In choral music, literally everything counts. The dynamics, articulations, size of the ensemble, its vocal range, the acoustics of the hall...
This makes sampling and producing a clear, authentic and lively sounding choir plugin especially challenging. And that goes even for professional commercial settings; the challenge isn't smaller there.
The engineers experiment with various mic positions to achieve the pinnacle of a realistic choir. They are motivated by the search of ways to develop an extensive sample library that adapts to diverse music styles.
With that being said, it's understood that a when free choir plugins sound decent - they already should be considered very good!
What We'll Consider
In your DAW, by using the array of free instruments at hand, you can additionally shape the desired sound that encapsulates your vision through various vocal articulations.
You can vocalize an instrument or instrumentalize a vocal, in accordance with your set of skills and the tools available.
I should not in passing here, that although this article is about plugins, we'll also note a couple of libraries which require Kontakt.
This is because even beginner producers (or choral composers) will have the Kontakt's free version (i.e. the Kontakt Player).
Those who will be turning pro later will also start investing in equipment, so keeping them informed from the get-go is certainly a plus here. Thus, even though a couple of the listed options can't technically be counted as "plugins", they'll be featured still.
Similar to the approach taken with the article on the best free limiter plugin , here too we'll concentrate on free choir VST plugins, compatible with both Windows and Mac.
The above means that some plugins, such as ChoirZ by DSK Music will not be featured. Being Windows only, this DSK Music plugin is more popular as a synth pad anyway. It's got some cool options (especially the MIDI automation ones). However, the overall sound is not high up there really; we've seen and heard better from DSK Music.
With this in mind, we'll also note a specific useful Windows-only plugin. It won't be featured in the ranking of course. It isn't a choir plugin to begin with, just a helpful side-plugin for sound processing in this regard.
Let the Countdown Begin Then
The human voice becomes a versatile instrument, assuming the free choir plugins employed are of at least decent quality. Whether you're an aspiring composer or a seasoned sound designer, most of the free plugins ranked below open a deep pool of possibilities.
5. NST Choir by Bigcat Instruments
A Bigcat Instruments' plugin aimed at being the go-to for beginners.
Not the best free choir VST in anyone's eyes, but this choir plugin will still suffice for many.
The most useful feature - and especially instructive for beginners - is its patch base. The patches are based on range and can be observed as vocal groups (as opposed to just a chordal harmony).
The UI is well organised. Also, a number of presets are available, and we all know how instrumental these are for beginners.
A number of cons here, though not overwhelming in my opinion, from a beginner's point of view of course.
The choir sounds are completely stripped of any natural reverb. The sound quality isn't that bad per se, but this choir plugin sounds as though the samples have been recorded in an anechoic chamber...
One might expect much more from any choir VST plugin. The point being: free choir VSTs feature more resources in general. Yet, this particular choir VST serves its purpose quite well.
4. Distant Choir by Rast Sound
Rast Sound actually reminds me of the "maqam" music systems. If you mention "rast" in a musical context to a native of Turkey, the Arabic Peninsula, all the way to Iran, they'll think you're referring to a scale/mode present in their folk music. Beautiful stuff (check the web for "rast maqam"). Anyways; let's get back to our topic. :)
Distant Choir is somewhat similar to ChoirZ, which we briefly touched upon in the article's opening.
This means that it is primarily used as a "processor", as compared to a high-end choir sample plugins. The accent is on the sound controls and effects options, of which almost everything you can think of is present.
Along with the sound editing options, a lot of presets are available, which is really helpful.
The above (as expected really) comes at the cost of the sound being quite synth-like. The sample base is really narrow: one articulation only, no dynamic layers, no separate male and female groups.
Not at the very top of anyone's list of best free choir VSTs. Still, when it comes to choir essentials, your music production can and will flow flawlessly.
3. Virgin Choir by Angle Studios
Angle Studios' Virgin Choir VST is another fine option. Featuring a sequencer mode, patterns in the melody or harmonic progression can be made use of.
This isn't really a necessity but a useful feature nonetheless. With the sequencer mode at your fingertips, your music production gains an edge.
Another useful trait is the vowel options; featuring a "library" of sorts. This adds flexibility, as lyrics which aren't overly complex may end up sounding quite convincing.
Though it features some of the choir essentials when it comes to processing of the sound, it also has some flaws which I'll be noting below. These are mostly related to the sample base itself.
Virgin choir's sampling has not been done really well. This again isn't surprising, as that is quite costly to begin with.
Angle Studios advertise its wide octave range, but the fact that Virgin Choir only features a female choir speaks alone about the range's balance. At the low end it's quite artificial, sounding almost entirely synth-like.
Even though processed well, the choir sounds are showing signs of artificial repetitiveness due to the sample base being pretty shallow.
The largest con of all isn't technical at all: Angle Studios' Virgin Choir can't be used in commercial projects. Now that's weird; why would someone mind if their free plugin is used in someone's gig. Alas; their product - their call.
With all this in mind, Virgin Choir is still a very nice plugin and exceptionally useful, especially for beginners. And who knows; some day we might find an understanding of why Angle Studios' Virgin Choir had to remain exclusively for home use...
2. Sonatina Choir by Bigcat Instruments
When it comes to free plugins, Bigcat Instruments' Sonatina Choir will rank near the top in everyone's eyes.
First and foremost: it's got separate male and female choirs (well, choir patches anyway). This is quite uncommon already, when it comes to the free stuff in this regard.
Crafting the wanted choral ambiance becomes seamless with a versatile choir VST that offers both female and male choir options. I can't overemphasize this!
Another big plus is the simple and friendly UI. Sonatina choir is a textbook example of how an interface should be laid out and handled.
Regarding drawbacks, it should be said that the vocal range isn't balanced well really.
While it's awesome that it has a separate female and a male choir, the high register on the former and the low on the latter sound somewhat stiff and artificial. The male choirs' low end is a bit muddy too, I'd say.
There aren't separate samples per articulation (not surprising), and the decay is perhaps overly "synthetic" here and there.
All in all a very nice plugin of course; the guys over at Bigcat Instruments did a really nice job with Sonatina Choir! It might not be the best free choir VST plugin, but Sonatina Choir definitely deserves a place on everyone's podium!
1. LABS Choir by Spitfire Audio
Many would agree it's the best among the free! And not only in the land of the free and the home of the brave . :)
This Spitfire Audio gem is the most popular generally speaking - and for a number of good reasons.
Based on the commercial Eric Whitacre Choir (also by Spitfire Audio), it has nearly all one could expect. The choir sounds exceptionally rich, the voices sound very natural.
An awesome sound library with a range to match. Ad to it an exceptionally well organized UI and you got yourself a winning combo!
It would help if there were separate male and female groups within the sample library, along with an articulation pallet.
Well, if you can't do without the noted immediately above, perhaps investing in Eric Whitacre Choir would make sense.
Oh and one more thing: users complain on the - what they see as completely unnecessary - the 3rd party install centre. Have to admit that it is a bit annoying.
In any case, Spitfire Audio can be proud of the LABS Choir. It ranks high within any choir VST plugins tier list, free or otherwise (some of it may be due to nostalgia among the producers though:).
But Why Not Throw In a Couple of Kontakt Libraries? Or Other Useful Tools?
Yeah, why not indeed.
The "ethereal" realm of vocal sounds, as sourced from comprehensive choir samples, depends on the mastery of choral music authors really. But, the resources play an instrumental role nonetheless.
In this regards, the resonant sound designer capabilities of Native Instruments' Kontakt Player are not to be ignored or overlooked.
Luminous Choir of the "Free Orchestra" Pack by ProjectSAM
Ah... the Luminous Choir from ProjectSAM's "Free Orchestra" pack. A favorite free choir VST plugin of many! It requires the Kontakt Player (which, as noted above is free, so no pain really).
Luminous Choir has a sample base of exceptional quality. They didn't sacrifice the quality to simply expand the range.
Adding to this the UI is really user friendly and intuitive. The options at hand, featuring a few effects and filters, along with ADSR controls are very well organised and exceptionally accessible.
The Free Ochestra's Luminous Choir plugin has a bit narrow a range. As noted above, this is a pro as opposed to a con - especially if the range needs to be extended artificially (i.e. if synth based).
An actual con in the opinion of many (including me) is the sort of weirdly executed vowel control. Seems as though the feature has not been developed fully and its options are quite confusing.
Compared to the other libraries within the Free Orchestra pack, Luminous Choir does not feature multiple articulations. This is also technically a con, but the pros outweigh the cons by a large margin still!
All in all, exceptionally well balanced choir sounds, somewhat resembling commercial plugin solutions.
Haunted Choir by Fluffy Audio
Fluffy Audio did an exceptional job with their Haunted Choir! Perhaps the only thing it lacks is what's featured in it's counterpart Dominus Choir (also a Fluffy Audio product; a commercial one though).
A truly exemplary sound quality, with an option of changing mic positions, adding color to an already beautiful pallet.
It's dynamic range is not wide as that of some plugins featured on this list, but it's well balanced throughout. Again: balance is way more important than range width!
To add to the already marvellous product, realistic reverb options are also available!
Almost no cons here technically speaking, apart from the absence of a separate male choir's color.
One could also note in the context of a con, that it's sort of genre-specific. Yet, this can successfully be sidelined, assuming skilful use of what's available.
The only truly serious drawback is actually the fact that it requires the full version of Kontakt, which you'll seldom find in the arsenal of your average free plugin user.
Nevertheless, Haunted Choir (again, ideally along with Dominus Choir) would bring to the table almost literally everything a choir composer/producer will ever need!
MIDI Choir by Martin Vicanek
You might be looking for a free choir VST plugin that blends the harmonies of male and female choirs naturally and convincingly. Or you're in search of the best free choir VST overall.
Well, choir VST plugins come in many variants, but Midi Choir is not one of them. :)
It doesn't feature choir samples and the phrase "realistic choir" would relate more to any other choir plugin as such.
MIDI Choir is actually a "synthesizer" or even a "micro DAW" of sorts. It takes a single note and enables for a long list of effects and edits to be applied to it.
Be it some midi automation, a virtual instrument or any of the truly remarkable VST plugins. Control and finesse become effortless with a compatible midi controller.
Most free choir plugins really lack in-depth sound editing options. MIDI Choir can be used to assist with the effects wanted, coming before the actual choir plugin within the chain.
The only drawback is that it's a Windows-only plugin.
An "Essay" in Closing
The world of choir VST free options, offering a range of free choir VST plugins can elevate your compositions to new heights.
Choir machines for example, or at times just a decent male choir within your compositions, can contribute to the fantastic sound.
From the tender grace of children choirs to the resounding power of symphonic majesty. Or is it the solemnity of male choirs, the intricate textures often sought after but seldom found that you're after? Or the desire to experience the sublime power of a female choir, as it's effortlessly integrated into your tracks?
Thankfully, exploring the nuances (especially of female choirs) has been made easier by both the free choir VSTs and the cutting-edge commercial choir VST plugins.
The Choir And Other Instrument Sections
In developing the choir essentials that elevate your music perceptions, note that they need not be observed in isolation.
The fusion of symphonic percussion and choral grandeur comes alive at times just by introducing the timpani, for example.
Available as they are, the options of the free VST plugins aren't overly extensive. They typically lack multiple articulations and nuanced vocal performances.
On the other hand, a truly meticulously sampled choral library is by definition pricey. As you harness the thunderous force of symphonic choirs on the long run, introducing a budget will be justified. This of course applies to the other orchestral sections too.
But for the moment the timbres of choral sounds, as harnessed by the capabilities of the best free choir VSTs, serve a different purpose. They are here to provide assistance, to help you rise!
A Note on Music For Film And Theater
The magic of a comprehensive choir library will be unlocked as you embark on a journey of cinematic music creation. The inclusion of expressive vocal samples from rich sound libraries ensures a professional sound that captivates.
The allure of free plugins is... well... the fact they're free. :) But most choir plugins that are free do not offer an impeccable sound quality, which is definitely a must in this context.
The Eastwest Sounds' Hollywood Choirs could be an option on the long run. A commercial plugin, Hollywood Choirs offers a long list of options and preset combos.
Another decent commercial option is the Aeris Hybrid Choir Designer. It's somewhat pricey currently, but works with the free Kontakt Player.
Aeris Hybrid Choir Designer is a good alternative to Hollywood Choirs. It moulds to fit well within your music projects. If wanting to invest in a versatile option, Aeris Hybrid Choir Designer is a fine choice.