Propellerhead Software's Reason Virtual Studio
Anyone who has made electronic music will know that analogue synths are revered.
The warmth of their tones, the richness of their harmonics and the sheer fatness of their timbre makes them special when compared with their more modern digital counterpart. You'll also know they can be very expensive. Classic models such as the Roland TB-303 bass machine, famous for it's distinctive 'acid' bass line sound, will cost you a lot of cash (if you can even get hold of one).
Now imagine how much a whole studio would cost you, complete with a virtually infinite amount of synths, samplers, mixing desks and effects would set you back? Not to mention the amount of space it would require to house them all. On top of that you then have the added hassle of having to wire them together, manually program them via clumsy interfaces and keep them in working order. Because of this, not many people ever get the chance to experience these classic instruments; for most they remain a far-off and unobtainable dream.
This is where a small Swedish software house called Propellerhead Software stepped in and changed everything. In 1997 they released a small, fairly low-profile software application called ReBirth for the PC and Apple Mac that was destined to become a cult classic. What this did was accurately model, in software, the sound of the classic Roland TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines as well as two TB-303 bass machines. To quote the Props, ReBirth offered " All the quirks and subtle qualities of analogue, combined with the convenience of modern computers (a minimum of cables, integration with your sequencer software, complete front panel automation, real-time audio streaming and much more)."
However, Rebirth was not without it's flaws. In some ways it too accurately modelled the old synths, making it awkward to program and difficult to integrate into other sequencers (though rewire made this easier). Despite this it was still revolutionary, showing that the power of modern home computers could now accurately reproduce the subtleties of analogue synthesis. However, Rebirth wasn't the product the Propellerhead's wanted to make, this was yet to come... NB. Rebirth can now be downloaded free from Propellerheads The ReBirth Museum. Check out a piece of history now!
I've Found a Reason
And, in early 2001, Propellerhead's released Reason 1. This was everything that they had hoped Rebirth would be, and then some. In effect it was a whole home studio, compromising of a virtual mixing desk, an analogue synth called the Subtractor (which, naturally, utilised subtractive synthesis), a sampler called the NN-19 (amusingly named after Paul Hardcastle's hit '19') plus a versatile sample-based drum machine called, naturally, Redrum. Throw in effects such as reverb, delay, distortion, chorus and phasers plus a full-blown MIDI sequencer, a REX loop player and you had everything you needed to make electronic music, but at the fraction of the price of hardware. Sure, other companies had released 'soft synths' before, but what made Reason special was the way it was all integrated together - beautiful design, an amazingly intuitive interface and a simple-yet-powerful sequencer all combined to make it such as joy to use.
Propellerheads, though, were not just content to sit back on their laurels. In 2002 they released Reason 2 which added on new features to Reason whilst still being backward compatible with songs made in the earlier version. The new version introduced a powerful new synth module called Malström into the rack. This unit used a new type of synthesis - 'graintable' - that was a combination of granular synthesis and wavetable synthesis. Also new to Reason 2 was a more advanced sampler, called the NN-XT, which could handle multi-sampling and velocity switched notes in it's stride. For good measure the Prop's also threw in a brand new soundbank called the Orkester Refill, which featured top-notch 24bit samples of orchestral instruments.
Then, in 2003, Propellerhead's enhanced Reason's legacy by announcing Reason 2.5 - a free upgrade for Reason 2 owners. This upgrade added three new advanced effects units - the RV70000 digital reverb, the BV512 Vocoder and the awesome Scream 4 Sound Destruction Unit. For good measure they also threw in three more units that helped make routing sounds much easier. Can you say fairer than that? :)
Well, actually, yes. For in 2005 Reason 3 was released, adding extensive mastering capabilities to Reason so that you could export tracks that were CD quality straight from the software. Not only that but a new device, The Combinator, was added to Reason's rack, doing exactly what it says on the tin. This genius idea allows you to assemble many devices and effects together and save them as a new device just as easily as you would save a patch. Amazing!
The latest version of the software (at time of this article), Reason 4 was released in 2007. It included a new modular synth called (in typical Swedish style) Thor; an arpeggiator; ReGroove, a detimer/dequantizer; and a complete change to Reason's sequencer that includes tempo and meter changes as well as support for complex meters.
My Reason Tracks
By now you might just have guessed I'm a big fan of Reason :) So it won't come as any shock to learn that I've made lots of tracks using it. Yep, this is the part of the site where I pimp my music made in Reason. Obviously this tends to be mostly electronic and instrumental, but you'll perhaps be surprised by the wide range of styles that you can achieve using this versatile software. My tracks range from ambient electronica and melodic techno right through to modern jazz and trip-hop.
However, if you don't have Reason then there's no need to worry, as you can also find mastered versions of all my songs in the MP3 section of this site. There truly is no escaping!