Propellerhead never misses. ReBirth, ReWire, ReCycle, REX files, Reason, excellent expansion packs, stable operation, free stuff for registered users— what’s not to like?
But when I first heard about Record, I wasn’t all that excited. I assumed “Reason ReWires into it so that all the people who complain about Reason not recording audio will shut up.”
Wrong. Very, very wrong.
Record is to recording as Reason is to a synth rack: A brilliant, economical reexamination of a process most take for granted. And like Reason, it’s a self-contained universe where VST or AU plugins need not apply. However, again like Reason, Record can be a ReWire slave— thus allowing it to become one pretty amazing “front end” for other programs.
There’s nowhere near enough space to do justice to Record’s many talents, so we’ll do what we always do under the circumstances: Zoom out, and cover the gestalt of the program rather than the details.
Record is the first Propellerhead product with a dongle, but it doesn’t really get in the way. Installation is just a matter of inserting the distribution DVD and following the directions. You can run Record in demo mode, or authorize it so you can run it anywhere as long as you have the USB key. What’s more, even if you don’t have the key, if there’s an Internet connection the Propellerhead website will verify that you’re registered, and let you access all functions.
Record has three main sections: Mixer (modeled on an SSL mixer), Racks where you have instruments and processors, and Sequencer, where you do your recording and editing. You can have a section basically take over your screen, or drag boundaries of the windows so you can see the sections you want, in the proportions you want. Furthermore, the Mixer and Racks can be detached, which is handy for those with multiple monitors.
Propellerhead claims that Record is intuitive, and while that’s a muchoverused word, in this case it’s accurate. Within minutes of opening it for the first time, I was recording and editing tracks, inserting instruments, and feeling very comfortable with the environment. And why not? It basically virtualizes a studio, and I’ve worked in plenty of studios. For example, the mixer looks and feels like a mixer, and subscribes to the analog philosophy of one function, one control—don’t look for hidden menus, because you won’t find any. And if something is confusing, the online help is excellent.
The Racks section resembles Reason (yes, you can hit the tab key and play with the patch cords!), and Record includes some Reason modules (Scream overdrive, RV7000 reverb, mixers, the MClass effects, various half-rack effects like the Spider merger/splitter and DDL-1 delay, and a few others). It also adds a new instrument, the ID8 Instrument Device, which is basically a synth module designed to provide essential sounds for arrangements; and thanks to Line 6, you’ll find Guitar Amp and Bass Amp modules. Unlike Reason, you can install units side by side in the rack, as well as on top or on bottom of each other.
If you have Reason installed on your computer, Record recognizes it and makes its instruments (Thor, Dr. Rex, SubTractor, etc. etc.) available to the rack. This all happens automatically; you don’t even have to play with ReWire.
The Sequencer section is very much like Reason’s, although it includes the option to add audio tracks. Granted, I was already tuned in with the Reason way of doing things, so it made sense to me; but I don’t think people coming into it cold would have a particularly difficult time.
Plenty of people who have a favorite DAW also have Reason as either a useful stand-alone app, or ReWired into said DAW. Will they flock to Record as an alternate way to record? Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me—use Record to get tracks down fast, and if you really need to access particular features of other programs, use ReWire. There’s even pitch stretching, for those situations where you record something late at night when you’re tired, and upon listening the next day, you realize you should have recorded it a bit faster.
Indeed, Propellerhead doesn’t miss. They define a goal, then implement it with smooth workflow and a clean look. I’m not sure if this is a program that will turn the masses with zero experience on to computer-based recording; it’s not that intuitive. But if you have a passing knowledge of audio software, you’ll feel right at home with Record’s take on the creative process. In fact, you might even fall in love with it.