I’ve been trying to figure out the structure of HALion for some time, and it occurs to me that it’s actually pretty modular by nature. Anyone who knows more, please correct me if I’m wrong:
- HALion is primarily a framework for layering synths. It’s set up like a mixer. There are 16 programs. Each of these has up to 4 layers and 4 effects buses. There are effects sends and a suite of effects to insert.
The programs themselves are modules within this framework. Some of these programs can be loaded as VSTis in a regular Cubase instrument track. HALion Symphonic Orchestra, for example. Others must be loaded within HALion. Trip, for example.
2. HALion also contains a sample-based softsynth. The documentation speaks of a “sample zone”. Programs created with this component of HALion can appear as:
- Part of a HALion library (Such as HALion Sonic Basic SE)
- Part of a collection based on a synth simulation, such as Auron. These are macros within HALion, I suppose. That’s why they can’t be loaded directly as VSTis on a Cubase instrument track.
- HALion also contains a subtractive softsynth. The documentation speaks of a “synth zone”. As with the sample zone, there are programs directly written in this zone that appear in libraries such as HALion Sonic Basic SE, and there are programs based on a HALion Macro, such as Trip or Voltage.
Now it’s probably true that HALion expansions such as Dark Planet and HSO are HALion based, and the only reason they can be loaded directly into instrument tracks is because they are sold with the HALion subset they need. Thus they can run “independently”.
OTOH, something like Spector cannot be loaded in HALion – only as an independent instrument in a Cubase instrument track. This tells me that it doesn’t share much (if any) of the HALion codebase.
In conclusion, I’d say HALion is a modular softsynth development platform, with 3 main aspects. (Framework, wavetable synth (including granular), and virtual analogue synth (apparently excluding FM).) Any softsynth based on it can be used in the framework, others cannot. HALion 6 seems to facilitate the creation of more programs, and offers ever larger program libraries.
It seems Steinberg wants to encourage more people to add to those libraries, which is a good idea because any platform thrives in proportion to how much it’s used. Going more “open source” with it allows users to add value to HALion at no cost to Steinberg. And we get a chance to be sound designers, which can’t hurt.