Recording a symphonic orchestra is one of the most challenging and expensive things to do. So, how do you get around this as a bedroom producer?
We could direct you toward some of the finest professional orchestral libraries ever created, which will satisfy even the harshest critics. But the truth is, these are probably too expensive for a hobbyist musician.
Instead, we will highlight the best FREE orchestral VST plugins and sample libraries, so you can use them in your DAW right now!
Best Free Orchestral VST Plugins (2023 Update)
- BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover
- Synful Orchestra
- VSCO 2 Community Edition
- Big Bang Orchestra
- Virtual Playing Orchestra
- The Free Orchestra
- Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra
- One Track Orchestra
BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover
Spitfire Audio is one of the best sample labels for orchestral sounds. They regularly work with industry-leading composers, engineers, and musicians, to create the best orchestral and cinematic sounds for media composers.
Imagine how excited we were when we heard that their BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover would be available for free.
BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover is the lightweight edition of Spitfire Audio’s flagship BBC Symphony Orchestra Professional ($999) library. The free version covers numerous orchestral instruments, from strings and brass to percussion.
If you wanted to get BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover for free, you previously had to sit through a 14-day waiting period. However, Spitfire Audio now offers the instrument for free with no strings attached.
Considering its professional sound and attention to detail, BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover is the best free orchestral plugin.
Download: BBC Symphony Orchestra
SINE Player by OrchestralTools is a free rompler plugin akin to Kontakt Player and Decent Player (both of which are listed in our free VST instruments article).
OrchestralTools offers several free orchestral sound libraries for SINE Player and a subscription service. The free sounds available from SINEfactory are a must-have if you’re looking for orchestral sounds.
SINEfactory includes orchestral strings, horns, percussion, and piano sounds. Additional sounds are available through the subscription.
All in all, if you’re looking for free orchestral sounds, try SINEfactory.
We’re confident that you’ll like it!
Download: Orchestral Tools SINEfactory
Synful Orchestra started as a premium orchestral plugin when it was first released in 2004. It was released numerous times in the meanwhile, but the developer decided to offer it as a freeware plugin in August 2023.
Now that it is free to download and use, I can easily recommend Synful as a must-have orchestral tool in any musician’s music production software collection.
Synful isn’t the best-sounding orchestral instrument on the market, but it is still very convincing. It also lets you fine-tune the included instruments and simplifies orchestral scoring in your DAW.
What is truly surprising is how Synful Orchestra remained under the radar while it was a paid instrument. Now that it’s freeware, Synful quickly gained recognition as one of the best free orchestral plugins on the market.
Download: Synful Orchestra
Layers is another free orchestral VST plugin from OrchestralTools. It relies on SINE Player, a sample player developed by OrchestralTools, which offers plenty of musical control. You can quickly lay down complex orchestral chords, adjust dynamics and timbres in real time, and more!
In addition to the massive selection of available orchestral instruments, you also have multiple mixable microphone positions to customize the sound.
The eponymous layering feature lets you blend different orchestral instruments and control the dynamics via MIDI.
Recorded in one of Berlin’s best-sounding music halls, Layers is honestly so good that we’re not sure why it’s free.
But whether it’s for marketing purposes or just goodwill doesn’t matter. Layers is a great orchestral VST plugin that is fun to use and sounds incredible.
Download: Orchestral Tools Layers
VSCO 2 Community Edition
Whereas other orchestral VST instruments feature performances from world-class musicians and expensive recording spaces, Versilian Studios takes a different approach with the VSCO 2 Community Edition library.
VSCO 2 CE captures interpretations by music students, teachers, or collectors of rare and antique orchestral instruments. Recorded in the most transparent way possible, the open-source Versilian Studio’s Chamber Orchestra 2 CE is chock full of character, texture, and variety.
VSCO 2 CE offers a lot of articulation and control over the included orchestral sounds. Nearly all included patches even give you a choice of a different performer.
The library comes in many different formats, from VST2 and VST3 plugins to SFZ, Kontakt, and SampleTank patches. All the options are listed on the product page, with pros and cons to help you choose.
If you’re looking for a free orchestral VST that sounds more intimate than various high-budget options, look no further than VSCO 2!
Download: VSCO 2 Community Edition
If you don’t know by now, LABS is a sample player plugin that lets you use the free LABS sound libraries crafted by Spitfire Audio.
The freely downloadable LABS sample libraries range from orchestral instruments, drums, guitars, and pianos, to rare instruments and synthesized pads.
While you don’t get much individual control over each sound, the sheer uniqueness of what you can get from LABS is why it consistently places so high on our lists.
With a solid backlog of orchestral instruments and new ones getting released all the time, LABS is a must-have orchestral instrument for any producer!
Download: Spitfire LABS
Big Bang Orchestra
Vienna Symphonic Library is one of the best options for symphonic orchestra sounds. Their free Big Bang Orchestra features an incredible “tutti” orchestra recorded with multiple microphones and positions.
Big Bang Orchestra allows you to have the entire orchestra at your fingertips, making it the most performance-oriented orchestral VST on this list.
While you don’t get much individual instrument control, the plugin delivers massive orchestral swells, runs, and more.
Big Bang Orchestra is a truly inspiring instrument to play and one of the best free orchestral plugins for music producers on a budget. However, there is a catch.
BBO runs on the VSL Synchron Player and will require an eLicenser (Steinberg, Arturia) to use. VSL also offer an eLicenser for around 15$, so make sure you get one before you download the Big Bang Orchestra
Download: Big Bang Orchestra
Virtual Playing Orchestra
Paul Battersby combined the best orchestral samples from the Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra, VSCO 2, and University of Iowa, combining them into one comprehensive library.
Virtual Playing Orchestra has most of the instruments you’ll need for scoring an orchestra, with plenty of articulation and control.
However, Virtual Playing Orchestra doesn’t sound as good on its own as it does in a busy mix. The included samples lack depth and quality compared to some of the previously mentioned orchestral VST plugins.
With that being the case, the Virtual Playing Orchestra is still worth downloading if you’re looking for a more lightweight orchestral plugin.
Download: Virtual Playing Orchestra
The Free Orchestra
ProjectSAM is a well-known name in the cinematic sample library world. Their offerings, like Symphobia, True Strike, and Colors, found their way into Hollywood soundtracks.
While ProjectSAM products aren’t the most expensive libraries we’ve seen, their excellent Free Orchestra library is a great way to add orchestra sounds to your DAW.
The Free Orchestra is a Kontakt library with 14 presets handpicked from ProjectSAM’s other paid packs. Ranging from symphonic percussion and brass swells to cinematic orchestral sounds, the library is well worth the 1 GB download.
You’ll need the Native Instruments Kontakt Player to run The Free Orchestra.
Download: The Free Orchestra
Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra
Mattias Westlund’s free Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra has been one of the most popular orchestral libraries for almost ten years.
While Mattias himself is no longer involved with the library, the sounds are now ported into an easy-to-use orchestral VST plugin.
SSO works best when paired with a suitable hall reverb.
Download: Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra
One Track Orchestra
One Track Orchestra by Make Some Music Now is a freeware orchestral instrument based on the Versilian Studios Chamber Orchestra CE.
What makes OTO stand out is the simple interface and playability of the VST instrument. Using OTO is easy – it’s basically a plug-and-play orchestral expansion for your DAW. It doesn’t have many controls but does include a handy reverb effect.
That being said, if you already have VSCO or a premium orchestral library, you really don’t need the One Track Orchestra.
If nothing else does it for you, One Track Orchestra might be worth a look.
Download: One Track Orchestra
For more freeware effects and instruments, return to our Free VST Plugins page.