6 Of The Best: Software Instruments

It’s time for our latest 6 of the best buyers guide and this time, we’ve gone soft on you with a selection of software instruments – from brass, to the evocative gamelan…

Best Piano (Like)

Two entries for Native Instruments in our ‘six’, but the Berliners do like their real instruments. And while we haven’t looked at many pianos of late, we still reckon this is one of the best out there. Una Corda is a little different, and offers up a deeply sampled version of a unique piano, hand-built by David Klavins in collaboration with composer Nils Frahm.


It only has one string per note, which gives a much purer sound than your average piano, and allows the user to easily slot in different prepared materials to dampen and affect the way the hammers hit the strings. We said “it’s been created with love and attention, and the results are often breathtaking.

It’s an inspiring instrument that oozes class and with very few tweaks, can be morphed from a gentle, upfront piano to a swirling, dissonant and clunking beast. “An effortlessly atmospheric and beautiful prepared piano instrument.”

Price £129
Contact via website
Web www.native-instruments.com

Best Atmosphere

On the face of it, a 14GB Gamelan instrument might not be your number-one choice to take up space on your hard drive, but Sample Logic has combined sampling and synthesis with some of the most advanced Kontakt instrument design around to produce a real monster of a sound-design tool. And with the Gamelan being one of the most evocative instruments there is, you have a highly useable and inspiring piece of software.

“There’s depth and movement, endlessly flexible rhythms, textures and atmospheres”, we said in our review and concluded: “Don’t be fooled by the name, there’s much more to Gamelan than meets the eye. This is a versatile and powerful cinematic and sound-design instrument, with plenty of controls.”


Price $399
Contact via web
Web www.samplelogic.com

Best Brass Collection

You get two instruments – Brass Ensemble and Brass Solo, which you can buy separately or as a bundle. Together, it’s a hefty 70GB install, but, as we said, they are “a formidable addition to the tool kit of any composer, with Ensemble capable of huge, stirring and epic orchestral soundscapes.

They’re also good for regular music production, for adding an orchestral layer to rock or pop… but it’s probably for scoring that they’re most perfectly suited. A rich-sounding orchestral brass collection with great articulations and wide stylistic range.”

Price Ensemble: £339; Solo £249; bundle £429
Web www.native-instruments.com

Best Retro Keys Collection

Big Fish Audio Vintage

The Vintage Collection combines three of Big Fish Audio’s virtual instruments – Vintage Horns, Strings and Rhythms – which, when bought together, represents a saving of over £130. It can work as a standalone or plug-in product and weighs in at around 16GB.

We said: “This is a great collection and achieves the aim of bringing warmth and a retro feel to a production, as opposed to the mechanically perfect quality you sometimes get with sampled instruments. The Rhythm section is the most diverse of the three collections, but all three hang together very nicely.

A very impressive collection of instruments for anyone wanting a more authentic, old-school flavour for their productions.”

Price £280
Contact Time+Space, 01837 55200
Web www.timespace.com

Best Trumpet

For a solo trumpet instrument, it doesn’t get any better than this. The Trumpet 3 is more flexible, because it can vary its timbre with real-time timbral shaping. For purity, it was recorded in an anechoic chamber, without ambience. However, by using spatial information collected from the multi-microphones used, an early reflection impulse response has been developed for a richer sound.

It’s also an incredibly accurate and realistic recreation, over a huge variety of styles. When we reviewed it, we said: “With a number of significant improvements, The Trumpet 3 continues to hold the virtual trumpet top spot. It sounds great, is enjoyable to play and has a wealth of controls.”

Price £139
Contact via website
Web www.samplemodeling.com

Best Classic Organ


EZ Keys’ instrument range is becoming quite the one to plunder for ‘real’ instruments like this, a rather superb pipe organ. The man behind the sampling, Björn Gäfvert, himself an organist, chose to play and record the organ installed in the Täby Kyrka, a historic church dating back to the 13th century and the results are, as you’d expect, brilliant.

We said: “One of the best pipe organs that we have come across, especially at this price point. It’s extremely gratifying to play, mainly because of the extremely clear sound. A majestic-sounding pipe organ, with a beautifully clear sound and suitable for many types of music.”

Price £95
Contact Time+Space – 01837 55200
Web www.toontrack.com