Review: Propellerhead Record

At long last, Propellerhead's aptly named Record offers an out-of-the-box, studio-quality recording experience at the incredibly low price of $299.
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Until now, one criticism about Propellerhead's products—namely Reason—is that they lack the ability to record and edit audio. Nevertheless, many Reason users circumvent the issue by using the Propellerhead ReWire protocol, which is capable of transmitting audio and MIDI between applications. Although this presents an acceptable solution to Reason users who want to record audio, it's far from ideal.

But with the arrival of Propellerhead Record, it seems as though any problems have been truly solved. Propellerhead has not only produced an all-in-one recording solution with professional specs and Reason integration but also done it all for less than $300.

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In addition to offering a 64-bit summing bus, the Propellerhead Record mixer is modeled on the legendary SSL 9000K large-format console.

Boxes and Betas

Having been lucky enough to be part of the Record beta program from the outset, I have tested several versions of the application. Given that time spent with Record, I can safely say that this is the most CPU-efficient recording application I have ever used.

Although the beta versions contained some debugging code, everything ran smoothly with no glitches; even larger demo projects played back with only a minimal hit on my MacBook Pro's CPU. The folks at Propellerhead informed me that the final version would be even faster, and after some testing, it seems they are on the money. The final boxed version installed without a hitch and was up and running in no time. However, it is worth noting the company's innovative approach to registration: The box I received contained the usual installation DVD, a registration card, some pretty stickers and—wait for it—a dongle.

Before those of you who are dead against hardware protection get too excited, Propellerhead does take a new angle on the issue. On installation, you will be asked to insert the "ignition key"; after doing this, you are taken to the company Website, where you enter a serial number and registration code, registering your copy of Record to your key. If you start Record without your key, you will be presented with the option to log in to your account. On doing so, the fully functional app will open. This essentially means that if you forget or lose the key, you can still run Record until it's back in your possession—pretty cool stuff.

Big sound on the small screen

When I first heard about Record, the main thing that struck me was its mixer: In addition to offering a 64-bit summing bus, the mixer is modeled on the legendary SSL 9000K large-format console. Every monster channel strip in Record emulates the entire array of controls present on the original desk, and you can easily fold away entire sections to make things a little more digestible and focused. To top things off, you even get that famous mix-bus compressor to polish your mix before your mastering chain. The sound of Record's mixer is so good that it's entirely possible that users of other DAWs will start exporting stems to mix in this environment.

Mix elements in Record comprise three separate sections: the mixer channel strip, the rack object and the sequencer track. This fresh take on editing and navigation really encourages a route- anything-to-anywhere approach while mixing. Record keeps things relatively clear by using handy application shortcuts and hardwired keyboard shortcuts to highlight each major section. You can also fully detach the mixer and device rack to be viewable more permanently on a secondary display.

The devices in Record are just as impressive as its interface. You'll find great-sounding amp simulators produced in conjunction with Line 6, as well as Reason items such as the MClass mastering processors, the RV7000 advanced reverb and Scream 4 distortion unit. On top of all this, Record also has the ability to change the tempo of your audio on the fly with just a few clicks, enabling you to change entire projects quickly with little degradation to the audio quality. This is great for slowing down tracks to record complex solos and then returning to your original tempo.

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Record's device rack contains great-sounding amp simulators produced in conjunction with Line 6, as well as Reason items such as the MClass mastering processors, the RV7000 advanced reverb and Scream 4 distortion unit.

Nevertheless, Record does lack a few obvious features, such as group channels or aux buses on the mixer. Although Propellerhead does recommend creating the equivalent of a group or aux in the device rack as a workaround, this feels a little incomplete to me. Elsewhere, serious audio-editing functions, such as reverse and normalize, just aren't present in the sequencer. Add to that the lack of any pitch-correction tools, and this may put off more advanced users. But given that this is just version 1.0 of Record, it has plenty of time for addition and improvement.

Another Reason

For Reason owners thinking of purchasing Record, you'll be glad to know that all of Reason's devices and instruments will automatically integrate with Record's rack. I had Reason installed on both machines that I tested Record with, and the system works perfectly. When installing Record, you will have the chance to sync your Reason license to your ignition key so that everything starts up without a hitch. This also means that your licenses are always available in one place and easily managed. (Syncing the licenses does not mean that you need the ignition key to run Reason; it will continue to function as it always has.)

If you don't own Reason and are considering purchasing Record, Propellerhead offers a discounted package that includes both applications. With Record installed, you'll have access to a pretty large list of devices; adding Reason mainly brings extra virtual instruments to the table and takes you well beyond the basic ID8 general-purpose instrument supplied with Record.

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ID8 is a multipurpose software instrument featuring a basic but high-quality sound set. Everything from piano and strings to synth and bass is covered here, so even without the extra instruments from Reason, you should be good to go out of the box.

Record is a truly impressive all-in-one recording solution that will appeal to users of varying skill levels. Its creative approach to many areas of music production will certainly give it an edge in a field already crowded with choice. The program's amazing CPU efficiency and almost unbelievable internal mixer are certainly its major strengths. Combine this with total Reason 4 integration, and you may see people moving from other DAWs to join the party.