April ’18 Staff Picks – Sample Libraries, Virtual Instruments and Plugins


Each month we ask around the (virtual) office to see what VSTs and sample libraries our contributors are currently working with on their own projects (see past months picks here)

This month we asked the SLR Crew what plugins and libraries they were excited about using in their own projects.


Steven McDonald is a composer and producer working in the Television, Games, and Trailer fields. Digging into virtual instruments and sample libraries to get the absolute most out of them has been a specialty of his since the beginning of his career.

Omnisphere Bundle by MIDIssonance
I’ve had this for a few months now but I can’t stop going back and using it. Every sound is just so clean and modern, and the ARP/BPM patches are all over my music.

► SLR Review of Omnisphere Bundle
► Link to Developers Page

Barrage by Hidden Path Audio
This seems to be a little-known cinematic percussion library, but I use it in all of my “big drums”. The sounds are very tight and punchy, and the ensemble designer interface is very useful for sculpting your hits.

► SLR Review of Barrage
► Link to Developers Product Page

Editor Brian Brylow (Composer, Sound Designer, and Producer) creates music as part of the electronic duos Parallaxe and Gorgon Nebula as well as Arpegiator. Brian probably owns more VIs than anyone I know! His Staff Picks are below:

U-he by Zebra
I have had to go to the “way back machine” for a recording project and Zebra always gives me the sounds that I am looking for without sounding dated (never mind the dozens of third-party preset sets). Extreme control over the sound and routing options abound so it never fails me,

► Link to Developers Page

Scheps Omni Channel Strip by Waves Audio
I have been amazed by the sound quality and sheer variety of tone that you can get from this budget-priced console. It is loaded with designed presets for those of you who do not want to take over the controls the individual parameters manually.

► Link to Developers Product Page
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Modwheel by Waveskimmer
This one was a surprise. While it offers great options for pulses, it is a fully melodic instrument that can provide a fair amount of structure to a complete track. Highly recommended.

► Link to Developers Product Page


Shaun is a Canadian composer for film, TV and video games who studied at University of Southern California’s Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television graduate program. He currently resides in Los Angeles with his cat Bogie.

O.O.D. Grand Piano by Chocolate Audio
Of all the instruments we have in our sample collections, pianos may be the most frequent. Almost every DAW or large collection sample pack we have acquired over the years was bound to include at least one. As common as they are however, a perfect and intimate piano remains one of the most difficult instruments to authentically capture. The wonderful thing about the time in which we currently live is that we are seeing an explosion of technical innovation. Chocolate Audio has shown themselves once again to be on the top of this wave with their fantastic and impressively deep sampled O.O.D. Grand Piano.

► SLRs Review of O.O.D. Grand Piano
► Link to Product Page

Scarbee Pre-Bass Amped by Native Instruments
Though not a new instrument in any sense of the word, this deep sampled electric bass is an absolute work horse. Because of its neutral tone, users are able to process and mix it the way they want in order to fit into a huge array of styles. In my own career this bass has found its way into all sorts of tracks ranging from pop/rock all the way to epic orchestral and light drama piano bass arrangements.

► Link to Product Page


Raymond has a BFA in Music Composition from Bard College and specializes in playing live improvisational “space music” heavily influenced by Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and Radio Massacre International utilizing VSTs alongside his collection of hardware synths.

BT Phobos by Spitfire
A sound designer’s fantasy!! Imagine taking 4 sound sources with the ability to split each one into a wet & dry output, having the ability to modulate each one THEN taking the wet output from each source and running them through up to 3 convolvers, concurrently, THEN further manipulating those sounds before meeting up with their dry counterpart on the way to your ears…oh, did I mention you can assign each of the sources and convolvers to a dedicated key range?

► SLR Review of BT Phobos
► Link to Developers Product Page

WaveSkimmer by ModWheel
I wouldn’t be surprised if David Donaldson and Steve Roche had a full blown cult following by now…they release eccentric, yet wonderfully crafted sound libraries that are a blast to use with very witty instructional videos. WaveSkimmer is a dual-layered, pulse module instrument that will put the rhythmic “zing” back into your compositions. They even went out of their way to put together a special NKI for me that would allow me to use my sustain pedal…at no extra charge…that is what support is supposed to be!! Grab it!!!

► Link to Developers Product Page


Raborn Johnson, our newest contributor, is a musician and film composer who has been turning in some terrific reviews.

Woodchester Piano by Fracture Sounds
This felt piano from Fracture Sounds is just perfect for my own composing aesthetic. It has a beautiful tone, and the atmospheric layers (‘Ache’, ‘Dream’, ‘Clouds’), which give the piano a pad-like undertone, take this one to the next level. I have a few felt pianos already, but this one offers some of the most bang for the buck.

► SLRs Review of Woodchester Piano
► Link to Developer Page

Olafur Arnalds Chamber Evos by Spitfire Audio
I love Olafur Arnalds, I love Spitfire Audio‘s Evo series, and I love Chamber Strings. What’s not to like here? The Evo grid here is beautiful and full of movement as expected, but the waves articulations take this one to another level. This is a great way to enhance your traditional string libraries with movement and emotion. Beautiful!

► SLRs Review of Olafur Arnalds Chamber Evos
► Link to Product Page

Next up is contributor AMM (Alexandria M. Mueller). She is an award-winning composer and violist based in St. Paul, Minnesota and active contributor.

Lyrical Vocal Phrases by Sonuscore
I love this library for mysterious settings and invoking a sense of fantasy and magic. The phrases are arranged in groups of beginnings, middles and ending so that you have options to combine them into longer phrases. There is a lot more control over phrases and tonality in this library than what I’ve usually encountered in phrase libraries. The performances here are mesmerizing and this is probably my current favorite choice for a female vocal soloist library.

► SLRs Review of Lyrical Vocal Phrases
► Link to Product Page at APD

Voices of Passion by East West
An oldie but goodie in my toolbox. This library features vocal styles from Wales, Syria, India, Bulgaria and America. The vocal timbre of these styles is very distinctive and not achievable without a performer trained in that style, and the phrases here are expressive and useful in a variety of contexts.

► Link to Developer Product Page



Next are the picks from contributor T.M.K Davis. Tim has been playing keyboards and drums for 20 years and composing orchestral music for about 10 years. He is currently working on his bachelor’s degree in music production with a focus on video game scoring and commercial music.

Trio Broz Solo Cello from Fluffy Audio
A solo cello library that is really easy to use and sounds fantastic. It’s really surprising how much emotion you can pull out of this library.

► Link to Developer Page

Vox Continental by Arturia
This is a great library for anyone wishing to capture the historic sound of the Doors. This Vox Continental will definitely light your inspirational fires.

► Link to Developer

Shredders Vol. 1 by Audio Imperia
This library is full of great sounding trailer effects. It features braaams hits, drones, transformer-like stutters, pulses, etc…It is a valuable tool for anyone working in trailer music.

► Link to Developer Product Page


Gary Hiebner is a sound designer and composer based in South Africa. He works on music productions for Film, TV and Games, and is also an online course creator for music tutorials.

Albion One by Spitfire Audio
I have been jumping back to Albion 1. Even though this library was produced a few years back, the samples still sound great. And while Albion ONE is great for creating Epic music, you can get more subdued orchestral pieces when using Albion 1. I stopped using it for a bit when jumped to Albion ONE, but I sure do miss a lot of these instruments when coming back to them.

► SLRs Review: Albion One
► Link to Product Page

Absynth by Native Instruments
This has always been my favorite synth amongst all of the Komplete Synths.
What I really like are the breakpoints and being able to create tons of these and have this long evolving pad sound, that’s very hard to replicate in other synths. It’s a great semi-modular synth that I have fun in when loading it up. I surprised it hasn’t been updated in a few years. But that’s probably because it just works.

► Link to Developer



Sam’s a songwriter, producer, composer and educator based in the UK. A former BMG/Sony Records/Universal Publishing artist, Sam now creates music as part of the duo Border Scout and for trailer houses. It has been a pleasure having Sam contribute reviews for the site as they are always thorough and well thought out.

Olafur Arnalds Chamber Evolutions  by Spitfire Audio
Current favourite sample library I own. Stunning sound quality, truly modern orchestral textures, easy to use and glorious ‘waves’ patches. As of March 2018 this is the new high water mark in sampling in my opinion.

► SLR Review of Olafur Arnalds Chamber Evolutions
► Link to Developers Product Page

Addictive Drums by XLN Audio
Less comprehensive than many others, but for me is just the right balance of ease of use and realism. Works well both for my songwriting work and in trailers. The Boutique Mallet Adpak is very useful for soft sections and my latest addition Black Velvet is a killer epic sounding rock kit.

► Link to Developers Product Page


Welcome our newest contributor Steve Blizin! Steve Blizin is a producer, sound designer, audio engineer and composer. He has been creating loop-based music for nearly 20 years

Cinematic Guitars Organic Atmospheres by Sample Logic
This library holds a certain charm for me. I’m finding I can return to this well over and over again, using the sounds as stand-alone evolving beds or as accents or sub-structure in more complex mixes. It’s been a god-send for rush work which seems to be 99% of all I do.

► Link to SLR Checking Out Video of Cinematic Guitars Organic Atmospheres
► Link to Product Page

Old Broken Piano by Sample Traxx
A fun discovery. While somewhat limited to “frightening piano sounds” (something I actually excel at) the sounds are impressively dark and disturbing. That poor piano… I wonder if anyone called law enforcement during the recording sessions for this title? Finally, I’ll mention:

► Link to Developer Page

RX6 Advanced by iZotope’s
Useful for cleaning up all kinds of audio issues. I’ve used it to reduce plane traffic from field recordings and sound effects, I’ve erased random pops and clicks produced by low buffer settings while using too many software-synths, I’ve killed amp hum in guitar tracks and I even saved a stranger’s podcast from certain death due to audio issues.

► Link to Product Page


66 Basses by 8 Dio
66 Basses is the bomb. I explain why in my review of it. You can hear it in action on the trailerish demo I wrote using it exclusively as my only sound source.

► Link to SLR Review of 66 Basses
► Link to Product Page

See all past Staff Picks Posts