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Reason (software)

Reason is a popular music software program developed by Swedish software developers Propellerhead Software. It emulates a rack of hardware synthesizers, samplers, signal processors, sequencers and mixers. Reason can be used either as a complete virtual music studio, or as a collection of virtual instruments to be played live or used with other sequencing software.

The program's name was taken from a device used in Neal Stephenson's science fiction novel Snow Crash. Early in development it was known as Realizer (after the PPG Realizer).


Reason 1.0 was released in November 2000. The program's design mimics a studio rack into which users can insert virtual devices such as instruments, effects processors and mixers. These modules can be controlled from Reason's built-in MIDI sequencer or from other sequencing applications such as Pro Tools, Logic, Digital Performer, Cubase, Sonar and GarageBand via Propellerhead's ReWire protocol.

As of version 4.0, modules available include:

  • Subtractor: a subtractive synthesizer
  • Malström: a graintable synthesizer
  • NN-19: a standard digital sampler, which loads pre-recorded instrumental and vocal sounds
  • NN-XT: an advanced digital sampler, which features the option of tweaking the various modulation, oscillation and filter parameters of a preloaded sample or patch
  • Dr Rex: a loop playback device, which slices prerecorded samples into manageable, bitesize units
  • Redrum: a drum machine with a 64-step pattern sequencer, allowing for playback of the library of pre-recorded drum and effects samples.
  • Thor: a semi-modular, polyphonic synthesizer that features, among others, wavetable, FM and phase modulation synthesis that can be routed through various types of filter modules.

Sounds from these devices can be routed via either of two mixing devices, or simple merging and splitting utilities. Effects include distortion, reverb, chorus, a vocoder and mastering effects. The Combinator device, introduced in version 3.0, allows users to combine multiple modules into one. Another device connects Reason to Propellerhead's (now discontinued) ReBirth.

Reason's interface includes a Toggle Rack command, which flips the rack around to display the devices from the rear. Here the user can route virtual audio and control cables from one piece of equipment to another in an almost unlimited number of ways. This cable layout enables the creation of complex effects chains and allows devices to modulate one another in creative ways.

Reason cannot record audio tracks or be expanded with third-party plug-ins.

A stripped-down version of Reason known as Reason Adapted is packaged as bonus software with other audio software such as Pro Tools LE. It restricts the user to a limited number of devices.

Reason 4 was released on September 26, 2007. Improvements to Reason include Thor, a modular synth; RPG-8, a real-time programmable arpeggiator; ReGroove, a detimer/dequantizer; and a complete change to Reason's sequencer that includes tempo and meter changes as well as support for complex meters. Also included is vector automation (in-track automation/envelope curves), a new pattern lane for editing patterns in arrange view, foldable tracks (mimicking Logic's folder functionality), beat/bar count-in, and support for multiple takes.

Notable use

The English electronica band The Prodigy have used Reason in the creation of their music. The christian rock group, David Crowder Band, used Reason on their CD, "Illuminate.


  • Hardware Interface - handles the connection between software and hardware, and supports up to sixty-four separate outputs. As it is integral to Reason's functionality, it cannot be removed.

  • Combinator - allows users to combine multiple modules into one, and as presets can be saved, complex device setups can easily be transferred between projects. It is very useful for creating complex sounds, sound effects or pattern-based instruments, and can theoretically contain an infinite number of devices. It also has the ability, via cv data, to control any aspect of the modules within.


Reason's two mixers are used to group numerous device outputs into a stereo output. It is possible to mute or solo any given channel, as well as alter its level, pan and auxiliary output level. Although neither mixer has channel inserts, it is possible to place an effects device between an instrument and a mixer channel using cables.

  • Mixer 14:2 - also known as the Remix, has fourteen stereo channels with level meters, fixed bass and treble EQ and four stereo auxiliary sends. The console has chaining master inputs to allow several line mixers to be daisy chained together, effectively allowing for an unlimited number of channels.

  • Line Mixer 6:2 - also known as the Micromix, is a smaller, six channel mixer, with only one auxiliary send and return, no EQ, smaller level controls and limited metering. It is useful for creating sub mixes.


As well as creating sounds, most of the instruments have filters with ADSR envelopes, LFOs, amp envelopes and pitch bend and modulation performance controls.

Reason 4 has three synthesizers:

  • Subtractor Analogue Synthesizer - also known as the Subtractor Polyphonic Synthesizer - a 99-voice polyphonic, subtractive synthesizer. The device is driven by two oscillators, each looking up one of thirty-two stored waveforms, which can be modulated using phase offset modulation.

  • Thor Polysonic Synthesizer - a semi-modular synthesizer, introduced in Reason 4, that features six different oscillator types and four unique filters, as well as a step sequencer and complex routing and modulation options.

  • Malström Graintable Synthesizer - a graintable synthesizer. This is the most popular synth in Reason's library of instruments, utilized for leads and bass lines.

Reason has four sample players. All are polyphonic and can read Wave, AIFF, SoundFont and REX format samples.

  • NN-19 Digital Sampler - is the simpler of the two, and although not as versatile, it uses less CPU power, allowing the program to run faster and create more devices. It has no ability to use different samples for varying velocities and cannot combine multiple samples together for a single note, making it adequate to emulate a harpsichord, organ or Mellotron, but not a more complex sounding piano. Other features include a setting for spreading - how far apart the lowest and highest notes are panned left and right - and a setting for how far into the sample playback is started from, which allows interesting effects.

  • NN-XT Advanced Sampler - essentially a more advanced version of NN19; although it is harder to use and lacks the complete automation that the NN19 has, it is much more versatile. It has the ability to play back different samples for different velocities of the note being played, allowing for a more realistic emulation of instruments with high dynamic ranges, such as the piano. The zones of the samples can overlap in both note and velocity, so a certain note played at a certain volume may trigger more than one sample, each at a different volume, making complex combinations of samples possible. It also has all the features of the Akai S1000, a fact which Propellerhead used to their advantage to enable it to import industry standard Akai S1000 format sample CDs via their ReLoad software. This enables Reason users to access hundreds of existing sample CDs, which somewhat offsets the criticism that Reason has a proprietary native Refill format for storing samples and patches. While the NN-19 and NN-XT can create complex patches of high resolution samples, making it a powerful tool for sound design, playback is not sample-accurate, which creates a propensity for slightly anomalous playback artifacts.

  • Dr. REX Loop Player - used for playing loops of drums or other sounds repeatedly. This device utilizes Propellerheads' proprietary loop file type, .REX or .REX2. Created by another Propellerheads program, ReCycle, a REX file allows a sound loop to be "sliced" into independently managed sounds. Each slice is given its own unique control for pitch, pan, volume level, and decay. The Dr. Rex Loop Player also has filters and filter envelopes, allowing for sound manipulation in addition to the sonic rearrangement.

  • Redrum Drum Computer - a drum machine built into Reason. It is a basic tool that loads samples of any sound (of course, mainly drum and percussion sounds are used) and has a built-in sequencer for making the drum beats. However, those seeking more control over their drum beats may seek to use the Reason sequencer window, which has a drum lane built specifically for Redrum. Redrum's interface is based on the Roland TR-808/TR-909 classic drum machines.


The MClass Mastering Effects series, introduced in Reason 3, consists of four devices suitable for processing overall mixes.

  • MClass Stereo Imager - allows for the independent adjustment of high and low frequency stereo width

  • MClass Compressor - a one-band compressor with an additional side chain input

  • MClass Maximizer - a loudness maximizer to raise the perceived level without clipping

There are additional advanced effects designed for the processing of individual channels.

  • RV7000 Advanced Reverb - a powerful reverb tool with simple EQ and numerous available algorithms with customizable parameters.

  • Scream 4 Distortion - a sound destruction device with cut and body filters and two parameters for each of its ten modes, which include overdrive, distortion, feedback and tape damage.

  • BV512 Digital Vocoder - a vocoder that allows any sound to act as the stereo carrier signal as well as any sound to act as the mono modulator. It may also be used as a four, eight, sixteen or thirty-two band graphic equalizer.

Reason also features numerous simple effect devices.

  • RV-7 Digital Reverb - a simple reverberation device. It has been included in the program since version 1. Room types include 3 Hall simulations, 4 Room simulations, Gated, Low Density, and Stereo Echoes. The user can tweak the room size, decay time and damping. This first reverb unit has been considered by many users to have inferior sound quality, and was expanded in Reason version 2.5 into the RV7000 Reverb. The RV7000 is much more versatile and widely regarded to have a better sound. Nonetheless, this basic reverb unit is still included, mostly to ensure songs made on older versions of Reason can still be loaded and worked on in version 3 and above.
  • DDL-1 Digital Delay Line - a delay with adjustable feedback and dry/wet parameter. The delay times can be defined either in milliseconds or relative to the tempo.
  • D-11 Foldback Distortion
  • ECF-42 Envelope Controlled Filter
  • CF-101 Chorus/Flanger
  • PH-90 Phaser
  • UN-16 Unison - This device is for emulating more than one instrument playing at the same time. It copies the signal 4, 8 or 16 times and slightly detunes each processed signal.
  • COMP-01 Compressor/Limiter - basic compressor, with ratio, threshold, attack and release controls. It has auto make up gain.
  • PEQ-2 Two Band Parametric EQ - a 2 band parametric EQ that offers gain, Q and frequency controls to boost or cut frequencies for 2 separate band frequencies. Ideal for removing a nasty rumble from a kick drum or an annoying drop out caused by phasing clash of two different sounds.

Additional devices

Spider devices are utilities for merging up to four signals into one, or providing up to four copies from one signal. They do not introduce any effect on the input signals, but rather act like a simple mixer without pan, volume or effect controls.

  • Spider Audio Merger & Splitter - used with audio signals. First mode (merging) is often used to simplify mixing of instruments/generators that share same effects or processing path, and latter mode is used for splitting initial sound for creating complex or different sound effects (e.g. in Vocoder as carrier or modulator source).
  • Spider CV Merger & Splitter - similar to the Audio Merger & Splitter, but instead operates with control (CV) signals.

Stand alone sequencer devices are used to create input signals for instruments, rather than using the main sequencer.

  • Matrix Pattern Sequencer - a step pattern sequencer offering 16-32 step patterns in 4 banks of 8 programmable patterns. The matrix has note/cv, gate and curve control options enabling a remarkable level of flexibility in controlling reasons other module instruments.
  • RPG-8 Monophonic Arpeggiator -
  • Rebirth Input Machine - a receiving module for patterns created in ReBirth, another software by Propellerhead.
  • ReGroove Mixer - a sample programming device that adds groove to individual channels. Basically it creates space between the sounds that you play in a set pattern to give it a certain musical flavor. It moves the sound fractions of seconds and bars to play in places that you could not edit evenly using the other Reason tools.

Additional Interface

While using Reason, pressing the tab key on the computer keyboard flips the rack over so that you can see the back of all the rackmounted devices. This allows the user to virtually "plug in" cables connecting the different devices. This offers a lot of flexibility in a way that is familiar to producers of electronic music, although it can appear intimidating to novice users. For example, you could connect Redrum's main outputs to a single channel of the mixing desk, or you could instead route each of its drum sounds to a separate EQ before sending them to separate channels in the mixer. The user can always choose where to draw the line between simplicity and precision, allowing the software to remain useful at various levels of knowledge on the user's part.

Official ReFills

Propellerhead Software have released the following ReFills for Reason:


Users have complained about Reason's lack of VST support , and it has been found unusual that it doesn't support VST or DirectX plug-in effects and instruments when comparing to other DAWs and MIDI synthesizer software .


External links

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