Review: VSL Big Bang Orchestra

As the old adage goes, you don’t get something for nothing, but VSL has other ideas with Bing Bang Orchestra. It's time to enjoy a whole world of creation.

VSL Big Bang Orchestra (GUI)

Price €Free/£Free
Contact VSL

VSL has form. Some years ago, it changed the world of orchestral sample libraries with its Orchestral Cube package, which tantalisingly offered composers and producers an entire orchestra, at a data size that allowed orchestral samples to finally sound like the real McCoy – at least for the most part. Since then, VSL has continued to inspire and develop, offering far more than just orchestral instrumentation. But it’s with a hearty hark back to its initial instrumental calling that it has released the Big Bang Orchestra, which brings us an epic sounding palette – albeit with limited credentials – and with one major difference: it’s entirely free!

Vastly, hugely, mind-boggling big!

Big Bang Orchestra is designed to run in VSL’s own Syncron player, which offers an impressive degree of control. Like other sample playback devices, it allows for simple setup and bespoke handling, offering the assignment of MIDI CC faders with a minimum effort, for perfect control of expression and timbral dynamics. In the case of Big Bang, this is fairly important as its main remit is to sound big and brash, but with dynamic reduction, the rasp of the brass decreases beautifully under control, to reveal a lush pad-like veneer, perfect for orchestral texture.

Once product registration and download are out of the way, the 1.5GB of free sample data installs to reveal six free patches. These extend from short and long notes, to marcato attacks, swells and runs. Given the lack of pricing for this library, you do get an awful lot in exchange for basically signing up to some regular newsletters from VSL. The short notes offer a couple of round-robins, lending themselves far more to occasional stabs, rather than continued repetition. The longer notes sustain beautifully, with associated dynamic control available via velocity or assignment of MIDI CC. It all sounds very epic indeed, which is the very calling card of the library. Given that it’s free, it’s probably unfair to grumble that there is a lack of quieter patching, although the long sustains sound highly effective in the lower dynamic range.

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The Marcato patching offers the choice of two presets, with the Long Note patches being far less about Marcato, with a slightly delayed attack phase. Meanwhile, the Swell patches are a fixed affair at around one second, which will give you a couple of beats grace at 120bpm. The Fast Runs offer a very similar timing ratio, although to my mind they feel less about runs and more about falls and rises. They are unbelievably effective and very firmly at the larger end of the instrumentation mix and blend.

VSL Big Bang Orchestra (Horns

Full on!

As if the mere notion of all this goodness for nothing wasn’t enough, VSL offers a considerable degree of mic control, which includes a Room mix, Decca Tree and even some surround and processed patches. These don’t extend to individual instruments, but there is a degree of section control throughout. The Big Bang Orchestra consists of strings, wind and brass, and thanks to the separation on the mixer, it’s entirely plausible that one could create bespoke mixes, although part of this libraries appeal is its immediacy, sounding ready-to-go right out of the install.

VSL Big Bang Orchestra (Mic GUI)

Conclusion

So what we have here is a free library, which is designed to offer epic orchestral sounds with the absolute minimum of fuss, including short sounds, long sounds, big sounds, mid-dynamic sounds and some very classy effects. Apart from registering your email address with VSL, you’ll need to licence it as you would any other VSL product, which is done through the Vienna/Steinberg key and e-licensor route.

As long as you’re cool with that, you should go and fill your boots – and your hard drive – with 1.5GB of epic orchestral sounds. If you don’t, you’ll be missing out on very Big Bangs for literally no bucks!

Do I really need this?

VSL Big Bang Orchestra (Strings)Yes! It’s an epic sounding and very useable set of samples that will cost you nothing more than the time it takes to sign up and download. It’s important to remember that its mantle is purely at the epic end of business, and even if that doesn’t feel like your kind of style, it might be one day.

In the same way that orchestral stabs were once an over-exploited sound, there might come a day when you just wish you had instant access to something which sounds orchestrally epic, and moreover just sounds great, right out of the box. In skilled hands, you can do an awful lot with this, but for the less experienced, you’ll find it offers plenty, even if you can only plonk down a single finger on a keyboard.

Key features

  • Epic sounding ‘Tutti’ based orchestral library
  • Super-quick large orchestrations
  • Sampled content from strings, woodwinds and brass
  • Multiple mic positions for stereo and surround output
  • Hosted via VSLs Synchron Player software, with NKS Support coming soon!
  • 1.5GB of disk space required for installation and hosting
  • Requires Mac OSX 10.10+ or Windows 7/8/10
  • Authorisation through eLicenser Control Center software (ViennaKey, Steinberg key, etc)

Alternatives

Orchestral Tools Metropolis Ark 1

Orchestral Tools
Metropolis Ark 1 €549.00 (ex VAT)

The first in the Ark series takes epic orchestral sounds to new heights, with a sizeable percussive and choral sound-set which is perfect for trailer music and beyond. Not free, but unsurprisingly offers much more.

Spitfire Audio Labs

Spitfire Audio
Labs £Free

The fantastic Labs instrument series offers a varied and useable set of instruments, including strings. It also has gems such as the Soft Piano, which has become something of a soundtrack stalwart, and all for free!

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