Reason 7: New Features Keep This DAW in the Running

Reason 7, Propellorheads

Looks like music-software makers are all racing to push out updates these days, with the recent release of Ableton Live 9, followed by the announcement of Native Instruments Komplete 9, and now Propellerheads Reason 7 is on the way.

I must admit I haven’t used Reason in quite a long time. I moved on before they even added Record. That was the ultimate reason really: Propellerheads was too slow to add features which seemed like obvious necessities. However, I do remember fondly the ability to just whip up a track in no time flat. Reason is great for this. The ease and flexibility of connecting or rearranging devices is awesome, and the graphics are just adorable. I remember thinking that Reason would be an awesome tool to demonstrate the principles of electronic music technology quickly and comprehensibly in the classroom.

Reason has come a long way since the early days, and version 7 has added some interesting features, albeit rather late in the game. These include an External MIDI device, for controlling all your outboard gear (that maybe you don’t use anymore?), slice-able audio, for quantization or use with REX player devices (which Reason pioneered 13 years ago!), some age old mix features like buses, groups, and the new Spectrum (graphic) EQ. They’ve also added Level and Pan functions within Racks, the neat-o Audiomatic Retro Transformer, to give your tracks that vintage vibe, and a whole new bunch of sounds “from dubstep to even metal”! Not only that, but more audio file formats are supported, like mp3, wma, and aac!

Not sure if Propellorheads is being tongue-in-cheek with their copy (surely they must be right? “There’s a rack for that”???). I do think these additions bring Reason up to date though, making it a real contender again in the audio world. It just seems weird to me that they allowed themselves to fall behind in the first place, when they seemed so far ahead right out of the gate in the year 2000. In any case, I am happy to see them making strides, as users new and old will no doubt have countless hours of fun banging out tracks with Reason 7.

See all the new stuff in action:

Reason 7 is currently in beta-testing and will be released in the second quarter of 2013.

Arturia SparkLE Shines

Arturia, SparkLE, drum machine

I’m a sucker for sparkly things, and the Arturia SparkLE is certainly no exception.

SparkLE is a sleek hardware/software hybrid drum-machine that is bound to light up your life (nyuk nyuk) in a few different ways. Spaceship-LIGHTshow aside, this little beatbox is LIGHT, weighing in at only 1 kg (2.2 lbs.). And of course, it will simply deLIGHT you. (End of horrible pun.)

You can build beats using the step sequencer buttons or pound them out in realtime on the pressure sensitive pads. Throw down a groove with the Looper and then introduce variation with the touch sensitive XY pad, which can control 8 filter modes (including the classic Oberheim SEM filter) and 7 different Slicer modes. Engage the TUNE mode and play a synth melody on SparkLE’s 16 keys, or simply add pitch to a percussion sound.

SparkLE, Arturia, hardware software hybrid drum machine

The SparkLE sound engine boasts a wide range of ever expanding sounds, with layering, Virtual Analog, and Physical Modeling for further tweaking. The software component offers a Mix view, effects, automation & editing capabilities, and can be used as a standalone program or AU/VST/VST3/RTAS plug-in (without the hardware connected). Alternately you can map the hardware to control your DAW via MIDI, or use the included templates for Ableton LIve and Reason.

All this functionality is built into a seriously compact (284mm x 171mm x 17 mm) and portable (comes with a travel case) package. SparkLE is a truly versatile tool for a musician on the go!

Arturia’s SparkLE is an obvious competitor to Native Instruments’ Maschine Mikro. In the race to get smaller and smaller, it wins; the Spark drum controller is thinner, takes up less desk space, and the price tag is lower ($299 vs. $399 for Maschine). Although Maschine might fair better with MPC drum pad enthusiasts, I must say I prefer Spark’s keyboard/’TR’ style layout. I’d love to get the two of them in a room for a real sonic shootout sometime.