(Note: This is concerning Garritan Personal Orchestra and EWQL Symphonic Orchestra Gold, minus any expansion packs or big-band add-ons for either. This also has more of a review for EWQLSO than GPO, since I assume more reading this have the latter than the former.)
The topic I've seen debated in numerous places over the past few days; which is better? Garritan Personal Orchestra (GPO), or East West Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra (EWQLSO)?
In December of 2004, I purchased Garritan Personal Orchestra as my first library. With it, I learned how to use VSTs and NIs, how to operate the mod wheel (...actually, even worse...how to operate a mod wheel without a mod wheel...), and other wonders and terrors of the realm beyond normal MIDI sequencing. I was 18 at the time, by the way, so go easy on me.
If you've never used the mod wheel before, it's not hard to get used to, even if you don't have one (that is, if you have a sequencer that manually edits mod wheel input, such as Cakewalk SONAR). Garritan's use of it is brilliant, and the variance in the levels of power are done very well.
Unfortunately, when it came time to later write a faster-paced piece, there were...problems, to say the least. When notes in Garritan are repeated quickly - especially very quickly - they tend to drop out and get mashed together. It's not nearly as much of a problem if the notes aren't in a straight line, like a string run up and down. But if you're wanting to do John Williams style low-trumpet rapid staccato, there's going to be problems.
Then, just recently, I purchased East West Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra - Gold Edition. No, no expansion pack. I remember when I first heard the great sound of the low brass punch, the true bass rumble of the Double Basses without need of EQ. I was grinning the whole time.
But, of course, after the initial positive shock wears off (...still hasn't completely worn off, though ), you're going to see the problems.
I was dismayed to have to revert back to the older-style Velocity levels for each note for most of the instruments in the library (there are DXF versions of some instruments, but not a great many). I also had trouble, for the longest time, in getting the mod wheel to actually affect the DXF instruments (and still occasionally have the problem; it's almost as if it decides whether or not it feels like it wants to work, lol). This could be the fault of SONAR, though, and not EWQLSO.
While I write with excitement in the glory of the full power of the orchestra in EWQLSO, there's also the problem of polyphony. I have an an AMD 64 on 1 gig of RAM (laugh, but it's a pretty good system for a college student's budget). While EWQLSO seems to handle more instruments than Garritan with less processor use (I count twice as much), God forbid you should ever peak on the percentage of processor used. When you hit 100% with Garritan, it simply drops out and dies. Sad and simple.
But with EWQLSO, when you get near 90%, all heck breaks loose. My computer slowed down to the point of being virtually inactive, and all I could do was listen while the song crept on with sudden bursts of progression, then silence. Of course, the stop button didn't work unless you could hit it when these bursts came. (*sigh* Computers.)
And for some reason, another problem with polyphony in the program is that you have to disable the "Fast Bounce" feature when rendering a final sound file. But even with this unchecked, if you have numerous tracks, you'll still struggle with instruments (especially suspended notes overlaying rapid notes) dropping out. I'm still fighting this one.
Still, one must enjoy the great variance in EWQLSO's dynamics, expressions, and techniques. For example, the 11-violin ensemble section alone has 35 renditions of expression, much less the other 29 instruments/ensembles provided. GPO's brass, especially, seems lackluster in comparison to EWQLSO's when it comes to power and sheer grit, like you might hear in "Pirates of the Carribean."
However, there are drawbacks to this. While some are fantastic samples, others are fairly poor, and it seems that where most of the lesser ones fail, Garritan Personal Orchestra succeeds - and very well, too. For example, EWQLSO has a fairly good gentle French Horn expression. But GPO's is marvelous. It ranges from soft and nearly inaudible to swelling and full. It could be very similar to the beautiful, lyrical music in the soundtrack to Jeremy Soule's score for "Morrowind" (who, by the way, uses Garritan Strings).
Also, the setup in EWQLSO for some instruments seems like a half-baked idea, whereas GPO succeeds. For example, the tambourine and cymbals in GPO can rise and fade, and depending on which patch you choose, either trail off or stop suddenly, or even with a bang. In EWQLSO, the same instruments will rise at either fast or slow speeds, and end in set ways. This leads to guesswork as to where to put the note so that the climax matches the rest of the orchestration.
So the big question: Which is better, Garritan Personal Orchestra, or East West Quantum Leap?
The correct answer: Yes.
Both are great little gems. They have their own place. Garritan certainly excels at beauty and melodic works, whereas EWQLSO is fantastic for it's sheer power.
The best bet would be to use both interchangeably. A good composer should have their own style that goes one way or the other when it comes to natural writing. But a great composer should be able to reach into both extremes once in a while, and with both libraries at their fingertips, the entire orchestral spectrum is open at the highest quality.
So that's my two cents. *straps on a helmet* Here it comes.
Just a quick question: Have you been to ~~~~~~~~~~~~ and updated Gold to version 2.5?. Some of the things you're talking about have been rectified. Plus, if you buy Kontakt2 you can make all manner of changes to suit yourself and import the latest scripts to make use of legato and so on. Playing it straight out the box via Kompakt isn't the best solution.
GPO looks like its been well programmed but I've never used it so I can't comment on the differences between the two.
I use GPO for most of my orchestral sounds. I also have GOS and the Presonus Orchestral library to fill in the blanks, but I don't use them much.
Here's why... most of my work revolves around mock-ups, not finished products. Finished products these days are either my own demos<G>, or sound tracks for very low budget independent films.
And I have been able to create soundtracks using GPO that completely satisfied both my own ears and those of the director and/or producers.
I think I "get away" with it because in context one is not paying microscopic attention to the details of the soundtrack... rather, they are taking in the entire package.
Could I produce more realistic results with one of the modern large libraries? Almost certainly. Would it take quite a bit of time to learn a new tool? Yup! Would I spend more time creating the final product, no matter how well I knew the new tool? Yup again!
And it is tempting! With libraries from Kirk Hunter, EWQL, VSL, Miroslav, and others, all in varying levels of size and complexity, it is REALLY tempting to purchase at least one more library. And when I have the time to learn one, I'll most likely make the leap, as it would be nice to have some additional resources.
I think, had I started with EWQL or VSL or any of the others I'd probably have stuck with that tool as well. While money ALWAYS plays a role in the decision making process, time is a much bigger factor for me. I simply can't afford the time to become familiar with a new tool right now. I've even put off upgrading Finale for the moment!
When someone who does not yet have a library at all asks, I usually recommend GPO, with the caveat that it works differently than most of the others. I also point out that my recommendation is based on using GPO a lot, and using the other libraries only in the settings of other folks facilities, and under their wings!
Sample libraries are really no different than sequencers or microphones or preamplifiers or loudspeakers. In every case, personal taste is a HUGE factor, and in the end, YMMV!
The biggest concern is the music. I think great music can make any library sound tempting, and bad music can make you not want to purchase it. It'd be better to hear wonderful music in simple MS Wavetables than bad music in $1000 libraries.