Verdict on BBC orchestra

I have now completed a significant scoring project using mostly BBC orchestra. My verdict is that it is just another orchestra. It has strong points and weak points. When I first listened to the samples, I was optimistic that it might become my anchor orchestra. But it will not. Many of the samples sound lovely, and BBC will remain a significant color in my pallette. I willl use it alongside others.

But it is not special.

The inability to put multiple instruments in a single players is a huge negative.

The inability to manually turn down or turn off the note transition samples in legato patches, or to edit legato performance generally, renders them unusable in certain contexts, although the legato scripting is sometimes good.

Most sustain patches sound very nice.

Strings sound nice, but somewhere between dynamic setting 0 and 127, the brightness suddenly jumps up from mellow to brassy. Like 50 is very mellow and 60 is brassy. It’s not a gradual transition. So I found myself wasting time searching for that exact mod wheel spot where the strings weren’t too bright or too mellow. EW strings transition much more smoothly. So I couldn’t just intuitively draw in a swell and have the strings swell naturally, like I can with other libraries.

The overall tone quality is good. I like it better than SF symphonic orchestra.

I found the clarinet harsh and unpleasant in context. The oboe did not sound sweet. (Used Cinesamples and Vienna instead.)

Just another orchestra. Going back in time, I’d pass.

The end product will probably sound good, after I mix. I’ll post it. It won’t sound any better than my previous work though.


Thank you for posting this review Everett. I guess that confirms my suspicions that one complete software orchestra to rule them, is still not reachable due to the compromises they had to make.

Their marketing hype always seem to make their products be the holy grail, when we all (should) know such a thing does not exist. But we fall for it every time, and here I am talking broadly for the composer community.

Personally I have so far not gone down the Spitfire Audio path, and instead chosen various other developers for my sample library needs.

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Spitfire is overrated. They do a great job of cultivating an elite image. And BBC is cheap for all you get.

But their products never live up to the hype. They’re usually fine, but they just aren’t better than anybody else’s. And sometimes they’re worse.

And why the new player? I love being able to put all my Cinewinds or all my Century brass in one player.

I agree, that is why marketing is king. And if you really want to get the best tools for you, you need to learn what you like best yourself.

The new player at least looks nice. And personally I have never had more than one instrument per track, so for me that is a non-issue.

PS. For the record I think Kontakt is the worst user interface of all plugins I own. I would like all developers to adopt scalable UI. Example: Superior Drummer 3 is an amazing UI. I mean, how could I work with a 5K display sitting at 1m+ from my eyes with Kontakt? It’s impossible.

Vienna and Berlin orchestras are many times more expensive than the others. I own neither, although I have a handful of Vienna wind instruments.

Could those libraries perhaps be the be-all, end-all’s?

When I’ve listened to Vienna demos online, they have struck me as sounding about like other sample libraries. Some phrases are great, others sound like samples.

I have started to explore the VSL line now, as I like the new interface much better than the old one. Their new UI is called “Synchron Player”.

I’m afraid that “one final amazing product” does not, and never will, exist. At least if we (as we should) compare to a real symphony orchestra.

How do you rate eastwest hollywood orchestra in comparison to BBC?

Like all pro level libraries, EW is better than BBC in some ways and worse in others.

However, if I had to have only one, between BBC and EW, I think I’d choose EW. Just my gut instinct. I don’t really think the quality of my work changes much as I try one library or another.

People criticize EW, but it is on average as good as any other library. It has some great strengths (its strings sound lush and are easy to phrase; it’s bassoon has a gorgeous tone like none other I’ve encountered; its trombones blend in stacks beautifully and better than any I’ve tried; its French horns are fully as good as Cinebrass), and some weaknesses (the library generally seems to lack extended bottom end and sounds thin at times; its percussion samples are meh; the harp is just ok).

But EW is returning to be my “anchor” orchestra. My main go-to. Except I do think BBC will become my go-to basses. It’s bass section produces a deep and round bottom that’s not muddy (Spitfire symphonic basses are deep but muddy).


I will add, however, that as happy as I am with Eastwest, I really would like to leave Eastwest behind. Because, although I like the Play user interface, and I suppose it is much better than it used to be, I am pretty sure this statement is true:

When I have had a big session crash, it always, or almost always, had several instantiations of PLAY in it.<<

I’d really like to just go with Kontakt.

Not because Kontakt is such a great UI. I agree with the criticisms of it.

But it’s stable. And unlike Michael, I most definitely use multiple instruments in a single player.

I love to load up Kontakt with, say, all my strings. Then, if I want to edit any string instrument, they’re all in one place. One common thing I do, for example, is to have at least 2 instantiations of any single instrument active at once. To create a phrase, I might have one that’s a legato sample, and one that’s a sustain sample, because not every legato transition sounds right, and in some libraries the legato patch will not have as gentle an attack as the sustain sample. So I need both to create the phrase, and there is no way I’m trying to accomplish that with a bunch of key switching. I might even have a third instantiation of the very same patch, just dedicated to marcato and staccato attacks. And it’s convenient to have all of that together in one player, rather than on 3 separate tracks. I can just control it from 3 separate midi tracks.


Sorry to hear you still have problems with the east west player. Does it crash even with VSL ensemble?

I can totally understand your frustration with the lack of multi instrument support in Spitfire player, since it is a part of your personal preferred workflow.

I guess we all have our pet peeves in the various gear and software we use. And we all have to find the compromises that can at least make us work and create the music we want. :smile:

The one thing I hoped for with the BBC Orchestra was the unified and balanced sound of the orchestra. Is that still at least there would you say?

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Yes, play crashed me using VEP. And i have found that I can use 30+ Kontakt instruments and BBC instruments in a pro tools session without VEP and I’m solid. The 256 gigs of ram seems key to stability. I have (most of) a full orchestra loaded and my ram usage is 18%.


That is a good thing at least. :blush:

What is your average CPU usage when playing back a completed project, without any bounced or Frozen tracks?

Interesting take on the BBC library. I got to use it a while back and I really liked it for some things, but others not so much.

For instance I’ve never been a fan of the brass libraries from spitfire and despite being a spitfire groupie I am sadly aware of all of the limitations of their player libraries. They are however getting better with each update but they have a way to go. Continuing with some negatives from spitfire I’d have to say that they aren’t great with controlling high end on their products. They either have too much or too little… usually to little, so it’s interesting your view of BBC. The mic positions are a bit of a let down in Default… when not tweaked they sometimes have a bit of a muddy tone to them… but generally this is because they keep them all on in default.

These are the good points, which keep me coming back. Playability for spitfire products is usually king. They do expression really well. They usually make you work a little more to get the sound you need… which I see as a plus because you end up with the best outcome. They also blend really well with other libraries. Their biggest plus though is the coloured sound from Air studios, which really brings your work to life. I said before that their extra mics are a bit of a let down in default but when they’re tweaked and understood it can mean the difference between night and day.

In summary I don’t think they’re overrated, but yes I agree that they do marketing very well so it’s best to be selective when purchasing their products.

Do I think they are better than other libraries? Well yes and no. They do some things in a much more superior way… such as articulations and sig sounds but other libraries do other things better. Ultimately it just comes down to taste. I walkouts just like to say that I do think BBC orchestra does need x good clean up too. Some of the patches are quite temperamental and the player isn’t great.

I think you’re probably right about these things.

Mic positions…I used the standard “mix 1”.

Maybe I could get a better sound playing around with mic positions, but here’s the thing: there are time considerations. I promise a director I’ll have him 12 minutes of music by the end of the week. I have limited time. I have kids, family expectations. I’ve got a lot of notes to enter. I need to be getting the piece DONE, not sitting there experimenting with mic combinations.

Yes, over a period of months I may discover new mic combinations I like, but a product needs to be at least professionally usable out of the box. “Mix 1” needs to sound basically good without tweaking beyond maybe a little eq (and for the most part, I thought B C sounded fine in mix1). I ought to be able to pick a sensible articulation and use velocity, modwheel and expression as normal, and have the result be professional and usable without having to do any deep dive into alternate mic configurations or working extra hard to fight against a weird and nonlinear dynamic curve.

I’m a composer, not a beta tester. And I need to be getting music done.

I’m not saying BBC was unusable of course. As I said before, it’s about as good as other libraries I have, with strengths and weaknesses. Overall, it sounds nice.

It’s just that, if they expect me to do a lot of extra work and experimentation before their product finally sounds good, well, I disagree with that theory of product design. But I am not sure SF really expects that. I think, like most developers, they try their best to make it easy to get a great sound with minimal effort, and the truth is that this is just a difficult thing to accomplish.

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Mike, my cpu usage on this project is about 34%. I probably should’ve gotten the more powerful machine! This is with no bounced or frozen tracks. Probably about 30 instruments at once. Maybe it’s only 20? I lose count. I’ll “commit” to audio before mixdown and make it a very power-light session

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Yeah b I agree, though it doesn’t take long to tweak a mix combination so that you get the desired effect, and then when you’ve found it you could save it as a preset?? I agree though if you have time limitations like that then maybe a different library is what you need. :slight_smile:

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What I really need is better knowledge of my libraries. I need to know more quickly what library and articulation to use. I still guess too often.

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I think I end up swapping out a few libraries sometimes to see what fits… usually though I just adjust mic positions and that solves most of my issues. One thing I’ve found with spitfire is the outriggers sound amazing on there own but muddy in the mix… I often swap them out for the tree mics… usually default is for outriggers and close mics in spitfire.

I was wrong above, Mikael. It’s 44 instruments! Takes a good 5-7 minutes to load the orchestra.

Wow 44 instruments without bouncing, and still only using that low CPU. That is impressive! :smiley:

Since I always record everything live, and thus need low latency, I have to ask what your I/O Buffer size was set to? Anything above 256 samples is too high for my workflow.

PS. Is this project something you are at liberty to share with us, in the music section of this forum? I am curious to hear how it sounds like. :slight_smile: