BBCSO Discover - (Review/Comparison)

BBCSO - (Review/Comparisson)

Hey everyone!

So as i promissed, i have took two hours today to compose a short piece which i hope will put to rest the capabilities of Spitfires free Orchestra. does it sound good, bad, indifferent?

well, we shall find out shortly :wink:

The Composition
firstly lets talk about the composition and why i chose to write a piece in the style that i did. Well, simply put. I wanted to be fair to the library. i took around 3 hours yesterday playing around with it to see what it was capable of, and instantly i realised its a soft library. this isnt a library that has any capacity for extreme dynamics… or even really soft dynamics. so i wrote a piece that incorporates more of a gentle approach. as youll hear though, it does this quite well and the brass do give the orchestra the boost it needs. initially i thought this was a library that could possibly only do up to MP, but as soon as you add the brass into the equation they push it up to around MF, which makes this much more usable as an orchestral library.

BBCSO - Thoughts

Where to start. Ok, I’ll start with the good stuff as theres a lot to talk about in regards to this.

  • The library is part of another three libraries that are supposed to make it much more accesible for composers to get into writing for orchestra and collaborating… do i think they managed that? Heck yeah i do! as an introduction to orchestral composition this is fantastic, the sounds are great and its instantly inspiring to use.

  • the best part of the library for me is the tuned percussion, especially the mallet percussion, it has a warmth that ill probably end up using in a few compositions in the near future. theres also some good cymbal crashes and a beautifully soft gong that really does sound majestic.

  • the strings are very silky and actually sound decent, this as you can tell was a surprise to me. not the best string patch out there because of the limitations, but it does the job.

  • This last one for me is the best pro i could think of. this library is so lighgt on the CPU that i didnt have to worry about anything crashing while i was performing the parts in. it was actually as easy as breathing. so for me i think this library is perfect for those of us who are composing huge scores and need something extremely light to play back the audio at a reasonable quality… and the quality is definitely on par.

ok, so now for the Bad stuff.

  • There are a few bugs that im sure spitfire are aware of. one bug makes all notes play back occasionally when you press stop on playback… this isn’t too big of a deal. however, the next one means that this library isn’t bounce-able (until they fix the bug). I tried to bounce the file out several times and checked all automation, but every time I did the start of a few of the notes jumped in bounce down. this is very sad and is something that i couldn’t get rid of without going in and automating after bouncing to audio. For the purposes of this , I’ve included the spiked bounce so you can hear with your own ears.

  • only one dynamic layer and one round robin. yep, that is why the library feels so soft… however to me it actually sounds like some of the instruments only have one dynamic layer where possible… so just be aware of this. its not really a bad thing as libraries can sound great with just a few samples, as this one indeed does… but it is a limitation that i feel we need to be aware of as it should influence your approach to writing when using it.

Studio Orchestra

When I changed over all the instruments I also kept all the automation exactly the same on the Studio orchestra. everything is exactly the same to keep this as fair as I could.


overall this is a solid library and will come in useful to every composer. Its notable to say that this library much like a lot of spitfires libraries is aimed at the classical composer. the composer who doesn’t want to write epic zimmer scores. its a library that will give you a slightly better than average sound, even without automation.

I personally can see myself using this library as a pallet, so that I can write all my parts down before changing to another library.

Below are two versions of the piece i wrote. One is the BBCSO Discover samples, and the other is what I at least consider to be the best spitfire orchestral library, the Spitfire studio orchestra.

What are your thoughts about the sound? How do you think it stacks up? I would love to know!

I have also enabled download of these tracks for you to reference as you write your own music, if you wish :smiley:


Very nice track! The brass really stood out. With limited dynamic range, it does sound a little stiff, but for 0$£€¥ it has a clean sound. I’d most likely use it for sketching or layering.


Wonderful review Geoff! :smiley:
I also listened to your composition, and while I definitely hear the “suffering” of Discover from no dynamic layers, lack of legato etc. it truly is amazing how good this sounds for 0 dollars and 200MB of an entire orchestra! :stuck_out_tongue:

Would you allow me to post your review on my blog as well (full credit to you of course)?

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Yeah I totally agree. In terms of pitches instruments the brass were what I enjoyed the most… apart from the trumpet, which sounds very honky… I personally think that even a synthetic trumpet patch would sound better :joy::joy:

For no money whatsoever it’s truly incredible though isn’t it. I don’t even care about the dynamic layers bring there as it actually forces you to be more expressive. I found when I changed over the samples I actually didn’t have to do any automation changes which was astonishing.

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Did you watch Spitfire’s new video “Is Core for you” or something. I heard Christian mentioned that with Discover there is some clever scripting that makes it “appear” as the instruments have dynamics! :wink:

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Now, even if I buy Core (probably today), I will find Discover useful for sketching mockups fast without hurting my poor old iMac! :stuck_out_tongue:

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Hey Mikael, of course you can :slight_smile: really glad you enjoyed the review. I think that the strings could be even better if they chose to add the loop points at a slightly quieter dynamic on the samples but I can see why they’ve chose to do it the way they have :slight_smile:

I’ll definitely be using this library to sketch with. It’s wonderful for that purpose alone!!

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Haha yes! My brain started to tick over when I realised I was on track 30 without even a blip from my cpu meter. The eyebrow raised and I thought… wowza!! :stuck_out_tongue:

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As I mentioned also earlier, the Strings is by far my favorite part of Core and Pro. @ComposerEverett even wrote a post on the BBCSO has become his staple strings.

Now with the Discover version, to me the strings are by far the worst part! I guess this shows how some instruments truly need more layers, depth in the sampling to do them justice.

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Yes, I’ve been working with everett on a project and he mentioned to me too that they are his go to now. I will say this… spitfire do strings exceptionally well. I’d say this is their specialty!

Having said that, there’s lots of things they don’t do so well haha. Orchestra stuff is generally great though.

I also suggest anyone looking for pad library get EDNA Earth. It’s awesome. It’s basically an orchestra that’s been put through an analog rack to create a few thousand sample patches. There’s so much usable stuff in there and it sounds amazing! The interface isn’t the best but it’s worth £80 (on sale) just for the samples. If I’m ever in doubt I go to that library!

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What I really like here is the confrontation between two libraries with the identical cue. So it is very obvious to hear the difference. And most important point for me, you cant sound like the Pro’s with “free” or almost “free” libraries.
Well done Geoff, great work!
Would be great if you manage this to a tutorial video on youtube… (Of course only if you like to do)


only €349 till 31.5. thats a fair deal!


Yes, especially when you consider that it is a complete orchestra, professionally sampled and scripted to create music you can use in real professional productions with! :smiley:


Hey man! I think one day I’ll build up to video reviews. I’m still not 100% confident talking with a camera for a prolonged period but I’m getting there.

Soon I’ll be doing short videos so that I can gradually get my confidence level up, but it’s definitely on the cards!

Really glad you enjoyed the comparison. That is exactly what I wanted to show. It’s still not possible to sound like a pro with this library but it does give you a ton more freedom in other ways.

The thing I love about the studio orchestra is it’s so dry and bright. This really does lend itself to nearly any genre. It’s very unforgiving too so it forces you to fix stuff that’s bad… so it goes to show that if I was able to swap the samples and still have this amount of quality, without any additional tweaking… then Discover is most definitely a great library to work on.

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As Mike said too, i still don’t like the violins, but therefore the brass are very good for me. And for the projects i am going to do, its absolutely okay.

But in fact, i have never seen such comparisons. This could be a niche too. Everybody picks a library and and shows how this specific library works. but to compare it 1:1 to other company’s stuff could be very helpful indeed.

For me videos are impossible. I dont have a quiet room here, and no time to record and produce it… its a lot of post-work. And as a non native english speaker it will be hard to understand for other people. But i wont do videos in german… thats not useful. Im really looking up to mike how he is performing in his videos, and how good his english is. :+1:t2:


Yes @Mikael does a fab job doesn’t he (bows at feet). Especially using a second language!

The post work definitely is a huge undertaking but I’m guessing just like anything. If you just did one a week and split the time up it is doable… and I’d hope we would get quicker at it too.

There are some videos out there that compare like this… but they show multiple libraries and just point out the differences… where I chose Spitfire studio because it’s notorious for being extremely transparent, so I guess the niche might be in that alone?


How many tracks does your cue have here? could you export it somehow for teaching purposes? Maybe as midi?

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Thank you both for your kinds words, but keep in mind that I choked my tongue and stuttered like a mad man for years on video before I found the “rhythm and flow” of it. And it’s still lots and lots of re-takes and video editing you see!: P


I think there were 30 tracks in that project. I’ll check, but I’m not sure if I actually saved it. If I have then I will export the midi and post it. If not then I’ll make another feed at some point with a different track and post that. So you can see what I did. But generally it’s just automation on the mod as you’d expect. The only difference is that I’m expressive with it… so there’s dynamics all the way from 30 up to 127, but I do it imagining the bow change for strings, or the breath for brass and woods.

A bow change or breath determines how loud the note will be. It’s always louder at the start of a note (unless there’s a legato transition). It isn’t always quieter at the end of the note though, as the player com an change bow intensity or blow a bit harder for louder end phrases. I’m always keeping in mind the playability of the line.

It’s a myth that you have to include breaks in your writing. It can add a bit of realism but generally that approach just masks realism mistakes in your automation. Knowing how players actually play is definitely the biggest plus with this. I’m not saying don’t include breaks as you need both… but woodwind and brass players circular breathe so if you automate a swell well enough between two instruments then you can mimic that easily, without breaking your phrase. This does come easier if you have spent time with players. If you haven’t it’s an awesome investment to get a player into your studio from time to time. Record them and ask them questions. Just offer them a few pennies and you’ve got information you wouldn’t have and a recording you can study for like £25 (if it’s a friend of student).


That’s actually encouraging to hear Mikael. Though to us that doesn’t matter because you add value :slight_smile:

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