Sound Library: Brass, Strings, Woodwind
Versillian generated a reasonable amount of hype with their initial Chamber Orchestra plugin. The second installment of this free orchestral VST features an upgraded GUI that is perfect for beginner producers and composers.
The user interface features simple instrument and articulation selectors, as well as basic envelope, mix, and reverb controls.
The free version of Chamber Orchestra includes 19 instrument types and nearly 2,000 recorded sounds for users to browse, tweak and compile.
The overall character of these samples has a slightly more world music feel to them, and there are certain instruments you wouldn’t usually find in a standard orchestra, such as a concert harp and upright piano.
While Chamber Orchestra may not come with the highest quality samples on this list, the plugin is incredibly easy to use and covers the fundamentals in a wonderfully compact design.
This is also a great option for anyone that needs to save precious hard drive space, as the sample library is just 3GB in total size.
3. Spitfire Audio Abbey Road One Orchestral Foundations
Perfect for writing orchestral film, TV and game scores, Abbey Road One gives you all four sections of the orchestra in a single library – strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion — capturing the key set of orchestral sounds that composers use the most.
- Exceptional dynamics
- Extremely realistic sounding
- Organized into low and high sections
- Price: $449
- Type: VST, AU, VST2, VST3, AAX
- Size: 69.6 GB
- Sound Library: Strings, Brass, Percussions, Woodwinds, Drums
Abbey Road Studios is renowned for its incredible portfolio of recorded albums and movie scores alike. Classic movies like Lord Of The Rings, Black Panther, and Star Wars have all had their compositions recorded at Abbey Road.
Spitfire Audio has managed to capture a large amount of this magic and has packed it into their Orchestral Foundations plugin.
As the name suggests, the Abbey Road One Orchestral Foundations plugin aims to provide users with the best fundamental areas of a symphonic orchestra. The plugin comes with various groupings of strings, brass sections, woodwinds, and percussion.
All the sounds have been captured from various recording points in the Abbey Road Studios, and every sound has a triumphant, cinematic feel right out of the box. What this plugin may lack in quantity, it certainly makes up for quality.
The Orchestral Foundations GUI doesn’t come with many mix or expression controls, and users are left to rely on the standard quality of the samples for their recordings.
However, each sample does come with different microphone options, including some rare and classic ribbon microphones that seasoned audiophiles should appreciate.
4. Chris Hein Solo Strings EX
Chris Hein - Solo Strings offers the most authentic multi-sampled solo string instruments available today. It has the versatility to cater to a wide range of genres, including jazz, gypsy, and orchestral compositions.
- 10,000 samples
- 38 articulations
- 10 built in DSP-Effects
- Price: $99 monthly/$599 once-off
- Type: VST,AAX Native, AU, NKS, Standalone
- Size: 30 GB
- Sound Library: Strings
Chris Hein Solo Strings allows users with an exceptional amount of expression control and is ideal for anyone that is painstakingly meticulous with their orchestral compositions. The plugin comes with over 10,000 samples and 38 articulation types for composers to unpack and explore.
There are samples in this generous sound library that suit various music styles, including jazz, disco, and more ethnic and world music styles.
The highlight of this orchestral plugin is the in-depth user interface, which comes with a near-dizzying amount of dials and knobs, and labels. Here, users have incredibly accurate control over a range of tonal, velocity, and dynamic expressions across all instruments.
All articulations have respective expression controls, such as attack and decay, flutter, and phasing control. Users can stack up to 8 samples simultaneously to create stunning soundscapes and save any tweaked sounds as a user preset for quick access.
5. UVI Orchestral Suite
Orchestral Suite gives you access to over 60 classical instruments in a single convenient and affordable package. Take complete control of your own orchestra including strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion instruments, a full choir, and many complementary instruments such as a beautiful cathedral organ, harpsichord, celesta, classical guitar and harp.
- 5 reverb types
- Fast and intuitive workflow
- Pristine sound quality
- Price: $149
- Type: VST,VST3 AAX, Standalone
- Size: 4.62. GB
- Sound Library: Strings, Brass, Woodwinds, Percussions, Choirs, Guitars, Keyboards, Organs
The UVI Orchestral Suite features the widest collection of symphonic orchestra instruments on this list, as well as a few less traditional ones like a nylon string guitar and harpsichord. All-in-all, the Orchestral Suite’s sample library comes with an impressive 60 instruments.
There isn’t a wide scope of articulations for each sample, but this is still a great option for anyone that wants a healthy list of instrument options without taking up too much hard drive space.
In addition to the stock samples included in this orchestral suite are five reverb types for users to blend in over their sounds. These included chambers, halls, and cathedrals with basic mix dials for each.
The UVI workstation uses a convolution reverb, which treats the effect as a send effect for maximum mix clarity.
Each of the UVI orchestra instruments acts as an independent plugin, and you can run multiple instances of each with minimal load on your CPU.
While this may not be the best orchestral VST for top-tier professional quality recordings, the UVI Orchestral Suite makes scoring and composing a simple and seamless process.
6. IK Multimedia Miroslav Philharmonik 2
From flowing legatos to animated pizzicatos, from aggressive spiccatos to elegant staccatos, from the most subtle pianissimo to the most triumphant fortissimo and more, Miroslav Philharmonik 2 is a sweeping vision from a master artist embodied in a new virtual instrument that brings the orchestra to life.
- 34 studio plug-in effects
- 3D room visualization
- Over 58GB of high definition samples
- Price: $499
- Formats:: Standalone, AAX, VST, AU
- Size: 58 GB
- Sound Library: Strings, Brass, Woodwinds, Choirs, Percussion, Pianos, Others
IK Multimedia may be most well known for their Amplitube plugin, and many would be hard-pressed to overlook their Miroslav Philharmonik VST. The plugin has many traditional and modern symphonic orchestra sounds, including strings, woodwinds, choirs, a vibraphone, and a rich-sounding glockenspiel.
The Miroslav Philharmonik uses a unique control system that allows users to map specific articulations to their keyboard.
This setting can be very useful when trying to compose on-the-fly, as you can play your melody and chosen articulation at the same time. Users can also draw their articulations manually using the editor on the interface.
The plugin also features an onboard mixer for volume control between each instrument while arranging. The sample library on the Miroslav Philharmonik is a staggering 58 GB, so be prepared to sacrifice some hard drive space and performance when installing this plugin.
7. EastWest Symphonic Orchestra
The EastWest Symphonic Orchestra pack was the very first orchestral collection to be recorded in a "state of the art" concert hall where orchestras mainly perform. Every detail of the recording hall is captured with incredible precision and detail, adding realism and shimmer to every note.
- Powerful and expressive collection
- Over 124GB of material
- Instruments sampled with close, stage, and surround mics
- Price: $15.99 monthly/ $199 once-off
- Formats: VST, VST3
- Size: 196 GB
- Sound Library: Strings, Woodwinds, Brass, Percussion
EastWest is one of the best-kept secrets in the plugin game. Their Symphonic Orchestra should provide most users with all the sounds they need for long-term composing and arranging.
The sample collection included in this plugin consists of hundreds of instruments in various articulations, and all work through EastWest’s fantastic Play 6 interface.
The Play 6 interface provides users with a wide array of expression, dynamic, and mixing options. Users can create a custom list of articulations from the Symphonic Orchestra library and route specific areas of their orchestra through these channels.
The plugin also features an envelope editor, a three-channel microphone mixer, and basic reverb controls. Play 6 has won numerous awards for its usability and performance, and it’s an incredible composition tool when paired with the Symphonic Orchestra samples.
What To Look For In A Good Orchestral VST
- The ideal orchestral VST should have an easily accessible library of well-sampled/modeled orchestral instruments, including strings, brass, woodwind, and percussions. It’s also extra handy if there are variations of these instrument types i.e., both a muted and regular trumpet.
- Great orchestral plugins usually include some degree of control over an instrument’s respective expressions and articulations, such as legato or staccato, as well as velocity control.
- For beginner producers or those new to orchestra composition, look for an orchestral VST that is easy to navigate. Orchestra composition can become incredibly complex, so the quicker and simpler a VST allows workflow, the better.
Quick Tips For Using Orchestral VSTs
- Experiment with panning, reverbs, and stereo imaging to help give your orchestral arrangements maximum dynamic. Some orchestral VSTs come with different room emulations, which can change the feel and character of your arrangements.
- When composing and arranging using orchestral VSTs, try to handle each section of the orchestra in series i.e., strings first, then brass, woodwind, etc. This habit will help prevent any possible compositional clashes in your workflow.
- Certain orchestral VSTs allow you to save any tweaks you have done to their stock sounds as a preset. Getting into the habit of saving your sounds as presets can seriously speed up productivity, especially when composing for large orchestra arrangements.
- Finally, don’t be scared to add outside effects and devices to your orchestral compositions to make them sound more interesting, especially if you’re scoring for film or other visual content. Another common production technique is to layer your orchestral samples with foley or another sound to enhance or transform it.
Perfectly emulating the immense character and dynamic that a symphonic orchestra harness is a near-impossible task. However, many of the above-listed orchestral VSTs all come pretty close to the real thing and will certainly cost you less than hiring a full symphonic orchestra to record.
Try to prioritize sonic quality over usability when looking around for orchestral plugins. Some of these listed orchestral VSTs may seem complex and intimidating at first sight. However, with some time and practice, you should be able to navigate them smoothly.
Finally, remember to try and push the boundaries of your sound design with these orchestral VSTs by experimenting with different devices, sampling, and effect combinations.
What Is The Most Realistic Orchestra VST?
While there will always be a debate around the most realistic-sounding orchestral VST, our picks have to be the Orchestral Tools Symphonic Strings plugin and the EastWest Symphonic Orchestra.
What VSTs Do Composers Use?
Many modern producers have enjoyed using the UVI Orchestral Suite for its easy usability and simplicity. However, composers prioritizing sonic quality over usability would probably use something like the Spitfire Audio Orchestral Foundations pack.
Before you go, check out our post on Spitfire Audio’s collaboration with the BBC orchestra symphony!