Wed, 14 Dec 2011 Reason 6 review
Synths, effects, sequencing, recording, editing and mixing in a single package
- Manufacturer: Propellerheads
- Pros: Finally a unified all-you-can-eat recording environment; great instruments and effects; enormous fun for hardware bunnies; sumptuous mixing desk
- Cons: Hardware-style interface won’t suit everyone; only imports WAV and AIFF files; needs tons of screen space; inconvenient copy protection via USB key
- Price: €405 (£349); Reason Essentials €279 (£239); upgrade €149 (£129)
- Star rating:
Reason was once beloved by electronic music enthusiasts for the way it mimicked real studio hardware; trouble was that even up to version 5, it couldn’t record audio (beyond 30 seconds for creating sampled loops). In 2009 Propellerheads launched Record, a sort-of-separate multi-track audio recording program that featured unlimited tracks, time stretching, pitch shifting and all the other tools necessary to make top-quality original recordings (including a software version of the mixing desk considered by many to be one of the best of modern times, the SSL 9000k). Reason 6 unifies these two product lines into a single program for the first time.
The result clears up the confusion surrounding the two programs (Did you need both? Did one work without the other?) and reduces the cost of ownership considerably. More important, for the first time musicians who love Reason’s way of working – you add instruments and effects to a virtual rack, then flip it to reveal the underlying cable connections, which you can reroute as required using the mouse pointer – have a digital audio workstation (DAW) that can handle any kind of music, rather than just favouring instrumental, dance and electronica.
Come on, feel the noise
As well as bringing audio recording to Reason, the new version includes three top-line effects. First, there’s The Echo. This is a conventional digital stereo delay that adds the analogue fuzziness of a tape delay (made us think of a WEM Copicat) and also lets you fiddle with the effect on the fly, as if you were playing it like an instrument. Second, you get Pulveriser, a distortion filter that’s designed to 'massage’ the signal (sounds to us like the electronic equivalent of jumping up and down on it) to produce chest-rattling bass lines. Finally, there’s Alligator, a trancey gate effect that splits the signal into three channels and lets you gate, filter, distort, phase, pan and mix the results rhythmically – imagine hundreds of arms waving in the air while strobe lights play over them and you’ll get the idea.
For the first time, Reason users can enjoy proper, integrated audio recording to go with all the lovely electronic gubbins
In total you get 10 instruments and although many reflect the program’s dance roots, the NN-XT and NN-19 samplers include plenty of realistic pianos, basses, guitars, strings, brass and more. In addition there are 20-odd effects processors, including two Line 6 amp simulators, a vocoder (for those Cher or Joe Walsh moments) and some smashing reverbs.
Reason doesn’t work or look like any other DAW and if you’re coming to it from, say, GarageBand, prepare for some fun. Try keeping things simple with an instrument, drum machine and a couple of effects until you find your way around. Fortunately, the included help file is well-organised and well-written and the company has some excellent tutorial videos on YouTube – search for the PropellerheadSW channel, they’ll save a lot of head scratching.
Reason 6 is cheaper than Logic Studio or Cubase 6, and also comes in a scaled down Essentials version (fewer instruments and effects, cut-down mixer, less powerful arrangement features). Existing Reason owners can upgrade for around £129. It’s been a long time coming but with Reason 6, Propellerheads finally delivers proper, soup-to-nuts recording that doesn’t break the bank, doesn’t need the world’s most powerful Mac and doesn’t compromise on its distinctive, quirky interface.