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Review of Reason 3.0

A great tool gets better

By Tweak       


I was in no hurry to upgrade to Reason 3.0 from 2.5.  I didn't think it was that big of an upgrade after reading the initial sales information.  After all, there was still no audio recording facility, perhaps the one feature that Reason still lacks compared to the competition.  Competition?  Yes, Reason does have competition in the form of Cakewalk's Project 5 and perhaps Ableton's Live.  But both of those are primarily audio recorders with VSTi synths tossed in the mix. Reason remains what it always has been, a collection of synths and samplers. 



Instead of giving us audio recording, which would have perhaps watered down Reason's impact as a purely instrumental device, the Propellerheads gave us sonic improvements in Reason 3.0.  I'll cut to the quick.  Reason 3.0 sounds better than 2.5, and not by a minor degree.  Its a huge difference, like pulling cotton balls out of one's ears. 



This difference seems to be due to two main factorsBetter sounds and Mastering processors.



First, the presets in Reason 3.0 have been overhauled and now there are many huge acoustic instrument samples for the NNXT sampler.  Its now a very complete sample playback synth in itself and it sounds quite nice, the kind of quality one expects out of a high priced sample library.  To aid in the construction of larger sounds, we now have a device called the Combinator.  The Combinator, as the name implies, allows you to layer a number of reason instruments and effects into a single patch.  Its quite similar to the process you'd use to make a "combi" on a hardware synth like a Triton.  The result is bigger, phatter patches that require less treatment in Reason's 14 channel mixer.  This was a great addition.  It keeps with the idea that Reason is basically a tweaker's tool, for building powerful, now multi-layered, sounds. 


The second area of major improvement is in the new MClass Mastering Suite.  The suite consists of 4 processors, an EQ, Imager, Compressor and Maximizer.  These not only can be inserted on the master outs, the typical place for mastering processors, but can be placed anywhere in Reason, including inside the Combinator.  Being familiar with Waves and the UAD processors, I had no trouble working with the MClass Suite.  They all worked as I expected and improvement in Reason's output was easy to achieve.  I was impressed by the "soft clip" feature on the Maximizer as it was particularly good sounding.  The Maximizer, combined with the Scream 4 Sound Destruction Unit, makes some tasteful vintage sounding audio.  There's Scream presets for warm saturation and drum processing that have pure sonic character that i can't achieve in any of my other plugin collections.  Again we see the Propellerheads keep the focus on pure tweaking, adding strength to its overall sound.



There's other minor improvements to 3.0.  The patch browser is improved and its easier to find things.  There is now control surface support as well.  Reason instantly saw my Mackie Control and automatically configured it.  Works great!  I noticed considerable improvement as a Rewire application in Logic 7.2.  Reason loaded fast and correctly in Logic and there was no noticeable latency in Logic's "live" Rewire mode.  As a Logic user, I am quite pleased as Reason's synths will add some nice colors to Logic's impressive arsenal. 



In the balance, i am glad they did not add audio recording to Reason 3.0.  Instead, their thinking is clear:  Make a great piece better by building on its strengths.  Reason's strength is that it is an awesome tweak machine, able to build sound from scratch into a musical masterpiece.  Now it is even more true to itself.  A worthy upgrade.



Other articles by Tweak on Reason



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Review of Cubase 5
Logic Studio 9
Pro Tools LE 8.1
Logic Studio 8
Review of Sonar
Review of Reason
Reason (1st review)
Ableton Live
Logic Pro 7
Logic Pro 6
Logic Platinum 6
Logic Platinum 5
Digital Performer
Sony's Acid
Vintage Sequencers
Early History of Logic
Mac vs PC for Music?
Project 5
Sequencer City!
Cubase SX (original)
Cubase SX3
Using a Mac Pro as your DAW
Using Notebooks as your DAW
Which Sequencer is Best?
MIDI Time Code and Sync Issues
Custom Bank Select Methods in Logic
Write a Sonar Instrument Definition File
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