It’s the news that so many people have been waiting for: Propellerhead has added support for VST instruments in Reason 9.5. Andy Jones is running out of analogies…
Price 9.5 is free for Reason 9 owners; v9 is €369; upgrade to v9 €139
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System requirements OS X 10.7 or later, Win7 or later – 4 GB RAM / 3GB hard-drive space
You have to admire Propellerhead software. It doesn’t like to rush, and it likes to stick with its guns. The company brought out Reason as a sleek, quick DAW that did everything on its own terms, and that won it a huge amount of fans. It was one of the first full DAWs to be able to produce complete tunes in one go as it came complete with its own software instruments. People loved it but eventually people wanted more. They always do don’t they?
Propellerhead listened, it always does, and eventually added the audio that people were screaming for albeit over a couple of separate updates. Then those damn people wanted third party plug-ins so the Props did it in their own Rack Extension way and some great third party add-ons were born. Those people, though, they just don’t shut up…
Propellerhead has always held off from allowing third parties into Reason via the VST plug-in format. It wanted to shift its software on its own merits and Thor has always been regarded as one of the best synths out there and with the rest of the great instruments – Malström, Kong et al – why would anyone need anything else? So for a long time Propellerhead sat back.
But now we get version 9.5 and guess what? Yes, it has support for VST instruments, which is potentially the most exciting news in music technology (this month anyway) as for the first time you can use you favourite synths and plug-ins in one of the best environments for music making: the sleek and supercool DAW that is Reason.
They relented then
Version 9.5 is free to Reason 9 users and it’s a 200MB download to update. Boot 9.5 up for the first time then and it scans for VSTs and quickly implements your collection. Mine is huge as my drive is full of test software but, even so, it took less than a couple of minutes to process and only rejected a couple of instruments that have also previously troubled other DAWs.
When you boot up Reason, the instruments appear as regular Browser items. They are in alphabetical order (by company name) beneath the Reason devices and Rack Extensions. Drag them into your Reason Rack as you would any other device and you are up and running.
The VST is are shown as small icons with defaults VST logos in the Reason Browser. When dragged to the Rack they load up as standard looking Rack instruments at first and every VST instrument looks identical bar its name. Only when you click on the VST Plugin area to the right does the actual instrument appear. However, once you click on the VST instrument to open it up fully, you get a Screenshot option at the top.
Click it, and the smaller Browser graphic is replaced by a proper graphic of the VST (eventually – sometimes it takes a short time) while the same graphic replaces the default VST graphic in the device’s VST window (see screenshots top right). These replacements should load automatically in future songs so you won’t have to go through the process each time.
And so to the VST is themselves and ‘drum roll’…
Yep, simple: VST instruments in Reason 9.5 work. Phew. But that is not the end of the story as it’s the meeting of the mighty VST world – some 7,000 instruments and effects have been tested so far – with the sleek Reason world that is the real story here.
We all know some of the best meetings offer the best outcomes – think Lennon and McCartney, Bowie and Eno, Alien and Predator – but now we are talking Thor meeting Absynth and Kontakt meeting Rack Extensions. Even the very words ‘Battery meeting Kong’ conjure up images of some kind of music technology-based Roland Emmerich film – this is huge stuff!
Then you can process all of your VSTs using Reason’s effects and utilities. OK I’m stating the obvious but until you start dragging and chaining VSTs to effects and actually see them within your Reason Rack you won’t realise what a great meeting this is. You have Reason’s fantastic virtual racking and workflow environment and now all of your favourite other bits are there too.
And there are yet more options from perhaps less obvious sources. The first is by way of the Players introduced in v9 – the Dual Arpeggio, Note Echo, and Scales & Chords. These devices really do help you come up with instant ideas and are what Reason is all about – instant loops, melodies and riffs – and being able to apply them to your favourite VSTs is a boon.
Then there are the many and varied patching options afforded by Reason’s flexible audio routing. Flip the Rack and patch away, create your own modular system on screen with your favourite VSTs and Reason’s incredible routing, CV and sequencing options.
There are even one or two surprise additions. There’s an Automation option alongside that Screenshot option I mentioned earlier that when clicked brings up a new automation track for whatever dial you want to automate on your chosen VST. Similarly a Remote option lets you assign a control to an external MIDI controller. Both options are very easy to implement and add very neat automation options.
Reason 9.5 overview
1. Browser – When you first load in your VSTs into Reason 9.5 they will appear in the Browser with default logos.
2. Screenshot – Open up an instrument after dragging it to the Rack and then click the Screenshot option top right.
3. New graphic – The default graphic in the Browser has now been replaced. In this case it’s Synthmaster.
4. Kontakt – Native Instruments’ finest loads as normal after you Rack it, with all of your options loaded and ready to go.
5. Effects – Of course it’s not just about instruments – here are a couple of effects from Focusrite and UVI.
6. And rack some more – Around the back of the Reason Rack you can get your modular synthesis and sequencing working.
And that is pretty much it. There are almost endless combinations of Reason devices and VST instruments to discuss if you have a few years and then there’s all of that freeware that suddenly becomes accessible to Reason users. Really, everyone wins and it’s a free update to v9 owners, so just do it ok? Reason owners should rejoice and everyone else really should look at Reason in a new light because this update is big news: the great Reason work flow meeting the greatest instruments ever made.
That’s not belittling Reason’s own instruments, it just means the world of Reason just exploded outwards and the Props, bless them, did it on a half point update rather than going all out for v10. Like I say you have got to love them.