Within Reason – Part 4: What Changed and How Reason Shoots Itself In The Foot

While Reason was the top software studio application when it was first released, due to the release of VSTi, powerful new computers, and new DAWs, Reason’s immediate future isn’t as bright as it could’ve been (in my opinion).

But first, let’s discuss what Reason really is.

Below is the text on Propellerheads’ current Reason product page:

Making music should be as easy as powering up a computer, loading up a powerful piece of music software, and getting down to business. And it is. Reason 3.0 is a virtual studio rack with all the tools and instruments you need to turn your ideas into music. And it’s more than just a set of excellent synths and effects. It’s a complete music system. Step into the age of Reason.

Propellerheads markets Reason as a complete music system. In many ways it’s a great electronic music studio: you never run out of room and you can have as many devices and instruments as your computer allows.

While some argue that Reason’s appeal is largely due to its complex routing capability, I believe Reason appeals to the musician just getting started with software production (or just getting started writing music) because it includes so many devices and has been marketed as the complete music system. Go to the Reason song archive to hear the many contributions with little more than REX loops and randomized Matrix patterns – surefire indications that contributors may have the software, but not the MIDI hardware.

Bu there’s one thing that any Reason user should see in that description that sticks out like a sore thumb.

Reason Is Not A Complete Music System

Reason’s factory samples and instruments provide more than enough to get any aspiring music producer started, but one can quickly outgrow Reason because of one specific lack in features.

Of course, that is Reason’s inability to record audio.

Despite the non-stop requests for audio recording, the Props have simply stated that its addition would just make Reason an inferior Cubase 1. I agree.

So the solution to the lack of audio recording has been one of three things.

  1. Don’t use recorded audio

  2. Insert your recorded audio from a different application into one of Reason’s samplers or the Dr.Rex unit (after converting it to a REX loop)

  3. ReWire Reason to a DAW that records audio

Of course, it’s naive to think that all Reason users won’t want to use audio at some point. While the sampler capabilities keep users working in the application, using a sampler for audio recordings is far from ideal simply from a workflow point of view. That leaves the only logical thing for this function in the hands of other applications.

The way Reason is built actively encourages its users to use competing products.

This wasn’t true at one point, but since every DAW has played catch up to the software instrument revolution many of them surpass Reason in usability and features.

Or, to phrase it differently, in some ways, ReWire has contributed to Reason’s decline.

ReWire is to Reason as The Frankenstein Monster is to Dr. Frankenstein

the frankenstein monster

ReWire serves as the bridge between Reason and every other DAW application. Since licensing Rewire is free 2 it’s a no-brainer for developers to include ReWire support in their DAWs; not specifically for Reason, but for any music application that uses ReWire. There are many.

The license is likely free simply to encourage compatibility on some level, and thus make any DAW user a potential Reason user. That strategy has worked for the most part – I can’t name a DAW without ReWire support.

And although it’s wiser that ReWire was developed than not, ReWire directs Reason users away from Reason and into the arms of other DAWs.

How so?

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

There’s no question that Reason’s current sequencer is weak. MIDI editing is awkward to work with, there’s no way to change tempo or use complex time signatures…issues that are being somewhat resolved in Reason 4.

So when a Reason user starts using a full fledged DAW, what are their discoveries?

The DAW is

  • Harder to use at first. They might think they’re over their heads for a while. Maybe they are, but that difficulty largely has to do with a DAW’s incredible capabilities over Reason. They’ve been in development long before Reason’s entered alpha stage.

  • Better at lots of things, including automation, MIDI editing, sample management (the ReFill concept sucks) mixing, and if audio’s involved there’s no comparison.

  • Faster at production and provides the efficiency to try new things.

  • Stronger than Reason when it comes to workflow, and in many cases, sound.

So after learning a DAW, isn’t it daft to go back to Reason? To that extent, Reason becomes nothing more than a software sound module for DAW users that competes with built-in instruments and other third-party software synths.

Reason’s position as an application designed for newcomers is now being challenged by budget or free programs like Garageband and Sequel. Plus, with Reason’s rising price tag, the difficulty new DAW users encounter setting up ReWire, plus the inconvenience that experienced DAW users face when switching between 2 applications to use a ReWired setup, Reason’s benefits are diminished more and more with each passing generation of software synths and workstations.

1. Man of Reason<br/>
2. Becoming a ReWire Developer

Next: Within Reason – Part 5: Other Shortcomings</br/>Previously: <a href=”http://www.barbarism.net/2007/07/within-reason-in

terlude-independence.html”>Within Reason – Interlude: Independence From Hardware

6 thoughts on “Within Reason – Part 4: What Changed and How Reason Shoots Itself In The Foot”

  1. First off, I just discovered your blog and I really enjoy it. Great stuff.<br/><br/>I very much agree with your comments about Reason. I actually bought it after being a well-established Logic user, just to see what the fuss was about. The simplicity of the sequencer initially amused — then quickly frustrated — me. I could never imagine writing a full song on Reason, although it can be a good sketchpad. But for that, I now use GarageBand, but if I’m going to reach for GarageBand, I usually just wait the extra minute to fire up Logic, so… there you have it.<br/><br/>But what I WOULD like is a way to run Reason synths as VSTi’s. ReWire works all well and good but the extra steps to set it up versus the immediacy of using EXS24 or Kontakt 2 or Sculpture or Absynth 4 or Wavestation Legacy or any one of the other great VST/AUs out there is really enough to be a big disincentive. If I could just pop in a Maelstrom, I might actually use it in a song. <br/><br/>I will admit that I will likely spring for the $100 or so to upgrade to Version 4, maybe just because I’m a sucker. But the new synth looks cool, and at the price of the upgrade it is — well, it is basically a bargain new VSTi. Perhaps that is why Reason won’t die, is that they are cornering the low end of the market?<br/><br/>Last thing: Have you seen the new FutureMusic? There is an interview with the guys from Propellerhead that I think basically validates all of your points.<br/><br/>In any case, thanks for the posts.

  2. Jeff,<br/>You will enjoy part 6. It’s all about how I think Reason can be turned around and become a sought after piece of software for anybody producing music.<br/><br/>As far as the VSTi/AU approach, check out my proposal:<br/><br/>http://www.barbarism.net/2007/06/what-i-really-want-in-reason-4.html

  3. I found your page while doing some research after reading some crybabies on the propellerheads forum continuing to go on about lack of audio input. It finally dawned on me that it could be (couldn’t it) that in the split from Steinberg and to retain full rights to their developments the props signed an agreement not to compete with Cubase (i.e. no audio in). Think about it.

  4. Hey, it’s possible.<br/><br/>I never understood the desire to put audio input into Reason. Do people REALLY want to work with audio in Reason’s sequencer? It’s not so great for MIDI, I can’t imagine how horrible it would be for audio.

  5. Reason, on the whole is a great proggramme once u get into it hey but i do agree with statements made about its limited capabilities and my biggest annoyance….i cnt record vocals. How exactly do u set up rewire coz i have tried but im not wining….pls help

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