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HALion 7

Reviewed By lordvader48 [all]
April 11th, 2007
Version reviewed: 2.1.144 on Mac

Steinberg's HALion is marketed as a "VST sampler". Unfortunately, it is anything but a sampler. HALion can't record samples, lacks waveform editing, and even lacks sample drag & drop to/from a VST host.

Perhaps in the early days of VSTi's these kinds of limitations in a software sampler were acceptable. That certainly isn't the case now. I think we all expected that HALion and Kontakt would be rounded out with these critical capabailities by now. After all, what good is a sampler that can't even sample? If HALion provided proper drag & drop of sampled material the lack of sampling and waveform editing might not be so crippling. But as things stand, HALion is really only good for loading and playing sound libraries. It is certainly not a "VST sampler" as Steinberg claims.

HALion also has serious problems in the file management area. HALion saves Programs by saving separate files for all of the constituent sample files for the program. This leads to a big tangled mess of files on your hard disk. HALion does provide a ".hsb file format" which saves bank contents to a single file, but be warned that once you save your bank as a ".hsb" you will be unable to access your samples outside of HALion!

Finally, HALion's onboard effects are weak, and the routing of effects is very hard to understand and use.

I've marked down HALion in the ratings because the manufacturer mistakenly claims that HALion is a sampler. When Steinberg finally gets around to addressing these problems I will raise these ratings accordingly.

HALion is in dire need of an update. Image-Line's DirectWave costs 1/4 as much as HALion, and does not have the debilitating limitations. DirectWave is a much better and much more useful sampling tool.
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Reviewed By lordvader48 [all]
January 8th, 2007
Version reviewed: 5.0 on Mac

Reaktor is a very troublesome creature for musicians. Reaktor has incredible potential, and NI promises great things from its "factory ensembles" and its vaunted "user library".

The reality is somewhat different, however. Make no mistake - Reaktor is a truly amazing piece of technology. Reaktor may be the ultimate synthesizer construction kit.. hardware OR software. The problem is in *realizing its potential*.

Think about it for a minute: What do you get when you buy a Roland synth? Sure, you get a piece of hardware. And these days you also get some software. But you get something else: some very smart (usually Japanese) engineers spent years of their lives figuring out how to deliver the right software/hardware implementation to make a really great musical INSTRUMENT. THIS is the part that Reaktor doesn't provide.

Does NI provide a bunch of really great-sounding, MUSICAL factory ensembles with R5? No, not really. There are some awfully good ones, like the Junatik synth, the SpaceMaster reverb, the GrainState synth, and a few others. But most of the NI "factory ensembles" are novelties, good for making stunning squeaks and squonks that sell software, but not much use for making music.

What about the vaunted "user library"? Again, there's not that much there after you spend some time looking at it. Why? Because musical instrument design is hard, and the user ensembles (like the factory ensembles) lack the man-years of talented effort that it would take to make really great-sounding, useful Reaktor instruments.

If you are a talented instrument designer and you have lots of time, there's no doubt that Reaktor 5 will deliver incredible results for you. If you need usable synth/sampler sounds in the near future, you are much better off if you AVOID the abyss that is... Reaktor 5.
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Reviewed By lordvader48 [all]
January 8th, 2007
Version reviewed: 1.0 on Windows

DirectWave is billed as "one of the most complete VSTi samplers" on the market today.

You know what? That claim is 100% true. DirectWave is one of the first of a new generation of soft-samplers that actually SAMPLE AUDIO and do waveform editing. And the difference is amazing. Just download the demo and try sampling some sounds, and you'll see what I mean. Samplers.. need to SAMPLE. DirectWave does!

DirectWave also sports one of the best and most well-thought-out interfaces I have seen anywhere. It's set up so that almost everything is on one page, with a really intelligent and useful tabbed interface. It just has to be seen to be believed. This is how instrument GUI's should be!

DirectWave really sounds great. About the only negative with its sonics I can think of is that its filters are a bit weak. But while others might care about that, I don't. DirectWave's filters are more than good enough for my needs, and DirectWave has really great PER-VOICE (keyzone) DSP effects, comprehensive modulation matrix, and terrific reverb/delay/chorus effects in its "Program" (master) section. The overall sonic results are simply superb, and DirectWave is very CPU efficient as well.

Did I mention the reverb? DirectWave has a really great, dense, "old-school" reverb built in that really sounds great. It makes my samples sound wonderful.

About the only other problem I can discern is that DirectWave's documentation, especially its "online help", is inadequate.


DirectWave is the best "soft-sampler" on the market today. And, as they claim, it is one of the most "complete". At $99.00, it's an incredible value too. I am anxiously awaiting release of the Mac OSX version so I can use DirectWave on my main DAW. Once the Mac version comes out, DirectWave is going to be my main workhorse.

Goodbye, rack of Akai's...
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