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Propellerhead Reason 7 review

Ben Pitt
22 May 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
349
inc VAT

More rounded and multi-talented than ever, but it’s the quality and versatility of its synthesizers that still makes Reason stand out

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Specifications

Propellerhead Reason has a huge amount of charm. It’s closely modelled on analogue hardware. Not just how it sounds, but its look and behaviour, too. Instruments and effects are loaded into a rack and connected with virtual cables on the back, giving the freedom to create weird and wonderful synth sounds by combining modules in inventive ways. The bundled instruments and effects are bursting with charisma, and come with many high-quality presets for people who don’t want to get into in-depth editing.

Reason 6 added the ability to record audio by absorbing the functions of Propellerhead Record, but Reason 7 is a much gentler upgrade, having some valuable improvements that refine its fledgling recording facilities.

Audio’s analysed automatically after import or recording, after which Slice Markers are placed at the beginning of each note. Double-clicking an audio object reveals these markers, and from there you can adjust notes’ timing by dragging the Slice Markers. Reason’s MIDI Quantise function works here too, but not its more sophisticated ReGroove features. Slice Markers can also be used to convert a block of regular audio into a MIDI instrument, via Propellerhead’s REX format. This maps the notes in the audio across the MIDI keyboard, and opens them up to a vast array of radical treatments.

Propellerheads Reason 7 - Slice Markers

Slice Markers make light work of editing the timing of live performances

Reason 6 provided a Comp Editor for handling multiple takes of your performance. It let you replace a performance by recording over it, but you could also reveal all the previous takes in separate lanes so that you could create a montage of the best parts. Reason 7 provides solo buttons so that you can also audition a specific take with the rest of your mix. However, you still can’t drag unused takes to another track, which is something we often do in Cubase to create double-tracked vocals.

Propellerheads Reason 7 - Recording Multiple Takes

Reason handles multiple live takes elegantly, making it easy to piece together a montage of the best parts

The Comp Editor and Slice Markers are a powerful combination for producing top notch performances, so it’s disappointing that they can’t be used simultaneously. Multiple takes must be converted to a single audio file before Slice Markers become available, and this prohibits further editing in the Comp Editor.

TAKE SOLO

This isn’t the only frustration we encountered. The sequencer and mixer both have mute and solo buttons that work independently of each other, which can prove confusing. Solo one track on the sequencer and another on the mixer and you’ll hear nothing at all. Automation is a little clumsy, with mixer automation nestled beside the audio track but with effect automation on separate tracks. This looks untidy and means that soloing a track disables the effect automation unless it’s soloed too.

Reason 7’s mixer is modelled on the SSL 9000 K hardware mixing desk. It’s a real treat for anyone who desires the real thing, but with visual feedback provided by a vast array of knobs and switches, and each channel presented as a strip 2,000 pixels high, it doesn’t play to the strengths of a computer interface. The exception is the EQ section, which now has a pop-up graphical editor that shows the EQ curve and a spectrum analyser.

Propellerheads Reason 7 - Pop-Up EQ Editor

The pop-up EQ editor makes it much easier to get your head around the EQ controls

The mixer also adds bus channels for creating submixes, allowing groups of similar instruments, such as drums or backing vocals, to be controlled from a single mixer channel. The new parallel channel type takes the opposite approach, allowing an audio signal to be processed with two discrete chains of effects.

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