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Propellerhead Reason 8 review

Propellerhead Reason 8 box
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £269
inc VAT

A lacklustre update, but Reason 8 is still enormous fun to use and sounds superb


OS Support: Windows 7 or later, Mac OS X 10.7 or later, Minimum CPU: Intel or AMD dual-core, Minimum GPU: N/A, Minimum RAM: 4GB, Hard disk space: 3GB

Digital Village

When Reason first appeared in 2000 with its armoury of fantastic-sounding synths and effects, it was clear that the writing was on the wall for hardware studios. It sounds just as exciting and relevant today, but still retains its visual and operational references to studio hardware. A virtual rack of equipment is connected using animated virtual cables, and it even includes rack screws and wood end panels to hold everything in place.

15 years of progress has seen Reason steadily grow in features and scope. For years, Propellerhead resisted calls for live audio recording and third-party plug-in support, but these features are now included, so in many respects Reason stands alongside the likes of Cubase and Sonar as a general-purpose recording environment. It can’t match Cubase and Sonar for the power and flexibility of its audio editing tools, but its virtual instruments, effects and mixer compare well. 

The big news for Reason 8 is a reworked interface, which we’re told is designed to let users think less about software and more about the music. It’s an excellent ambition, but the changes aren’t as far reaching as we might have expected. 

The new Browser supports drag and drop to the Rack or Sequencer to add modules and load samples

Previously the Browser was a floating panel that also housed Quantise and various other functions. In version 8 the Browser is docked on the left side of the screen, and it’s much better integrated with the rest of the interface. There’s extensive use of drag and drop – to create or replace an instrument or effect, load a sample into a sampling instrument and so on. Clicking the Preset Load button on a module in the rack reveals the relevant presets in the Browser. Sequencer tracks and Mixer channels automatically take the name of the preset that’s loaded. It’s also possible to organise presets into custom lists to help you find your favourites for a particular task.

It’s intuitive stuff, but it could have gone further. Instruments can only be auditioned by loading them, whereas Cubase lets you play them on a MIDI keyboard from within its browser window. Reason also lacks Cubase’s extensive metadata for presets, so text searches are only useful if you remember the specific name of a preset. You can’t search for or browse content by genre or acoustic properties, for example.

The Browser panel can be hidden if you don’t need it, and so too can panels for the Mixer, Rack and Sequencer. However, it seems odd that these three are stacked vertically. A short, wide space makes sense for the Sequencer but the Mixer and Rack don’t fit these spaces well. The Mixer and Rack can be undocked, and with the three windows spread across two 1080p monitors, the interface makes more sense. 


The Softube Amp and Bass Amp modules are welcome, but we’ll soon be saying goodbye to the equivalent Line 6 modules 

We’re disappointed that Propellerhead hasn’t taken the opportunity to rethink the mixer interface, which is modelled on a hardware mixing desk. It looks the part but at 2,000 pixels tall, lots of scrolling is required to see all settings for each channel. Even then, there’s not enough room for clear labelling of controls, and abbreviated inscriptions are likely to confuse many users. The mixer is crying out for a pop-up channel editor with more descriptive representations of the various functions. Currently there’s a pop-up graphical EQ editor, and it’s so much easier to use than the mixer’s EQ knobs and buttons.

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System requirements
OS SupportWindows 7 or later, Mac OS X 10.7 or later
Minimum CPUIntel or AMD dual-core
Minimum GPUN/A
Minimum RAM4GB
Hard disk space3GB
Buying information
Price including VAT£269
Product code209831

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