These top 12 woodwind plugins and Kontakt libraries deliver the best woodwinds sampled instruments have to offer.
Woodwinds are a vital part of the orchestra that adds brilliance and beautiful lyrical lines, contrasting with the menace of the brass. And nowadays, there are many orchestral plugins and libraries, each with string, woodwind, and brass sections.
However, finding the right woodwind plugin or library for you depends on what you are looking for.
In a nutshell, here are the 12 best woodwind plugins & Kontakt libraries in 2023:
Hence, I have enlisted typical orchestral plugins, soloists, and ethnic instruments in this article. However, before we get further into the list, let’s check out a few FAQs:
What Are Woodwind Instruments?
Woodwinds are blown instruments that often contain a reed, a thin cane, or metal that vibrates due to the air blown into the instrument, excluding the flute and piccolo. Furthermore, they don’t produce directional sound and feature internal mechanisms to vary the pitch by pressing the keys alongside the body.
Despite the name, woodwind instruments may not always have a body made of wood, although it was typical in the past and still is in many cultures. Instead, most standard woodwind instruments nowadays comprise metal and wood or metal alone.
Instruments like the Indian bamboo flute, the Japanese Shakuhachi, and the Chinese Dizi are some of the woodwind instruments made of wood. Instead of mechanical keys, these flutes use finger holes to change their pitch and differ in lengths depending on the scale/key.
What Are Wind Instruments Used For?
The most common and recognizable uses of wind instruments are in marching bands and orchestras. Since wind instruments aren’t directional (unlike brass), they are ideal for playing lead melodies in a large, open field with a marching band. Conversely, orchestral composers often use them for adding flairs.
How Many Types Of Woodwind Instruments Are There?
There are two categories of woodwind instruments: flute and reed. Flutes include all types of flutes and piccolos. Conversely, reed instruments include saxophones, clarinets, oboes, bassoons, and English horns. You could also have recorders and electronic woodwinds, although they’re uncommon in orchestras.
What Is The Lowest Woodwind Instrument?
The contrabassoon is the lowest woodwind instrument with a range of Bb0-D4. It even goes lower than the double bass, with a standard tuning having E1 as the lowest note. Furthermore, the contrabassoon has a rattling sound in the lowest registers, lending even more menace and impressiveness to its sound.
What Is The Biggest Wind Instrument?
The biggest typically used wind instrument is the contrabassoon. However, if quite rarely played and designed more like a show, the largest instrument is the sub-contrabass saxophone. Other similarly massive instruments are sub-contrabassoon and sub-contrabass clarinet. All of these play extreme low notes.
How Can You Tell The Difference Between Woodwind Instruments?
You can tell the difference between various woodwind instruments by their size, shape, and sound. For example, piccolos and flutes are side-blown, but the former is smaller than the latter. Similarly, the clarinet and oboes may look similar, but the clarinet uses a single reed, while the oboe uses double.
Furthermore, the clarinet looks a lot less complicated than the oboe, although the clarinet has a much larger note range than the oboe. And finally, the bass clarinet looks a lot like the regular clarinet, albeit much bigger. Conversely, the contrabassoon looks distinct because of its spiraled body.
Top 12 Woodwind Plugins & KONTAKT Libraries 2023
1. VENTO Modern Woodwinds (Kontakt Library)
Heavyocity has merged the worlds of traditional woodwind scoring and advanced sound-design tools, making it possible to quickly switch from a “standard” to a “sci-fi” atmosphere with just a few clicks.
In contrast to existing classical libraries, Heavyocity’s upcoming product, VENTO, features a full orchestra. Heavyocity has been steadily improving with each of these hybrid orchestral library releases, while Novo was their first and received the greatest ratings.
There are new kinds of ensembles, instruments, and articulations in VENTO. In addition, it lets you incorporate dynamic, intricate textures into your next cutting-edge score or trailer.
The applied engine is the backbone of VENTO and allows you to make various sounds by tailoring them to your abilities. When using only the bare minimum of tools, you may create rich, completely usable sounds, loops, and textures. In addition, the engine allows you to create unique texture sounds when diving in.
This woodwind instrument was designed to create rich, low-frequency sounds. It has rhythmic tools like Heavyocitie’s Cycle, which you can use in various ways. The Woodwind Designer is a low-frequency instrument.
Heavyocitie’s Cycle, a rhythmic tool with many applications, is included. Woodwind Loop Designer is a subset of the Woodwind Designer that was made specifically for showcasing and stacking looped content.
More than 160 crucial articulations are built into the brand-new VENTO (with some standard and extended articulations). This collection, like NOVO and FORZO, is worth buying because of the hybrid sounds and tempo-synced loops it provides.
Woodwind ensembles enable the performance of a massive, low-end Contrabass Ensemble. Piccolo, flute, clarinet, and oboe can all be played in an Ensemble as high-pitched instruments. In addition, VENTO’s engine is ready to lend a hand with your next audio project. Articulations, phrases, and choices for layering and shaping all contribute to a dynamically shifting soundscape.
- Loop Designer
The first is designed to produce long-form woodwind evolutions, while the latter provides a wealth of woodwind patterns in the key of C that can be combined to produce dramatic orchestrations with a few key presses. In addition, these patches show an envelope-assignable, continuously-moving filter across the full woodwind section (with individual ranges color-coded for simplicity).
The library is available for Kontakt 6.7 or higher. Kontakt 6.7 is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.10 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.
This ensemble might be a bit pricey if you want pads and accents for your scores. Also, if you can only afford one good woodwind collection, there is a better library for you. Vento Modern Woodwinds is an intriguing and potent option for composers and sound designers searching for a complete and otherworldly wind-based instrument and a massive expansion of their scoring palette.
2. BestService Ethno World 6 Instruments By Marcel Barsotti (Kontakt Library)
More Info & Price
This comprehensive collection brings the best ethnic instruments from all over the globe including woodwinds.
Ethno World 6 is the result of years of research and improvements over more than 15 years. The team behind its development wanted to include a large number of ethnic instruments in the same Kontakt library, with the focus of eventually becoming one of the most reliable sample collections with this goal.
- The instruments
The array of instruments in Ethno World 6 is vast: you can expect to find bowed, stringed and key instruments, woodwinds, brass, gongs, bells, metals, construction kits, world drums & percussions. In a woodwind folder, you will find various flutes like – Fujara, Dvojačka, Dagoba Flute, Bamboo Flute, Irish Traverse Flute, Mexican Piccoloflute, Native American Flute, Pivana Flute, Ney Flute and Shiva Flute and many other woodwind instruments.
- Group Edit
If you need to set the entire ensemble’s sound at once, a dedicated section will help you. Ethno World 6 divides this segment into four, with dedicated “Volume,” “Pitch LFO,” “High Pass,” and “Low Pass” windows. For example, inside the “Volume” window, you can set the overall envelope for the instrumental ensemble and the overall volume.
- Micro tunings
Some cultures rely heavily on specific tunings, and some are micro tunings. They are very different from our usual tunings and chords, coming from an entirely different background. The “Microtuning” section houses all options available to customize and configure this, with specific presets tied to a culture ready to be explored.
Ethno World 6 includes some built-in effects to be added to your instrument of choice. The “Effects” area is dedicated to showing the available options, which include a compressor, saturator, equalizer, delay, chorus, and phaser, aside from the classic reverb. If you think a specific sound is somewhat limited, try flirting with these options to expand your sonority in seconds.
- Humanize mode
It is very nice to have such an array of sounds inside your DAW, but often they need to be carefully programmed to showcase some human touch, even if played by a MIDI keyboard. To help you with that, BestService included a humanize mode in Ethno World 6, which play the new notes in your song with a slightly altered timbre.
- Convolution reverb
Impulse responses are very handy in providing a specific ambiance digitally. They are sets of algorithms that aim to reproduce how a room or specific ambient sounds like, and you can have that technology inside the built-in reverb effect. This provides clarity, authenticity, and quality to your sounds instantly.
- The instruments
This plugin is available for macOS 10.14 or higher (the latest update) and Windows 10 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST, VST3, AAX, and AU plugin formats. Kontakt Player or Kontakt version 5.6.1 or higher is required.
A superb collection of ethnic instruments, Ethno World 6 excels by delivering a nice collection of woodwinds and other instruments allied with relevant parameters and controls. The functionality of this library is very intuitive, and the most difficult part is deciding which instrument sounds best. We can safely say that its samples were carefully recorded and provide a great quality, especially if deeply explored with the built-in effects and general settings.
3. VSL Synchron Woodwinds (Plugin)
Vienna Symphonic Library has captured the outstanding sound of the acoustics at Stage A of the scoring stage Synchron Stage Vienna.
Combining a large volume of samples and excellent GUI, VSL Synchron Woodwinds seeks to provide one of the most authentic and straightforward sample-based woodwind plugins in one neat package.
It gives a massive arsenal of articulations and playing techniques with in-depth sampling and programming. Furthermore, you’ll find multiple microphone positions to help add flexibility.
The library comes in two variations: standard and full. The main difference is that the full edition adds three stereo surround microphone positions to the four in the standard edition.
Hence, these allow you to mix in a large, lush ambiance to your woodwinds, especially for surround mixing. Of course, it’s equally as excellent in the stereo format. However, the price and storage requirements for the full library could be difficult to accommodate.
- The Instruments
The library provides thirteen solo instruments alongside seven ensembles. The solo instruments include piccolo, flute 1, flute 2, alto flute, French oboe 1, French oboe 2, English horn, clarinet in Bb 1, clarinet in Bb 2, bass clarinet, bassoon 1, bassoon 2, and contrabassoon. Similarly, the ensemble instruments are as follows: flutes (3 players), oboe (3 players), clarinet (3 players), bassoon (3 players), tutti woodwinds (13 players), low FX woodwinds (8 players), and high FX woodwinds (10 players).
- Natural Articulations
As I’ve mentioned, Synchron Woodwinds’ collection of articulations and techniques is quite impressive, especially for the solo category. You’ll find multiple types of staccato, portato, legato, expressivo, sforzato, sforzatissimo, crescendo, diminuendo, flutter tonguing, trills, etc. Most of the longer notes like sustain, legato, and crescendo offer vibrato and non-vibrato options.
Similarly, the ensemble instruments offer various types of sustain, legato, staccato, flutter tonguing, repetitions, and dynamics. In the woodwinds FX categories, you’ll also find octave runs, arpeggios, clusters, etc. These are helpful to add flairs and natural phrases in your orchestration without tediously programming them.
- Microphone Positions
VSL Synchron Woodwinds has four microphone positions in the standard library, whereas the full edition has three more. The standard library features the following: close mic (mono), mid mics, main/room – Decca Tree (side stereo), and main/room – Decca Tree (center mono). Having control over the sides and center of the Decca Tree setup allows you to control the mix’s width easily.
Furthermore, the full library adds the following mic positions: main surround (stereo), high stereo (stereo), and high surround (stereo). You can use the regular main/room mics alongside the main surround position to create a 5.1/7.1 mix. However, if you are working on a Dolby Atmos-type surround setup, the high stereo and high surround (rear) help you make an even more immersive experience.
- Customize & Perform
Synchron Woodwinds provides multiple articulations in each of its instrument presets. However, you can also change the articulation key switches to suit your performance. Furthermore, many articulations come with multiple types that you can select using key switches set an octave higher than the articulation switches. And within them, you’ll find more controls like vibrato, speed, etc.
Similarly, the plugin provides other necessary controls like expression, timbre adjustment, dynamic range, attack, release, tuning, humanization, legato mode (mono or polyphonic), etc. And a mixer page allows you to blend the various microphone positions, add filters, change panning, add effects, etc.
Synchron Woodwinds is available for Windows 8.1 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats. You require a Vienna Key or other USB eLicensers (Steinberg or Arturia) to download the demo/purchase.
Synchron Woodwinds is an excellent woodwinds plugin that features everything you need to compose for a woodwind section. The round robins and dynamic sampling allow you to create authentic woodwind parts in your orchestration or song.
However, it is quite CPU and storage-heavy. So, VSL recommends a fairly powerful device to get a better experience. To summarize, it’s an excellent choice if you require a comprehensive collection of woodwind instruments for both solo and ensemble.
4. Orchestral Tools Berlin Woodwinds (Plugin)
Berlin Woodwinds is the flagship woodwind library that defies what sampled instruments are capable of by Orchestral Tools.
Previously a Kontakt library, Berlin Woodwinds has undergone a complete overhaul with a new snazzy standalone plugin and added features. The German company Orchestral Tools recorded the samples on the acclaimed Teldex Scoring Stage in Berlin.
Scrolling through some history about the stage reveals an enriching history involving contemporary idolized composers like Howard Shore, Danny Elfman, Alan Silvestri, and David Newman.
Furthermore, the library features samples of the orchestra in the traditional seating positions recorded with Teldex’s collection of microphones. So, this endeavor ensures authentic recreation of the classic sound.
The instrument library runs in Orchestral Tools’ SINE plugin, featuring multiple pages. Below, you can see the performance tab displaying the loaded articulations of the selected instruments. Furthermore, you can make changes to the articulations and instrument at the bottom right.
Similarly, the mixer page allows you to make changes to the instruments you’ve loaded and the microphone positions. Let’s have a look at some of its key features:
- The Woodwind Section
Instead of providing an ensemble section, Berlin Woodwinds offers each instrument in the ensemble separately so that you have complete control. Hence, you will find a piccolo, three flutes, one alto flute, two oboes, one English horn, two clarinets, and two bassoons. This peculiar sampling method allows you to write complex divisi parts involving multiple articulations and notes.
The library features many articulations that help you write convincing woodwind parts fast. These articulations include sustain + legato, sustains, accented sustains, portato long/short, marcato long/short, staccato regular/short, repetitions, trills, playable runs, fortepiano, doubles, etc. However, note that the articulations vary between instruments.
The repetition articulation allows you to play notes repeating at 1/16 and 1/8 triplet speeds in sync with your project’s tempo. Similarly, the trills include single trills, regular trills, and trills sforzando. These are also synced to your DAW and feature trills up to the fifth note. Furthermore, you can switch between the articulations using key switches, MIDI CC, playing speed, MIDI channel, and program changes.
- Adaptive Legato
Berlin Woodwinds features two sets of legato transitions that switch based on how fast you play the notes. Slower notes are considered Speed Zone 1, whereas faster ones are Speed Zone 2, each zone with a different legato style. For example, you could have regular legato in Speed Zone 1 and runs in Speed Zone 2. So, when you play slowly, it transitions from one note to another smoothly, but playing faster will result in nimble run patterns automatically.
Berlin Woodwinds provides six microphone positions: spot 1, spot 2, Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française (ORTF), tree, AB, and surround. The spot positions use close mics, although with two different flavors. Similarly, the ORTF setup uses two cardioid mics spread to a 110° angle spaced 17 cm apart. It offers a stereo field that still has mono compatibility.
Similarly, the Decca tree is a three-mic setup that recordists have repeatedly used to record an orchestra. AB captures the two sides of the woodwind section, whereas the surround mic records the hall ambiance. Furthermore, you can change the volume and pan of each of these microphone signals to create a custom mix. And, of course, turning a mic signal off helps save your RAM.
If you need further control, you can also assign each mic signal to a new output. Then, you can create new tracks in your DAW to receive these outputs so that you can mix them in your DAW instead. However, keep in mind that the instruments in this plugin are pre-mixed and recreate the original Teldex sound in the default mixing positions.
- Mic Merge
Mic Merge is an innovative feature that allows you to create a custom internal sample library that combines the microphone positions you’ve used. Essentially, you are creating a new “mix” that combines all the microphone position samples at the volume you’ve set. It requires additional storage in your SSD/hard drive, but it helps save RAM as SINE no longer needs to load multiple sets of microphone position samples.
Orchestral Tools’ SINE Player is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Berlin Woodwinds is one of the most comprehensive woodwind libraries ever built, and it isn’t afraid of diverging from the conventional path to create innovative solutions. You’ll receive each instrument of the ensembles separately instead of as an ensemble, providing you with complete control. Further, it features a massive arsenal of articulations, six microphone setups, and a very well-thought-out workflow. The samples represent the Teldex hall faithfully, thanks to the in-situ recording. And it plays excellently with the other Berlin series instruments, making it an excellent stepping stone into building your orchestra.
5. Spitfire Audio – Abbey Road One Sparkling Woodwinds (Plugin)
Capture the iconic sound of the Abbey Road’s scoring stage Studio One, the world’s largest recording space.
The studio is a part of the success of iconic film scores like The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and Harry Potter and songs by artists like Stevie Wonder, U2, and Harry Styles. And Spitfire Audio’s Abbey Road series of instruments brings the renowned sound to your studio.
Sparkling Woodwinds is a straightforward sampled instrument featuring woodwind instruments and a glockenspiel to add a nice “sparkle” to the sound. It’s ideal for creating woodwind runs and lyrical passages that sound magical and beautiful.
Of course, you could also use it to play chords and harmonies. However, the lack of control over the various instruments in the woodwind ensemble may make the plugin appear limiting in some use.
- Three Articulations
The plugin features three types of playing techniques with multiple dynamic layers: legato, long, and staccato. Each of them has two or more instruments playing together in octaves to create a magical feel. Furthermore, the legato is monophonic, whereas the long articulation is polyphonic and excellent for playing chords. Likewise, you can trigger the articulations with the following parameters: key switch, CC range, velocity, MIDI channel, and speed.
Sparkling Woodwinds come with multiple mixes and microphone positions. These include the following: mix 1, mix 2, vintage 1, vintage 2, pop close, pop room, close mics, Decca tree 1, Decca tree 2, ambiance, outriggers, and spill mics.
Mix 1 and 2 are based around the Decca tree 1 and 2 setups, mixed by Simon Rhode. Similarly, the vintage mixes feature classic outboard gear at Abbey Road Studios. Conversely, the pop mixes are excellent for contemporary music with intimate sounds. And the rest of the microphone setups feature multiple microphones to deliver a wide variety.
Alongside changing their volumes, you can adjust the stereo width of the close and spot signals and pan the microphones. Similarly, you can assign each signal to a new stereo output to have the entire mix in your DAW’s mixer. Then, you can add third-party effect plugins to suit your taste.
The effects section features the following: reverb, release, vibrato, overlay level, and overlay speed. The overlay level controls the volume of the glockenspiel, which you can also find on the main page. Similarly, the overlay speed changes the responsiveness of the glockenspiel. It plays in sync with the legato transition at 0%, whereas increasing the parameter makes it more responsive.
Sparkling Woodwinds is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Sparkling Woodwinds is an orchestrated woodwind section with a glockenspiel, ideal for creating brilliant woodwind passages and runs. It doesn’t overwhelm you with parameters and simply works. Furthermore, its sound is easily recognizable, thanks to the true sound of Abbey Road’s Studio One, which adds the cinematic vibe to your scores. So, if you are after an affordable woodwind plugin that is excellent for film scoring, look no further. And have a look at Spitfire Audio’s other woodwind plugins in the same range: Vibrant Reeds, Mysterious Reeds, and Wondrous Flutes.
6. Spitfire Audio Epic Brass & Woodwinds (Plugin)
Add some epicness to your orchestration with the Originals Epic instruments.
The Epic Brass & Woodwinds plugin provides basic brass and woodwind ensemble sounds. I don’t recommend them as the only brass or woodwind plugin for your whole project. Instead, Epic Brass & Woodwinds is for layering with existing samples to add a grittier and bigger tone.
For example, you could use it to make your French horns sound more massive than they did before.
The plugin provides three types of audio signals: close, room, and distorted. The close position sounds slightly more intimate than the room signal, which is a combination of a Decca Tree, ambient, and outrigger mic setups. Conversely, the distorted signal adds a grittier sound that works well for adding character.
The plugin sports two faders on its user interface that control the expression of the instruments. These include expression and dynamics control. As you’d expect, the expression control (CC 11) modifies the instrument’s volume. However, the dynamics control (CC 1) changes the dynamic layer of the instrument, making the instrument softer and harder while naturally changing the volume.
Epic Brass & Woodwinds features two sections: brass and woodwinds. Each contains three patches: live, long, and short. The short patch provides the staccato articulation, whereas the long articulation plays legato. Similarly, you can change the plugin’s reverb, release, and tightness. Here, tightness changes the sample start position, making the short articulation tighter and more on time.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Epic Brass & Woodwind is an excellent collection of electrifying brass and woodwind sounds. You will find the sounds most useful for making your film scores bombastic and adding large tutti hits in hip-hop songs.
Furthermore, the plugin retails for a very low price, making it an excellent starter pack. However, as mentioned before, I don’t recommend it as your sole woodwind or brass sample plugin.
7. Native Instruments Woodwind Ensemble (Kontakt Library)
Collaborating with the renowned Soundiron brand, Native Instruments provide a complete woodwind section recorded at Montclair Presbyterian Church in Oakland, California.
The Symphony Series is a collection of strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussions that is essentially Native Instrument’s solution to creating cinematic orchestrations. However, they aren’t recorded in the same acoustic space, making each section feel standalone.
And among these, the series’ woodwind library is one of the most famous libraries among Kontakt users, thanks to its moderate cross-grade price.
- Solo & Ensemble
The Symphony Series Woodwind library features a six-player ensemble and a solo performance of the following instruments: concert flutes, oboes, Bb clarinets, bassoons, tenor saxophones, and bass winds. The bass winds include three contrabassoons, one bass clarinet, and two contrabass clarinets. However, you’ll only find a contrabassoon in the solo category. It makes sense as the contrabassoon is the lowest of the three instruments in the ensemble section.
- Microphones & Mix
The library sure doesn’t skimp in the microphone department. You’ll find three microphone setups, where the close position features four Neumann TLM 103 cardioid microphones. Similarly, the mid-position features two of the following mics: Neumann TLM 107 Omni, TLM 67 Omni, and TLM 103 cardioid. And finally, the far position features the two Neumann TLM 103 cardioid mics and two TLM 102 cardioids.
The Mixer page allows you to change the volume and pan of the microphone positions. And you can set each mic position to a new output channel. This feature lets you process each position using either Kontakt’s mixing effects or third-party effects in your DAW. Furthermore, you’ll find a global EQ, reverb, compressor, and filter built into the library.
Symphony Series Woodwind features many articulations, opening the door to authentic performances. These include dynamic sustain with simulated legato, arpeggio sustains, true legato, staccatos, expressions, and effects like aleatoric, discords, clusters, flourishes, sweeps, etc. Furthermore, the staccatos include single, double, and triple tongued staccatos and flutter tonguing for the flutes and oboes ensembles.
The library lets you control the expressiveness of the instruments using true dynamic layers. Furthermore, you can adjust the attack, release, tightness, or starting point of the samples and modulation/motion. You can control them using CC parameters to create dynamic and moving passages.
Furthermore, you’ll find an arpeggiator module to create runs, trills, and chords alongside a note repeater to make easy ostinatos. Likewise, you can assign up to eight articulations to either key switches or MIDI CC. And you can subdivide a key switch by velocity and MIDI CC. While it may sound complex, the clean visual representation of the articulations on the articulation slot setup page makes it straightforward.
The library is available for Kontakt 5 and Kontakt Player 6. Kontakt is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.14 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Symphony Series Woodwind is a Kontakt library with an entire woodwind section recorded in California. It comes in two types: the regular edition and the essentials edition.
However, I wouldn’t suggest using the essentials version unless you only need a very basic set of sounds for uncomplicated use with fewer articulations and the overall storage footprint. Overall, I suggest this library for general-purpose woodwind use and scoring.
It may not be the most comprehensive or special, but it provides six-player ensembles and excellent recordings.
8. Cinematic Studio Series – Cinematic Studio Woodwinds (Kontakt Library)
The Cinematic Studio Series provides a complete orchestra that makes each instrument easy to use while providing plenty of flexibility in performance.
The Cinematic Studio Woodwinds library comes from this series, which provides an extensive woodwind solo and two-player ensemble section. Of course, you could combine the two to get a three-player ensemble.
The user interface allows you to switch between articulations, add reverb, change the mic position volumes, and control the legato speed. Further, Cinematic Studio Woodwinds provides one of the best legato sampling and scripting I’ve heard yet.
Whether you’re writing fast, bright piccolo runs, or somber legato clarinet pieces, the library never fails to sound consistent and precise.
It’s worth noting that the Cinematic Studio Woodwinds library requires you to play your legato MIDI notes slightly ahead of time as the library adds a delay of about a quarter of a second.
According to the developers, this quirk is by design and maximizes realism when playing legato phrases. So, you’ll likely need a couple of practices before you’re used to it.
The library features the typical woodwind section alongside some rarer ones. These include the following ensemble instruments: flutes, oboes, clarinets, and bassoons. Similarly, you’ll find the following solo instruments: piccolo, flute, oboe, Cor Anglaise (English horn), alto flute, clarinet, bassoon, bass clarinet, and contrabassoon.
Each instrument in this library provides the following articulations: sustains (with/without vibrato), legato (with/without vibrato), repetitions, staccatissimo, staccato, sforzando, half and whole trills, marcato, playable runs, and measured repetitions. Furthermore, the flutes include a flutter tongue articulation.
You can select these articulations using the tiles on the user interface or by using key switches. You can also change the key switch to a custom note by clicking on the tiles while holding Shift on your keyboard. Similarly, you can unload an articulation to save RAM by clicking on an undesired articulation while pressing Alt (Option on Mac). And finally, enable or disable legato by pressing the G#0 note on your MIDI keyboard.
- Microphones & Mixing
The library provides four microphone positions: close, overhead, main, and room. You can change the volume and panning of each position to create custom mixes that range from intimately close to large and wide. Similarly, the Mix fader lets you use a pre-mixed orchestral sound provided by the developers. And since you can disable the microphone positions to save RAM, you can use the mix signal alone without using any other microphone positions. I recommend using it if the instrument doesn’t ever sound at the forefront. Of course, if the recorded space isn’t enough, you can add an artificial reverb using the reverb knob at the top left.
The library is available for Kontakt 5.8.1 or higher and Kontakt Player. Kontakt is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higher, both 64-bit only for RAM requirements. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.
Many orchestral libraries require you to program your performances painstakingly to sound as realistic as you’d like. And that is a no-go when you have a tight deadline. So, the Cinematic Studio Woodwinds library offers the opposite, where you spend less time programming and more time composing.
Creating smooth runs and beautiful legatos becomes straightforward and effortless.
Furthermore, the recordings are clean and curated to deliver smoothness. You couldn’t go wrong with this library, whether you’re just learning to orchestrate or compose complete cinematic scores for blockbusters.
9. Impact Soundworks Ventus Native American Flutes (Kontakt Library)
Bring three warm, cinematic Native American flutes, ideal for scoring and New Age music, to your sonic arsenal.
Impact Soundworks have made many impactful instruments, and the Ventus Native American Flutes library offers three melodic flutes with an outstanding level of performance. You can play legato melody freely while introducing elegant, live-performed ornaments and articulations. The result is a performance that takes your score or world music to a whole new level.
If ethnic instruments are your thing, I suggest checking out Impact Soundworks’ other deep-sampled woodwinds and flutes from all around the world. They come in handy when you need to create something localized, and the sampling is comprehensive enough to produce convincing results with the least effort.
- The Flutes
The three flutes in this library are the Red Tail Hawk, Pocket Cedar, and Contrabass. All of them are fipple or directly-blown flutes. And as you might expect, the Contrabass has the lowest range among the three, with the Red Tail Hawk coming in second. I love the sound of the Red Tail Hawk, which sounds very peaceful and evocative yet distinct in a mix. Likewise, the Pocket Cedar flute is the highest among the three.
Ventus Native American Flutes provides awesome legato features. Playing an overlapping note after the previous triggers a true legato feature, which sounds excellent. However, you can enable “split point legato” mode to allow legato even when the notes are quantized to the grid instead of overlapping. This feature makes it easy to write parts in the staff notation while also playing in legato.
Furthermore, the library features innovative polyphonic legato that doesn’t use multiple MIDI channels. Instead, it relies on time buffers. Suppose you play two notes together. Then, if you release one of these notes and play another, the engine analyzes whether the next note is within a specific time buffer. If it is, it will trigger a legato transition. You can adjust this time buffer using the Latency knob.
- Ornaments & Articulations
The library allows you to add ornaments at the end of a note automatically. Turn up the Ornaments Chance knob to increase how often it happens. Similarly, you can change the weight or probability of a specific ornament occurring using the Weights sliders.
Furthermore, the Morph section features three sliders that you can map to MIDI CCs. These include dynamics, flutter, and vibrato. You can also adjust the vibrato style by clicking on a small gear icon next to the vibrato slider. Likewise, the library features various other articulations, including sustain, accented sustain, tongued sustain, trill, bend up/down, and accented bend up/down.
The library provides a console page where you can find a mixer. You can change the volume and pan of the close and room mic signals available in this library. Similarly, you can add onboard effects to each signal, and the master output or use sends, changing your sound further. These effects include a parametric EQ, convolution reverb, basic reverb, delay, compressor, chorus, etc., all from Kontakt’s built-in effects library.
The library is available for Kontakt 5.7 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player). Kontakt 5.7 is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.10 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.
Ventus Native American Flutes is a beautifully sampled virtual instrument library. It provides a comprehensive collection of articulations and quirks performed on such flutes.
Similarly, you’ll find a collection of hundreds of MIDI phrases for each flute that help you get inspiration and understand how to use the instruments.
Furthermore, as it’s powered by Kontakt’s FX collection, you can mix the instrument completely using built-in effects.
10. Silence+Other Sounds MALEVENTUM 2 Arcane Native American Flutes (Kontakt Library)
As the name suggests, Maleventum 2 provides Native American flutes to evoke strange and mysterious emotions.
Many composers have used ethnic instruments to depict a variety of emotions. And they truly are capable of expressing beautiful, sanguine feelings alongside the sinister and diabolical. Maleventum 2 focuses on the latter.
Hence, you’ll find playable instruments, collections of phrases, and live-performed effects.
Maleventum 2 features sounds of flutes, whistles, and horns made with clay. They are designs from the Aztec, Maya, and Incas civilizations over three thousand years ago, now faithfully reproduced by Nomada Ceramica. So, you’ll find Aztec flutes and whistles, double flutes, Trompeta Moche war horns, pan flutes, death whistles, statuettes, Tlapitzali, didgeridoos, and Vasija Silbadora. The last one is a peculiar instrument that makes an uncanny creature call.
Similarly, you’ll find the Romanian and Turkish Kaval, a shepherd flute that is excellent for playing melodic lines in scores. Alongside these melodic instruments, you’ll find flute phrases, hunt calls, atmospheric pads, textures, trills, creature-esque calls, squealing cries, etc. Hence, it’s a truly inspiring instrument library for composers working on horror, ethnic, and adventure films or games.
There are twenty Kontakt instruments in this library. Among these, four are playable legato instruments: Antara Nazca (pan flute), Faluta Globular (shell flute), Tlapitzali (Incas flute), and Kaval (overtone flute). The latter two feature legato ornaments and textural drones sounds.
Likewise, you’ll find four designed phrase patches: Flute of the Mountain, Forest Ritual, Wailings, and Spiritual Flutes. Then, three patches are designed sound-effects, including screams, creatures, horns, and didgeridoos. And finally, there are five original phrases and four original sound effects performed live.
- Kontakt Instrument
The sixteen phrases and SFX Kontakt patches provide a specific user interface that lets you blend two layers of sounds: phrases/SFX and background textures. Furthermore, this instrument type is compatible with MPE controllers, making it possible to manipulate the phrases creatively. Similarly, the edit page allows you to add a high-pass and low-pass filter on each layer, change the attack, release, LFO, etc. And the FX page features a convolution reverb with several impulse responses (IR).
The library also features four legato patches, each with many instruments. So, you’ll get a total of seventy-four playable instruments. These patches feature scripted legato, but they sound fairly realistic in general use cases. Furthermore, you can enable Ornaments to hear quirks and variations while playing your melodies. And enabling Texture plays an additional background texture layer. Likewise, a separate set of keys plays drones that could be great to set the mood.
The library is available for Kontakt 5.8.1 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player). Kontakt 5.8.1 is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.10 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.
Maleventum 2 provides a lot of unexplored sounds that are ideal for film and game scoring. Every sound feels curated for adding mysteriousness and spookiness to your music. Furthermore, authentic phrases and effects that you can manipulate to fit your music help you get quick results.
Also, since the sounds are WAV files, you could even import the audio samples into your DAW as loops/samples and modify them as you want! However, the Kontakt instruments don’t provide quite as much flexibility or comprehensiveness as many other libraries.
Still, the rarity of the flutes, whistles, and horns in this library easily makes up for the slight lack in the sampling department.
11. 8Dio Claire Oboe Virtuoso (Kontakt Library)
8Dio’s collaboration with the Emmy nominated composer Colin O’Malley brings one of the most detailed solo oboe libraries.
Recorded at a symphonic hall, Claire Oboe Virtuoso is a deeply sampled solo oboe with an advanced legato system and passionate articulations.
Furthermore, it offers multiple mic positions, performance noises, and phrases to help you achieve the most natural sound possible from a virtual instrument. And the 96 kHz sample recording never sounds dull despite pitch changes.
I must note that despite the information on 8DIO’s website, their instruments are no longer watermarked, as confirmed to me by their PR via email. So, you’ll likely come across a new web page and instrument downloader that doesn’t inform about watermarking soon.
- Microphone Positions
The library offers three microphone positions: Close, Decca tree, and wide. The close is a mono microphone, whereas the Decca tree setup features three mics capturing the sides of the instrument. And the wide mic captures the hall sound. Furthermore, you can easily mix the three microphones on the main page by adjusting the volume of each setup on the right side of the user interface.
Claire Oboe Virtuoso provides two types of legato sets: lyrical and strong. The lyrical legato set is ideal for slow to medium-paced passages, whereas the strong legato is excellent for fast passages or arpeggios. Furthermore, each legato type features eight articulations: legato natural, medium 1, medium 2, strong 1, strong 2, sustain crossfade, staccatissimo, and marcato expressivo. Furthermore, you’ll find non-legato sustains, staccatissimo, marcato expressivo, major/minor second trills, one octave runs up/down, and two octaves runs up/down.
Claire Oboe Virtuoso truly focuses on its legato sounds. So, on top of the typical multiple dynamic sampling we see often, this library features dynamic legato arcs. So, you’ll find legato arcs like p-mp-p, p-mf-mp, mp-mf-mp, mp-f-mp, f-ff-mp, etc. These allow you to make natural-sounding changes from one dynamic level to another.
The library provides a few other features that could be helpful: adding a second player to create a duet, mixing breath samples, and valve/click samples. The latter two are handy when writing an intimate oboe solo. However, I wouldn’t recommend using them if your music is rather busy.
The library is available for Kontakt 5.5 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player). Kontakt 5.5 is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.4 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.
Claire Oboe Virtuoso is one of the best solo oboe sample libraries. It provides a very natural sound with soulful, responsive performances. Furthermore, the triple microphone positions let you blend in the exact amount of intimacy and ambiance you want. So, if you want a solo oboe that sounds authentic while keeping the workflow straightforward, I highly recommend this library.
12. 8Dio Studio Series Fire Saxophone (Kontakt Library)
Get into the heart of Latin and pop music with this soulful solo saxophone library.
8DIO’s Studio Series provides dry wind and brass instruments ideal for contemporary music production, whether it’s pop, Latin, or salsa. And Studio Fire Saxophone is an excellent, responsive tenor saxophone library that allows you to play quick runs and thoughtful, romantic lines.
The very motivation behind this library is playing fast legato passages. In contrast to the smooth lines composed for classical performances, Studio Fire Sax is all about running through scales, repeating jumps, and exhibiting style over a twirling crowd. Hence, it’s the perfect library for faster pop and dance music instead of something like slow blues.
Studio Fire Sax offers a comprehensive collection of articulations that allow you to explore the full capability of this instrument. You’ll find staccato, drops, glissando up/down, crescendos, flat sustains, vibrato sustains, flutter tongue, trills, legato, ornaments, bends, grupetto, and polyphonic legatos. Furthermore, you can control the speed of each phrase, dynamics, amp envelope, etc., on the user interface.
The library is available for Kontakt 5.8 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player). Kontakt 5.8 is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.11 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.
Studio Fire Sax is an excellent tenor sax library at an affordable cost. It hails from 8DIO’s The Bible of Latin & Salsa Volume III collection alongside Studio Fire Trumpet and Studio Trombone libraries, which are also worth checking out.
Furthermore, it offers a total of forty-two articulations, allowing you to write an extraordinarily lively piece of solo, especially for pop, Latin, salsa, band, soul, etc.
2 Best Free Woodwind Plugins 2021
1. BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover – Spitfire Audio (Plugin)
The BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover is likely the most complete orchestral package you can find for free.
On top of sounding incredibly high-quality, the BBCSO Discover plugin features thirty-three orchestral instruments with an easy-to-use user interface. It has pre-mixed strings, woodwind, brass, and percussion ensemble sections.
Furthermore, each instrument in the sections provides multiple articulations. So, if you are currently learning orchestration, BBCSO Discover could be the ideal orchestral plugin and even a stepping stone to the paid versions for you.
- Instruments & Articulations
Of course, the most important part of any orchestral plugin or library is its arsenal of articulations. And BBCSO Discover provides plenty to create a complete piece of music! In the string section, you’ll find violin 1, violin 2, violas, celli, and bass. And each of them provides long (vibrato), spiccato, pizzicato, and tremolo articulations.
Similarly, the woodwind section features piccolos, flutes, oboes, clarinets, and bassoons with long and staccatissimo articulations. And the brass section employs French horns, trumpets, tenor trombones, bass trombones, and tuba, again with long and staccatissimo articulations each. Likewise, the percussion section includes a harp, celeste, timpani, marimba, glockenspiel, tubular bells, and untuned percussions.
- Mode Switching
After you’ve composed some pieces of music using BBCSO Discover, you might decide to purchase a more in-depth and comprehensive orchestral library. And if you choose either the BBCSO Core or Professional, you can easily make your project compatible with the new library. Furthermore, if you receive a project done with BBCSO Professional, the plugin can play the project with either BBCSO Core or Discover, giving you complete freedom to move from one edition to another.
BBCSO Discover is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
BBCSO Discover is an excellent starting point for any orchestral composer, even if you own the paid versions of BBCSO. It features all the fundamental articulations necessary to get a piece of music started.
Further, if it isn’t a complicated piece, you could even finish it using this plugin. And although the string section is notably prioritized in this plugin, the woodwind ensembles are still highly usable. So, you could either use them as your main sounds or layer with other libraries.
However, note that since it only has a single mix, the samples have quite a long reverb, making additional reverb unnecessary.
2. Tek’it Audio RECsoprano 2 (Plugin)
RECsoprano 2 is a well-designed soprano recorder virtual instrument plugin.
As despised as recorders have become among parents, recorders are still excellent melodic woodwind instruments. However, it does require some skill to play well. RECsoprano allows you to include a recorder in your orchestrations. Although, it doesn’t have any legato system, making the instrument sound artificial. Let’s figure out what else is offered, though:
- Fundamental Controls
The plugin provides an amp envelope at the bottom left. Now, as I mentioned, it doesn’t have legato features. However, you could use the amp envelope with a moderate amount of attack and release, time the notes right, and fake legato playing. Similarly, you’ll find panning controls and an output gain at the bottom right.
The second set of controls labeled “Amplitude” is a pair of filters. You can use these filters to change how dark or bright your recorder sounds. Furthermore, turning down the high knob lets you lower the air/breath sound in the recording.
The plugin lets you change the tuning of the plugin in three modes: modern, renaissance, and baroque. The modern mode uses 440 Hz as the reference note for A4. However, renaissance mode uses 470 Hz and baroque 415 Hz as the A4 note. You can make further tuning changes using the Tune knob in the controls.
RECsoprano 2 is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.8 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3 and AU formats.
RECsoprano 2 is a straightforward recorder plugin. It provides basic controls to help you make some sound changes, including a built-in reverb. Furthermore, its user interface shows a real-time visualization of the recorder’s fingering, which is awesome if you are trying to learn to play the recorder.
And suppose you intend to use this plugin in your music. In that case, I suggest adding some amplitude vibrato (tremolo) and a negative pitch vibrato (vibrato that only goes below the normal pitch) manually. Such minor details, albeit tedious, help you sell the virtual instrument as an authentic recording.
1. Ample China Qudi By Ample Sound (Plugin)
Ample Sound is a Chinese brand that has become a beloved and trusted developer of guitars and bass.
Embracing their heritage, Ample Sound has a series of Chinese ethnic instruments called Ample China. And among these instruments, Qudi is a brilliant flute in the D key featuring multiple articulations and stunning performances.
The flute was built by Jianhong Wang, a master artisan in China. Furthermore, it features numerous mics and positions that you can control in the plugin’s straightforward user interface.
The plugin features four microphone positions: front, middle, back, and stereo ambient. The ambient mics add space to your mix, whereas the rest are for designing your unique sound. Furthermore, it features three microphone modes: mono, modern, and traditional. These allow you to add more character to your mix.
The plugin features three groups of articulations: head, body, and special effects. Each group provides an octave of key switches. Let’s have a look at how the articulations work:
The head group (blue key switches) features all the articulations you perform at the beginning of your playing note. These include simple sustain, single tonguing, grace up/down, pentatonic up/down, ripple, trembling, and scattering up/down. Furthermore, you’ll find variations of the techniques by changing the velocity of your playing. And these articulations require you to play the key switches before playing the melody notes.
Conversely, the body group (yellow key switches) features the articulations you play after playing your note. These include expression, variable vibrato, variable trill, flutter, scattering flutter, marking, layering, vibrato slide up, slide down, full slide (up-down), slide-out up, and slide out down. Again, these articulations vary depending on the velocity.
Finally, the special effects group (red key switches) features various samples. These include live licks on the C2 note played by Xiaokui Ding, mirroring (reverse the previous articulation), breath noise, percussive sounds, and other characterful effects that you often hear in live performances.
You can also change the instrument’s key to adapt the articulations and performances to your project’s scale.
Other than the mics, you can control the volume of the breath, wind, FX, and releases. Furthermore, you will find four effects: a compressor, an eight-band EQ, a six-tap echo, and a convolution reverb. Each of these effects provides a sleek user interface that looks modern. And as they sound outstanding, you could get inspired to finish your mixes using the built-in effects alone.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Ample China Qudi is an outstanding Chinese Qudi virtual instrument. It provides a ton of articulations, effects, licks, and deep sampling. Likewise, you’ll find four microphone positions with three mic modes. Furthermore, since the original recordings are dry, you could add any third-party reverb to liven up the sound, creating a perfect mix for your music project. Of course, you could also use the built-in effects for sound design.
2. Spitfire Symphonic Woodwinds (Kontakt Library)
Despite being a part of their older series, the “definitive” woodwind orchestra by Spitfire shows no sign of being long in the tooth.
The Spitfire Symphonic Woodwinds library offers an entire woodwind section with both ensemble and solo patches. They include piccolos, flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, alto flutes, bass flutes, bass clarinets, contrabass clarinets, and a contrabassoon.
Each patch offers multiple dynamic layers, round robins, multiple mic positions, and a comprehensive set of articulations.
However, since the ensemble patches only employ two players, the sound is rather intimate. So, you could combine the ensemble and solo patch to get a three-player ensemble.
Symphonic Woodwinds provides some of the most comprehensive sets of articulations yet, from typical expressions to some of the obscure ones. So, you’ll find legato, sustain, staccato, tenuto, and trills (major/minor second) in most ensemble patches. And the flutes feature legato, flutters, harmonics, marcato, multi tonguing, etc. These allow you to write just about any woodwind part with full control. Furthermore, the legato patches sound very natural and authentic, making the library perfect for melodic lines as well as backing.
You can switch the articulations using the following parameters: CC range, key switches, velocity range, MIDI channel, and playing speed. And other available controls include dynamics, vibrato, release, expression, tightness, speed, intensity, legato type, etc., all of which you can modulate using MIDI CC.
- Mic Positions & Perspectives
Spitfire offers three microphone positions in this library. These include close, tree, and ambient, where each position uses multiple mics in specific proximity to the players. So, the close mic delivers an intimate sound, whereas the Decca tree mics provide the width. And the ambient mics are the farthest, offering the room reverb.
You can control the volume of these mic positions in the Mic Mix section. Similarly, an Easy Mix section allows you to change the perspective of the mics by intuitively choosing the distance from where you’re listening to the players. This feature also utilizes the same mic options, except it does so automatically.
- The Ostinatum
The Ostinatum is essentially an arpeggiator that allows you to make ostinato passages easily. It arpeggiates the notes you play in the following orders: your playing order, ascending, and descending. Furthermore, you can change the pattern style intuitively by changing the rhythm on the provided staff notation grid. Likewise, you can play the ostinato patterns using key switches.
The library is available for Kontakt 5.6.8 or higher and Kontakt Player. Kontakt 5.6.8 is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.10 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.
Symphonic Woodwinds is an excellent, comprehensive woodwinds library that provides a wonderful set of articulations. It offers multiple mic positions and deep sampling with round robins to equip you with flexible, authentic woodwind solo and ensemble instruments.
Furthermore, Spitfire Audio recorded these samples at the renowned Lyndhurst Hall at AIR Studios in London with quality microphones and outboard gear. So, if you’re looking for the ultimate woodwinds collection in Kontakt to compose full orchestral scores, Symphonic Woodwinds is one of the best choices.
And there you have it: the six best woodwind plugins and six Kontakt libraries! They sure did go from traditional orchestral woodwinds to niche ethnic and playful instruments. So, before you pluck one up, decide what you want to achieve first. If you already own a woodwind library, you should either purchase one that is different from what you own or good for layering.
VSL Synchron Woodwinds, Orchestral Tools Berlin Woodwinds, and Cinematic Studio Woodwinds are outstanding comprehensive plugins. The first two provide the most control, whereas the last one is the most straightforward and affordable, which still sounds incredible.
Similarly, the Spitfire Audio Sparkling Woodwinds and Epic Brass & Woodwinds are excellent for layering with your current plugins/libraries. I also recommend checking out Spitfire Audio’s BBC Symphonic Orchestra Core Edition for layering as it provides wide, lush sounds.
Of course, if you’re looking for something ethnic, I have enlisted two contrasting instrument libraries: Ventus Native American Flutes and Maleventum 2. Both of them are Native American flutes. However, the former is the definition of positive and peaceful, whereas the latter is all about sounding creepy and unsettling with its creature calls and squealing sounds.
Similarly, Ample Sound Qudi is truly the most authentic-sounding Chinese Qudi I’ve ever heard from a software instrument. I was also blown away by their other Chinese instruments, which are all worth checking out.
And with that, we reach the end of this article. I hope I could share some useful information and inspire you with the variety of instruments I’ve enlisted today. And until the next time, happy music-making!
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