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HALion 3.0 Review

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This article was first written for Keyboards / Home Studio magazine. It is published here with their kind authorization, thanks,o)

Since its first version, HALion still looks after its direct competitor's success, I'm naming it Kontakt. This version comes with 50 improvements to face this competition. Detailed review.

WELL-lion, a dongle !

First innovation which won't surprise the users of Steinberg products,HALion is now protected by a pre-configured USB dongle. It is even so possible to transfer very easily the key licence towards Cubase or Nuendo's one, so that your computer's back will not flicker like a Christmas tree !

The installation is fully standard and without a problem, the plugin where I want, and the samples where I want too. Staying the chief, I like this well ! I had to install in spite of that a corrective patch, the 3.01, so that the plugin was able to do its job without crashing. It is traditional in the software world, but even so a little bit irritating.

The Macro page

RAM save

Steinberg invented a new technology and therefore a new term : RAM save. The basic principle is simple : you activate the RAM Save, you playback the song, and HALion locates the used and unused samples. At the end of the playback, you just have to confirm so that all the dispensable samples can be unloaded from the R/W memory. In practice, three notes : first, the process is really efficient, you gain some available memory, secondly, I would like the process to be automatic, and third thing, you will have to reserve this handling for the final stage of the project because, once the samples are unloaded, the soundbank can't be played except if you load again the missing samples one by one.

HALion makes you some effect

The version 3 offers a rather furnished effect section. You could say, well, no care about the effects, there are many ones in the sequencer ! Yes but, another novelty, HALion is also available in stand-alone version, then maybe you will be very happy to put some reverb on your piano sound. Do not discuss, I am right !

The released effects are rather the same as those proposed with the other Steinberg products like Xphraze for example. They are made of good quality and meet almost all your needs. The routing is particularly elaborated since you have at your disposal for each Midi channel 4 effect sends (with the choice of the Audio output for the return), an Insert which chains 4 effects in series and finally an Insert with its 4 effects in parallel. In short, the possibilities are numerous and flexible as soon as you accept to have a look to the manual because, at first sight, it is not inevitably clear clear.

The Global page

Second Strike

Behind these sweet words is hidden a no negligible improvement of the MegaTrig (programing of the launch of a sound if a defined condition is completed). You can define an other sample to be played when a note is hit a second time. Example with a piano : the first note is launching a raw sample whereas the other ones will read a sample which will capture the resonance of the other strings and the instrument structure. You will have to wait that the soundbanks use this innovation to undestand its real usefulness, but the intention is good !

The Loop page

The explorer

An internal file management was cruelly missing to HALion, now it is done and rather well done. In bulk, it allows to scan all the discs, to display 3 different views of the filetree, to manage the favourites, to listen the programs or one of their samples, to filter the searches by format type, etc. There is also a function for displaying by category and of bank filtering by type, but I've met many crashes or some serious slow-downs of all the system while using it. What a pity.

HSB format

For HALion Sound Bank. HALion uses now this type of file which encapsulates the soundbanks (.fxp files) and their samples. The main interest is to be able to rank some soundbanks to transfer them to an other system without caring about the location of each sample. Well done. Let's bet too that some other samplers will become HSB compatible as HALion is compatible with many standards, the new ones of the version 3 being Kontakt, and ZeroX BeatCreator...


To discover the other novelties for which I don't have some place anymore to quote them here, I invite you to go to this adress. HALion thus still carries on its way with insurance and elegance. It is still ideal for those who don't want to have to deal with powerful editing functions (although it proposes some) but who want before all a sample reader easy at use.

See ya soon, here or somewhere else…

The Sound page

Pros : the stand-alone version, the effects, the easy at use, the ergonomics
Cons : not enough Audio outputs, the search function of the Explorer is capricious

Minimum required :
  • PC : Pentium / Athlon 800 MHz (Pentium / Athlon 1.4 GHz or higher suggested), 384 MB RAM (512 MB suggested), Windows XP Familial and XP Professional, soundcard MME or ASIO compatible, host application : Cubase SE/SL/SX, Nuendo (1.5 or higher) or any other host application VST 2.0 or DXi2 compatible, a free USB port, graphic display 1024 x 768 pixels (1152 x 864 and dual screen suggested), DVD player for the installation
  • MAC : Power Mac G4 867 MHz (Power Mac G4 Dual 1.25 GHz or higher suggested), 384 MB de RAM (512 suggested), operating system : Mac OS X.3.3 or higher, soundcard CoreAudio compatible, host application : Cubase SE/SL/SX, Nuendo (1.5 or higher) or any other host application VST 2.0 or AU compatible, graphic display 1024 x 768 pixels (1152 x 864 and dual screen suggested), DVD player for the installation
Mainly noticed prices :
  • 419 € VAT
  • 119 € VAT for the update

Pascal Valentin, on the 10-01-2005

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