Few pieces of audio-production technology will ever enjoy the explosive popularity of Propellerhead Reason. In just a few short years, the program has found its way into every corner of the audio industry. No DAW seems complete anymore without the ability to synchronize playback with Reason and offer MIDI control via the ReWire protocol. And with this latest revision, Propellerhead has infused its flagship product with some top-shelf effects units, handy splitting-and-merging utilities and a few less-noticeable tweaks under the hood.
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What Reason has always offered is a complete, self-contained compositional tool based upon a collection of software synths, samplers, drum machines and effects within a traditional sequencing environment. Unlike traditional DAWs, Reason is not open to third-party development. What this closed-source-code approach affords is an unprecedented level of stability for an audio application (that is, it doesn't crash). Without third-party support, however, the world of VST, DirectX and Audio Units plug-ins is permanently out of reach. Responding to what has surely been a deluge of requests for more processing options, Reason 2.5 includes some downright impressive effects units. The new additions include the Scream 4 Sound Destruction Unit; the RV7000 Advanced Reverb; the UN-16 Unison; and the BV512 Vocoder, which blurs the line between instrument and effect.
The Scream 4 is a vast improvement upon the original D-11 Foldback Distortion. This new distortion is based on a number of classic distortion and overdrive effects (the Fuzz setting sounds exactly like the beloved Boss Hyper Fuzz pedal), and it includes a 3-band EQ section, as well as additional controls such as resonance, scale and others. Like the new distortion box, the RV7000 Advanced Reverb blows its predecessor out of the water. With the RV7000, users get a truly professional-sounding unit that showcases the kind of gating, EQ and reverb algorithms (plate, arena, echo, reverse and more) found on high-end units. The majority of the parameters are located within the flip-down programming panel, which is reminiscent of the NN-XT Digital Sampler. The Scream 4 and the RV7000 also have the ability to save patches. Although the new UN-16 Unison doesn't boast a full-rackspace design like the new reverb, it is an excellent alternative to a traditional chorus effect. The UN-16 simply adds as many as 16 detuned voices from a single instrument.
The BV512 Vocoder plays double duty as a 512-band vocoder and a multiband EQ. The BV512 doesn't respond to MIDI note information from the sequencer; rather, it relies on a carrier signal from another instrument and modulation source. For example, a Subtractor synth could be the carrier-signal source outputting a simple whole-note chord progression, and a vocal sample from either of the included samplers could act as the modulation source. The BV512 also incorporates 16 individual-band I/O, thereby opening up some expansion sound-design possibilities.
REPLICATION AND REDUCTION
Also new to Reason 2.5 are two new routing utilities, the Spider Audio Merger & Splitter and the Spider CV Merger & Splitter. Both devices accomplish identical results with their respective signal types. The audio splitter allows users to derive a total of four stereo outputs from a single source, which can then be routed through different signal chains. The merger works in reverse, combining four outputs into one. When used in conjunction with the mixer, the merger can function much like a group bus, allowing similar signal sources to be routed to the same group of effects. The CV utility is functionally identical to the audio version.
Lastly, the mixer's EQ section has been improved. By flipping the mixer around, users will notice a new switch in the bottom left corner that reads Compatible EQ and Improved EQ. The enhanced version addresses some frequency issues in the bass control from the first version and is audibly different from the original. Users, however, are given the option of EQ they want to use, thus preserving the sounds of files that were created with earlier versions.
Although version 2.5 isn't a complete revision, the new modules add enough sound-sculpting power that it almost feels like a new program. If users were to buy comparable items as separate plug-ins for a stand-alone DAW, they'd spend much more than the advertised $299. For anyone who has yet to take the plunge, the time has never been better to get into this program. And if this is any sort of preview, I can't wait to see what Propellerhead is cooking up for version 3.0.
REASON 2.5 > $299 (FREE UPGRADE FOR REGISTERED 2.0 USERS)
Pros: Incredibly stable. Excellent sound set. New top-shelf effects processors.
MAC: 604/166 or better (OS 10.1-compatible); 128 MB RAM; OS 9.0.4 or better; MIDI interface and keyboard
PC: Pentium II/233 or better; 64 MB RAM; Windows 98/2000/ME/XP; compatible soundcard; MIDI interface and keyboard