Reason is a collection of virtual instruments and audio processors that can be assembled in a window that looks like a rack of MIDI and audio hardware. You can choose what to put into this rack from a menu that contains a range of MIDI synthesizers, samplers, pattern sequencers, drum machines, effects devices and a mixer. Reason has its own main sequencer that, although quite easy to learn, can be fiddly to use. You can also integrate Reason’s virtual MIDI and audio devices with your favourite sequencer using ReWire.
Reason’s rack devices operate in a similar way to their hardware equivalents. For example, the mixer resembles the Mackie 3204 rackmount model. Sound modules include the Subtractor and Malstrom synthesizers, NN19 and NN-XT sampler players, Dr Rex Loop Player and Redrum, a TR808-style drum machine. Reason also has a wide range of effects including reverbs, delays and even a vocoder.
At first glance, existing users might not see much difference. Look closer, though, and you will see various small but useful enhancements. For instance, Sequencer tracks now have proper mute and solo buttons in the track list, with global “All Mute Off” and “All Solo Off” buttons above these. The Factory Sound Bank now has lots more patches, instruments and combinations. A new file browser lets you search your sound libraries, preview patches directly from the browser and arrange patches in favourite folders. Reason supports many popular control surfaces and keyboards – knobs, faders and buttons on these are automatically mapped to parameters on each Reason device.
The most significantnew feature is the Combinator. This new rack module can contain a selection of Reason devices along with associated effects and modulation routings. You can save these Combinator ‘patches’ as ‘Combis’ so you can instantly recall any setup, whether a complex chain of effects or a layered multi-instrument. For example, the MClass Mastering Suite is a ready-made Combi containing a suite of new mastering tools – a 4-band EQ, a Stereo Imager, a Compressor with side-chain and soft-knee options, and a Maximizer to make your tracks louder.
Version 3.0 is not a crucial upgrade unless you must have all the latest features. But it makes a great choice for anyone who wants to get started using virtual instruments and audio processors on the Mac.