Propellerhead Reason Essentials review

Kat Orphanides
7 Jun 2012
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

A novice-friendly audio production suite that’s both powerful and easy to use


Propellerhead’s Reason is among the best known Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) suites, providing a full audio production environment on your PC. However, like many professional audio packages, its near-£300 price is rather high for many enthusiastic amateurs and bedroom producers. With that in mind, Propellerhead has released Reason Essentials, a cut-down but still very capable version for just £85.

Reason Essentials audio

The most immediately visible difference between Reason Essentials and its more expensive sibling is in the range of included synthesisers, samplers and effects. There are also some relative limitations to the power of Reason Essentials’ mixer functions and production environment – Essentials has a two- rather than four-band equaliser, for instance. It also only supports its own file format, so you can’t use it to edit projects created using other versions of Reason. All of this means that, if you’re already used to the full power of Reason, this cut-down program will feel like a step backwards. However, if you’re either a user who primarily treats Reason as a recording environment for live instrument inputs or if you’re entirely new to Propellerhead’s software, then there’s plenty to like.

Reason Essentials mixer

Many DAWs overwhelm you with a wealth of powerful options, few of which are immediately obvious in their functionality, which makes the immediate and intuitive simplicity of Reason Essentials’ interface a very welcome pleasure. You can configure the program to display the features you need, but we were immediately comfortable with the default setup of a track display at the bottom of the screen and space to load your virtual effects racks and synthesisers above it. Each of your virtual effect and synth units is depicted by an image of a rack unit, complete with knobs and buttons that you can use to adjust it. This makes it immediately obvious how to adjust and control your sound and invites easy experimentation.

To add a new track, whether it’s for an analogue audio line input such as a guitar or microphone, or a synth-based MIDI instrument, all you have to do is select the relevant option from a right-click menu. Once created, you can choose which input it records (if you’re recording with a multi-input audio device) and enable or disable options such as recording – which determines whether it records sound when you click Reason’s main record button – and monitoring, which determines whether the track is played as you record. There are also mute and solo options, which allow you to silence it during playback or make it the only track which is played. All these options work in concert with Reason’s main controls at the bottom of the screen, which allow you to play, record, pause and wind through any active tracks.

The effects rack bank towards the top of the screen allows you to add and configure a variety of effects to each audio input, or apply effects to multiple inputs simultaneously. Available effects include classic guitar pedals such as flangers and distortion boxes, as well as reverb, delays, compressors and a wide range of vocal effects. It’s easy to choose from these using Reason’s file-manager style Patch Browser interface.

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