I remember when I first got to use ReBirth some time back when a 40 GB hard drive was huge. That was amazing. Then I was blown away by this new product called Reason that had a cool tab function that allowed you to get to the back of the virtual rack and move around the patch cables until you had no idea of what was going on. That was cool. Now, I am sitting here with another development from Propellerhead that I never expected to see – Balance, a dedicated desktop audio interface for use with their latest software (or just about any other software really).
LET’S GO FOR A SPIN
So, now that I have the latest Propellerhead innovation in front of me, it is nice to be ‘wowed’ by them yet again, more than fifteen years after the my first introduction to the Swedish software manufacturer that has redefined the way many people write and produce their music. So, Balance. What exactly is it? Propellerhead have stepped it up a little more this time with the latest launch of the Reason range and brought us Balance, an audio interface to use with our favourite software. It has a certain Swedish charm in the design. You could be forgiven for mistaking it for an item from the IKEA catalogue, but that is all part of the charm. It is form and function all together in a unique design and clever layout.
THERE’S A REASON
The rear of the unit has all the connections (except the headphone output that is located on the side for easy access). There are four line level inputs, two guitar inputs with pad switching and two microphone inputs on XLR connections both with independent phantom power buttons. There are also two line level outputs on 6.5mm jacks and a USB connection hidden under a sticker warning you to install Reason Essentials before connecting the unit. So, that answers the next question. Yes, it does come with bundled software.
Bundled with Reason Essentials, Balance is ready to go right out of the box. This is obviously a cut down version of Reason 6, but do not let that discourage you. You still get audio recording capabilities and a whole array of effects and virtual instruments to get you started and if you find that is not enough, you can easily upgrade to the full version without paying the full price.
The top panel of the unit makes it all really easy. There are two large knobs for main output levels and headphone levels with a Mute/Direct Monitoring switch to dictate what is heard. Above this is the gain controls for the two inputs and two rows of buttons to select the inputs you want to run from. This makes it possible to connect up to eight separate devices to the Balance hardware and leave them connected. Then, when you want to record from any two of these eight, you just tap the appropriate button and the signal flow is routed for you. It makes it very easy to streamline you studio and not have to constantly change you connections around for different parts.
In all, this is a really trendy little interface. It looks great to behold. It feels great to operate. It is bundled with a serious software package and even the box it comes in looks like it should take pride of place on a shelf in your studio. The Swedes don’t leave anything to chance.
By Rob Gee
Price: RRP $499
Distributor: Music Link
Phone: (03) 9765 6565