HALion Sonic SE 3

Hi Guys, well done on your HALion Sonic SE 3 release. It looks impressive.

I understood it to be free, coming with loads of goodies with it. It is even in the email from Steinberg.

All I see, going to the links, are trial versions.

How do I get those 3200 sounds and stuff as advertised?

ULF, if you were part of the creation of this PlugIn…well done!

Would I have to uninstall this pluhIn after 30 days?

Keep well

Hi Hans,

no, since you have a Dorico license, you can just continue using HSSE3, no problem.

And no, I was not involved in the making of HSSE.


I went to download the updated Halion Sonic SE 3 minutes ago but came across a large banner on the Steinberg web page saying “The free HALion Sonic SE download version does not contain any content”. Is this temporary?

Hi Hans.

Halion Sonic SE 3 is a player. It comes with no content at all. It is an update for Halion Sonic SE 2 currently used by Dorico and also Cubase to play its stock sounds.
It can be used as a standalone application and it can play user created libraries, which wasn’t possible before.

Those 3200 sounds are meant for Halion Sonic 3 (not SE version),which you can get a trial for 30 days.

Does the Halion Sonic SE 3 Player make any difference in Dorico, when playing back the included Halion Symphonic Orchestra sounds?

As someone who is new to Steinberg’s VST products thanks to Dorico, I do find them very confusing. HALion, HALion Sonic, HALion Sonic SE, HALion Symphonic Orchestra. Reading the product pages doesn’t help me understand what they actually are.

Dorico comes with “more than 1,300 production-ready sounds from HALion Sonic SE 2” - which I understand to mean that the full version of HALion Sonic SE 2 has more than 1,300 sounds?

But above, people are saying that HALion Sonic SE 3 has no sounds and is just a player like Kontakt Player?


Dorico comes with the library from HALion Sonic SE 2, which is a cut-down version of HALion Sonic 2, which is also provided with Cubase. It also comes with HALion Symphonic Orchestra, which is both a sound set for the HALion family of plug-ins (HALion Sonic SE, HALion Sonic and HALion can all load the HSO sounds) and a stand-alone plug-in in its own right, though you shouldn’t use that stand-alone plug-in with Dorico.

All of the sounds that you have with HSSE2 and HSO can be loaded by HSSE3. HSSE3 itself does not come with any sounds that you can use permanently. But you can install HSSE3 if you want and it will replace HSSE2, and Dorico will use HSSE3 in exactly the same way it uses HSSE2.

HSSE3 will eventually replace HSSE2 in the default distribution of plug-ins that come with Dorico, but not in the near future, so you will need to install it separately if you want to. If you’re only using the sounds that come with Dorico, there is probably no particularly compelling reason to do this.

Halion is a sampler with a sound design and ease of use focus. It comes with Halion Sonic and all of its content.

Halion Sonic is a big box of sounds, similar to MIDI modules of the 90’s but with higher quality samples and multiple velocity layers. Highly editable.

Halion Sonic SE is a cutdown version of the above, with less editability and sounds from the original Yamaha Motif instead of the new higher quality Halion Sonic sounds.

Halion Symphonic Orchestra is a content expansion for any of the plugins above, featuring more detailed orchestral instruments.

See also https://www.steinberg.net/en/products/vst/halion_and_halion_sonic/product_comparison.html

Thank you. I think part of my confusion arose because when Cubase and Dorico pages talk about HALion Sonic SE 2 being included, that means player+sounds.

But when the page Paul linked to talks about HALion Sonic SE 3, it is only referring to the player, not the sounds. But both are referred to as “HALion Sonic SE”.

Quick Browse this morning, so if someone already said this…OOPS.

The advantages to updating from HALion Sonic SE (HSSE) 2 to 3 are:

  1. Stand Alone version of HSSE. Dorico Users will have some HALion SE content to play, and HSSE 3 will provide a nice stand alone GM 1 (plus a little) compliant instrument. It can record your live playing, and play back standard MIDI files.

  2. HSSE 3 will run in pretty much ANY DAW/host as long as it is 64bit. You are not restricted to Steinberg hosts anymore. This will come in handy if you want to export MIDI files from Dorico, and play them back in some third party DAW using the same HSSE Setup (simply save a Multi-Preset in HSSE from your Project, which you can open in your other DAW all ready to play back your imported MIDI tracks, pretty much exactly as it did in Dorico).

  3. HSSE 3 does not come with any sounds, but Dorico (As well as Cubase/Nuendo) does. So, as long as your Dorico/Cubase/Nudeno License is on the system, you’ll be able to run HSSE 3 and access the HSSE compliant content packs that come with your Steinberg Hosts from any DAW/Host on that same system, or in Stand Alone Mode.

Dorico, as far as I know, currently comes with the following HSSE content packs:
HS SE Basic
HS SE Artist
HALion Symphonic Orchestra

  1. HSSE 3 comes with a new library manager, which will make it easy to install/remove future content created for HSSE with HALion 6 dev tools.

  2. HALion 6 (H6) is really new at present, so there’s not a ton of third party content of interest to traditional Symphonic composers out there just yet, but hopefully we’ll start to see more of it (both free and commercial) since anyone with H6 can now develop HSSE content, and HSSE now serves as a ‘free’ playback engine for third party libraries. Some users/library developers are already sharing their ‘works in progress’ here in the Steinberg Forum for HALion 6 Content Development.

I might be wrong (intend to try it and confirm this weekend), but if you already have Dorico on your system I don’t think you’ll need the additional key of which you apply for via email, as your Dorico license should cover it. The extra key is for running on additional systems that might not have any other Steinberg Hosts that come with HSSE installed. So keep that in mind when managing your new HSSE 3 eLicenser key (do you want it to stay on software eLicensers and be managed through your My Steinberg account, or to live on and bounce among different USB dongles?). As far as I know, you can get all the licenses to HSSE you want/need for other systems at no charge, but it’s good to know anyway.

Sonic SE 3, when downloaded as a ‘simple player’ doesn’t come with any sounds (content packs), but a given Steinberg Host may well ship with content for the SE Player. In the past Sonic SE would only work from inside a supporting Steinberg Host, but with version 3, you can now run the plugin in any 64bit host you like. Provided you have the proper licenses on a given system (I.E. Dorico, Cubase, etc.), then its subsequent content packs should work in other 64 bit hosts as well (I.E. Sibelius, Finale, Reaper, Ableton, CakeWalk, FL, Etc.).

Of course third party, or individual Steinberg content packs will have their own licensing procedures independent of the Steinberg hosts. It will be up to the content creator to provide keys (or make it so no key is needed). Examples are HALion Steinway Grand Piano, HALion Symphonic Orchestra, Dark Planet, etc. If you have a license for any of these sorts of content packs, most of them should work in the free Sonic 3 SE player (As well as Sonic 3 and HALion 6), from inside ANY Host of your choice.

Examples of Content Packs and how they ship:

Dorico currently comes with these content libraries:
HS SE Basic
HS SE Artist
HALion Symphonic Orchestra

That’s over 1,000 Instruments/Programs to work with.

Different versions of Cubase may well add some more content packs for HALion SE.
Cubase 9 Pro, as an example, adds an extra library or two. Namely:
HS SE Hybrid

Purchasing the full “Sonic 3” Instrument adds even more content, plus a more robust User Interface (Supports up to four instrument layers per rack slot). Sonic 3 can be used in ANY 64bit host, and it will also add all the SE content packs to any system (even if you don’t have any Steinberg Hosts like Dorico or Halion installed on said system).
Example Sonic 3 content packs include:
HS SE Basic (GM Soundset)
HS SE Artist
HS SE Hybrid
HS Factory
HS 2 Combis
HS 3 Combis
Anima Synths
Auron Synths
B-Box Drum Machine
Eagle Pianos
Hot Brass
Model C Organs
Raven Pianos
Sky Lab Synths
Studio Strings
Trip Synths
Trium Synths
Voltage Synths
World Instruments
World Percussions

Obviously this will add thousands more presets (plus you can build your own variations).

Halion 6 comes with everything above, plus several content packs that originally shipped with older versions of Halion (and you can still download and use content way back to Legacy distributions of HALion if desired [HSB Sound format]).

HALion 6 also provides the ability to build your own content from the ground up for any of the HALion players (Sampling, Wave Tables, and several types of synthisis oscillators/filters/etc. You can also to further manipulate much of the included Factory content in minute detail. The User Interface is very advanced (Fully resizable, custom frames, Pop out windows, etc.), and supports up to 4 MIDI input ports (Up to 64 MIDI channels), and up to 128 audio outputs in stand alone mode, or in Hosts that support multiple MIDI ports (VST3). HALion 6 also provides a Program Tree which supports individual MIDI Program Change calls on a channel by channel basis (Use for using HALion in live situations, or for building soundsets that can be automated to call up instruments by hosts like Sibelius or Finale). H6 is also able to import sample content from various hardware sample CDs (Akai and Roland), and unlocked sample content from some leading VSTi instruments (Kontakt 4 and earlier, and much of the content for Apple Logic Plugins as examples).

Notice that Halion Symphonic Orchestra (HSO) is a content pack all on its own. It doesn’t come with Cubase or Nuendo, nor with “Sonic 3 or HALion 6”, but it does come with Dorico. HSO licenses can also be purchased independently of Dorico if one wants to run that on a system that does NOT have a Dorico license installed. HSO comes with a miniature single instrument plugin that can run in any host, and now with Sonic 3 SE, it can run on that from any 64bit Host as well (given a Dorico or HSO license is on the system).

I’m also confused about this, and apologies if I’m asking a dumb question. I have the Absolute 2 VST collection, so within Dorico I have options for HALion Sonic SE, HALion Sonic, HALion 5, Symphonic Orchestra, The Grand 3, and probably others that I haven’t loaded. Should I just stick with HALion Sonic SE? (The answer seems to be yes, searching through the forum, but that’s only for HSO.)

For what it’s worth, in Sibelius 7.5, I can load in the HALion configuration (HALion Sonic SE doesn’t appear, just HALion) under the Play tab, and the sound is really good - better than the built-in Sibelius sounds imho, and I don’t have to tweak any settings at all - it just sounds right. As far as I can tell this is the Absolute VST in action, and it’s great.

But playback in Dorico with HALion Sonic SE just doesn’t sound as good to me, and I’m not sure why. Part of it seems to be that the default string sounds in orchestra templates are all solo instruments. That doesn’t make any sense. Am I doing something wrong?

Why should you stick with HALion SE ? It is right to think that, when you Load unassigned instruments or Apply default playback template, Dorico fills the instruments with HALion vsti, because Dorico being very young, it is the solution chosen by the developers to make sure that anyone could have a playback. But once this is done, you can try and add other vsti.
Since Dorico is growing, I think you will be able to move to other vsti with better compatibility (playing techniques through Expression maps or less problems with stability).
As far as I am concerned, I really prefer using The Gentleman, a great piano which sounds better (to me) than the yamaha S90 from HALion, and it works great — still waiting for the pedaling features :wink:

Stephen, the strings sounds in Dorico are solo instruments, but they will be changed (not sure when) so that if you create a solo player you’d still get the solo sound, but if you create a section player you should get the section sound.
If you want to change it now, after you create your instrument / load the score, go to Play mode, open Halion and in the Halion interface select the drop-down to the right of the instrument name. This opens the ‘filters’ and ‘results’ section where in the ‘search results’ bit on the right you can type in e.g. violin and then double-click on e.g. Violins I A Combi to load that into the HALion slot.
Then when you save the project this change of instrument will be saved too.

The correct choice of solo or section sound isn’t currently implemented. It’s a high priority, so I hope we’ll be able to attack it soon. However, we don’t want to limit it to just solo or ensemble but provide some means of specifying ensemble size, so that over time you’ll be able to get the best out of the big orchestral libraries.

I agree the HALion piano samples are … well, not the worst I’ve ever heard.

My personal favorite is https://www.pianoteq.com/grotrian - I’m probably biased though, since my piano teacher for about 15 years had a smaller Grotrian-Steinweg grand. As an accurate reproduction of the sound and “feel” of that, I would give the Pianoteq version at least 9.5 out of 10 - maybe a 10.

This is also pretty good: https://www.pianoteq.com/harpsichord - and unlike the real thing, it doesn’t need any tuning and regulating!

BTW one of the Steinweg family emigrated from Germany to the USA and changed his name to Steinway…