THE NEXT GENERATION
Now, I’m not just going on a journey down memory lane into a world of television muzak and laid back drum & bass from an almost forgotten era for no reason at all. No, my drive to look back at almost twenty years of forward thinking music production software comes due to the recent release of Reason 9, the next generation of samples, sounds and effects. I got a brief glimpse at the latest version this week, but have yet to fully dive into the inner workings of this long awaited software development. From the outset, it all looks very promising. The team at Propellerhead have done a few versions in the past that really just seemed like updates to the existing model. However, growing worldwide uptake of this Swedish software, led to Propellerhead delivering the goods with the announcement of Version 9. Now a fully-fledged recording and production suite, Reason stands tall amongst some of the big names in DAW software.
FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
Those of you who were making electronic music in the late ‘90s would have undoubtedly got your hands on a copy of ReBirth at some stage. This seemingly simple software instrument changed the way many of us looked at using a computer for music production. Suddenly, there was a very real, very usable and very accessible software replica of two of the most famous drum machines of the time and that ever so sought after Roland 303 Bassline. Now you could get ‘those’ sounds when you wanted, from your computer, which at the time was a big deal. Plus, you could edit and save settings, unlike the real machines, and you could get them both for a fraction of the cost of the hardware units that were fetching premium prices in a second-hand market that had gone techno crazy. Well, this was the beginning of big things from Propellerhead.
When Reason was released in 2000, it really was the game-changer that it was taunted as being. This package had so much going on with the samplers and synth engines. Not to mention the fact that you could hit the tab button to flip around to the rear of the rack and rewire your setup just like you would when using hardware. This gimmick may have captured the attention of so many electronic music studio geeks, but the sounds kept them interested. The sounds kept the creating. It may have seemed like so much was on offer when it was first released, the humble Version 1 actually had limited sonic possibilities compared to today’s yardstick. That is probably why so many tracks produced with Reason were so easily recognisable, due to the somewhat limited sample banks that were included. But, that was all to change with later releases.
What was lacking in these earlier versions of Reason though, was not so much an extended sound library, as that grew with every subsequent release. No, it was the ability to record audio into the sequencer. Versions 1-5 were all a sealed system that only allowed audio to be introduced by means of WAV files imported into one of the sample players. If you wanted to incorporate recorded audio, you had to run Reason alongside another DAW and use the ReWire function to feed the outputs of Reason into spare channels in said DAW. This all changed with Reason 6, more than ten years after the original release. Propellerhead’s Record software was integrated into Reason so it could function as a fully operational recording and production suite. This was accompanied by a new mixer that offered a huge range of possibilities in both EQ, dynamics and signal routing. Reason was now set to become a software package that could stand on its own and has continued to grow in such a manner over the last five years.
Now, Reason 9 offers a range of added goodies, even more sounds and extensive implementation of the ever- popular rack extensions that are growing in numbers with external developers bringing their own sonic flavour to the Reason pallet. For those of you who may have strayed away from the Swedish sound engine in recent years, there has never been a better time to come back and see what is on offer. And, owners of any previous version are able to get back into Reason for a heavily reduced rate with the upgrade software even allowing Reason 1 license holders to take advantage. Now, what did I do with that software license card from 16 years ago?