Just like doughnuts and bacon, too many VST instruments are bad for you. They will drain your computer’s resources and stifle your work flow. Data streaming from too many VST instruments is like cholesterol in the USB arteries of your computer and will slow your DAW right down. We know that for the optimum producing environment we should focus on just a select few VST instruments, use them to their fullest ability and keep our DAWs nicely streamlined.
But this is not about what we should do. This is about plug-in gluttony. This is the music producer’s Epic Meal Time; Epic DAW Time. Let’s get the biggest, most intensive VST instruments possible: it’s time to Pimp your DAW.
1. Spectrasonics Omnisphere
Cost – £315
Size – 50 Gigabytes
Omnisphere is pretty much the ultimate synth. It comes with a huge library of patch sounds and you can use it to manipulate a wave into pretty much any shape you want. It also comes with its own array of effects: That’s a next level synthesizer maneuver. The interface is complex and it goes really in depth: any parameter you can think of you’ll be able to change somewhere. Once you get to grips with it and learn your way around, any sound is achievable.
2. Spectrasonics Trilian
Cost – £185
Size – 35 Gigabytes
Trilian is Spectrasonics’ dedicated bass synth. It’s the same principal as Omnisphere but aimed specifically at bass sounds. The interface has a few slightly different features to Omnisphere as it is tailored towards being more suitable for bass sounds, but still features the same conclusive range of controls and parameters. Included in the library are sample patches of several bass guitars and double basses which sound really great.
3. Spectrasonics Stylus RMX
Cost – £245
Size – 14 Gigabytes
This is a percussion module from Spectrasonics. The library contains percussion sounds that you can manipulate and change, with the emphasis being on creating rhythms in real time. Basic loops can be changed entirely from the original and combined with other percussive elements to create something new.
4. East West Symphonic Orchestra
Cost – £378
Size – 194 Gigabytes
The highest quality and most complete collection of orchestral sounds. This is the VST that Hollywood film composers use. It is available in a range of sizes and costs and the price and cost above are for the top of the range Platinum Plus pack. You can go right down to the Silver Pack which is only 11GB, but that’s not what this list is about!
5. Garritan Jazz and Big Band 3
Cost – £90
Size – 2 Gigabytes
What it lacks in physical size it makes up for in sound quality. The Garritan Jazz and Big Band VST consists mainly of Brass and Wind instruments; both groups that are notoriously difficult to get right in terms of synthesis. So many VST’s out there have great sounding string and percussion sections but terrible brass and wind sections. This VST sounds unbelievably realistic with each instrument sounding really expressive.
6. Garritan World Instruments
Cost – £90
Size – 2 Gigabytes
Another small disk size for this list, but this does not affect the sound of the VST. Garritan World Instruments is a really versatile plug-in as the sounds it features can be used in everything from film scores to progressive house tracks. You won’t have heard of most of the instruments on there so you have to get stuck in and explore the sounds.
7. Toontrack Superior Drummer
Cost – £160+
Size – 25+ Gigabytes
Superior Drummer is an acoustic drum kit emulation synth and is a step up from the entry level EZ Drummer. Toontrack have painstakingly sampled a variety of different drum kits with a variety of microphones in a variety of positions. The result is the most realistic sounding drum VST available. Superior Drummer can be added to with a vast selection of expansion packs (the EZ drummer expansions are compatible with Superior Drummer as well): examples include the ‘Funk Masters’ pack, the ‘Claustrophobic’ pack and the ‘Latin Percussion’ pack and the final size and cost of you Superior Drummer setup will depend on which of these expansions you go for. The mixer housed within the VST allows you to isolate each element of the drum kit on each individual microphone which you can solo and mute as you see fit. It also has its own set of built in effects which can make for some really interesting sounds.
8. Synthology Ivory Grand
Cost – £200
Size – 77 Gigabytes
This VST samples a Steinway D Concert Grand, a Bosendorfer 290 Imperial Grand and a Yamaha C7 Grand. Each key has 18 different velocity levels and have been sampled with various degrees of pedal manipulation. All parameters can be customized by the user and the synth comes with its own parametric EQ. This is the closest you can get to the real thing.
So that’s it: Epic DAW Time. Now to do a Sterling and Gigabyte count.
Total cost – £1503
Total Gigabyte count – 534
These VSTs are probably what we would all be running all the time if our computers were fast enough and had large enough hard drives. Oh, and if we had a spare grand and a half lying around. Time to start saving then! (Or just go for the slightly cheaper NI Komplete 8). Next time, we get a terabyte of samples!
What other VSTs do you think should be on the Epic list? Post a comment and let us know!
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Editor’s Note: This is an old article and things have moved on considerably since the original publication date 🙂
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