Propellerheads have unveiled the newest version of Reason, entering beta now and shipping in fall. “Eagerly anticipated” genuinely applies here — I’ve heard various chatter about the new version for over a year. Anyone expecting audio recording or plug-in support, it’s still not here, but the upgrade does have some major enhancements that appear to stay true to its roots.
Thor “polysonic” synth: Continuing the industry-wide trend of combining different synth methods, Thor features six different envelopes, four filter types, wave shaping, and unique “analog-style” modulation routing. From anyone else, that description might be a non-starter, but the Props have a long history of really terrific synth design, and they promise Thor, like its predecessors, will be light on CPU usage — definitely bucking a separate industry-wide trend.
A mixer for quantization? Here’s where things get really interesting. The ReGroove mixer isn’t a mixer. It’s a groove/swing quantization tool. Quantization is real-time and adjustable, and can be applied to a full 32 groove channels independently. For anyone ready to break out of the mechanical sound of sequencing, this could be a powerful tool. I find it especially intriguing given the ridiculously simplistic quantization tools in Ableton Live; for some fine-tuned grooves, the combination of Live and Reason might again become popular. Oh, and yes, 32 independent grooves could well prove to be absurd overkill — we’ll have to figure out just how to use this. Or you could just apply one of the included groove presets, including (Props’ words, not mine) “vinyl funk gems of the 70s.” Sweet.
New sequencer: Yes, the original Reason sequencer was downright awful. This one sounds like one you might actually use:
…make global edits using “clips,” assign notes and controller events to different “lanes,” manage multiple takes, and edit events numerically—to name but a few of the hundreds of enhancements. Controller data now uses vector automaton for the smoothest of transitions. Users can manage tempo and time signature changes through a transport track. The inclusion of a floating tool window makes getting to frequently used tasks a snap.
In other words, Reason’s sequencer is a real sequencer now, at long last.
Also tasty-sounding: a new monophonic arpeggiator.
Despite its fantastic, CPU-light synths and effects, Reason had clearly fallen behind in terms of workflow. Beefing up quantization and sequencing and adding a new killer synth may be modest changes, but they sound like the right direction to me. I think the big question for a lot of users will be whether Reason fits in with another tool that handles audio, like Live, FL Studio, or a DAW. (And, for you hard-core sequencer types, maybe no audio at all but Reason inside an insane tracker.) I look forward to testing it.
And now, the obligatory giant rack shot: