How good is Halion Symphonic Orchestra?

Currently I own the following VSTs: East West Platinum Orchestra, East West Symphonic Choirs, VSL Special Edition, VSL Percussion, VSL XXL Tam-tam and VSL Konzerthaus Organ.
My question is: Is the quality of orchestral sound produced by the Halion Symphonic Orchestra comparable to the East West and VSL VSTs? I’ve looked through this site to try and find an answer but cannot find it.
The quality of the sound playback is as important to me as the quality of the printed score and I suspect for many users this will also be true. As the composer of many works, among them 113 symphonies averaging 40 minutes each, I cannot expect to hear all of them performed in my lifetime, so I can take solace in hearing them digitised to the highest level. However I don’t want to spend hours of time doing this as a separate exercise and I’m hoping that Dorico will produce a direct result as good as and hopefully better than Sibelius.

To some extent, the quality of any sample library is subjective, or at least highly dependent on the purpose for which you intend to use it. You can hear some audio demos for HSO here:

However, I expect you will find that there are many instruments not included in HSO that are included in your existing set of libraries, and you will probably find that you want to continue using your current libraries with Dorico. Hopefully the process of setting up Dorico to use these libraries will not be too onerous, and will be possible to apply as a template to other projects.

In terms of realism no, Halion Symphonic Orchestra is no match for modern libraries if they’re tweaked. But HSO’s main goals when it was originally released in the mid 2000s was to be something that would be easy to use and would sound good when used for plug and play, and I think it still does that pretty well. I don’t know how it compares to the Sibelius stock library, but if you’re looking for instant results (or something close to that) HSO should do a decent job.

As I see it, it still works for orchestral mockups prior to studio recording. I prefer VSL Special Collection Volume 01 for its more-realistic articulations regarding solo strings / woodwinds / brass. Hope that Dorico will have a cheaper version without bundling HSO and Halion Sonic.

I would say it is much better than Garritan or Sib-Sounds - But there is still headroom to the high level libraries - but as far as I know it is the only vsti-3 library (orchestra) that can handle note expression.

In general even to high level libraries are developed to match certain jobs. A lot of these library sounds are already treaten in a certain way ie. Hollywood series (EastWest), cinesamples or the strings from 8Dio. The main goal/job dictates which library to use and most likely one is not enough.

I had one job were I needed a sensitive Cello solo and the only sound that matches perfectly came from the out-dated Kirk Hunter, although I own nearly every library on the market (gear or girl was such an easy decision at this time LOL )

But this is another story and should be told another time.

All libraries have one thing in common: No matter whether you use a notation program or a DAW, you will have to play to role of a conductor as well to get the most out of the library.

In sumery: When you just need a library for your own purpose, to check your score it will be definately an improvement.

When you pay for a Steinberg product you’re paying for the core program. Stuff like Halion Sonic SE and HSO are freebies for those who bought a Dorico license. The same applies to the plugins that come with Cubase.

PS: romantique TP is pretty much right about realism but on the other hand what is realism? Realism for a film-score? Realism as a replacement of a real orchestra playing Beethoven in a concert hall?
To realize a natural realistic symphonic orchestra it would never come to my mind using Cinesamples or Hollywood simply because these libraries aim another goal. I also would never use the VSL or Orchestra Tools for a Trailer. Not that those cannot handle it but I would have to do all the pre-EQing and pre-Compressing on my own. Time is an issue…

I would like to hear what Steinberg people claim about this. These useless giant stuffs only waste my broadband network data (paid per month) and my time downloading and still have to be picked out during installation. At least, a tiny distribution is necessary.

If they were paid-for products there would be for example an option to upgrade from Halion Sonic SE 2 to HS2 (and in Cubase’s case, Groove Agent SE 4 to GA4) for a reduced price. There is not.

See: Steinberg Forums

You only have to download this content once, in the future, when Dorico 2 and 3 come out, you’ll be able to download upgrade installers without having to redownload the content.

I can understand why someone who already owns expensive libraries might not be interested on Halion Symphonic Orchestra at all, but the file size of the Halion Sonic SE 2 content is so small that you might as well just keep that installed. It has such a big variety of sounds that at least a few of them might end up being useful someday.

Sorry for not answering your question Derek, but I just wanted to say that I am really impressed by your work : 113 symphonies of about 40 mn each ? Wow !
More than Haydn ! :slight_smile:
You’re a very productive composer sir.

I wonder how you find the time to write all these notes !

I wonder how you find the time to write all these notes

Partly from being able to get really decent playback straight out of the box without having to waste hours tweaking the result. The libraries were expensive, but the configurations and soundsets that came with them work wonders.

That seems pretty much the same way that Haydn got near the same total. Having a live orchestra on hand 24/7 (for most of his life, at least) was nearly as good as a stack of sound libraries :sunglasses:

+yeah, right on! I would prefer an un bundled product {ie read this as discounted price}.

I already own version of HAlionSonic2 + Symphonic , and seeing as SB actually $sell these, you would think, (well I guess this is my subjective view) that the long term loyal customers that already use Cubase, HAlionSonic2, Symphonic, etc should not have to repay (Again) for these “bundled” components.
The way I see it (wearing my fiscal colored rose glasses), plain vanilla Dorico should cost less minus the amounts that Steinberg are currently selling these bundled products .
(… I know people will chime in and say that the cost is for the core software, and not the bundled plugins,
but the cold cash reality is that (a) Steinberg do SELL these add on’s and (b) without these additional add-ons, the purchaser would not be able to actually “hear” anything with Dorico ie, if it was the purchasers first ever expedition to the new digital way of scoring/engraving, and I guess finally (c) if they were merely just casual bundle “throw ins” then Steinberg should just about (literally) give them away , instead of selling them in their online-shop of course … I do not see them doing that [ever …]

… also seems strange to me, that if you are “cross grading” from a competitors product (eg Sibelius/Finale) you can get a discount, but if you are a long term customer, and already have the other products, you cannot be treated
with a bit more cred and respect from SB


In my humble opinion, HSO sounds very bad in comparison to my VSL Libraries DS I & II and SE Complete.
In the Sibelius domain, HSO sounds worse and need more resources than NotePerformer, that works very good for 2GB of installed content.
In the Kontakt domain, in comparison with my Orchestral Tools, Cinesamples and 8Dio libraries HSO sounds like crap.


I absolutely agree, as I don’t own sibelius or finale, but I own Cubase 8.5, Absolute Collection, Nuendo5, HSO, Cubasis2, The Grand2, Virtual Guitarist2, Virtual Bassist, Halion2, Hypersonic, Wavelab 6, The discontinued DolbyDigitalEncoder from Nuendo2 :imp: , …

Well, Steinberg is Steinberg. You got your point and I agree, but with the Steinberg products I’ve earn a bunch lot more of money that what I’ve paid for. I hate much more the crap of Avid with their despicable subscriptions model.

Dorico is expensive and of course is unfair for the owners of Cubase Pro, Groove Agent, etc…like myself to pay more than the ‘outsiders’. But I feel more motivated than ever with this new piece of software Dorico, I’ve never liked nor feel comfortable with Sibelius, I always felt chained to it…with that mixture of old software that wants to look slick but it sucks. Dorico is a baby boy with beta issues but it doesn’t suck. Dorico looks good, feels good.

And now you know what? I’m gonna make worth every f****** euro I pay for Dorico, I’m gonna write more music than ever, I’m gonna squeeze the sofware up and I’m gonna get from Dorico more than I gave.


In my humble opinion, HSO sounds very bad in comparison to my VSL Libraries DS I & II and SE Complete.
In the Sibelius domain, HSO sounds worse and need more resources than NotePerformer, that works very good for 2GB of installed content.
In the Kontakt domain, in comparison with my Orchestral Tools, Cinesamples and 8Dio libraries HSO sounds like crap.


Appreciate that your opinion is humbly expressed. I share your opinion of HSO.

But you might want to take into account that VSL, Orchestral Tools, Cinesamples and 8DO are expensive premium orchestral products, while HSO is an older product thrown in with Dorico to provide some basic form of orchestral playback sounds. It is not intended as a premium product.

The immediate problem is that, as acknowledged by the Dorico team, third party VST setup in Dorico is not yet fully functional. How Daniel and his team will prioritize it in comparison to the many other pressing demands is yet to be seen. I for one hope it does not take too many months to implement, but then again everyone with their own pressing demand feels the same way.

On a side note, if we truly want a mature product we have to give the Dorico team some breathing room. It does nobody, not us, not the team, not Steinberg any good if such pressure breaks them.

To be clear: a Sample Library is good if it has a lot of well recorded samples and is able to perform many different articulations with many different dynamic layers to produce a nice sound with “orchestral feeling”. That means very good libraries are almost always expensive and need much space on Your HD. When You want to play an orchestral score with these libraries You need at least one, better two or three computers with a fast CPU.

For the production of a mockup I would not recommend to use HSO but as a playback library it would be a good choice if there were more instruments to cover the whole symphonic range and more different articulations. I do not expect “deep sampled” instruments and 16bit is more than ok for this task. One of the big advantages in Cubase (and this will be - I suppose - part of Dorico) are ExpressionMaps that allow articulation switching. This little App inside Cubase should be updated as well but it is a wonderful tool.
The best playback Library for me is not sample based: it is NotePerformer and it is - together with Sibelius - a perfect match. You do not waste one minute to make templates or to setup You libraries, You just start composing, everything is there and it plays back almost any articulation.
For a “perfect” mockup and especially for a professional production You want to use a DAW with all the possibilities for controlling the sound and for mixing.

So what I would prefer is clear: an updated version of HSO as standard playback (and it is true, it is better than many others…) or NotePerformer with the possibility of articulation mapping via ExpressionMaps.

I would not be surprised if HSO 2 is in development ready when Doricos playback engine is stable.

Yeah, of course, I love Dorico. Since I bought it last week it’s the only Notation Software that I’m using. I didn’t purchase it for the sounds, I’ve already used HSO years ago. Since the very first moment with Dorico, thanks to the VST Rack feature, I made a simple but effective as a quality reference, 3 articulations template(Legato-Spiccato-Pizz) with Berlin Strings First Chairs for String Quartet writing. It works good and sounds stellar in comparison with HSO.