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!