Jan 1, The Stockholm, Sweden masterminds have done it again. Although the release of Reason 3 was a biggie, and dedicated users have had to wait quite some time for the new version, Reason 4 is arguably the most important and feature-rich release since version 1.
I tested Reason 4 on a modest Apple 1. I wanted to see how well the lesser of the two reason 4 perform on this historically efficient yet ever-flowering program. The install process is the simplest matter of dragging-and-dropping the program from the DVD to the Applications folder. No dongle is required — a plus in my book. I've been a Reason user since version 1. The transport has a more polished, professional appearance. The addition of a running time interface in hours, minutes, seconds reason 4 milliseconds has been needed in reason 4 opinion and is reason 4 very welcome addition, as are the New Dub and New Alt buttons.
Rather than confusing, multiple tracks representing single devices clogging up the sequencer, Reason 4 now sports multiple lanes for different note takes, pattern changes, automation, etc. All lanes are grouped together neatly under one track, and just like the devices in the rack, each track and subsequent lane can be collapsed or expanded to manage screen space — laptop users especially will appreciate that.
Note reason 4 can be edited, muted and deleted, and each has a miniature level meter, while the other lane types include similar, specific function controls. Linked to reason 4 record button on the transport are two new buttons: New Dub and New Alt.
In Record mode, when the New Dub is pressed, all notes from the selected lane are instantly cleared, and a new overdub begins; when New Alt is pressed, a new lane is automatically created and selected while the previous is muted. Each lane can be custom-named, and each note lane features a drop-down menu for choosing among different ReGroove Mixer channels.
For veteran Reason users, this reason 4 layout may at first seem disorienting when reason 4 songs created in older versions, but after spending just a few minutes with it, the new design makes logical sense and is a vast improvement.
One caveat here is that when the New Alt button mutes previous note takes, the Mute button on the lane is not engaged unless Loop is enabled, and the song position locator is within the loop. Otherwise, you have to mute and un-mute the individual clips via the Edit menu or hot key in case there are clip outside the of the loop that shouldn't be muted by the New Alt command.
It represents Reason's first foray into semimodular synthesis and looks somewhat like reason 4 old modular. Users have access to three simultaneous oscillators, each selectable from among six oscillator types: Those are mixed and then reason 4 into one, two or three filter banks; for each bank, users get to choose from four filter types: A display for modular routing design sits below reason 4 the sonic-sculpting goodies, and below that sits a dedicated step sequencer.
In short, there are enough toys to play with here to keep even advanced synthesizer geeks engaged for quite some time. Having personally owned at one time or another classic Sequential Circuits and Oberheim analog synth monsters, as well as cream-of-the-crop modern modular soft-synths from Native Instruments, Arturia and Cycling '74, I must say that the Propellerhead posse reason 4 designed a synth to turn heads.
Just the presets, which include patches created by such luminaries as Richard Devine, Morgan Geist and Plaid, tell the story of a reason 4 synth that is capable of glossy FM leads, Arp-like sci-fi pads and strange squelches, fat Moog-inspired basses, Waldorf-like Wavetable patches and plenty of ground in between. While I don't love all of the presets who ever does?
Like its cousin, the Matrix step sequencer, RPG-8 will connect itself automatically to the nearest appropriate reason 4 module available, including pitch and mod wheel CV controls. The interface is straightforward and easy to familiarize with quickly. There are as many as 16 steps available, which can all turn on and off at the click of a button. Altogether, all 88 keys of a piano are within reason 4, and then some.
Though I am admittedly not crazy well-versed in different arpeggiators, this one is thoughtfully designed and is capable of much more than just a batch of preset tempo-locked arpeggios. Another nice upgrade would be for Random mode to have a second option whereby a single generated pattern loops continuously; presently, the pattern gets regenerated with each loop.
Adding an additional 16 steps for a total reason 4 32 would also be welcome. Propellerhead has provided a variety of groove presets that are called up track-by-track, include HipHop, Reggae, Vintage Soul-RnB, MPC and even grooves that simulate classic vinyl recordings. Each preset represents a certain rhythmic feel; swing and varying note Velocities are applied. When reason 4 first apply a groove, it might sound rhythmically dissonant with the rest of the song, but with subtle shifts in the various controls, you can fit things together like pieces of a puzzle.
But in a nutshell, ReGroove is killer and should put the opinion on that sticker to rest. They have upped the ante of the sequencer and transport modules to compete with the big leagues; they also raised their own standard once again with Thor, turning out a semimodular synthesizer that is arguably worth most of the price of Reason 4 by itself.
Propellerhead also implemented an easy-to-use reason 4 feature-rich reason 4, RPG-8, which I am reason 4 many seasoned users have been craving. Finally, ReGroove is nothing short of quantizing-on-steroids.
And all of this has come to us without reason 4 additional CPU-draining baggage or a raised price tag. Yes, there are a few blips and desires on my radar, but with all these new goodies, I can't complain; I only applaud a job well done.
Stable and CPU-friendly. Running time displayed as H: M in Transport. Completely redesigned sequencer with multiple lanes per track. Great sounding, extremely flexible semimodular synth, Thor, added. New arpeggiator, RPG-8, easy to reason 4 and reason 4 broad feature range. Unprecedented channel groove mixer, ReGroove, added. Arpeggiator doesn't automatically run with sequencer start.
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