Reason Studios Reason 11 Review
That's why I wrote this Reason Studios Reason 11 review.
It’s difficult to describe Reason 11. That’s because it’s not your typical DAW…
It’s SO MUCH more than that!
I’ve been using it since Reason 5 (that’s almost 10 years ago). So, if anyone’s got the ability to present this brilliant piece of software, it’s me!
That’s why I wrote this Reason Studios Reason 11 review.
Reason 11 is one of my favourite tools, but I don’t use it as a DAW.
I mean, you could if you wanted to BUT… I’m going to be treating Reason 11 as the ULTIMATE EXPANSION to any DAW.
Does that sound intriguing?
Here’s what we’ll be discussing today…
- The evolution of the world’s first “modular” DAW
- Reason Rack Plugin – The game-changer
- Reason Rack Extensions – The plugin boutique
- Reason Factory Soundbank – Everything you ever needed
- The most impressive collection of software instruments
- The software effects you’ll rave about
- FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions
- Summary: Reason Studios Reason 11 review
The evolution of the world’s first “modular” DAW
Reason Studios (formerly “Propellerhead”) has been around for MANY years. The Swedish startup released its first product “ReCycle” in 1994 and its first DAW “Reason” in 2000.
However, the first iterations of Reason were VERY restrictive.
For example, it was impossible to record audio into the application. The addition of “Record” (released in 2009) was needed until the release of Reason 6.
That’s when things started getting interesting. Reason and Record were merged together.
It was a start, but Reason was still unable to handle VST plugins.
Before releasing Reason 9.5, it was impossible to load VST plugins into the software. The only way to add plugins was to purchase Rack Extensions which were introduced in Reason 6.5.
It seemed like Reason Studios had finally done it!
However, the real “game-changer” only happened once Reason 11 was released.
Before getting into that though, let’s go back to the beginning… Why was Reason so restrictive in the first place? Was it even intended to be used like the other DAWs?
The truth is Reason was never really meant to be the DAW that we may see it as.
If we go back to the very beginning, Reason was the world’s first software-based modular system complete with step-sequencing.
It was designed to replace the expensive and often unreliable modular racks of the time.
In other words, the “restrictions” weren’t actually restrictions.
Modular racks don’t have the ability to record audio and to load VST plugins. However, the addition of the Rack Extensions made it possible to expand your digital modular system.
The mere fact that it was possible to bounce projects in Reason was revolutionary.
However, most people don’t realize that Reason was also never intended to be used on its own.
Sure, many people HAVE used Reason as a standalone DAW, but they were missing out… We’ll be talking about this much more in the next section, but keep in mind that Reason was designed to be an EXPANSION to your DAW’s capabilities.
It’s the modular rack you’ve always wanted, but could never afford!
Reason Rack Plugin – The game-changer
Before the release of Reason 11, the only way to “plug” Reason into other applications (Cubase, Logic Pro, etc…) was to use the ReWire protocol. In short, it just required more work to get the two (or more) applications working together (see it for yourself).
When I heard about the Reason Rack Plugin though, I was immediately SOLD!!
I always thought Reason would be the best plugin in the world (which it already kind of was), but now Reason Studios actually made that concrete.
Regardless of the DAW you work with, you can either insert the Reason Rack Plugin as a software instrument OR as an effect.
I compare it to using sample libraries such as Composer Cloud, Komplete, etc…
However, I found that Reason 11 is more powerful than both of those combined.
For starters, Reason 11 does make use of sample loops for the…
- Dr. Octo Rex Loop Player
- Redrum Drum Computer
- Kong Drum Designer
- NN-XT Advanced Sampler
- Organic Sampled Instruments
But the rest of the sounds Reason 11 produces are from its synthesizer “modules”.
In other words, Reason 11 is like the ultimate software instrument.
That’s why the Reason Rack Plugin changed everything.
The effects included in Reason 11 (and the additional modules you can download a Rack Extensions) are exclusive to Reason. That’s why you’ll also find many uses for the Reason Rack Plugin in your signal-chain.
So if you’re looking for a MASSIVE extension to your palette of sounds, Reason 11 will definitely fill that gap. We’ll be talking (and listening to) some examples later.
Just keep in mind that Reason 11 can still be used standalone if you don’t have another DAW.
I personally use it with Logic Pro X. I ALWAYS use the Reason Rack Plugin!!
Reason Rack Extensions – The plugin boutique
As we discussed earlier, the ability to purchase additional “modules”/plugins was made possible as of Reason 6.5. The Reason Rack Extensions marketplace was well-received!
If you know anything about modular synthesis, you know that most of the appeal comes from the ability to customize your rack.
Reason 11 is now home to some of the most awesome and unique plugins!
Reason Studios also added the ability to “rent-to-own” these plugins recently.
That makes it more affordable than ever to immerse yourself in the world of modular synthesis without spending thousands of dollars on hardware.
Remember, that was the initial purpose of creating Reason back in the day.
Even though Reason 9.5 added the ability to load VST plugins, some of these Rack Extensions are still irreplaceable.
That’s another reason you’ll want to use the Reason Rack Plugin!
To be honest though, I haven’t personally dug into the service. I find that Reason 11 already includes SO MUCH instruments/effects right out of the box. It’s pretty overwhelming!
If you ever get bored, just rest assured that there’s EVEN MORE available.
It’s also worth noting that some of these Rack Extensions are sometimes FREE and/or discounted during special events.
One of my personal favourites in the “Audiomatic Retro Transformer” (nothing quite like it).
Reason Factory Soundbank – Everything you ever needed
Reason 11 on its own would be pretty impressive, but you’d still need to go in there and design all your sounds. That’s part of the “modular playground” you’re buying into, but if you need something ready-to-serve…
You can definitely count on the included Reason Factory Soundbank.
It’s similar to the massive Apple Sound Library that comes with Logic Pro, but better…
It’s also what takes up most of the space on your drive.
Reason Studios (and 3rd parties) also offer optional Refills, so the fun never ends! However, the Reason Factory Soundbank is more than enough for most.
It includes all the sample loops you’ll need for your drum machines and samplers.
It also includes HOARDS of presets for every instrument/effect in your toolbelt.
You’ll most likely spend days exploring the different folders and sub-folders and hopefully, you’ll start creating some playlists in the browser to save you time!
Before moving on though, I just want to talk about a special folder in the Reason Factory Soundbank reserved for the “Combinator”.
We’ll talk more about it later, but the Combinator isn’t an instrument/effect.
It’s a utility that combines multiple instruments/effects.
In other words, you’ll have access to presets that combine the MULTITUDE of rack modules to create completely unique sounds.
This is where Reason 11 truly excels.
You wouldn’t be able to accomplish this with your typical DAW (more on that later though).
The most impressive collection of software instruments
We’ve now reached the BEST part of this Reason Studios Reason 11 review. This is the part where we talk about (and listen to) the included instruments/effects. We’ll be starting with the instruments.
I also want to mention that there weren’t as many instruments/effects when I first purchased Reason (version 5), so you’re getting much more value for your money nowadays!
Another thing to note is that I’ll be listing these instruments in chronological order (from oldest to newest) to the best of my knowledge.
Here it goes!
Dr. Octo Rex Loop Player
This sampler’s ability to divide sample loops into “slices” makes it extremely versatile. You can even create your own by using the ReCycle application! I really enjoy taking sample loops and creating something completely new by triggering the “slices” through MIDI performances.
NN-XT Advanced Sampler
This sampler is probably my favourite in the Reason 11 toolbelt. It includes some pretty convincing orchestral (percussion, strings, brass and woodwinds) samples if you don’t have anything better to work with.
Redrum Drum Computer
This drum machine’s appeal comes from its integrated step sequencer. It kind of reminds me of the Roland TR808 in that sense, but the ability to copy those patterns into the main MIDI sequencer is really convenient! Tons of presets, but feel free to create your own.
Kong Drum Designer
This drum machine was designed to replicate the feel of the Akai MPC. It has more functionality than the Redrum Drum Computer and personally, I use it much more often. The presets it comes loaded with are also arguably better. You can even insert effects into the plugin!
Subtractor Analog Synthesizer
This basic 3x oscillator synthesizer is the foundation for many presets. It’s the easiest synthesizer to start learning with, but don’t be fooled… It’s got lots of potential! The presets are alright, but I prefer using this one in Combinator patches.
Thor Polysonic Synthesizer
This more complex synthesizer is one of Reason’s top contenders. It has much more functionality, especially when it comes to automating parameters. The different sections and filters allow you to create many different sounds. The presets are great!
Malström Graintable Synthesizer
This graintable synthesizer is pretty powerful (especially back in the day). The sounds you’ll achieve with this one are unique and can’t be replicated with any other type of synthesizer. The presets it comes with are great, but try combining two of these for even more craziness!
Grain Sample Manipulator
This graintable synthesizer is the REAL DEAL! It really remind me of the Fairlight CMI because you can actually manipulate the sample you’ve got loaded into it. You can also load your samples and create some really unique sounds using this unique instrument.
This piano sample library is alright, but I personally don’t use that much. It doesn’t have the sense of realism I’m looking for but that being said, it might have its place if you’re looking for something more synthetic.
Europa Shapeshifting Synthesizer
This synthesizer is really in a league of its own. It’s got 3x oscillators, but the “shapeshifting” comes into play when you start automating the envelope filters and passing your original signal through this instrument’s various modules.
Klang Tuned Percussion, Pangea World Instrument & Humana Vocal Ensemble
This collection of “organic sampled instruments” really adds some life to Reason 11’s electro-synth rack modules. They’re kind of weird, so don’t expect anything realistic out of these samples. They’re perfect for anything in the world-ethnic scene.
The software effects you’ll rave about
Okay, we went kind of deep with the software instruments, but I’ll keep it brief with the effects. That’s because most of these effects are pretty standard EXCEPT for the ones listed.
I haven’t found plugins that sound anything like these effects, so check them out.
For the complete list of effects, please visit this webpage.
Scream 4 Sound Destruction Unit
This saturation effect is one of the most unique I’ve ever used. It has massive sculpting capabilities to radically transform any sound. It emulates the characteristics of several mediums such as tape, tube, etc…
This echo effect was definitely trying to replicate the Roland RE-201 (Space Echo). It’s one of my favourite echo plugins, especially if you’re looking for something that stands out. I’d take this over Logic Pro’s stock echo plugin any day!
Audiomatic Retro Transformer
This [I don’t know what to call it] effect transforms the overall characteristics of your mix. I like to compare it to the filters you use on Instagram! You can make your sound source sound like vinyl, tape, broken radio and MORE!!
Neptune Pitch Adjuster
This pitch correction is basically “Auto-Tune”, but the Reason 11 version. It basically corrects pitch based on scales and/or set patterns. There’s nothing really special about it, but you have to admit that having this is GREAT and saves you some cash since you won’t necessarily need to buy Antares Auto-Tune.
Alligator Triple Filtered Gate
This gate is unique in the sense that it layers THREE different gates. I’m honestly not quite sure how it works, but you can get some pretty unique results because of this. It kind of reminds me of the sequencer on the ARP2600.
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions
Alright, so now we’re going to answer some frequently asked questions. I thought I’d include these in here to save you some time and energy in searching for them yourself.
If you feel like I missed something, let me know in the comments!
Does Reason 11 support VST plugins?
As of Reason 9.5, VST plugins are now officially supported in the standalone version of Reason. However, the Reason 11 Rack Plugin doesn’t support VST plugins (it would be pointless anyway because your other DAW can host them).
Is Reason 11 a DAW?
Yes and no… It would be an understatement to categorize Reason 11 under the DAW category. It can definitely be used as a standalone DAW, but the real power of Reason 11 comes from its ability to “expand” your DAW’s capabilities by using the Reason Rack Plugin.
Is Reason 11 good for beginners?
In my opinion, Reason 11 is one of the best DAWs for beginners. It’s one of the first DAWs I ever used and always felt like it was the most intuitive. It’s really easy to make music in very little time. It almost feels like cheating!
Is Reason 11 free?
Reason Studios doesn’t offer a free version of Reason 11. However, you can try Reason 11 for 30-days FREE when you sign up for Reason+.
How much does Reason 11 cost?
You can purchase Reason 11 outright for 399.99 USD or subscribe to the Reason+ subscription and use Reason 11 (and future releases) for 19.99 USD per month.
Summary: Reason Studios Reason 11 review
To be perfectly clear, we’ve only scratched the surface of Reason 11. We haven’t even explored its DAW-like features (which might be something I add in the future).
However, I really wanted to focus on the plugin-like features of Reason 11.
That’s only because I don’t use it as a DAW (not anymore, at least) and I imagine you would consider doing the same; using it as an extension of your DAW.
I sincerely believe that this was the original purpose of Reason.
Plus, it sounds really cool to say I use Logic and Reason. Doesn’t it?!
To summarize though, the main reasons you’ll want to use Reason 11 are for the Reason Rack Plugin, Rack Extensions and Factory Soundbank.
Think of Reason 11 as the massive sound library you’ve always been looking for.
Here are the instruments that come in the box:
- Grain Sample Manipulator
- Radical Piano
- Europa Shapeshifting Synthesizer
- Thor Polysonic Synthesizer
- Rytmik Drum Machine
- Klang Tuned Percussion
- Pangea World Instrument
- Humana Vocal Ensemble
- Monotone Bass Synthesizer
- Kong Drum Designer
- NN19 Sampler
- NN-XT Advanced Sampler
- Malström Graintable Synthesizer
- Dr. Octo Rex Loop Player
- Redrum Drum Computer
- Subtractor Analog Synthesizer
- MIDI Out Device
- ID-8 Instrument Device
Here are the effects that are included:
- Quartet Chorus Ensemble NEW
- Sweeper Modulation Effect NEW
- Master Bus Compressor NEW
- Channel Dynamics NEW
- Channel EQ NEW
- The Echo
- Pulveriser Demolition
- RV7000 MkII Reverb
- Softube Amp
- Softube Bass Amp
- Scream 4 Sound Destruction Unit
- Alligator Triple Filtered Gate
- Synchronous Effects Modulator
- Neptune Pitch Adjuster
- BV512 Vocoder
- Audiomatic Retro Transformer
- MClass Equalizer
- MClass Stereo Imager
- MClass Compressor
- MClass Maximizer
- RV-7 Digital Reverb
- DDL-1 Digital Delay Line
- D-11 Foldback Distortion
- ECF-42 Envelope Controlled Filter
- CF-101 Chorus/Flanger
- PH-90 Phaser
- COMP-01 Compressor/Limiter
- PEQ-2 Two Band Parametric EQ
- UN-16 Unison
Here are the utilities you’ll have access to:
- RPG-8 Monophonic Arpeggiator
- Matrix Pattern Sequencer
- Pulsar Dual LFO
- Mixer 14:2
- Line Mixer 6:2
- Spider Audio Merger & Splitter
- Spider CV Merger & Splitter
The “Combinator” is by far the most useful utility. It’s what makes Reason what it is in my opinion and doing the same in your DAW would be disastrous.
The modules within Reason are incredibly lightweight (somehow), so even the weakest computers can handle some pretty complex configurations.
It must be because it’s Swedish… Everything is better in Sweden!
If you have any questions about the DAW-like features of Reason and are considering using it as a standalone application, let me know in the comments!
As I mentioned, I’m open to updating this review with more information if necessary.
However, I hope you’ll stay true to the roots of the “Propellerhead Legacy”.
If you’re interested in trying Reason+ free for 30-days, just follow this link. It’s the best way to test-drive Reason 11 without any commitments whatsoever. Let me know what you think!
Thanks for reading, I appreciate your time!