Propellerhead’s two most recent upgrades to Reason have been big ones. Reason 6 brought with it the ability to record and edit audio, while last year’s upgrade to 6.5 introduced Rack Extensions, thereby enabling the addition of third-party plug-ins to the suite of Reason instruments. This time around, the developer has added the long-requested feature of MIDI Out, along with enhanced audio editing features and a whole bunch of other tweaks.
The ability to send MIDI from Reason to external instruments has been a long time coming, and fortunately it’s finally been integrated with grace. Add an External MIDI Instrument to your rack and select the desired destination from a drop-down menu, and you’re good to go. Gate In and CV Ins for Pitch and Mod Wheels is available via the back of the instrument, along with assignable CC controls.
Advanced audio editing has been elegantly integrated as well. Once an audio clip has been recorded or imported, simply hit the Quantize button and it will be sliced, complete with warp markers. You can then auto-quantize or completely free-mangle the recording, and the ability to export this clip as a REX file and jam with it via the sampler opens up whole new levels of diversity and precision.
The addition of the Audiomatic Retro Transformer—a Rack Extension that degrades audio based on a number of retro presets like VHS, Wash, and Tape—provides lots of Instagram-esque audio fun, and a host of tweaks to the mixer and EQ go a long way.
The interface will be very familiar to Reason owners, with workflow refinements here and there. The SSL-style main mixer gets a particular boost: With a single click, it’s easy to instantly duplicate and link any channel for parallel processing or group a bunch of channels together under a single Group channel. The spectral analyzer that’s been added to the EQ provides beautiful, graphical feedback, and the aforementioned Audiomatic Retro Transformer is extremely charismatic.
Performance, as has come to be expected, is excellent. The software barely flinched on our 2010 MacBook Pro, even with loads of instruments and bus channels piled up. Things get a tad slower when using third-party Rack Extensions, but overall Reason still feels like the snappiest DAW out there, and should still perform admirably on almost any setup.
What we like
Slowly but surely, Reason continues to develop into a full-fledged DAW. Audio and external instruments are now more manageable than ever, and the re-imagined EQ is fantastic. The Retro Transformer, while not particularly deep, is great for quick sound redux. And you can now import MP3, WMA, and AAC files.
What we don’t like
Zooming into and out of the sequencer is slightly annoying, and it’s still too easy to get lost in a tangle of cables around back. Also, the screen can be a bit cluttered (less so if you have a Retina display).
Reason 7 inches ever closer to the all-in-one, endlessly expandable music production studio. While we wish it came for a slightly lower price ($449; $129 upgrade), Reason looks and sounds better than it ever has with this newest upgrade.