This was Reason’s initial appeal and Propellerheads have continued to carve out this niche, finding a strong following especially amongst producers of drum and bass and breakbeat music. Liam Howlett of The Prodigy counts himself as a user and that’s nothing to be sniffed at.
However, the program was not without its limitations over the years – most of which were finally addressed in Reason 6 and the game changing 6.5 update. Drawbacks such as lack of VST integration were partially appeased by the introduction of 3rd party “Rack Extensions” and the long awaited integration of audio recording made it a very exciting update indeed.
It would be hard for Reason 7 to come with anything quite as exciting as that, and in truth it’s slightly baffling that last year’s Reason 6.5 wasn’t held back for Reason 7 instead, as those additions are far more revolutionary than the offerings of the new and rather pricey 7.0 upgrade.
What we do know is that it’s a dog eat dog world out there in the game of DAW wars and sometimes software must be released to maintain marketing foothold – especially if it means having something flashy to put out at a tradeshow, so perhaps this is why these ducks appear to be in such strange rows.
For those unfamiliar with Reason, it differs from the standard DAW scenario by mimicking a studio rack into which users can insert virtual devices such as instruments, effects processors and mixers. Highly visual and modular, this rack can be toggled to front and rear view and audio or CV gate routings and connections can be done in any way you desire between the different elements using animated audio cables much as you would do in the analogue world.
Elements include drum sequencers and drum machines like the REdrum or Kong drum designer, synthesizers like Subtrakt, Malstrom or Thor and samplers like the NN-19 and NN-XT to name a few. These can all be controlled by the main sequencer, rack sequencers synced to host, or by an external DAW linked via the REwire application.
As an overview, what the new Reason 7 version is offering is the long awaited MIDI out option for sequencing external hardware, some interesting audio quantising and slicing to REX capabilities, and some very quick and cool mixer/channel doubling and bussing tricks. Oh, and more of its famous sample library of course!
MIDI out capability is something that’s been sorely missed for a long time, but was never truly a necessity until 6.5 when audio recording was introduced. In true simplistic Reason style, just add the “External MIDI Instruments” to the rack and select the appropriate destination from its drop-down list and you’re good to go. For more in depth trickery, switch to the back view of the rack and the device has Gate In and CV Ins for Pitch/Mod Wheels and an assignable CC control, opening up a host of fun options for modularly hooking external hardware up to other Reason rack devices via the patch cables.
Once you`ve set up an external midi instrument or device, you can now do some pretty cool stuff once you’ve recorded it into Reason. Hitting quantise on the audio clip will add beatmarkers and slice the audio, making it possible to quantise to the grid or add different grooves to the recording with just a few clicks. Drastic retiming and free warping of audio is handled relatively artefact free depending on how hard you push it – quite similar to audio warp in Cubase.
“… it’s becoming a calling card for Reason – simplicity and stability.”
Another thing that can be done with quantised audio in just a matter of a few clicks is to use the slices and automatically export them as a REX file with the option of opening the slices in a DR Octo REX unit. The REX players have long been my favourite for their ability to create random patterns out of almost anything, but you would`ve needed to create the rex files with a program like Recycle. Now it’s easier than ever to do this to any audio file in a few easy steps and is sure to be a massive creative bonus to users of the program.
The next main new feature involves the SSL mixer, and simply put, you can easily duplicate any channel on the mixer and quickly route it as you please. This opens up a world of options in parallel processing. For example, quickly doubling a drumloop and applying distortion or hard compression to one channel and leaving the other dry to achieve a fat yet transient preserved sound is done in, yes – a few clicks. Start doubling vocals, pads, synth leads etc, layering them with different effects and quickly routing them to an endless amount of busses at your disposal and this feature will quickly show its true potential. Technically this was all possible before using the spider splitter/merger, but now that it’s so easily done, it’s sure to become a huge part of any Reason user’s workflow and is a great complement to the already awesome SSL mixer.
It feels a bit like a token gesture but there is at least a new addition to the effects department in the form of the “Audiomatic Retro Transformer”. Piggy backing off the mindset of the “Instagram” generation, it’s an effect that applies retro downgrades to your audio signal for vintage or retro sounding charm. Visually, it’s a good-looking plugin and you get to choose from a few different retro processing types such as Vinyl, tape VHS etc. While it won’t exactly become everyone’s go-to plugin of choice, its sure to be handy when adding a bit of character to the sometimes sterile world of digital audio and that can’t be a bad thing.
Also worth a mention is the new spectrum analyzer pop-up window on EQ -something that no digital eq in the modern world seems to be without these days so it was a necessary addition to keep the program up with the times.
You may have noticed a phrase popping up a lot in this article – “just a few clicks”! It was starting to get repetitive, but then again so are a lot of tasks working in a DAW. It’s brilliant that a few of these tasks can be made easier and faster to do. Indeed it’s becoming a calling card for Reason – simplicity and stability. It runs smoothly and solidly as ever, owing to the fact that (minus the rack extensions) it is mostly in house design and effects and everything is now streamlined for the fastest workflow possible.
Whilst not the flashiest upgrade with headline grabbing new instruments and effects, it’s more an evolution in workflow and none would argue that it isn’t the best version of the program so far.
Supplier: Tuerk Music Technologies – (011) 792-8402
Reason 7: R 4,999.00
Reason Essentials: R 1,399.00
Reason Balance /W Reason Essentials: R 4,999.00
Reason Upgrade To Version 7: R 1,999.00