Mar 222012
 

With the latest Propellerhead Reason 6.5 announcement, there’s a lot to discuss in the world of Reason. I have been fairly silent over the last few days, even though the forums have been ablaze will all kinds of chatter. Until the dust settles, it’s never wise to jump out and state your opinion. Did that once and it bit me in the behind. But I wanted to provide some of my thoughts on all these new changes, since they are fairly huge, and developing rapidly. So here are my preliminary musings, all of which are subject to change.

By now you’ve probably heard of two new changes to the Reason environment. If not, here’s the official news release. And here are the two core changes that you’ll see in the Reason 6.5 update:

  1. Figure: The iPhone / iPad app that will be available in the Apple App store soon.
  2. Re (Rack Extensions): Propellerhead’s own proprietary Plugin format, which opens the Reason rack up to new devices that are developed by third party companies. In other words, Korg, U-He, Arturia, Peff, or any other developer or instrument company keen on developing a Reason Rack device can now do so. Propellerheads are launching the “Rack Extension” store on their site, where Extension devices will be sold and delivered, via the click of a button, to your Reason software.

Out of the two features, “Re” is the earth-shattering news, and “Figure” is exciting for those on the Mobile iOS platform who enjoy music-making on the go, but not so much for those of us that already use the full version of Reason on their computer. Figure is slated for release in the next few weeks, while Re is slated for release at some point in Q2 of 2012, and in my opinion, it will take some time to see how this will all unravel.

First, let’s take a look at the Keynote speech by Propellerhead:

So, what I’m getting from this video, other than the fact that I need to get a cool Reason tattoo in order to be included in a slide during the next Propellerhead release, is the fact that this is a huge paradigm shift for Propellerhead.

Figure

On the one hand, Figure is the first real outing for Propellerhead into the world of Mobile devices. Sure, we had ReBirth for a while, but that seemed like a test run. This is the real deal; a new introduction into the app market.

While all of this is preliminary, based on what I see in the above video, I have my own personal list of Pros and Cons. Bear in mind none of this is released yet, so it’s all subject to change. But these are just my own thoughts on Figure:

First, let’s look at the Pros:

  • It’s built with Kong and Thor as the background devices for your sound, so it probably sounds fantastic!
  • It’s easy to use. Big plus in a mobile environment
  • It brings some of Reason into the mobile realm. Never a bad thing.
  • It probably won’t crash your device, being a Propellerhead product.
  • Price. It’s a buck (one dinero, one dollar, one smackaroo). So there’s no reason not to pick it up. Even if you only want to try it out a few times and never use it again. I spend more on a cup of coffee. So yeah. Of course I’ll get it.

Now for the cons:

  • If you already own Reason, this isn’t going to add anything new in the way of sound.
  • If you don’t use mobile devices or make music on-the-go, then you can probably pass it up.
  • Like most other iOS music apps, it looks like great toy, and should be fun to tinker with, but is it as functional as Nanostudio or Beatmaker? Not sure yet, but doubtful. Of course, Nanostudio and Beatmaker are also 20x more expensive at $20 each.

In summary, if you own an iPhone or an iPad, getting Figure is a no-brainer, even if you own the full version of Reason. It brings a little bit of Reason into the mobile world, and if it lives up to the Props mantra, it will be easy to use and simple to sketch out some nice ideas. And it opens up more creativity, which appeals to me. I have to give the Props a big thumbs up for their official first step into the Mobile world.

Re (Rack Extensions)

Now let’s look at Re (Rack Extensions) — and don’t call it “ReRack” or the Props will give you a sour look and shake their finger at you (just kidding).

As with any preliminary announcements, it’s hard to judge how it will work, and how accepting people will be towards the technology. Again, going by the video above, I’m going to throw out a few thoughts on it, all of which are just my own personal assessment, questions, and the like. Let’s look at it from three different perspectives: The Musician, The Sound / ReFill Designer, and The Re Device Developer.

The Musician:
  1. As a musician, you’re probably having an orgasm right now. You finally have your dream of plugin instruments and effects inside Reason, as long as they get developed. And I have no doubt that the floodgates will open, and you’ll see all kinds of great new devices in Reason.
  2. The Re Store is a great implementation. You have a single location where you can try out or buy any of the Re devices. With one click, you purchase the device and it gets downloaded and installed on your computer. I assume it’s tied to your license so that wherever you go and wherever you install Reason, the new devices can get installed.
  3. It’s interesting to note that very few people have discussed the Re Store concept yet. The Re Store seems like an exact replica of Apple’s App Store, and as such, you could say that most of the arguments that people levy against the App Store could also be levied against the Re Store. For example, this means that the Props are the ultimate arbiters of which devices make it inside the store and which are left out of the store. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I’m not going to take any sides in this debate. I’m just pointing it out.
  4. Anytime you switch from a closed-architecture to an open-architecture (or rather, like Thor, this seems like a semi-modular Rack system now), you also open yourself up to the potential of having lots of poorly constructed devices. So are we going to see hundreds of poorly contructed devices? Or are we going to see only the best of the best? Or some combination of both? This ties in with #3 above. Are the Propellerheads going to decide which devices make it in and which don’t?
  5. On the other hand, as Ernst said in the above video, this does make it easier for musicians to a) get Plugins downloaded and installed on their systems, and potentially allows for an easier experience sharing music and collaborating. However, as anyone who has collaborated with fellow Reason users understands, if the other party does not have a specific ReFill, it’s more difficult to collaborate successfully (but still easier than collaborating with non-reason users, more or less). Both parties must have the same ReFill in order to open and play the songs (or self-contain the song). With the introduction of Re devices, this existing issue that was in the ReFill domain now extends itself into the Reason Rack. If the other party doesn’t have the rack device, they won’t be able to open the song, or at the very least, they will be able to open the song, but won’t hear the same thing that the other party intended them to hear. What’s more, there’s no “self-contain” setting that will rectify this issue. What you will have to do is bounce down the audio and share the audio track. And while this is a perfectly valid solution, it is limiting because once it’s audio, you can’t edit the effects from the devices directly. The audio is static.
  6. Because collaboration of the .reason song files can pose these kinds of problems, I predict that most people will collaborate using bounced audio files only, even between reason users. If you think about it, that’s the only logical way we can go. Otherwise, the onus is on the Musician to figure out which extension devices they have and also figure out which extension devices the other party has; making collaborations more complex. And if you share audio files, as I said, this is limiting in certain ways.
The Sound Designer / ReFill Developer
  1. Looking closely at the video with my “ReFill designer’s eye,” I noticed that some of these devices have the ability to save patches and some don’t. Possibly this is because the devices are not completely developed yet. But it brings up the question of whether or not Re developers can allow their device patches to be saved or not. Or do all the devices have to have a “Save Patch” option? This has implications for ReFill developers who want to design patches for the Re devices. It also brings up the issue of whether or not ReFill developers will be allowed to design patches for these devices? My hope is that all devices allow for the ability to save patches, and the developer SDK demands that patches can be saved.
  2. If patches can be saved on all devices, this opens up some new questions. Firstly, it creates a lot of different patch formats for all the different devices that we expect will flood the Re Store. Things could get a little confusing and convoluted.
  3. Are the Propellerheads going to stop producing new instruments for Reason? In some ways, Re removes the need for them to put together new instruments for Reason. And if they still produce new instruments for Reason (which I highly hope they do), will they continue to be a part of the core program, or a new Re device? There’s something to be said for a closed system. As a Patch designer, if the Props don’t provide new instruments as part of the core program, this means those devices are subject to the same potential problems outlined in #3C below.
  4. This fragments the ReFill developer into a few different camps:
  1. Those that develop for the traditional Reason devices. This is the safest bet for ReFill designers, as anyone that owns Reason will own all these devices, and so the ReFill will work for all Reason owners.
  2. Those that develop for specific Re Devices. Designing for specific Re devices is more of a niche market than group “A” above. This doesn’t mean sales will be less than in group “A,” but it does mean that your market is a smaller subset.
  3. Those that develop for a combination of both A & B. As a ReFill designer, if you develop Combinators that contain both traditional Reason devices and Re Devices, you then have to worry about whether or not your users have those Re devices installed on their computer. If not, the Combinator won’t work, or it may work, but not work as expected because it can’t load the proper Re device(s). This is another “to be determined” question which is left unanswered. I’m speculating here, but I am willing to bet that most ReFill designers will either a) not use the Re devices in combination with traditional devices, or b) they will limit usage of Re devices to just one or two that are the most popular. And if my bet is true, then this limits the development of some really interesting and creative Combinators that make use of many different Re devices.
  4. Those that develop using traditional Reason devices to imitate Re devices. Now here’s where it gets interesting, and my mind is always looking for new opportunities. So I said to myself, well, if Re devices are now available, wouldn’t it be interesting if intelligent sound designers attempted to recreate the sounds or capabilities of a particular Re device using the core Reason devices. This can potentially open up a new avenue for designers.
The Re Device Developer
  1. This is a brand new position that just opened up where Propellerhead and Reason are concerned. So as a developer, if you want to try your hand at creating a Re device, you simply need to ask for the SDK. From there, you can potentially get a device inside the Reason Rack.
  2. If you are BOTH a ReFill Designer AND a Re Device Developer, you’re probably in the catbird’s seat. You can now develop both a Plugin product and a ReFill product; taking both to the Reason market. Not a bad deal for you.

In summary, Re seems like it’s going to be very beneficial for most everyone concerned; musicians, sound designers, production engineers, etc. And I’m cautiously optimistic. But there’s no question that this brings up a few concerns or additional questions, at the very least. Anytime a company make such a sweeping paradigm shift, there’s bound to be some rough patches; call them growing pains. How the Propellerheads address these questions, and how this all develops over time is going to be very important for all of us. And right now, it’s still too early to tell. But I don’t want to be a naysayer either. I think the future looks bright and creative overall.

A little note about pricing. While it’s true that Reason 6.5 is a free update from Reason 6, and I commend the Props for providing it for free (I’m sure there was quite a bit of development work that went into the core update), that doesn’t mean that the new Re devices are free. So upgrading will have to take into account the fact that you will have to pay for each device individually, and that cost is as yet to be determined. This means that you need to factor this into your purchasing decisions. I’m also not sure if the 6.5 update will include any new devices inside the core product for free? But I don’t think so.

Lastly, here’s a little preview of the Bitspeek Rack Extension device for Reason 6.5:

And here’s an update from Rack Extension developers “U-He” on their plugins, also from Musikmesse in Germany:

http://www.musicradar.com/video/uhe-demos-reason-rack-extensions-k9PvK1gIICYu2

Until next time, don’t stop working with Reason as it is, and don’t stop supporting the Musicians and ReFill developers. From the sounds of it, nothing that currently exists inside Reason will change. All of the news centers around added functionality. All the beautiful bells and whistles that work in Reason 6 today will work in version 6.5 tomorrow. And please share any thoughts you might have. I’m interested to hear everyone’s opinion. Cheers!

  20 Responses to “Reason 6.5 Update”

  1. To quote you:” So I said to myself, well, if Re devices are now available, wouldn’t it be interesting if intelligent sound designers attempted to recreate the sounds or capabilities of a particular Re device using the core Reason devices.”

    I concur as w/ Reason (almost) everything is possible this is a logical (and fun) way to go.
    I´d personally would emphasize fun here as i tried to replicate a few VST/AUs i really like.
    Even i sat in front of the screen trying to circumvent Reason´s limitations for days i´d fun.
    There is only one application out there (I know of) which is as flexible as Reason thus
    the only obstacle between you and the sound you´re after is your imagination
    b/c Reason already has all the tools you need and MORE. ( <– couldn´t resist. ;) )

    Re Figure : i don´t know if this already is implemented but an export feature would be really awesome.
    Sketch out a loop on the go,where ever you are, export it from your iDevice into Reason and finish it there.
    (similar to iMaschine & Maschine)
    I admit as i saw Leo fiddling around w/ it (while "shaking" to the beat!) during the press conference i´d a big grin i face and the urge to get my hands on it.
    Maybe some people don´t like it but this is part of the music-making future.Just my 2 cents.

    Well written and thoughtful post Rob.

    Have a good one

    Ingo

  2. @Ingo,
    Thanks for your thoughts. I’m certain there will be a way for Figure to export the file into Reason. Whether it gets imported as MIDI, Wav, or some other format is unknown, but I’d bet that there has to be an export feature of some kind.

    As for recreating existing rack extension devices using the “core” reason devices and then selling that as a ReFill, it could potentially anger the developer that created the rack extension device in the first place. But for non-developers, this would be one possible opportunity.

    Rob

  3. @ingo

    wich app do you mean ?

  4. Simply put, I see the whole setup of Rack extension, or any form of 3rd party plugs developments as a plus and an opportunity. Since plugins, refills or sample packs, might also provide other people with new ideas or give the developers of reason a different approach on future developments.

    The user is by default never gonna have a problem with, or without them imho. those persons who want to use em, they can use em. Those who still want to stick with the default stuff, they can stick with the default stuff…

    The reason rack is in its current state pretty versatile to work with even if you stick with the plugs provided in r4, or r5 or r6. Heck, I still use r4 mostly as my mainstream application to make music with ;)

  5. This is great news. I really don’t like using the other DAW’s anymore. Reason has what I want most of the time. As with Apple, I don’t object to a closed loop if it’s a damn fine loop and my favorite brands support it.

    But there are a number of plugins that I use, and I have a significant investment in Waves plugins (Horizon bundle). So the one vendor I really want to hear from on this is Waves. Right now those plugins are the only things that keep me using other DAW’s for specific purposes.

    In their presentation, I think they could have made a bigger deal out of the fact that DSP code ports easily to rack extensions. I think that would put more pressure on companies to offer plugins in this format. But there will be plenty of incentive as-is, because Propellerhead is really distinguishing itself out there in the marketplace.

    So anyway, I’m talking with my guys today about whether our software company should start developing rack extensions.

  6. @Hyd,
    Good to see you man! Nice to hear your thoughts on this new Reason update as well. I generally agree with everything you’re saying here. It will add more features, flexibility, and options for musicians and ReFill designers. I also like anything R4 and above, though I have to say I don’t think I could do without some of the new devices: Kong and Pulveriser are some really great devices to work with.

    I’m excited!

    So is everything ok with you? What have you been up to lately. I have gone to your site every once in a while to see what new info you have on there. Shoot me a private mail and let me know what’s up with you.

    Rob

  7. @Bash,
    Oh man if you can develop Rack Extensions, then do it. I’ve even thought about jumping on the bandwagon and trying it out. But I’m not a C++ developer (or even much of a developer to be honest). But the thought of at least trying it out is exciting. Thanks for your comments! And if you come up with a Rack Extension, be sure to let me know. I’d be happy to test it out for you and even create a few patches you can include if you like.

    Cheers!
    Rob

  8. @ahs
    It´s Reaktor from NI.
    Yes,it´s not a DAW but in regard of routing possibilities,CV-fun and if you´re up to digging deep into the structure of a synth it´s the most versatile application,beside Reason, out there.
    You can consider it as a Combinator on ster(e)oids. ;)

  9. What’s more, there’s no “self-contain” setting that will rectify this issue. What you will have to do is bounce down the audio and share the audio track.

    You missed the part where the Prop guy says that you can download any plugin you don’t have and automatically use it in trial mode for 30 days.

    If you need more than that for your collaboration, then you can bounce, or buy it, I guess.

    It’s not like total strangers frequently and randomly collaborate with Reason. It’s mostly groups, or guys that work for extended period on some project. Those can always agree beforehand to what plugins they will use.

  10. @foljs,
    Let me try to clarify my thoughts on Collaboration, because this is an important topic, both here and on the PUF. And I didn’t miss the part about 30-day trials. However, with 30-day trials, you can only use them once on each RE device. If you have another collaboration down the road 6 months from now and that person is using the same RE device, you would have to buy it or bounce down to audio. Hence, why I see collaborations going down the road of using this “bounce down” technique.

    Now for some clarification:
    Reason as it is with its core devices does not change. I’m calling this “Reason”
    Reason 6.5 and beyond will include RE devices, and these can be customized by the user’s discretion. I’m calling this “RE+Reason”

    Going forward, if we use Reason to collaborate, nothing will change from current usage. The only thing you will need to consider is which ReFills both parties have on their systems, and even then, you have the option to “Self-Contain” the ReFill samples. Users can still work with the .reason file format.

    If both parties have different sets of RE devices, in a RE+Reason environment (and as time goes on, the more fluid and custom each user’s rack will become – it’s not that difficult if we’re talking one RE device. It’s much more complicated if we each have 10 different devices. That would mean we would have to purchase 10 different devices, and this for each party = very expensive), then the way to continue to collaborate is to use the bounce down to audio feature (.wav). The .reason file becomes impractical.

    So to sum it up, as far as the .reason file is concerned:
    Reason won’t change. Collaboration will continue without a problem.
    RE+Reason will most likely mean resorting to bouncing audio down. The .reason file is impractical as a collaboration file format.

    As to your point that “It’s not like total strangers frequently and randomly collaborate with Reason” I would have to disagree. And as social media expands (soundcloud, facebook, etc), collaboration becomes a much more important aspect to any software we use. Collaboration is on the rise, which means more and more people from disparate regions of the world ARE INDEED coming together to work on projects.

    I’ll give you an example: My latest project involved inviting about 30 people to remix any song they like (20 songs in total). In order to make the project workable, I had to ensure that all my songs used only the FSB (not a problem as I wanted to do this anyway), but it could be considered a “limitation” – and you could even call it being lazy on my part if you like. But it was far easier to do this than to include all kinds of different samples from different ReFills and expect everyone to have those ReFills. And I know you can self-contain the song, so even this isn’t such an issue. But when it comes to RE devices, there’s no “self-contain” setting, and so my choices become: a) Use the 30 day trial – but only if I haven’t already used it before, b) purchase the RE device (as I said, this can potentially be expensive) or c) bounce to audio (no cost, but makes the .reason file useless).

    If I were to run my project using RE+Reason, I would be working with 8 people whom each have their own RE devices. So for the sake of argument, let’s say each had 2 different RE devices. First off, method “a” above won’t work because I need longer than 30 days to work with 8 people on a multitude of songs. In fact, in my original project, everyone had 60 days to work on their mixes. So the “a” option is out. Second, if we use the “b” option, 2×8 RE devices = 16 new devices that I have to purchase. I’m already paying for CD manufacturing, mastering, possibly mixing, etc. Now I have a brand new cost (which remains to be seen, but let’s just say this is a new cost that needs to be factored in). Yes I could do it, but I probably won’t. Others might. I’m not going to speculate though.

    This leaves me with option “c,” which, in most cases is fine. But I can tell you that one of the PRIMARY focus of the recent CD project I undertook was to use it as a learning experience for all involved. The only way others could look at how I worked in Reason was to be able to access, open, and edit the .reason file, and vice versa (I could access, open, and edit their .reason files). Using audio, you lose this ability. You lose the “learning from others” aspect, which is one part of what attracted me to Reason in the first place. The idea that you could share files together and what I hear on my end is what you hear on yours. And we could edit each others’ files. This will change with RE+Reason. But again, let me stress that it will not change a thing if you stick to the “core” reason devices.

    It also means that the Musician now has to think about which RE devices he/she uses, in addition to which ReFills he/she uses. It’s one more thing to think about.

    Now some have also said (and rightly so): “So What. This is how other DAWs have been working for years” — exactly right. Reason is now exactly like other DAWs, with three main exceptions that were highlighted in the video: 1. Undo actually “works.” 2. RE Devices are easier to try out, install, and are more stable, and 3. RE devices act exactly like other “core” Reason devices (they can be routed, combined, etc.). Is this worth losing the .reason format when collaborating? Probably, yes.

    To be clear, I’m perfectly willing to forego the possible collaboration issues in favor of more devices from 3rd party developers. I’m actually very excited about the prospects. I just don’t suffer from any illusions. There are always down sides when changes of this magnitude take place. And I probably would think twice before collaborating with 8 people on a project, or try to figure out an alternate strategy for taking on such a project.

    Wow. Long-winded I know. But an interesting discussion.

  11. I’m so excited about the possibilities of opening up the flood gates for developers to take reason to the next level, both sonically and capability.
    but I am still pissed that the propheads won’t deal with the so many lacking features still at hand.

    1) I have no idea why something as simple as “GROUP FADERS” are non existence.

    2) lack of wave editing in the samplers T R U L Y * S U C K S!!!!!!!!
    I mean you can get wave editing in Fisher Price toys..WTF!!!!

    3) older sessions before V6 are a nightmare to open. [just popping your entire creation on two tracks fucking sucks] how hard would it have been to simply have the 6 or 14 channel mixer have either direct outs, or even better, every channel from the older mixers just transfer directly to the new mixer.
    this was very disappointing, and basically a slap in the face to anyone who has built up a massive catalog.

    these are basic necessities that every single professional software studio provide…
    I mean what century are we in? the toys are nice, but the basics are what makes these things indispensable.

  12. @Michael,
    The good news is that since the implementation of the RE devices will allow other developers to create devices in Reason, this probably means the Props will be freed up to implement changes such as these in the program. So there’s some good hope that these requests may just see the light of day in Reason 7 or above. I, too, would like these features as well.

    But I also hope that the props will continue to develop interesting devices in Reason. We’ll see. But the future does look pretty bright indeed. ;-)

    Rob

  13. My question would be; will all the old stuff (refills) be affected and/or play normally. The second thought is; I believe Props has taken sound creation it as far as they could go, but if we look at Cakewalk which Roland is a large part of, are we going to see Korg come in as the lead contributor and bring in the hardware market Props are trying to become a large part of? Balance is a good little interface, but that is the problem it is small, and has no midi. I believe midi will be addressed soon, but not in the look of going into Reason, but maybe as a RE, which will not destroy the stability of the Reason system. A course this is all conjecture, but I wonder why Korg, and not Virus? Virus is more geared to electronic music than Korg everything music creation company.

  14. @Bro Britt,
    I can probably answer some of your questions. First off, I can tell you that all the old ReFills will play exactly the same as before. The Props are not removing anything from Reason, they are only opening it up to new instruments. The question is going to be how are ReFills going to be affected going forward. For example, any new Combinators created that use RE devices will only be usable if the other person has those same RE devices. Also, it’s not certain that the Props have taken their sound creation as far as it can go, and we may still see them develop new instruments and effects. Though I believe anything new will probably be released as a “RE” device now. But that is just speculation on my part.

  15. I totally agree with Michael moog there are literally thousands of people who would switch to reason 6 but the lack of simple work flow features stops them, like expandable midi and audio tracks to whatever size you want’ rather than the fixed one supplied this pisses everybody off, improved midi editing panel you need a telescope to see the notes, make working with blocks more user friendly again make the block lane expandable to whatever size you want the list goes on and on. Why wouldn`t the reason programmers get these simple features worked out before releasing a new set of toys is beyond me.

    Please get the basics worked out so we can enjoy reason.
    Carmflame

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