Independence Free isn’t the only “Are You Serious? This is Free?” virtual instrument: Meet EastWest Quantum Leap’s Symphonic Orchestra Free. For virtual instrument aficionados, EWQL needs no introduction; if you’ve been to the movies or watch TV, you’ve heard the sounds. EastWest has been at the sampling game a long time, and there’s no question their orchestral libraries are among the best you can find. But this is also the same company that put out the delightful Fab Four, the exotic Voices of Passion, the Colossus “workstation,” and other well respected, go-to titles.
Actually, the program isn’t totally free; you need to answer a simple online survey (hint: tell ’em you read EQ). But the 1.71GB sample library and great-sounding instruments are well worth this minimal effort. There’s also no copy protection and no time limitations; however, the sample set is limited in that it doesn’t include surround or close miking, just stage miking. And while the library doesn’t have the variety of Independence Free, that in no way detracts from the quality of the included sounds—they’re truly representative of EastWest’s libraries, and that’s a very good thing.
Play is a sophisticated 32/64-bit engine with VST/AU/RTAS/standalone compatibility but is easy to navigate (Figure 4). Its interface also adapts to different libraries. For this one, you’ll find performance options, envelopes, miking, doubling and reverb effects, velocity response, and the like. While not as editable as, say, something like Kontakt (an issue EastWest plans to address with the upcoming release of Play Pro, the Play editor), those who want excellent plug-and-play sounds will be delighted.
EastWest is upfront about why they’re offering Symphonic Orchestra Free: “We have the utmost faith that once you get to experience this starter version you will want to upgrade to the Gold, Platinum, or Platinum Plus versions with their extensive articulations and other enhanced features; and if you don’t, it’s our gift to you!” Certainly, playing these sounds is far more convincing than listening to some MP3 demo files online: The sounds are fat, gorgeous, and have an expressiveness that promotes the full versions better than any ad copy could.
As with Independence Free, any further review is pointless because you can download the program and judge for yourself . . . and you might as well start downloading now.