Reason 6 by Propellerhead on PC and Mac review

Superb 'real-feel' music production program gets recording too
Photo of Reason 6 by Propellerhead on PC and Mac
405 download inc. tax; 149 upgrade from earlier versions

Back in 2009, Propellerhead tried to augment Reason, its flagship synthesiser/sequencer with a separate but complementary product to handle audio recording called Record, with some – but hardly  overwhelming – success.

With Reason 6, the company finally combines the two into a single, unified program that’s available as a full version (reviewed here) and in cut-down ‘Essentials’ form. At a stroke, this removes the fundamental confusion between the two products (is Record a separate program or an extension, does it require Reason or not?) and brings it into direct competition with programs like Logic and Cubase.

A bit of background
Reason made its name thanks to a selection of top-class instruments and effects combined with a sequencer and mixing desk, wrapped up in an interface that had musicians raised on hardware racks, patch bays and signal paths foaming at the mouth.

Just load up a Reason ‘rack’ – containing, say, a couple of software synths, a compressor and a reverb unit – then tap the Tab key and watch the virtual rack spin round to reveal the cabled connections at the back, which you can route and re-route to your heart’s content using the mouse. It takes some getting used to if you not familiar with the way ‘real’ studios work, but fans love it – especially those whose roots are in instrumental dance music.

However, despite its undoubted power, Reason couldn’t record audio – which was why Propellerhead launched Record as a separate but complementary, product.

What’s new?
The new version takes Reason 5, folds in Record and adds three significant new effects – Pulveriser, a compression/distortion filter and ‘envelope follower’ which thrashes and twists the signal and makes chin-wobbling dubstep bass lines;  the Echo, a stereo delay, which mixes a modern digital delay with the warmth of old-school tape and has the added twist of letting you apply effects on the fly – Propellerhead describes this as being like playing an instrument; and Alligator, a three band, pattern-based gate effect which looks good for re-mixing and re-shaping existing music but doesn’t offer much that isn’t available elsewhere in Reason. 

The result of all this is that for the first time, Propellerhead users get a single product that covers everything from sequencing a drum track, recording guitars and vocals, doing some time-stretching if required or combining multiple takes to form a single performance, adding synths and effects and then mixing it down using the program’s enormous (and pretty faithful) software version of the classic SSL 9000k mixing desk.

Just as significant, it retains the interface features that make Reason so popular – knobs, cables, wires, faders, buttons, mutes, solos, more knobs – and the same workflow; in fact, it’s what Reason probably should have been all along. 

Reason Essentials (€279) is the same product with only six instruments and 10 effects (as opposed to 10 and 20 respectively), a scaled-down mixing desk and slightly more basic arrangement features. 

Copy protection
Installation is more long-winded than it needs to be thanks to Propellerhead’s insistence on using a USB dongle for copy protection (boo!). You’ll also have to create an account and find the licence number and registration code; all companies have the right to protect their intellectual
property but there’s got to be an easier way than this.

Windows and Apple Mac versions are identical, and despite almost crowding out a 21.5in widescreen monitor (we’d recommend a dual display setup for serious use) with all the instruments, effects, racks, sequence window, mixer and more, we were pleasantly surprised at the overall nippiness on a Core 2 Duo Macbook with 4GB of memory.

Many of the instruments and effects are best suited to created dance/house/club music, but the addition of unlimited audio tracks means that ‘proper’ musicians can record what they like and Reason’s samplers include some fantastic-sounding realistic instruments, so this version is also more suitable for many different styles of music.

Company: Propellerhead

Website: http://www.propellerheads.se/

Contact: Propellerheads on +46 8 556 08 400

Positives
  • Superb value value for money; now boasts audio recording.
Negative
  • Not everyone will like the knobs-and-sliders interface.

Verdict

At €405, Reason comes in under the price of both Logic Studio and Cubase 6, making it good
value for money. If you currently own an earlier version of Reason, you can also upgrade for just €149 - and given this adds audio recording and all the associated features, it’s a bargain. The way Reason works won’t suit everyone, but if you like the illusion of using 'real' hardware to
create music, then it’s a great choice.