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EastWest Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra (Review)

eastwest hollywood fantasy orchestra review

EastWest has always been a trailblazer in the world of digital music production, renowned for rolling out virtual instruments that have not just made their mark but have become go-to resources among composers globally. Their ability to blend sample quality with innovation has continually elevated the bar, making their catalog something of a treasure trove for musicians. Now, with the Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra joining their esteemed lineup, it looks like they’re on to yet another winner. A winner quite literally since the Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra has just recently won a NAMM TEC Award!

The Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra is a thoughtfully designed suite of medieval, ancient, and historic instruments brimming with everything needed to conjure up those spellbinding and fantastic orchestral compositions we all love. Whether you’re a seasoned composer, a sound designer with an ear for detail, or a hobbyist eager to bring your adventurous scores to life, this collection of sample libraries is crafted to bridge the realms of imagination and reality. It’s all about enabling you to create music that not only echoes the magic of fantasy and cinema but also resonates deeply with listeners.


EastWest’s Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra is a collection of sample libraries comprised of 5 volumes – or chapters as the company puts it: Strings, Brass, Winds, Percussion, and Voices. The sample libraries are powered by EastWest’s proprietary software sampler OPUS, the successor to the popular and long-standing PLAY engine. Just like EastWest’s flagship orchestral range, the Hollywood Orchestra Opus Edition, the new Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra comes with its very own Orchestrator engine that lives within the OPUS sampler plugin. The Orchestrator has been developed in collaboration with the genius minds at Sonuscore and allows users to quickly and easily generate real-time arrangements based on basic MIDI inputs. More on that a little later.

Here is a comprehensive list of all the instruments and instrument sections included in the Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra:


  • 3 Hardanger Fiddles
  • 3 Lutes
  • 3 Viola da Gambas
  • Low Strings Ensemble: 6 Celli & 4 Basses
  • High Strings Ensemble: 8 Violins & 6 Violas
  • 3 Mountain Dulcimers
  • 2 Hurdy Gurdies


  • 3 Wagner Tubas
  • 3 Flugelhorns
  • 3 Alpenhorns
  • Low Brass Ensemble: 3 Bass Trombones, 2 Cimbassos, 1 Tuba


  • 2 Irish Whistles (High)
  • 2 Irish Whistles (Low)
  • 2 Renaissance Flutes
  • 3 Uilleann Pipes
  • 4 Ocarinas


  • 3 Bodhrans
  • 3 Gran Cassas
  • 3 Large Taikos
  • 600 lb Nagado Ensemble
  • Ceng Ceng
  • Crotales
  • Cymbals & Gong Ensemble
  • Goatnail Shaker
  • Goatnails & Ceng Cengs
  • Krakeb
  • Metal Shaker
  • Nagara Rub FX
  • Nagara & Ashiko
  • Orchestral Bell Ensemble
  • Orchestral Metallurgy
  • Snare Ensemble
  • Toms Ensemble


  • Sustains
  • Legato
  • Elvish Words
  • Phrases
  • Choir

The installation process is straightforward, yet it demands attention to detail, particularly concerning system requirements. Designed to run seamlessly on all computer platforms, the Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra requires a significant amount of disk space (135 GB across all modules), reflecting the vastness of this sample library. While a big memory footprint has become a normality for orchestral sample libraries (we’ve reviewed libraries scratching the 1 TB mark!), it’s always worth consideration – especially for composers who work on a mobile setup.

The EastWest Installation Center streamlines the process, guiding users through the necessary steps with ease. However, the size of the sample library means that the installation can be quite time-consuming, requiring a stable internet connection and patience. Once installed, the product loads in the OPUS VST plugin that integrates smoothly with all major Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs).


The EastWest Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra is a comprehensive virtual instrument collection aimed at the needs of contemporary composers. It builds upon a vast array of orchestral samples recorded at the renowned EastWest Studios in Hollywood, one of the world’s most renowned recording facilities. Since this new library was captured in the same space and with the same recording chain as the Hollywood Orchestra Opus Edition, the sound of both libraries should nicely go along with each other.

EastWest Studios – Studio 1 (photo by: EastWest Studios)

Utilizing the OPUS engine, similar to the one found in the Hollywood Orchestra series, it offers a user experience that is both intuitive and advanced, catering to a broad spectrum of users from beginners to seasoned professionals.

The OPUS engine marks a significant improvement over its predecessor, the PLAY engine, with a focus on a streamlined and user-friendly interface. This enhancement facilitates an efficient workflow, allowing composers to navigate through an extensive library of instruments and articulations with ease. The engine’s design, organized into four main tabs, simplifies access to different sections, articulations, and microphone positions, and includes features like key switching, custom articulation loading, and real-time dynamics and expression adjustments.

One of the standout features of the OPUS engine that was introduced with the Hollywood Orchestra is its Mood functionality, which provides three distinct tonal options: Classic, Soft, and Epic. This allows users to quickly adapt the orchestra’s sound to suit the mood of their composition by adjusting settings like microphone mix, reverb, scripts, and MIDI parameters.

I discussed all the features and functions of the OPUS engine in great detail in our previous Hollywood Orchestra review before, so feel free to check that out if you want to know more about it.


The Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra’s strings section distinguishes itself from conventional orchestral libraries with its inclusion of unique and historical string instruments. Among these are the viola da gamba, Hardanger fiddle, lutes, mountain dulcimers, and two types of hurdy-gurdy, each adding depth and a touch of fantasy to compositions. The library’s innovative approach is also evident in the assembly of small ensembles, like the ‘low strings’ group, consisting of six cellos and four basses, and the ‘high strings’ ensemble, made up of eight violins and six violas, designed to deliver a rich and versatile sound palette.

These ensembles, despite their relatively small size, do not compromise on impact. Instead, they enable a detailed stereo image that can convey both the subtlety and power necessary for dynamic compositions. The variety of articulations available, accessible through both standalone presets and key-switchable options, adds to the library’s flexibility.

EastWest’s attention to detail makes the strings module a great tool for creators looking to imbue their fantasy-themed projects with authenticity and distinction.


EastWest’s Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra takes an inventive approach to its brass section, veering away from traditional orchestral choices to embrace instruments with a fantasy flair. By incorporating flugelhorns, Wagner tubas, and alpenhorns instead of the usual trumpets and French horns, the library offers a unique and distinctive timbre. Each instrument is presented in trios, complete with a wide array of articulations, enhancing the versatility for composers. The ability to switch between Soft, Classic, and Epic moods further diversifies the potential soundscapes, enabling a broad spectrum of musical expressions.

A standout feature is the powerful low brass ensemble, composed of three bass trombones, two cimbassos, and one tuba, designed for crafting deep, cinematic brass sequences that add dramatic intensity to compositions. This ensemble, along with the Wagner tubas, is particularly effective for creating epic, grandiose moments in film or game scores.

The brass section is capable of producing everything from soft whispers to commanding fanfares. The warmth of the flugelhorns and the majestic sound of the alpenhorns allow for the creation of stirring, awe-inspiring musical pieces. This innovative brass lineup is tailored for composers aiming to infuse their fantasy-themed projects with both depth and drama.


The Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra’s woodwind section delves into the heart of Celtic music, showcasing an exceptional selection of instruments that evoke ancient and modern Celtic vibes. Central to this ensemble are the high and low Irish whistles, whose distinct sounds add a layer of enchantment. The timbre and emotion the Irish whistles bring are essential for creating evocative musical landscapes akin to those found in epic fantasy tales like “The Lord of the Rings” or “Game of Thrones”. The addition of Renaissance flutes introduces a textured, airy sound that offers a compelling alternative to traditional orchestral flutes, enriching the ensemble’s palette.

The ensemble is further enhanced by an ocarina quartet, whose soothing lower tones are ideal for conveying moments of tranquility or introspection. The Uilleann pipes stand out for their lyrical expressiveness, providing a vivid contrast with their deep, narrative melodies that evoke the rugged beauty of Celtic lands.

This woodwind collection benefits greatly from the inclusion of Soft, Classic, and Epic mood settings, allowing composers to tailor the instruments’ tones to match the desired emotional and textural qualities of their pieces. This feature makes the woodwind section versatile, enabling it to adapt from subtle backgrounds to prominent melodic lines, catering to a broad range of dramatic expressions within compositions.


The percussion section of the Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra is a meticulously curated collection that caters to a wide array of musical styles, with a particular emphasis on fantasy and rich cultural themes. It combines familiar percussion elements, such as snare and tom ensembles, with an array of unique instruments, enabling composers to create immersive rhythmic landscapes. The selection includes powerful low-frequency instruments like the gran cassa, large taikos, and Nagano-taiko drums for epic soundscapes, while the bodhran trio adds a Celtic touch for subtler rhythms.

Diversity in the collection is further enhanced by the integration of the Nagara from India and the Ashiko from Africa, offering a sound that is both powerful and nuanced. High-pitched options include the bright Balinese ceng ceng cymbals and chromatic crotales, while gongs and the Orchestral Metallurgy ensemble add metallic resonance. The inclusion of a goatnail shaker and the North African krakeb introduces unique rhythmic textures.

This percussion ensemble is presented as a versatile toolkit for composers, designed not just for layering sounds but for exploring musical expressions across various genres. It’s an invitation to traverse different musical landscapes, from mystical fantasies to vibrant cultural narratives, showcasing the vast possibilities offered by its rich and varied sounds.


The Voices section of the Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra offers a rich palette of vocal elements, ideal for infusing fantasy scores with mystical and whimsical nuances. This section is divided into two main categories: choir recordings and solo vocal performances, each offering a diverse range of tones and expressions. The choir component features both male and female voices, enabling composers to blend different vocal textures to achieve varying degrees of emotional intensity, from subtle whispers to powerful crescendos across three dynamic layers.

A standout feature within this section is the solo performances by Merethe Soltvedt, a renowned vocalist whose work has graced numerous cinematic compositions by top industry names like Two Steps From Hell. Her vocal range is impressive, capable of delivering deep, emotive vibratos and ethereal legato lines with equal finesse. Additionally, the inclusion of pre-recorded phrases as well as words sung in Tolkien‘s Elvish language introduces an element of enchantment, enriching compositions with a sense of otherworldly beauty.

Overall, the vocal offerings in the Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra serve as a powerful tool for composers, providing the means to explore a wide emotional spectrum. From moments of quiet introspection to the dramatic peaks of epic fantasy narratives, this section ensures that every score can achieve a profound emotional resonance.


The Orchestrator feature within the Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra which was developed in partnership with Sonuscore, marks a significant advancement in music composition technology. This tool is adept at converting simple MIDI inputs into elaborate, real-time musical arrangements, perfectly complementing the diverse sounds of the Fantasy Orchestra. It offers an intuitive interface while retaining the sophisticated capabilities of the original Hollywood Orchestra Opus Edition‘s Orchestrator.

The Orchestrator streamlines the process of creating cinematic scores through a wide range of presets divided into Ensembles, Ostinatos, and Scores categories. These are crafted to meet various compositional requirements, from the automatic arrangement of instruments based on MIDI chords to the generation of rhythmic patterns and full musical themes. The smart programming of the Orchestrator analyzes your MIDI input and converts it to rhythms, harmonies, melodies, and countermelodies spread across the five instrument sections.

Particularly notable is the Ostinato presets’ use of step sequencers for adding rhythm, and the Scores presets’ melodic sequencing that ensures harmonic alignment with chord progressions, all dynamically controllable via the mod wheel.

This feature not only serves as a potent tool for quick and creative composition but also as an educational guide for learning orchestral arrangement. It provides seasoned composers with a rapid way to flesh out ideas or address tight deadlines without sacrificing creativity. The customization and saving of presets amplify its usefulness, making the Orchestrator an essential tool for crafting the emotional depth required in fantasy music. The Orchestrator’s presets range from grand epic narratives to more intimate tales, offering a rich foundation for musical exploration and detailed melodic development.


The Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra stands as a testament to EastWest’s dedication to recording excellence. Utilizing the OPUS engine, the library offers a sonic experience that closely rivals that of live orchestral performances, characterized by its rich detail and clarity. This ensures that every instrument, from the ethereal vocals to the robust brass, maintains its distinctive character and resonance, creating a cohesive and immersive audio landscape.

Recorded in a world-renowned studio with cutting-edge equipment, the library’s diverse instrument selection spans a wide range of timbres and textures. The strings provide a lush, vibrant foundation, capable of delicate solos and powerful ensembles. The brass section, with its wide dynamic range, adds depth and intensity, suitable for heroic themes or subtle support. Woodwinds contribute color and nuance through lyrical lines and expressive solos, while an array of percussion instruments injects rhythm and energy. Unique vocal samples add a human element, elevating compositions to extraordinary heights.

The OPUS engine enhances the quality of the sample library further, offering advanced mixing and effects capabilities as well as easy customization. Composers can adjust microphone mixes, and performance while applying a range of effects to tailor the sound to their specific requirements. This flexibility supports the creation of both intimate recordings and grand, cinematic soundscapes.

The clever programming behind the three available moods allows composers to express a broad emotional spectrum with authenticity.


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The Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra excels in various applications, from film and game scoring to concert pieces and multimedia projects. Its comprehensive library is particularly suited for creating atmospheric, immersive soundtracks for fantasy, adventure, and historical genres. Composers working on video game scores will find the diverse instrument selection and the Orchestrator feature invaluable for crafting dynamic, responsive musical themes that enhance gameplay and narrative.

Film composers can leverage the orchestra’s wide dynamic range and unique instruments to underscore critical scenes, evoke emotions, or build tension. The library’s capabilities in creating both intimate settings and epic landscapes make it versatile across different cinematic contexts. Additionally, the Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra is an excellent resource for composers and arrangers looking to explore new sounds within orchestral compositions or to add a cinematic touch to their works.

Educational institutions and music producers can also benefit from the library’s intuitive design, making it a powerful tool for teaching composition, orchestration, and music production techniques. EastWest also started their very own series of educational videos called the “EastWest Academy” (see videos below) which can help aspiring composers learn the basics of orchestration and MIDI arranging.

The Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra’s ease of integration with any major DAW ensures that users can quickly begin creating with the orchestra, regardless of their technical background.


The Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra by EastWest represents a significant achievement in orchestral sample library design, offering unmatched sound quality, a vast array of unique instruments, and innovative features like the Orchestrator. It stands as a testament to EastWest’s commitment to providing composers with the tools needed to bring their creative visions to life.

This collection of instruments is an extraordinary tool for composers looking to create immersive, emotionally compelling music for fantasy and beyond. While it demands investment in terms of money, system capabilities, and learning time, the payoff in musical quality and expressiveness is unparalleled. For those seeking to explore the limits of virtual orchestral composition, the Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra offers a world of sonic possibilities that can inspire and elevate any project. Whether for film, games, or concert halls, it is an invaluable asset in the modern composer’s toolkit.


  • Unparalleled sound quality and sample depth
  • Wide selection of unique, fantasy-focused instruments
  • Innovative Orchestrator feature for easy complex arrangements
  • High degree of customization through the OPUS engine


  • Requires significant system resources and storage.
  • Learning curve for new users to fully utilize all of OPUS’s features
  • The price point may be a barrier for users who haven’t subscribed to the Composer Cloud+


The Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra is currently available for a discounted price of $499 (regular price: $995) through the EastWest online store. Owners of the Hollywood Orchestra Opus Edition can crossgrade to the Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra for $399. Lastly, the Hollywood Fantasy Orchestra is part of EastWest’s subscription-based service Composer Cloud+ which also includes dozens of other award-winning EastWest libraries for $19.99 a month.



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