What is Propellerhead ReWire? | Ultimate Workflow with Reason

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Have you ever wondered if it would be possible to use TWO digital audio workstations at the same time? The answer is yes, as long as that second workstation is Reason, but why would you want to achieve this anyway? If you are familiar with Reason (which I hope you are), you know how powerful this piece of software is when it comes to sound design. Reason is unique because it operates quite differently than other DAWs, but what is Propellerhead ReWire and how can it enhance our workflow?

Back in the day, Propellerhead and Steinberg (Cubase) collaborated to create a protocol that would allow remote control and data transfer between digital audio editing software. Basically, this means that Cubase (the host), for instance, could control Reason (the slave) and that Reason could transmit data back to Cubase. At its most basic, ReWire may not seem like much, but keep reading to discover how this protocol can help you achieve ultimate workflow.

Reason is more than just a DAW

It took me a while to really understand what Propellerhead’s Reason was all about, but let me tell you that it was a marvelous discovery. I used to use Reason in my highschool’s music production class, but we were only taught to use it for “beat making”.

Reason can totally be placed in the same category as Ableton Live and FL Studio, but it can also be placed in a category of its own. The truth is that Reason is a VIRTUAL RACK, that’s right, a VIRTUAL RACK with limitless possibilities!

There are things you simply cannot achieve in other DAWs, but thanks to Reason’s “Combinator”, you can layer as many instruments and effects as you want to design sounds you never thought were possible.

Achieving this in Cubase, for example, would be quite difficult since it would require you to load multiple instruments in different tracks and simply stack them which wouldn’t be the same.

How do you get that patch into your DAW?

I finally realized the importance of ReWire when I had designed a MASSIVE layered synthesizer in Reason, but the rest of my song was in Logic Pro. I tried re-designing the patch in Logic using a different synthesizer, but it was all in vain.

I already knew about ReWire, so I decided to learn how to load up this protocol in Logic Pro. As it turns out, it is MUCH easier than I thought and this discovery COMPLETELY changed my workflow for the better.

Sure, I have some pretty amazing instrument plug-ins and effect plug-ins, but nothing compares to designing something in Reason, it’s like having an INFINITE rack. Reason now completes my Logic Pro experience and they work in perfect harmony.

However, things have evolved and the ReWire protocol now applies to many other pieces of software and can be hosted by a variety of DAWs.

Relationship between the host and the slave

As you may have already noticed, the software that controls the other software is called the “host” and the software being controlled is called the “slave”. There’s nothing complicated about this relationship, but to give you an idea of what is possible, I will provide a list of potential hosts and slaves.

Hosts

  • Ableton Live
  • Adobe Audition
  • Cakewalk Sonar
  • Cycling ’74 Max/MSP
  • FL Studio
  • GarageBand
  • Logic Pro
  • Pro Tools
  • REAPER
  • Sony ACID Pro
  • Steinberg Cubase
  • Studio One

Slaves

  • Ableton Live
  • Arturia Storm
  • Cakewalk Project 5
  • Cycling ’74 Max/MSP
  • Finale
  • FL Studio
  • REAPER
  • Reason
  • ReBirth RB-338
  • Record
  • Sibelius
  • Sony ACID Pro
  • Vocaloid

One thing to keep in mind is that Reason CANNOT be a host except if you use ReWire to connect the ReBirth RB-338. Some hosts and slaves are interchangeable and you may have noticed that these include plug-ins, digital audio workstations and notation software.

I had a composition teacher who would use ReWire to trigger samples with his scores in Finale’s notation software, so the possibilities are vast.

ReWire is like an invisible cable

That’s right, you can perceive ReWire as a cable that connects different pieces of software together in real-time. Each connection can transmit up to 256 channels at the same time, however, keep in mind that doing such a thing would require an EXTREMELY powerful computer.

Basically, this is the type of situation that would benefit from a CPU with multiple cores as each application would ideally be running on its own core. ReWire can actually run in 32-bit and 64-bit, but you should make sure your entire setup is running in 64-bit for optimal results (another advantage of Apple computers).

Apple has actually abandoned 32-bit applications altogether, but Microsoft hasn’t so you will have to pay particular attention to your plug-ins and applications if you want to get the most out of ReWire. Make sure the 64-bit version of each plug-in is selected and that your DAW has been installed in 64-bit, not 32-bit.

Once you realize the potential of this protocol, the possibilities are literally endless, but we will either be using it to link plug-ins, digital audio workstations and/or notation software.

The ultimate workflow

I can’t get over how ReWiring Reason 10 into Logic Pro X changed my entire music production experience. Reason is basically the most powerful instrument anyone could have in their possession, a VIRTUAL RACK.

I still use Reason on its own from time to time (for “beat making”), but if you were ever going to consider any combination of two DAWS, this is a match made in heaven. Controlling a DAW with notation software like Sibelius is also a great application, especially for film composers.

Just remember that the optimal functioning of your ReWire session will depend on your CPU’s ability to multitask. Also, since Reason introduced VST plug-in compatibility, it is worth mentioning that these plug-ins will not be compatible in a ReWire chain.

How has ReWire changed your workflow? Let us know in the comments how you use this protocol and feel free to ask for help if you’re having trouble setting up.

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