In his Continuing Adventures In Software, Rich Tozzoli explores the expanded landscape of one of his favored composition tools.
The inevitable progression of technology marches on. Propellerheads has pushed the envelope once again with the release of Reason 6. Combining the best of Reason 5, along with the now-defunct Record platform, the new version takes on the feel of a highly functional DAW, with a few classic twists.
I’ve been using Reason (and all the Propellerheads releases) since its first version many years ago. It was one of the first easy-to-use virtual software programs with integrated loopers, synths, effects, a mixer and a sequencer. It helped introduce samplers that used the popular .rex file, the flip-around screen with dangling cables (Tab key), the sweet RV7000 Reverb and Combinator (basically an endless rack of gear), as well as its use of ReWire for sync with other programs. I’ve composed hundreds of TV cues with Reason, and V6 allows me to continue that tradition. But unlike previous releases, this one includes the ability to directly record and manipulate audio.
New features in Reason 6, aside of the audio integration, include audio time stretch and transpose, the Neptune pitch corrector, Line 6 modeled amps, a large Recording meter and a toolbox of writing instruments called ID-8. They’ve also included Pulveriser (a cruncher), The Echo (stereo echo), Alligator (3-band, pattern-based gate effect) and an extensive mixing desk—complete with built-in EQ (which is quite nice!), dynamics and extensive routing. The SSL-style mixer includes an SSL-style master bus compressor that certainly helps pop your mix out of the speakers.
One of my favorite new tools, though, is the Export feature. Previously, to export files, you had to do them individually, a time-consuming and tedious process. Now, Reason 6 allows you, with a single click, to select which channels and effect to export. This small but powerful feature is great news for all of us Reason users who tend to export our files out for additional processing.
All of these new features and effects can make for a confusing interface. To keep things clean, users can separate the mixer and rack sequencer from the sequencer. You can also have each fill the entire mix window by hitting F5, F6 or F7, or have them all connected in one single window. However, the mixer is quite “tall,” so a handy “navigator” on the right side can help you quickly scroll through the various sections.
There are few things I would like to see updated and/or changed in Reason 6. Firstly, I don’t understand why the company doesn’t include its classic ReBirth, an incredibly fun and creative techno machine with many varied applications. Also, for authorization, you’ll need a USB dongle (called the Propellerheads Ignition Key). While I understand and agree with the need for software protection, we real-world users are running out of USB slots on our computers (yes, that includes hubs). I don’t have the space for a proprietary USB key for Reason only.
Also, I (like many other users) run authorized versions of Reason on three separate systems, allowing me to compose on the run and integrate the files back into my main rig for mixing. Now, I cannot do that, without having to move my key (which means you can lose it or break it). How about giving us a few machinespecific installs like other companies do? At least they made Reason 6 fully compatible with previous Reason and Record song files.
Aside of my minor qualms, Reason 6 rocks. The audio integration, new effects (especially the Echo), and ease of file output make it a welcomed addition to anyone’s composing arsenal. It simply sounds better to me than the previous version, thanks in part to the high-quality mixing board and bus compressor. Overall, Reason 6 is a welcomed upgrade.