I'm finding it very difficult to buy some realistic string/orchestral sounds.
At the moment I have a Roland SC88 Super Sound Canvas, which is not really convincing in the string department, and also an Emu Proteus 2000 synthesizer (which I bought after reading your review in SOS March 1999) which is better but not really very realistic.
I am considering whether to spend about £220 on the Proteus 'Orchestral' card or maybe stretch to £400ish for a used Roland JV1080 or 2080 synth module. The problem is that I haven't heard either of these options. I don't really want to go down the sampling/sampler route (I gather they are pretty good) but I do run an ageing version of Cubase. I'm working from a home studio so mega buck products are not an option.
Senior Assistant Editor Matt Bell replies: Both the choices you mention are good ones, the Roland JV modules having pretty much become the standard 'strings‑in‑a‑box' module in studios worldwide over the past few years — provided that they're fitted with the optional JV Orchestral Expansion board (more cash, eh?). However, Emu have now fought back with the Virtuoso 2000, which is exactly the same as a Proteus 2000 with the Orchestral board fitted ‑‑‑ precisely the option you're considering. The Virtuoso 2000 is a serious piece of kit and the sounds are excellent, having been sampled as part of a colossal series of orchestra recording sessions in Seattle.
In your shoes, I would have no hesitation in going for the Emu Orchestral expansion board, which will take your Proteus 2000 up to full Virtuoso 2000 spec. This is not only the cheapest option for you (because you've already bought your Proteus), but also the Emu sounds are more wide‑ranging than the default sounds in any of the JV or the newer XV modules. Of course, you could buy a JV or XV and the dedicated Orchestral board, but this would all be far greater expense.
There's another point in favour of the Emu Orchestral expansion, too. As I said, a Roland JV with Orchestral board has been the quasi‑studio standard of the last few years — you'll hear those sounds everywhere. The Emu is brand new, so buying that will help you to stay ahead of the pack.
Finally, you may be interested to know that the Emu Virtuoso 2000 was reviewed in SOS December 2000.