Reason 6.5 (Review)

Software Review
Reason 6.5

Reason 6.5 CoverPublisher: Propellerhead
Platforms: PC & Mac
Description: Digital Audio Workstation, Sample Library & Software Synthesizer Rack
MSRP: $399 New, $169 Upgrade
Expected Release: Available Now
Official Website: http://www.propellerheads.se
Samples: N/A
Demo: Click Here
Special Discount: Click Here
Review Issue: Issue #82 (12/12)
Review By: Gabe Gibitz
Final Score: 8.8

Hailing from Sweden, Reason 6.5 is a music creation program for the Mac and PC. Reason supplies users with everything necessary to create film scores and sound effects from scratch—everything from synthesizers and sampled pianos to drum kits and orchestral strings. Unlike SonicFire Pro, the ability to write music is a prerequisite for this program, and those familiar with playing a musical instrument (preferably the piano) will find this program much easier to navigate. The quality of the sampled instruments is quite good for the price, and the possibilities to create new sounds with digital synthesizers are endless.

Originally created for DJs and club music, Reason has evolved into a powerful program to create film scores. Synthesizers and countless sampled instruments are at your fingertips, but Reason also offers filmmakers a sound library called Orkester—which includes strings, brass, woodwinds and other sampled orchestral instruments—at no additional price. If you have never used a DAW (digital audio workstation), learning your way around Reason 6.5 will be a much easier experience than many comparable packages on the market today. While Reason still has room for improvement, this visually-rich software program will serve you well in any film score you may need to create.

Ease of Use

Right out of the box, Reason simply makes sense. Regular audio designers will find this software a breeze. I found that everything from adding an instrument to mixing audio and MIDI tracks was very easy to pick up on. (For those not familiar with the term “MIDI,” this is simply the language that computers and electronic instruments use so that one keyboard can be used to play all different kinds of instruments.) While Reason requires a user’s knowledge of music to take full advantage of its features, those new to music creation will love the presets that come with each instrument. I especially love Reason’s ease-of-use in a few key areas, so let’s look at them.

Multiple vocal takes and sequenced virtual instruments are all easily accessible on this user-friendly sequencer interface.

Multiple vocal takes and sequenced virtual instruments are all easily accessible on this user-friendly sequencer interface.

Switching between the mixer, instrument rack and sequencer (where all audio clips and MIDI notes are located) is seamless. In the world of recording and music-making, it seems like there is never enough room on-screen to do all necessary video and audio editing. Even with 2 external monitors, it just never seems to be enough. The makers of Reason definitely took this into account and assigned each of the three key areas in Reason (the mixer, instrument rack and sequencer) to different function keys (F5, F6 and F7). Each of these three areas is also able to be broken off from the main screen and placed on other external monitors, allowing users to see the mixer, instrument rack and sequencer simultaneously (not a novel idea in the digital audio world but definitely a plus).

I am also impressed by the ease of recording real instruments and vocals as well as using a MIDI keyboard to record Reason’s seemingly unlimited arsenal of MIDI instruments. There is a sense of intuitiveness about the whole process that is unusual in most audio workstations. The simple toolbar at the top of the sequencer window helps users quickly choose the tools they need to record and edit their audio in the sequencer window.

The mixer, instrument rack and sequencer are all accessible using one single keystroke.

The mixer, instrument rack and sequencer are all accessible using one single keystroke.

Recording is even easier to work with when paired with Propellerhead Balance, an audio interface created especially for Reason users. I will be reviewing Propellerhead’s Balance next month, so keep an ear out for that upcoming review.

Depth of Options

Propellerhead is known for offering musicians and sound designers an overabundance of quality tools with which to make music. The amount of sounds available to film composers is, at times, overwhelming. Whether a film scene calls for smooth strings, harsh brass or a light piano solo, Reason has a wide range of instruments to choose from, and the list grows every month. For audio engineers, the ever-popular back-of-the-rack view allows users to hit the ‘tab’ key, which reveals every connection that is going on behind the rack of instruments. Not only can you see where your audio cables are going, you can also re-route them and create your own complex instruments.

Reason 6.5 comes with a number of MIDI instruments right out of the box. Instruments ranging from pianos and strings to pads and drum kits are all at your disposal. This brand new version also boasts 3 new rack additions on top of their established MIDI instruments: Pulveriser, The Echo and Alligator. Pulveriser is a robust distortion effect while The Echo and Alligator are different variations of the popular delay effect. Reason 6.5 also offers users the ability to purchase Rack Extensions that will expand Reason’s instrument arsenal even more. You can purchase instruments and effects like Radical Piano, a stunning instrument array simulating hundreds of variations of the ever-popular piano, and Polar, a pitch-shifting system.

Pulveriser is one of three new rack additions in Reason 6.5.

Pulveriser is one of three new rack additions in Reason 6.5.

In future releases, I would like to see Reason expand in one specific area: Integrate 3rd party effects plugins! This is a must if Reason wants to continue to compete with other DAWs in the future. The effects within the program just don’t make the cut in quantity and quality.

Performance

Reason performs very well. The integration of sound from instrument to instrument is phenomenal, and users are able to pile instruments and effects on top of each other with little to no computer lag. Some of the complex demo songs gave my 6 year-old MacBook fits, but that’s to be expected as technology continues to progress. Some instruments, such as the synthesizer called Thor, demand more computing power than others, but this is nothing compared to the processor demands of Hollywood Strings or Hollywood Brass (both of which I’ve reviewed here at MFM).

Reason sports a high-quality digital mixer, potentially giving those with audio experience the ability to mix and master an entire film audio within Reason.

Reason sports a high-quality digital mixer, potentially giving those with audio experience the ability to mix and master an entire film audio within Reason.

The sound quality of the instruments is also worth noting. Reason includes instruments ranging from orchestral strings and brass to powerful synthesizers and drum kits. This breadth is great, but such scope usually means that you can’t make every instrument stellar, so some will leave users desiring more. The instruments in Reason cannot be beat for the price, but the sampled instruments specifically have room for improvement. Luckily, a good number of these instruments  have paid upgrades available (drum kits, pianos, electric pianos, etc.), but that increases your cost, of course. To offer a concrete example, the strings from Reason 6.5 do not compare with a product such as Hollywood Strings. Hollywood Strings gives users much more control over the sound of each section of strings to the point that they are easily mistaken for the real thing. Reason’s strings don’t have this capability; however, it may be the answer to your sound design needs now while you save up for a program like Hollywood Strings (and the powerful computer that is going to run that beast of a program).

In future releases, I would like to see Reason integrate with video software, so that you can actually see the footage you’re scoring. This is key for filmmakers, multimedia creators, and sound designers who make music for any visual medium. Considering that Reason will plug into different DAWs (like Ableton Live and ProTools) through ReWire, a virtual audio cable running out of Reason and into the DAW of your choice, it should also be able to do so for the larger video programs like Final Cut, Premiere Pro, and Avid.

While some sampled instruments in Reason may require upgrades to achieve the desired quality, Reason's out-of-the-box sound library is a great place for filmmakers to start creating music and sounds.

While some sampled instruments in Reason may require upgrades to achieve the desired quality, Reason's out-of-the-box sound library is a great place for filmmakers to start creating music and sounds.

Value

With Reason 6.5, you surely get your money’s worth. The value of the program is, of course, dependent on your needs as a filmmaker or audio designer. Reason arguably houses the best collection of instruments on the market for its price. These instruments have their limitations, but nowhere else will you find orchestral instruments mixed with synthesizers, pianos, and drum samples all in one easy-to-access package.

The unfortunate part about the value of this program is that you must upgrade in areas that don’t quite make the cut. For instance, if you want the sweet sound of a piano that is a step above Reason’s stock piano, you can purchase Radical Piano. Once you purchase Reason, upgrading the quality of your sound is one click away. This does add additional costs, but most of these upgrades are very reasonably priced.

Final Comments

Reason is a visually-rich audio program with loads of virtual instruments. While some of these instruments don’t compare to instruments like those from Hollywood Strings or Hollywood Brass, this program is definitely worth the price. Reason 6.5 gives users access to orchestral instruments, electronic synthesizers and some stellar audio effects all in one package. If you’re not satisfied with some of the MIDI instruments, many of them can be upgraded from within Reason, but that does come at an extra cost. If you have an understanding of music and are in need of an audio program that offers the ability to both record audio intuitively and choose from a variety of quality virtual instruments, give Reason 6.5 a trial run today.

Breakdown
Ease of Use
9.0
Depth of Options
8.5
Performance
8.5
Value vs. Cost
9.0

Overall Score

8.8

 


About Gabe Gibitz

Gabe Gibitz is a worship leader and home-recording guru in Lexington, KY. With no formal degree in music, he has learned most of what he knows about recording by reading lots articles, picking the brains of audio masterminds, and delving into the field himself. He plays a blue guitar and loves spending time with Abbie, his wife. You can download his latest e-book and 3 free songs at www.gabegibitz.com.

Leave a Reply