MIDI out - and Reason's design fits it so perfectly, which could mean it proves worth the wait.

MIDI out. News? No. Welcome in Reason’s unique Rack design? Yes.

Happy 2013, everyone! Here’s CDM with the latest news. It seems there’s a new synth called the Korg MS-20! Or you can have a monosynth with filter saturation – that arrangement of three oscillator knobs looks cool. All of these things use a ground-breaking format called MIDI that allows digital instruments to talk to one another. And you can even get software for your computer that now supports MIDI output. So, you can use your computer to talk to your synth – that is, if you aren’t busy taking advantage of the computer’s ability to slice up audio.

In case things aren’t retro enough for you, though, we have effects you can switch on to make things more retro. (Careful with those settings: it’s possible you may wind up making music on an Aeolian harp and wearing a toga.)

The surprise: we might get excited about all of this anyway.

Yes, in the latest unexpected product announcement (many of them here in the normally quiet month of March), Propellerhead is launching Reason 7. I found about it as our first readers did; I got no advance warning on this one. The banner features: MIDI output, some powerful external device features to support them, and yes, Propellerhead is at last taking advantage of the fact that they invented the REX slicing format that helped launch years of the slicing/looping/stretching craze.

Propellerhead also reaches some kind of marketing singularity with the following voiceover (I am not making this up):
“Soon, we’ll be unveiling the audio-matic retro transformer, an effect unit that adds instant vintage flavor to your tracks.”

Oh, and then they top it:
“Reason has a rack for that.”

Please, please don’t say that again. I’ll do anything you want. We can have Reason week here on CDM. I can come buy you bottles of Aquavit in Stockholm. Actually… wait, the latter sounds like a good idea.

Okay, in case you haven’t already given up on this site and gone to read what Propellerhead has to say, here’s a run-down on what’s coming in Reason 7. I expect we’ll get to know more when we see the Props next month in Frankfurt.

Put MIDI and audio slicing together, and those who love Reason for music making no longer have to make do with other tools.

Put MIDI and audio slicing together, and those who love Reason for music making no longer have to make do with other tools.

  • MIDI OUT SUPPORT. Good grief, finally. Reason’s MIDI devices and rack seem a natural complement to hardware. I genuinely can’t wait to use this.
  • External MIDI Instrument device. They had me at MIDI out, but cleverly you do get a dedicated Rack device. Combine this with Reason’s virtual control voltage routing and modular, and you can imagine some fairly elaborate external MIDI setups.
  • Integrated slicing. Bringing Reason boldly into — actually, the past decades Propellerhead helped create. See, Propellerhead helped launch computer looping with ReCycle and REX, tools for slicing and dicing and stretching loops. ACID, GarageBand, and even Ableton Live, among others, all owe a little bit to the workflows REX helped popularize. (Little wonder, then, that you can still load REX files into GarageBand and Logic.) We all imagined this would shortly be integrated in Reason. Years went by, and… well, you began to wonder if it’d ever happen. Now, in classic Propellerhead fashion, it has; they just wanted to wait until they were good and ready and, evidently, happy with their implementation. So now you can now slice up recordings into single notes and hits, quantize audio, and use Reason’s time stretch. This may be right now prompting groans from Propellerhead’s competitors, but again, those Racks have their own workflow – and Reason’s time stretching has sounded pretty terrific since the release of Record.
  • At last, REX creation is integrated into Reason, for use with Dr. Octo, samplers, and Kong. If you love these devices, it’s fantastic news.
  • Level and pan are in the mixing rack. (I’m going to stop saying “finally” at this point; just imagine it repeating.)
  • Bus channels.
  • Spectrum analysis window.
  • Audiomatic Retro Transformer.

And there are dubstep and “even metal” presets in the included sound banks.


Okay, full disclosure: I’m torn. I’m glad I don’t have to write marketing copy for this. I mean, any audiomatic retro transformer effect aside, this is a bit of an audiomatic retro upgrade. Audio slicing? MIDI out? Pan knobs?

But, here’s the paradox: Reason has something irrational about it that either drives people utterly batty or makes them fall in love and have fun making music in a way no other tool does. (I’m somewhere in between: I resort to Reason when I’m fed up of everything from Pd to Ableton. And I’ve never once not wound up immediately with a track using it. I look forward to Reason reviews as an excuse to use them.)

And, even things like an Audiomatic Retro Transformer can get interesting, just because Props have a track record of putting out devices that sound really, insanely good, partly thanks to talented Swedish audio scientists.

There’s one thing missing from today’s announcement, in which I feel I’ve done a poor job as a journalist. In the midst of a busy year, I simply lacked the resources to fully wrap my head around the Rack Extension ecosystem since it was introduced this time last year at Musikmesse. That did a disservice to a bunch of third-party developers creating tools for the platform – and do readers, some of whom were concerned about whether RE’s implementation was up to snuff from a system performance perspective. I’m very keen to know if Propellerhead has improved performance and resource utilization of those devices in this release, so in addition to testing this, I’ll be researching this. And I hope we’ll get some a better look this year, now that the platform is maturing.

In the meantime, here’s the teaser video.