Sibelius has just released version 2019.4, with new playback features and enhancements to Review mode. Their upgrade email also offers a 40% discount on the NotePerformer sound library. That’s $77.99 instead of $129.
I’ve always wanted to install a different sound set for Sibelius, but have been put off by reports of how difficult it can be to get them to work. NotePerformer claims to make the process as easy as using the built-in set. It also offers a full range of orchestral and brass band sounds, intelligent musical phrasing, a wide variety of articulations and nice extras such as a variety of pipe organ stops, brass mutes and effects such as bowed percussion, harmonics and snapped pizzicato. The set is also fully compatible with Finale and Dorico.
Interested in the offer, I downloaded the demo version of NotePerformer 3 last night. It was as easy to install as they claim—once you have done so you simply choose the sound set in the configuration dialogue that contains the Sibelius sounds sets and general MIDI, then everything works as before. One thing I did notice, however, was that on my five-year-old Mac (8GB of RAM running latest version of Sibelius) there was a certain amount of lag when switching sounds in the mixer panel. At first I thought this a deal-breaker, but it soon settled to an acceptable level. This probably speaks more of my need to upgrade.
The sounds themselves and the playback were at times revelatory, even if not without disappointments. First of all, the balance is much more convincing, with brass especially being much further forward than in the Sibelius set. The quality of the sounds were, in most cases, also much better than those of Sibelius. Sometimes the difference was shocking, as when I tried out a piece I had written for bassoon quartet. Whilst nothing can beat real players, it was surprising to find something that felt so immediate and convincing.
Other tests of woodwind, brass and string yielded similar results—if your main interest is orchestral instruments this is an obvious purchase.
Two areas of disappointment were harder to ignore. There is just one piano sound, which sounds like a Wild West saloon piano recorded in a bathroom. For such an essential instrument this is unforgivable. Also disappointing were the vocal samples. Whilst they are not great in Sibelius either, they do have a focus that was not present here, which to my mind makes them easier to work with.
Despite these two disappointments, NotePerformer remains a tempting prospect. Now I’ve experienced it I think it’s an option I’m always going to want to have available. To make up your own mind I’d suggest checking out one of many YouTube videos that compare the installed Sibelius Sounds with NotePerformer (one of which you can find below). Or you can head straight over to the NotePerformer website and try their 30-day free trial.
NotePerformer vs. Sibelius Sounds