Reason 2.5 Review: Installation & Features 2022


Manufacturer: Propellerheads
Price: zZounds

Installation

While the Reason 2 program installed as easily as its predecessor, the included 2-volume library was a bit more problematic. The problem was easily resolved, however, when I realized that, even though the ‘installation wizard gives you the choice of installing or not installing the Factory Sound Bank when installing the program, it’s best to choose to do so. Originally, I had selected not to install the soundbank and this seemed to lead to loading problems and my CD-ROM player was unable to recognize the data on the sound disks. However, when I uninstalled/ reinstalled the program and chose to install the Factory Sound Bank, everything worked perfectly thereafter.

Getting Started

If you already have a firm background in recording and MIDI concepts, you will find that most of the Graphical User Interface screens will seem familiar and intuitive to work with. For first-time users and for features that advanced users don’t recognize, the supplied print manual and online .pdf’s are up to propellerhead software’s usual excellent standards: very clearly written, complete, and easy to understand. Either way, you should have no trouble being able to start creating music within a very short time.

Feature Review

The following devices were included in the original Reason release: Reason Hardware Interface, Mixer, Subtractor Analog Synth, NN-19 Digital Sampler, Dr. Rex Loop Player, Redrum Drum Computer, RV-7 Digital Reverb, DDL Digital Delay Line, D-11 Foldback Distortion, ECF-42 Envelope Controlled Filter, CF-101 Chorus/ Flanger, PH-90 Phaser, COMP-01 Compressor, PEQ2 Two Band Parametric EQ. Since these have not changed in Reason 2 and since I covered these in my Reason review, please refer to it by linking here.

The short version is that each of these devices performed as expected or better. All of the included processors are of the basic ‘no-frills’ variety: not overly sophisticated but capable of rendering professional results if used scrupulously. Some of these, particularly the FX, tended to sound a little ‘grainy’ when soloed but usually in the context of a multitrack mix, such artifacts tended to be masked satisfactorily and probably would not adversely affect the sound of a carefully mixed project.

Here are the new devices found in Reason 2:

  • Malstrom Graintable Synthesizer:

The first descriptive word that comes to mind to describe Malstrom is “Wow!”

‘Graintable synthesis’, a hybrid cross of granular and wavetable synthesis, was created by Propellerhead software. The resulting sounds are rich and varied: definitely a worthy addition to any sound designer’s or composer’s sound tools. The included patch library covers a wide spectrum of good-sounding possibilities to use as a starting point. All settings can be easily tweaked. A thorough and easy-to-understand explanation of ‘grain table synthesis’ and how to use it is included in the online ‘Help’ docs.

Malstrom contains an impressive list of features as well as an impressive sound. Among other things, Malstrom gives the user a lot of exotic editing choices: wavetable sweeping, waveform stretching, and spectral modulation, among others. You, also, have total control over signal-routing through the various filters and oscillators. Of course, conventional filtering and modulation editing options exist as well.

The list of sonic possibilities is too extensive to list and describe here. Luckily, you can go to this URL: http://www.propellerheads.se/products/reason/closeup_malstrom.html for a more in-depth description of what ‘grain table synthesis’ is, as well as a number of sound clips that will give you a better idea of its potential.

Additionally, you can route an external audio signal through Malstrom and process it for some pretty amazing-sounding results. This feature will be of particular interest to sound designers as well as sound-manglers.

I really like the Malstrom sound, particularly the way some of the factory patches synch to the MIDI tempo for some very musical sounds. For instance: with one preset, I was able to play and hold one simple double-stop (‘D’ and ‘A’) and use the modulation wheel to control the output so that it ended up sounding like an African thumb-piano (Kalima) playing ever-changing arpeggios of harmonic notes based on the double-stop. The velocity (hardness or softness) of each double-stop I played further affected the modulation wheel for even more harmonic variety. Since there are a number of presets that respond similarly, I created sequences of several of these and had them interplay with each other via real-time programming on the modulation wheel. The result was a kind of ‘Dueling Kalimbas’ that sounded musical and very rhythmic, not to mention more human and less MIDI than I had expected. These became the rhythm tracks behind a bass, kick, snare & hats, a couple of rhythmic synths adding percussive chops, over which I added a very ethereal, floaty melody line. All were created within Reason 2, using only slightly tweaked presets on the various drum & synth modules. The Malstrom tracks were very distinctive within the mix and really added an interesting ‘flavor’. I was impressed with the overall results.

I suspect that you could probably amuse yourself for hours just going through Malstrom’s included library, tweaking and playing with the sounds. Don’t be surprised if you start feeling creative while you do so!

  • NN-XT Advanced Sampler:

The NN-XT Advanced Sampler has been added as a second sample player/ editor, in addition to the original NN-19 sample player/ editor. Why? Because the NN-XT really does live up to its name: the editing controls are ‘advanced’! To the point of almost seeming intimidating or overwhelming, when compared to the NN-19. The good news is that it’s not, though. Without even reading the docs, I was able to figure out how to access all editing controls and start tweaking the massive included sample library very quickly.

The differences in the editing possibilities become apparent when you compare the Graphical Users Interface on both samplers. While all editing controls for the NN-19 appear in one window, the NN-XT is divided into two sections: ‘Global Controls’ and a large second section, the ‘Remote Editor’. The former contains global editors for ‘Pitch’, ‘Wheel’ and ‘External Controller’. The last two can be assigned to control any or all of a combination of 6 controls in the ‘Modulation’ section: ‘Filter Frequency’, ‘Modulation Envelope Decay’, ‘LFO 1 Amount’, ‘Filter Resonance Modulation’, ‘Gain’ and ‘LFO 1 Rate’.

The ‘Remote Editor’ fills the entire screen when opened. Within this screen is a second screen that shows the graphical layout of each sample layer and its relation to a keyboard controller’s notes. Click on one of the samples, and you can fine-tune each via an impressive array of editors: Modulation (6 controls), Velocity (5 controls), Pitch (5 controls), Filter (6 modes, 3 controls), LFO 1 & 2, separate Modulation and Amp Envelopes, each with AHDSR (Attack, Hold, Decay, Sustain, Release) controls and additional modulation controls. Additionally, the ‘Remote Editor’ allows you to adjust each sample’s overall parameters: start-end, loop start-end, tuning, low-high velocity settings, fade in-out, the sample’s low-high keys, and its output. What is really useful is that you can tweak each individual sample layer within the full sample. For instance: the ‘Superstrings’ preset contains 57 samples. By highlighting and soloing each sample, I was able to adjust the character of each, slightly, assign each different ‘Attack’s, LFO speeds, and depths to emulate the fact that a group of violinists would not all play the same note at precisely the same instant and that their fingered vibrate would each have a slightly different speed and depth. I did this for each of the 57 samples and assigned all LFO depths to my external MIDI controller’s ‘Mod Wheel’. The result sounded more ‘human’ than the original sample.

One word best describes the NN-XT: huge! It’s physically huge in the Reason 2 virtual rack. The number of sound-shaping and editing controls is huge. The size of many of the included samples is huge. The collection of included samples, itself, is huge: an entire CD-ROM’s worth! And: the sound is huge, too!

  • Orkester ReFill:

This is the second included CD-ROM filled with factory presets. This one, however, is dedicated to sample presets for the NN-XT Advanced Sampler. Containing 545 MBs of samples of classically-trained Swedish orchestral musicians, recorded at Atlantic Studios in Stockholm, the CD-ROM is broken up into main folders, containing the four main families of orchestral instruments: brass, woodwinds, strings, and percussion. Inside each of these main folders, you will find more sub-folders for each member of each family of instruments: trumpet, trombone, and tuba folders within the brass folder, for instance. Within each of the individual instrument folders, you’ll find a generous number of samples that cover a wide range of actual performance techniques Arco, Pizzicato, and down-up Staccato for the various members of the string family, for example. Overall, the samples are quite impressive and if programmed properly, they could probably fool most listeners into believing that they were hearing live musicians.

Of course, for those of you who can’t imagine using ‘real’ orchestral instrument samples in your music because they sound ‘boring’, try running the outputs of your NN-XT Advanced Sampler through your Malstrom Graintable Synthesizer for further processing and mangling and see if you still feel the same way!

  • The Main Sequencer:

Although part of the original Reason package, the Main Sequencer section has added a few useful editing tools: a ‘Zoom’ tool to allow you to quickly magnify a sequence for more finite editing control, a ‘Line’ tool for linear editing of automation and velocity and the ‘Eraser’ tool for deleting unwanted garbage quickly.

Another more innovative new feature is that, now, the Main Sequencer window can be totally detached from the virtual ‘Rack’ screen and become its own screen. This means that you can drag and resize it without affecting the main Reason 2 ‘rack’ screen. Dual-monitor users will be happy to learn that this same feature will allow you to drag the Main Sequencer window onto your second monitor so that you can view both it and the Reason 2 virtual rack simultaneously. Whether using one or two monitors, this useful feature will allow you to work faster than before.

Conclusion

Reason 2 offers a great number of professional features for a very reasonable price. A large number of included instruments, sample players, sequencers, signal processors, FX, and the Dr. Rex Loop Player, not to mention the 2-volume CD-ROM set of presets, will please most users, regardless of musical styles. For those users who are not already familiar with the included gear, the print and .pdf documentation will help you get around the program without a problem. Those who already know synths, samplers, processors, and FX will find all of the ones included in Reason 2 to have an immediately familiar look at them.

Everything works exactly as it’s supposed to and sounds professional. There are some innovative touches throughout and the whole package appears to have been designed by musicians and recordists for musicians and recordists. Add to this that if the user uses an audio-recording software program that supports ReWire, he or she can synch it to Reason 2 to add vocal parts or live instruments to the MIDI tracks already created in Reason 2. But even if your recording software doesn’t support ReWire, you can export each Reason 2 track and import it into your recording program as a .aiff or .wav file and add all the live tracks after.

If you enjoy creating MIDI music, you will enjoy Reason 2!

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