Would anyone care to share his/her thoughts on how the major sample libraries compare? I'm looking for a good classical orchestra sample library -- good not only for full orchestra, but also - especially, in fact - for smaller ensembles. Because of budget constraints, I'm leaning toward VS's Opus 1 and Solo Strings, but would really welcome some comparisons.
I've listened to demos from VS, EW, IK's Miroslav Philharmonik, Synful Orchestra, and Kirk Hunter. VS and EW are beautiful, but - so far - sometimes seem to lack expressive/aggressive string articulations; Miroslav seems to have the expression, but the sounds themselves sometimes disappoint (not quite real); Synful, as another forum participant once put it, is like hearing an excellent performer on a really poor instrument.
As you are planning on using for smaller ensembles, you might lean away from EW and Miroslav as they are recorded "in place." This can limit the stage right/left placement of each instrument, especially as required in smaller chamber ensembles. I have not used the KH new stuff, so I can't comment. VSL is great for building any size ensemble and allows you to place the instruments where you want them. VSL Pro has both sfz and sffz articulations. The VSL site seems to be offline, so I can't see if they are in the Opus 1. It is definitely the "go to" library for me.
You won't go wrong with anything from VSL, it's first class all the way.
All the orchestral libraries that have mainstream acceptance are nice sounding in one way or another. I would think your initial hunch is probably a good one. The VSL samples are among the most detailed, and the studio recording techniques used are very good for more exposed lines. There's not a lot of hall ambience in there complicating matters.
Thank-you, Derek and Bruce, for your thoughtful replies -- I appreciate it!
Related to VS: do either of you have experience with its Solo Strings?
VSL's great but IMHO with solo strings you choose the timbre of the string library that you like, which you can decide by listening to loads of demos! Solo strings are a bit of a bug bear with me; I'm not that overwhelmed by any sampled solo strings (even VSL) as they all sound fake to my ears - the vibrato is frozen in with the sample and this makes the whole idea of truly expressive playing rather flawed. When a small number of instruments are exposed, it is pretty much impossible to shape a phrase which sounds real when you can't 'lean in and 'lean out' of vibrato. There is some real hope with Synful's approach, but as you say the timbres need to be better, plus I believe even with Synful currently, you don't get to 'control' vibrato depth as such; although I'm guessing the engine of Synful could easily allow this.
Not sure that helps you much , I just think solo strings are probably one of the areas which really expose sampling as being too simplistic for capturing true realism sometimes. But hey all this stuff gets better every year.
VSL is very good all around - and their strings can be very aggressive. They are untouchable in my view for writing aggressive or rapid fire string passages - using the different patches together can give you almost any kind of line (and yes, Opus1 does include the sfz and sffz samples - and very nice they are!).
I've had the best experience with the "lib that has no name" . I kinda grew up going to lots of orchestral concerts and this lib provides the "truest" sound to my ears. When I think of orchestra, I think of a lovely hall going along with it.
That said VS has an amazing lib as well. The legato is spot on there, but I think it sounds a bit sterile to me.
I often relate them to people as VSL sounds like a perfectly recorded orchestra on cd, lots of times you hear nuance you'd never hear live. "the other lib" sounds like listening to an orchestra live, not as uber-detailed, but in many cases, the sum is greater then the parts.