It’s kind of adorable when a music software powerhouse like Propellerhead crams all the ballyhoo about the newest version of its digital audio workstation, Reason 7, into a few sparse paragraphs. Reason is Propellerhead’s flagship DAW, after all; most press releases scroll on for pages, flush with links to assets or Facebook and Twitter hoedowns. Not this one. For homebrew audiophiles, it’s sort of like Justin Timberlake announcing his new album on PBS NewsHour.
But then digital audio workstations are nothing like mainstream music albums, more comparable to a new version of Photoshop, except in many ways even less approachable and more dauntingly complex. You don’t pull Reason — or Logic, Cubase, Ableton Live and Sonar — out of the box (or download it) and have your genius musical idea up and grooving in anything like the time it takes to throw something together in Apple’s GarageBand…and even GarageBand can take some doing.
So caveat emptor, casual composers, but for the two or three or you reading this who’ve actually used Reason before, Propellerhead’s touting its seventh version as, well, important if perhaps not as significant a rethink as the 6.5 point update that arrived last year — the one that cracked Reason open with what Propellerhead dubbed Rack Extensions: essentially the Apple App Store meets third-party rack-style extensions, all of that curated by Propellerhead to mitigate “unstable plug-ins, authentication nightmares and compatibility complications.”
With Reason 7, Propellerhead added features like MIDI Out support, an array of deeper audio editing features including automatic audio slicing and audio quantization, a new spectrum analyzer so you can actually visualize the audio and EQ each track, and a souped-up, streamlined mixer with more intuitive track grouping and single-click channel parallelization. You’ll also see something called an “Audiomatic Retro Transformer,” which Propellerhead calls “a future‑retro effect unit with plenty of personality,” a broader sound bank (with an emphasis on drum loops) and support for a broader range of audio formats like AAC, MP3 and WMA (if you want to roll your own loops, say). All told, it reads like a grab bag of individually vanilla but collectively compelling components.
Indeed, as MusicRadar puts it:
…Propellerhead’s current promotional campaign, based around the slogan ‘Reason has a rack for that’, seems aimed at highlighting the program’s new-found image as a flexible all-rounder, as opposed to the fenced-in, MIDI-only application that it was a just a few years ago.
How much does it cost? As usual, Propellerhead lets you fiddle with the full just-under-4GB version (OS X or Windows) for 30 days, gratis. If you’re upgrading from a prior version, your ticket to ride is $129. New users, of course, will have to reach deepest: $450 for the standalone, downloadable version.