Steinberg claims that HALion 6 is the most comprehensive virtual sampling and sound-design system available today. Marc JB clambers inside the beast and see what the hype is about…
Contact via email
HALion 6 is a fully fledged sampler covering the whole workflow – from recording and sample editing to programming advanced synthesis and modulation. HALion Sonic 3 is an all-in-one workstation partner to HALion 6, but in this review, we’ll be looking at HALion 6. Good news all users of DAWS – this product is cross-platform compatible on Windows (VST 3, VST 2, AAX) and Mac OS (VST3, AU, AAX). HALion 6 is not just a sampler, either. It has extensive synthesis capabilities – if you like a bit of granular, virtual analogue and wavetable synthesis all the way to tone-wheel organ, this powerhouse is definitely one to check out.
HALion ushers in the next generation of wavetable synthesis. Drag in a vocal audio clip and resynthesise the hell out of it – from crazy digitised mayhem to lush, evolving pads. The editing screen is intuitive and the sonic warping features are immense. Fans of the synth Spire will love this feature. I dragged in a hip-hop vocal-shout sample and with a couple of clicks, I had an awesome wavetable pad to play with – the detune function really makes this sound lush.
With live sampling, you can record internal and external sources directly into HALion and have your samples cut, mapped and ready to play, which is great with acoustic instruments. You can even trigger sounds from an external synth keyboard – HALion will listen to the MIDI and assign the incoming audio to those notes. In addition, for those who love to code, HALion has a script module for writing advanced behaviours for your sounds. And to manage your instruments, you can create and export sound libraries with Library Creator.
HALion has a huge 30GB sound library of custom-recorded samples.
The lovely people at Steinberg have been very busy! Standout sounds are the Raven and Eagle Grand Pianos, for rich, natural and brilliant tones suited to classic to contemporary. Hot Brass ushers in a new era of funk and roots – this multi-sampled brass section sounds fat and tight [Sure about this? – Ed]. Studio Strings is great for pop arrangements and film scoring. Anima has two wavetable oscillators for cutting-edge synth sounds and warped mayhem; Skylab uses granular synthesis with a huge preset list for deep electronic and cinematic sounds – some nasty textures here. The list goes on; there’s a wealth of sounds at your fingertips, from analogue kitsch to world instruments, organs to drums.
Welcome to HALion’s den
I have two favourite features of HALion:
- For instant glitch mayhem, use the ‘Create audio slices from hitpoints’ function in Cubase to slice up an audio file, drag into HALion, hit ‘Create sliced loop’ and those slices will be automatically and chromatically assigned up the keyboard. Great for making new vibes from vocals and organic drum patterns from ‘found’ sounds
- My second-favourite feature is the Warp feature. Warp is similar to Cubase’s VariAudio in that it will time stretch the sample to be of equal or variable length up and down the keyboard. I use this if I like the sound of a bass-sample loop, but want to create my own melody. I cut out a single bass note, drop it into HALion and use Warp to end up with a playable instrument.
HALion has powerful mixing and routing and comes with a long list of high-quality effects including VST Amp, the lush REVerence reverb and VintageCompressor. With 32 stereo-output channels and six-channel Surround support, this is a monster.
There are a raft of sampler and hybrid sampler/synthesis instruments on the market, each with a unique sonic signature. Here are a few sampling wonders:
- Native Instruments Kontakt 5 (£469, as part of Komplete 11 Standard) – an extremely popular sampler, with a wealth of excellent third-party libraries
- MOTU MachFive 3 (£249) – a powerhouse sampler with 45GB of content
- UVI Falcon (349 euros) – an advanced, unlimited hybrid instrument
- AIR Music Technology Structure 2 ($150) – sampler with a 37GB sound library
- Pro-level sampler
- Advanced wavetable synthesis
- Flexible modulation options
- Great library