Welcome to my Propellerhead Reason 8 review. This particular product review is quite special for me because this is my favorite music software. If I was to recommend one product that you definitely should use, Reason would definitely be it. Without wanting to sound over-the-top, Propellerhead Reason can pretty much do everything you need to do to create music. You don’t need anything else to make music, you can do it all in this one software program.
So, if it was a choice between buying some kind of expensive hardware synthesizer or buying Reason, I would definitely use the money to buy reason. Why? Well pretty much everything you can do with a synthesizer, sampler, drum machine, or anything like that, you can do with Reason. It is both simple to start using and infinitely expandable. If you are new to using this kind of software, you will find it very easy to just get started straight away. Just simply load up a bunch of sounds, start playing on your MIDI keyboard or painting notes on the screen, and you are starting to create a new piece of music. Please note: I will receive a commission if you buy through any links on my website, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I use myself or products that I think are good after doing research.
If you are new to using this kind of software, you will find it very easy to just get started straight away. Just simply load up a bunch of sounds, start playing on your MIDI keyboard or painting notes on the screen, and you are starting to create a new piece of music.
Please note: I will receive a commission if you buy through any links on my website, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I use myself or products that I think are good after doing research.
- Pros & Cons
- Video Review
- Who is it Designed For?
- Pros & Cons in Depth
- What Do Other People Say?
PROS & CONS
- Easy to use straight out of the box.
- Works well with any MIDI controller.
- Infinitely expandable.
- Create new sounds with the built-in synthesizers
- Tweak existing sounds in any way.
- Add any combination of effects.
- Unlimited tracks.
- Professional mixer console for that perfect mix.
- Everything you need to create professional music.
Who is Reason 8 Designed For?
Ultimately I would say that Reason is great for anybody who wants just one software program that can do everything for them to create music. It’s quite difficult for me to actually narrow it down much further than that because Reason has so much it can do. It has so many possibilities. You can use it live, you can use it in the studio, you can use it with other equipment.
There’s so much you can use it for. I tend to think of it as being best for creating electronic music, but you can use it for creating lots of different types of music. You can record audio into it as well, so you can record guitars or live drums; and also, with the sampling capability, you can sample real instruments and then sequence them within Reason, so that potentially expands the possibilities into all kinds of styles of music.
But if I was to say who really would benefit the most from Reason, it would be this: if you have just a few hundred dollars to spend, and you want to use those few hundred dollars to buy something that will enable you to do everything you need to do to create music, then this is definitely for you, because it will be the best few hundred dollars you ever spend on musical equipment.
Reason comes with many ready-to-use factory sounds if you want to get started straight away without any fiddling around. But as soon as you want to get in and start playing around with the sounds, you can get stuck in turning the knobs and re-routing the cables between the different instruments and effects. For example, load up the SubTractor synthesizer and start playing with the filters and waveforms, or add a virtual sampler and load in your own samples ready for sequencing or playing on the keyboard.
The great instruments that are included in reason are by no means the end of the sonic possibilities. You have a wide range of different effects you can link up to your instrument to change the sounds in many ways. Add distortion, reverb, flange, chorus, delay, and many other effects. You can use them in many different combinations together, and tweak your settings until you get the final sound that you want.
Recording and Sequencing
Of course, none of these things will be any good without some way to record and sequence your musical ideas, and that’s exactly what reason has. You can record audio, you can record yourself playing on your MIDI keyboard, and you can even record manipulations of various knobs and dials from MIDI controllers. Control filters, volume, effects or anything like that. You can even program these kinds of changes into the sequencer so that it’s all automated and flows exactly how you want it to. In this way, you can finely craft exactly how you want the music to sound.
Reason has a professional software mixer built into it that enables you to fine tune the volume levels of the tracks, pan them left and right, adjust EQ, route effects through it; anything to fine tune the final sound of your mix. This is so important when creating the sound of a piece of music because a good mix makes all the difference in how your music sounds when people listen to it. A good mix can make a good song sound great, but a bad mix can ruin an otherwise good song.
This is the part where reason really comes into its own. If you do happen to get to a point where you get bored of the standard sounds, and instruments and effects that come with Reason, then you can install additional rack extensions. What these do is add additional instruments and effects to be used in Reason, so that you can expand your sound palette as much as you want. They’re very cheap to buy when you compare them to buying hardware equipment to do the same things. There are even some free ones which work really well as well.
PROS & CONS IN DEPTH
Easy to use straight out of the box
You can start making music with Reason as soon as you first open it. All you do is plug in your MIDI controller keyboard, load up an instrument or sound, and start playing. If you are not sure about playing around with any synthesizer settings, that’s fine. You don’t need to do any of that if you don’t want to.
If you want some standard sounds quickly, you can just load up the ID8 Instrument Device:
This has all the main types of instrument sorted into categories such as piano, drums, synth, bass, guitar, etc. Each category contains 4 variations on that type of instrument. That’s not a lot, but they are good quality and it’s enough to get you started. It means you can get a decent beat going, add a bass line, add some pad chords, some synth lead, etc. It’s for getting the basis of a musical idea down.
Tweak existing sounds in any way
Even with the ID8 Instrument Device, there are some parameters you can change to alter the sounds. For example, with synth lead sounds you can change the filter cutoff frequency, or with a pad sound you can change the attack or release to determine how soft and smooth it is.
But once you start playing around with the other instruments in Reason, you can really start to have a lot of fun. Just take a look at all the parameters you can change on the Malstrom Graintable Synthesizer:
So, you could load up a particular sound (in the screenshot above, it’s a sound called Vesper) and start playing around with the frequency or resonance of the filter, the envelope, modulation parameters, many different ways to change the sound.
Create new sounds from scratch with the built-in synthesizers
You can create your own sounds from scratch. This can be time-consuming, but it can be very satisfying. For example, here is the layout on the Subtractor Polyphonic Synthesizer:
So you can start with a waveform such as a square wave or saw wave, and then put it through the various parameters. I’ve found that it’s possible to create quite a metallic sound using the Ring Mod function. You can get it sounding a bit like a guitar, but perhaps a bit more synthetic. But if you want the satisfaction of creating your own sounds from scratch, you can definitely do that in Reason.
Add any combination of effects to get the sound you want
Once you have a sound that you like, you can put it through many different effects to dramatically change the sound. You can put it through distortion, flanger, EQ, echo, for example. Some of my favorite effects are digital delay, reverb, phaser, and chorus. It’s quite amazing what you can do to your sound just by adding a few effects.
Sometimes it can be fun to add effects to sounds that don’t normally go with them. For example, you can add distortion to a piano sound to make it sound a bit like a distorted electric guitar. Actually, distortion can work really well on drums, particularly the snare drum sound; it makes it sounds really powerful and in your face.
If you ever do get to a point where you want to go beyond the instruments and effects that come as standard with Propellerhead Reason, you can start to look at the Rack Extensions. These are additional add-ons that you can buy, although some are free too. These rack extensions cover a lot of different instruments and effects.
Here are some examples:
With a physical mixing console, you are limited by the number of physical audio channels on the board. With Reason, you can have as may tracks as you want. Of course, you computer may buckle under the strain if you have loads of tracks all playing at once; but if you have some instruments that only play in certain part of your song, you could have loads of different tracks, it’s just they won’t all be playing at the same time.
Professional mixer console so you can get that perfect mix
I tell you what, I haven’t even begun to use the full features of the mixing console in Propellerhead Reason. I don’t think it matters, though. I find that I can make my music sound great with just the simple volume and pan, and maybe a bit of EQ here and there, but not much.
Of course, having the option to use all the features of a professional mixing console is great. It means that if you do need to do something fancy or precise, you can do it. You don’t have to, though, so don’t feel intimidated by it.
Everything you need to create professional sounding music
Earlier versions of Reason didn’t have the ability to record audio tracks. If you wanted any audio in your songs you had to load them into one of Reason’s software samplers and then trigger the samples in the sequencer. I still tend to do it that way if I want to use audio because they are usually just short samples. But for anyone who wants to record real guitar, drums or vocals, you can totally do that in Reason.
So, although Reason originally started out as being intended for creating electronic music, you can now use it to create any style of music. And you have everything contained within Reason to do it from start to finish. You’ve got the sounds and instruments, you’ve got the audio recording ability, you’ve got the effects, you’ve got the mixing, you’ve got the mastering. it’s all there in Propellerhead Reason.
So there you have it. All things considered, it really is the best music software I have ever used, and I have tried a lot of other music programs. Nothing else really compares to Reason in terms of sounds, ease of use and flexibility. It really does have all boxes ticked as far as I’m concerned.
I hope you found my Propellerhead Reason 8 review helpful, but if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments section below and I will reply as soon as I can.
All the best,