Barbarism Begins At Home

19 Jul, 2007

Within Reason - Part 5: Other Shortcomings

Posted by: Dan In: music| production| software

Over the years, users have noted Reason’s shortcomings. Let’s take a brief look at some.

Reason’s Synths Sound Weak

Soft synths don’t have to sound weak, but Reason’s praise for super efficient CPU use comes at the price of weak sounding synths.

Personally, I kind of like it that way. I can’t stand synths and sound designers that want to write your track for you. Sure, I like big sound, but I also don’t see why a chorus patch should take up 50% of your processing power.

Of course, to counter this shortcoming the Propellerheads had an ingenious idea: One synth isn’t good enough? Let’s cram 7 of them together into one stereo output!


Of course, it’s only 7 in that example - but choose the units you think make a sufficient single instrument and you’re on your way.

Refills Suck

Okay, they don’t suck as bad as they once did.

Using ReFills in pre-3.0 Reason is tedious. There used to be no search or favorites feature. The ReFill developer decides for you how to best manage your sample library.

Plus, there’s no official way to use ReFill sounds in other applications. Like those drum sounds but want to use them in Ultrabeat or Battery? Too bad. Each ReFill you buy increases the cost to ditch Reason.

Software That Looks Like Hardware That’s Sold To Users That Don’t Use Hardware

Imagine if Microsoft Word wasn’t like the word processing programs that we know today. Instead, what if Word was an onscreen representation of a typewriter?

That’s ridiculous, right? But really, that’s an accurate way to think of Reason.

Reason has a usability issue that isn’t mentioned very often (although, sometimes it is) - the rack metaphor. Reason is a software rack unit down to the mounting screws and cables that shake when you press tab. Cute, but completely irrelevant to software studios, and only slows down the workflow.

Meanwhile, software like Ableton Live is completely easy to pick up and intuitive to use, and looks nothing like hardware. There’s a user-interface compromise somewhere.


Today, ReWire feels like a hastily put together solution to create compatibility on some level with other DAWs. Propellerheads doesn’t have all the blame here - almost every music software app handles ReWire differently, sometimes in tedious fashions.

Plus, ReWire is the Frankenstein monster


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

1 Response to "Within Reason - Part 5: Other Shortcomings"

1 | Blah!

September 24th, 2008 at 9:52 pm


While I get where you’re coming from, I disagree about the Word + typewriter metaphor. Coming from a software background, Reason taught me to be more comfortable with hardware. After all, once the hardware is virtualized you can’t break it through user error, any mistake you make can be undone, any patch or knob position can be saved. But after being spoiled by Reason’s best-of-both-worlds approach you find yourself playing with some awesome-sounding analog synth in a music store and thinking “yeah it sounds great, but I can’t automate the knobs. And even if I get a great sound I have to record it into my DAW eventually anyway. If I decide to tweak something later I’ll need to re-record.”

You ask yourself if the sound of hardware synths is really much better than soft synths. And if it is, is it worth having to deal with the jotting down of knob positions, backing up patches onto external media, syncing of MIDI time code, recording all of that into a DAW? The answer is usually NO. Especially when portability and cost also factor in.

But I do agree that it’s ludicrous for the Props to not include at least a simple audio playback lane in the sequencer window. Instead I am finding myself relying on Ableton Live more and more. And since I can’t route audio from Live back into Reason, it becomes a one-way street - in Live’s favor. So sadly you are right. Reason is moving more into the role of something like the Swiss Army knife of soft synths rather than a complete DAW solution. If only they would change their stance on audio track support…who cares if there would be feature overlap with Cubase/Live/Logic/etc? Better than having to buy those apps to fill that hole!