Programs, Layers, Multis, Macro Pages, and Presets


A program is a complex instrument or sound that can consist of up to 4 layers. Often, a program contains a single layer that comes with all necessary components, such as the synthesis part or insert effects. Programs add the possibility of combining different layers to build up more complex sounds or to create combinations of sounds that you want to load as a unit. A typical example is a bass/piano split sound or a piano/string layer sound.

Because of the various layer types that come with HALion Sonic, these combinations can do a lot more. For example, think of combining a pulsating synthesizer sequence with a sliced loop completed by a bass on the lower keys, and so on. Finally, add some effects to individual layers or to the whole program and you get a unique sound experience.


Programs are combinations of up to 4 layers. HALion Sonic offers 5 different layer types. You can choose between synth, sample, instrument, drum, and sliced loop layers. Each layer type is based on an individual sound architecture and has a dedicated editor.

Synth and Sample Layers

For synth and sample layers, you get access to a synthesizer editor with components such as a highly flexible filter section, powerful multi-stage envelopes, LFOs, a step modulator, and a modulation matrix. These layer types differ in their basic sound source. While a synth layer provides an oscillator section with three main oscillators, a sub oscillator, a noise generator, and a ring modulation stage, the sample layer loads a specific multi-sample instead.

Drum Layers

The drum layers load a multi-sampled drum set, for which you can individually adjust the most important parameters of each drum instrument. Each drum instrument can be set to a specific pan position or an individual output, or it can be filtered, reversed, and so on.

Loop Layers

Loop layers load a sliced loop, that is, a combination of a loop-specific MIDI phrase and the individual slices mapped across the keyboard. You can either play the original loop or a transposed version of it, or trigger single slices manually. Each slice can be modified with the same parameters as the drum instruments.

Instrument Layers

Instrument layers contain several multi-samples of an instrument that can be parts of single sounds or different articulations. These sublayers are called expressions. You can modify expression parameters. By switching off an expression, you can shorten the load time of a sound.


HALion Sonic is a multitimbral plug-in that can load up to 16 sounds (or programs) and combine them. This combination is called a multi-program, or multi for short. You can use multis to layer several programs or to create split sounds by setting several programs to the same MIDI input channel, for example. However, the most common usage is to create sound sets with different instruments set to individual MIDI channels.

VST Sound Instrument Sets and Macro Pages

VST Sound Instrument Sets from Steinberg provide additional content for VST instruments based on the HALion technology. They come with their own edit pages, called macro pages, that feature a customized look and a collection of controls that match the functions of the VST Sound Instrument Set. When you edit a program or layer of a certain VST Sound Instrument Set, the accompanying macro page opens. For details on the functions and controls of a particular macro page, refer to the documentation that comes with the corresponding VST Sound Instrument Set.


You can save and load all types of sounds as presets, that is, you can create presets for single programs, for layers, and for multis.

Content Files and Folder Structure

HALion Sonic comes with a large amount of ready-to-use sound content, made up of hundreds of multis, programs, and layers. This content is write-protected. You can edit files while they are loaded, but you cannot overwrite the factory content files.

To save edits to the factory content, save the files under a new name. These files get the file name extension .vstpreset and are referred to as user content. They can be searched and categorized in the same way as factory content.

User content is saved in a predefined folder structure on your hard disk. You can create subfolders within this structure to facilitate moving or exchanging content.