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Reason Studios Reason 12 review

Now in both DAW and plugin realms, Reason gains a sampler and refreshed Combinator

  • £399
Reason Studios Reason 12
(Image: © Reason Studios)

Our Verdict

It’s debatable how essential an update this is for Reason 11 users but taken as a whole, Reason is looking the best it has in years.

Pros

  • Customisable Combinator interfaces are fantastic.
  • Mimic fills a much-needed hole in the DAW toolkit.
  • Updated visuals give old devices a nice refresh

Cons

  • It’s debatable whether this is worth the upgrade for Rack plugin users.
  • Mimic’s root note detection is rather hit-and-miss.

MusicRadar Verdict

It’s debatable how essential an update this is for Reason 11 users but taken as a whole, Reason is looking the best it has in years.

Pros

  • + Customisable Combinator interfaces are fantastic.
  • + Mimic fills a much-needed hole in the DAW toolkit.
  • + Updated visuals give old devices a nice refresh

Cons

  • - It’s debatable whether this is worth the upgrade for Rack plugin users.
  • - Mimic’s root note detection is rather hit-and-miss.
  • -

Reason Studios Reason 12: What is it?

Reason gained a new lease of life with version 11. Having slipped behind its competitors over the years, due largely to its long reluctance to accommodate third-party plugins, the 2019 update spun the rack-focused DAW on its head by allowing it to run both standalone and as a plugin. 

This meant that lapsed users, who may still have held a soft spot for Reason despite defecting to other DAWs, could reconnect with its hardware-inspired devices without having to fully upend their workflow. It was a smart decision on the part of Reason Studios (formerly Propellerhead), making Reason feel more relevant than it had in a decade.

Two years later, version 12 is here. Understandably, it’s far less of a paradigm shift as updates go, focused on new and revamped devices rather than any fundamental changes to the design of the DAW.

Reason Studios Reason 12

(Image credit: Reason Studios)

Reason Studios Reason 12: Performance and verdict

The most significant new Rack device is the Mimic Creative Sampler. This is a well-equipped, multi-functional sampler with modes including pitched playback, loop slicing, and Multi-Slot and Multi-Pitch, which specialise in eight-part drum kits and multisample patches respectively. 

Mimic features multiple timestretch modes, including granular and formant-focused Vocal capabilities. Each sound – or multi-slot – also has access to effects, a filter and amp, plus LFOs and envelopes for modulation. 

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Adding samples is a simple case of drag-and-drop, and Mimic features automatic root note detection – although in our tests this proved rather hit-and-miss when used with anything other than clean and simple tones. As a whole, it doesn’t do a lot that we haven’t seen before from samplers in rival DAWs, but it’s nicely designed and fills a notable hole in Reason’s toolset.

The other major update comes to Reason’s Combinator, which is used to house and save multi-device patches. The updated device allows users to combine and store any assortment of Reason Rack devices and – in DAW mode – third-party VSTs. Instruments can be arranged to create layers, keyboard splits, velocity zones and have their parameters assigned to top-level macro controls. 

So far, so standard, but Combinator sets itself apart with a highly customisable interface that allows users to create their own custom UI. This includes adding and arranging an assortment of hardware-style controls, resizing the device panel and even importing a custom image for use as the interface backdrop. 

Reason Studios Reason 12

The updated Combinator. (Image credit: Reason Studios)

It’s a really nice update in all, one that adds a sense of real excitement to designing and customising your own instrument and effect patches.

On the visual front, Reason 12 also benefits from updated graphics. While this doesn’t really add value, the devices were beginning to look a little ‘low-res' and, with its iconic hardware-style design, if any DAW deserves HD visuals it’s Reason. There’s also a sizeably expanded soundbank and some tweaks to the browser – although this latter element still feels a little dated compared to other DAWs.

Is it worth the £130 update price? For those that use Reason as a primary DAW, Mimic is a must-have, although if you use Reason mainly as a plugin there’s a good chance your existing DAW has a similarly tooled sampler. 

The Combinator update is fantastic, particularly for building Rack tools for plugin-mode, although it’s debatable if it’s worth the update price alone. That aside, for the Reason-curious or lapsed users there’s probably never been a better time to take Reason for a spin. 

MusicRadar verdict: It’s debatable how essential an update this is for Reason 11 users but taken as a whole, Reason is looking the best it has in years.

Reason Studios Reason 12: Hands-on demos

Reason Studios

Stock Music Musician

Reason Studios Reason 12: Specifications

  • A fully-featured standalone DAW
  • Also available as a VST/AU/AAX Rack plugin
  • Upgrade price from £129
  • Also available with £20-per month Reason+ subscription.
  • CONTACT: Reason Studios

Mimic features

  • Four sample playback modes –Pitch, Slice, Multi Slot, & Multi Pitch
  • Automatic transient slice detection chops samples for you
  • Up to eight sample slots to load your own custom audio samples
  • Unique sound coloring effects and filters
  • Advanced audio time stretch
  • LFO and envelope modulation routing