Best of 2020 – Sample Libraries, Virtual Instruments and Plugins Year in Review


This page is sponsored by our friends at Realitone. Realitone, best known for vocal libraries for Kontakt such as Realivox Ladies and Realivox Blue while continuing to push boundaries with their new Sunset Strings instrument, the developer has crafted a string instrument like nothing we have ever seen. Sunset Strings is now available at a special promo price of $199 (reg $300).

This year the Sample Library Review contributors have teamed up with a number of respected composers and industry professionals to round-up our picks for the best virtual instruments and plugin releases for 2020

Our end of year list is a celebration of the music software that found a way into both our hearts and scores

Sample Library Review’s Best of 2020 – Sample Libraries, Virtual Instruments and music software plugins.

Best Ensemble Orchestral Sample Libraries & Virtual Instruments

Arkhis by Native Instrument

The Orchestra 2 Complete by Best Service
► Review The Orchestra 2 Complete

BBC Symphony Orchestra Core by Spitfire Audio
Should You Upgrade to BBC Symphony Orchestra Core

Abbey Road One Orchestral Foundations by Spitfire Audio
► First Look: Abbey Road One Orchestral Foundations

Big Bang Orchestra Zodiac by Vienna Symphonic Library
Big Bang Orchestra Zodiac

Best Bass / Guitar Sample Libraries & Virtual Instruments

Dystopian Guitars by Pulse-Setter Sounds
► Review: Dystopian Guitars

Virtual Bassist 2 Series by UJAM
► Reviews: Review: Virtual Bassist

EZBass by Toontrack
► Checking Out: EZBass

Honorable Mentions
Quartarone Guitar Reveries by Valiant Samples
Celestial Guitar by Waverunner Audio

Best Brass Sample Libraries & Virtual Instruments

CineBrass Sonore by Cinesamples
► Review: Cinesbrass Sonore

CineBrass Horns of the Deep by Cinesamples
► Checking Out Horns of the Deep

Studio Series Fire Trombone by 8Dio

Century Brass 2.0 by 8Dio
► Review Century Brass (V1)

Honorable Mention:
The Orchestra Horns Of Hell by Best Service
► Review The Orchestra 2 Complete


Mentioned Realitone Libraries

Hip Hop Creator by Realitone
Finger Pick 2 by Realitone
Realivox Blue by Realitone
Sunset Strings by Realitone

Best Loop/Phrase-Based Sample Libraries & Virtual Instruments

Oscillation Strings by Ben Osterhouse

Spitfire Symphonic Motions by Spitfire Audio
► Review Spitfire Symphonic Motions

Symphonic Elements STRIIIINGS by UJAM
► Quick Look Symphonic Elements STRIIIINGS

Honorable Mention:
Opacity 2 by Audio Modern
► Review Opacity 2

Best Woodwinds Sample Libraries & Virtual Instruments

Infinite Woodwinds 2.0 by Aaron Ventures

MALEVENTUM by SilenceAndOtherSounds

Vertigo Flute by Cinematique Instruments

Best Sound Design in Sample Libraries & Virtual Instruments

Musique Box 2.0 by Soundiron

           Clockworks Vol. 2 by SampleTraxx

Bioscape by Luftrum
► Review Bioscape

Pharlight by Native Instruments

Best World / Ethnic Sample Libraries & Virtual Instruments

Off-World Volume 1 by Bunker Samples
► Quick Look Off World Vol1

Hopkin Instrumentarium Series by Soundiron
► Quick Look Hopkin Instrumentarium Series

Phoenix Orchestra by Orchestral Tools

Ventus Native American Flutes by Impact Soundworks

Traveler Series Gypsy Fiddle by Red Room Audio
► Review Gypsy Fiddle

NADA by Best Service
► Review NADA

Best VST Preset Collection or Expansion

LoFi Dreams by UVI

Latin Cuban Drums & Percussion EZX by Toontrack
► Checking Out Latin Cuban Drums & Percussion EZX

Trinity For Omnisphere 2 by Triple Spiral Audio


Best Solo Sample Libraries & Virtual Instruments

Stradivari Violin by Native instruments

Birth of the Trumpet by Straight Ahead Samples

Ashen Scoring Cello by Wavelet Audio
► Checking Out Ashen Scoring Cello

Honorable Mention
Emotional Viola by Best Service

Best Sampled Synth Sample Libraries & Virtual Instruments

Omnisphere 2.6 by Spectrasonics


Best Piano / Keyboard Sample Libraries & Virtual Instruments

The Famous E Electric Piano by Orange Tree Samples
► Checking Out The Famous E Electric Piano

Ólafur Arnalds Stratus by Spitfire Audio
► Review Ólafur Arnalds Stratus

Celeste by Soniccouture

Pianoteq 7 by Modartt

Best Percussion Sample Libraries & Virtual Instruments

Damage 2 by Heavyocity
► Review Damage 2


Best Vocal / Choir Sample Libraries & Virtual Instruments

Pharlight by Native Instruments

Oceania II by Performance Samples
► Review Oceania II

Ethera Gold 2.5 by Zero-G
► Review Ethera Gold 2.5

Best String Sample Libraries & Virtual Instruments

Con Moto Violins A & B by Performance Samples
► Reviews Con Moto Violins A & B

Synchron Strings Pro by Vienna Symphonic Library
► Reviews Synchron Strings Pro

Areia by Audio Imperia
► Reviews Areia

Best Mixing / Mastering Plugins

Reference 4.4.6 by Sonarworks

Ozone 9 by iZotope

           Soothe2 by Oeksound 


Best Effects Plugins

Effect Rack by Soundtoys

FabFilter Saturn 2 by FabFilter

           ShaperBox 2 by CableGuy

Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor Class A by Plug-in Alliance

Best FREE Virtual Instruments

Hammersmith Free by Soniccouture

LABS Series by Spitfire Audio

           The Free Orchestra by Project Sam

► See all SLR Freebies list on the bottom of the Deal Compressor Page


Best of 2020 Sample Library Review Playlist


For this year’s “Best of” we expanded our search looking for the best strings, winds, brass, percussion and orchestral instruments as well as seeking out the best sound design sample libraries, mixing and mastering effects plugins and VSTs and Omnisphere expansions. The SLR contributors and select industry professionals voted and selected this years nominations.

Huge thanks to Sample Library Review Editor Brian Brylow and our contributors: Raborn Johnson, Sam Burt, Alexandria M. Mueller, T.M.K.Davis, Steve Blizin, Shaun Chasin, Michael Reinmuller, Raymond D Ricker, Andrea Federici, Kent Kercher, Benjamin Goldman, Brian Freeland, Dedric Terry, Nathan David Carlton and Pete Checkley.

Special thanks to our Guest Contributors and industry professionals for suggestions and votes for the best of list.

Music used in the Best of 2020 video was taken from official videos and promos for the individual sample libraries/ virtual instrument marketing material and used for example purposes.

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