HALion, Steinberg’s virtual sampler instrument, originally launched in 2001, has just been upgraded to version 3, with over 50 new features. The user interface has been restructured so there’s less need to switch between views, making it much quicker and easier to operate.
Seven buttons at the bottom of the window let you choose different pages of controls, all of which are relatively intuitive to use. For example, the Global page is split into two. At the left, there are 16 instrument channel slots. Here you can select a Program of samples for each slot, set the MIDI channel, and so forth. The Keyzone Editor lets you map samples onto a keyboard, set up layers and deploy velocity scaling. The Waveloop Editor lets you edit samples to set start and end points, sustain, and release-loop points.
The Sound page is for applying filters, envelopes, modulation and effects to Programs and samples. The lower section contains the Filter, Amplifier and LFO sections while the upper half displays
the Envelope, or Modulation, or Effects sections.
The new file browser features drag-&-drop support and a favourites system, plus sound categorization and database indexing. It provides a clear overview of all your sound files – and intuitive categories let you group related sounds. One complaint: the manual doesn’t explain clearly how to load the HALion sound library.
The Options page lets you choose how much of each sample to load into RAM. Disk streaming plays the rest of each sample – so you need a 7,200rpm or faster disk drive for best results. The Macro page lets you adjust parameters such as the filter and envelope settings and apply these to all the samples in a Program.
The RAMSave feature really helps when using orchestral patches or large drum kits. Say you’ve
loaded a huge library, but have actually only used a few samples. Instead of manually unloading unused samples, the RAMSave command scans the MIDI notes and unloads samples on notes not being played.
HALion 3 can import a wide range of formats including GIGASTUDIO and EXS24, Kurzweil and Kontakt sounds and the Zero-X BeatCreator and BeatQuantizer Groove-Slice formats – but not SampleCell.
HALion is up there with the best with up to 32-bit/384KHz file support; 256 voices per instance, several instances loadable simultaneously; 16-way multi-timbral operation; unlimited layers per program; and advanced 5.1 surround support. It performs well, the samples sound good, and it’s well worth the asking price.