I play progressive metal, and my main instrument is guitar. The music I compose is mainly guitar-driven, but I want a variety of sample and synth sounds to spice things up. Traditional instruments like grand piano, electric piano and rock organ, ethnic instruments like accordion (harmonica), mandolin and harp, a full symphonic orchestra, choirs, and synth leads, pads and basses. I mostly work with existing patches, although I do like the ability to tweak. My experience with sound synthesis is fairly limited.
I had a look at this thread, did some research and tried several sample players. See the detailed list below. I ended up liking Steinberg HALion Sonic 3 (or HALion 6), so this is the one to beat. I am looking for a way to replace my Korg Kronos in the sense that I want a nice way to browse my presets to get to a sound I like, then maybe use it as a template to tweak it myself, and record it via MIDI in Reaper. In addition, I would like to get one or a couple synths that I could really get to know. I now have several that I hardly understand. In this regard, Helm and SynthMaster One appeal to me.
I think about spending about $300, but going a couple hundred bucks higher should be okay. My PC runs on Windows 10 and is fairly (1.5 TB SSD storage, 16 GB RAM, 4 GHz Intel i5 CPU, Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 sound card). I am kind of a sucker for open source stuff (so I take notes and write in CSV, plaintext and Markdown) but I think the music industry is not really the place where one can go that way.
I currently own the following paid VSTis. My experience with all of them is fairly limited.
- SONiVOX Orchestra, grand piano, bass, electric and acoustic guitar, Twist 2
- AIR Hybrid, Loom, Vacuum Pro, Velvet and Xpand!2
- SynthMaster One
- TAL Noisemaker
- Sampletank 4: great interface, sample quality and price, but does not have normal samples like accordion or a normal choir
- reFX Nexus: great interface but sounds are for EDM, and very expensive
- AIR XPand!2: very comprehensive and cheap (I already own it), but the samples are of low quality, the browser is really bad (not an issue with VIP) and editing is too limited
- Korg Triton VST: great price, browser and factory presets, but sample quality is too low
- Steinberg HALion Sonic 3: overall very good, except piano sounds a bit dated. Downloading and registering is hell but I can manage. Unfortunately there is no preset map for VIP, and adding presets is more cumbersome that with most VSTis.
- Initial Audio Heatup 3: unsuitable because mostly EDM samples
- Native Instruments Kontakt 6
- UVI Falcon: I think this is more a sampler than a sample library player
- Omnisphere: I believe this focuses more on weird samples rather than traditional instruments
- EastWest Quantum Leap Goliath: this might be a very good one, although I believe the presets are very dry and the browser isn't great
- Plogue Sforzando and SFZ files