VSCO 2 CE is a powerful free chamber orchestra library, but it comes in nearly a dozen different formats, most of which are made by a variety of third parties.
Each version has strengths and weaknesses, and may provide compatibility with different software or work better in a certain workflow.
- If you’re just getting started, either use Bigcat’s VSTi/AU Version or Orchestools 306. Both are easy and work in most DAWs (Orchestools 306 also runs on Windows as a standalone application).
- If you have Kontakt, use Bigcat’s Sketching Chamber Orchestra or The Alpine Project. Both are very good; Alpine also uses other sources too.
- If you like using SFZ or have ARIA or Sforzando (free), use either the Vanilla SFZ Version or the Virtual Playing Orchestra (VPO). Vanilla is unprocessed, VPO is processed and with extra samples. SFZ format is open source (literally just text files!) and documented here, if you like ‘hacking’ patches to make cool things!
- If you have Renoise, use Oliver’s XRNI conversion.
- If you have Sampletank 3 (compatible with free Sampletank Custom Shop) or want something that goes beyond just orchestra and into more effects, use Orchestools One.
- If you have a Synthstrom Deluge, use the Synthstrom Deluge version.
- If you like to work with raw .wav sample files or use a sampler not listed above, try out the Original .WAV Format, or the 256-sample pack or 50-sample pack (in the ‘Notes’ section of the former).
Natural vs. Controlled Behavior
In sampling, we conceive of the behavior of a library on the spectrum of ‘natural’ to ‘controlled’. Samples cut in a ‘natural’ way have slow, sometimes slightly irregular attack behavior, slower response, and more variable dynamics and mapping. The result of this is a very natural sound, but only when used in the way the samples “want” to be used (e.g. slow, ambient-ish music).
On the other hand, samples cut in a ‘controlled’ way are rigorously flattened out, made to behave in identical ways, so that the user can modify the response via ADSR or other controls more easily. Such samples do not sound good initially, but with some careful modulations can be almost as realistic as ‘natural’ cut samples while providing you more control in the end, allowing you to shape the sound to your needs rather than shaping your writing style to suit the samples.
This divergence may be noticed most between the ‘Vanilla SFZ Version’ and ‘Bigcat’s VSTi/AU Version’. The SFZ version has no adjustment to the samples and thus is much looser, and arguably more realistic when individual notes are played. However, Bigcat’s version has been normalized and processed to behave more consistently. This makes it sound sometimes less realistic (e.g. a finger cymbal as loud as a bass drum), but if you pick velocities carefully and use volume to modulate the sound, you can get a very good sound out of it.
More naturalistic versions are: Vanilla SFZ, Original .WAV, Deluge, XRNI
More controlled versions are: Bigcat VST, Bigcat Kontakt, VPO, Alpine, Orchestools
The only version required to have all of the samples is the Original .WAV Format. All other versions are free to incorporate parts of the library, or to include parts of other libraries.
Includes full sample set: Original .WAV Format, Vanilla SFZ, XRNI, Deluge
Includes partial sample set: Orchestools One & 306, Bigcat VST, Bigcat Kontakt
Includes 3rd party samples: VPO, Alpine
Note: Versions may not be compatible with the latest nor future operating systems. Please visit the version page for more information.
For Windows only: Orchestools 306
Windows + MacOS: Vanilla SFZ, Bigcat VSTi/AU, Bigcat Kontakt, VPO, Alpine, XRNI, Orchestools One
Not compatible with either: Deluge
Platform Agnostic: Original .WAV
Requires no software: Orchestools 306, Original .WAV
Requires only a DAW (except Protools): Bigcat VSTi/AU
Requires DAW + Sforzando (free) or other SFZ player: Vanilla SFZ, VPO
Requires DAW + Kontakt (full, not free Player!): Bigcat Kontakt, Alpine
Requires DAW + Sampletank Custom Shop (free): Orchestools One
Requires Renoise: XRNI
Requires physical Synthstorm Deluge: Deluge