Reason is back to its roots, slicing up audio samples and letting you chop them up into instruments – but in a way that stacks up to the workflows of rival DAWs, production tools, and drum machines.
This week, Mimic “Creative Sampler” has dropped and – I’ll be, it sure does look like the love child of ReCycle, Reason past, and Reason present. But that’s a good thing. What you get is a simple, flat, one-screen interface with all the modes in one place and the sample interface front and center. It’s the sort of sampler that will feel home-y to a Reason user, but also a Reason user who’s been spoiled by the likes of Ableton’s Simpler (and some similar-looking recent entries from other DAWs like Apple’s).
And it finally lets you do what some of us wanted to do from the first time we saw Reason and ReCycle years back – now you can just drop in your own sounds and go. It’s all about the modes here:
Pitch just repitches across the keyboard.
Slice slices by transient, and does so automatically and quickly.
Multi Slot and Multi Pitch are the new conceit – make up to eight sample slots for a stupidly-simple multi-sample instrument based on layers or repitching.
This is dumber than you normally expect a sampler to be, but it’s a genuinely clever middle ground between stuff like Simpler and a full multisampler. It’s perfect for quick-and-dirty patch creation, and I suspect that Reason Studios’ bet here is dead on – this is exactly the amount of multi-sampling most of us need 90% of the time, no more. You don’t really want Mimic to have delusions of being Kontakt or Logic’s EXS-24; you just want to mess around with sounds.
So the make-or-break is the “mess around with” bit – and that’s where Reason’s time-stretching comes into play. Reason Studios, and Propellerhead before them, have always been going on and on about how great their time stretching was, but most of us just ignored them because we didn’t only want to use it in linear timeline editing. Now you can actually play with it – and it’s brought friends:
Time stretching works with the Reason time stretching algorithm, which does indeed sound uniquely transparent
Granular mode lets you work directly with an equally impressive granular engine, and the controls you want – and it’s a modern-sounding granular engine, too, which in Live (cough) typically means finding some Max for Live plug-in
Tape models tape-style stretching
In fact, the real competition for this remains Reason 11’s awesome Grain Sample Manipulator – but it’s great having a simple grain time stretch option in this slice/one-shot/simple multisampler context, too.
Plus, you have very analog-style controls for envelopes, filter (with tons of filter modes), modulation, and EQ. There’s a surprising, semi-modular architecture tucked away in there, without adding too much panel complexity, which makes this eminently playable. Frankly, I wish I had this as hardware, but Reason will do – especially with rout-able LFO and modulation.
The effects section is kind of overkill given you’re running this in Reason, but they’ve also added coloration effects, compressor, and EQ, so you can store those easily with your patch.
The color scheme seems to have been pulled from the palette of the TV show M*A*S*H but … hey, “kinda ugly but awesome” is the Reason way.
How you get it – now into the bit that might generate a little bit of controversy, since I know a lot of you are unhappy about Reason introducing subscriptions. Mimic is automatically yours as part of the Reason+ subscription, as part of early access to Reason 12. (It does not appear that you can use Mimic inside Reason 11, or at least I couldn’t figure out how to install it in Reason+ Companion and wound up just grabbing Reason 12.)
That subscription is not fantastically seamless yet, either. Launching Reason+ Companion just gives you a link to download a zip file with an installer for Reason 12. But once I did that, I got a build labeled “stable,” and got the whole lot up and running without incident. So I’m happy – especially as I still have Rack Extensions from companies that aren’t even in existence any more, and Reason Studios tells me those will always work. (They also offer a Reason+ subscription at the moment with code “333” – costs 3 bucks, last 3 months, deal expires midnight Thursday.)
If you don’t want a subscription, though, and prefer to buy upgrades, you can get Mimic as part of Reason 12 as an a la carte upgrade. And even as Reason Studios is pushing the Reason+ subscription, I think conversely that – plus other R12 features – could make a solid argument for buying the upgrade the old-fashioned way if that’s what you prefer.
I sure find this makes me happy, also because I can resample weird patches inside Reason made with some of their other excellent synths.
Put it this way – if Reason Studios keeps churning out clever instruments like this, they may well win us over on subscriptions. With Complex-1, Klang, Grain, Monotone, Europa, Friktion, Algoritm, and now Mimic, this is a fine and impressive synth library even in today’s crowded offerings. I sure do enjoy firing it up for some sound design, enough so that I’ll even reach for the plug-in version in other hosts.
And to the extent they’re, uh, recycling old ideas with Mimic – frankly, it’s about time.