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The Orchestra Complete 2 – Is it worth it?

For any composer aiming to have a career in writing music for film, tv, or games, having high-quality orchestral samples is an absolute must. Of course, that can quickly get expensive, especially when buying separate libraries for each instrument family, which is why all-in-one orchestral libraries can be a more attractive choice, especially for newer composers. One orchestral library that may have come up on your radar is The Orchestra Complete 2 by Sonuscore and with so many other alternatives available it can be hard to know whether this particular library is the right choice. Luckily, we've spent some time putting The Orchestra Complete 2 to the test to see whether it's worth the $459 price tag.

The Orchestra Complete 2 (Quick Review)

whippedcreamsounds

Sound Quality/Realism
Shelf Life
Additional Features
UI, Resizing and CPU-friendly
Value for money
Ease of use for a recent buyer

Verdict

The Orchestra Complete 2 is a good choice for first-time orchestral sample library buyers but does come with some drawbacks. The inclusion of individual patches for each orchestral family allows for detailed composing, however, the sound quality is slightly lacking, especially with the woodwinds. The highlight of the library is the pre-recorded phrases and patterns, which have a professional-level sound and can help generate ideas. However, this feature is mostly a sketching tool and runs the risk of limiting your own musical voice. For those reasons, its shelf-life is quite short and you're likely to find yourself quickly outgrowing this library and turning towards better alternatives.

3.9

Is The Orchestra Complete 2 Worth It? (TL;DR Answer)

Compatibility: VST, AU, AAX, NKS (Windows 7 or higher, Mac OS X 10.12+, Free Kontakt Player 6.6.0+, 4gb ram min )
Price: $459

Orchestra Complete 2 is worth it for composers buying their first orchestral sample library. The individual instrument patches, the orchestral rhythms, and the animated orchestra presets sound amazing. But, the woodwind samples lack in quality, the percussion options are limited and the novelty of the pre-recorded phrases wears off.

Pros

✅ Individual patches let you have more control over each instrument rather than being restricted to only ensemble patches

✅ 100s of very high-quality animated orchestra and orchestral rhythm pre-recorded phrases that can be edited to your liking

✅ MIDI export function that allows you to export the MIDI of every pre-recorded phrase and pattern into your DAW which you can then dissect, analyze and alter

✅ Preset browser is very easy to use and lets you select phrases and patterns based on instrumentation, time signature, feel, and emotion

Cons

❌ Sound quality of the woodwind samples are not consistent with the rest of the library and is pretty much unusable

❌ Percussion section of the library could be more detailed, with more mallet instruments and individual patches for un-pitched percussion

❌ Overuse of pre-recorded phrases could limit your originality and finding your own voice which means most would only use them as sketching rather than composition tools

❌ You're likely to outgrow this library quite quickly and will want to switch to a better alternative

What Is The Orchestra Complete 2 & What Does It Do?

The Orchestra Complete 2 is an all-in-one orchestral sample library by Sonuscore that samples an 80-piece orchestra and includes a range of articulations, phrases, and pre-recorded sequences.

It builds upon the previous ‘The Orchestra' product with an improved browser function and includes the additional ‘Strings of Winter' and ‘Horns of Hell' libraries. Its revolutionary ensemble engine alongside its playability, customizability, and simplicity claims to make it easier than ever to turn your ideas into music.

orchestra complete 2

The Orchestra Complete 2 is an all-in-one orchestral sample library, which means it includes all the orchestral families such as strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. This makes it a more affordable alternative to buying separate sample libraries for each orchestral group.

The library includes more than 200 single-instrument patches, meaning you can freely control each instrument of the orchestra rather than being restricted to ensemble and combination patches, which is a big plus in our opinion!

The highlight of the library, however, is probably the ensemble engine, which is where you'll find the orchestral colours, rhythms, and animator features.

This allows you to use roughly 300 high-quality pre-recorded orchestral phrases, patterns, and combinations, which can be filtered by instrumentation, time signature, and emotion thanks to the intuitive, updated browser system.

The library also includes a number of orchestral fx as well as the ‘Strings of Winter' and ‘Horns of Hell' libraries, also from Sonuscore, giving you even more patches and articulations.

How Does It Sound?

The sound quality and realism of the library is quite varied. The pre-recorded stuff, such as the orchestral rhythms, animated orchestra, and orchestral fx, sounds truly amazing, the individual patches of most instruments are pretty good but not the best, but the woodwinds are extremely lacking in quality.

The sound of the individual patches is fairly decent and is perfectly good for composers buying their first library, however, there are much better options on the market for the more experienced composer.

As with many orchestral libraries, the short articulations sound great and the FX patches are phenomenal but it struggles when it comes to legato patches.

The biggest problem though is by far the woodwind samples.

The woodwinds are extremely inconsistent compared to the quality of the rest of the individual patches and sound extremely sub-par and unrealistic, making them pretty much unusable.

It sounds like far less effort has been put into sampling them, which is a real shame as woodwinds are already often neglected by modern film score composers

(which may be the exact reason why less care has been taken with them here).

The pre-recorded phrases and patterns found in the ensemble engine are a different matter. These all sound incredible and give you a professional and expressive sound, straight out of the box.

Below are some examples of what the library sounds like. Now, this is a big library with lots of patches so we can't show you everything but there will be multiple sound articles throughout this article.

Each sound example is exactly how the patch sounds out-of-the-box with dynamics and expression automation, however, no additional processing (EQ, Compression, Reverb, etc.) has been applied.

Sound Examples

String Ensemble Patch
Individual Woodwinds and Ensemble Patch
Strings and Brass FX (turn down volume if wearing headphones!)
Orchestral Rhythms – Mixed
Deep Hits and Un-pitched Percussion
French Horns – Legato

What Features Do I Get With The Orchestra Complete 2?

Detailed Individual Instrument Patches

orchestra 2 instruments

One of our favourite things about the Orchestra Complete 2 is that it isn't just an ensembles library. So many full orchestral libraries consist only of patches like ‘woodwinds high', ‘low strings', ‘Tuba+Trombone', etc., but don't have individual instrument patches!

Now, we're not saying these kinds of libraries are bad, in fact, they're very very good, but we think being confined to only ensemble patches comes with limitations.

With a patch like ‘woodwinds high' for example, you have no control over whether or not you want your flute to be doing something different from your oboe. This becomes even more of a problem when you get to the mixing stage. Now you can't EQ or apply compression in specific ways to each instrument either.

Most simply put, with ensemble patches you have less control.

Of course with Orchestra Complete 2 that's not a problem. We have individual patches for strings (violins 1, violins 2, violas, cellos, basses), brass (french horns, trumpets, trombones), and woodwinds (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, contrabassoon).

The only orchestral instrument group that falls short in this area is percussion. Here we get one patch for non-pitched percussion (which is something we hope is improved upon if and when Orchestra Complete 3 comes around).

Here are a few more sound examples of individual instrument patches.

Harp
Elven Choir

Creative Ensemble Engine

ensemble patches orchestra 2

Possibly the main attraction of this library is its creative ensemble engine.

This feature allows you to generate complex and professional-sounding arrangements by just playing a few keys on your midi keyboard. Play any chord and your selected phrase will trigger and follow the harmony of that chord.

Or go even further by playing whole chord progressions and the ensemble engine will follow.

There are a huge number of presets available and you can browse and filter through them based on instrumentation, time signature, feel, and emotion. Each preset consists of up to a combination of 5 different instrument patches, which can be altered or completely changed by the user, allowing for full creativity and control.

The presets in the ensemble engine can be split into three distinct categories. These are ‘Orchestral colours', ‘Orchestral Rhythms', and ‘Animated Orchestra'.

Orchestral Colours

With orchestral colour presets, we get common instrument doublings and combinations that are frequently used by composers and immediately give an authentic orchestral sound.

There are many options available, such as combinations of strings and brass, strings and woodwinds, percussion and brass, choir and strings, etc., however, we did notice there's only one preset available for a sound combination of woodwinds and percussion.

Here are some sound examples, one combining strings, woodwinds, and a glockenspiel, the other combining a flute, choir, and sustained strings.

Mixed Strings, Woodwinds, Glockenspiel
Flute, Choir, Sustained Strings

Compared to the other two categories below, the orchestral colours presets are more like highly configurable and detailed ensemble patches, rather than pattern-based phrase generators.

So for the sound examples, you're hearing above, the musical ideas have been composed by us with the orchestral colours presets rather than being generated by the engine itself.

Orchestral Rhythms

orchestra complete 2 rhythms

Next is orchestral rhythms, which rather than just giving your sound combinations, actually plays back rhythmic phrases based on the instrumentation, harmony, and time signature you've chosen.

Here are two examples of two orchestral rhythms presets, one of the strings and the other of woodwinds.

Orchestral Rhythms – Strings
Orchestral Rhythms – Woodwinds

In the above examples, you can hear the rhythmic patterns following the harmony of the chords we've played on our midi keyboard. This is really useful if you want to quickly create a rhythmic bed to then compose some melodies over.

You can combine pretty much every instrument group here, with the only limited option being the choir which comes with just one preset.

Animated Orchestra

orchestra 2 animated

The final category is the animated orchestra, which takes things one step further than the previous two options.

Like with the orchestral rhythms, here we get phrases based on the musical choices we've made. However, with the animated orchestra, these phrases can be further defined by genre and emotion and come with more melodic aspects, making them far more cinematic and easier to associate with a specific idea or scenario.

Listen to the two examples below and you'll see what we mean.

Midnight Pulse
Icy Lake

The titles of the preset alone give away what sort of feel you're going to get, but with ‘midnight pulse' we get quite a mysterious and dramatic sound, whereas ‘icy lake' sounds more magical and enchanting.

When deciding what sort of emotion you want, you have a wide choice of majestic, peaceful, mysterious, dramatic, magical, cheerful, active, and intimate.

So, if you're short on ideas or not quite sure how to achieve any of the sounds above, this feature could really help you out.

Additional Instrument Libraries

orchestra 2 additional instruments

Another great thing about this library, which gives it a very good value for money, is the fact that it includes two other libraries from Sonuscore!

These are ‘Strings of Winter' and ‘Horns of Hell', which, if bought individually, cost $149 each!

With the inclusion of these two libraries in Orchestra Complete 2, we get extra articulations for strings and brass, as well as additional, presets, like huge and gritty-sounding evil brass patches as well as the unique sound of a Morin Khuur string ensemble.

Oh, and you also get a bunch of massive-sounding organs presets from ‘Horns of Hell'.

Here are some sound examples of the ‘Evil Brass sustains' patch from ‘Horns of Hell' and the ‘Morin Khuur Low Staccato' patch from ‘Strings of Winter'.

Evil Brass Sustains
Morin Khuur Low Staccato

What About The Technical Stuff?

How Hard is The Orchestra Complete 2 on The CPU?

We tested The Orchestra Complete 2 on a 2017 Macbook Pro, running Monterey 12.5.1, with 16g ram and a dual-core Intel I5 processor, within Cubase. We ran them within an orchestral template, using only instruments found in this library, and included both individual and pre-recorded patches. This consisted of roughly 40 tracks and multiple instances of Kontakt. The plug-ins performed extremely well with hardly any issues at all.

Being a large orchestral library the RAM can build up quite quickly, especially when writing for a full orchestra. Although, you don't need the fastest computer to run this smoothly. Sonuscore suggests a minimum of 4GB of Ram, but we feel 8GB will be more comfortable.

Whatever your specs we'd suggest doing a few things to ensure the plugin runs efficiently:

  • Use multi-outputs so you run fewer instances of Kontakt
  • Purge all samples before you start composing (this means Kontakt will only load the samples you actually play)
  • Unload articulations you're not going to use (again preventing Kontakt from loading unnecessary samples)

What Does My System Need To Run It?

Here's a complete breakdown of what you need to run The Orchestra Complete 2 on either PC or Mac.

SystemMacPC
SizeAt least 18.2GB hard disc space neededAt least 18.2GB hard disc space needed
KontaktRequires free Kontakt 6 Player or Kontakt 6 Version 6.6.0 or higherRequires free Kontakt 6 Player or Kontakt 6 Version 6.6.0 or higher
Operating SystemMac OS X 10.12+Windows 7+
Processor Intel Core 2 DuoIntel Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon 64 X2
Ram 4GB (min)4GB (min)

What About UI & Utility? How Easy is It To Use & Any Stand-out Features?

orchestra 2 export MIDI

MIDI Export Function

MIDI export is a great function that's linked to the orchestral rhythms and animated orchestra patches from the ensemble engine. This is because it allows you to export the midi of each instrument slot from these patches into your daw!

This means you can see exactly what each instrument is playing in every preset, which is a great way to understand how the phrases have been composed and orchestrated.

It also means you can then take that midi and put it onto a different track with a different plug-in. So let's say you like the flute part from one of the animated orchestra patches but you're not too keen on the sound of the samples, well you can just take the midi and put it onto a track that has a better-sounding flute sample.

Of course, you'd have to own a better flute sample in the first place and transferring MIDI between two different libraries would probably result in a lot of tedious midi editing, so maybe not be ideal for everyone.

Despite that, we do think this feature is a good and useful addition to the library, which probably goes even further beyond the uses mentioned here.

Engine and Mixer Controls

We spoke earlier about how there is a lot of customizability available when it comes to the presets found in the ensemble engine. Well, now we're going to look into that in a bit more detail by focussing on the engine and mixer functions found within this feature.

Engine

The engine tab allows you to apply up to 3 different arpeggiators and two different envelopes to each of our 5 instrument slots for each preset.

With the arpeggiator, we can control the note order, the rate of the notes (1/8, 1/16 etc.), the velocity of each note, and the octave. We can also transpose the pattern, switch it to half or double time and add swing.

The envelope allows you to add dynamic movement to a sustaining note. We can draw in the shape of the envelope, set the duration in bars of which the drawn envelope will span, change the time signature, switch to half or double time, and even decide which specific notes in a chord will be affected by the envelope.

Both these features are extremely practical and are a great way to add more realism and your own personal touch to each pattern.

Mixer

With the mixer tab, we can adjust the balance and sound of each instrument slot as well as add different master effects.

The effects available are EQ, Compression, and a Convolution Reverb and are applied to each instrument slot. There are two Eq settings available and the compressor comes with threshold and gains controls. The reverb comes with 10 different room sounds including a hall, recording stage, cathedral, and plate.

Other controls are typical mixer controls such as a solo/mute, pan, a volume fader, as well as a send control where you can decide how much of each instrument is being sent to the master reverb.

One update from the Orchestra Compete 1 is output routing in the mixer tab meaning we can assign each instrument slot to specific Kontakt outputs. This means we can add our own eq and compression within our daw to each instrument slot.

User Interface

The user interface is set up very well and is very straightforward to use.

For individual patches, the interface is very minimal. You have EQ controls on the left and reverb controls on the right.

When using an individual patch with articulations, it's exactly the same except each articulation option, their assigned keyswitch note, and the option to turn them on or off is displayed in the lower hall of the interface.

Things are a bit more detailed when using the creative engine features as there are so many presets available. However, the preset browser makes it extremely easy to navigate and filter through these to get exactly what you want.

It's here where you can filter through each option available based on keywords and characteristics to find what you need.

For those of you who own the Orchestra Complete 1 and are considering upgrading to 2 but prefer the way the preset browser is set up in the former, don't worry. The Orchestra Complete 1 is actually available as an instrument in this library, meaning you can still use the old preset browser even if you upgrade.

What Are Others Saying About The Orchestra Complete 2?

After scouring the internet we found mostly positive reviews but with some small criticisms of the library. A lot of praise was given to the library's engine functions, MIDI export feature, ease of use, and decent sound quality. On the other hand, the library was criticized for its woodwind samples, inaccurate instrument ranges, and difficulty to blend with other libraries as well as some found it short-lasting and potentially limiting the composer's originality.

orchestra 2 reddit review 1
orchestra 2 gearspace review
orchestra 2 reddit review 2

From the reviews above, you can see the experience had by other users is pretty similar to our own. Many of the pros and cons we are pointing out in this review are also mentioned here.

Despite the drawbacks, this is still a very decent library and, as some users above mention, it is especially good for beginners and helps you generate ideas.

How Does The Orchestra Complete 2 Stand Up To The Competition?

While we do recommend The Orchestra Complete 2, there are some other options available on the market which we think are a better choice.

Audio Imperia – Nucleus

One of those options is the fantastic orchestral library Nucleus, created by Audio Imperia, which is priced at $449.

Like The Orchestra Complete 2, this library gives you individual patches for each instrument. However, the sound quality and realism of the instruments in Nucleus far surpass those of The Orchestra Complete 2, especially with the woodwinds. You also get a far more expansive choice of percussion instruments, fantastic solo instruments and also ensemble patches.

Now the library may lack the orchestrator functions found in The Orchestra Complete 2, however, Nucleus doesn't suffer from the same short shelf life. If you go for Nucleus, it will serve you well for a very long time.

EastWest – Hollywood Orchestra Opus Edition

Next, is the Hollywood Orchestra Opus Edition, created by EastWest.

When this library was created it was one of the first orchestral libraries around, but don't let its age deceive you. This is still one of the best choices on the market, especially for beginners, and has been recently been updated with EastWests new and improved Opus engine.

This library gives you all your individual patches (pretty much every orchestral instrument), and ensemble patches and has great orchestrator functions. It may not be the most realistic-sounding library out there, but its sound is slightly better than The Orchestra Complete 2, especially with the woodwinds (no surprise there!).

The usual retail price of this library is normally $995, but don't let that scare you as you can also get this library as a part of the EastWest ComposerCloud subscription. With this subscription, you can get the Hollywood Orchestra alongside a ton (and we mean a lot) of other libraries from $15.99 per month, depending on which subscription you choose.

So, if subscription-based models work for you, this is definitely a great choice.

Project Sam – Symphobia 1

Our final alternative is Symphobia 1, created by Project Sam and is currently priced at around $299.

This is another full orchestral library, however, it doesn't come with individual patches or percussion instruments. Of course, this is a downside compared to The Orchestra Complete 2 and the libraries mentioned above, but this library does have arguably the best-sounding ensemble and orchestral fx patches around.

If a more affordable option is what you're looking for then this might be the best choice for you. For those looking for an “expensive=better” library, don't be put off by the cheaper price tag. This is a library that's used and applauded by seasoned professionals and so is definitely worth your consideration.

The Verdict

The Orchestra Complete 2 (Quick Review)

whippedcreamsounds

Sound Quality/Realism
Shelf Life
Additional Features
UI, Resizing and CPU-friendly
Value for money
Ease of use for a recent buyer

Verdict

The Orchestra Complete 2 is a good choice for first-time orchestral sample library buyers but does come with some drawbacks. The inclusion of individual patches for each orchestral family allows for detailed composing, however the sound quality is slightly lacking, especially with the woodwinds. The highlight of the library is the pre-recorded phrases and patterns, which have a professional-level sound and can help generate ideas. However, this feature is mostly a sketching tool and runs the risk of limiting your own musical voice. For those reasons, its shelf-life is quite short and you're likely to find yourself quickly outgrowing this library and turning towards better alternatives.

3.8

FAQ

Does The Orchestra Complete 2 include every common orchestral instrument.

The most common orchestral instruments are included but there are a few that users hope are added to future editions.

Common orchestral instruments not included in this library are piccolo, alto flute, English horn, bass clarinet, bass trombone, tuba, celeste, marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, and many non-pitched percussion instruments.

Will using the ensemble engine features make me a better composer.

The ensemble engine features will definitely help you generate ideas faster and can improve your understanding of orchestration, but it's not a fast-track to being a better composer.

The ensemble engine is a fantastic feature but we wouldn't rely on it to suddenly make you a better composer. It's fun to use and certainly helpful but we do recommend trying to find your own unique and original voice, rather than relying on musical phrases composed by someone else.

Do I need both The Orchestra Complete 1 and 2?

No, you don't need both. If you don't already own either then we'd suggest going for the Orchestra Complete 2.

Both libraries are almost the same except the Orchestra Complete 2 has additional features and content that makes it better than its predecessor.

What if I want just the Orchestra Complete 2 and not Strings of Winter and Horns of Hell?

This wouldn't be entirely possible as there is only one version o the Orchestra Complete 2 available, which includes both Strings of Winter and Horns of Hell.

The only other option is to get the Orchestra Complete 1, however, this is missing a lot of the features and content found in 2. You're better off going for the Orchestra Complete 2 and having Strings of Winter and Horns of Hell anyway, as you save a lot of money on those libraries and get the improved and additional features of the 2nd edition.

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