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Discover Propellerhead's Reason

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Reason is a software synth, a great source of samples, and a mature MIDI sequencer—but it cannot (yet) record audio. Because of its versatility—and despite its huge disability—it remains an incredibly useful and popular program.

This article was previously published on the AudioJungle blog, which has moved on to a new format in 2010. We'll be bringing you an article from the AudioJungle archives each week.

Reason is used in two different ways: It is used as a sound source for playing live, using in sequencers, or recording by another DAW. And it is used as a complete DAW solution—by those who don't need to capture sound from outside of their computers.

This makes Reason different: it is commonly used by those who have chosen different software as their preferred DAW. That may all change later this year when Propellerhead launch their new product: Record.

Reason is currently at version 4, and costs around $380—or around $570 for the Premium edition, which includes all four hypersampled ReFills: Reason Drum Kits, Reason Pianos, Abbey Road Keyboards and Reason Electric Bass.

This is our sixth article in the series “Exploring Digital Audio Workstations”. If you’ve missed the earlier articles, you can find them here:

Now let's have a look at Reason.

History and Background

Reason is produced by the Swedish software development company, Propellerhead Software, who also produce ReCycle, Rebirth and ReWire. ReCycle is the first program they developed—a music loop editor—which was released in 1994.ReBirth emulated the early Roland drum machines commonly used in techno music.

The first version of Reason released in 2000, and was originally named Realizer. It was later renamed after a computer program in Douglas Adams's novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. Propellerhead gave Reason their focus, and did very well. The program could run on average computers, was priced competitively, and won the Musikmesse International Press Award in 2002.

Reason Features

Propellerhead's Reason webpage describes the programs main four features. Rather than listing features in text, demonstration videos have been produced, which you can see below.

1. Thor Polysonic Synthesizer


Propellerhead's sound sources are probably the most popular feature of the software. The Thor synthesizer features four different filter types, six forms of synthesis, and extensive modulation capabilities. This video from Propellerhead takes you through the features:

2. RPG-8 Monophonic Arpeggiator


This is a new feature in version 4. It is an advanced arpeggiator with a single-note repeat and manual mode. This video from Propellerhead takes you through the features:

3. Reason Sequencer


The sequencer is the business end of Reason. It has many features, including vector and tempo automation, count-in, multiple lane tracks. To see them in action, have a look at this video tour from Propellerhead.

4. ReGroove Mixer


ReGroove is like quantizing, only different. Instead of aligning sounds to straight time, this module aligns it to the groove. This makes your music sound more natural and less mechanical. This video from Propellerhead demonstrates:

ReWire Reason to Connect with Other DAWs

If you'd like to use Reason as a sound source for another DAW (like Logic or Pro Tools), you need ReWire. ReWire was created by Propellerhead (in cooperation with Steinberg) as a means of connecting different audio applications in Windows and Mac OS so that MIDI and audio data can flow between them.

Propellerhead explain in broad terms: "ReWire is a system for transferring audio data between two computer applications, in real time. Basically, you could view ReWire as an 'invisible cable' that streams audio from one computer program into another."

Its basic function is to connector a client "synth" application (for example, Reason, ReBirth, Renoise and VSampler - as well as DAW outputs) with a host "mixer" or "editor" application (for example, Ableton Live, Logic Pro, FL Studio or Pro Tools). The Propellerhead ReWire page has a complete list of ReWire enabled applications.

User Comments

What do Reason users think of the product? Here are some comments by users and reviewers that I found around the Net. I’d love to hear from you in the comments too.

  • "I was very impressed with how easy Reason 4 was to work with. I was able to make some real progress really quick, the transport features are similar to standard recording software (Logic/ProTools), the mixer and components are all easy to work with. The patches it comes with are plentiful and give you plenty of avenues of creativity. So I was off and running there. I started looking at Abelton but it felt very Windowsy to me. Being a completely saved man (mac man) I can’t be havin that. So it’s just Reason for now." (Kyle)
  • "I really want to recreate the fat 80s synth sounds made by some of my favorite old-school synthpop artists, like Gary Numan, Devo, Blancmange, Fad Gadget, etc. I'd love to be able to recreate the sounds of Korgs, Juno and Jupiter 8s, and other analog synths, but have found that the monosynth and polysynth packs in Reason don't come close -- they just aren't very rich or deep (I've had better luck with the synth pads in this department). Any good Refills for this? Or, better, any tricks to wring these kind of sounds from Reason by tweaking the settings?" (Allen)
  • "Regarding Reason, the more I look into the various complex host upgrades going around, the more strongly I consider going down the 'Reason Only' route for MIDI/Sequencing. As such, and having tested this upgrade very thoroughly at beta, I really couldn't be more impressed." (Headquest)
  • "What can't you do with this thing? Score a movie check lay down the next pop, hip hop, RnB hit check, write a commercial jingle check, design some sounds, check. Okay here is the point; I layed down a hip hop track for a client using Reason logic and the Duende mini plugins, my competition used a fantom (nothing against roland) and guess who sold their track yeah that was me. Now of course the bass line was killer and I used Ampeg for it, but the point is music now a days is done inside the box (where I live) and Reason 4 is my fantom and my Akai drum machine rolled into one. Plus this thing is unlimitedly expandable through refills (i think a new one comes out daily). Forget what others are talking about if you do hip hop or RnB Reason 4 is the BEAST you need, but do me a favor and stop using the stock sounds. For real people spend some money on a refill or 2 or 3 or 4 or like me 32 and counting, or at the very least learn to tweak the sounds." (William McKnight aka Fatboy)
  • "The new sequencer is worse than the old one, which was already bad. If you are using a keyboard and you record all your MIDI notes and automation, it works reasonably well. If you try to do anything manually there are a bunch of extra steps. The automation is a little easier to control. But, now you have to draw a clip before you can draw automation. You also have to draw a clip anytime you want to input any notes manually. If you are in the clip view and you get your note drawing tool out then go to note view, you are out of luck if there are already notes there, you have to go back to the pointer and select the clip, then draw the notes in. You can now have multiple sequencer tracks for one instrument. This is helpful and a hindrance. Zooming on the sequencer is unbearable. It zooms from the middle instead of the start. Lets say you recorded something and you want to fix the first notes. you have to make sure the beginning of your loop is in the middle of your window to zoom in properly. In older versions of reason you could play one instrument while looking at another sequencer's notes. Now, the sequence you are looking at defaults your keyboard to that instrument." (Richard Dean Anderson)
  • "For those of us who appreciate the ability to work within the virtual environment, using familiar 'real world' tools, Reason is indispensable. For instance: the Reason rack can be flipped around, revealing all the various connections on each device, while routing is accomplished by connecting the devices with animated patch cables. It is a truly surreal experience, which begs the question 'Why isn't everybody doing this?'"New in Reason 4, the Thor Polyphonic Synthesizer blew me away with its intense sounds and extreme flexibility. The presets alone were jaw dropping, let alone the sheer amount of editable parameters for manipulating them. I was also very impressed with the newly revamped sequencer. I am always impressed with Propellerhead's ability to integrate new features without creating a massive learning curve for their users. Other new features like the RPG-8 Monophonic Arpeggiator and ReGroove Mixer inspire creative new ways for building tracks, while classic devices like Subtractor and Malstrom continue to hold their own as some of the best sounding recreations of analog gear to date."For better or worse. Till death do us part. They'll be prying this piece of software from my cold dead hands. I don't need "a" reason to live... I need Reason 4 by Propellerhead to live." (Joel Hart)

How do you use Reason? What do you think about? Let us know in the comments below.

This article was written shortly before the release of Propellerhead Record. If you have any experience with Record, feel free to leave comments about it as well.

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