What's your total budget?
BTW, be prepared for a lot of answers, because everyone has their own opinion on this.
Hollywood Strings is amazing but if you want bang for your buck and are looking to cover the whole orchestra, I would look at getting Spitfire Albion and Spitfire Loegria.
Albion - http://www.spitfireaudio.com/albion.html
Loegria - http://www.spitfireaudio.com/albion-ii-loegria
They are great samples, recorded at Air Lyndhurst (one of the great rooms in film scoring) - and Spitfire's customer support is first class. Their samples feel a bit more 'alive' than other libraries, and I feel like it's easier to capture emotions with them.
Albion/Loegria covers both epic and intimate scoring, and covers all sections of the orchestra with a decent set of articulations. You WILL be covered if you want to do orchestral scoring.
Thanks so much for your extensive reply Gareth
Well to be honest, I'm not exactly sure on my budget haha. I have around £800 to play with but I want to invest in a new audio interface for around £200, I did also want to replace my recently broken headphones with some very nice Sennheisers, but that will have to wait as I desperately need some new orchestral samples to get writing (plus I have my monitors still).
I've had a look at the Spitfire stuff, sounds awesome and definitely seems to cover the entire orchestra as you said, but I was wondering, how do you find not having each instrument individually to play with? I'm not a classically trained composer or anything but I quite like being able to choose viola or violin etc rather than just 'high strings', or is it just not an issue once you are used to it?
An alternative, which is also a good starting point, and I'm sure a lot of people here will recommend is ProjectSAM Orchestral Essentials
I don't own this library (because I own Symphobia 1/2/3) but ProjectSAM's libraries are all pretty great, and the majority of the material in this library is taken from their Symphobia Series. It is tremendous value.
I would suggest not buying too much at first, start simple and then add little by little, because you HAVE to take the time to learn your new libraries.
(Finally, an alternative for strings is LA Scoring Strings, or 8Dio's fantastic Adagio series which gets better upon each new release. Very expensive though.).
Yeah I'm definitely going to add little by little, as I really do need to make effort to learn my software. E.g. I bought Komplete a little while back and really need to get my heard around the synths Massive, Absynth etc still, to use them to their full potential.
8Dio do great stuff, and all those strings sound great but unfortunately out of my budget at the moment, same with LASS. I imagine they are totally worth the price though.
Here is a track which uses only the libraries I've mentioned above and was thrown together pretty quickly. https://gareth-coker.box.com/s/2wbgwz9dey27ni81k2lx . The main string line is from 8Dio's Adagio, supporting strings are from Albion. French Horn is from Project Sam's libraries, low brass is from Spitfire. Percussion is ProjectSAM.
There are many alternatives, but I'd recommend starting off with Spitfire stuff, and expanding from there.
P.S. I do use some PLAY libraries, but I find Kontakt 5 and Engine 2 to be far superior to work with. Play's problem is it's interface, there's a lot of wasted space (for fancy graphics) and it's just not as user-friendly as the other sample players have become.
I love Kontakt too, it just works, and is very user friendly. Never tried Engine 2 though. Thanks for all the tips mate, I have a lot to consider! I've also had a lot of recommendations for Cinematic Strings 2 and Cinebrass on Facebook. I will post in here when I decide what I'm going to do