I have some compositions in the form of midi files. I would like to have a "preview" of what they would sound like with real instruments, without actually having an expensive orchestra playing them. Are there any software programs (price is not an issue) that can take a midi file as input and apply real-sounding instruments to the different tracks and then produce a more or less "listenable" music file (i.e. make the notes sound as close to human performers as possible)? Please note that I do not want a plugin or a DAW enhancement - I want this to be as simple as possible, preferably a stand-alone program.

Here is what my research has yielded so far:

  • Garritan Personal Orchestra: the sound is good, but no indication of whether it can work with midi files. Nothing on whether it can be integrated into the new Sibelius - if that were true it would be a good start,
  • Miroslav Philharmonik: there is a stand-alone version that I downloaded, but it is immensely complex and there is no indication as to whether it can open midi files,
  • various other programs offer this functionality with midi instrument input (such as a synthesizer), but I am looking for midi file input of already composed and arranged pieces.

What are my best options? Does anyone have experience with such programs?

Thanks a lot

  • 2
    What is your problem with using a DAW? Most DAWs can play Midi files. In addition, you can load Garritan Personal Orchestra as a VST in the DAW and then route the MIDI through the VST and that will do exactly what you asked for! Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 17:15
  • ... with the ability to tweak - because no midi file is going to sound good straight out of the box, unless you play it back on the same system it was made on. Also, any midi file generated by just scoring it in as dots is going to sound pretty bad on any system.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 17:48

2 Answers 2


I should preface this by saying it's been a number of years since I actively researched sounds and players, etc. But I think this information is still relevant. Also, I wrote this very quickly, first thing in the morning :) hopefully it makes sense :)

Garritan Personal Orchestra used to ship with Sibelius (or finale maybe). And maybe still does? Or maybe it was just a demo version? And it included ok sounds, but far better than previous MIDI sounds.

There's also Kontakt player http://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/komplete/samplers/kontakt-5-player/

These are the programs that will take the MIDI file and split them up into different instruments and with Sibelius or Finale can take your "pizz." notation and know to change to pizzicato violin instead of bowed. And more advanced programs can do more - provided the samples are there and loaded correctly.

Then there are the sounds, and as far as I know, GPO and Kontakt will come with a basic set of sounds. I think??

Miroslav is just the sounds, as is the East/West, they would not, I think have their own sample player. And you would load these into something like Garritan Personal Orchestra or Kontakt player.

The more expensive programs and samples have more techniques loaded as their own sample set and can play those from your Sibelius or Finale files. For example if you have a "mute" set on a violin, one sample set might have it just play quieter or add an audio effect at the end, while another might have a full set of samples recorded with a mute.

And usually what you do is set your MIDI out from Sibelius or your DAW to the program that is playing the MIDI samples (it will show up as a MIDI output device).

  • Most complete and instructional answer. Thank you. I was not aware of the MIDI out trick you describe in your last sentence. That really opened my eyes.
    – Klangen
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 12:49

EastWest/Quantum Leap - Symphonic Orchestra is a quite impressive virtual instrument.

It comes both in various plugin formats and a standalone application. It has a very high voice limit (999, but in reality lower depending on the amount of memory), and every source were recorded with three mic setups (direct, stage and surround) which can be mixed as you want.

If your files are GM compatible there is a good chance it will work, however I could not confirm this in the manual (you have to contact support)

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