Here are our favourite and most-varied NKS soundtrack libraries – and, yes you could use synths, but we’ll save those more suited to the soundtrack for another time – all of which can be opened up, controlled and manipulated with Native Instruments hardware.

For a modular approach

Gothic Instruments DRONAR Master Edition (€349)
DRONAR‘s recent update has opened it up to the joys of NKS compatibility, so NI hardware owners can now enjoy full control over this more modular system. DRONAR comprises individual packs of sounds – winds, synths, strings, brass, metal, glass and more – which are all given a unique treatment to take those sounds well beyond what their category names describe. This is pure atmosphere by the sonic module, although this Master Edition contains all the presets, sounds and tension from the first eight DRONAR collections. You get plenty of hands-on control over the audio – and you can go as deep as you wish here – plus effects and other sonic tweakage over more than 2,000 presets and 30GB of audio. It’s software modular madness to take your soundtracks in all sorts of dramatic and unreal directions.

Check out now.

For off-world movement

Heavyocity Gravity (€399)
We’ve opted for library-based soundtrack instruments rather than out-and-out synths in this particular roundup, but Heavyocity’s titles tend to blur the boundaries and definitions between the two, having so many real-time controls and so much library data that they could easily sit in both camps. We’re targeting both varied and interesting soundtrack productions, and Gravity ticks all the boxes, albeit for the non-orchestral and fantastical scores. It sets its stall out with sounds that move and includes evolving atmospheres, risers, hits and strings. With perhaps the smallest amount of library data in this roundup – just 12GB overall – it’s the real-time options for controlling audio that set Gravity apart. The Motion control enables tempo-sync’ed beats, pulses and glitch effects, while a sequencer and comprehensive modulation section allow intricate melodic phrases and complex routing to be created. For ladles of atmosphere, with dynamics and movement, Gravity will simply pull you in.

Check out now.

For real-time tension

Thrill (€299)
Described as a ‘real-time tension instrument’, Thrill’s USP is its ability to compose along ‘live to picture’ using an X-Y screen to morph between clusters of sounds, just by moving your mouse. There are over 1,000 samples of orchestral and other sounds in the Thrill engine, recorded with a full orchestra, or sections thereof, with many then processed using outboard gear to result in more hybrid sounds. These presets also include samples of custom instruments, percussion and vocals to result in a hugely-varied set of core, dynamic sounds. You then morph between two presets – or your own creations – with the X-axis and add ‘thrill’ with the Y-axis. It’s a mesmerising and simple process that delivers great soundtracks for both live and recorded work.

Check out now.

For orchestral action

Action Strings and Action Strikes (€299 each)
For a more traditional angle on your soundtracks, Native Instruments offers a vast number of titles, and we’d happily recommend the Symphony Series Collection for a fantastic bundle of string, percussion, woodwind and brass sounds and phrases. However, both of these ‘Action’ titles have the drama of film soundtracks in mind. Action Strings has 14GB of playable phrases for a variety of different atmospheres and moods – everything from rhythmic patterns to more complete melodies – all recorded with a 60-piece orchestra, and it delivers great results, which are both easy and quick to achieve. Action Strikes is the perfect partner, offering full-on percussion recorded from 12 ensembles and 65 instruments with 32 playable rhythms and 12 sets of single hits. The results are everything you need for soundtrack rhythmic drama, from gentle rumbles to full-on crescendos. If you are veering more towards action rather than light entertainment, then these two titles are a great and dynamic duo.

Check out now.

For the truly epic

Orchestral Tools Metropolis Ark Series (€549 each)
The film Metropolis was, according to Orchestral Tools, the first true epic of our time and so the company’s series of Metropolis titles represent the most epic journey of orchestral soundtrack composition you are likely to take. From the bombastic opener, through more deep, thoughtful and percussive libraries, the Metropolis series captures just about any melodramatic mood you could ask for. Each contains ‘Districts’ that cover various orchestral sections and choirs, with usually 100GB or more of samples and articulations, all beautifully recorded at Berlin’s Teldex studio. Like Spitfire, OT also does more traditional collections, but when the company goes away from the norm into more focussed titles for specific and more off-the-wall soundtracks, it really stands out from the rest. This really is the ark of the covenant for dramatic soundtrack production.

Check out now.

For strings with a twist

Output Analogue Strings (€199)
Output does a range of titles for all areas of music production – not to mention the odd piece of studio furniture – and its Signal pulse engine and Analog Brass & Strings are particularly suited to the visual score. However, Analog Strings wins our hearts for soundtrack composition as this title will not only do traditional strings but – by way of simple sliders and real-time controls – will take standard string sounds and take them to places in the far corners of your imagination… and beyond. You get 39GB of real and synthetic strings and modulation routing, tape loopers, arpeggiators, and ‘flux sequencing’ to mess with them – including Motion, Pulse and Dirt options – and the results are both varied and stunning. The best films play with your emotions with heart-wrenching string sounds, and with this title, you can play with those string sounds until your heart explodes. Output says: ‘Where Beauty Meets the Machine’ and we couldn’t put it better.

Check out here.

For the grandiose

Sonokinetic Grosso (€300)
While Grosso is one of the most traditional scoring titles here, like most Sonokinetic titles, it exhibits a certain flair and quirkiness, and in this case ‘grandiose’ is the perfect word to sum it up. You get 36,000 orchestral-based samples over a 24GB download and it’s a phrase-based system so you can put together complete pieces of orchestral music with relative ease. And what pomp and drama you will create. This isn’t for the atmospheric and mellow, more for the dramatic and uplifting, but there is no doubt that it will add a passion and emotion to your visuals that no other title quite matches.

Check out here.

For cold, stark atmosphere

Spitfire Audio Albion V Tundra (€449)
Over the last few years, Scandinavian crime dramas have been both mystifying and terrifying audiences around the world, and their soundtracks have been setting new levels of tension. As Spitfire says, these can be very much ‘at the edge of silence’ – mesmerising and quiet passages that you very often don’t realise are adding such impact to the fear on screen. Albion V Tundra takes its inspiration from such scores, and offers atmosphere in swathes over nearly 28,000 samples and 57GB of data. A 100-piece orchestra was recorded at Air Studios for the library but traditional, this is not. Drones, pulses, pads, percussion, delicates shimmers and simply heaps of tension lie within. It’s both freezing cold and boiling with broodiness in equal measure.

Check out here.