Hands-On Review:REASON 4.0

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Still the Killer App

By David Dolan
Line 6 Product Marketing Manager


When Propellerhead Software first introduced REASON, it established a  new benchmark for music software that blurred the distinction between  real and virtual. REASON is a self-contained production environment with  devices that look like real studio gear, making it not only easy to use  but very easy to learn. The intuitive interface, rock-solid stability,  and quality sound have led people to hail REASON as the champion of  music production applications.


Each generation of REASON has offered more sophisticated and powerful features, and with version 4.0 come the most significant changes to date: the Thor Polysonic  Synthesizer, the RPG-8 Arpeggiator, the ReGroove Mixer, and a redesigned  sequencer with expanded editing capabilities. Completely reprogrammed  from the ground up, REASON 4.0 runs more efficiently than previous versions. It’s still a great  production tool running on a workstation and a portable laptop  performance rig as well.


Tools of the trade


The heart of REASON is the virtual equipment rack, customizable with a  variety of production tools including rhythm devices, synthesizers,  samplers, mixers, effect processors, pro mastering tools, and even  classic analog pattern sequencers. The rack can be flipped around to  access patch cables and alter signal chains through different  devices—it’s like cabling actual gear! Unlike hardware, there is a  virtually endless supply of devices at your disposal. Should an extra  reverb or synthesizer be required, just drag and drop a new one from the  device palette.


There are three types of synthesizers in REASON 4.0:  the Subtractor, the Malström, and Thor. The Subtractor is a classic  analog polyphonic instrument, while the Malström relies on a unique  graintable synthesis technology. Thor is a powerful, semi-modular  synthesizer with a massive sound that rivals its hardware  contemporaries. Dubbed as the “Polysonic Synthesizer,” Thor offers  several timbre-generation systems including analog emulation, FM, phase  distortion synthesis, wavetable, and a unique Multi-Oscillator synthesis  engine, as well as a variety of filter types including formant shaping.  This might seem complicated, but users can quickly explore the amazing  sounds by selecting factory presets created by a team of world-class  sound designers.


REASON features two rhythm devices, the Redrum Drum Computer and the  Dr.REX Loop Player. Redrum is a classic drum machine that relies on  pattern programming of drum and percussion sounds. Dr.REX is a sample  loop player designed for audio files processed with ReCycle. Known as  REX files, these  loops lock to the song tempo without introducing pitch  artifacts. Drum and loop presets are categorized in a range of styles,  and in a matter of minutes anyone can use the Redrum and Dr.REX to  create a killer dance beat or hip-hop groove.


The REASON Factory Soundbank contains a diverse selection of  instruments for use with NN-XT Advanced Sampler and NN-19 Digital  Sampler devices, including traditional sounds like guitars, pianos,  organs, brass, woodwinds, and mallets. REASON also comes with a second  Refill sample and patch archive with a complete set of sampled  orchestral instruments. There are also dozens of third party Refill  libraries available including the “hypersampled” Reason Pianos, Reason  Drum Kits, and Abbey Road Keyboards. Both devices will read AIFF, SF2,  and WAV audio formats, and Akai Sample Libraries can be converted for  use with the NN-XT.


If having a virtually unlimited supply of sound modules at your  disposal isn’t enough, the Combinator device allows users to build  custom instruments and effects. For example, a Thor Drone patch, a  Malström Choir patch, and an NN-XT sampled piano can be layered to  create a single instrument stack. The sources can be mixed together and  processed with reverb to add ambience, and the entire group of devices  can be saved to a patch file with a customized skin. You can even  incorporate a pattern sequencer, a Thor Sequencer patch, or the RPG-8  Arpeggiator into a Combinator stack to add dynamic performance aspects  to a normally static sound.


REASON is equipped with DSP effects such as Reverbs, Chorus, Flanger,  Phaser, and the amazing Scream 4 Sound Destruction Unit. Also included  are the MClass devices: a high definition parametric equalizer, a  compressor, a limiter, and stereo imager. The effect processors and  MClass devices can be inserted anywhere and every signal path can have  pro-quality DSP, EQ, and compression.


The REASON 4.0 sequencer


If the heart of REASON is the equipment rack, then the mind is most  certainly the sequencer. It’s the nerve center of MIDI production where  ideas are recorded, edited, and arranged along a timeline editor. Every  sound module in the rack corresponds to a sequencer track, and within  each track, multiple takes are layered to correspond with each part of  the arrangement. The REASON 4.0 sequencer uses a clip arrangement system that streamlines the  production workflow, especially when recording in real time using a MIDI  keyboard controller.


When an instrument is installed into the rack, a Device Track appears  in a column of the sequencer. Using a MIDI keyboard to play notes into  the instrument to record a part, the note events appear on the timeline  and automatically group into a clip. After recording the take, the clip  can be trimmed, moved, or duplicated in the sequencer timeline.  Different parts of the song, like verse and chorus, can be recorded  separately, and then each clip can be labeled to keep the arrangement  organized. The sequencer also features vector editing of MIDI  automation, and the automation clips can be arranged just as easily as  musical phrases.


ReGroove Mixer: realtime groove console


The ReGroove Mixer is an adaptive realtime quantization system that  adds natural musical timing to a sequence. Arguably, this is the soul of  REASON 4.0.  Quantization is a process of adjusting note timing, so notes recorded  slightly out of time can be aligned to play back with robotic precision.  The ReGroove Mixer works unlike traditional quantization functions  because it adds a humanized feel to both the timing and the dynamics.  ReGroove allows you to adjust the intensity of the transformation as the  sequence plays, so the right amount of groove can be set without  committing permanent changes to the sequence.


ReGroove performs its magic by applying timing and dynamics templates  called groove patches. These templates are derived from live  performances, classic vinyl breakbeat loops, and even iconic drum  machine grooves. Grooves can also be extracted from parts of the  sequence and applied to other tracks, so every part is perfectly  synchronized to a master template.


REASON 4 everyone


For those who are new to the world of music production, there could  be no better time to dive into REASON. Paired with a keyboard  controller, it’s an ideal platform for learning about synthesizers,  beat-making, production, and sequencing.  It’s not a coincidence that  tens of thousands of people are using REASON, including professionals in  the music, film, and TV industries. It is simply the most versatile  application for music production, and operates flawlessly on any current  Macintosh- or Windows-based personal computer.