November ’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)

Before digging into the list from our contributors:
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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.

Intimate Studio Strings by 8Dio
I love adding Intimate Studio Strings on top of some more lush strings to add detail and character. I’ve also been using it as my go-to solo strings library for expressive lines!

► SLR Review of Intimate Studio Strings

Apocalypse Percussion Elements by Soundiron
I got this library forever ago, but kind of gave up on it for a while because I didn’t know how to treat it. However lately I’ve been using a lot of heavy trailer percussion, and I’ve come back to this to layer it in with my other drums, and it really can add some nice snap and high end to your drums bus!

► SLR Review of Apocalypse Percussion Elements
► Get Apocalypse Percussion Elements at Soundiron

ESC PluginGuru Tribute Library by PlugInGuru
This primarily synth-based expansion for Omnisphere 2 has given me a lot of good inspiration and useful sounds for recent projects. This library is really well organized and diverse enough to get a ton of use, whether I need retro or edgy sounds.

► Get ESC PluginGuru Tribute Library at PluginGuru

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:

Brian Brylow Staff Picks

BYOME by Plugin Alliance – Unfiltered Audio
BYOME or “Build Your Own Modular Effect” is the most interesting effect plugin I have encountered in some time. Boasting a grand total of 40 internal modules, you can create nearly any sonic combination to enhance your composition or warp it into the stratosphere. I highly recommend this one for your holiday shopping list.

► Get BYOME at Plugin Alliance

Brainworx bx_masterdesk by Plugin Alliance
bx_masterdesk is a high end all-in-one mastering solution in a single plugin. I found that as an alternative to using my own mastering chains, this little gem allows you to get a polished master in a couple of minutes tops. It also comes with plenty of presets to get you started or you can define your own parameters.

► Get Brainworx bx_masterdesk at  Plugin Alliance

Nyckleharpas by SonicCouture
Based on the Scandinavian Nyckelharpa, this one comes with both the Viola tuned and Cello tuned models. The sounds range from traditional scandi folk with the key noises to lush pads and some really amazing sound design presets that push it into another direction where it fits into a mix for cinematic as easily as it does electronic.

► Get Nyckleharpas at SonicCouture



OTT by XFer Records
An amazing multiband compressor/expander that can completely mangle your audio to achieve really INCREDIBLE results!

…super easy to use and it’s FREE!

► Get OTT at Xfer Records

Little Clipper by BOZ
Another plugin that is very easy to use and gets the job done very well. Gain, ceiling, hard/soft knee and mid/side or stereo settings.

Keep an eye on it, 50 bucks full price but I had the luck of buying it on sale for 1 dollar!

► Get Little Clipper at Boz Digital

Decapitator by Soundtoys
My favourite saturation plugin.

It can be subtle or extreme, fantastic to use on every instrument or the mix bus to give a nice analog colour to your sound.

The Punish button is a pleasure when used on drums and big percussions!

► Get Decapitator at Sound Toys



Alexandria M. Mueller is an award winning composer and violist based in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Ghosts of Autumn by Atom Hub
It seems I revisit this one every fall, thinking “I need to write music about fall”. This library has a lot of versatility and contains a lot of unique and ambient textures including natural sounds like wind and streams, layered with tonal instruments and sound effects. Depending on which elements you layer and their relative levels, you can create a peaceful, meditative pad, or an eerie, skin-crawling ambient texture.

► Get Ghosts of Autumn at Atom Hub

Uno LX Protozoa by The Unfinished
I’ve been on a bit of a sci-fi/synth kick lately and got a little nudge to become acquainted with the Uno LX. (Protozoa is a sound pack for Uno LX) In addition to the Tangerine Dream and Stranger Things classic synth feel, it has some great punchy bass sounds and very dark textures, which makes it perfect for conveying alien environments and tension. I really like the inclusion of these sounds that don’t make me think “classic synth,” because they can interact with orchestral instruments and warp the instrumental sound in adventurous ways.

► Get Uno LX Protozoa at The Unfinished

Amplified Cello Quartet by Spitfire Audio LABS
It’s part of Labs–it is free, go get it! Seriously, this one is a lot of fun and you’ll find a use for it. The library is mostly harsh-sounding effects, and works well in drama and tension for a bit more edge than acoustic strings.

► Get Amplified Cello Quartet at Spitfire Audio LABS

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.

Shaun Chasin Staff Picks

Fluid Shorts by Performance Samples
While some string libraries try to do everything well, Performance Samples has chosen to instead focus on one particular sound. Spiccato strings! Perfect for your next action score, Fluid Shorts will be a welcome addition to the collection of any media composer.

► SLR Review of Fluid Shorts
► Get Fluid Shorts at Performance Samples

Impact Designer by Zero-G
Impact Designer is the perfect tool for adding huge and cinematic slams, boomers, and hits. Perfect for action and trailer music!

► Get Impact Designer here

Eclipse: Aeterna by Wide Blue Sound
Just in time for halloween, Wide Blue Sound has released a brand new expansion for their fantastic, dark, and gritty synth. With the Aeterna expansion, Eclipse offers even more sonic possibilities than ever before!

► Get Eclipse: Aeterna at Wide Blue Sound


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

Raborn Johnson Staff Picks

Slate Digital Everything Bundle Subscription by Slate Digital
I have been using the Steven Slate Everything Bundle since early this year and have found it to be a fantastic value for every mixing/mastering plugin I need. In fact, outside of this bundle, the only mixing/mastering plugin I regularly use is Valhalla’s Room reverb. For $14.99/month you get access to thousands of dollars-worth of mixing/mastering plugins with new products continuing to be added. It’s a great value and a great way to get access to a full mixing/mastering plugin library without having to break the bank.

► Get Slate Digital Everything Bundle Subscription at Slate Digital

Photosynthesis Mystic by Exotic States
I have said over and over that the Photosynthesis series by Exotic States is one of my go-to secret weapons. The Mystic volume in particular continues to show up in a large number of my tracks. An ambient cello library of pads, soundscapes, and unique articulations for $55! It’s a fantastic library!

► Get Photosynthesis Mystic at Plugin Boutique and Earn Virtual Cash

New Rhythmic Aura Volume 1 by 8Dio
I regularly use pulses in my tracks and for scoring work. The Rhythmic Aura series by 8Dio is a great collection of melodic and percussive pulses that I can either fit into my track or use as the basis for it. I recently used a pulse from the New Rhythmic Aura Volume 1 as the building block to score a trailer. I’ve seen plenty of posts on social media in composer groups asking for recommendations for pulse libraries, but I have never seen this one mentioned. It’s a great place to look for pulses that are not overused and therefore instantly recognizable.

► SLR Review of New Rhythmic Aura Volume 1
► Get New Rhythmic Aura Volume 1 at 8Dio


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 has his bachelor’s degree in music production with a focus on video game scoring and commercial music.

T.M.K. Davis Staff Picks

The Sick Bundle by Soundiron
This bundle is perfect for anyone needing sounds ranging from spooky to downright spine-tingling. I would definitely recommend getting the bundle instead of buying each one individually.

► SLR Review of The Sick Bundle
► Get The Sick Bundle at Plugin Boutique and Earn Virtual Cash

Thrill by Native Instruments
This is one library that will not disappoint. It absolutely excels at allowing you to shape the included sounds in order to come with something truly unique and perfect for any horror or thriller movie.

► SLR Review of Thrill
► Get Thrill at Native Instruments

Herz-0G by Zero-G
Usually, when I do a review of a product, I move on to something else and only use the product again when I need it. With Herz-OG, I can not stop playing with it. It just sounds fantastic and is highly entertaining to play with.

► SLR Review of Herz-0G
► Get Herz-0G at Time+Space



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.

Zebra/Dark Zebra by u-he
Late to the the party on this and wondering how the hell I lived without it for so long. Hands down the most flexible soft synth I have ever used. It also seems to have an uncanny ability to blend well with organic sound sources. Add in Dark Zebra and an amazing variety of third party preset libraries and this is a one stop shop to synthtopia!

► SLR Review of Zebra/Dark Zebra
► Get Zebra/Dark Zebra at u-he

Zebra Minima by The Unfinished
This preset pack only further develops my new found love of Zebra. Based on the idea of straight up, no nonsense pulses for both Zebra and Dark Zebra it is sometimes brutal, sometimes sublime but always brilliant.

► SLR Review of Zebra Minima
► Get Zebra Minima at The Unfinished

Metric AB by ADPTR & Plugin Alliance
The best on the market bar non for comparing your work to references. I am a long term user of Magic AB but this is like putting that on steroids and inserting nuclear thrusters. Amazingly full featured but with a beautiful GUI that means it is not complicated to use.

► Get Metric AB at Plugin Alliance


One of 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

Steve Blizin Staff Picks

RX7 Post Production Suite by iZotope
Can’t say enough about the usefulness of this product. I use on music for removing the pops and clicks cause by having too many instantiations of virtual instruments, cleaning up sound effects and Foley recordings and just recently, I brought someone’s dialogue recording back from the dead.

► SLR Review of RX7 Post Production Suite
► Get RX7 Post Production Suite at Plugin Boutique and Earn Virtual Cash

SoundIron Theremin by SoundIron
The theremin is probably the original electronic music instrument. Be it 1950’s sci-fi or creepy human voicing emulations, the theremin just speaks to me and this little sample set is astoundingly useful. I may even try it on Christmas music just to see if I can send my clients into orbit for the holidays.

► SLR Review of Sound Iron Theremin
► Get Sound Iron Theremin at Soundiron

Heavyocity Vocalise 2 by Heavyocity
While it’s only one of my many favorite tool sets from Heavyocity, the past month I found myself using this library more often because of it’s unique and very human vocal tones. For horror music, siren songs and ambient atmospheres, there’s nothing more haunting than a human voice and this set feels like the most satisfying sample set I own.

► SLR Review of Heavyocity Vocalise 2
► Get Heavyocity Vocalise 2 from our parters at Plugin Boutique and Earn Virtual Cash


MCR is a working composer/producer who pitches relentlessly and hasn’t had a vacation longer than he can remember. He owns Melodikiln, a company specializing in media for film, TV and corporate clients and is also the founder of OffOffIndie, a small independent record label.

Ozone 8 by iZotope
It is a very deep mixing and mastering tool. i like its modular approach to mixing. you add in or take out the modules you need or want. it can be used with the presets, which sound great as starting blocks for your own work, or you can go as granular as you dare! i find it very intuitive and transparent. all the latest placements i’ve had were mastered with this plugin. A word of caution though: if you don’t know what you’re doing you can really mess up your mix! also, i wish that it wasn’t such a CPU hog!

► SLR Review of Ozone 8
► Get Ozone 8 at Plugin Boutique and Earn Virtual Cash

Valhalla Shimmer by Valhalla DSP
When you need that epic never-ending tail on your impacts, sounds, whatever actually, this is the verb for me. small footprint, reasonable price and just gorgeous sound. i use it consistently in all my trailers. ’nuff said!

► SLR Review of Valhalla Shimmer
► Get Valhalla Shimmer at ValhallaDSP

CSR Plate Reverb by IK Multimedia
i know, i know…it’s old, been around for ages, (like me) but i have yet to find a plate emulation that does the job without fuss and muss as well as this product. the short stereo plate is another mainstay in ALL my productions. it will enhance and bring out any drum or percussion track as well as anything else you might want to highlight without increasing volume. it’s clean, easy to use, and hardly impacts the CPU. i wish IK’s other products were are stable and forgiving!

► Get CSR Plate Reverb at IK Multimedia


See all past Staff Picks Posts