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Steinberg HALion 7

Test: HALion 7 - the best FM synth on the market?

Published 7:27 am on Monday 27th March 2023 by Beat Magazine

HALion was first introduced in 2001, making it one of the longest serving VST instruments. Since then, this multitimbral workstation has combined a sophisticated sampler with other sound generators, the syntheses vary from granular to wavetable and virtual analog to sample libraries. The instruments can be managed uniformly under one interface and selected in a common browser. Macro views simplify operation, but you can also dive into the depths of sound generation at any time with great-sounding filters, time stretching, slicing, complex arpeggiators, step sequencers and audio effects, import samples or record them yourself. You can even create your own instruments that other users can load into their HALion 7 or the free player.


While the predecessor started directly with the complex multitimbral universal view, HALion 7 gives you several choices: For example, you can choose a single sample instrument, a virtual analog or wavetable synthesizer, or the new FM Lab. Graphical displays of instruments and sample packs now facilitate navigation, as does intelligent tagging, which suggests matching subcategories depending on the search term. Unfortunately, there is no pre-listening function, which NI Komplete Kontrol and Omnisphere do better.

FM synthesis at its best

Sonically, the new FM Zone and the associated FM Lab macro instrument are of the highest quality, both in terms of depth and transparency. HALion can import sounds from the DX7 and TX81Z, including legendary sounds like the style-defining Lately Bass. So, in addition to the included presets, you have thousands of ready-made sounds right at your fingertips, which you can customize quickly and intuitively with the macro knobs. But you can also get into the FM-X synthesis adopted from Yamaha‘s hardware flagship Montage in detail: 8 operators, each with its own feedback loop, can be modulated, copied and even distributed individually in the stereo panorama as you like! These are possibilities that a DX7 could only dream of.

Spectral experiments

The new spectral oscillator, which some may already be familiar with from Padshop, also invites you to experiment. You can drag in any sample and start playing. In contrast to the classic sampler, high or low tones are not played faster or slower, but polyphonic play seems more homogeneous. For this reason, Spectral can also be selected across HALion as a Time-Stretch/Pitch algorithm. Due to spectral analysis, interventions are also possible that would not be possible with a sampler with subtractive post-processing.

HALion has also made considerable improvements to the modulation. On the one hand, the assignment of modulation source and destination has been simplified considerably by drag & drop and shortcut icons. Each envelope now has a shaper option that allows complex waveforms to be drawn and looped - effectively a fully customizable super stepper LFO with storable presets. And with the new X-LFO, you can even combine two flexible waveforms at different speeds to create exciting intermediate shapes. The new real-time display of all modulations, which clearly visualizes the course of the waveforms, is very helpful. New effects are also available in Cubase and are of the best quality.

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