Reason Studios Reason Suite 11 - User review - Gearspace.com
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Reason Studios Reason Suite 11
5 5 out of 5, based on 1 Review

Super-impressive suite for the money. Great value...at the heart is a solid, reliable DAW.

1st September 2020

by Arthur Stone

Reason Studios (formerly Propellerheads) Reason 11 Suite is a fully-featured digital audio workstation (DAW) including software instruments, effects, utilities, and everything needed to make music - either standalone or as part of another hardware or software system, on almost any device. Reason is CPU-efficient, mature, stable, and up-to-date. Reason's forté is as a creative music-production tool.

Twenty years ago, the paper-based audio magazines began to carry adverts for novel digital software technology: I wondered if I should buy 'Reason' or 'Logic'?

Twenty years ago today: It's 5am, I power up the audio computers and begin the day: much the same as the last 20 years. I've had many computers, monitors, instruments, interfaces, preamps, and microphones, many project styles and genres of music, but one thing has been consistent for two decades - Propellerheads Reason.

I still get the same sense of anticipation and excitement as the first time Reason opened; it has served well both as a working tool and the home for my music.

In some ways nothing has changed since the early version. The same familiar layout - the mixer, the rack, and the sequencer - but every update and each version has added something novel and useful, and honed and crafted the musician/producers dream software.

Until a few weeks ago I was still using v7 on an old laptop - even though v10 was available to install as on my other computers. My best machine, iZ RADAR Studio, runs Reason. It's perfect. Something I appreciate every time I turn it on. Today, at 5am is no exception.

I'm looking forward to smooth, glitchless, multicore operation; the ability to open decade-old projects. I can run Reason on 3 computers (of varying age/capability) and besides the DAW aspect, Reason's browser can manage all my files, tools and projects, accessible in seconds plus there is management of external devices.

Reason has 4 main windows: the Rack, the Sequencer, the Browser, and the Mixer. Windows can be detached and custom-sized. Works well with two monitors.
Reason's unique workflow: Anyone coming from a pre-DAW, pre-audio computer era will recognise Reason's patch system as a replica of real analogue studio equipment - audio routing with cables plus control voltage (CV) and MIDI routing.

Although some DAW's and plug-ins now use similar connectivity graphics, Reason was possibly first. It certainly helped me understand and get into the DAW world in a way that numerical/text menu-driven patch systems could not. It's a no-brainer. Very instinctual workflow and ergonomics.

If your entry to music production came after DAW's and computers, post-analogue, there is still a lot that can be learnt from this system. How audio and CV signals move through a system, whether digital or analogue. At it's heart, in my experience, Reason is a solid educational tool in addition to it's music production capabilities. I now approach analogue gear (e.g. modular synths) with knowledge gained from Reason and this may be especially useful for a user who has only known digital computer-based music-making.

Reason's sequencer section is like a tape-machine laid out - the tape stretched linearly across the scrolling page rather than looped up in reels. The mixer and rack layout are instantly familiar as their historic analogue counterparts.

The Rack can be flipped to show the rear connections between devices.
New Additions: Since the beginning, Propellerheads development team have excelled in bringing cutting-edge and unique features: connectivity to other programmes via ReWire; the transition from a closed system architecture to an open system that can run other manufacturers products; now the ability to run as a VST3 in other DAW's; plus a whole marketplace of quality bespoke plug-ins (Rack Extensions) that segue perfectly with the existing system. Like some other DAW's the original decades-old plug-ins are still eminently usable, which must present a challenge for developers in a market where novelty is king (retro aside).

The most recent synths - Europa, Parsec, Grain Sample Manipulator, Scenic, Complex-1, Layers - cover a range of synthesis methods. The effects are updated and extra semi-autonomous players added.

Despite the myriad of new Propellerheads/Reason Studios (and 3rd-party) synths, the underlying sound is still 'Reason' with a smooth polished sonic output; the major improvements have been in the colour and timbre of instruments and I hear this as an improvment in e.g. brass instruments and strings. The new voice instruments are an improvement on previous versions.

Reason's Mixer is modelled after a hardware SSLK-series console inc. the Bus Compressor!
Reason product page: https://www.reasonstudios.com/en/reason

Reason Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reason_(software)

Reason Suite vs the Standard Edition: The product reviewed here is the Reason 11 Suite: until now I'd aways opted for the basic non-suite versions as I didn't need the extras - mainly as I have other options e.g. 3rd-party software and live instruments, but also for the cost-saving and unwanted features.

I'm genuinely surprised at the range and value of the version 11 suite: no fillers or dodgy samples that'll never be used; no obscure and out-dated utilities.

The quality of the instruments, players, effects, samples, and utilities, is outstanding and they all feel part of the original standalone basic DAW interface without feeling like bolted-on additions.

The Mixer starts with input gain, the dynamics(compression and gate/expander) and EQ sections; then inserts and aux sends; then fader and meters.

Reason Instruments: The earliest Reason instruments and effects are still included (AFAIK nothing has ever been removed) and still eminently usable and valid. The later additions e.g. the Thor synth, The Echo delay, the SSL-style mixer and bus comp, all added value and capability.

The Reason Suite offers a full compliment of 28 top-quality instruments- from realistic emulations of real hardware instruments to cutting-edge virtual synthesis: in addition, the means to articulate the instruments in a fairly convincing way (talent aside!)- if one understands how an orchestra is situated and how it operates then Reason will allow the user to articulate that, even build-custom instruments...otherwise there is a patch for that.

The recently-released Friktion (which models string instruments) indicates that Propellerheads recognise areas for improvement and provide solutions for users - in this case the ability to manipulate the 'string' with the nuance and articulation of performance and create a more authentic, plausible sound.

Old and new instruments share workflow and interface logic.
Reason fx and utilities: There was a time when Reason (like all DAW's) was a bit lean for colour-variation and fx mojo. The in-built fx were great and still are but, at the time, there was a hunger for more and each release was hotly-anticipated. Now, everything you could want/need is included amongst the 31 available.

The utility aspect of Reason has always been strong and rock-solid; delay-compensated stability. Crazy, complex routing of both audio and control-voltage, CV devices, a comprehensive mixer system with multiple channels, sends, inserts and auxes - plus mults. The ability to export in multiple formats or bounce specific channels or stems and time/pitch shift in high-fidelity.

The sequencer and audio/MIDI track editing is also fully-featured with assists such as quantise and groove patterns. In addition, 7 players, arpeggiators, note-generators, plus sample and .rex players offer pre-patched bread-and-butter rhythms, grooves and song starters; the players are an inspiration for sound design or creating novel and off-beat sounds.

The SSL-style mixer acts as a control centrepiece for the tracks and fx; combined with automation it acts like an instrument itself and it imprints a sonic character on the mix but in terms of dynamic speed and snapiness rather than colour.

The spectrum analyser is available on each channel and linked to the EQ.
Reason Instrument/fx product page: https://www.reasonstudios.com/en/rea...uments-effects

Price: Reason Suite 11 is £499: direct download; 74 devices (16 extra over standard version); free trial; 30-day return policy. Includes standalone DAW/devices and VT3/AU/AAX plug-in to run Reason in other DAW's/applications.

Upgrade from previous versions: £229

The standard version, Reason 11 is £309 (upgrade £119).

The entry level version is: £69

Reason pricing page: https://www.reasonstudios.com/shop/b...ware&sort=name

Propellerheads have always been reasonable(heh) and consistent with upgrade packages for existing users. Even on a budget it's possible to keep Reason relevant with access to the latest features/utilities and maintenance updates. Every version is usable and capable. Even demo mode.

The update management and sync with online account and licenses is first-rate. Stress-free.

Tech Specs: 74 devices: virtual instruments, effects and utilities...plus whatever you add!
Over 29,000 device patches, loops, and samples.
Runs on Windows/Mac.
Full extensive details can be found here: https://www.reasonstudios.com/shop/p...ason-11-suite/

VST plugin support: add any instrument or effect plugin to Reason’s rack
Delay compensation makes all signal paths play in perfect, phase-locked sync
Opens songs and synth patches made in Reason Compact - the free pocket music studio for iOS
Rack Extensions lets you expand your collection of instruments and effects from Reason Studios and 3rd party developers
Support for Ableton Link: effortlessly sync Reason and other link enabled apps over WiFi
Unlimited audio recording and instrument channels
Fully featured high-precision multitrack sequencer with Blocks mode and audio comping tools
High quality realtime time stretch & audio transpose
Pitch Edit mode for polishing your vocal recordings
Audio slicing and audio quantize—correct the timing of your audio recordings
Convert recorded or imported audio in the sequencer into REX loops for further sound manipulation
MIDI instrument output—control synths, samplers and keyboards from Reason's sequencer
MIDI clock output—sync hardware to Reason
Advanced exporting—export your separate mixer channels as individual audio stems, including effects and tempo track
Live sampling on all Sampler devices
Remote mapping to external MIDI controllers and hardware control saurfaces
Supports all major file formats—from wave and AIFF to mp3 and more
Realtime sample rate and bit depth conversion allows for importing any audio into Reason without issues
Multicore support and 64-bit compatibility makes Reason fast and powerful on any computer
Self-contained song files make moving projects between computers and collaborator as easy as moving a single file
Advanced modeled mixing console with complete channel strip for every instrument and audio channel
ReGroove Mixer real-time groove console
Scenic Hybrid Instrument - Reason Suite only
Complex-1 Modular Synthesizer - Reason Suite only
Umpf Club Drums - Reason Suite only
Umpf Retro Beats - Reason Suite only
Reason Electric Bass - Reason Suite only
Reason Drum Kits - Reason Suite only
Processed Pianos - Reason Suite only
Layers Wave Edition - Reason Suite only
Layers - Reason Suite only
Parsec Spectral Synthesizer - Reason Suite only.
Radical Keys - Reason Suite only
Europa Shapeshifting Synthesizer
Grain Sample Manipulator
Klang Tuned Percussion
Pangea World Instrument
Humana Vocal Ensemble
Radical Piano
Monotone Bass Synthesizer
Rytmik Drum Machine
Kong Drum Designer
Thor Polysonic Synthesizer
NN19 Sampler
NN-XT Advanced Sampler
Malström Graintable Synthesizer
Dr. Octo Rex Loop Player
Redrum Drum Computer
Subtractor Analog Synthesizer
MIDI Out Device
ID-8 Instrument Device
Polar Dual Pitch Shifter - Reason Suite only
Rotor Rotary Speaker - Reason Suite only
Quartet Chorus Ensemble - new in Reason 11
Sweeper Modulation Effect - new in Reason 11
Master Bus Compressor - new in Reason 11
Channel Dynamics - new in Reason 11
Channel EQ - new in Reason 11
RV7000 MkII Reverb
The Echo
Softube Amp
Softube Bass Amp
Scream 4 Sound Destruction Unit
Alligator Triple Filtered Gate
Pulveriser Demolition
Synchronous Effects Modulator
Neptune Pitch Adjuster
BV512 Vocoder
Audiomatic Retro Transformer
MClass Equalizer
MClass Stereo Imager
MClass Compressor
MClass Maximizer
RV-7 Digital Reverb
DDL-1 Digital Delay Line
D-11 Foldback Distortion
ECF-42 Envelope Controlled Filter
CF-101 Chorus/Flanger
PH-90 Phaser
COMP-01 Compressor/Limiter
PEQ-2 Two Band Parametric EQ
UN-16 Unison
RPG-8 Monophonic Arpeggiator
Matrix Pattern Sequencer
Pulsar Dual LFO
Mixer 14:2
Line Mixer 6:2
Spider Audio Merger & Splitter
Spider CV Merger & Splitter
Player MIDI fx:
PolyStep Sequencer - Reason Suite only
Quad Note Generator - Reason Suite only
Drum Sequencer - Reason Suite only
Beat Map Algorhythmic Drummer new
Scales & Chords
Dual Arpeggio
Note Echo
System requirements:
- Fast, stable internet connection for installation and registration
- Intel Mac with multi-core processor
- 4 GB RAM (8 GB or more recommended for large ReFills or Rack Extensions)
- 4 GB free system disk space required, plus 20 GB for optional content. Additionally, program may use up to 20 GB scratch disk space
- Mac OS X 10.11 or later (64-bit)
- Monitor with at least 1280x768 resolution
- CoreAudio compliant audio interface or built-in audio hardware
- MIDI interface and a MIDI keyboard recommended
- For using Reason as a VST Plugin, a host with VST3 support is required
- For using Reason as an AU plugin, a host with AUv2 support is required
- For using Reason as an AAX plugin, Pro Tools 12 or later is required
- Fast, stable internet connection for installation and registration
- Intel or AMD multi-core processor
- 4 GB RAM (8 GB or more recommended for large ReFills or Rack Extensions)
- 4 GB free system disk space required, plus 20 GB for optional content. Additionally, program may use up to 20 GB scratch disk space
- Windows 7 or later (64-bit)
- Monitor with at least 1280x768 resolution
- Audio Interface with ASIO driver
- MIDI interface and a MIDI keyboard recommended
- For using Reason as a VST Plugin, a host with VST3 support is required
- For using Reason as an AAX plugin, Pro Tools 12 or later is required
Notably, Reason works on a variety of devices without fuss or CPU drama; I have it running on a decade-old laptop; 12 year-old desktop, and more recent iZ RADAR Studio. Multi-core performance means Reason will get the best out of whatever it runs on; smooth, glitch-free, reliable. Consistent audio between devices.

Comparison with other DAW's: Aside from Reason's forté as a creative tool for musicians and producers, version 11 covers the basics (as every other DAW), the main workflow difference being the interface, and the methodologies to achieve a given result. Most DAW's speak a common language in this sense but Reason's WYSIWYG interface is more visually intuitive than DAW's with more-businesslike drop-down menus and utility-led infrastructure.
I've used other DAW's, as a comparison: Cubase, Mackie Tracktion, Harrison Mixbus, Ableton, but Reason has always been preferrable in terms of creativity.

Reason is not the 'industry-standard' DAW - which is generally Pro Tools; Reason is used professionally and the latest features (like the new VST3 format) make it easier for Reason to segue into other DAW/NLE ecosystems.

Third-party Rack Extensions in the Reason Rack.
Rack Extensions vs third-party software: In addition to Reason's cornucopia of in-built instruments, effects, and utilities, it is possible to run many third-party VST softwares; there are also 'Rack Extensions' either free or paid for in the sizeable marketplace/Reason Shop.

Rack Extensions - originally developed to wrap VST/code into the (then) closed Reason ecosystem - offer a range of instruments, samples, effects, and utilities from a range of sources: pro instruments from name manufacturers and high-end boutique effects alongside a vast range of 'roots programmers/compilers' and talented enthusiasts...some free, some well-priced, some expensive.

I've purchased many: Korg MonoPoly; Softube outboard emulations; cheap modular components; alongside many free ones e.g. CV meter.

The Rack Extensions (RE's) often have the same code and functionality as the VST originals - but inside the RE wrapper. In many years of use I've never noticed that the RE wrapper negatively affects performance and given the solid base of Reason's closed-ecosystem, the Rack Extensions run more smoothly and efficiently than their VST counterparts.
Of course, Reason will run VST's now but the old Rack Extension architecture and marketplace still have a valid purpose and usability.

Like Rack Extensions, the Propellerheads ReFill, is another container for samples and patches that utilise Reasons existing devices or instruments, and again there is an extensive marketplace of free and commercial ReFills covering everything from orchestras to world music or specific instruments.

Korg MonoPoly Rack Extension in the Reason Rack.
Negatives? Reason has a familiar 'house sound' as do other DAW's and manufacturers. Like guitar amp brands have a similar 'house sound.' That's a contentious point but I can often recognise when a media track has been created in Reason: one giveaway is familiar presets, or character of instruments, but often the sound itself is a reliable indicator. Perhaps not suprising to recognise music created in a DAW I've used for 20 years.

In the newer instruments I hear presets or sounds that have been re-packaged or assigned to a different player - despite the addition of new instruments, the sonic range has not expanded equally IMO. A positive angle is that there is more than one way to achieve a sound, particularly with different control inputs (CV, keyboard, drumpad, audio-to-MIDI) and this accomodates a range of musicians needs.

Another perceived negative is the lack of video facilities e.g. a simple video player track that sync's to the DAW controls. There are fiddly, cost-extra workarounds with third-party software. Life would have been easier with an onboard video track.

These points aside there are no other notable negatives; Propellerheads have carefully curated Reason, listened to their users, and kept stability and reliability at the core of the experience.

Reason's new Grain Sample Manipulator synthesizer; load your own samples too.
In Use: As mentioned in the intro - Reason is a working tool - in addition to being a creative and home entertainment facility.
The home-studio is ever gaining popularity as a project space for online collaboration and professional work. I straddle the line between home-studio, project studio, and semi-professional output. I like my output to be intelligible to professional listeners and Reason allows me to achieve this: an example is brass instruments - they won't fool a pro (a leisure listener might not even know the difference or care) but can act as a placeholder.

Brass is a tough example for Reason; as are strings. Other applications e.g. Spitfire, have some appeal, as I hear those instruments as more plausible and realistic, especially over a wider range of performance control and nuance; but if these limitations are accepted then Reason's 'jack-of-all-trades' capability is perfectly acceptable. Propellerheads are seemingly aware of weak areas and, for example, the latest instrument - Friktion string modeler - bridges the gap to bespoke third-party software.

One of Reason's fortés is track creation: quickly assembling a beat and rhythm and from that to laying down chords, hooks, melodies - the early basic elements of a more complex production. More than just a basic sketchpad but the bare bones of the song. From this the range of instruments and effects available enable the filling out of the basic sketch.

Some examples of use:
1/ US project studio requested some basic tracks for use as a production tool to work with vocal artists; I needed to send them stems/submixes, a rough mix, and be ready to send every individual track, or make revisions or additions to each track, or create new tracks/instruments. These can be dry original recordings or added or separate fx tracks, even reverb for each instrument.

Propellerheads Reason makes this a cinch; the import/export and library facilities make this a quick and high-fidelity process wth many in-built or 3rd-party options. Export to mp3 is a welcome addition.

I started with an ITB drumtrack, made using a stock drum machine and jammed along with bass then guitar, mentally creating the verse, chorus, solo, and bridge sections. I adjusted the drum pattern preset for each section, then drew these into the sequencer with each section colour coded, and this would be a visual guide for the recording of the bass and guitar.

Set the pre-timer on the record and 1...2...3...4... 'Record' for the bass track. With loop on it's possible to overdub or record multiple takes to tweak later in the editor. Individual notes or sections can be manipulated in pitch and time if required.
Next I recorded the guitar. Then added some brass and keyboard sections. In short time I had the track ready for some later tweaking prior to sending to the client studio.

2/ The second example of use is as rhythm starter; either for more ITB creativity or as an advanced metronome/click track for live jams with instruments/vocals.

A DAW-less local home studio requested some drum tracks to jam and record with. They also wanted some keyboard and ITB brass. Again, no problem. I could even bring my Reason-loaded laptop and lightweight MIDI keyboard to do live overdubs during the session.

The advantage of having many rhythm sources available (loop samplers, drum samples and machines, synths and acoustic emulations), alongside rhythm templates in the form of MIDI and .rex files, presets, patches, arpeggiators, sequencers, programmed rhythm (plus accessibility for external controlers and drum pads) is in the ability to mix sources.

A hi-hat played with hardware Bitmi drumpad in one instrument, x0x sequenced bass drum and snare in another, cymbals from an orchestral library. Processed as individual tracks in the sensational in-built SSL-style mixer and bus compressor.

Adding live or ITB loops, hooks, basslines, chords, or melodies, takes seconds with an inspiring palette of sources avialable. The speed of operations, ergonomic workflow, and ease-of-access to instruments, loops and samples, borders into DJ-style workflow.

3/ The third example of use is as a tape recorder - or recorder of live, acoustic sound, or natural performances in a room with microphones, guitar amps, percussion and vocals.

This is somewhat gear-, converter-, and monitor-dependent, but with even entry-level interfaces having decent preamps, with careful set-up, Reason is capable of stunning digital audio capture and later manipulation and editing and without losing the natural feel of the recording. No digital smear from the software.

In fact, Reason can greatly enhance and improve the representation of the recording using the in-built tools and effects, and export that into media files that translate well to other systems.

Summing Up: Different DAW's cover similar functionality and facilities - they sound very similar: the difference is in the user interface, specific features, graphics, and workflow. So quite a personal decision.

The best advice, if you haven't already decided, is to try demo versions; explore the workflow and suitability for the task in hand. Does the DAW inspire you?

The Propellerheads Reason Suite offers 74 instruments/fx - in short, everything needed to make professonal-sounding music - even if the user has no talent or zero experience. For mid-, or advanced users, there is a lot of capability and challenges on offer: the latest updates offer deep-learning of synthesis and control technology...new ways of thinking about music and sound design. Novel, organic creative technology.

The written manual and extensive knowledge base, along with the instruments, offer years of exploration, discovery, and education. Reason's interface mimics real hardware and control voltage and audio signal paths; as such, it's a great gateway to hardware and I've applied techniques learnt in Reason to my hardware studio and methods.

Nearly two decades in, Propellerheads Reason is showing no signs of growing old; constant development and innovation; improving the user experience.

Gearslutz Points.

Sound quality: 5/5 Even with a basic computer soundcard or device, Reason is capable of epic sounds: very rich and detailed; good timbre, solidity, and thickness. On a high-end interface the experience is enjoyable: there is a visceral presence and captivating charm.

Features: 5/5 Nothing is missing (apart from a video channel). There are too many features to cover in full (and more are added each update) but more importantly, the features do not interfere with music creation: they assist.

Ease of use: 5/5 As good as it get's for a DAW. For the beginner there's an initial learning curve (made easier by Reason's straight-forward user interface and handy Tutorials window)) but even after 20 years I'm still learning new things each session; there is a lot of in-depth tweaking and hidden-capability for experienced users. A lot of potential.

Bang-for-buck: 5/5 Super-impressive suite for the money. Great value. Whatever the trimmings, at the heart is a solid, reliable DAW.

By Douglas O'Brien from Canada - IMGP2543, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/inde...curid=41150509

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Last edited by Arthur Stone; 2nd September 2020 at 08:21 AM..

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