76-Love for Propellerheads Reason

Updated 2022-04-09

I want to leave my original comments here (see below) because Reason was my first introduction into fully computerized production of music. There were other tools out there at that time that allowed 100% in-box production, but they were aimed at more niche music styles. For more see below.

I stopped updating Reason at version 4 (.01) because I moved to Ableton Live as my primary production tool. But since I had several pieces that used Reason sound modules connected to Live via Rewire, I needed to keep the software on my succession of computers. The other beauty of Reason (and Ableton Live) is that they both worked superbly on Macs as well as Windows PCs.

Finally in 2021 I decided that since I could upgrade to Reason 11 for only USD150 I would do that. One reason was that they had architected a version which operated as a VST plugin, which was a simpler mode than ReWire. I’m glad I did since I also got with the upgrade some new instruments and effects which were fantastic.

Original comments on Reason written around 2009

The other piece of music software that was a huge paradigm shift in the 2000s was Propellerheads Reason. Unlike Live, which I had to read and ponder over for a few months before plunging into, I almost instantly knew that Reason was something I had to have.

Version 1 was released in late 2000 and even then it was clear that this was something remarkable. Basically, it appears on the screen like an empty rack that you can populate with a basically unlimited collection of mixers, samplers, synthesizers, and effects devices. Pressing the tab key visually “turns the rack around” and displays the “back” which contains all the patch points, which can all be connected with virtual patch cables using the mouse.

Unlike some other software which attempts to do everything, possibly not perfectly or most reliably, Reason was designed strictly as a more or less self-contained synthesizer rack. This allowed the designers to concentrate on efficiency, compactness, speed and reliability, to the point where it is just about 100% bulletproof, and relatively small and lightweight for such a powerful application. The tradeoff originally was that you couldn’t record audio into it, but with the introduction of the Record product that limitation was removed. Also, if your production depends on third party VST plugins you’re also out of luck, but the effects units, synths and processors included are extremely high quality and very flexible.

In spite of a constant low level of grumbling about these limitations, there are many thousands of users who are deliriously happy with the power that it does have.

The hook that Reason has to get around these limits is the ReWire protocol. This allows you to sync Reason with another music software application and send audio to it. In particular, hooking Live to Reason creates an awesomely powerful application that not only gets around the audio handling/plug-in limitation but additional adds all the power of Live. Together, of course, this represents a pretty large investment of money, but once you’ve paid for it the first time, the upgrade costs are bearable. For instance, I was happy with Reason 2.5 for years, and completely skipped the 3.0 version. However, 4.0 was tempting enough that I did plump for it.

Like Ableton Live, the user community is worth signing up for. The forums are not only entertaining, but will give you immeasurable help in using the product.

Update 2009/2010: Propellerheads Record

The Propellerheads company finally bowed to the howling masses and have created a product that finally allows audio recording into the Reason environment.

The good news is that this is only a $149 add-on if you already have Reason. The bad news is that the “Props” have instituted a USB dongle copy protection scheme.  One of the things I liked best about Reason was that it did not have a cumbersome copy protection scheme. For instance, when I upgraded to Windows 7 I didn’t have to apply for a new license. In fact, Props didn’t even have to release a new version of Reason for it. But with this new copy protection method I have lost interest. [Although if I understand correctly, I can upgrade to Reason 5 without needing a dongle, but to get Record I would need it.]

Maybe I’ll rant about piracy and software copy protection elsewhere; for the moment let me just state that I have paid for my Ableton Live, Propellerhead Reason, Sony Sound Forge, u-he Zebra, and Cakewalk Sonar licenses (now including Cockos Reaper) and upgrades for a long time. I am interested in open source and free products, of course, but if I really love something (like Live or Reason) I will eventually find the way to pay for it.

Page #76 / last modified 2022-04-09