I've been involved in reviewing the three major orchestral libraries in the Garritan Personal Library. Of the three Garritan gets thumbs up on quality, quantity and expressiveness of sounds. I'm on the Win XP version and it's too bad Tennessee Vic is having problems on the Mac though I have not seen others with the problems he's experienced. Even Macs are getting to the point where any given 'non-factory' component may play a factor in how well your synth will work. Then again, there seems to be a continual problem with Macs and N.I.'s Konakt based sound engine on some machines.
Actually, a major thumbs down on the unimpressive Kontakt interface. I understand the idea was getting the included software to work and while that is certainly a good thing, I miss Kompakt's more capable and otherwise similar synth engine. I'm a Kontakt user and was very disapointed with the front end of Garritan. Kompakt is a more appealing front end and easier to work with as it's set up to be a multitimbral synth. Still, the samples are excellent for the sub $300 range and have more than their share of capabilities.
Another quibble boardering on annoyance are the arpeggiations being midi files. Most libraries I've tested including the 32 mb Siedleczeck EMU ROM kills GPO for the number of harp glissandos and techniques. Similarly Prosonus - The Orchestral Collection and East West Silver's musical sounding though limited glisses.
Here's what it boils down to. You get variety and the need to learn how to play orchestral instruments the Garritan way. It's actually a good way, but can be so insistant that at times it's frustrating, especially depending on your mod wheel which is used to control volume and timbre at times. The good side, ride the mod wheel and you can articulate notes wonderfully well, but you will have to aquire this skill, or at least a lot of people will. It's not hard, so it's not that big a problem.
Sound quality and overall gesthalt goes to East West Silver. What it lacks in articulations and instruments it makes up in lush, wonderfully recorded samples in place within the orchesra and with the instrument's acoustic character with hall reverberance. It's the heavier hitter and not as capable at all around sound as GPO. But East West raise the hair on the back of your neck and the sounds are absolutely wonderful if working with emotionally charged material, and of course, film. While I prefer it's sound, I need GPO's variety. You can't do small orchestrations well in East West and forget quartets, quintets, etc. This is where GPO can really shine, but of the libraries I've played, it's the one you actually have to do more work to get the sound.
If you don't want to have time to do so this is a problem. Prosonus and East West do a better job of getting an instrument to sound right and both are very dramatic, more so Prosonus but at a sound quality loss.
And that's what we're here for, to judge how easy/hard GPO is to use, how good it sounds au natural and what you are using a orchestral library for. No offense to the demos but I dislike most of them. I don't use this to listen to demos or other people's work though and if that's your reason just go general midi and don't waste your time. This isn't meant as a eletist, smug comment. The way I see it, you work harder in GPO for a sound, you think more too. And once you get it right, there is nothing in this price range that comes close for many kinds of composition.
If you are positive you'll be doing film there are options you should look into. I prefer East West Silver for broad film work and Prosonus - The Orchestral Collection for it's genuine charm and absolutely wild orchestral effects. If sonic purity is an issue you're back to East West Silver or GPO. But if you are working as a rock musician, film/soundtrack or even ambient with an occasional ochestral vibe, I'd go East West.
If you want to create symphonic works or listen and or write your or other's scores you won't get a better package to work with - period. GPO is as good as Devon says, but only to the degree on which you use it.
For the classical composer on a pipsqueak budget GPO is astonishing and rewarding. It's great for film, even if I went off about East West Silver. In fact, GPO is the most serious program of the lot as it does it all - well.
You can't go wrong with GPO considering what I've outlined, and really, it has so much value added things like scoring software. The only thing that really annoys me is the terrible representation of Kontakt's capabilities, which are vast. I use GPO more than East West Silver, but only because Silver is not currently diversified enough. A new upgrade will change that, at $300 or so extra. That may make East West more useful for a large enough area of works for you, but as a musician you will have to make that decision. All anyone here can do is point you in the right direction.
Starting with the website, as this is the place I first visit to gather information about a product, my impressions were favourable!. It is a brilliantly designed site with a mass of demos and comprehensive information about GPO. I'd always been told the customer support was very good, but thanks to KVR and the NS forums, I've had no need to actually call upon Garritan or his team for help.
There's been plenty of really good info already so I wont go on too much, but GPO is an amazingly comprehensive orchestra for such a small price. Its much more complete than EWQLSO Silver which retails for around the same price. I can't claim to be a big fan of the compact version of Kompakt(!) that it comes with but it does the job ok and I suppose you can't ask fairer, although I'd like more programmability.
The programming and preset choice is excellent, with smooth mod wheel expression control and a nice selection of both dry and wet ensembles and solo instruments. I always felt that the programming was much better than EWQLSO Silver's but the recent Silver update has altered that and the two are fairly evenly matched now.
I think the (various) solo violins and horn are very playable and really sit nicely in mixes with other libraries. The solo woodwind are pretty good although I find the samples lack the character and presence of my old Vitous set or those from VSL - both far more expensive it should be added. The strings are quite good too, once again very playable although the lack of a range of articulations limits them a little. The pizz is a little flaccid and its not too easy to get a real digging in marcato, but the legato patches all seem to flow very effectively. The Brass as a whole is not nearly as impressive as Silver's. It lacks the punch and sonic power obtainable from the latter and sounds rather meak. The percussion is good with plenty of choice in addition to which there's a reasonably ok piano (Silver's Steinway far outclasses it) and a nicely sampled organ with a nicely chosen range of stops.
GPO's big strength for me is as a laptop aid for orchestral arranging. It works better than anything else I've tried in this area and I can run it from Sibelius so parts checking is a doddle. Its probably because the samples are very economically sized but without scrimping on quality.
Final thoughts: Such a great tool and very well designed and maintained. I tend to use Silver and Gold in recording projects a lot more but I've found GPO is my main on-the-go companion. I've read a fair amount of "air" about how it can compete with the more expensive libraries. Well, no - it can't. I don't think its necessarily meant to, although I've heard its sounds on a few hacky tv programmes and ads. You get what you pay for in the sample world and something like GPO can't possibly stand shoulder to shoulder with Sonic Implant strings, or EWQLSO Gold or Platinum, or VSL..... No, but it is a brilliantly designed little sample orchestra that would be an assett to any composer who needs something for quick mock-ups, parts checking and so on.
Well, I have to say that GPO is hands down the most comprehensive selection of orchestral instruments that you'll ever find for the price.
The user interface is brilliant and easy to master, with a nice selection of knobs to fiddle with to get it sounding right. Very easy to use and even beginners can use it without any difficulty.
The sounds are very good quality and there are a lot of them with nice articulations for each instrument. It would be all too easy to fool an untrained ear with the rich assortment of string sounds. The violins are brilliant! The basses are not exceptional but they're still pretty good if you want a bone dry double bass that is rich and deep. Overall the sounds of GPO are brilliant and make up a very useful suite for anybody who is interested in composing orchestral scores. If you're looking for rich dry samples so you can use your own reverb effects then GPO is clearly your best bet.
The features are outstanding, and using the mod-wheel comes in handy when you want to increase the volume dynamically. The sustain features are second to none and there aren't many orchestral libraries that offer this at the same price point.
The documentation is good, but not exceptional. Most of it is emphasised on orchestras and this certainly helps beginners, and it makes a great accompaniment to anyone who hasn't got their foot in the door.
Customer support is second to NONE. Absolutely brilliant, and all questions asked on the forums are answered promptly by the very large community that is always there ready to assist you with any issues.
Overall value for money - very much so. There aren't any other orchestral libraries that offer such a wide selection of sounds at this price point. You cannot go wrong with GPO if you're looking for good quality orchestral sounds to add to your instrumental palette.
GPO is a very stable product and I've only had one crash but I fixed that with a recent update and never had any trouble since.
Overall a great product with a very wide selection of fine quality orchestral instrument sounds. I would highly recommend it.
I have been using the Garritan Personal Orchestra since it came out last year. In fact, I'm told I'm the first customer, so I have a lot of experience with this. Just let me say up front that I have been waiting most of my adult life for such a product to come along with as much control and sound quality for so little money. Really, its THAT good! GPO requires that you put in the work to get the most realistic sounding performances of your music, but gee, its not THAT much work! You can be up and running in an hour and though some quibble about the brass being thin, you just apply some eq and reverb and it will sound VERY realistic indeed. My advice is to make heavy use of the excellent 'overlay' patches which use more aggresive samples which also make very good solo instruments by themselves. Though I use SONAR for my sequencing, I have to use the VSTi version 'wrapped' by Cakewalk's own very good wrapping program. This is to eliminate a 'tempo change bug' problem NI has with ALL their players, including Kontakt. So just don't bother with DXi and you'll be fine. The strings come from the very excellent Garritan Orchestral Strings collection, but with less sampling and articulations. Really though, for 90% of orchestral composing you won't miss them. But you get really good solo strings that have enough patches to make your own ensembles, and this points up a VERY important aspect of 'GPO' versus other libraries: you approach scoring with GPO just as you would for a real orchestra. You make up your chords and unisons with many solo instruments as a real orchestra is made up of many solo players in ensemble. This adds much subtle variety to unison lines as unlike 'pre-sampled' unisons in other libraries, the attacks and releases and other artifacts of performance aren't locked in and repeated identically for each note. This is something that should not be overlooked and is the personal philosophy of Gary Garritan regarding orchestral mock-ups and in my experience, it works! There is less of a bombastic instant gratification with this library then others because there are not a myriad of articulations and sampled-in concert hall ambience. GPO does include a fine VST reverb you can use. I prefer to use some other excellent reverbs I have but that is nice because you can get a truly intimate sounding space with this library which has been difficult with those others offering 'built-in' ambience and release trails, etc. My favorite sections is the woodwinds which I find so well done that often you can forget you are listening to a sampled orchestration. The demos on the Garritan website bear this out and were not 'juiced up' to mask defiencies in the samples. Really. There are issues with Mac users and Logic, but this is appearing to affect many other sample developers as well. The bottom line for me is sound quality and ease of use, one of which I got with my old Gigastudio setup but not the other. GPO makes orchestral music fun!
GPO is a fabulous little orchestra for so little money. No other product on the market offers you everything you'd need to start making music in one package, most certainly wouldn't touch it the pricepoint if there were. If you've had the desire to write your own orchestral scores, but haven't wanted to invest a grip of cash, GPO is the way to go.
To counterpoint some of the previous observations -
Documentation - While the manual does cover very little, the online documentation with tips and tricks, along with the forum more than make up for what's lacking in the manual. In fact, it goes beyond about any other plugin in documentation that I've seen on the market yet.
Support - Gary and Tom have always been there when I've needed them to ask a question on the forums, in Email or on the telephone if necessary. Very responsive and polite, and a pleasure to deal with.
Stability - Can't answer for the Mac, but on the PC I haven't had any problems with the plugin in Cubase SX 2 here whatsoever. We all know NI does pose some problems, but I know they are working in the background to fix a lot of the little issues with the plugin, as well as provide DFD support.
Edited review. The first couple of versions of this product got a thumbs down from me. My complaints mostly related to problems on the Mac, with Logic, and due to the Kontakt player.
Now (December 2004), after 3 updates and a year, the software is actually getting good enough, although it still didn't take me a day to find a major bug. (Report to Garritan/NI with a request to let me know if they can reproduce it, or if it might be a problem with my installation. No reply.)
Pro: even with my limited skills this thing sounds good. And I don't even try hard. The demos that I've heard from people that do try hard are pretty unbelievable.
Cons: I used to list a number of bugs here. After several GPO and Logic updates (don't know who to blame) they mostly (but not totally) seem to have gone away.
What remains is mostly interface complaints about the NI player. Mediocre design, and clumsy in several places. Mostly unnecessary annoyances. Example: I moved the GPO sound files to a new drive. There doesn't seem to be a way to tell GPO where the new samples are. I had to reconstruct the instrument settings in the tracks that I had been working on.
Documentation: there is a little booklet, but it talks more about orchestras than about software. Quite insufficient.
Support: there are forums that are helpful, in fact more so than the email support.
Latest 6 reviews from a total of 6
Comments & Discussion for Garritan Personal Orchestra (GPO)