The HALion String Edition includes the HALion String Player VST plug-in software with the Symphonic String Library. Most string libraries are one of two extremes: either a basic version supplied as “orchestral sounds” in many keyboards, sampler libraries and MIDI sound modules; or a mega version supplied as a set of CD-ROMs for popular samplers that cost a fortune.
The HALion String Player is based on Steinberg’s HALion software sampler, but is optimized for playing strings. There are no controls for filter, envelopes and LFOs, for example – and new features allow special playing techniques such as crescendo crossfading, alternate bowing, and other articulations needed for authentic string-orchestra performances.
The sound library contains a complete string orchestra split into four sections – violins, violas, cellos and basses. These were recorded using legato, spiccato, pizzicato, and tremolo techniques, along with various trills – providing tremendous flexibility. The violin section includes 16 instruments and is supplied in two version: A and B. These use completely different samples, so they can be used for doubling the section size from 16 to 32. The viola section includes 12 instruments, again with completely independent legato and spiccato A and B sets. The cello section includes ten instruments with legato A and B sets, so you can double the section size here as well. Or, you can use the basses to double the cellos an octave below to lend more weight to a part.
There are three sets of programs for different applications. String Player XXL features large programs with a maximum of samples, layers and functionality – but requires the most RAM and fastest CPU. String Player ECO programs have a reduced number of sample layers. They need significantly less RAM than the XXL programs, but at the cost of realism and dynamic response. You can use ECO for the less important instruments and XXL for the more important solo parts.
For best results, you’ll need the fastest computer possible with as much RAM as you can afford – at least 1GB. Disk streaming can be used if you don’t have enough RAM installed. In this case, instead of loading the samples into RAM completely, only the first part of each sample is pre-loaded. The rest is streamed from disk in realtime when the sample is actually played.
Steinberg is currently churning out lots of creative software for musicians, composers and producers. “While you’re reading this we are already preparing Volume 2,” says the manual, boldly. The HALion String Edition Volume 1 is a welcome addition to the range that I will certainly be using – while looking forward to hearing Volume 2.