Over the years I have worked with most DAWs that are available on the market. From Cubase, Nuendo, Sonar, Pro Tools, Live to Reason. A lot of money went into buying that stuff. And most of it, I found out, was money not very well spend because most software sucks imo. Badly designed workflows and instability are showstoppers for me. But the positive thing is that I found out the hard way what I don’t like and what I LOVE.
I bought Live version 1.2 in early 2002, a year after I had bought Reason 1.0 because Reason lacked audio at the time. Live on the other hand didn’t do MIDI so running both programs in ReWire mode made them very much complementary to each other. A great marriage! But over the years things started to blur. Audio was added to Reason and MIDI tracks were added to Live.
Since both programs were now full fledged DAW systems it made them feel a bit redundant. Although both programs are excellent DAWs they are not the same. So again, it made me aware of the things I did like and didn’t like about them.
Stretch the time
It’s 2016 and while both programs are somewhat replaceable (although I must say: since Live can handle video it is my preferred app when composing music for film and video) I must say that soundwise Reason is currently the best DAW that is available on the market. Although all DAWs will be able to record uncompressed audio that will sound absolutely perfect, things start to become a whole different story as soon as you start to key-shift/pitch-shift and time stretch the audio tracks.
To make a long story short: Reason does time-stretching better than any of the competition. A LOT better. Ableton Live has gotten a lot better at it over the years but is still far from perfect. Often stretched audio in Live sounds like, uhm, well stretched. While Reason stretches the audio in ways its undetectable to most ears. It uses better algorithms, simply as that. Super smooth stuff, even on dedicated material like vocals or acoustic guitars. Just lovely.
Analog sound in digital
And thanks to the Rack Extension format many additional rack devices come to the market, developed by third party coders, that sound absolutely fabulous. I am a big fan of Primal Audio who have recently added the Acid Diode Ladder Filter to their arsenal of products. It’s just insane how lovely that saturation filter sounds. A filter that is based on the characteristic diode ladder filter design of the famous Roland TB-303. With this unit I can add that famous squelchy sounding overdrive to ANY sound source in Reason. And if the TB sound doesn’t feed me well I might choose to use a Primal Audio filter which is based on the Korg MS-20 filter or the Minimoog filter. These filters are at the moment only available as Rack Extensions for Reason. Nothing beats them imo, so Reason users have all the fun right now!
P.S. If you want extreme time-stretch to sound butter smooth, stuff that goes beyond the standard tempo based time stretch, try Paulstretch which is available in the audio editor Audacity. Free and easy and open source!
Also published on Medium.