STEINBERG HALion 6 Virtual Sampler – The Gear Gods Review

Hey Gear Mortals, today I will be taking a look at the HALion 6 plugin by Steinberg. HALion is essentially a sampler based synth engine that also includes virtual analog capability, sound generation, wavetable synthesis, granular synthesis and a tonewheel organ engine. It has thousands of preset sounds to choose from, ranging from acoustic instruments like pianos and strings to complex synths. If there is a sound you are looking for, HALion probably has it and if it doesn’t, it gives you the tools to make it.

Here is some of what’s new in this sixth iteration of HALion:

One of the new features is the Macro Page Designer. This is really cool – it basically lets you design your own user interface from a drag and drop menu system. This lets you customize all the settings and information you want and put them where you want them to be. A really convenient feature that I personally greatly appreciate, it lets me put all the settings I care most about front and center, making it easier for me to do the work I need to do.

Also new is Live Sampling. This allows you to record directly into HALion either internally or externally and have your samples edited and mapped on to the keyboard really quickly.

There are 2 new pianos in HALion 6, The Raven Grand and The Eagle Grand. Steinberg definitely went out of their way to make sure these pianos not only sounded good, but also very realistic. Are they the best most realistic sounding pianos on the market? No, but that’s not what HALion 6 is about. It’s about having an all in one virtual instrument, your one-stop shop for everything, and for that, it’s great sounding. I myself started using The Raven for most of my Piano needs unless a project I was working on needs something more.

The next virtual instrument new to HALion is Hot Brass. It’s a brass section library lending itself more towards Pop or Funk than it does for orchestral sounds. It produces some great brass sounds that are in your face, have a nice fat low end, and also are realistic sounding.

Next one is called Studio Strings. I really loved this one, the strings sound great for film score type sounds especially, but should work well on really any type of arrangement.

The last 2 Virtual Instruments are synth based engines. The first one is Anime, which uses 2 wavetable synth oscillators, an in-depth envelope section, and a pretty powerful arpeggiator. The second is Skylab. It uses a combination of a sample library and granular synthesis that excels at creating big energetic sounds.

I have known about HALion for a very long time. I knew it was a sampler based virtual instrument, but never really checked it out because I felt I got everything I wanted from other virtual instruments or one of my keyboards. But I never realized how fully featured HALion was – it’s essentially like have a high-end keyboard workstation in one big virtual instrument. But it’s much more convenient for me to be able to use HALion 6 on my computer as opposed to my keyboard. It’s much easier to tweak or change sounds through HALion with MIDI recordings and get instant results, whereas traditionally on a keyboard you have to do the changes on the keyboard, then play them again to be recorded on your DAW. Steinberg made it even easier to make HALion your sole keyboard plugin by making sampling and mapping so easy. If there are sounds you just can’t live without on your keyboard, you can sample it and re-create it in HALion 6. I don’t know of any other virtual instrument on the market with the sheer amount of sounds, sampling capability, control and ease of use that HALion 6 offers.

Written by

Alex Nasla is a keyboardist, producer and mixing engineer. He keeps busy making audio plugins for Rosen Digital, is audio director at multimedia company Toxic Creativity and is involved in 3 different musical endeavors.