Depending on who you ask, Reason 6 is the ultimate music production workstation, an inspiring plaything or an important element of an integrated multi-DAW production approach. We'd argue that all three viewpoints are valid.
If you've not used it before, Reason began life as a software recreation of a studio setup that any '90s dance music producer would recognise, comprising a rack of virtual gear - synths, drum machines and samplers - a sequencer, and a novel virtual patch cable system to hook it all up.
Over time, the sequencing matured greatly, and the instruments and effects are now the equal of third-party plug-ins. Good job, too, considering Reason doesn't support third-party plug-ins at all - it's totally self-contained and proud of it.
Reason was once aimed firmly at electronic music production, even eschewing audio tracks, making it more of a 'software studio' than a true DAW, which left a hole in Propellerhead's product line for such a product – this they filled with 2009's Record, which worked standalone or in conjunction with Reason.
The big news is that Reason 6 has assimilated everything from Record, and added some new extras. Record itself is discontinued. Propellerhead have also introduced Reason Essentials (a slimmed-down edition), and a dedicated audio interface named Balance, which we'll be soon.
So what are the highlights of Record that Reason 6 users can look forward to? Audio tracks are surely the headline addition here - there's no need for us to describe them in detail except to say that they're here, they work as you'd expect, and we're damned happy about it.
Other than that, there's multitrack recording; top-drawer real-time timestretching; slick comping; Line 6 guitar/bass amp emulations; an awesome Auto-Tune-alike and voice synth called Neptune; a versatile sound module; and a virtual mixing console modelled after an SSL 9000k.
When Record was announced, we were initially sceptical about the claims as to the realism and authenticity of their SSL-modelled desk. However, authentic is precisely what it turned out to be.
The eight busses; the per-channel gating, compression and EQ; the sidechain for the compressors (including that master output) - it's all there. And then there's that famous bus compressor.
Now, this is not quite the all-purpose mix panacea that some people make it out to be, but when you want that specific radio pop sound, it's a fantastic recreation that can easily get you there.
As well as being a great tool for quickly shaping mixes, the mixer imbues warmth and cohesion - we even know of a few producers who have used it as their final mix tool on stems from another DAW.
As far as the interface goes, its appearance is pleasingly chunky and the control ranges well calibrated.
One thing to be aware of is that Reason still only runs as a ReWire slave, so you can't route tracks from, say, Cubase or Logic directly into Reason's mixer using ReWire - you'll have to bounce down to WAV and import.