Steinberg’s Halion is a full-featured software sampler for use with VST-compatible music applications (such as Steinberg’s Cubase family) that offers a number of unique features not found in samplers from Emagic, Bitheadz, and other companies.
Most other software samplers have to load the entire contents of a sample into RAM, but the $399 Halion can play samples of virtually any length–regardless of the amount of RAM installed in your Mac. This is because Halion can play audio directly from a hard disk; when working with long samples, Halion preloads the initial portion of the sample into RAM and streams the rest directly from disk. You will still need a fast system–preferably a Power Mac G4, although a G3 will do–and as much RAM as you can get, but Halion’s streaming support is a step above anything offered by competing samplers.
Each Halion virtual instrument can have up to 256 voices that will play sampled parts on up to 16 MIDI channels simultaneously (Cubase lets you load up to eight virtual instruments at one time). Halion supports file resolutions from 8 to 32 bits and can import Akai, E-MU, and REX sample files, as well as AIFF and WAV sound files. Filters with extensive modulation features are provided for importing, editing, and layering. Steinberg also includes a high-quality sample library on four CDs to get you started.
Halion is a fairly complex and deep program, but the controls are laid out clearly and logically. Extensive use of drag-and-drop functionality makes it easy to navigate and to adjust, loop, modulate, and layer samples.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Thanks to its ease of use, extensive file support, and ability to play long samples directly from a hard disk, Halion is a very good choice for music producers looking for a versatile software sampler with clear advantages over its rivals.