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June 2017 Giveaway

Hands On Review: Propellerhead Balance and Reason 6.5

With Reason 6, the Propellerhead Software turned their super-popular music creation software into a full-featured DAW with integrated multitrack recording capabilities and a powerful built-in mixer that emulates a million-dollar big-studio mixing console. With all of its included synthesizers, samplers, audio processors, mixers, routing capabilities, and more, Reason is the soup-to-nuts music production program of choice for many musicians and composers.

But even with all the major additions to the software, Reason still lacked one thing: it was closed to third-party plug-ins. The only way for new features to be added to the program was for the Prop-heads themselves to put them there. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With a closed program such as Reason, the company could maintain tight control, which resulted in a very robust, stable system.

But now, with Reason 6.5, the Propellerheads have opened up Reason with Rack Extensions — and they’ve done it without compromising stability! Similar in concept to plug-ins, Rack Extensions can be created by third-party developers and can be either instruments or audio processors. The advantage is that the Propellerheads tightly control the Rack Extension technology, which eliminates many of the inconsistencies and instabilities of traditional plug-ins. Plus, when you purchase and download a Rack Extension from the online Propellerhead store, it downloads and installs automatically, with no authorization, no registration, and no complex installation process required — the authorization is placed on your Reason Ignition key, seamlessly. Nice!

Rack Extensions are a huge addition to Reason. Not only is the program now a full DAW, but it also has its own “plug-in” format. Reason 6.5 is an amazing solution for just about any music production application.

Up until recently, the Propellerheads have stayed firmly in the software camp. But it was inevitable, with their success there, that they would want to create hardware. And that’s just what they’ve done with Balance, a new USB interface for Mac and Windows — but, of course, it’s the Prop-heads, so it’s not just any interface. Balance lets you hook all your gear up and then switch what’s feeding into the interface via front-panel switches. There are two XLR mic inputs, two guitar inputs, and two stereo line inputs. And two inputs can be used simultaneously. There are also two outputs that can be routed to your monitors as well as headphone outputs; the monitors and headphones each have their own volume control.

The beautiful thing about Balance? You plug it in, and it just works! It may be the simplest interface I’ve ever had the pleasure to use — and I mean that in a good way. Plus, by using Balance with Reason, you get an amazing extra: Clip Safe, which protects you from clipping tracks when you’re recording. Clip Safe invisibly records a backup track at a lower level, along with the track that you’re recording. It’s a cool feature that you’ll appreciate the first time you’re able to save a once-in-a-lifetime take that otherwise would have been ruined by clipping.

Balance isn’t limited to use with Reason. It supports any Core Audio, WDM, or ASIO software. It comes bundled with Reason Essentials to get you started. Balance is flexible enough to be the hub for a studio rig, and it’s portable enough to take on the go. It sounds great, and it’s easy to use. And that’s a winning combination.

Mitch Gallagher

About Mitch Gallagher

Sweetwater Editorial Director, Mitch Gallagher, is one of the leading music/pro audio/audio recording authorities in the world. The former senior technical editor of Keyboard magazine and former editor-in-chief of EQ magazine, Gallagher has published thousands of articles, is the author of seven books and one instructional DVD, and appears in well over 500 videos on YouTube. He teaches audio recording and music business at Purdue University/Indiana University, and has appeared at festivals, conventions, and conferences around the world.
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