Propellerhead today unveils the new Reason, incorporating Record functionality in both the full-blown and “Essentials” versions, a new audio interface in their first-ever hardware, and a beta that will at last make ReCycle a modern Mac tool.

Record added some wonderful stuff to Reason, including a terrific analog-style console, modeled EQ and dynamics, the ability (finally) to place racks side by side, and extra effects modules, including nice Line 6 modeled guitar kit. In other words, Record introduced a bunch of stuff you’d really want in Reason all along. Conversely, if you only bought Record, you were left out of a bunch of useful stuff that was only in Reason.

Yes, there was the “Duo” box that included both Reason and Record. But what you really wanted was both. Since neither app supports plug-ins, you really, really wanted both.

Propellerhead has apparently heard us, because Reason 6 now includes everything. It’s effectively Duo, with both Reason and Record. If that’s overkill, Reason Essentials gives you Record plus the bits of Reason Record users most wanted — the ReDrum drum machine, the NNXT sampler, the Dr OctoREX loop player. Essentials also has a smaller mixer (actually, I rather hope that’s accessible from the full-blown product, too.)

Onto what’s new: Reason adds a bunch of new goodies:

  • Pulveriser : “crushing” effect with “crunchy” compression. Given the niceness of previous distortion efforts for Propellerheads, I think there’s reason to be optimistic.
  • Echo: stereo effect with “modern” delay and analog tape echo. Sounds delightful, that one.
  • Alligator: three-band pattern gate.
  • Higher-quality audio transpose. One of the most overlooked features of Record was its exceptional-quality time stretching; getting better transpose alongside could make a formidable audio tool.
  • True 64-bit compatibility.

The biggest piece of news here – the one Propellerhead didn’t even include explicitly in its press release – is that ReWire is 64-bit. That ensures ReWire’s place in the future of the product line.

Finally, in its first foray into hardware, Propellerhead is unveiling Balance, the lovely design of which you can more or less make out at top. It’s a two-in, two-out audio interface, but with eight connections – that way, while you can only record stereo, you don’t have to swap cables.

The new metering overlay, for further musician-friendly emphasis on actual recording – nice.

There’s also this feature: “Hardware buttons on Balance bring up a large meter/tuner in Reason and can also enable Clip Safe, Propellerhead’s new recording technology that with one click heals clipped recorded audio. Musicians no longer have to worry about losing a great recording because gain levels were too high, and can stay focused on creating that goose bump evoking performance.”

I’ve confirmed with Propellerhead that the basic means by which this works is that the software automatically records extra audio, so that when you do clip a recording, you can effectively borrow additional dynamic headroom (in that you’re recording additional dynamic information) by using the additional recording. There’s some clever means by which this is automatic; it should be fun to test, intentionally setting gain wrong. (I was just looking at a Sony mobile recorder that does something similar, albeit using additional bits by recording at 24-bit over 16-bit, etc.)

The other good news on the audio interface: it’s WDM/ASIO on Windows, but class-compliant for Mac (and Linux, and iPad, and other things). The Balance upgrade will come bundled with Essentials for US$499; clearly, part of the idea here is to offer in one box some complete software for use by newcomers to music production tools, with everything they need in one box.

If you do want Balance and intend to use the full-blown Reason, Propellerhead tells us, “If you already own Reason or Record or the Duo you get a free upgrade to Reason 6 when you buy Balance. If you buy Balance new without owning any Propellerhead software previously, you can upgrade to Reason 6 by buying the Reason 6 upgrade ($169).” (See further discussion in comments.)

There are still things I’d complained about that appear not to be here – namely, MIDI output for hardware synths and the ability to run Record (now Reason) as a ReWire host and not just ReWire client, which I think would make it an ideal mixing, arrangement, and mastering console. (I do track the things I write in the “Cons” column.) But I’m very excited about this release. I’ve been a great fan of the work on Record, and it seems only natural to bring it to a broader audience of Reason users. This appears to make the product line more sensible and friendly, and I’ve long found those couple of simple effects additions in new Reason versions can turn out to be the ingredient in entire tracks.

Stay tuned for a hands-on when this ships. Ship date: September 30.

Pricing: US$449 for Reason 6, US$299 for Reason Essentials (without the hardware), or US$169 for an upgrade from any Reason version or Reason Essentials to Reason 6.

Full details:
Reason 6 minisite

There’s a public beta signup if you just can’t wait:
Beta Test Reason

And in other news, Propellerhead have an update on Lion compatibility. Their software, apart from its usual Windows function, will work on the upcoming new release of Apple’s software. Because Apple is, as expected, removing Rosetta, the now-ancient compatibility layer, it’s time for a native Mac OS X version of Propellerhead’s ReCycle loop creation software. There’s a beta coming for that, as well:
Lion Info

There’s also this nice video of Reason users, set in New York City, with a few people I know mixed in. It’s an advertisement, of course, but I like them focusing on the human side of music software.