Propellerhead's latest version of its unique DAW is packed with many new features. As has been typical over many years of using Reason, you really don't appreciate many of the additions a new version brings until you start using them while creating your own music. The addition of level and pan controls on every instrument in your rack seemed like a trivial convenience feature until you start actually using it. I actually had a music session a short while back and I had to use Reason 6 on an old laptop that didn't have Reason 7 installed on it. I missed those controls in a huge way and couldn't wait to get back to Reason 7.
Another feature that is incredibly cool and useful is the realtime spectrum analyzer, complete with EQ. You can easily make adjustments to get the perfect sound in a way that has never before been offered in Reason. You access the spectrum analyzer by clicking the button to the right of the MIX button in an instrument. You can then tweak the sound quickly and easily right from within the spectrum analyzer.
You can easily make adjustments to get the perfect sound in a way that has never before been offered in Reason.
My band covers Gold On The Ceiling by The Black Keys and I have spent literally hours trying to get the perfect keyboard synth sound for that song. Only with the use of the spectrum analyzer was I able to get what I wanted. (I actually created the initial patch on my iPad using Thor on the iPad, an absolutely incredible feature for Reason. More on that later in the review.)
Another great feature in Reason 7 introduces improvements to the already wonderful mixer. You now have the ability to assign channels to bus channels so that you can easily control an entire group of channels with one output bus. In the figure below, drums have been assigned to one bus channel and drum machine channels have been assigned to another. Level sliders on bus channels are red so that you can easily differentiate them.
Reason 7 also adds new a new sound bank that includes additional drum sounds and the pretty cool Audiomatic Retro Transformer that lets you add one of 16 different qualities to an instrument, a channel or a group. You can use this to make a channel sound like a vinyl LP, an MP3 track, etc.
Overall, Reason 7 is a great upgrade that will cost existing Reason owners $129. (If you purchased Reason 6 after March 1, you are eligible for a free upgrade.) I still highly recommend that you also spend some extra money on Propellerhead's excellent Balance audio interface. I've been using mine for quite a while now, and I have absolutely nothing negative to say about it. It looks great and it performs perfectly. As Propellerhead says, "It just works." I can concur with that.
This review wouldn't be complete without mentioning the incredible job that Propellerhead did with the Thor app on the iPad. I absolutely love the Thor polysonic synthesizer in Reason, and as unbelievable as it might seem, Propellerhead has modeled Thor perfectly for the iPad. It works the same way and all of the controls you'd expect are available. Even better, you can create a Thor patch on your iPad and then copy it to your computer for use with Reason! It's really quite remarkable, and it makes creating those killer Thor patches that much easier and more convenient.
I will point out one thing that I really don't like about Reason 7; the continued use of CodeMeter for copy protection. CodeMeter copy protection requires either a CmStick or an Internet connection for authentication via username and password. If you don't have either, your Reason session will be in demo mode. Propellerhead includes a CmStick in the form of a red USB key (it's essentially a dongle), but if you have the Balance audio interface, you can install your license onto it and it will act as a CmStick. With Reason 7, Propellerhead also introduced the ability to authorize a computer. When you do this, the CmStick is installed virtually onto your PC so that you don't have to plug in a dongle or a Balance in order to use your copy of Reason. (An Internet connection is also not required.)
The problem I have with CodeMeter is that it's persnickity. Sometimes it will throw errors that prevent me from using Reason, and in keeping with Darwin's law, this usually happens when I'm on stage getting ready to play a live gig. The solution for me has been to reinstall the latest CodeMeter software available from this website. I recently upgraded to the latest version of CodeMeter and I've not experienced a launch failure yet. Hopefully the problem is solved, but it's a shame that Reason users have to put up with this at all. The truth is that software pirates aren't dissuaded by such technology. The only people who are inconvenienced are legitimate users, and I really wish that Propellerhead would rethink this approach and remove copy protection from Reason.
With all of that said, I wouldn't let it detract you from purchasing Reason if you have any interest in making or performing music. Reason has the tools and the kind of intuitive workspace that sets creativity on fire. In my opinion, there are two types of musicians; those who use Reason and those who should use Reason. If you're in the latter group, it's time to make the move. You won't regret it.