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8 Best Strings VST Plugins

VSTs are an essential part of any producer’s toolkit. Today we are focusing on String plugins, looking at the best VSTs on the market for orchestral and string composition.

Rooted in classical music, strings are a key element of instrumental composition.

Strings sections bring a feeling of excitement to almost any genre of music. From traditional forms like classical, choral, and jazz. Or even more modern styles like hip hop and trap.

There are countless string sample library plugins out there. We’ve rounded up the best ones, including picks for both Pros and Hobbyists. 

Price and features vary for plugins in this space, with some string vsts costing over $1000. Although, there are many more affordable products that sound just as good with a little work.

More comprehensive libraries can produce a larger variety of sounds. Generally, larger libraries cost more money.

spitfire symphonic strings

I tested 8 products and found Spitfire Symphonic Strings to be the best for professionals. It’s one of the pricier products but the value for money is insane. You’re basically buying the sound of world-class string players in a state-of-the-art studio. All the creative options of owning a studio and string players are put in your hands. Even organizing a 4-hour recording session of this quality would cost well over $2000. 

With the Spitfire Strings libraries, there’s no worry about studio time. Or paying musicians. It’s like having an infinite string orchestra at your beck and call 24/7. 

Spitfire Audio has many sound libraries, including chamber strings, orchestral strings, and more. Their samples have unmatched sound quality. 

professional strings

(The author recording a string section for a TV series, in Sofia, Bulgaria)

string session bulgaria

Often during my time as a music producer and composer, I find myself looking for strings to lay into a track. 

Particularly when composing film and video game soundtracks, orchestral instrumentation is nearly essential. Orchestras and strings sections make a welcome addition to most styles of music.

Unfortunately, the process of recording orchestras and strings sections is costly and complex. 

A large studio, multiple musicians, a recording engineer – these are only some of the overheads involved with recording strings.

 This makes it an option out of most people’s budget. (Including mine!) 

The only occasions I’ve been fortunate enough to work with real strings sections was on projects with large media companies and record labels. They footed the bill! 

VST strings are the perfect solution for this problem. All the issues and costs of working with a real orchestra are removed. The sound quality of some VSTs is indistinguishable from a real recording.

The best string library VSTs should include multiple recorded articulations (staccato, legato, etc). Including multiple mic placements, and patches for both sectioned and solo instruments.

A large selection of string articulations is essential for creating emotive strings. Including different vibrato expressions, legato, and adaptive legato techniques, and key switching. 

VST’s with these library features open many creative options for musicians. Enabling them to produce stunning, realistic string passages.

Our number one choice would be either Spitfire Symphonic Strings or BBC Orchestra.

The BBC orchestra includes other orchestral instruments. It may be excessive for someone only wanting strings.

 These plugins are easily some of the most professional and best strings vsts around.

What is the Best VST?

The “best” strings vsts will be different for each producer. Some will need the most professional and fully featured extensive libraries available. Other people only need a quick fix, so choose a plugin that fits your needs and budget.

There are also many great free plugins available.  Spitfire Labs or Orchestral Tools Layers are high-quality free tools available now.

A lot of string libraries come packaged as Kontakt instruments. This is great if you already own Kontakt… if you don’t, you may have to buy Kontakt separately which is around £360. Some libraries work with the free version – Kontakt Player. but double-check the product description before buying.

Other string plugins have their own players. For example Orchestral Tools, Spitfire Audio, and Eastwest Hollywood Strings. These work like Kontakt but have their own quirks and extra features.

 It is worth playing around with the free versions of each of these products to get a feel for their interfaces. Find the one that fits best with your workflow.

Keep reading for our full roundup of the best strings sample libraries and string vst plugins on the market!

Best VST Strings in our tests

8 Best VST Strings Reviewed in Detail

  1. Spitfire Chamber Strings £599
  2. Native Instruments Session Strings 2 £89
  3. Chris Hein Solo Strings EX $599
  4. Eastwest Symphonic Orchestra
  5. Orchestral Tools – Berlin Symphonic Strings £500
  6. Spitfire BBC Symphonic Pro – £899
  7. Output Analog Strings $199
  8. AudioBro Modern Scoring Strings: $549

8 Best VST Strings Reviewed in Detail

#1 Spitfire Chamber Strings

Spitfire Chamber Strings

Using 16 of the world’s greatest string players recorded at AIR Studios, this is a stunning quality chamber section. The Spitfire Chamber Strings pack is a smaller, more focussed section than Spitfire Symphonic Strings. Containing close, tree, and ambient mic positions, and separate reverb tracks modeling the recording hall.

This definitive chamber package is incredibly versatile and will enrich scores for TV, film, games, and pop music with the addition of a string ensemble.

Containing over 160GB of samples, Spitfire Chamber provides 4 x 1st Violin, 3 x 2nd Violin, 3 Violas, 3 Cellos, round-robin, and dynamics layers, this plugin won’t leave empty-handed.

Spitfire Chamber strings can be used either in Kontakt or on Spitfire Audio’s own player plugin.

System Requirements & Specs

  • 72697 samples!
  • 107GB Uncompressed .WAVs.
  • Mac OS X 10.10 or later, Intel Core 2 Duo.
  • Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 10 (latest Service Pack, 32/64-bit) Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon 64 X2
  • Kontakt Player 5.6.8 or higher required (free version).

Advantages & Disadvantages

  • Amazing Quality
  • Huge Sample Library
  • Expensive

Verdict

A serious string bundle for professional composers, Spitfire Audio Chamber Strings will not disappoint! The extended articulations make this package a composer’s dream. The interface makes it easy to navigate the recorded articulations and presets, so composing and sketching score ideas is a breeze.

This is great for traditional composition, or modern styles like trap and hip hop. For more great Trap plugins, check out this post!

This compares well with Spitfire Symphonic but has a more intimate and restrained sound than the grand string ensemble.

#2 Native Instruments Session Strings 2

Native Instruments Session Strings 2

A detailed and intimate 11-piece string ensemble, suited well for pop, R&B, dance, and modern classical scores.
Native Instruments Session Strings 2 fills a slick interface with smart assisted features and high-quality recordings to create a large string ensemble masterpiece.

Recorded at a renowned German studio, the ensemble contains four violins, three violas, two celli, and two double basses.

Session Strings 2 lets you compose and shape phrases with precision, featuring 14 articulations including accent, pizzicato, crescendo, portamento, and legato.

The pro version allows for two sections, doubling the above list, and comes with 2 seating positions. This strings library is packaged as a Kontakt Instrument.

Kontakt Instrument

System Requirements & Specs

  • Kontakt or free Kontakt Player V5 and higher required to use.
  • 15GB of high quality .WAV Recordings

Advantages & Disadvantages

  • Budget Friendly
  • Works with Kontakt Player (free version)
  • Slimmer articulation range

Verdict

Native Instruments Session Strings 2 Pro packs in a few extra articulations and features over the standard version. This is a solid string library at a fair price. It is in no way as detailed or realistic as Spitfire Audio or other strings libraries but gets the job done if the strings don’t need to be super high quality and costly. This string library is at home composing for traditional classical styles, or even for contemporary music like hip hop, edm and dubstep. Check out our other post for more of the best VSTs for Hip Hop.

Hey producers!
Looking for fresh new sounds?
You’ll find a bunch in our sample pack marketplace.

#3 Chris Hein Solo Strings EX

Chris Hein Solo Strings EX

Compiled by composer and orchestral expert Chris Hein, this package features some of the most life-like and flexible multi-sampled solo string performances around.

Suitable for jazz, gypsy, orchestral, neo-classical, and more, this flexible library contains enough articulations and recordings to sound authentic in most genres, whether used as solo instruments or in an ensemble.

The Solo Strings Extended package contains the Chris Hein Solo Violin, Viola, Cello, and Contrabass instruments.

Each instrument has at least 38 articulations and 8 dynamic layers which can be cross-faded between.

The dynamic range is staggering, from a faint whisper to a deafening scream. Articulations include all the standard voices, plus a few obscurities including Ponticello, Flageolet, Flautando, Ricochet, and more! The playing style of this pack is not to be missed!

solo string

System Requirements & Specs

  • Over 55,000 Samples
  • 4 GB per instrument
  • 38 Articulations
  • Kontakt

Advantages & Disadvantages

  • Huge Sound Library
  • Very flexible
  • Rare articulations
  • High Price
  • Requires Kontakt

Verdict

Featuring top-quality, expert-made packs, this bundle is a great way to get a complete string section. Each instrument can also be purchased individually. These sound incredibly realistic. The huge amount of articulations enables more flexibility and opportunities for composition.

#4 Eastwest Symphonic Orchestra (and Hollywood Strings)

Eastwest Symphonic Orchestra

East West is an audio company that produces very high-quality, professional VSTs and sample libraries focusing on flexibility, customization, and realism.

Their symphonic orchestra is a massive orchestral library that includes all the string sections and solos a composer will need. They have many string libraries, but Eastwest Hollywood Strings, Symphonic, and Goliath are their top contenders

Whilst this does include Woodwind, Brass, and Percussion, the string sections consist of 18 First Violins, 11 Second Violins, 10 Violas, 10 Cellos, 9 Double Bass. It also includes Solo patches for Violin, Viola, Cello, Contrabass, Harp, and Harpsichord.

The brass, wind, and perc sections are also impressive and boast a huge amount of sound.

Each instrument is captured with three microphone positions: close, stage, and hall. It features an intelligent performance section for handling Repetition, Portamento, Legato, and Round Robin. It has an intelligent release tail system to ensure the decay samples are perfectly matched to the attack.

The EW PLAY plugin is the host for this library, and all of East West’s other sounds, it is easy to use and quick to switch between instruments, articulations, and microphone positions, it even comes with built-in effects and convolution reverb. Eastwest Symphonic also works as a kontakt instrument.

System Requirements & Specs

  • Hard drive: 33GB, 117GB, or 194GB (Gold, Platinum, Pro)
  • Gold is 44.1kHz 16-bit, Platinum and Pro are 44.1kHz, 24-bit.
  • Gold is stage mic only.
  • Uses EW Play

Advantages & Disadvantages

  • Flexible purchasing options
  • Wide Articulations, Multiple Microphone Positions
  • Huge amount of string sounds, solo, and ensemble
  • High Price (you’re paying for other sounds (Wood, Brass, Perc))
  • Large Drive Space

Verdict

The Composer Cloud subscription is an affordable way to access the East West sample library without having to fork out the massive price tags. Most of the products are pretty expensive to buy (£300+) but the subscription is only $19.99 a month and gives access to a huge amount of sounds.

In my experience the East West sounds a little more rigid and pre-defined than spitfire and some other libraries, some instruments sounding a little cheesy and canned. With some processing, this can be corrected. Overall a solid bundle for those who can afford it. Comparable in quality to the Vienna Symphonic Library. This is a great orchestral strings tool perfect for writing string ensembles or scoring strings in general.

#5 Orchestral Tools – Berlin Symphonic Strings
(Berlin Strings Single Instruments available from )

Berlin Symphonic Strings

Relative newcomers to the scene, Orchestral Tools have been busy recording and releasing top-quality contemporary instrumental packs.

Hosted in the Kontakt-like SINEPLAYER VST, their Berlin Symphonic Strings series is an impressive folder of orchestral beauty.

Orchestral Tools Berlin Symphonic Strings gives players and composers epic, cinematic, and rich string sections, with a huge amount of sonic potential and possibility. Recorded at Teldex Scoring Stage, the professionalism and realism of these samples put them at home on AAA blockbuster film and TV scores.

This bundles a Large-Scale orchestral string library with 68 instruments aligned in 5 sections: 18 First Violins, 16 Seconds, 14 Violas, 12 Celli, 8 Bass. Each recorded with Four Dynamic levels, Multiple mic locations, and extensive articulations.

The melodic legato mode creates very realistic sustained passages, where other manufacturer legato patches can sound choppy and fake.

melodic legato mode

System Requirements & Specs

  • Mac OS 10.13, i5, 4 GB RAM (16+ GB recommended)
  • Windows 10, Intel Core i5, or similar (Windows 7 is not officially supported)
  • VST, AU format supported.

Advantages & Disadvantages

  • Blend Mic Positions
  • Easy to configure and layer articulations
  • Performance Mode
  • Expensive
  • SINE is not as flexible as Kontakt

Verdict

Orchestral Tools Berlin strings is a top-quality pack, you can hear the amount of effort and attention that was put into producing it. It’s on the higher end of the price spectrum but worth every penny. For serious composers, or film & TV scoring, this symphonic string collection is an unbeatable choice. Flexible articulation, and a cracking sound! Berlin Strings doesn’t include all the orchestral instruments, but it is perfect for string ensembles and emotive orchestral strings. 

#6 Spitfire BBC Symphonic Pro Orchestral Strings

Spitfire BBC Symphonic Pro

This is the second Spitfire product on this list, but the libraries are so fantastic we had to include all of them!

The BBC Symphonic is one of the most stunning orchestral strings libraries around, recorded in partnership with BBC Studios and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, this prestigious and comprehensive instrument will equip a composer for life.

With 99 players, 57 instruments, 468 articulations and techniques, and 20 signals including 11 mic positions, this is a staggering string VST that promises some of the best sounding and most adaptable sound sets to date.

Designed as a universal toolkit for composers of all levels, the Spitfire BBC Symphonic is split into 3 editions: Discover, Core, and Professional. Each edition is successively more comprehensive, with Professional being the most featured and extensive pack.

The number of signals and mic positions make this an incredibly professional and workable instrument, that can be configured to create the perfect sounding string performance. The signals include Close, Tree, Ambient, Outliers, Mono, Leader, Close Wides, Balcony, Sides, and Atmos for Dolby Atmos systems. The tools given to choose and blend between these mic placements are very fluid and customizable. This is one of the best vst strings around.

System Requirements & Specs

  • 630 GB hard drive space (for all sounds, positions, articulations. These can be downloaded separately)
  • Mac OS11 Minimum, 8GB RAM.
  • Windows 7, 8, or 10.
  • comes as a dedicated plugin, VST3, AAX, AU.

Advantages & Disadvantages

  • Own Player VST
  • Stunning, top-tier quality
  • Huge selection of instruments, articulations, and playing styles.

Verdict

Yep, the price tag is huge, but this is probably one of the best orchestral and string VSTs of all time. This will yield the best results, and is a professional tool.
If you are a professional composer or musician, then forking out for the “Pro” edition can be justified. The amount of string content here is enough to work with for a lifetime without getting bored. It feels like you have a world-class orchestra, in a top studio at your fingertips, all the power you’d have as the conductor is right there at your keyboard and mouse! As this also includes winds, brass, etc, it might be too excessive if you only needed a string library.

#7 Output Analog Strings

Output Analog Strings

This is a modern and cutting-edge take on string plugins.
The innovative interface takes away the pain of those clunky folder-diving designs of the past.

Output analog strings is a tool designed specifically to manipulate string sounds, with its advanced modulation routing, double tape looper, dual arpeggiators, “flux” sequencing, and macro sliders. The clever and flexible FX design allows for endless new processing combinations and sounds.

Hidden beneath the futuristic interface are deeply sampled orchestral samples, including a 60-piece string orchestra, a 22-piece orchestra, and many soloists. All recorded in Budapest’s gorgeous BMC hall.

Many articulations and playing styles have been captured including staccato, pizzicato, Rips, Col Legno, Ponticello, Glissando, and more variations.

Output Analog Strings features many non-string-based sounds to layer in for added interest and texture, including vintage synths, guitars, plucked piano, keyboards.

Analog Strings

System Requirements & Specs

  • Mac OS X 10.12 or higher, Windows 7 or later.
  • 22 GB free drive space.
  • 4GB RAM
  • Kontakt 5.8.1 or higher

Advantages & Disadvantage

  • more synthetic than realistic.
  • Kontakt Required (works with Kontakt Player free version)

Verdict

Output analog strings a more creative and modernized take on a string VST.

Rather than focusing on the traditional elements of articulation and dynamic layers, this plugin focus on creating a refreshing and enabling interface that allows new string sounds to be created from manipulation and processing.
The addition of vintage synths and other layers makes this a great tool for both composition and sound design

#8 AudioBro Modern Scoring Strings:

AudioBro Modern Scoring Strings

This is a nifty Kontakt device built from a 60 piece string section. Focused on creating a simple and effective, natural, and beautiful sounding string section. The recordings use an a2 divisi technique, meaning that each section is recorded half at a time, giving more control and flexibility over each section. This is a progression from their earlier Audiobro LA Scoring Strings.

AudioBro has included a huge breadth of bowing techniques and articulations to provide a broad range of emotions and colors for composers.

It also boasts uncommon features like Smart Ostinatos and scales, to Sordino and Sul Tasto, and Aleatoric articulations. The smart ostinato feature is particularly unique and can save a large amount of time and effort by assisting with the composition of ostinatos based on the given notes. The auto rhythm tool is a lifesaver.

rhythm tool

This smart feature extends into scaling features, helping to create flourishing scale runs and passages at the click of a button. The Aleatoric section creates atonal, tense, and chaotic abstract pieces that work great for horror scenes that are otherwise complicated to achieve with a normal string library.

The library was recorded with 4 different mic positions that can be blended between

mic positions

System Requirements & Specs

  • Kontakt Player 6.4 and above
  • 131GB hard drive space for full installation.
  • Stand-alone, VST, AAX, AU.
  • Win 7, 8, 10.
  • Mac 10.12 and above.

Advantages & Disadvantages

  • Interesting and unusual articulations
  • Smart assistance
  • Aleatoric Mode, divisi recording, knowledgeable approach to string recording.
  • Requires Kontakt
  • Only sections, no solo.

Verdict

This is a comprehensive, no-nonsense Kontakt-based string library. The quality is great, both in terms of players and recording. The number of articulations and extra sounds makes this VST stand apart from the rest. The smart modes help to compose standard elements of classical music with much greater speed than being done by hand. Provides a great amount of control and compositional power. This would be suitable for professionals with a large budget, and perhaps the need for a specific type of string sound. 

How Do I Pick the Best Strings VST?

Choosing the best string VST for your project depends on your budget. In an ideal world, you shouldn’t have to hold back. You should be able to spend as much money as possible to create the most valuable string sound.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have a bottomless wallet. 

Buying an expensive professional library is 100% worth it if the strings will be used regularly. Particularly if you get paid or commissioned to compose and score music.

Using libraries saves so much money compared to using real players. Often the difference in sound quality is indistinguishable.

For professional composers, I would recommend using libraries from Spitfire or East-West. They have the fullest collection of articulations and perfect audio quality.

For scoring houses, it could be worth forking out for the expanded editions. These feature more mic positions and articulations.

For beginners or hobbyists, it might not be worth splashing out a tonne of cash for a massive library. More than likely the library will be over-featured for your use. Where something more simplistic will be sufficient.

If this sounds like you, then use a simpler Kontakt library. Even some of the free libraries from Orchestral Tools and Spitfire Labs will get the job done. The price to buy Kontakt may also be too high for many hobbyists. In this case, there are still many string libraries that work with the Kontakt player.

Using VST Strings vs Real Instruments.

The debate between using real and vst strings will probably never end. This is something I studied the nuance of at university, and the answer is subjective.

Many VST instruments use real strings recordings. So in theory, can be virtually indistinguishable from a real performance. 

The difference with using real performances is the captured acoustics will be unique. The instruments will blend together better as they are resonating in the same acoustic space. 

VST instruments are playing in parallel, but the energy doesn’t affect each sound the same way as in real life. Convolution and reverbs can be used to counteract this.

The bottom line is, most people won’t be able to tell the difference between a real orchestral recording and a VST arrangement. Particularly if edited and articulated well. Yes, a professional will probably notice, but half the time a VST string will have a competitive sound. The best vst strings are often used in professional films and tv.

The real advantage of using VSTs is the power of the digital workflow. There are no-cost risks or stress of recording sessions. Things can be rearranged, edited, and re-recorded an unlimited number of times without extra cost.

FAQ’s

What VST plugins do professionals use?

Kontakt, Eastwest, and Spitfire are generally the brands favored by professionals. All the libraries from these brands have been used in professional, Hollywood grade film, TV, and video games. Most plugin websites give examples of famous producers and engineers, or media, where their strings have been used.
Kontakt is also an industry-standard plugin, used by composers and production houses worldwide. Composers favor this plugin thanks to its innovative interface and tools. The sheer amount of quality sound library extensions available is a huge bonus. 
The Kontakt platform is host to a large number of professional string libraries. 

What are the best string samples?

Spitfire and Orchestral Tools produce arguably the highest quality string samples. Although this is subjective.
The massive amount of articulations included makes Spitfire’s tools very powerful.  The recordings are engineered with such organization, precision, and scrutiny. The MIDI arrangements can still sound like a real orchestra.
 Spitfire uses the world’s greatest players, studios, and audio engineers. So there’s no wonder the quality is so high. A testament to their expertise is reflected in their respected professional collaborators. Including Abbey Road, BBC, Hans Zimmer, Ólafur Arnalds, Eric Whitacre, and more. Arguably the best vst strings, but the quality doesn’t come cheap!

What is the best orchestra VST?

The best orchestral instrument is either the East-West Composer Cloud Library or Spitfire. 
Focusing on East-West (Spitfire’s had enough attention!) they have a broader range of sounds and libraries on offer. They are experts in instrumental sampling and produce some amazing orchestral VSTs. Including the renowned Hollywood strings library. 
For value for money, the East West Composer Cloud comes out on top for orchestral VSTs. For $20/mo you get access to all their orchestral libraries. Including Hollywood orchestral, and Symphonic Orchestra.

Conclusion

Overall, the Spitfire Symphonic Strings library comes at the top for strings vst plugins. This orchestral library contains everything a composer needs to work with string instruments. SSS beats other string libraries in terms of quality and quantity. The number of articulations recorded makes this a sound design beast. 

Out of all the strings vst plugins around, this is one of the pricier choices. However, it will boost a composer’s workflow so much it could be life-changing.Spitfire Symphonic Strings is a seriously professional library for those crafty composers. Check it out at Spitfires Website now, don’t forget to look at their other packs!