Propellerhead Software Reason 4 (Bonus)

Propellerhead Reason 4 software virtual instrument rack and sequencer brings you a new synth, improved sequencing, additional pattern-based tools, and a bunch of smaller enhancements to make audio production easier.
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This online bonus material supplements the Propellerhead Software Reason 4 review in the December 2007 issue of Electronic Musician.

Thor Polysonic Synthesizer

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FIG. A: Thor has three slots for oscillators and three more for filters. The hardwired signal path has lots of switching for added flexibility. The modulation matrix and step sequencer along the bottom further expand Thor''s sound palette.

Thor is the first new synth in Reason in a couple of generations, and it''s the most programmable synth so far (see Fig. A). Although not completely modular—the signal path is hardwired but does allow lots of switching—it offers a great deal of programmability. The modularity comes in the form of three sound-generator slots and three filter slots. You get six types of generator and four types of filter to fill those slots.

The generators are a noise source and five oscillator types: analog, wavetable, phase modulation, FM, and multioscillator. The FM oscillator is actually a pair of oscillators, one of which modulates the other. The multioscillator contains a bank of analog oscillators that can be detuned in various ways to create fat sounds.

For filters, you get a Moog-style lowpass-ladder filter, along with state-variable, comb, and formant filters. Each filter has multiple modes. For example, you can enable or disable self-oscillation for both the state-variable and lowpass-ladder filters, and the latter offers 6, 12, 18, and two types of 24 dB-per-octave slopes. The formant filter offers x-y control of two formants as well as a Gender control. With a little care you can almost make Thor sing intelligibly.

The generators feed a 2-channel mixer. One channel is a mix of generators 1 and 2 with a balance control, and the other is devoted to generator 3. The mixer, in turn, feeds filters 1 and 2 via three switches for blocking any of the three generators. That allows you to, for instance, send a balanced mix of generators 1 and 2 to each filter and then use the switches to ensure that filter 1 receives only generator 1 and filter 2 receives only generator 2. Filter 1 feeds a waveshaper module whose output can be sent to filter 2 or to the output amp. The amp feeds filter 3, which, in turn, feeds basic chorus and delay effects. That''s a lot easier to digest than it sounds; in essence, you can route just about any mix of the generators through just about any filtering configuration and then to the output.

For modulation, you get two multiwaveform, syncable LFOs and four envelope generators, two of which can loop for use as LFOs. In addition to several hardwired modulation routings (envelopes to filter and amp, oscillator sync, and AM), modulation is set up in a 13-row modulation matrix. Modulation sources include all the modules (even the audio modules and four external audio inputs), a variety of MIDI messages, two Thor control-panel knobs and buttons, and four external CV inputs.

Any modulation routing can be scaled by the same variety of sources. Seven of the matrix rows allow one scaling source and one destination. Two of the rows allow two scaling sources and one destination. Four of the rows allow one scaling source and two destinations. With a little careful planning, you can create virtually any modulation setup you can imagine.

Finally, you get a built-in step sequencer with a full spate of CV and Gate inputs and outputs so you can use it with other devices. You can have as many as 16 steps, individual steps can be turned off, and each step has controls for note pitch, Velocity, gate length, step duration, and two CV values. The sequencer has its own gate input for triggering individual steps, one pass of the full sequence, or a looping sequence. The sequence can loop forward, backward, randomly, or as a pendulum with or without repeated end points.