A few weeks ago I visited Spitfire Audio’s website and completed a survey that would allow me to download the Discover version of the BBC Symphony Orchestra sample library for free after two weeks. I finished downloading the library and got a chance to listen and play around with the samples. So far, I haven’t written anything with it, so this week, I’ll just be writing about my first impressions with the library.
The first thing that I noticed about the library is how small library size was. Compared to different sound libraries that can be up to hundreds of gigabytes this library was only a few hundred megabytes. However, this is just for the Discover version of the library. If you had purchased the Professional version of the orchestra it would be almost 600 gigabytes. The small file size is because they don’t give you as many different options for things like microphone positioning and articulations in the Discover version. Despite that, the samples that they do give you in the Discover version still really good in comparison to most of the samples in Logic.
Starting with the strings, I would say that the BBC Orchestra strings sound a lot more real compared to the studio strings in Logic. However, you still have to make an effort with how you write out notes in the MIDI for long notes, otherwise the notes won’t sound quite right in transition. Despite sound better, the BBC Orchestra doesn’t have as many different articulations as the ones in Logic.
Next are the woodwinds. In my opinion, the woodwinds are probably the weakest part of the library. Sometimes the tone between the notes for instruments like the flute can be inconsistent. Additionally, most of the instruments are in unisons of three, so if you wanted to play four different notes with the flutes you’d actually be hearing twelve flutes playing at once. I’d say you’d have to be careful not over orchestrating certain instruments in order to make them sound natural.
After the woodwinds are brass, and I think that for the most part they sound pretty good. I would say that they have a lot of resonance even without putting any reverb on them, but I don’t think that should be a really big problem. I like how bass trombone was included in the library because it allows for more flexibility which wasn’t available in Logic.
Last is the percussion section which I really appreciate because the percussion in Logic is not the best. With the BBC Orchestra there are so many different types of sounds that sound great. Additionally there’s tuned percussion like bells and xylophone which also sound really good. A harp is also included which is interesting as well as a celeste which was the instrument used for Hedwig’s theme in the Harry Potter movies.
Overall, the BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover is an amazing sample library for being free. The downsides can easily be overlooked and you can’t really complain because what they give you already sounds great. If you wanted something better, you can consider upgrading to more expensive libraries on the Spitfire website like the full versions of the BBC Orchestra or their collaborations with composers like Hans Zimmer.