Halion 6 impressions after a few months

Hey everyone. I wanted to get some thoughts from other users of Halion 6 in terms of how they feel about:

  • Its interface?
  • Speed and ease of getting the sound you’re after?
  • The workflow of creating layers/splits, etc?
  • Ease of understanding a program, modulations, effects quickly
  • Ability to assign and manage modulations

For me, I’ve been using it off and on for a few months now off and on and I’m starting to get a grip on the general workflow and capabilities. I also set up a few screen sets per my preferences which has helped.

First of all, my uses so far have been for using/tweaking presets, building layers/splits, designing synth sounds from scratch. I have not used it for sampling at all, designing my own wavetables, etc. Maybe in the future I’ll explore that but I’ve never done any of that stuff before.

I’ll say that this is not a synth that in my opinion is easy to jump into or particularly intuitive. I don’t think that’s necessarily a problem if “the juice is worth the squeeze”, or if the workflow is fast and productive once you put the time into learning how to use it and where things are. But I have to say that even after I’ve gotten reasonably comfortable with it, I don’t particularly enjoy using the interface. There are a few things that help, such as the contextual “sound” tab which shows you just the relevant details of whatever you click in the program tree. Also the browser is pretty nice. But overall, I still wouldn’t describe it as user-friendly, intuitive, or streamlined.

Sound-wise, I’m pretty satisfied. Wavetable and granular synth engine are very nice. Regular synth engine is pretty good also. It has nice unison and multi-oscillator and decent filters. The regular synth engine would benefit from more types of waveforms, but each one can be morphed quite a bit.

When you start layering and combining sounds, you can build some real great sounding instruments. The fact that it comes with a lot of acoustic samples is a huge plus because I like to mix acoustic and synthetic sounds. Hopefully more 3rd party content becomes available to supplement the sounds. . it seems like they’re slowly developing vendors for that.

Performance / CPU-usage hasn’t been a problem for me at all on an Intel I7 4th gen w/ 8 gigs ram.

Modulation is “meh”. Each “zone” (synth/wavetable/grain/etc) has its own modulation matrix, but the destinations are limited. Some items have their own envelopes, such as the 2 LFO’s that are part of each zone, while other items don’t have their own envelope. The only way to assign modulation is via the modulation matrix of each zone (or automate it in your DAW). No right clicking, dragging, etc. The exception is the “quick controls”, which you get 8 of and can assign pretty much everything to. There’s no visual feedback on any of the knobs or anything like that when they’re being modulated. But overall, to me it feels limited and non-elegant solution for modulation compared to the competition.

The audio routing is very powerful. There can be audio busses at the “zone”, “layer”, “program”, “slot”, “aux”, and “master” levels. Its nice to have this flexibility, but in my case it’s overly complicated and the “mixer” and “program trees” need some work to make managing these easier. For example, I accidentally put a compressor in the bus for one of my layers, when I actually wanted to put it at the “master” level of my multi. I couldn’t drag and drop it with its settings from one bus to the other. . . that kind of thing is annoying.

The ability to bypass insert effects or flex phraser (arpeggiator) at the “master” level with a button press, along with the fact that those settings are persistent when you load a new program or multi, is a god-send. . . . love that.

Let’s talk about macros (aka the pretty user interface with just a few controls). Some of the stock programs come with macros, but I don’t find them to be easier or better than using the program itself. Also, they take up only a fraction of the screen, which is crappy. Also, annoyingly the macro parameters are different than the parameters in the Halion editor. For example, an envelope attack in the macro is a different parameter name than in the actual program editor. So it’s like two redundant sets of controls when you try to make changes or modulate parameters of the programs. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but it had me scratching my head a few times already. Compare this to Falcon for example, where the macro just controls the same parameter that’s in the full-blown editor. Finally, designing your own interfaces and macros is not user-friendly or intuitive in my humble opinion. So suffice to say, I really don’t like the macros and never use them.

The biggest plus of Halion is that it really is a “all-in-one” platform with a lot of useable included content where you can combine different types of sampling and synthesis. I find the “single platform” desirable because it means only learning one system/interface. The biggest negative for me is the user-friendliness, workflow and interface. . . they could definitely use a refresher to bring them up to “state of the art”.

Most importantly, despite its interface shortcomings, I still think that overall, Halion 6 gives the best “bang-for-the-buck” for those who want to be able to layer capable sampling and synthesis in a single platform, and not spend an arm and a leg. The closest competitors I know of are Kontakt and Falcon. I actually also have Komplete Kontrol MK2 49 and Komplete 11, but so far you can’t layer instruments in Komplete Kontrol (wtf), and I’m not trying to learn the interfaces for 20 different plugins, so it’s of limited benefit at this point. I also previously owned and sold Falcon. Itwas great but just too damn expensive to get the sampling content I wanted (it had its workflow and technical limitations as well, plus no “undo” which sucks).

Look forward to hearing other people’s thoughts!

I got Halion in Feb 2018 and agree with most of what you say, though I find the general layout and browser overly complicated and confusing.

The manual is poor, not enough graphics or real life examples of what to do.(or why you would want to do it- there are included features that aren’t explained fully)

I love the idea of the Macro pages but unless you are happy creating a basic synth, you very quickly realize you are going to have to learn scripting to get anywhere (or ask the guys on this forum :smiley: )

I fully agree about the envelopes ! can’t understand what they are doing .

I also have Komplete ultimate but love the idea of creating my own Macros. Halion 6 is incredibly powerful and with great potential but they need to make it much more intuitive and user friendly (before some of their rivals catch up !)

Please get someone who doesn’t know anything about Scripting to update the manual, use more graphics and make them bigger so we ca see what you mean.

Dear Steinberg, I have been using Cubase since the early 1980s, I really want to stick with Halion but you need to make it EASIER to UNDERSTAND and USE.

I fully agree. I have a feeling they will enhance the macro functionality in future updates to make it more accessible. It’s advertised as being quick and easy but it is way too complicated and non-intuitive.

I also agree that the manual could use some examples and pictures… It’s more like a dictionary now.

That being said, the actual synth itself is growing on me the more I use it. Definitely a keeper and can’t beat it for the price. Looking forward to see what future updates bring.

Halion 6 is a monster and the interface is … a monster. After spending some time to figure out the philosophy of the gui, it’s ok for now.

Using the Absolute 3 Halion content is ok also but if the macro buttons will reflecting the corresponding knobs in the future it will be awesome :mrgreen:

Building an own library with e.g. samples is a little hell, moving and in some cases renaming results in a lost connection to the gui element, this is :imp:

Developing a library is a little bit kind of a hell at now. Trashing the library with the Library Manager doesn’t interest Halion Sonic and SE, you must remove the preferences folder for plugin and standalone versions. Rescan on the Sonic or SE gui is nice but trashed libraries will be ignored, rescanning the MediaBay also takes no effect.

Takeover the developing library to another computer isn’t possible, because e.g. the background image reference is an absolute path and they may differ on another machine. Here in my case I’ve three Macro Pages, two of them are empty.

I think it will be more easy with a right click on the top of the program tree with an option to create OR EDIT(!!!) a library. At now you to fiddling around with two windows.

Yeah, I upgraded from Halion Sonic 3 to Halion 6 and the interface is so confusing I don’t even use it. The interface was designed by someone who doesn’t seem to understand that most musicians are not computer techs and we want things to be as simple and accessible as possible. I don’t mean that as a diss to Steinberg…it’s just a poor interface.


I have been watching these tutorials from One Man and his Songs and find them very well explained and detailed.


The author’s profession is software developer, so he investigates well the different possibilities that Halion offers and shows in good order how to deal with them.

I went the other way in using to create a sample instrument, I didn’t get very far as the import/map by name protocol does not compete with Kontakts name token system, you can see me comments here: https://www.steinberg.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=262&t=194407

I agree with everything OP said especially the limited nature of the modulation matrix destinations. The main thing I wanted to do was to have effects be modulated by an LFO. If I can’t even do that I’ll just add my effects in post, in my vst. If an effect is to be a part of a sound it should be modulated, by velocity, by LFOs, by user envelopes. The modulation is the main thing that is crap, apart from the horrifically bad user interface.

But still, this thing has so much power and capability, I almost forgive it for those sins.

The tutorials from “one man and his songs” are good, but I watched his video, and I was surprised that he glided past how incredibly limited and pathetic the modulation matrix feature is. It looks like someone designed it in 2001 for Halion 1.0 and never touched it since then.

I am a professional software developer, and I am used to very complex user interfaces (Programming means using IDEs, and version control tools with hideously complex user interfaces, all day) and I still find Halion baffling.

I am reading the manual and I think actually that the manual is pretty good. I’ve learned a lot from the manuals. For example, did you know that you can click on an input field for a note value and hit midi keyboard notes while editing the root note or the note ranges, or anywhere else where notes (C#3 for instance) are entered and then press ENTER.

Love it, ESPECIALLY the GUI!

Perhaps my favorite part it how seamlessly it integrates with Cubase. It makes quick work of surround sound projects thanks this sort of direct drag and drop integration between the Cubase project screen and HALion. In short, there is no other sound design tool that comes anywhere close when it comes to making huge sample sets directly in the DAW, chopping them up, naming them, pre-processing, and dragging them into the HALion workflow. Need to build lush surround sound instruments? HALion teamed up with Cubase is really hard to beat in my opinion. Nothing else is as easy to get so many channels recorded, organized, and sorted in one place, with unparalleled visual and audio cues, and planned out fairly quickly and easily.

Second, I love the Note Expression support. This opens up so many possibilities when teamed up with Cubase! It’s nice to be liberated from managing separate free floating ‘channel cc’ events. It’s amazing to be able to modulate polyphonic parts without having constantly spawn off new tracks on new channels. It’s a god-send to be able to do higher level quantization and groove changes without having to go back and deal with the expression data later (since it’s note bound, it floats with the note it is tied with…not just free floating as channel CC events).

The GUI is awesome because “I” get to design the thing how I see fit. I can open the things I need at the moment, and get rid of the rest. I can split screens horizontally or vertically, and resize the individual elements to my heart’s content. I can pop out a frame with a couple mouse clicks, and move it elsewhere on one of my monitors, then reassign something new to his old home. There’s simply nothing else as flexible and powerful that I’ve ever seen in the virtual instrument design world. Things are well organized, and super easy to cross reference visually…in multiple formats.

The GUI is also great because some of the lists of manipulative elements get rather long. Rather than constantly ‘scrolling back and forth’…one can just pop out a new window, or slide open a new frame…scroll a bit there, and boom…I can see something from the top of the list, and something at the very bottom at the same time. NOTHING ELSE on the market I’ve ever seen for sound design comes anywhere close. It’s brilliant!

I suppose this comes naturally to me after working with software like Blender (3d Graphics/Animation software), as it has a similar ‘power user’ UI concept. In Blender, you sometimes only need to see one thing at a time, but more often, you need to see multiple camera angles, plus time lines, plus dope lists, and on and on. You need it to be flexible, powerful, capable of taking advantage of multiple screens, etc.

Well, music design has WAY MORE than three dimensions…so for a change, HALion gives us the ability to spread all this information out and view what we need, when we need it. It’s a breeze to store all kinds of display settings for multiple workflows and needs.

HALion is the first app in the music world I’ve seen take advantage of this UI concept, and it’s about darn time someone finally did it! Most of our sound design tools FORCE us to toggle through small arcane pages of very limited data-sets, while forcing us to look at things we may or may not want/need at the moment, navigate endless menus/popups, don’t give us many display options, and well…frankly, they remind me of those annoying troll web sites that only have one sentence per page and force us to click ‘next’ a million and seven times to ever get to the end of the article. Need something from the middle of the article…gotta click back another dozen times. NOT SO with HALion! I can condense things down to a very simple and minimal display for performances, or spread out dozens of windows, with split frames when designing and building. I can store all the presets I like to bring up whatever display setup I want at the tap of a couple of keys. Bottom line…nothing I’ve ever seen in the sound design industry comes anywhere close to HALion when it comes to spreading out the information that I need, when I need it, how I want it. Nothing else gives me as many options for getting data punched in either. The secret sauce? You have frames, windows, and pop-out abilities that allow you to display and manipulate the stuff you need when you need it…side by side…over and under…whatever. You have presets for building all your favorite work-flow scenarios. Take advantage of it.

I agree about the modulation matrix being somewhat difficult to get a grip on and often requiring a lot of redundant steps to get more complex scenarios, though I’ve learned that some elementary forays into the world of lua scripting can be very helpful in getting around this. So far I’ve been able to find ways to make it do everything I’ve ever wanted…even some pretty complicated things…it just requires an understanding that quick controls on lower layer levels bound to the right parameters is the secret ingredient. This is more a lack of failing to provide some examples and tutorials I think than a design flaw. Again, a bit of LUA can really simplify things with a little practice. I.E. With some very simple LUA magic, one can trick HALion into using a given parameter say a ‘dummy’ parameter that is being modulated by a LFO, to control something totally outside the norm of what an LFO insert can do strictly through the UI options (I.E. Convince an LFO or an envelope to drive a quick control, which is tied to a dozen other things, and so on)…or it can even drive many parameters at the same time ‘directly’, while skipping the use of multi-level quick control sets. LUA can also help one design his own pattern or random parameter generators. Really, the scripts are not that complicated…one just needs to dive in, read the lua primers, and ask questions in the LUA for HALion forum here.

Over all, I still agree that some extra presets somewhere in the GUI providing a one stop shop for designing a modulation matrix would be helpful for many users, while also saving some time for those who have figured out and mastered the marriage between quick controls and HALion parameters. In short…for a complicated matrix that does a lot of modulations ‘relative’ to one another…it’s not uncommon for me go several layers down before actually adding samples or oscillators…just to get the extra quick controls (which are often driven by other quick controls, and so forth).

As for some previous comments about HALion parameters not being accessible…I highly disagree. Stop thinking of HALion as a VST2 or MIDI plugin! This baby is VST3! Almost every single parameter in the thing can be seen, and controlled via Cubase (not sure about other DAWS), at any time, in any way you like. VST automation lanes can connect directly to most of it, and what little it cannot, you can ‘MIDI Learn’, or tie in with generic remote maps in Cubase. This is one reason why the GUI is as it is…if you need it, you can open up the Parameters List…in as many variations and windows/frames you desire, and watch all the numbers dance in real time! Also, In the Instrument rack, explore the more advanced options for plugin displays. If you really want/need to see the dials turn while you work your controller or play the project…there are ways to get Cubase to show them too (perhaps other DAWs as well…Bidule is great example of one that can spread out and show/manipulate darn near every VST parameter of ANY VST plugin parameter in real time action :wink:

The macros are something I’ve only used when I specifically need to make an instrument for HALion SE. It’s pretty impressive, though it does come with a learning curve. If one intends to offer more than basic tweaking of individual parameters, studying up on LUA is a MUST. It’s worth it if you require SE compatibility…otherwise it’s probably more trouble than its worth for most users. HALion 6 macros are NOT limited in size…they will even scroll if needed…but for Sonic/SE…macros have to be kept a specific size overall, fairly simple, or split up in many pages simply because those plugins are not resizable, nor is their macro area ‘scrollable’. Overall, I’m a big fan of the macro development tools, as this helps put HALion in contention for the development of more third party libraries that’ll work with the new FREE SE plugin. Those missing abilities, and a free player kept many library developers out of the HALion loop. Now it has it…so…huge thumbs up!

There are a few things I’d like to see added of course. The ability to snap more independent sets of quick controls to a single UI (we only get 8 right now…and while you can put as many copies of this as you like into a window, they’ll all do the same thing. Please give us more…even if they are not connected to the Cubase ‘quick control set’. Heck, call them something different…make them different colors…whatever. It’d just be nice if we could throw the HALion QC sets for all of our layers onto a single GUI window or two, and make display presets for them to have handy.

Plus…nit picking things like being able to detect the status of some things in a megatrig from a LUA Script (some of the parameters I try to get information from and it returns nothing, nor have I found a way to set some things in there with LUA…I suppose I just don’t know how to ask for it…they don’t all show up in the parameter lists either).

I agree that having these abilities added to the GUI directly, and in an intuitive way would be ideal. Perhaps a future version will get this.


I think some surprisingly simple LUA scripts can help you here. I’ll have to check to see if the FX plugin parameters are accessible to LUA (I see no reason why they wouldn’t be), but I’m pretty sure you can do this.


You could have a script that monitors your modulating LFO parameter and echos that value on to something else, such as, a QC (if you want it to modulate several things at once, all scaled and such), or directly to a single parameter if you just need something simple (say, driving a notch filter FX loaded into an AUX bus).

Scripts can also check incoming note events, extract the velocity, and then echo that to another parameter as described above. I believe the libraries are also complete enough out of the box to establish ranges and scales and make adjustment before echoing the parameter.

I think it’s also possible to do more complicated scripts where you could build your own pattern or random modulation routines…should you find the bog standard engines/shapes and options provided in the UI aren’t quite what you want.

I’ll try to come back and edit in an example script soon. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking such a script to simply echo an LFO’s output to a QC, which you could then scale in the UI, and connect to your desired FX parameters, would be fewer than a dozen lines (including comments on how/why it works).

If I forget, feel free to contact me via IM and remind me.

I would like to be able to do this via LUA scripts. Is it correct to say that the various instruments that ship as content for Halion are in fact, LUA scripted around the core engine’s features? Apparently the LUA scripting is massively powerful, if a bit hard to learn and debug.

In going through old HALion content, it looks like in the past, LUA was mainly used for making Macro screens.

I do believe it’s becoming a little more popular to use it for sonic purposes.

I don’t think it’s too difficult to learn really. What sets it apart from other scripting languages is that instead of dealing with lists or arrasys, each variable can be a full blown TABLE of sorts. So, LUA is really good at dealing with data fields :slight_smile:

It’s perfect for VST3…mostly what I’ve done with LUA so far is grab the value of existing parameters (we can see them in HALion’s Parameter List) and do things with those values before passing them on. It’s also pretty easy to declare a new variable.

A great place to start learning, is to dig around in the new Hot Brass, and Symphonic Strings that came with H6 for the acoustic/sample based concepts. Dig into flux for some ideas with synths. Go to the LUA for HALion page and explore the events and functions supported. Read a few LUA primers, etc.

I took a quick look at the issue of using an LFO to drive things that aren’t listed in the GUI as attach points.

For now, I don’t see an obvious way to get the data from the LFO’s output directly, but I’ll keep digging.

If that’s unsuccessful, it would seem that will be possible to attach the lfo to something that is specified in the list of options, but perhaps hook it to something that’s not really effecting the sound…then…snoop that parameter and echo it off to other things…say, a QC, which can then be easily scaled and attached to all sorts of things.