My previous answer was actually not correct because, simply put, I was in a good mood and typed a over-the-top generic answer in three words or less.
Sorry about that. Here's a more educated and thoughtful answer:
In all fairness, I can only speak about the sonic quality of EWQL and the "sound of it" all, as that is the only comparison product I own next to KHSO Emerald. Also to be fair, I can only compare Silver to Emerald - which is not fair at all. I simply do not have gold or platinum of EWQL - and the reason being is KHSO Emerald - I was going to purchase platinum and Emerald blew me away sonically. I have to say I am not at all disappointed in my decision. I do have the "Lite" version of VSL as it comes with Kontakt 2, but I have no idea how indicitave that is of an expensive VSL product.
I don't care for much of the sound of EWQL, sans the choir and some of the strings.
I find KHSO to have a much bigger, more "cinematic" sound (however you define cinematic). I am sure VSL is quite good. However, I simply will not spend that much on anything (I am not, after all, going to conduct or compose the next great symphonic masterpiece) musical when other options exist. I hate dongles. KHSO, to me, gives you the entire deal and has worked very well into my mixes.
KHSO's Brass is one of the best I have heard included in a symphonic package. EWQL's brass is thin to me. I like the boldness of KHSO better. Of course, you have other dedicated brass collections - but this is only comparing the two.
Woodwinds - KHSO is awesome. Not so for EWQL IMO.
Strings. Oh those strings. KHSO has chamber AND string sections. It does not have too many soloist instruments, but there are a few and they are good. EWQL strings are functional, but not as good as KHSO.
EWQL has a nice sounding Steinway, KHSO has a tinny toy piano. That is KHSO Emerald's only misgiving, as far as I can see.
I only own Solo Strings both from KH and VSL (VI) so i can only speak to that - but as far as that goes, while KH is good and quite functional, it really can't be compared to the VSL VI solo strings. Rather than start spouting a long list of superlatives about the quality of the samples and the engine (especially that engine), i'll just say: VI has pushed sample playback as a way of emulating a solo instrument as far as the technology can go. It's that good, that effortless. And yes, you pay for it; but once you experience what is possible with a tool of that quality, you don't regret it.
I should also add that while I don't own Emerald, i do own EWQLSO Gold, and based on the KH demos alone i would say that if i had the choice today i would go with KH over Gold as a low/medium cost orchestra solution. Though it doesn't necessarily feel this way before the purchase while listening to the Gold demos, that built-in natural hall reverb, while nice, truly is very limiting. You get the real big-concert-hall bombast sound - and that's really almost all you can convincingly do with it. And while KH's legato-reconstruction scripting is limited at the moment, it's more than Gold's got, and KH has a more intimate, realistic sound overall to me (again, judging from the KH demos, not from ownership). I say this with no animus towards EWQL, many of whose products I think are great (RA comes to mind). I'm sure Platinum is great and makes up for most of Gold's deficiencies, as do the XP expansions, but that's getting out of "low cost" range.
Also, if you haven't yet, check out the Synful demos at synful.com. You either like that sound and its capabilities or you don't. I find it can be very useful and very friendly to use. A poor man's VI Cube in terms of expressiveness if not in detailed sound.
I just recently got Emerald so still have something of a learning curve. Virtually all the instruments sound excellent on their own (I even like the rather soft, slightly muffled piano) and the impressive orchestral demos show how well they can combine. My immediate interest (as i'm composing a string quartet), is in the solo strings. I find the sounds here can be wonderfully expressive --only the caveat that perhaps rather more of the programming from the Giga solo strings package has been removed than is wise as there seem to be one or two holes but I'm think Ruby will replace the most important --hope so anyway. There's no doubt that VSL solo strings are more comprehensive but some of the demos are a bit thin in my view. Essentially KHSO comes close to giving you the vitality and expressiveness of a real orchestra and to me that more than makes up for the occasional lack of refinement.
There's no doubt that VSL solo strings are more comprehensive but some of the demos are a bit thin in my view..
This is an often heard complaint about some of the VSL demos, and it slowed down my decision to buy the VI solo strings a bit. Actually owning the product, i can now say that this limitation of some of the demos is just that: a limitation of some of the demos, and NOT of the samples themselves, which have buckets of warmth, wood and rosin waiting to be EQ'd up or down as the user sees fit. Some people who demo for VSL seem to like clinical mixes. For many pieces that's not my cup of tea either, but i'm glad it didn't keep me away from the product in the end.
I own EW Gold and Emerald. The only think I'm faithfully using from Gold at this point is the percussion. The other sections of Emerald are proving to be more playable for me and I like the clean sound. They're very well sliced and consistent in their timing.
The dynamic possibilities are slightly more powerful and expressive also, as I see it.
I spend less time editing my parts when using Emerald because it's easier for me to get a good take when playing the keyboard, because the instruments respond in a predictable and consistent way.
All of the above is just one mans personal opinion.
Actually owning the product, i can now say that this limitation of some of the demos is just that: a limitation of some of the demos, and NOT of the samples themselves, which have buckets of warmth, wood and rosin waiting to be EQ'd up or down as the user sees fit. .
Glad to hear it! Anyway, VSL in general (and perhaps even the solo strings) is overkill for a mainly hobbyist composer like me even if I could afford it.
I own Platinum and Emerald (and Opus 1). While I think Platinum sounds better with the surrounds and release samples, I now use Emerald for all writing and demos, as they are much easier to play and sound great. For example, getting a string section slide in EW is difficult and inaccurate, while in KH it's either a keyswitch or a modwheel move.
I simply think EW is behind the curve in the scripting department, but they're trying to catch up with QControl. I'll be very interested in that when it comes out, and I'll be very interested in Ruby when it comes out. (I predict Ruby will be the more affordable.)