Reason Studios Reason Review | PCMag
It’s hard to buy a digital audio workstation, or audio editing software in general, without coming across Reason. Born from an expanded version of Propellerhead’s Rebirth, itself one of the first full-featured virtual synthesizers for the PC in the late 1990s, Reason delivered a full-fledged software studio. It comes with a virtual representation of rack-mounted instruments and effects boxes and an analog-style mixer. Now in version 12, Reason’s user interface has aged considerably in the era of brilliantly usable software workstations. But existing fans – or anyone intrigued by a software representation of a room full of old-school hardware synthesizers and samplers – should take a close look.
System Requirements and User Interface
Reason Studios is selling Reason 12 in two ways: as a $499 standalone purchase (as before) and as part of Reason+, a new subscription service that bundles access to the full version along with new game packs. weekly sounds for $19.99 per month. The company recommends either a Windows 10 or 11 machine or a Mac running macOS 10.13 or later, both with 8GB of RAM and 26GB of free hard drive space. He also recommends an audio interface with an ASIO PC driver (Macs built-in audio hardware works well), and some type of MIDI controller. For this review, I tested Reason 12.2.5 on a 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021) laptop with 16GB of RAM, 1TB SSD, second-generation Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 audio interface, powered studio monitors by KRK Rokit 6 G3 and a Nektar GX61 MIDI Controller Keyboard.
The biggest structural change Reason received occurred in version 11: you can now load the entire Synth Rack directly into another DAW as a VST3 plug-in, instead of connecting to it via the old and clunky ReWire protocol. That alone still gives Reason a boost in the arm for anyone who wants access to its sound modules and synthesizers, but has largely (or completely) migrated to a different sequencer in recent years.
The Reason interface itself has also matured, but the basic format hasn’t changed and would be instantly recognizable to someone who first saw it in the year 2000. The browser on the left lets you allows you to choose instruments to add to your Rack, which is located on the top right by default. The lower right corner usually contains the sequencer window, for adding, recording and editing tracks. It’s still possible to flip the rack and virtually re-wire instruments, a lovely but almost archaic concept, especially since populating the mixer in Reason is much more automated these days, compared to the Mackie 1202, rack mountable. original mixer.
Reason lets you customize all of this; you can put the rack on a second monitor, for example. A widescreen Reason setup on a 34-inch screen would be amazing, especially given Reason 12’s updated high-res graphics that look less blurry on 4K monitors. The blue and dark themes give the program a more contemporary feel, although the mixer and all dialogs remain unchanged, and you have to quit and restart to see each. More importantly, zooming, scrolling, and navigating a track while editing it remains obtuse. It’s too mouse-based and disorganized, and as a result, it’s hard to find exactly the region you want to work on.
The UI idiom is clearly aimed at sound designers and synthesizer enthusiasts who are thrilled to have a virtual, unlimited, free rack of modules that would have cost prohibitive sums not so long ago. But that makes it less suitable for someone coming from, say, Reaper or Apple Logic Pro, or switching from GarageBand. I realize some Reason fans might disagree with me calling the UI a rogue, but I’ve always found it rather tedious. And I was doing electronic music in the late 80s and 90s when rackmount modules were ubiquitous. I’m happy to get away from that in modern DAWs!
New and old instruments
Reason 12 contains a new instrument: Mimic, a new “creative sampler”, as the company offers. It’s essentially a sampler with the difficulty removed; Mimic makes it easy to chop, trigger, and manipulate any audio material. You can drag and drop audio directly into one of eight slots, then play it melodically (with a different pitch), slice it, turn it into a drum machine with multi-slot mode, or layer it with multi-slot mode. multi-height with divisions. and key ranges. This means you can cut out beats or put together a contemporary lead vocal much more easily.
Several other instruments remain out of competition. Europa, which Reason Studios calls a “shape-changing synthesizer,” excels at massive synth hits, aggressive leads, and ethereal textured pads to which you can apply various filters. You can use any sample as a wavetable, and you can also load samples into its spectral filter to use as a multiplier when filtering sounds. Grain lets you take samples and use them as the basis for granular synthesis. Both modules are stocked with presets that fit well into a mix and continue to evolve and change over time.
Klang offers a variety of tuned percussion, including a glockenspiel and a wineglass instrument. Pangea adds a host of plucked, blown, strummed and other instruments from around the world. And Humana brings decent vocal samples to Reason, with several backing vocals and solo singers to choose from. Radical Piano mixes samples with synthesis in a nod to early digital instruments of the mid to late 1980s. The Synchronous Modulator lets you play just about anything and change its delay, reverb, distortion, and other characteristics over time in a way that would be difficult to achieve with direct automation.
Perhaps the greatest thing about Reason is its inspiring sound set, which now spans some 29,000 instrument patches, loops and samples. To get an idea of the sound quality, skip the two included demo songs and check out the range of SoundCloud audio samples on the Reason Studios website instead. (If you’re focusing on grouped instruments, it’s also worth looking at Cubase Pro or Logic Pro, both of which offer a lot of value in this department.)
Recording and mixing in Reason
The new Combinator, much more flexible in version 12, lets you change its size, color, background graphics and even its control layout, a huge improvement over the (very) old one. The Combinator allows you to combine multiple Reason devices into self-contained presets which, thanks to new features, can now look like entirely new modules with your own custom user interfaces. And if you don’t feel like making your own, Reason 12 includes over 100 new Combinator fixes and updates to over 1,000 older ones.
Other new effects since the last time I tested Reason include the beautiful-sounding Sweeper Modulation effect in Version 11 with built-in phaser, flanger, and filter; a big, vintage-style chorus quartet with (naturally) four modes; and the ability to distribute the main bus compressor and mixer channel dynamics as rack effects. The sequencer has also been beefed up in recent years, with new curved automation and seamless audio file crossfades, multi-channel MIDI editing, adaptive grid snapping, and the ability to move multiple faders. But Reason still lacks movie scoring, scoring, and surround sound features, so look to another DAW if you need any of those features.
Although a DAW like PreSonus Studio One or Pro Tools offers much more robust audio editing tools, such as composing vocal or guitar tracks from multiple takes, Reason can at least get the job done. The mixer remains flexible and sounds great, thanks to its 9000k SSL analog modeling, smooth EQ and per-channel compression, this console’s famous main bus compressor, and send and insert effects. I love the sound of the channel compression, although I would still appreciate more granular metering than the five dot LEDs, even though that’s how a real SSL does it!
If you’re more focused on quickly realizing your musical ideas, and less on recording live instruments or producing finished masters, Reason has plenty of tools built-in. And if you’re a budding sound designer looking to learn about different types of synthesizers and samplers, it’s hard to go wrong with Reason. The same goes for anyone with a fondness for electronic music and wants to compose music fast. But if what you’re looking for is recording podcasts, you should look at an audio-only app like Adobe Audition.
A favorite for a reason
It’s worth comparing Reason, FL Studio and Ableton Live before making your purchase; all three programs allow you to create electronic music quickly, but with different approaches. If you’re looking for a consumer-style DAW for recording a band or film music, Reason is less compelling and even lacks key features. But even then, it’s a great set of virtual instruments in plug-in form. Our Editors’ Choice audio editors remain Logic Pro on Mac and Avid Pro Tools on PC (although the latter is, of course, also available for Mac).
Despite its flaws and dated user interface, it’s hard to make Reason an all-in-one recording and mixing tool, especially if you like electronic or hip-hop music and want to work with a wide range of sounds and rhythms.
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