Saving Presets & Samples - Best Practices?

I’ve just picked a copy of Halion and am getting to grips with it’s workings.

What do you guys suggest is the best way to deal with creating my own presets and saving the samples they reference?

Most tutorials online simply save and tag new presets, without saving custom samples.

I see there might be 2 ways:

  1. Copy the samples to a folder, then save the preset in the Halion media bay, referencing the samples in the folder.
  2. Export the preset and samples as a VST preset. As far as I can see, this doesn’t add the preset to the media bay in Halion though?.

Do I have this right, or am I missing something obvious?

Keep in mind that ‘exporting’ anything doesn’t show up in media bay on purpose. You’re intentionally ‘exporting’ it to an isolated place…perhaps for sharing, perhaps for archiving, perhaps to pack into a library later, etc.

Of course you can pull it back into media-bay at will, however you see fit. Either move it to a place HALion keeps scanned, or ‘import it’ with the HALion “Browser”, or tag the directory it lives in with the Cubase/Nuendo Media Bay…etc.

If you’ve exported a vstsound library (packed the samples and programs into a vstsound archive), be sure to register it with the “Steinberg Library Manager”. Using your native OS file explorer, double click the vstsound file (or one of them if you’ve made a library that uses multiple vstsound files), and Library Manager should open, where you can control where/how every vstsound library living in that same folder can be registered. You can also elect to copy/move the archive, or register it from where it’s already living.

I think you can also make vstsound archives that have nothing in them but samples and or VST Presets (not true rolled libraries)…and simply having them in any directory that HALon and/or Cubase/Nuendo keeps scanned for content. This can also hold true for some things like imported AKAI or Roland sample disk images. Point being, if it lives in a relevant path, it doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘registered’ by the Library app to use samples from it in your HALion and/or Cubase/Nuendo instances.

A vstsound file can have just samples, just presets, or both. It can also hold scripts, macro XML info, graphics, and more. It can also hold extra library information such a version number, name, author, copyright info, etc.

If you save or export VST presets and you want them listed in the MediaBay, make sure they are in a path that HALion keeps scanned. There’s also a button in HALion’s media bay that’ll force an update scan if something isn’t showing that you know should be living in a registered file path.

Examples of common default locations for user made VST3 presets on a Windows setup:
%USERPROFILE%\Documents\Steinberg\HALion 6\VST3 Presets
%USERPROFILE%\Documents\Steinberg\HALion Sonic\VST3 Presets
%USERPROFILE%\Documents\Steinberg\HALion Sonic SE\VST3 Presets

If you are managing a workstation with multiple user accounts for the OS, and wish for all users on said system to have access to the VSTpreset(s), you might consider keeping them somewhere in “%SYSTEMDRIVE%\ProgramData\Steinberg\Content”

I believe it’s also possible to add directories that HALion will keep scanned for content in the Media Browser tab. I.E. The option in HALion’s “Browser” tab to import things, and have them automatically added to Media Bay on import.

If you use Cubase or Nuendo, there’s yet another avenue through the Steinberg “Media Bay” to specify directories/folders, to tag/audition and more. It’s my understanding that you can check off any directories here that you want Cubase, HALion, and more…to keep scanned for potential usable content. In essence, Cubase/Nuendo can bridge all of your HALion engine content together. I.E. While the VST Presets between Groove Agent and HALion 6 aren’t compatible…unlocked samples packed in their vstsound files are! So…the Cubase Media Bay can be used to bag and tag pretty much every sample and VST Preset living anywhere on your system! It’s great stuff, and once you get past the absurdity of how ugly, yet POWERFUL this relational database truly is…it’ll make quick work finding samples and designing things on scales both micro, and macro.

As for managing raw samples that aren’t packed into a vstsound archive, or registered as a library…that’s up to you. Establish your own locations and file naming structure as you see fit. The important thing (if you want it to show up in the HALion media bay), is that the VST3 presets using them should be in one of the directories/folders that HALion keeps scanning for potential new content. Of course, if you like, you can further bag and tag such sample collections in your Cubase/Nuendo Media Bay (relational data base)…which really comes in handy for sound design from within Cubase…just drag and drop things into HALion, Cubase sampler tracks, Groove Agent, or in many cases, even other third party sampler plugins, or straight to audio tracks. When doing this however, be careful not to have multiple copies of a vstsound file being scanned…I’ve found that sometimes it can confuse whatever Steinberg is doing with eLicenser keys, or might even cause messages about missing content (that I know was there). I.E. I once downloaded some libraries to my desktop, registered them using the method that had “copied” it all into the default ProgramData path. I’d had Cubase Media Bay set to also keep tabs on my Desktop (something I’ve since unchecked, since I treat my Desktop directory as a scratch pad that I almost NEVER want Cubase/HALion/Etc. scanning for potential content). It all got a bit confused at seeing multiple copies of the same library (that was a while ago…might have been fixed since, but it’s something to be aware of and possibly avoid).

Samples that a Program (VST Preset) might use that aren’t kept in a registered vstsound file use hard links to the path of which you made the preset with. I.E. “D:\My Samples\Cool Drum Kits\My TAMA Special\Floor Toms\top-head.wav”

In the event you load a Program (VST Preset) into HALion or Sonic, and samples are missing, HALion will toss up a dialogue to relocate them (maybe you moved or renamed them, or the drive isn’t attached, or the volume letter changed after unplugging/replugging a storage device, or whatever). Once you direct HALion to the new locations/names, you’d need to save the preset, otherwise it’ll still refer to the old links next time you load it in a fresh HALion instance.

As a side note:
Stienberg apps are compatible with things like windows short cuts, file-system junctions, or file-system symbolic links. This can come in handy if you’re managing a system with content scattered over multiple storage devices. I.E. The System Drive is a small SSD one, and you want to keep your HALion content off on some other drive. You could move everything in “%SYSTEMDRIVE%\ProgramData\Steinberg” to a new storage device, then make an os file-system junction that points to the new location. It’s a much easier solution than trying to force the Library Manager to move it all…or reinstall mess, etc. Such a concept gives you a lot of power in having multiple content sets living in different places established that can be easily changed with a few cli commands. It can also be rather helpful if you’re comparing and contrasting multiple versions of a big project you’re working on.

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Thank you Brian for such a comprehensive and useful answer. Much appreciated!