6 Must-Try Virtual Instruments for Every Music Producer

May 7, 2023
by
Charles Hoffman
Explore six virtual instruments for music producers of all genres, including Spitfire Audio's LABS, Output's Arcade, Arturia's V Collection, Spectrasonics' Omnisphere, Native Instruments' Kontakt, and EastWest's ComposerCloud.
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If you're a music producer, you know that having access to the right tools can make all the difference in the quality of your productions. While physical instruments certainly have their place, virtual instruments have become an increasingly popular option for music producers of all genres. In this post, we'll take a look at six must-try virtual instruments that every music producer should consider adding to their toolbox.

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6. Spitfire Audio LABS (Free)

An image of Spitfire Audio's LABS.
Figure 1: Spitfire Audio LABS.

Spitfire Audio's LABS is a unique collection of free virtual instruments, which features some unusual and esoteric sounds that you won't find anywhere else. The LABS series also includes sample libraries that were created from real-world instruments and sounds, adding a level of authenticity to your compositions.

One of the standout features of Spitfire Audio's LABS is the simple and intuitive user interface, which makes it easy to access and tweak the various controls and parameters of the instruments. These virtual instruments are also lightweight, meaning that they don't take up much space on your hard drive or use too much of your computer's processing power. The LABS series also includes a variety of different instrument types, including pianos, strings, guitars, and more, each with its unique set of controls and sound-shaping options.

Spitfire Audio's LABS is an excellent choice for music producers on a budget who are looking for a unique set of sounds and textures to add to their compositions. With its wide range of instrument types, the LABS series is a great starting point for producers who want to augment the built-in capabilities of their DAW. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced producer, Spitfire Audio's LABS will be a solid addition to your virtual instrument collection.

5. Output Arcade ($14.99/Month+)

An image of Output's Arcade.
Figure 2: Output's Arcade.

Output's Arcade is a revolutionary virtual instrument that allows producers to access and manipulate a vast library of one-shots and loops in a highly intuitive way. This virtual instrument features a sleek and modern user interface, which makes it easy to browse and manipulate sounds in real-time. Arcade is designed to inspire creativity and provide users with a huge pallet sonic possibilities, making it ideal for music producers of all skill levels.

One of the standout features of Arcade is its ability to transform loops and samples in real-time, using its built-in pitch, time-stretch, and modulation effects. The instrument also includes an assortment of creative tools, such as an arpeggiator, sequencer, and effects, which can be used to transform and manipulate sounds in new and exciting ways. Arcade's advanced features and intuitive interface make it a go-to tool for many producers, especially those looking to add unique and modern sounds to their productions.

Arcade's vast library of sounds is constantly expanding, with new content being added regularly. This virtual instrument includes everything from classic analog synths and acoustic instruments to cutting-edge modern sounds. You can browse and download new sounds directly from the Arcade interface, reducing friction and allowing your ideas to keep flowing. Output's Arcade is a powerful and inspiring virtual instrument that provides music producers with endless creative possibilities.

4. Arturia V Collection ($599)

An image of Arturia's V Collection.
Figure 3: Arturia's V Collection.

The Arturia V Collection is a comprehensive bundle of virtual instruments that faithfully recreates some of the most iconic synthesizers and keyboards of all time. With over 8,000 sounds and 32 virtual instruments, synths, keyboards, augmented strings, and augmented voices, the V Collection offers an extensive range of sounds that are essential to any producer or musician's toolkit. Arturia is renowned for its commitment to creating software instruments that sound and feel just like the original hardware, and the V Collection is no exception. Each instrument is carefully modeled after the original, with attention to detail paid to every aspect of the sound and user interface.

One of the standout features of the Arturia V Collection is the Analog Lab software that comes with it. Analog Lab allows users to browse and access all of the sounds and presets from the instruments in the collection in one easy-to-use interface. With plenty of presets, Analog Lab makes it easy to find the perfect sound for any project. The presets are organized by type, so users can quickly find the sounds they need, whether they're looking for basses, leads, pads, or something a little more unique.

An image of Arturia's Analog Lab software.
Figure 4: Arturia's Analog Lab software.

In addition to the Analog Lab software, the V Collection includes many individual virtual instruments, including classics like the Korg MS-20 V, SQ80 V, Prophet-5 V, and CS-80 V. Each virtual instrument features a detailed user interface that is designed to look and feel like the original hardware. With its combination of faithful recreations of classic instruments and modern features, the Arturia V Collection is an essential tool for any producer or musician.

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3. Spectrasonics Omnisphere ($479)

An image of Spectrasonics' Omnisphere.
Figure 5: Spectrasonics' Omnisphere.

Spectrasonics' Omnisphere is another popular and highly-regarded virtual instrument in the music production industry. This software synthesizer boasts over 14,000 sounds and 20,000 parameters, making it one of the largest sound libraries available. It also includes multiple synthesis engines that allow for wavetable, granular, and sample-based synthesis, resulting in endless creative possibilities. With its advanced arpeggiator and effects processing capabilities, Omnisphere is a powerful tool for creating complex and unique sounds that can add depth and texture to your music.

Omnisphere integrates with a long list of hardware synthesizers, which allows users to control features within Omnisphere using their synth. For example, if you twist a low-pass filter knob on your supported hardware synth, the movement will cause Omnisphere to filter the sound it's playing. Additionally, the software's intuitive user interface and extensive sound library make it easy to use for both beginner and advanced producers alike.

I like using Omnisphere to spark inspiration when I can't find an appropriate sound for my music. The synth lets you load random presets so you never know what you're going to stumble upon. It also has a well-organized patch browser, along with search functionality. You can search by category, type, genre, or author which makes narrowing down the right sound straightforward. Omnisphere is my go-to tool when I'm stuck in a creative rut and need help getting out.

2. Native Instruments Kontakt ($299)

An image of Native Instruments' Kontakt libraries.
Figure 6: Native Instruments' Kontakt libraries.

Native Instruments' Kontakt is a software sampler that has become a staple in the music production world. It is widely regarded as one of the most powerful and versatile samplers available, offering an extensive library of sounds and the ability to load custom samples. Kontakt has been used by producers and composers in a wide range of genres, from film scoring to electronic music and beyond.

Kontakt has a sleek and user-friendly interface, which allows for intuitive navigation and easy customization of sounds. The software offers a handful of tools for shaping and processing samples, including EQ, filtering, modulation, and effects. Kontakt also includes a robust scripting engine that uses a language called Kontakt Script Processor (KSP), which enables users to create their own custom instruments and effects.

In addition to its built-in library of sounds, Kontakt is also known for its extensive range of third-party libraries. These libraries are created by professional sound designers and feature high-quality samples and presets for many different instruments and genres. Kontakt's third-party libraries cover everything from orchestral instruments and world percussion to vintage synths and experimental soundscapes.

1. EastWest ComposerCloud ($19.99/Month)

An image of EastWest's ComposerCloud libraries.
Figure 7: EastWest's ComposerCloud libraries.

The EastWest ComposerCloud is a cloud-based subscription service that provides music producers and composers with access to a vast collection of virtual instruments and sample libraries. It was created by EastWest, a renowned developer of high-quality sample libraries used by professional musicians and composers around the world. The ComposerCloud allows subscribers to use tons of virtual instruments, including strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion, pianos, guitars, and many others.

One of the most significant advantages of the EastWest ComposerCloud is the vast selection of high-quality virtual instruments that are available to subscribers. The library contains over 42,000 virtual instruments which is almost incomprehensible. The quality of the sounds is exceptional, and they are recorded in top-notch recording studios using world-class equipment. The variety of instruments and sounds available in the ComposerCloud puts it at the top of this list, especially given the low price.

Another benefit of the EastWest ComposerCloud is the ease of use and flexibility. The subscription service is cloud-based, which means that subscribers can access the virtual instruments from anywhere with an internet connection. The ComposerCloud is compatible with most digital audio workstations (DAWs), including Logic Pro, Pro Tools, and Ableton Live, among others. The ComposerCloud costs $19.99/month or $199/year. I'm a fan of the month-to-month option because you can unsubscribe whenever you want, such as when you get busy with exams, work, or life's other challenges. As soon as you have free time to work on music, you can simply re-subscribe.

Virtual instruments have become increasingly popular over the last decade, as they provide an affordable and convenient alternative to physical instruments. In this post, we explored some of the most popular virtual instruments that every music producer should consider adding to their toolbox. Spitfire Audio's LABS, Output's Arcade,  Arturia's V Collection, Spectrasonics' Omnisphere, Native Instruments' Kontakt, and EastWest's ComposerCloud are all versatile and powerful tools that offer a wide range of sounds to music producers of all genres.

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