Six of the best string instruments (Part Two)

Last month we looked at some dedicated string instruments. This time around, software string sounds from more unusual, individual instruments, full orchestras, the best soft synth and even a freeware plug-in!

(Click each title for the full review)

Best Deep Epic: Orchestral Tools Metropolis Ark 2

string instruments


Price €599
Contact Orchestral Tools

The first Metropolis Ark was bombastic and ideal for impact. While Arc 2 is more reserved, it can still be epic, just with more depth and subtlety. You get a whole orchestra – not just strings – but you do get a whole lot of strings too…

We said: “There is no doubt that this library will appeal predominantly to media composers, or those interested in creating soundtrack-based music. There’s a great choice of sounds available and while they do very much lend themselves to the cinematic, this is not exclusive. If you compose music that might benefit from a good collection of more subtle orchestral colours, this is definitely worth considering; you’ll get a whole batch of other sounds that might interest you, too.”

Best Harps: Cinesamples CineHarps

string instruments

Price $249
Contact Cinesamples

The harp might not get as much of the glory as an army of violins and cellos, but the string sound of the harp is more prevalent in today’s film and TV scores than ever before. But have you ever seen a harpist struggling with this beast of an instrument on the tube? Yep, this really is one instrument that benefits truly from a software version, and this is truly a great software version…


We said: “The additional instrumental patches which place the harp in context are immensely useful, while the sheer breadth of timbral choice available with the glissandi and FX-based patches make this package a little bit of a bargain for the price, at least if you need harps on a regular basis. Anyway, it’s time to stop harping on about it – it’s comprehensive and covers all bases while going way beyond and sounds truly delicious.”

Best Free Strings: u-He Triple Cheese

string instruments

Price £Free
Contact u-He

Triple Cheese is one of the best free synths out there, with three comb filters and eight different modes per comb filter module. But it’s also one of the few string-sounding synths that’s available for both Mac and PC. The winner of the 2006 KVR Developer Challenge, it’s a great way to get a variety of string- and cheese-based sounds for your computer. And let’s just repeat: it’s free!

We said: “Triple Cheese has been a firm freeware favourite, perhaps down to the fact that it is not doing the analogue ’thing’. Instead, it uses comb filtering and three ‘cheese modules’ to get a variety of sounds, including pads and plucked sounds. Banks include different cheese types (we’re partial to a bit of Gouda), which all go towards making this one of the most distinctive freeware synths on the planet, and one of the pieces of freeware you will keep.”

Best Budget Orchestra: Orchestral Tools Berlin Orchestra Inspire

string instruments

Price €399
Contact Orchestral Tools

It’s another complete orchestra of sounds – not just strings – but we’re on a cheaper budget here. Consequently you get less action across the board but certainly enough to create any soundtrack for any genre. One of Orchestral Tools’ best value collections.

We said: “The Strings, in particular, offer a good range of articulation types, from the expected sustain and staccato, to pizzicato and tremolo across both major and minor 2nds. Sonically, these are excellent, with the pizzicatos coming in for particular praise. Each pluck offers a sense of depth, with a small degree of inaccuracy in the ensemble, which makes it sound very believable. Despite costing less than you’d expect, this is a very comprehensive option indeed. As the name suggests, there’s a vast amount to inspire you in this fantastic library, and that’s what we all want: a great all-round library for a very fair price. Bravo!”

Best Ultimate Orchestra: Spitfire Audio Symphony Orchestra

string instruments

Price £1499
Contact Spitfire Audio

You get three collections in one here with full String, Wind and Brass section orchestral libraries but the String section is very much ensemble-based and symphony orchestra-sized, offering lots of flexibility.

We said: “As the String section is largely a repackaging of Mural Symphonic Strings, from a previous product incarnation, we’ve all come to expect how good this will be sonically. Sure enough, there is no disappointment – in fact, the ability to easily access just what you want, either manually or by key-switching, is elegant. It’s an expensive option but if you’re a composer working in a more classical or filmic/media- based genre, this is an absolute gem of a package to consider. Its strength in so many areas makes it hard to beat, and you might find it replaces whole swathes of libraries that one might employ to add up to a sum of parts.”

Best Soft Synth: Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2

string instruments

Price £339
Contact Spectrasonics

Of course synths can do strings almost as well as dedicated orchestral packages but rather than list all the good ones, why not just list arguably the best one? Omnisphere 2 is widely regarded as one of the greatest soft synths out there and is packed with strings and pads, making it ideal for use on any soundtrack too.

We said: “While some developers have got close to Spectrasonics’ greatness, there’s little doubt that the revitalised Omnisphere will set a new gold standard for the next five years. Thanks to some innovative features, not to mention a wealth of extra sonic material, it’s hard to imagine any software instrument delivering the same breadth and sheer sonic excellence.”