String Library Shootout: East West Hollywood Strings diamond vs 8dio Anthology

It’s always hard to get a good apples to apples comparison with sample libraries, and since I found myself with two competing ones, I decided to use the same piece of music I wrote to get a direct comparison with the hope that it would help my fellow composers.

The two string libraries!

East West Composer Cloud Diamond: $49 per month

8Dio Anthology: 8Dio is running a promotion right now, where if you buy the Adagio and Agitato collections for $768, you get Anthology for free. I took advantage of a coupon, so I was able to get all three libraries for $568. Otherwise, Anthology is $699

The mix

For the sake of these two recordings, I used only the deca mics, so there are no close or surround. East West does include one extra mic position called mid, which I have never found a reason to use, but that doesn’t mean other people won’t. The advantage of 8Dio’s Anthology is the ability to break down the sections into ensemble, chamber, and soloists. East West gives you a solo violin and a solo cello, but you’re out of luck if you need solo viola, or any smaller sounding chamber size sections.

Work Flow

I’ve been working in East West’s Composer Cloud for a couple of years, and 8Dio for a couple of days, and there are a few important differences that need to be highlighted. Hollywood Strings, via the Play engine, uses MIDI channels to route different notes to different articulations, while Anthology, via Kontakt, uses key switching. I much prefer that East West libraries can use MIDI channels from a work flow perspective. I typically use one track per instrument, for example, 1st violins, 2nd violins, violas, celli, basses, but 8Dio consolidates the 1st and 2nd violins into one section, which means if I needed 1st violins playing a sustained part and 2nd violins playing a short part, I would have to add a separate track just for one section. This also creates some weirdness when exported the MIDI to create sheet music, because the 1st and 2nds needed to be split apart again.

The piece

I made a system that turns words into musical notes, so this is the word “Mayhem” converted to a melody and then transposed and stacked vertically as well. You will get a good sense of how each string library performs in an action music setting.
Aside from the two string libraries, everything else is the same. Here is what I used:
East West Hollywood Brass
East West Hollywood Woodwinds
8Dio Epic Taiko Ensemble
East West Hollywood Percussion
Omnisphere for the atmospheric sounds

Below are the two pieces: the first is Hollywood Strings, the second is Anthology

The Verdict

I prefer Anthology, because it sounds somehow more real and live, but I think it could be a matter of taste. Anthology is MUCH better at sweeping legato types of parts, which I will try to write a piece for in the next week or so between projects. Hollywood Strings has more of the room sound in the deca tree, which could be a good or bad thing: they sound good out of the box, but they give less control over the room. I love having a choice between two kinds of spicatto in the Anthology library, where Hollywood Strings pretty much give you a choice of heavy aggressive or nothing with spicatto notes.

Some grains of salt

I played this piece using Hollywood Strings, and yes, I would’ve played very differently if I had been playing into Anthology, but this is about as close of a comparison as I could get. Yes, the mix is also not exactly the same. Both libraries have some mix peculiarities, for example, the spicatto violas in Anthology are very loud compared to the violins. The Hollywood Strings violins are brighter, but the Anthology celli are brighter, so both of these will need to be accounted for. Neither library is great at fast legato passages, but I’ve been finding ways in both to make it workable, either through mix or orchestration.

Have thoughts? Let me know!