Reason 11: tons of new devices, features, and now it’s a plug-in, too

Reason 11 unveils a bunch of new stuff – and the company that brought you ReWire will now let you use Reason as a plug-in. Oh, also – that company is no longer “Propellerhead.”

This is the most news from the Props in a single day for a while, at least in my recent memory. Let’s do the run-down.

Reason 11 is coming, with some changes to how it’s delivered:

  • Reason 11 is in beta now, coming September 25.
  • Reason will come with a plug-in covering just instruments, effects, and sounds, called Reason Rack Plugin (VST3 in September, AU later this year).
  • There’s now a Suite version, which adds 16 of their own Rack Extensions (including one new addition).
  • New pricing – Reason Intro (€79), Reason (€349) and Reason Suite (€549).

Buried in the fine print, Suite gets you – Scenic Hybrid Instrument [new], Complex-1 Modular Synth, Umpf Club Drums, Umpf Retro Beats, Reason Electric Bass, Reason Drum Kits, Processed Pianos, Layers Wave Edition, Layers, Parsec Spectral Synthesizer, Radical Keys, Polar Dual Pitch Shifter, Rotor Rotary Speaker, PolyStep Sequencer, Quad Note Generator, Drum Sequencer.

To me, having the Buchla-inspired Complex-1 modular, the step sequencer and quad note generator, Drum Sequencer, and Parsec are enough for me to recommend Suite to enthusiast producers. Those are already to me the main reason to fire up Reason these days.

Reason 11’s availability as a plug-in is the feature that will get everyone’s attention in the new release, but there are a lot of improvements to functionality.

New features and devices:

  • There are a bunch of new devices: Quartet Chorus Ensemble, Sweeper Modulation Effect, Master Bus Compressor, Channel Dynamics, and Channel EQ (the last three emulating landmark analog gear – and adapted from the existing mixer, but now possible to use in Combinator patches and the new plug-in)
  • Curved automation and audio clip crossfades (finally is definitely called for here)
  • Improved vertical zoom
  • New MIDI editing features (mute, multiple notes, selection enhancements)
  • Scenic Hybrid Instrument is a “cinematic dream machine.” It feels a little bit like a Swedish take on Omnisphere, with a fresh Nordic UI but – will check it out soon.

So, to translate there – Reason 11 gives you the ability to use another DAW, but it also gives you a bunch of reasons not to do that. Finally having curves and automation, plus rounding out the dynamics processing options, should make doing your track inside Reason way more fun.

What’s new in Reason 11

And lastly…

End of an era.

Propellerhead is dead. Long live Reason Studios. There’s no actual corporate change here, but there is a name change: the company we know as Propellerhead will now be Reason Studios. Plus, there’s a new logo, which reminds me of time spent playing Q*bert – see illustration, below.

(Reason will also go with the new single cube, dropping the old 3-cube “logotype, which was a vague nod at nuclear reactors.)

Fun fact: I do all my measurements in units of lowercase ‘n.’

@!*?@! is something you’ll hear me say sometimes while working.

Okay, okay, the logo really just takes one of the three cubes that makes up the Reason logo. That logo has remained fairly constant since version 1.0 – and even inspired at least one person to get a tattoo.

About that plug-in

Propellerhead clarified a bit about how the plug-in will work. First, it’s called Reason Rack Plugin. And there are actually two versions. One is an instrument version – that’s the one that you’d add on an instrument track in your DAW, either routing MIDI into it (from a keyboard or something like Ableton Live’s clips), or using Reason’s internal pattern generation devices. One is an effect version, which you can add to existing audio tracks for processing – like using those new dynamics and EQ tools.

Some other cool details:

  • Multiple audio outputs, two stereo inputs.
  • Full compatibility with every ReFill, every Rack Extension – yeah, and bring your Combinators into other DAWs, too.
  • Reason Browser is included, and works just as it does in Reason, so you can retain your lists of favorites.

Reason Studios also provide some answers on other features:

  • You can route audio input into effects, sidechains, splitters, etc.
  • There’s no sampling support in Reason Rack Plugin, only in Reason itself.
  • Reason Rack Plugin receives both host automation and one channel of MIDI input
  • Yes, you can have multiple instances of Reason Rack Plugin. (That means if you want different channels controlling different instruments, you’ll just add more instances in the host.)
  • There’s no MIDI output from MIDI generating devices like the Matrix and MIDI effects in this version. (You can still use those to automate internal Reason instruments and effects, though, inside Reason Rack Plugin).

There’s also no drag-and-drop facility of audio, which is too bad – that’s something I know a lot of people use with Native Instruments’ Maschine and Ableton Live, for instance. (That said, implementation in various plug-ins can be a bit rocky.)

But all in all, I think this will be useful to a lot of people.

What’s it all mean?

So, fast take on this – all of this was a long time coming. And it’s great news for loyal Reason users.

The plug-in idea is a long time coming. ReWire was a clever idea, and it introduced at least some producers to the idea of combining different tools. It let you use Reason as a rack of instruments and effects in a DAW – and originally at a time when Reason’s own arrangement and audio facilities were limited. But ReWire hasn’t really survived as a technology, as operating systems advanced and security changes even make it untenable. (As far as I know, ReWire won’t even be possible in the imminent next version of macOS.)

Meanwhile, a plug-in does what you really need, by letting you keep your favorite instrument/effect racks inside software like Ableton Live. FL Studio already does this, so it’s not even uncharted territory, and those FL users seem really happy with it.

This also means that Reason’s excellent console tools and West Coast modular instrument are available in your DAW, which is a big deal – just to name two examples, among many. (I can’t wait to use the Complex-1 everywhere.)

The demise of Propellerhead as a name is a little bittersweet for all of us. The name Propellerhead was quirky, unique … “Reason” we’ve gotten used to, even if there was already a “Logic.” But sure, the logo looks overly 1990s, and there was always this Web domain problem of the company Propellerhead being at Propellerheads.se (plural).

And Propel– uh, Reason Studios – really has just one product. After unsuccessful efforts in hardware (an audio interface that never took off), plus Web and services (that effort was spun off as Alihoopa, then shuttered this year), the company is focusing on the one tool that never fails. That’s Reason, plus the flourishing ecosystem of instruments and effects that sits on top of it. And people really stick with the name of the tool they use every day – Pro Tools, “Ableton” (since most people don’t call it “Ableton Live”), Cakewalk (not SONAR, not 12 Tone Systems – eep).

This has been an end of an era for the company in a lot of ways – CEO and co-founder Ernst Nathorst-Böös turned over the reins to Niklas Agevik in June.

Now, the one big disappointment to me is, it still sounds like Reason lacks a proper scalable interface. I expect that will be a major architectural change, since it also will impact Rack Extensions. But it’s needed, and I’ll try to find out more.

Otherwise, Reason 11 looks like another compelling release from a company that continues to inspire passion in its users.

Product manager Mattias Häggström Gerdt weighs in:

Announcing Reason 11 – a word from the Product Manager

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