Reason 7 music production, Propellerheads’ best version so far

Reason 7 is the newest version of Propellerheads' venerable music making application. It adds racks and a whole bunch of new features that will make music creation more fun than ever before.

In some areas Reason 6.5 was already better than Apple Logic Studio and version 7 builds on that. However, in some areas the old Logic Studio still beats Reason 7. One major feature that I find lacking in Reason 7 is the ability to synchronise music with movie/video in the app itself. In all other areas, I find Reason superior to Logic, even in the quality of some of its samples.

I've been playing with Reason 7 for a couple of weeks now, and the new features are more than just useful. I'll bet you they'll be what you'll be using the most when composing. My test environment is an iMac i5/3.2GHz with 16MB of RAM, an sE Electronics 2200A for recording. I lack a USB or MIDI keyboard. For my tests of Reason 7, I made a recording of my voice (just talking, not singing — I couldn't do that to my neighbours). I also created some music with the included software synthesisers. In short, I just went through the same tests as with the Reason 6.5 review, only this time I was more familiar with the software.

Reason 7 inline editing

The first that struck me is the ability to quantise notes in a visual way, inline with the music track/lane you're working on. When you double-click the audio track a huge series of so-called Slice Markers appear. These markers designate the beginning and end of a note and you can drag them forward and backward. The result is time stretch without pitch difference. You can get more control over the results if you wish, but even by just dragging, you'll be surprised about how good it sounds and how little you need to learn (nothing, in fact) to change timing on your notes.

The feature is further enhanced with a choice of three note types (Vocal, Melody, and Allround). I used Vocal for my audio recording and was stunned by the quality of the effect. My 'time'stretched' voice didn't sound synthetic at all. It was just as if I was in a lazy mood when speaking some vowels. Pitch shifting works in an equally simple way and sounds equally impressive.

A second thing that I found extremely well implemented in Reason 7, and much better than Logic's, is the Comp Editor. It's cleaner and easier to work with. The Comp Editor allows you to create as many takes as you need and then judge them lane by lane. Reason 7 saves all takes to the same track, but to different lanes.

Again, within the Track window panel, the Comp Editor enables all inline capabilities, allows you to bounce your audio track when it's finished, and then delete unwanted takes. You can even bounce to REX files. Actually, you can even slice up recording into single notes and then, after having bounced the clips to REX, load them in Dr. Octo Rex Loop Player or another one of Reason's samplers.

What I missed in Reason 6.5 and what I got in Logic Pro, was the ability to automate tracks — pan, volume, solo, mute… — from within the track editor. Reason 7 implements these automation features and doesn't just stop at the track editor. The rack devices and instruments get them too. There's even a nice equaliser with every rack device that's a combination of a spectrum analyser and a full-blown graphical equaliser.

Finally, Reason 7 comes with new rack instruments and devices. The first one is a simple MIDI instrument while the second one is an Audiomatic Retro Transformer, which is a vintage tool with 16 presets. The Factory Sounds Bank has been expanded too.