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REASON 8.0: A Review For The Dub Community
DUBROOM SOFTWARE REVIEW

WWW, October 16 2014 - It's been close to a decade since the launch of Reason 3.0 and the Dubroom's review of the then groundbreaking, ultra-flexible Dub-friendly music production software. We've promoted the software continually ever since it was established how it was possible to make Dub using just one program. Just recently, Reason 8.0 was released and arrived in the Dubroom not much later. We went in-depth again, from 3.0 straight to eight and came back with this review exclusively for the Dub Community.

Of course, we don't have to re-establish how it is possible to make DUB using Reason as a Stand-Alone Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). We did that when Reason 3.0 had arrived and changed the way to produce the music we all love to produce. It's obvious that Reason 8.0 enables you to do what version 3.0 offered, and it's obvious that we're a decade later into the research and development at the Scandinavian laboratories.

Just in case, though. Yes, you can make Dub not just using just a computer but using just one program. The name of that program is Reason, of which version 8.0 was released just two weeks prior to the publication of this review. 

In a way, this is not just a review of Reason 8.0, it's a review of ten years of development at Propellerhead and in the production of DUB Music using just a computer. In this decade, producing music with just a computer has become what it should be: commonly accepted. No longer is it considered to be avant-gardistic to side-step snobby studio owners with attitudes and reach your audience directly with computer-based productions. 

No longer are computer-based producers looked down upon, and Reason has played a huge part in this wonderful development.

It's October 2014. Welcome to a review of Reason 8.0, software that enables you to turn that idea in your head into sounds from your audience's speakers.

We're going to take a deep look into the many new features that have been added to Propellerhead's flag ship during the last decade. Sure, there are many new devices that look promising at first sight. After all, that's what we need in our studio. Brand new in Reason 8.0 is the updated browser, which needs to be examined too. Will it be quicker in this new way to find what you're looking for?

Questions, questions. 

Door locked, all projects put on hold for more than a week. Reason was the object of undivided attention as this review was written, Dubs created and put on You Tube along with other things like detailed screenshots taken. You can read all about this in this extensive, in-depth review of Reason 8.0 where all things DUB are considered and tried.

Here is...

A Review For The DUB Community

It's more than fair to establish, how the last decade has seen a significant rise of computer based Dub productions. The Dubroom receives as many hits on it's pages on Dub production than on our free and legal MP3 reviews. Quite remarkable and surely gives an indication about something. We're talking thousands and thousands of people every week, looking for info of the creation of Dub. The hits come from everywhere in the world, even from places you wouldn't expect!

We're living in a time wherein many Dub producers trade in their hardware more and more because of the power of contemporary DAW's like Propellerhead's Reason and Ableton's Live. As more and more people are getting into the production of DUB Music with DAW's, the need for this review of Reason exclusively for the Dub community is self-evident. 

So here it is: an independent review, aimed at helping both the beginners and those who happened to start a bit earlier in time. It's the Dubroom's contribution to the online DUB producers community. When you make Dub and consider to get Reason, this review will provide you with an in-depth look at the software in sight and sound. It comes from the explicit perspective of an acknowledged computer based DUB engineer with an experience in this field dating back to the late 1980's, early 1990's and a desire to share things as soon as they're discovered.

Come mek wi Reason together!

A DUB Engineer's Perspective

Every Dub engineer and producer knows how important it is to be able to connect and use devices in that specific Dub set up. Standard options are no options. We want to know, how is the flexibility in Reason 8.0? This question is not as obvious as it may sound at first.

Check this: it can easily be established how Propellerhead (and others) have been instrumental in the creation of completely new musical computer-based genres. With such a successful enterprise, it's tempting to go and facilitate just the computer-based musical genres and forget about, well, Dub. You can't make Dubstep without a computer but you can make Dub without one. Dub is a form of music and technology that predates the computer. So yes. We ask: does Reason have the flexibility to function as a Dub studio on top of all the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) technologies incorporated in the software?

Most reviews on Reason 8.0 are written for and from the perspective of contemporary EDM producers. Usually, the software is reviewed on huge machines with a whole battery of hardware attached. That's not what we're going to do here. This review is especially for the (online) DUB artist community, for the world-wide Digital DUB massive even. A movement that is much larger then most people assume, a movement that depends on software like Reason because most of us are simply not able to finance a studio life time.

Does Propellerhead know about this? Yes, they do. We know for a fact that they very much welcome a review from the DUB perspective. After all, because of DUB the studio engineer turned into a musical artist which is the whole point of DAW's and EDM in the first place. DUB is very much part of the Roots of EDM, and Roots have their function. 

That function will be a main part of our focus.

The Configuration

For this review, we used a new model of a 64bit Windows 8 machine with 8 Gigabytes of RAM and Intel processors. That's quite a machine, in times where 32bit and 4 Gigabytes of RAM still form the norm. So the 32bit version was installed, with only 4 Gigabytes available. No external sound device was connected either, the internal Real-Tek audio card was used with a ASIO4ALL driver. MIDI keyboard? Nope. Mouse and computer keyboard.

A minimal configuration.

When Reason performs in this configuration, it will break all sound barriers in 64bit mode. 

The Installation Process

Reason 8.0 comes as a huge download. It's a zip file you can download straight from your account at the Propellerhead website. After unzipping everything to a folder, it's merely clicking the "Install Reason.exe" file. Unless you don't want the standard install options, that is. 

Installation goes quick, the computer will reset and when you launch Reason, you can log in with your account name and password or you can authorize your copy on the Propellerhead website and simply start the program without Internet connection. It's more difficult to read this than to actually do, by the way.

When you run a 64bit OS like Windows 8, Reason will install it's 64bit version by default. Adding /32 ("Install Reason.exe /32") will install it's 32bit version which you must do when you plan to use other 32bit software for plug-in's through Propellerhead's Rewire protocol. Everything is explained in the installation manual.

Talking about plug-in's, even though Propellerhead doesn't really like using that term for their "Rack Extensions": Reason 8.0 comes with a free Bass and Guitar Amp as well as a "Retro Transformer". You'll need to install them separately, but more about that later.

A First Impression

Closing off Reason 3.04 and opening Reason 8.0: obviously, that's an overwhelming experience. Even preparation in the form of checking tutorials and You Tube video's from the Swedish developers can not prevent the effects of this virtual time travel. This is like getting off a bicycle and stepping in a luxury car! 

Reason 3, you could say, is to Reason 8 what Rebirth was to Reason 3. Where you could hook up Propellerhead's first software seamlessly in Reason, Reason 8 has almost all the features of it's previous versions seamlessly integrated with the first new feature that draws the attention: the Master Mixing Console. In one word: wow! This is definitely the kind of console every DUB engineer has these specific dreams of.

Where the Reason known to us here in the Dubroom contained a sequencer and a device part, Reason added the Master Mixing Console as a third part of the program. You can have one window for your sequencer, one for your device rack and one for the extensive console. Unlike Reason 3, your rack is not limited to one vertical line of devices. You can build your rack as high and wide as you like to. Big improvement!

Before there were computers and programmable sequencers, there was DUB. In essence, DUB is the art of remixing an audio multi-track recording of a band playing a Reggae riddim. In a way, even using loops and drum computers are just a simulation of that. The best DUB is actually made from physical audio recordings. 

Guess what? Reason gives you this very possibility.

For example: you can create your own Drum sound, program a rhythm from start to stop and render the whole thing to an audio track. Do this with all your instrument sections and you have a de facto multi-track audio recording in just the right way for an authentic DUB session. Or simply load multi-track stems and off you go.

Sure, the console isn't a new feature in Reason 8. Neither are it's audio tracks. What is new, is the browser. That browser is quite an improvement indeed. It gives you context-sensitive options, while it remembers where you have stored your settings and files when you didn't do it in the default manner. It finds files much quicker, too, a thing that will please a lot of Reason users.

Overall, browsing and basically navigating through the different parts is pretty intuitive. After all, you know why you launch Reason. You'll need a sequencer, you'll need effects and you need a mixing board. You want to make music. DUB music. 

A Closer Look

Where versions prior to Reason 6 basically had the sequencer and the device rack, 2011 (when Reason 6 was announced) introduced a mixing console next to the device rack and the sequencer. Later on in this review we'll take an in-depth look at this console, but the mere fact it has been given it's own part rather than a place in the rack is very telling.

After all, for a Dub engineer the console is more than half the work. The console is the heart, the HQ from where all the music is processed and all the effects are driven. For a Dub engineer, the console is where most of the work is done. The better the console, the less you have to do things on the devices themselves. Well, this console does a lot.

The fact that Reason will accept Multi-Track audio recordings or stems should make it possible to set up the DAW for a first "quick" Dub session. Drums, Bass, Skanks and Horns. The console gives us no less than eight aux sends, so three different delays, two reverbs, a phaser, a filter and the Audiomatic effect just because it's new. That's a total of 12 channels: four audio, eight effects. The effects have their own channel rather than a mere plug in to the returns, but that's nothing new for the Dub producer.

Setting things up for a first Dub mix reveals the way the rack works with the console. Within the rack, audio and console tracks have their own little device. You link the output from your device into the input of the "mix track" and that's it. Again, reading it is more difficult than actually doing it. 

Take your time looking at the following screen shot (click to enlarge):

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

On the left you see the browser. It can be scaled and minimized. Dragging devices from the browser to the rack is easy. Just press the shift key while you do it, otherwise Reason will connect the device for you and a Dub engineer wants to make his own connections. At the bottom is the sequencer, the racks are in the middle and the console is at the top. All three, like the browser, completely scalable and they can even appear all three in their own window for maximum convenience. 

A First Session

Having just four audio tracks and a couple of effect devices connected to the main console should be good enough for a first Dub session. And it is, for the four audio tracks (channels 1-4). Reason makes an audio channel on the main console and automation goes smoothly. Things are a bit different for the effect channels (5 and beyond), since you have to make sequencer tracks for these channels and subsequently arm them for automation.

Without touching the effect devices, without regarding a proper sound balance, just testing the automation on the console and some of the EQ it features. The result can be seen and heard in this next video, while you can read some spontaneous first impression comments:

 

REASON 8.0 REVIEWED VIDEO 1: DISCOVERING CONSOLE AUTOMATION

Every DAW has their own specific ways of dealing with automation. Using them in your own way requires time, practice and study. In this first impression of Reason 8.0 at work, it was not really clear that audio channels are armed for automation automatically while other channels at the console are not. A minor issue that was solved very quickly after posting a question on the Propellerhead website's forum.

The console works friendly. When tracks are properly armed automation is recorded smoothly. Reason picks it up and everything works the way you connect it and the way you touch the buttons. This is really important for Dub mixing since most of the Dub action takes place on the console's channels. Dubs have some heavy (un)muting of different channels at the same time, while effects are layered on top of each other. This all needs to be recorded in automation without problems, while the console should do what is says it is doing.

The console needs to be examined first.

The Mixing Console

Full Strip Of A Console Channel In Reason 8.0The way of mixing music prior to Reason 6.0 was by way of the 14 channel line mixer. Click to Enlarge This can still be done in Reason 8.0, but the real power is within  the main console. It's patterned and built after the Solid State Logic 9000 (see picture right, click to enlarge), a console that can be found in some of the best studios. 

In theory, the console can have as much or as little channels as you want. You can use channels for fine-tuning and others for mixing, but that's not even necessary. The many functions on the thing work so exact and audible that it can and will do everything it takes to get a good Reggae sound and subsequent Dub mix.

While it's technically possible to completely ignore the console and go for the line mixers, it would be an enormous mistake to do so. Yes, it requires more work than the line mixers but more work gives more fruits which in the case of the console is self-evident when you take a look at the thing even before hearing what it can do.

A look at just one channel strip reveals it (see picture left, click to enlarge).

On top is the gain. Completely absent in Reason's line mixers and oh so useful. Increasing or decreasing gain also changes the very sound of the input signal. Playing with it certainly adds a thing or two. In the same time, when you want to prepare for a heavy Dub session and you do not want to care too much about the right slider settings, just put the gains in effect while you have all channel sliders full open. You get the point.

Next to the gain is a nice compressor. Get these peaks out of the mix, warm up the sound, change dynamics. It has all the main features to (slightly) change the sound of the input of your channel.

A very high quality and essential part of this console, especially when it comes to the production of Dub music, is the EQ section. The EQ section on this console is very flexible. It can indeed be used to fine-tune that incoming signal but even better: since the console is fully automatable, using the EQ for example on a Reverb channel gives very good results. You can set Hi Pass and Lo Pass filters to set strict boundaries in the frequencies, tweak with the Hi, Mid and Low and everything in between to create manual phaser like effects. 

There's room for channel specific insert effects, too. For example, you have that phaser on your horn section and it's just for the horn section. Insert a phaser in the channel of the horn section et voila, there it is without bothering anything else in your mix. 

The Master SectionTake a look at the right (click to enlarge), before we continue to discover the channel strip. There's a "master compressor" and according to some sources, this particular compressor could be the difference between a catchy sound and a boring noise. This obviously depends on your ear and knowledge when it comes to compression in the first place but the feature should not be underestimated.

Below the compressor you can set the master output for the aux sends on the channel strip. Reason gives you no less than eight different effect sends. There's room for some inserts in the master mix as well, and below that there's the most useless item on every mixing board. 

At least, when it comes to Dub producing. 

Since these are basically nothing more than very primitive input channels without any flexibility, it is best to ignore them when you want to make Dub. After all, you can route your effects back to a channel input, giving you full control and flexibility to layer effects during your mixing sessions. 

Full control and flexibility? 

Absolutely.

Consider the fact that this console has no less than eight FX sends (see left), with their own master volume on the master strip (right) as well. You can connect one, or a chain of effect devices to the FX sends before you route them back to the console. You could like reserve four FX sends for mastering and fine tuning where you use the other four for the actual Dub mixing. 

You can set each FX send separate to post or pre. Post is when the volume of the output corresponds with the slider's position, selecting pre will give you full control over the volume of the FX send. It's muted when the channel is muted, but when the slider is down and the channel unmuted, selecting pre on your send will work, resulting in an all-wet sound. But you probably knew this, maybe because you saw it in action in the Dubroom's tutorial on making Dub with computers.

However you want to route and use the effects, fact remains this console give you the possibility to layer 7 effects over one effect, any effects. That's like countless of combinations you can create just by switching FX sends on and off. A little bit of smart routing will enable you to create the most mysterious sounds, just by some layering of effects. 

The channel strip has the obvious slider and (stereo) level meters, mute and solo buttons. There's an interesting feature next to the pan worth mentioning. It's called "width" and it gives you a more detailed control over the pan itself. Really interesting to hear.

This is the kind of console that lets you do anything you want a console to do. As a Dub producer, you want to have full control and flexibility over your mix, while realizing that there is a post-mix stage where you have to really fine-tune things. This console lets you do everything in the same time, which is marvelous.

This simply more than fine console serves your every need when it comes to getting just the right sound for your final production. 

It works very pleasantly both in the fine tuning and in Dub sessions. It lets you go wild in your mixing, while compressors and everything else you can think of will keep an eye and ear on the final sound of your mix. It has more than enough FX sends and the possibility to route everything in the exact way you want it. For a Dub engineer, this is simply a basic need.

It might be so that the console is not new to Reason 8, but it deserved our undivided attention. Not everybody buys the new version of their favorite software, simply because if there's nothing broken, there's nothing to fix either. However, when you own a version of Reason that predates version 6, this console alone is a reason to consider purchasing version 8.

But that's not the only niceness you'll engage...

The Rack

Where the console brings everything together into a stereo sound and the sequencer drives everything from behind, the actual sounds and effects are created in Reason's device Rack. That's where you place your devices, where you connect them to each other and to the console. 

Roughly, there are three types of devices:

  • Effects
  • Instruments
  • Utilities

Getting devices in the rack is a matter of browsing for devices or patches. Opening a reverb patch will create a reverb device in the rack. When you don't hit the shift button while you create a device, Reason will automatically connect the device for you. You might want to keep that shift button in mind. 

In a real studio, you sometimes have to be like an athlete or acrobat to get to the back of your console and devices. In Reason, you can just sit and press "tab". The rack has a front side and a back side. When you're into connecting devices in your own way, the back side is definitely important. Pressing the tab button will let you look at the side of your preference. Take a look at the screenshots below (click to enlarge):

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

These are screenshots from the set up of the Dub mix earlier in this review. On the left side you see the console channels as devices, you see the FX sends from the console as well in the Master Section device. On the right you see a number of effect devices. You can see how they are connected to the console by looking at the back side of the rack.

Reason 3 would let you have the rack in one row. Reason 8 will let you have the rack in as many rows as you want, so they can fill up your screen completely, giving you a much better overview of your devices. Important, because things can get very complicated in the rack.

One final thing, before we'll dive deeper in Reason: The graphic art is crucial, especially in the rack. Sometimes, powerful DAW's lack a little visual niceness but Propellerhead puts a lot of effort in there. It might not be the most important aspect, but it is simply better for the inspiration and creativity to remind yourself you are working with actual devices even when they're in this digital environment. 

The Devices

Reason is not just powerful when it comes to mixing. That's the first thing you see when you take a look at the actual devices. Next to the obligatory instruments and effects, there are some extraordinary pieces of equipment that will enable you to -when you know what you do- design your own sound on a professional, even university level. 

Click to EnlargeMaking a combination of instruments, effects and utilities can provide you with your own created drum sounds, synthesized voices and other stuff you've been Click to Enlarge hearing in your head but never from a speaker or headphone. The power of Reason when it comes to sound design, it might just bring a Dub Nerd to create that special, definitive effect or sound. When you realize Dub Masters like King Tubby and the Mad Professor know their way with electronics, it's well worth considering improving your own skills in this field by trying the sound design devices.

When you're more into using real recordings like samples, loops and stems, Reason has the devices for that too. Drum computers and samplers where you load real recordings, an intelligent loop player capable of handling 8 loops, and of course the audio channels on the main console.

There are a couple of completely programmable synthesizers, a very nice sound module called the ID8 and some very fine effects next to the standard ones. Later on in this review we'll take a closer look at the devices.

The Sequencer

Click to EnlargeCreating riddims and recording automation, it's all done in the sequencer. Initially in this review it wasn't really clear why console automation wouldn't automatically be recorded, but (again) after asking a little bit at the Propellerhead forum, things became clear.

A channel at the console is also a device in the rack, but not automatically a sequencer track. Making a sequencer track for the device, and arming it for automation solved the mystery. 

Click to EnlargeNice to know how to mix a Dub from the console, but that's not the only thing we'll need the sequencer for. Usually, this is where you make your riddim (others would say: beat).

As you create your set up by adding devices to the rack, the sequencer will create tracks for instruments as well. It won't do that for (all) effect devices, though. Once you're ready with your set up, you can start to play or program your riddim into the sequencer. A Riddim creation in Reason's sequencer is as easy as you can come up with a riddim. Programming a drum and bass line, inserting the skanks and adding a little "pucking" guitar is pretty easy to do.

Reason's sequencer works with "blocks". Initially, it will open in the arrangement view. Simply double-clicking on a bar will create a block. You can set start and end of the block, double-click on the block and subsequently add notes. Drum computers will open drum lanes, musical instruments will open the piano roll, et cetera.

Compared to Reason 3, the sequencer in this version has grown significantly in it's features. It takes a while before everything looks as logical as it really is, but when it does this is actually a very fine sequencer that will let you do exactly what you want it to do.

Once every channel at the console is armed for automation in it's own dedicated track in the sequencer, recording automation on the console is done in a way that is perfect for the Dub engineer. 

Just take a look and listen at the following Dub mix, again completely done from the console:

 

REASON 8.0 REVIEWED VIDEO 2: Mastering Console Automation and Reviewing Work flow for the Dub engineer

The Browser

In the pre-Dub phase, wherein you set up your studio and do sound checking, you'll make heavy use of the browser. As you select your instruments and effects and hook them all up together and to the console, as you audit patches and samples, you do not want to navigate like in the early days of Windows. 

Click to EnlargeSelecting devices and loading patches wasn't one of Reason's strongest features, but that has changed quite dramatically in Reason 8.0. Propellerhead makes quite a big deal from Reason's new browser, and not without any justification. 

This really is a huge improvement.

You can now easily find the device you need, and after you've dragged it into the rack you can use the browser to select patches. Or samples, for example in the Redrum.

Want to see the browser in action?

Just take a look at the following video, wherein a Redrum and a RV7000 are loaded and patches are selected:

 

REASON 8.0 REVIEWED VIDEO 3: The Browser

Unless you hold the SHIFT button while you drag devices to the rack, Reason will auto-connect them in Reason's way. As you build your studio set up and things get more and more complicated, you will increasingly learn to appreciate the browser. It might not be the most exciting thing to do in the production of Dub (or any other) music, but without the right devices and patches you won't really reach far.

Two Missing Links

The browser is not just an improvement, it's also a special request by popular demand. People have been complaining about the slow browser and Reason's new browser is fast as a Ferrari compared to earlier versions.

There are two more "missing features": the first is the absence of the possibility to include VST effects/instruments in Reason, the other being that although Reason communicates perfectly with other DAW's through the REWIRE protocol, it only gives it's audio signal and does not receive any audio from any DAW. Officially, that is.

Call them the "missing links". Linking with plug-in's and/or receiving audio from another DAW through the REWIRE protocol is often requested but it looks like Propellerhead doesn't make a move in that direction.

They've got an alternative and it's called...

Click to EnlargeRack ExtensionsRack Extensions

Take a look at the two browser screenshots left (click to enlarge).

As you browse Effects, Instruments and Utilities you will see that you can make a choice between "Reason Devices" and so-called "Rack Extensions". There is and there is no difference between the two.

Both kind of devices will work in exactly the same way: you can drag them in the rack, connect them in the way you like and place them wherever you like. 

Even though you will get a few Rack Extensions with your copy of Reason 8.0, the bulk can be found in Propellerhead's web shop. You'll have to install them directly from the Propellerhead erbsite, the process goes automatically. You basically click "install" and it's there a little bit later. 

That's right, you could say that Rack Extensions are Reason's very own internal Plug-In's. 

There are a few free Rack Extensions in the shop, the most have to be bought. There are some really cheap ones, and others are, well, costly. You can try them all out for free for 30 days, though. 

Even though people are requesting the possibility to include (VST) Plug-In's, it's not very likely that Propellerhead will answer this popular demand. Their rather huge catalogue of Rack Extensions gives more than a hint towards this not-so-speculation. Add to that the fact that Reason remains to be one of the most popular DAW's and rightly so. 

No, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the Swedish Soundware developers are not in any urge to open up their software directly for the effects available in VST land even though this could be done without a problem through the Rebirth Input Machine, a thing you'll find out about a little further in this review. 

When you want to use Reason with VST Plug-In's, you will (still?) have to do this through another DAW using Propellerhead's REWIRE protocol. More about that later too, after we've taken a look at the devices Reason 8.0 has to offer.

Click to EnlargeThe Effects

Compared to Reason 3, Reason 8 has some very interesting effects available for the rack. Some may not directly be of interest in the creation of Reggae and the mixing of DUB, but Reggae is a very absorbent form of music because it's more a rhythm than a specific genre. There will be DUB producers of the more digital variety that will take a lot of interest in some of the more exotic effects available in the DAW.

A quick glance over the effects (see right, click to enlarge) reveals that next to the RV7000 Advanced Reverb/Delay, there's the original Reason half-rack effects, too. 

Click to EnlargeThe Original Reason Effects

They've been reviewed before, but let's re-examine them just a little (click to enlarge):

The half rack devices are little useful tools. There's a chorus, flanger and phaser that do a pretty nice job, a filter and a mean EQ.

There's some more, too.

The RV7000 is one of the most important basic effect devices for the creation of Dub music. This is a very powerful reverb, fully programmable with all the necessary Reverb parameters like Gate, Hall/Plate, EQ et cetera. Although it's quality is not of the kind you can buy for the price of several Reason programs, it is definitely a top device comparable to 500$+ VST Plug-In's.

There's also Reason's well-known Vocoder and it's Scream 4 Distortion Unit. Plus the mastering tools: compression, a detailed EQ and a stereo expander. Since every channel on the console has all of these mastering tools, well, you can make your choice. 

Click to EnlargeThe Amps

Let's take a look at some of the newer effect devices. Well, they're not actually effects but since they have to be connected in the same way, they're in this category: the Amps (click to enlarge).

It goes like this: You connect the Amp between your instrument and let's say the a console channel device. This way it works exactly the same as "real" amps. And, yes, it works. We've already heard a very fine, nice and warm bass sound.

Of course you can also connect drums or other instruments you would not normally run through an amp, but then this has everything to do with being creative, finding ways to make a special sound.

The Line6 devices, by the way, are Reason Devices. They're scheduled to retire in a future version of Reason. The other two are created by a company called Softube, and come as free Rack Extensions with Reason 8.

The Audiomatic

Click to EnlargeAnother Rack Extension effect device you get for free with Reason 8.0 is created by Propellerhead and it's called "Audiomatic" (see right, click to enlarge).

The Audiomatic device doesn't have any patches to load, it just gives you 16 different options and four parameters: gain, dry/wet, volume and "transform".

What it does? Well, it transforms the input and sometimes adds a sound. Ranging from hardly noticeable to an all-wet total transformation, the Audiomatic can -next to adding a very nice vinyl effect- transform the input to make it sound like it's in a tube, or comming out out a speaker, or as a very lo-fi MP3 sound.

The reason to utilize this? It has already been done in the second Dub of this review. The sound of the drums was directed to the Audiomatic, who ran the PVC transformation in full-wet mode. This sound came back to the console and subsequently fed the reverb and echo's. This gave a very special touch to especially the rimshot.

Click to EnlargeThe Echo

Also used in the Dubs done for this review is "The Echo" (see left, click to enlarge). It's a versatile device: you can make it sound like your typical Space Echo, make Ping Pong Delays and everything else echo-related. 

Just browsing or making your own patch will give you some thing, but the real fun is in live tweaking on the filters and other buttons while you're mixing your Dub track. Play with speed and pitch, add wow and flutter tape effects: with The Echo this is as easy as it with a hardware Space Echo type device. This is perfect for spontaneous, intuitive Dub engineering.

Click to EnlargeThe Neptune

When you create this device, Reason will automatically create a sequencer track for it. 

Why? 

You have to play notes in this effect's sequencer track. It will then process the input signal, which is usually a voice. After all, change the "nep" in Neptune for "auto" and you'll probably know where this device is all about. 

Indeed, this is Reason's very own Auto-Tune device even though that term is probably registered as a Trade Marked name somewhere and therefore not used.

In theory, this is the kind of device that lets you correct false notes in singing, or even change the complete melody line, add harmony voices or make special sound effects like the singer "Cher", or closer at home Michael Rose. It's highly controversial, as it's image is that of the magical machine transforming every voice carrying individual into a skilled singer.

In Dub, you'll find a way to integrate this device. Or not. It can provide you with some mystical vibes, though. An example can be heard towards the end of this review. 

Click to EnlargeThe Alligator

Sub labeled "Triple Filter Gate", the Alligator is a pattern-based filter with built-in echo and phaser. You can choose to filter Hi, Mid or Low frequencies, or a combination, and let the signal pass through, well, basically everything filter-related.

It's possible to tweak the device completely to your need, as the pattern follows the rhythm in the way you choose to. Use it's built in auxiliary echo or LFO. Even though this device is one of these more EDM-specific effects, it can -like everything- be applied somehow somewhere in a Dub mix.

Click to EnlargeThe Pulveriser

You can use the Pulveriser as a "distortion extraordinary", but it's also possible to turn the device into a filter. Using the right settings, that is. It gives you gates and rates, filters and can very likely turn that guitar into a Metal thing which goes beyond the scope of this review.

The Effects For Dub

Looking at all the effect devices together, Reason offers the obligatory ones in the right quality. The RV7000 and The Echo are two must-have effects in Dub, where effects like phasers and the console's EQ are included as well. The Neptune, Alligator and Pulveriser are intelligently designed: they offer possibilities unheard of in earlier times.

Since most effects are fully programmable while Reason lets you connect things the way you want it, it is very much possible to create your own effects out of a chain of devices. Using automation, you can tweak the effects live in the mix as far as the console itself won't let you.

The effects work very responsive, they do what they are told to do. They're of the kind of quality you can expect. 

Want more? Get Rack Extensions or use Rewire (more further on). 

Let's take a look at the devices that make the music that we want to run through the effects. The devices that let us build a riddim from scratch in Reason.

Click to EnlargeThe Instruments

Before there was Reason, there was Rebirth: Two drum computers and two monophonic synthesizers in one program. Wow! Yes, remember, this is the 1990's we're talking about. Rebirth was at the forefront of what we now know as DAW's when they released this, well DAW that could run on the typical pre-2000 computer. Quite an achievement!

Propellerhead's "pre-DAW DAW" combined Drum Computers and Synthesizers with a -primitive- sequencer, then the Swedish geniuses continued to build other instruments like Samplers and Loop Players and released Reason 1.0.

Since that first humble release, the people at Propellerhead have been and continue to be developing new instruments. When the Dubroom reviewed Reason 3.0 about a decade ago, the DAW had then been updated with a new sampler called the NN-XT and the RV7000 Reverb, for example. Both devices are now classic in their own.

In this review, we jump from Reason three straight to eight and that means a lot of new instruments. Interesting instruments. Powerful little gadgets and extremely complicated machines that let you design sound on a beyond-professional university level.

Take a look at the right (click to enlarge). On top are the classic Reason instruments, under that is the updated Dr Rex Loop Player and below that "Dr. Octorex" are the new instruments. Drum computers, Synthesizers, Samplers and a very nice module.

Let's take a look at the instruments, in a particular order.

Click to EnlargeThe ReDrum

In short: this is a pattern and sample-based drum computer. You can draw the rhythms in the sequencer or go old fashion and indeed use the patterns.

There's room for ten different samples to trigger, you can set 8&9 as "exclusive" (for Hi Hats) and the volume, length and pitch of each sample. Some channels have different options, especially when it comes to bending effects.

You don't just have to use the ReDrum for drum sounds, though. Think about loading the device with vocal samples (ad-lib's for example) and place notes at the right times in it's sequencer track. Or load guitar skanks and there's your Reggae guitarist. 

Click to EnlargeThe ID8

It's small and quickly overlooked: The ID8 Sound Module. This little device gives you piano's, organs, synths, drums, just like any other sound module will do. Every instrument comes with some effects you can put in (like a chorus), and the sound is really, really good.

The ID8 is perfect when you start up with Reason. All these complex instruments you'll find described later on in this review require a lot of study before something can be done. Building a Reggae riddim quick? You get the ID8 for everything but the drum and bass and you're on your way for sure.

Click to EnlargeThe Samplers

The NN-19 and (introduced in Reason 3) it's bigger brother the NN-XT are Reason's very own samplers. You load one, two, three, hundred samples in the device or use a patch. The sampler will become a guitar, a piano, an organ, a whatever.

Next to the ID8 and the ReDrum, the NN devices will help you quick-start when building a riddim from scratch.

Both machines have fully automatable parameters like filters and vibrato's. Wheels for pitching and other purposes are there, too. Everything is fully programmable even though simply loading a patch will give you the sounds you can't find in the ID8.

When you buy (professional) Sample Packs, like the ones you can find reviewed here in the Dubroom, chances are huge you will find NN-XT patches in some folder. A sign that yes, the NN samplers are professional in their kind.

Next to WAV, AIFF and -of course- it's device patches, the NN-XT will also read SF2 files. You're probably happy when you know what this means. When you don't, don't worry about it. It's an old sample-bank format used in ancient days.

It's possible to open an extensive program window on the NN-XT. That's where you load samples, assign keys to them and a whole lot more. In other words, you can create your very own patches with your very own samples.

Click to EnlargeThe Dr Octorex

Reason's very own loop player, successor of the Dr. Rex, can handle up to eight loops and is therefore now called the Dr. Octorex. This comes in handy, especially when you're using a set of (drum) loops to construct a full track. 

The Dr. Octorex works with it's own file formats, it won't load a standard WAV file. However, you can load a WAV file in the sequencer, open the Audio Editor and save the loop in the rx2 format on your hard drive, then open the loop in the player. In the same time, you can simply drag Dr. Octorex files directly to an audio track, bypassing the whole device.

The loop player has some powerful features, next to the pitch and tempo changes it handles very nicely. It has a very effective LFO filter you can set to different rates and amounts, while different waveforms give you the choice between several ways the filter treats itself. Whether you run horns or a bass line, this filter will definitely speak to your imagination.

Click to EnlargeThe Kong Drum Designer

The Kong. Drum designer, sampler, loop slicer, sound generator, effect device, drum computer. No, don't get too impressed by all of this. When you're just looking to use a drum computer that does a bit more than the ReDrum, you should load the Kong in your rack too.

It lets you configurate 16 pads with either up to four layers of samples per pad, or use synthesis to create a sound on-the-spot. Every pad is fully programmable seperate from the other pads. It lets you load up to two effects per pad, too. It has a couple of standard effects built-in, but you can also use other Reason effects.

You can even use the Kong as an effect device, so that you can run instruments through the internal Kong effects.

This is a central device, and not just in the creation of your own drum sounds. It's a giant-sized drum computer, and able to build a drum kit on acoustic drums sounds or direct synthesis. 

Very clever!

Click to EnlargeThe Synthesizers

With the Subtractor, the Malström and the Thor, Reason offers three different synthesizers. You can see them in the picture right (click to enlarge) in order of appearance. The Subtractor is the oldest synth in the rack, followed by the Malström  that was introduced in Reason 3.0. The one named after a Scandinavian god is the most recent and the most extensive one.

Synthesizers use one or more forms of electronic technology to generate sounds. That's about the shortest definition of synthesizers and the triplet in Reason altogether make use of all these forms.

Fortunately, all three comes with a set of patches. This means that even without any knowledge about the generation of sound using the countless of different parameters, you can get these specific sounds in your music. 

A lot of reviews on Reason are written for the producer of EDM. Electronic Dance Music. Synthesizers are the obligatory form of instrument in EDM, and a lot of expertise on the synthesizers can be found just by reading the reviews on Reason from the EDM perspective.

For this review, let's just establish these three synthesizers will provide you with some of the best forms of synthesis available. All three make use of different ways to generate and process sound -you can even use the Malström as an effect device- so when you're planning to include synthesizers, of course Reason has them.

The Instruments For Dub (Reggae)

The drum devices, samplers, loop player, synthesizer and -once again, excellent- sound module form the catalogue of internal Reason instruments. There is enough to suit everyone's needs.

You can use samples and loops for a more old-skool vibe like the Dubs in this review, grab the synths and go completely Eurodub, anything in between and beyond will go smoothly too. 

Designing your own sounds is as easy or as difficult as you want to make it, but Reason definitely provides the tools for the autodidact with devices like the Thor and the Kong. 

There's still one more instrument in the instrument section of Reason, and that's...

Click to EnlargeThe External MIDI instrument

Basically, this device integrates any MIDI enabled piece of hardware you (still) might have into Reason. Drag the device to the rack, connect your hardware's MIDI cables to the MIDI interface at your computer's sound device, do the same with the audio from your hardware and create an audio track in the console to hear your hardware in perfect sync with the rest of Reason's internal instrument.

In a way, it's a bit debatable whether the External MIDI Instrument should be part of the Instrument section in Reason. Perhaps the third category of devices would have been a better place.

Click to EnlargeThe Utilities

Without the possibility to connect instruments, to record audio input, you can't do much. That's why there is this third category. A couple of devices that lets you connect the dots and record what you're doing. 

Click to EnlargeThe Combinator

As you create your set up, things can get complicated. Things can also get so good that you might want to use specific elements of your set up in another project. 

The Combinator lets you join specific devices you connected together into one device. Good for transportation from one project to another, from one producer to another, or for sharing on the Net. 

Click to EnlargeRPG-8 Monophonic Arpeggiator

An arpeggiator creates little MIDI notes and sends them to a device, like a synthesizer. It can randomize chords and drum patters or mess up things in other ways. The thing is often used in EDM, in fact has been used since the early days of what was then called Acid House back in the previous century.

The use of it in the construction of a Reggae riddim is questionable, but there will be producers very interested in this little, well, utility.

Click to EnlargeThe Splitters and Mergers

Routing with cables at the back of the rack: a DUB Studio makes heavy use of unorthodox and alternative ways to connect devices. In fact, routing is an essential part and that's where the splitters/mergers come in very handy. 

They do exactly what they claim, just look at their backsides (click to enlarge).

Click to EnlargeThe Line Mixers

Until the main console was introduced, most of the Dub action in Reason took place on the 14-2 Line Mixer. It has four FX sends, 14 channels and a primitive EQ. No gain. The 6-2 Line Mixer has one FX send, 6 channels and one volume controller.

The Line Mixers can still be used to make your DUB, but it would be ignoring the real power in this DAW, the main console. However, it's perhaps better to look at them as a form of Splitters/Mergers with lots of extra features. 

They're ideal for the use in a Set Up as part of a complicated routing.

Click to EnlargeThe Mix Channel

Mix Channels are your gateways from the rack to the console. We discovered very early in this review, that automation at the main console can only take place when channels have their own device in the rack and their own track in the sequencer (armed for automation). Connect your device to the Mix Channel's input, insert effects when you want, create a sequencer track and that part of your set up is ready for Dub mixing.

Click to EnlargeThe Audio Track

What Mix Channels are for rack devices, are Audio Tracks for anything audio. For loops you load directly in the sequencer instead of using the Dr. Octorex, for full-length multi-track stems. The Audio Track device is a channel on the main console, automatically armed for automation. 

Click to EnlargeThe Rebirth Input Machine

The last Reason utility connects Propellerhead's first music production software to Reason. Rebirth contains two drum computers and two monophonic synthesizers you can program with a pattern based sequencer. The program is discontinued, but Propellerhead offers it now as a free download for all at the Rebirth Museum website

Just load Reason, drag the Rebirth Input Device to your rack, Start Rebirth, and everything should work.

More on RewireThe REWIRE Protocol

The Rebirth Input Machine establishes communication between Rebirth and Reason through the REWIRE protocol. This is developed by Propellerhead and Steinberg. Currently, many DAW's support Rewire. Most usually, Reason will function as a slave and the other DAW as master. 

In fact, the Rebirth Input Machine is the only way to get audio from another DAW directly into Reason. It seems that when you run the ASIO4ALL driver with a little extra thing called "ReWuschel", there are other DAW's that will feed their output through the Rebirth Input Machine. This has not been tested for this review, but getting audio from another DAW through REWIRE is a much coveted and requested feature that is currently unavailable in Reason. Officially, that is.

The way things are now, Rewire lets you connect any audio output directly to another DAW. A much used combination is Reason as a slave and Ableton's Live as a master. You open Ableton, open Reason and the two programs will work in perfect sync. This way, you can use audio from Reason and run it directly through for example a VST effect.

More on RefillsThe ReFills

Standard, Reason 8.0 ships with two huge Sound Banks. They have the file extension "rfl", which stands for ReFill. These two are not the only ReFills you can use. You can find loads on the Propellerhead website and elsewhere on the Net, the Dubroom including. There are free and commercial ones, everything you can think of.

A Refill file contains files Reason can read. Sound files but also Reason Song Files, Instrument and Effect patches, loops, you name it. A free program called ReFill Packer will let you create your own ReFill to share or sell.

The Work-Flow

Reason offers more than enough devices and features to ensure that all necessary ingredients for a good Dub mix can either be imported or created in the program itself. We've got a crucial console, a whole contingent of instruments and effects where the utilities make sure everything is connected and working properly. 

We've seen a browser that significantly helps to find the right thing pretty quick, too. That browser is broadly announced by Propellerhead as significantly increasing the quality of the work-flow. In fact, the word "work-flow" itself seems to be the key word for this release, at least where Propellerhead is concerned.

Setting up the devices and the sequencer, creating a riddim, making a Dub: three different phases, each one requiring another way to work with the DAW. Yes, the browser plays a huge role and we've established how indeed it is a true joy setting up sounds and devices through the browser. For a nice work flow, though, there are more things to consider.

Options and preferences, for example.

Some would like to hear tones when they are created in the piano roll, others don't. Some would like to hear sounds in the browser, others don't. Or perhaps they do, but not in every situation. Some want tracks automatically armed for automation, others don't. Reason 8.0 give the use many options and preferences, in several menu's at several places. There's a Tool Menu and on-screen music keyboard for quick editing or auditing, while the sequencer and devices have different levels of entry.

Reason comes with a set of standard settings. Probably they will suit the needs of the beginners very well. The real work flow is the work flow that you feel comfortable in. Options and preferences as well as overall responsiveness of the program enables you to create your own flow as you discover the program deeper and deeper. No problems should be expected there anytime soon.

A Final Dub

There's nothing better than to hear and see Reason 8.0 in action for yourself. For this, a third Dub Mix was made. Again, a riddim was built from scratch with some of the new effects and instruments incorporated. Again, the Dub was mixed completely from the console with the exception of some tweaking on "The Echo" and an automation loop on a filter's frequency range for a bass effect.

A sample was taken from Ras Kitchen's Rasta Vocal Sample Pack that you can download for free from the Dubroom, for the drums open source samples were used that you can also find at studio.dubroom.org. Ras Kitchen's vocal sample is run through the Neptune device with a Vocoder-like result. A horn loop from Mad Professor's Reel 2 Reel Reggae (reviewed in the Dubroom) goes through the Dr. Octorex, the bass goes through the bass amp and the guitars through two different guitar amps. 

For the effects, "The Echo" was used, a phaser and a filter, two RV 7000's and one Audiomatic.  

Check it out:

 

REASON 8.0 REVIEWED VIDEO 4: A Final Dub

Reason Eight Straight Out...

Here's the $450 question: Should you buy Reason for Dub production? The answer would definitely be Yes. Prices may vary, but in Propellerhead's Press Release about Reason 8 they suggest a price of $495 or EUR 405. That's for people who do not own any previous version of Reason. When you do not own Reason yet, and you want to make Dub with your computer: get it! Without apology.

We can ask the same question for 129 dollars or euros, too. That's the price for an upgrade from any version of Reason (including 1.0). Since any version between Reason 3.0 and this version 8.0 fell outside of the Dubroom's scope, the answer could be less definitive. The console was introduced in version 6, so everyone owning Reason 1-5 should upgrade as soon as they can afford the 130 euros/dollars. 

People who bought Reason 7 on or after July 1 2014 get a free upgrade to Reason 8, so that leaves pre-July 2014 buyers of Reason 7 and owners of Reason 6. Hopefully, our review of the main features has given you enough insight to make a decision for yourself. If not, feel free to comment on our blog or forum or write us an email and we'll do our best to find the answer for you.

It took well over a week to complete this review. Two brand new original riddims were created, which is a creative process and therefore requires inspiration. This inspiration came and the way Reason is constructed with the Console, Rack, Sequencer and Browser played part in that, too. Just taking the ID8 out of the browser into the rack for the first time, then hit a chord on the piano, for example. The superb sound that comes out of the little sound module is illustrative for the enormous quality of instruments and surely played another part in the inspiration for the two original riddims.

It takes much longer then a week to discover the deeper Dub realms of Reason, though. Something that's done in studio.dubroom.org/reason.htm, where you'll find that following our tutorial on making Dub with computers goes much better when your choice of DAW is that of the Dubroom: Reason 8.0, without apology.

One Love,
Messian Dread (WWW, October 16 2014)

Press "GET" to go to the product page at the Propellerhead Website. You'll have to register yourself and be logged in at PROPELLERHEAD.se in order to use the software the first time you run it. A free fully functional Demo is available too. 

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