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I'm looking to buy an orchestra sampler VST, something inexpensive that serves basic needs (submitting decent realizations to competitions, messing around with Live, etc). Does anyone have a recommendation - Garritan Personal Orchestra or the EastWest equivalent? Or is there another program that I don't know about? Thanks :)

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if you are JUST going to be using Finale to write your music then probably you will get an easier experience with GPO (from my understanding of the integration of GPO to Finale). I think the EastWest *gold* and higher level of EWQLSO are better than GPO and will give you a better product
I agree with Chris. For your requirements, I think that Garritan will suffice no problem.
great, thanks! I'm just trying to be careful before I purchase, don't have a bunch of money to put down. :)
Well without having more of a budget I think you are totally on by just jumping in and buying Garritan - his stuff is really good and he is personally an excellent guy with a really good work ethic and great crew. I still think they are slightly pro-sumer-ish compared to the more expensive libraries and you always get what you pay for. But this is a great place to start and be 'pretty decent' sounding. Chances are you wont be using your rendering of Finale + GPO as what will go to a recording but it will give you a good mockup sound of your compositions.

On the other hand, and I hate to throw in a question mark, but unless you are wanting to make final recordings, whats wrong with the Garritan sounds that come with Finale? They let you get a good idea of what it will sound like live - and nothing you are going to do with *just* a notation program and an entry level sound library is going to help you making final, ready to press products.

So if it was me, I would not spend the money, but rather keep using the stock sounds in Finale 2009 or 2010 and then save the money to buy something that would really make an impact later

Of course if its just for your own stuff and you just want it to sound 'a little more real' GPO or entry level EWQLSO is just fine
I think it sort of depends on what software you are using. If you are using Finale, then I'd suggest GPO, because it integrates really nicely. I've heard of a lot of problems trying to get human playback to work with EWQLSO. However, if you're using a DAW like cubase or Live, it more depends on how much you are willing to spend.
The equivalently priced EWQLSO to GPO is Silver, and there are a lot of complaints about it, because it is missing a LOT of articulations. From the demos I've heard, it sounds considerably better than GPO, but is missing much of what GPO has. I'd suggest looking at the articulations included in Silver and see if it fits your needs. I just purchased silver because it has all I need, and although the other stuff would be nice, I don't have the money for Gold. But if you're willing to spend $500, I'd go for gold over GPO.
For $200, I'd go with GPO if you can't live without the missing articulations that GPO probably has.
I now have both GPO and EWQL
I am glad I have both. because as Jan pointed out they both have there pros and cons.. when you have them both they seem to cover each other nicely. EWQL is missing alot of articulations that are IMO necessary. GPO is the BEST with harps and also there solo string patches are VERY nice vs EWQL. but the GPO solo brass and woodwinds dont even come close to EWQL...

when it comes down to it if your on a budget get GPO, then when you can afford it get EWQL but save the money for the gold edition it is worth the extra cash.

also use a DAW! you can go in and manually enhance articulations, keyswitches, and other things that finale cant do. Finale is great for printing your scores and as a composition tool but in the end if your wanting to render a nice quality recording of your song you NEED a DAW. also a good DAW will let you master your tracks for optimal loudness and clarity making it sound much more polished and professional.

I think the best rule of thumb for VSTi is that >> You can never have to many samples
think of it as building a sample library. the bigger the library the better your work will sound.

to use a quote from avid tattoo collectors.. "Once you start you will want more and more"
Another point to consider about these two libraries is what your compositional process and needs are. If you are a meticulous editor, and want to have absolute control over every note and articulation, I'd give a very strong nod to Garritan. As one who obsesses over details, this is absolutely the pick for me.

EastWest has some wonderful samples, but I don't find the library as controllable in the finer details. It's great for putting together a quick big movie sound, but it is harder to faithfully render an existing piece of music as it makes too many assumptions of what you want. For me, anyway.

Of course the best would be to use both!
Well honestly if you want the best, go with Vienna Instruments, its expensive but its at least 10 notches above the rest in many ways ;-)
One day :) I'm going to get GPO, but not right now (money is a bit tight). When I'm ready, looks like that's what I'll get! Thanks everyone
That's interesting! I've been wondering though, how many film soundtracks (in particular) with orchestral pieces use VST synths? And if they do, what kind of products or techniques do they use to "make the bar" in that sense and get away with not hiring an orchestra to record the soundtrack instead?
Do you have a preference between the silver and gold editions for Garritan?
IMHO it is slight exxageration - VSL samples sound dry and uninspiring themselves, without life. I agree they have great portamento though.
Regarding orchestra sounds - in my opinion, the overall best sound, with punch and with life behind them are ProjectSAM's sample libraries. But those are also expensive. And Los Angeles Scoring Strings - really beatiful stuff. But personally I'm waiting for Hollywood Strings by East West. ;)

Cheers,
Michal

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