For us, the stand-out addition for Reason 5 is the samplin’, synthesizin’ drum machine, Kong. Visually, it’s not unlike the drum pad MIDI controllers made by a company whose four-letter name shares three letters with Kong. Conceptually, it’s in the vein of Akai’s classic MPC range, but as you’d expect from Propellerhead, it boasts a sizeable raft of functionality and features that you won’t find anywhere else.
The action centres on Kong’s 16 drum pads, each of which can be triggered on-screen via the mouse, or by a controller. Each pad is a fully independent drum module in its own right, meaning that Kong can be thought of as a modular drum kit design system, and anybody who’s used the Thor synth, introduced in Reason 4, will be instantly at home with the drop-down module menus on each pad, reminiscent as they are of Thor’s oscillator and filter modules.
So what are the actual modules on offer? Each drum pad can use as its sound source the NN-Nano sampler (a stripped-back but still highly editable and powerful addition to Reason’s NN sampler range), the Nurse Rex player (a similarly streamlined version of Dr. Rex), or a selection of more specialised drum modules. These include physically-modelled kicks, toms and snares, and synthesized kicks, toms, snares and hi-hats.
Each module offers an array of controls for shaping the sound, resulting in a huge sonic range, easily matching the quality of many of the other drum synths on the market.
After the sound source module, each pad features two effects busses, each offering an impressive array of effects processors designed with drums very much in mind: Compressor, Filter, Overdrive/Resonator, Parametric EQ, Rattler, Ring Modulator, Room Reverb, Tape Echo and Transient Shaper.
We love these new effects. They sound so good, we can imagine many users looking no further than them for all of their drum processing. If you do decide to bring Reason’s many other effects units into play, though, the rear panel of Kong has separate gate controls and audio outputs for each pad, while to the left of the pads is a control section, giving details on the currently selected pad, and offering a range of general controls.
The Q button in each section launches the powerful Quick Edit Mode. This pops up a window in which parameters can be viewed and adjusted for all pads simultaneously. It’s quite ingenious, easy to use and hugely effective when it comes to designing beats on the fly.
Once you have your beat, the master output section caters for a bus effects module and a master effects section. The latter could be used to host, say, a compressor to pull your drums together, while the former is ideal for adding reverb or applying some parallel processing. We can’t overstate how impressed we are with Kong so far - this really is going to change the way we all make drum tracks in Reason.