Soundfonts and virtual instruments
Soundfonts are just one way of obtaining virtual instrument (VI) sounds in DAWs and notation systems.
Essentially VIs are made either completely artificially - for example using a synthesiser - hardware or sofware, or by sampling recorded sounds from "real" instruments. It would, of course, be possible to combine these two methods.
The degree of "realism" or quaity of a VI depends on the methods used, and if sample recordings are used, then microphones and recorded ambience also affect the perceived quality. Besides the quality of the samples, other factors are how easy it is to control the sound of the VI., and volume level and vibrato come into play - and also timbral changes. Players of instruments such as violins, flutes, horns etc. have many ways they can affect the sounds they produce, and a good VI should be able to mimic some of those.
What I'd like to know is whether VIs made in Soundfont formats are inherently less good than others - such as VSTs - or indeed if there are any formats which are thought to be better than VSTs? How far should one go?
For keyboard instruments some VIs also include the sound of players hitting or moving the keys, and indeed even for wind instruments the sound of keys being pressed and released could be recorded. Indeed some composers have written specifically for such sounds.
It is possible to convert between some VI formats, though quality and/or ease of use may be lost. This would depend on whether audio samples are compressed and hence reduced in quality, and also on whether any control parameters become unavailable, or are restricted in range.
Many VIs are compatible with Kontakt formats - from Native Instruments - but is that the best current format for a VI?
I just don't know. Will future versions of MS take this kind of issue into account, and if so, how?
I wonder sometimes if different VI formats are deliberately made for commercial reasons, to prevent end users from doing a mix and match of what's available, rather than for technical or artistic reasons - though some formats may genuinely provde better sound quality or better ease of use.