By Craig Anderton
Reason is a great program, but it's more versatile than many people realize. These tips and tricks cover some lesser-known ways to make Reason do your bidding.
Some people erroneously believe that Reason’s sound quality doesn’t equal dedicated hardware—they probably have the “low bandwidth” option enabled in SubTractor or the NN19 (a holdover from the days when computers had much less power), or didn’t check “High Quality Interpolation” in the NN-XT and NN-19 samplers. These simple steps can make a major improvement in sound quality.
While DAWs are just starting to implement sidechaining, Reason’s MClass Compressor already includes sidechaining—hit Tab to flip the rack around to reveal Sidechain In jacks for the left and right channels. Bonus: The compressor’s Gain Reduction signal is available as a control voltage.
On the back of the ReMix mixer, a switch in the lower left chooses between “Compatible EQ” and “Improved EQ.” Use Compatible for projects created in older versions of Reason; for new projects, use Improved. The CPU hit isn’t much, and the quality is better.
The RPG-8 can serve as a MIDI-to-CV converter when the Arpeggiator is set to Off. For example, make the RPG-8’s track active in the Sequencer, and send the RPG-8 Gate and CV outs to a SubTractor synthesizer. But instead of routing the RPG-8 Mod Wheel out to the SubTractor’s Mod Wheel in (the default), you can send it to Pitch, Filter 2 Freq (as shown in the screen shot), or Amp Level, which do not have corresponding amount controls in SubTractor’s Mod wheel section.
Reason can produce sample-and-hold control effects, as well as more randomized modulation, by feeding multiple LFO outputs into a Spider CV Merger, then sending the Merged output to the parameter you want to control. For example, for a synced sample-and-hold filter effect, use square LFO waveforms (try setting sync on one to 1/4 and the other to 1/8T) and send the merged output to something like Thor’s Filter 1 Freq input.
In addition to the MClass equalizer, PEQ-2 parametric EQ, and ReMix channel EQs, the BV512 vocoder has an equalizer mode with up to 32 bands—select Equalizer instead of Vocoder with the switch to the left of the display. You can even do primitive “room tuning” with this if you insert the vocoder as the last processor in the signal chain.
Some of Reason’s effects sum the inputs to mono before creating a stereo output, some are stereo in/stereo out, some do mono in/stereo out but not mono in/mono out, etc. To see how a particular effect handles signal flow, Tab to the back of the rack, and check the small graphics toward the left side of a device. For an explanation of what the Signal Flow graphs mean, go to page 683 in the Version 5 PDF Operation Manual or page 334 for the Version 4 manual (manuals are located in the program folder's documentation folder).
The MClass Equalizer has a low cut switch that reduces response below 30Hz at 12dB/octave. Insert this at the output to remove any subsonics. Patching this before a compressor will also allow the compressor to work more efficiently, as its control mechanism won’t be influenced by subsonic signals.
Reason will run at 96kHz (go Edit > Preferences > Audio > and choose the desired sample rate from the drop-down menu). Don’t think 96kHz makes a difference? Choose a really distorted patch in Scream, and you’ll hear a definite smoothness in the high frequencies that you just don’t get at 44.1kHz.
Reason uses 32-bit floating point math for internal calculations, yielding virtually unlimited dynamic range within Reason. As a result, clipping that occurs within Reason itself (e.g., an effect meter goes “in the red”) won’t produce audible distortion. However, clipping at the hardware interface will. It’s a good idea to leave the Hardware Device unfolded, and check the Audio Output meters from time to time to make sure they’re not distorting.
Type “L” (not Ctrl-L or Command-L, as erroneously stated in the Operation Manual) to show/hide the patch cords on the back. Jacks that are in use have a colored “hole” with the same color as the patch cord that normally connects to it, and you can see where it connects by placing the cursor over the jack—a “tooltip” style of text appears describing the connection.
You’ll get the most noticeable vocoding effects if the carrier sound you use has lots of harmonics (e.g., a synth sound with an open filter and sawtooth waves). Not enough harmonics? Patch a Scream4 between the carrier source and the vocoder carrier input.
To copy a Reason device quickly, Ctrl-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac) on a device’s “rack ears” and drag it into an empty space in the rack.
Reason makes a great sound module for MIDI guitar because it’s easy to load up six devices, put the MIDI guitar in mono mode (separate MIDI output for each string over its own channel), and assign each device to a string.
There’s some confusion about how to control Reason parameters via MIDI, as it’s possible to use custom control mappings. But for most applications, especially when rewiring into a host, it’s best to use the default MIDI controller numbers for the various parameters. A comprehensive MIDI implementation chart is located in the Documentation folder (in the Reason directory).
Craig Anderton is Editor Emeritus of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.