Gary Garritan, owner of Garritan Orchestral Libraries, has just released Garritan Personal Orchestra (GPO), a full orchestral software-sampler program for $249 plus $15 shipping.

Now that's news, especially when you consider Garritan Orchestral Strings sells for $694, Vienna Symphonic Orchestra's Opus 1 is $1,095, and Miroslav Vitrous Symphonic Orchestra runs a hefty $2,495. Yet GPO's inexpensive program includes: a full orchestral sample library in 16-bit, 44.1 kHz; Native Instrument's cross-platform Kontakt Player (based on NI's Kontakt software sampler); Ambience Reverb (a VST plug-in), GPO Studio (VSTi host application for use with notation programs); Steinberg Cubasis (Windows only); and GenieSoft's Overture SE, a cross-platform notation application. Furthermore, the entire package requires only 2 GB of hard drive space.

Garritan managed to create an affordable orchestral program by asking the end-user to become personally involved. Unlike other sample libraries, GPO does not include prepackaged ensembles for strings, woodwinds or brass, but it allows the user to create and save these sets. To use GPO effectively, users employ real-time articulation control. The right hand controls the attack and accentuation of each note, while the left hand controls dynamics and expression via the MIDI controller's mod wheel, and the sustain pedal is used to connect the notes (legato) for smooth playing.

Garritan's vision depended on the cooperation of software companies directly involved-Native Instruments, Steinberg, GenieSoft and Plogue. Garritan also needed to ensure compatibility with all MIDI sequencers in both Windows and MacOS. Tough task. So far, GPO has been working well for users of Digital Performer, Sonar and Cubase. With the new update of Logic, GPO seems to be running fine as well, but there were problems early on. Some users of Pro Tools aren't able to get as many GPO instruments running simultaneously, and in general, GPO runs better in Windows than MacOS.

I'm a Mac user who runs Pro Tools LE on a Digi 001, and I'm only able to get four or five instruments using the Kontakt Player plug-in. Fortunately, I don't mind a bit. I'm not a MIDI guy, per se, so I don't perform orchestrally-arranged swan dives off the high board. I'm an audio guy, kind of like the fat guy with the water wings and nose plug who can do an impressive MIDI cannonball. Give me one good sound in expanded 32-bit, and I'll print it to audio. If I need a clarinet along with that cello, I'll create the MIDI part then print it to disc as well. Frankly, if you're primarily a MIDI person, you should probably use something other than Pro Tools for sequencing. Some users have been able to run 80 instruments at once, depending on the system.

For me, the program does exactly what I had hoped (yes, I bought it). The Kontakt Player plug-in is simple to use and the sound is outstanding. Download some of the demos at the website and hear for yourself. GPO is the exception to the rule-sometimes you do get much more than you paid for. ($249;

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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