Propellerhead’s Reason 5: First Impressions

October 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

Reason 5.0

I finally got my Reason upgrade in the mail! (Thanks to Line 6, Propellerhead distributor who extended the Record 1.5 / Reason 5 upgrade deals.) Been waiting months for this.. installed it and thought I’d post some feedback.

First I should make a disclaimer. Dear reader, this is a loving review and the following thoughts come from a die-hard Reason advocate. I’ve purchased every Reason upgrade since 2.0 and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on V5. While I use a multitude of DAWs and sound manipulation programs I found my basis in music with Reason. Many knocked the program at first for lack of VST support. But the program’s stability and simplicity made it an entirely new type of program. While producers were clamoring for the latest VST effects or synths, Propellerhead were building a modular, all-in-one idea station that has lived well beyond many people’s speculation. What was one considered a toy DAW is now seen as a powerful creation device on it’s own. With the incorperation of Rewire into most DAWs and a massive user community for the program I’m proud to say I grew up on this software and it’s been life changing.

SDG previewed Reason 5 back in May and it looked impressive enough to lust after. Propellerheads also offered a very clever and competitive upgrade with the release of V5 that I was able to take advantage of. If you purchased Record For Reason Owners previous to Reason 5’s release date Line 6 and Propellerhead are offering free upgrades to Reason 5 and Record 1.5. Not a bad deal. At $149US that’s only 20 dollars more than the R5 upgrade. (Essentially you get Record for 20 bucks.) Brilliant!

Reason 5 is a joy to use but I’m still learning the ins and outs of a new interface. But the leanring curve could be considered easy compared to most other DAWs.  The interface tweaks are fairly deep but you wouldn’t notice right away due to seamless integration into the old workflow. Some of these changes don’t seem massive, some changes that seem a bit frivilous – Until you use them. And suddenly your workflow is kicking ass in new ways.

The first of these features I’d like to point out is the ability to record audio directly into reason 5. This was a massive upgrade for those of us who use lots of samples. Peak and Recycle have been the molasses in my workflow, so I was pleased to see audio recording, input, sample management and editing all added to the reason interface.

Next up I must mention the two awesome new instruments that have graced the new version. First is the MPC-inspired Kong Drum Designer – which sports it’s own effects and massive customization to each sound (with individual effects on each pad.) I am very impressed with this unit but it’s a bit overwhelming at first and I find myself going to the Redrum (old habits die hard.) But I look forward to the new tools in the Kong. The demo song that loads with Reason gives a pretty nice example of what the machine can do, with more complicated and complex drums than previous demo songs. More than anything else I can hear distinctive dynamics in the Kong drum sounds. I’ll be diving further into this soon.

Second to the Reason instrument rack is the Dr. Octo-Rex loop sampler. This is the logical upgrade to the rex player, which now plays up to 8 different loops (or certain notes from the loop or whatever you want from that sample.) There is some creative workflow in the ability to switch rex loops on the fly and I’m just touching the surface of what these machines can do. The most useful thing at first was the lack of 8 rex players for 8 loops. The new interface saves a lot of valueable screen real estate and makes it easy to use the 8 loops in synch.

On the subject of real estate, Props have gotten a bit better with the interface design. The program has always looked great (especially the machines.) But the sequencer and editing pages were a bit hard to work with in previous versions. (Too much scrolling around and re-sizing windows to get to my notes to edit.) V5 has upgraded many of these issues including: a new zoom/scroll interface that is a bit similar to Ableton Live’s use of a timeline. Also new to this version is the BLOCKS feature. This works in sequencing/arrangement mode to create “blocks” of sound – such as chorus, bridge, etc.

One last thing to mention while talking about big improvements: The Sequencer /Transport and Editing modes. New features include: Record Notes on Multiple Tracks, Scale Clips By Resizing, Mute Tool (click and mute.. no more searching for that channel,) Song Navigator (think Ableton Live), Clip automation (not as much drawing clips in this one and they are more intuitive.)

Other upgrades to check out in the new version: Massive amounts of new sounds, combinator instruments, new basslines and synth sounds, new rex files, and lots of small fixes that you didn’t even know you wanted. Every day I find new things that are improvements from the last version.

Reason 5 gets lotsa love from SDG this month. Reason is one of the easiest music creation programs to understand and it’s got great sound and a fantastic interface for folks who know their way around a (hardware) studio. I’d really like to know what you all are finding as love/hate issues with reason 5. I’d also love to trade some info on sound creation if anyone’s up for it.So far the sound output sounds a bit better (and way better through record’s new SSL mixer.)

So – Love it? Hate it? Worth the upgrade price? I’m feelin it so far but it’s only been a week. I’d love to know your thoughts so far. Anyone got tips to share? I’m eager to know more. And does anyone have a PDF/printable version of the Reason Key Commands?

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