Having your very own "orchestra" at such a low price is quite amazing; the realism of many orchestral libraries have improved, and probably will not slow down due to excellent sound engineers and recorders such as the ones that put together EWQL Symphonic Orchestra. The sound of this thing is quite shocking, especially for how inexpensive it is.
This library is amazing, no doubt. Though, the producers claim that it is "easy to use". I beg to differ. It holds many secrets that require some investigation to find, so it doesn't exactly sound great "out of the box". You've got to learn how to use it optimally, and spend some time getting the right ammount of realism. You will find yourself tweaking the instrument patches quite abit (at least I did), and the programming glitches are no fun. For example, the 6 French Horns Sustain Legato gets a nasty squeek every time you load up a song for the first time. I'm not sure if it's just because of FL Studio, but this problem is not a big deal, as it can be fixed simply by re-loading the instrument. There are also some problems like certain velocities of some notes (tremelo cellos and piano) not on tune, but these are VERY rare and will be fixed with updates.
The interface isn't the most modern and sleek-looking interface I've ever seen, but it is quite efficient and easy on the eyes. I feel that the colors work very well with the overall tone of Symphonic Orchestra (colors can invoke subconcious emotions, therefore color is quite important).
You are given 8 midi channels, to house 8 instruments/articulations. I feel this is just the right number to keep things substantial, and not overcomplicated. You are able to change many perameters, such as the individual mixer outputs, midi channels and, max polyphony; you can also tweak not only the entire instrument's panning, levels, envelopes, and lfo's, but the insrument's "groups", like for a DXF (Dynamic Cross Fade, used for expressive crecendos and decrecendos) instrument's 'piano (soft) sustain' group. This extreme customizability makes up for the library's limited articulations.
The instruments you are given and the quality of them are perfect for epic, full, emotional, and lush orchestral pieces. Though, the lacking articulations and instruments makes this thing suffer horribly when it comes to dry sounds and solo instruments. I have to say that other than being a supportive sound, the solo instruments are quite horrendous (mainly the string instruments). But the essembles are quite amazing. With the sustain legato feature (whenever the sustain pedal is on, the instrument goes into legato mode) and it's 3 keyswitch settings (normal, quick, and accented) your orchestra can sound quite amazing, with some time and effort. Because of it's rich and full sound, this library is perfect for film and video game scores. The lack of articulations, however, can be fixed by purchasing the XP Pro version, which includes the many 'lost' instruments and sounds that the regular version is lacking, and better yet you can buy the two in a bundle and save 150 bucks!
The quality of the recording of the instruments is quite incredible. The instruments were recorded in a real symphony hall, so they sound completely natural, with a little bit of reverb to hide the abrupt note endings (which is fixed by release samples in the Gold and Planium versions). No real panning is required, and rarely do I have to adjust the levels of the instruments. They sit very well in the mix; the stereo image is outstanding, but not rediculous.
There are some serious performance issues if you are running on a computer with 512 MB of ram or less (I am running on 512 MB). This plugin requires alot of virtual memory, and that can be filled up very quickly if you have low ram. That's when the horrible things happen. Once virtual memory is overloaded, your instruments begin cutting out and popping. Not even rendering your song will stop it, in fact it only makes the matter worse. The only way I find it possible to render a song is to play and record it in real-time with an effect plugin like Voxengo Recorder. And of course you can render instruments seperately to reduce popping. But if you have more than 1.5 GB of ram, you really don't have anything to worry about.
The documentation is pretty good, it comes with an in-depth manual and a supportive forum with a helpful community and staff. I've not found any problems that I can't fix by doing a little bit of researching and reading.
Overall, if you are learning about how orchestral music is composed, and are looking for something more than free soundfonts and cheap synth immitations, this is the library to beat. And of course if the Silver version is too limiting, you can always upgrade to Gold or Platnium. The value is incredible, espeically when taking advantage of sales and bundles, which occur often at soundsonline.com.
You mention that you bought the Silver edition and spent $300. Did you mean the Gold Edition? The silver Edition is currently selling for less than $100 (Cyber Week sales). And though I was already aware of the "negative" points you stated - IMO all of which are valid - personally I'm willing to jump through some hoops to save 50% off on a great library.
(The sale goes on through the end of the year, so I plan to pick up either Gold or Platinum before then). :)
EastWest has some bizarre issue with the concept of mixing instruments and software. They never, ever seem to get the software part right, nor do they seem to care (though I hear good things about the instrument part). I avoid them like the plague.
I've had my issues with EastWest over the years, but I think a little balance is needed here.
On the Play engine -- it certainly is different from Kontakt, but in some ways its relatively simplicity is refreshing and quicker. Certainly moving sample libraries around your disks is much more straightforward with Play than with Kontakt. I also have found Play to be pretty darn stable on my Mac Pro. And I like many of the aspects of the GUI relative to Kontakt -- some of Kontakt still betrays the old NI "Reaktor" school of inscrutable under-the-hood stuff.
EWQLSO is kind of showing its age, but it is still a superb sounding library. But I think the criticism of EastWest would miss the point that their more recent products are absolutely incredible sounding. Hollywood Strings and Hollywood Brass is an AWFUL lot to give up if you've adopted an "avoid EastWest" policy. They're amazing. Now, again, EastWest is a bit quirky -- to get the hard disc (diamond) versions, you have to live with an internal SATA drive (which really makes sense when you consider the size of these libraries) and many will find that a pain in the ass. Although with Thunderbolt and external drive enclosures its really not that bad. (I've gotten an internal SSD for these libraries and I could never live without it now).
Another great EastWest product you'd be missing is the QL Pianos. The best sampled Piano library I've heard anywhere.
Plus when you actually call EastWest they have good and helpful people there.
So yes, EastWest has its issues and isn't always the most "user friendly" company. But I wouldn't totally give up on them, you're missing out on some stunning-sounding products that really have no equal.
I couldn't disagree more wankwinkel. The reason libraries running on Kontakt sound so much better isn't just the quality of recording - it's the tools / scripting available in Kontakt for the developers. It is generations beyond what East West is using with the Play Engine, making libraries from LASS, 8Dio etc. much more versatile and sophisticated. (more on this below).
Kontakt is also far more user friendly. It allows multiple manufacturer's libraries within the same interface. For example, I have all my Project Sam, Audiobro, Old East West libraries, 8Dio, Native Instruments, Cinesamples all availabe in the same Kontakt library window - all accessible at the same time. This is a HUGE plus. Combined with the fact that Kontakt allows the user to completely detach each individual instance of an instrument from each other - running multiple buses with endless scripting, effects, automation, routing - all in one GUI just makes Play seem like an application from the 1980s.
I'm not sure why you think Play has a better Library reallocation than Kontakt. That is absolutely NOT the case. Try reinstalling OS from scratch. 1) Download iLok driver. 2) Download iLok client. 3) Download Play. 4) Install Play and choose which libraries you bought so it can install the right interfaces for each. 5) Hope that this actually worked, which it rarely does on the first attempt - and hopefully you didn't forget to add a library, cause redoing the install will cause problems with other libraries that you did install. 6) Right click on "favorites" to add each library path - which is pointless cause you pick anywhere on your harddrive and it has no idea if it's the right path or not.
Whereas with Kontakt: 1) Download Kontakt latest version. 2) Install it and authorize through the Service Center simultaneously. 3) Open Kontakt 4) Add library, point to folder & simultaneously authorize through your online account. No dongle, no drivers, no hassles. 10x easier. And moving a library is as simple as removing it, adding it and pointing it to the new location. What's so difficult about that?
East West made a massive mistake ditching Kontakt - and an even larger mistake going with iLok (can't believe that company is still in business). It would have been fine had the Play Engine been a great application that could compete with Kontakt. But it really is a dud, sitting well below the competition.
I'll agree with you though - East West has some great sounding libraries. I'm a big fan of Silk & Ra. But I actually avoid Silk like the plague cause of the Play engine and still use the dated "Ra" cause I have the original version that still loads into Kontakt. :)