Reason 7 review: Bring the power of a mixing desk to your Mac
Reason’s interface mimics the kind of hardware you’ll find in a traditional recording studio
When Propellerhead finally bit the bullet and integrated audio recording with its existing collection of world class synths, effects and other audio tools back in Reason 6 it was the start of a unified product which finally provided almost everything that digital recording enthusiasts needed to make professional-level music; then version 6.5 added Rack Extensions which supported third party plugins (like Apple, Propellerhead has always been protective of its ‘space’) and now Reason 7 adds the External MIDI rack which allows you to integrate any hardware synths or drum machines you use in your studio set up – and as a result, support for MIDI out. This means that Reason’s most-requested features are now pretty much in place.
The basic program remains the same – a distinctive rack into which you drop instruments and effects which can be flipped using the Tab and then routed by dragging and dropping cables onto connectors using the mouse, together with a audio/MIDI sequencer with powerful editing features and a full range software mixer modelled on the classic Solid State Logic 9000k mixing desk. The program includes 4,000 instrument patches, more than 1,000 mix and mastering effects and 3,000 plus loops to get you started and – as the screen shots demonstrate – the ability to nudge, tweak and otherwise fiddle with almost any setting imaginable.
Version 7 includes the Audiomatic Retro Transformer – for applying music filters to your arrangements with one click
Along with the External MIDI rack there's also support for slicing up audio into individual notes so that it can be quantised to 'sit' perfectly within an arrangement (for serious knob-twiddling, sliced audio clips like these can now also be exported as REX Loops - and then mashed up in the Dr Octorex beat slicer); there are new mixer features too which are designed to make it easier to group channels together and then route them to the appropriate bus before applying effects to all of them instead of having to do it individually. The mixer also has a new Spectrum EQ which displays the arrangement visually and allows you to adjust the curve with the mouse pointer; plus loads of new loops and sounds. Finally, Reason 7 comes with something called the Audiomatic Retro Transformer which is a sort of Instagram-for-sound, allowing you to apply one of 16 audio effects snapshots (like Radio, VHS, Cracked, Circuit, Eerie) with a mouse click. It's effective but feels like an odd afterthought and kicks against Reason's whole tweak-everything-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life ethos.
Although version 7.0 features new loops and drum kits, there are no new instruments or effects on offer which makes this much less of a substantial upgrade than 6.0 – or even 6.5, which broke the mould by allowing third party plugins. Nevertheless, there’s enough here for new users to buy with confidence and since the reduced upgrade price applies way back to version 1.0, it’s a very good deal.
You can buy the software from Propellerheads distributor Soundtech.
Reason is what it is. It still employs cumbersome and occasionally confusing copy protection (what’s the Authorizer, have I got an Ignition key, where’s my copy of the Audiomatic Effects rack? These are all questions that could be answered with slicker, less intrusive copy protection) and people love or hate the interface, but it’s now firmly positioned among the very best and most comprehensive DAWs around.