6 of the Best: String Instruments

As part of our soundtracking issue, we’ve chosen to highlight some of the most exceptional virtual string libraries and instruments that have been reviewed by us recently. Someone pass a hanky…

Best for Intimacy: Spitfire Audio LCO Strings

string instruments

Price £299
Contact Spitfire Audio


This library from Spitfire Audio utilises six violins, four violas, three celli and two double basses from the London Contemporary Orchestra and as there was a small room used for the recording, there is a discernible intimacy in the resulting sound. There are a couple of mic positions to choose from plus some unusual articulations and a great use of granular tones and tremolo effects. All of these combine to make this a very interesting, more leftfield library that is very rewarding to experiment with.

We said: “This is a really interesting and different library and it offers vast articulation options. It’s beautifully creative, and offers a great palette. Work with it and you will be rewarded with sonic gold.”

Best Ensemble: Native Instruments String Ensemble

Price £429
Contact Native Instruments

You want strings? Well, how about an entire 60-piece string orchestra? This is part of the Ensemble series developed especially for Native Instruments by Soundiron. String Ensemble provides a production-ready stereo mix, plus the ability to create your own mix using close, mid and far microphone positions. There’s a dedicated mixer page with parametric EQ, convolution reverb and compression, plus a choice of key switches or MIDI CCs that can be used for assigning articulations.

We said: “This symphony string library is certainly a winner, and apart from the tiny gold text on a very dark background, is very easy to use and feature-packed in terms of control. With its rich, luscious, professional sound, this should prove popular with professional and amateur composers alike.”

Best Complete Strings: Heavyocity Novo: Modern Strings


Price £524
Contact Heavyocity

At this price, you expect a lot of strings and Heavyocity certainly delivers that. The library has a beautiful set of samples recorded at the legendary Eastwood Scoring Stage at Warner Bros. Studios in LA, which gives an indication of the quality on offer. The library contains both a Traditional section and a Hybrid section for cinematic and modern sounds. The strings feel bright and close, but by using the onboard effects, it’s very easy to melt the timbre with some use of either reverb or delay, or explore the three recorded mic positions.

We said: “It offers plenty, for a sensible price. The fact you get all your traditional patches alongside something flexible and modern is a real coup, making it incredibly appealing to anyone working in the soundtrack arena. There are plenty of other orchestral strings libraries that would give this a run for its money, but they’re twice the price. You really do get the best of traditional and hybrid samples, offering plenty of inspiration for your compositions.”

Best Effects: Gothic Instruments DRONAR Live Strings

Price £69
Contact Time+Space | 01837 55200

This library uses samples originally played by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and does contain some classic string patches, but as you might expect from a company called Gothic Instruments, the focus here is really on effected sounds, so it’s not really a standalone string library, to cover all bases. It features a Rhythm Editor where the pulsing of staccato and pizzicato playing can be achieved in a believable way, and there’s also an Arpeggiator included, too.

We said: “I applaud what Gothic Instruments has done here; approaching the Live Strings title from an altogether different stance – so much so, I would say that the title ‘Live Strings’ is possibly a little misleading. I would call it ‘Live Effected Strings With A Large Dose Of Hardcore Attitude’, but to be fair, that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so easily. If you’re after strings-based and otherworldly drones, at this price, it’s hard to go wrong.”

Best Cello!: Orchestral Tools Soloists Nocturne Cello

Price €249
Contact Orchestral Tools | +49 (0) 7665 939 8678

Nocturne Cello is the second instrument in the Orchestral Tools’ Soloists Series and is obviously dedicated to one stringed instrument: the cello. Violin and cello are the most commonly used orchestral instruments in a solo context and of the two, the cello is maybe the easiest to play expressively in a virtual context. This instrument was recorded at Berlin’s famous Teldex Studio, but rather than in the main room, the performer was captured in the solo booth for ‘a more intimate, direct sound’.

We said: “You can produce and very easily play highly varied, upfront solo cello lines with confidence. If you’re on the lookout for a solo cello VI which oozes expression and is easy to get to grips with, the Nocturne Cello is well worth your consideration. For extended solos or specially written solo pieces, the Nocturne Cello is the perfect choice.”

Best Emotion: Native Instruments Emotive Strings

Price £249
Contact Native Instruments

Our second from Native Instruments – those Berlin-based audio experts have been busy with their strings. It contains 175 string orchestra phrases, two microphone settings and 64 themes, which are groups of up to five phrases that work well together. The results are gentle, with plenty of smooth, flowing legato lines and much of the material has a dreamy quality about it.

We said: “A highly polished sound from the start, and musical material extracted and analysed from hit movie scores should be able to kick-start just about any composer suffering with a mental block. It’s even possible to create melodies and complete compositions with this library. An awful lot can be achieved with it and we found it highly inspirational from this idea-building standpoint. Overall, Emotive Strings stands as a brilliant piece of pretty simple-to-use software for quickly and effectively scoring haunting legato string lines and generating creative ideas.”

Check out our 6 best pieces of Scoring Software and Orchestral Software