This is an amazing piece of gear, I mean, uh, software. Welcome to Reason, the latest release by Propellerhead, the company that pioneered the virtual instrument/sampler scene with Rebirth and Recycle. Clearly created to fill a void in the "all in one" sampler/synth market, Reason is geared for, and an obvious descendent of, the dance/electronica scene. Reason is kind of like a virtual dream rack, where you can sequence a variety of virtual samplers, synthesizers, drum machines, and some quirky things like the Matrix analog step sequencer module. Reason doesn't set out to dethrone the big sequencer/audio programs out there, it doesn't even record audio. It also doesn't transmit MIDI out, although the virtual instruments and all of their parameters are controllable via MIDI in. It is a blinding success in that it offers you the most complete and sophisticated set of instruments, samplers and effects in one single application to date. It also gives you a powerful sequencer to control them and gives you a virtual mixer, complete with wiggly patch cables (press the [tab] key and watch the rack flip around). Reason's instrument modules are modeled after some of the classic and most sought after hardware components in electronic music. Every pad, sampler, knob, button, fader and switch can be controlled via MIDI and automated from the internal sequencer. I must mention that Reason can be commandeered by a "host application" via ReWire, a sort of virtual MIDI cable. A great place to start with any track is a drum pattern. Reason's Redrum is a drum sequencer that sounds like the classic Roland 808, 909 machines. The Reason CD provides many interesting soundbanks for this module and you are free to add .wav or .aiff samples of your own. The extremely powerful NN-19 Sampler is setup a lot like an E-xtremely popular hardware sampler, with tons of MIDI-controllable parameters like pitchbend and cutoff and an LFO with 5 waveforms to choose from. If breakbeats are your thing then you probably already know that Propellerhead's Recycle can change a drum loop's tempo, preserve its pitch and cut it into sections based on its dynamic transients. Reason's Dr. Rex module reads and plays back Rex files (Recycle Files) and has LFOs and selectable filters. Then use the files in Reason along side the Subtractor, a two oscillator subtractive synth with an added noise generator and all of your staple synth parameters, including LFOs and envelopes. There are compressors, there are delays, there are distortions, there are reverbs, and they are all automate-able. If you are a synth/samplist musician and you only buy one piece of software this year, or especially if all you can afford is one piece of commercial software, try Reason. The code seems rock-solid, no lockups or anything. It also appears that it is pretty easy on system resources, I ran pretty complex configurations on my low end laptop with no problem whatsoever, and there are versions for Mac and PC. ($399 list,,,

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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