Propellerhead Reason 5 review

Price when reviewed

Propellerhead Reason looks, behaves and sounds unlike any other music production software. Its interface takes the virtual hardware concept to obsessive lengths, complete with virtual rack screws, handwritten labels and jiggling animated cables. Operationally, it’s a closed system with no support for VST plugins, and it can’t even record from an audio input. Thankfully, then, the quality of its virtual rack of synthesizers is without peer at this price.

Those who want to use Reason’s synthesizers and also record live instruments have two options. One is to run it in conjunction with other software such as Cubase using ReWire, which opens multiple lanes of audio and MIDI data between the two. The other is to use it with Propellerhead Record, whereupon the two applications merge seamlessly. It’s still a closed system, but one that has all the key areas – audio and MIDI recording, synthesis, mixing and effects – covered.

As with previous updates, Reason 5 comes with a raft of significant new features. Kong is a drum machine that combines sample playback, analogue-style synthesis and, for the first time in Reason, acoustic modelling. Each of its 16 drum pads can use any of the above techniques and effects are built in too, making this a comprehensive self-contained device for drum tracks.

Propellerhead Reason 5

Kong’s built-in sampler is basic but well equipped for the task, and includes an option to load an individual drum hit from a loop saved in REX format. The analogue-style voices are up to the usual high standards, but the modelled voices are disappointing. They lack vitality at modest settings, while pushing the controls to more extreme settings makes them sound synthetic.

The new loop-playback device, Dr. Octo Rex, replaces Dr. Rex and can load eight REX loops and switch between them. The updated sample library reflects this with banks of loops that work well together. Dr. Octo Rex has other new talents, such as the ability to reverse individual drum hits and to draw pitch, pan and filter envelopes with the mouse.

Various sample-playback modules can now capture audio from a live input, turning them into fully fledged samplers. Capturing, truncating and looping sounds and loading them into a sampler is extremely quick, and it’s even possible to capture samples during playback – perfect for layering up sounds as live performances.


Software subcategoryAudio production software

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