Over the summer, a slew of new Rack Extensions has opened Reason’s modular, patchable rack to a variety of developers. I have to admit, I’ve been astounded by the quantity and variety, given this is just one host – it seems there was pent-up demand for Reason modules, and that Propellerhead made things developer-friendly.

FXpansion do wonderful work, have some of the best synth modeling tools on the market, and I say really entirely too little about them. Now, the guts from their DCAM suite are available in a Rack Extension called Etch, a modeled filter with loads of modulation. It’s worth watching the tutorial in its entirety, because you see the raw power of people able to take that effect instrument and freely control it through patch cords and modular routing. It has long been the strength of Reason that you can combine tools in this way, focusing on devices as much as any linear arrangement, and now with new developers on the scene, it all takes on a new light.

Yes, yes, this all gets a bit dubsteppy in the demo. But that’s largely about content: if that’s not your cup of tea (Big Gulp of Coke?), the general notion of elaborate modulation could be applied to whatever your music taste happens to be.

Reason users, Etch is yours for fifty bucks.

http://www.propellerheads.se/ [Reason shop]

Etch is also available as a plug-in, and got a fine review from our friend Jono over at Resident Advisor.
Jono was back recently with a DCAM Dynamics review.

Here in the CDM tower high above the city of Berlin, the bustling newsroom is somewhat distracted by preparations for our MusicMakers party tomorrow, but I did want to share this – and we have more coming.

Via comments, there are some alarming performance results shared by some Rack Extension users. Because of the architecture of Rack Extensions, it is fair to test an RE and plug-in version running in different hosts. I hope to investigate what’s going on here, with Propellerhead and in my own tests; thanks for the tip. The challenge for journalists and users is the same: when something’s new, you don’t know how it will perform or even in some cases what to make of results you’re seeing. But that’s all the more reason to take a look.

  • Eric

    On a related note, there’s been some interesting discussion at KVR and in the Reason forums about Rack Extensions being extremely CPU inefficient compared to their VST counterparts. Reason only being able to load 1/4 or fewer instances of a lot of the plugins. Props have given a terse “we take this seriously and are investigating” but that’s about it.


    Just mentioning as someone that’s actually invested pretty heavily in the platform (well over $500 I’d guesstimate), and I wish I knew this up front. Reason doesn’t seem optimized to handle a lot of heavy plugins. Moderate projects were breaking up on my 2011 MacBook Air.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Thanks for this. Based on what I’m reading, that does sound like an issue of the way in which RE threading is handled in the host. It could be a minor bug; it could be something more significant at an architectural level. I haven’t yet gotten to get far with my own RE testing, but that’s on my slate for the next month, so be assured I’ll test this and follow up with what Propellerhead and users are finding.

      But yes, people should not be having those kind of results, and if they do, complaining is the right response.

      Are you able to do comparisons of the same plug-ins across hosts; that is, an RE version of something like this FXpansion stuff and its VST or AU equivalent? Or you’re just generally finding things aren’t working well?

      I mean, the strange thing here is, people have long used complex racks without this issue. So it seems like something is going on with the REs.

    • Eric

      Thanks for looking into it, Peter!

      I’m not personally able to do the cross-host tests because most of my Rack Extensions are either unavailable on other hosts (Radical Piano, Buffre) or would require an iLok (the Softube plugins). I could try Predator, but I never had the VST.

      I was somewhat frustrated to be maxing out my 2011 MBA when it used to handle everything in Reason that I could throw at it. I know that increasing requirements are the rule with software and actually even built a PC to handle everything I can throw at it – it mostly can, although Predator is still alarmingly hungry on an i7 3770K and Reason seems to break up/crackle when you push it past 4 or 5 bars. Some people are speculating that heavy plugins are pushing the engine in ways that it’s never been pushed and exposing weaknesses.

      I’m actually still happy in Reason and even with Rack Extensions – it’s still my favorite way of working on music – but I’m hoping for some answers sooner than later. If anything, I’m concerned that this limits how good the synths will be – with that efficiency, it’d be hard to get a note out of U-he’s Diva or FxPansion’s DCAM synths.

    • http://www.facebook.com/anosou Mattias Häggström Gerdt

      I can confirm that we’re aware of the reports and that we take this very seriously. We are currently investigating what might be the cause and how we can fix it. Obviously we want to fix any issues. 😉

      /Mattias (Propellerhead)

    • foljs


      2-4 times slower than native is not something that just occurs as a bug that you have to “investigate”, it’s an architectural problem that would have been apparent in all the testing you did pre-release.
      Also the lack of PDC for RE, if true, sounds like something you would have been aware of all along and just didn’t care about…

    • George

      RE plug-ins don’t support SSE. They are generally 2x-4x slower than their VST/AU versions. Fact. There’s nothing to “fix”.

    • http://www.facebook.com/theodore.mandylas Theodore Mandylas

      That means there is plenty to “fix”. Fact.

    • George

      Stop imitating like a money. What Propellerheads need to do is add SSE support to get rid of this absurd CPU consumption ASAP. Lots of plug-ins are not being released as RE because of this.

    • George

      Replace money by monkey :) Auto correction messed it up.

    • Mark

      I’m wondering why they do not support SSE. Is it because the Re’s are cross platform from one set of code but the SSE intrinsics are handled differently on Windows and OSX?

  • klown

    Reason is my primary DAW and the CPU issues aren’t restricted to the new rack extensions, everything seems to be running slower since the 6.5 update. some of my older projects which ran perfectly are choking when I load them up now.

    I hope that Propellerheads can get on this CPU issue because one of the main draws of the Reason environment has always been its stability and efficiency.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tdthompson Tim Thompson

    “But, obviously, it’s missing all of it’s wobble.” Perfect!

  • Loopy

    Reason 6.5 is heavier on resources, granted. And the new Rack Extensions can certainly make their presence felt on the CPU. However, I can still run a good number of them on my 2.4ghz C2D iMac that is over 5 years old now. Even Etch Red, of which my system doesn’t meet the minimum system requirements for, runs fine.
    On the scale of things, it isn’t that much more demanding than Logic with a similar number of plugins also.

    However, running them both ReWired on such a Mac is now a bit of a stretch… So there is room for improvement. But my point is, it really isn’t so bad either. Particularly if using ‘realistic’ buffer sizes and sample rates. You can always export your project at higher rates later :)

  • Mark

    Another CPU “issue” with the Re format is that they take more CPU than the native devices when just running idle. This was first noticed and pointed out on the forum when the first secret Re’s were introduced (Alligator, Pulverizer, Echo). With the old devices you could add as many as you wanted without anything playing and the CPU usage would not hardly register. With the Re’s even if they are not processing audio they use a certain amount of CPU. This is more noticeable on older systems. If I recall from my testing I could add about 30 Alligators before I got a CPU overload message (this is without pressing play and even if you set the device to bypass or off). I have not noticed anything as bad with using VST plugins – most host’s seem to send a signal to them to put them to idle. I’ve sold Reason since so I can’t test the latest 6.5.1 update but I doubt this has changed. They don’t even have a bug report forum so issues like this may be overlooked by the developers.

  • FatJack

    I am getting really worried about the future of reason… I have been with reason since v3 and have invested $600 in RE plugins. The lack of PDC i was blissfully unaware of when i bought these RE’s and if i had of known/researched more i would have held off buying as many as i did.Now i’m stuck bouncing audio to new tracks and then shifting it back in time to match my song. Also because RE licenses are NON transferable i will never be able to retrieve any of that investment.
    I have hope still that the props can save reason, but unfortunately i think they like to rest on their laurels a little too much.. And it’s easy to do as the reason community has become so introverted and defensive of any criticism that even if you raise a legitimate problem with reason in the forum you usually end up getting ‘bashed’ by fellow reason uses defending ‘their’ software choice. Reason oh reason, please do something soon……