View Full Version : A simple clarification, please

04-21-2006, 06:27 PM
Having attended this forum for several years not, I am beginning to understand some more about the products discussed and techniques shared. So I think I have an answer to my own question....

What is the difference between "sample libraries" and "virtual instruments?"

Maybe my answer is off, or too simple, but I think that sample libraries (for which I own several collections now) are purchased to be used in sample playback engines such as gigastudio (which I own but hardly ever use) or Kontadt and......... Virtual instruments are libraries that plug directly into notation programs such as Finale and are played through Finale. For instance, I have GPO and JABB that I can play back easily while in Finale.

So, what am I missing here on these terms? I'm just trying to learn the lingo.


04-21-2006, 08:05 PM
Well, you can think of Virtual Instruments as sample libraries wrapped with a customized sampler. For example, GPO includes the samples and a customized stripped down version of NI's Kontakt (or is it Kompakt, whatever . . .).

I think most people use their soft samplers or virtual instruments in or with sequencers, like Sonar, Logic, Pro Tools, etc. You should know that different sequencers require different types of plug-in formats, like VST, DXi, RTAS, etc.


Aaron Dirk
04-22-2006, 01:30 AM
To the general public, I just say I make Virtual Instruments. I still get the "huh?!" from them, but they are able to grasp the concept quicker (....I think:o)

Too be honest, labeling Kontakt as "Sample Libraries" and using something with a Kontakt Player as "Virtual Instruments" is too much of a blurred line. If one wants to be really technical, they're all virtual instruments, whether it's a stand alone or VSTi or whatever.... they aren't real, they're virtual.

Just my worthless virtual reality 2 cents:)

04-22-2006, 05:17 AM
Virtual Instrument is THE stand alone product, with usually a proprietary engine, and can be a synth, sample-based or not, or hybrid (samples+synthesis).
(e.g. Vienna V.I. are samples based instruments with proprietary player and engine)

Samples library is designed to work with one or more samplers, they are not sold with the product and you must own it to make the Library work.
(e.g. Kirk Hunter Symphonic Orchestra need Kontakt 2 or Giga; BelaDmedia Giovani or Garritan Stradivari are Kontakt 2 libraries, etc. etc.)

The large Samples Libraries by the way are usually sold with a sample player (the Native Instrument Kontakt and Kompact players are nearly the leaders today), to let you use it even if you don't own a sampler.
(e.g. Garritan Personal Orchestra and Jazz and Big Band are sold with Kontakt player included; EWQL Syn. Orch. and Syn. Choirs are sold with Kompakt player included; etc. etc.)

A product like Garritan GPO and JABB or EWQL series, is then like a library or like a Virtual Instrument in the main time. You may use it stand alone, or upload programs and samples in your Kontakt 2 sampler (because designed for the Kontakt engine) for instance.

This is more a state of the art commercial description. But a philosophical approach may exist:

- a sample library should be strongly based on sampling of real sounds, played like micro particles of the musical phrase, thanks to programming.

- a virtual instrument should be a software way, disregarding the source of sounds, to replicate the freedom and the responsivness of a musical instrument.

But because the actual samplers are very flexible by a real time expression modulation point of view, and Virtual Instruments are frequently based on samples to be more realistic sounding, the theoretical difference is nearly disappeared today. Some software developer still anyway use as an "ideal target" the Virtual Instrument word, to underline the instrument-like feeling that is the aim of his research, disregardig as I told the way to produce sounds.:cool:

04-22-2006, 09:09 AM
Thanks, that's kind of what I thought.


04-22-2006, 07:16 PM
A virtual instrument is just that. It is not a physical object. You cannot touch a virtual instrument. You can touch a Korg Karma or a Yamaha Motif or a rackmount box.

What the virtual instrument DOES and what sound source it USES is what defines the virtual instrument itself.

Some VI's use oscillators, LFO's, VCA's and other analog VIRTUAL counterparts to VIRTUALLY create sound using nothing but basic waveforms (sawtooth, sine wave, white or pink noise, etc) and also can process those sounds in a variety of synthesis types (FM, Graintable, Wavetable, etc). Some VI's can also play back, modulate or synthesize other types of waveforms, such as wave files, sound fonts - and it is that ability that blurs the line between a sampler and a VI.

A sampler, in my loose definition, is supposed to be used to record or playback audio streams on a keyboard. You can define loop points and create the samples that other programs, like VI's, will use. However, samplers have also crossed and blurred the lines by becoming VI's in their own right.

No wonder it's confusing - everyone is trying to be everything to vie for your hard earned dollars. And that's the bottom line.