From HS SE 3 to free HS 7 - worth?

C12 Pro, Win1064

Today, after launching the Download Assistant to check for possible updates, I found out a new entry in “My Products”: Colors Free.

While waiting for the new (welcome!) VST to be installed, I noticed also the presence of another new entry:
HALion Sonic 7.0.0 (recommended)

If I’m not mistaken, this new HS 7 should replace the presently installed HS SE 3, with no need of upgrading or replacing the installed HS sounds and libraries (HS SE 3 Content, Verve, Amped Elektra).

As I’ve grown quite careful with any software updates and upgrades, I’d like to ask other users for some advice:

  • do you think the new HS 7 (free version) brings actually significant improvements?

  • can I reasonably expect existing C11/12 projects to flawlessly load AND work after the upgrade (edited sounds, saved presets…) ?

Thanks in advance for any help.

Accepting the upgrade ‘might’ also update some of the content libraries as well, insuring they are up to code for running ‘dongle/eLicenser free’.

In most cases, yes, Sonic 7 replaces any instance of HSSE in your older projects. Your rack might still say Sonic SE, but you’ll notice that when you open the UI it’s been replaced with Sonic 7.

An exception to that rule is hosts that don’t support VST3, AU, or AAX plugins. I.E. VST2 only. This exception comes about because there is no VST2 version of Sonic/HALion 7. So…unless you’ve manually ‘uninstalled’ HSSE, such hosts/projects will still use it so long as that HSSE dll is in the scanned plugin path for the host.

So…if you need a VST2 variant of Sonic (I.E. Finale/Sibelius on Windows)…you might want to keep HSSE 3.5.10 around. I think Apple users with Apple Silicon might require Rosetta to use the VST2 variant as well. In most cases those Apple users can opt for the native AU or AAX variants and run with Sonic 7.

You are correct that the sounds pretty much remain the same. You get access to whatever HALion content comes with your Steinberg Hosts, plus whatever extra content you have keys to run.

Sonic 7 does offer some extra features over HSSE. Namely freedom from the old eLicenser/Dongle system, an improved Media Bay experience, and better native support for Apple Silicon. I think there is a free synth zone to tinker with. Start with the “Init Program”, click a Layer, and you also get access to a FlexP synth zone to tinker with, and you can layer up to 4 of these together in a single program slot. Need more? Set another program slot to the same MIDI channel and keep stacking!

Users can easily load up to four ‘layers’ in each program slot. You also get more control over a preliminary instrument bus from here before it hits the main outputs. This makes it possible to easily add/change effects on a ‘per layer’ basis, in addition to the AUX effects on the main bus.

There are some nifty features for live players such as using a MIDI program change event to call up an entire ‘multi-program’ setup.

If you have any HALion expansion packs, keep an eye on your MySteinberg account for updated keys and content to go with the new dongle free Steinberg Activation Center. They will be added to your ‘voucher’ tab as they become available.

There are also a few free sounds you can grab that may not be obvious through the Steinberg Download Assistant (SDA) ‘update’ process. If you scroll all the way to the bottom of this page, you can get keys via email for the free sounds to enter into SDA. (These sounds might also work in HSSE 3.5.10).

Accepting the update doesn’t uninstall HSSE 3. It’s still there but with a sidenote or two.

If you want the old HSSE ‘gone’ then you’ll need to uninstall it with your OS’s app manager.

If you keep HSSE 3…The latest Steinberg hosts know what to do. They gracefully ‘ignore’ the VST3 variant of HSSE, while the old VST2 variant is still around and can be manually loaded in the rack (VST2 HSSE might require Rosetta for newer Mac users?).

For non Steinberg hosts (or older ones), having the vst3 plugin for HSSE in your system vst3 directory could be an issue. If you have other hosts that wig out scanning plugins after installing Sonic 7, simply ‘move’ the HALion SE directory that’s in your system VST3 path to somewhere that it won’t get scanned by hosts. Then you get the option to fairly easily swap between HSSE or Sonic 7 by ‘moving’ the relevant folders in/out of the system VST3 path.

Grab it now or wait?

If you use Dorico there are some issues (related to the Media Bay in Sonic/HAlion 7), as well as a temporary user induced ‘fix’ until the next service release. The fix is pretty simple…the user starts the Media Bay manually in stand alone mode with a ‘keeprunning’ flag before using Dorico. I.E. from a bat file send:
start "" "%programfiles%\Steinberg\MediaBay\SteinbergMediaBayServer.exe" "--usermode" "--standalone" "--keeprunning"

As far as I know there are no hitches for Cubase and Nuendo.

You can always roll back pretty easily if it’s not working well for you. Just uninstall Sonic 7, and put HSSE 3 back (If you moved or uninstalled it). Here is the link to get HSSE 3.5.10 if you find a need to get that installer.


I thank you very much for your kind and exhaustive answer.
Which makes me think that, as I’m only using Win10 and Cubase Pro 12 with its own included instruments and my recent archived projects were made with Cubase Pro 11 (as well with its own VSTs), this HS upgrade should bring no problems at all.

Do you agree?

Yes. It should go very smoothly.

Just an update to add that this issue is supposedly fixed with updates from Steinberg Download. Next time you open that, if needed, it’ll update your Steinberg Media Bay. Take the Dorico 4.3.30 update, and it should be resolved.

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