Last week Reason users were given jaw dropping news as the Propellerhead guys lift the lid of their upcoming 9.5 release. Did hell freeze over or is the search for the holy grail finally over? Reason 9.5, out at the end of May and available for beta testing as of right now, will add VST support. The very same company who has vigorously fought against all customer requirements since day one, now out of the blue decides to follow the will of the masses. Reason’s key selling point has always been that it should be a self contained DAW, with focus on a unique user experience and attention to detail. This paradigm was slightly altered when Propellerhead’s introduced Rack Extensions, which enabled 3rd party software music instrument developers to be integrated into Reason via added APIs. From our point of view Rack Extensions was a promising addition and it has effectively been fairly successful considering the general difficulty of building a powerful eco-system of committed app developers. One may speculate if this move is more from a financial perspective, in essence to secure Reason’s market position going forward. It is also a fact that Propellerhead for the first time has added an external investor to take a major stake in the company, and by doing so they may have been forced to accelerate their customer base. Whatever the reason is there are many reasons to spend some time thinking of the benefits of VST support in Reason. Here we will list a couple of them and if you haven’t seen it already Propellerhead will host a live stream on Facebook tomorrow Thursday, May 11th. Click here to join!

1. Oh, that sound!

Not sure what your software studio looks like, but we’re pretty sure you have some sweet instruments on your Mac or PC that you have not been able to reproduce in Reason. Sure there are numerous possibilities in Reason and in perhaps 80% of the cases you will be able to bring Thor or a nice Rack Extensions to do the same, but in many cases this is simply not possible or it will take you forever to patch everything together or spend hours scrolling through your Combinator library. One example we have is this amazing synth; 2CAudio’s Kaleidoscope.

Needless to say, having the ability to bring in your favorite VSTs in the Reason rack will be a blessing – if done right. As a reminder Propellerhead’s way of introducing hardware instruments has been a game changer for Reason, on the other hand their implementation of it has not been rock solid. We can just hope that what we have seen so far will be equally pleasant in practice.

2. Rack Extensions are OK, but…

It is hard to say more than nice things about the variety and quality of the SW gear you can get in the RE Shop, but is it just us or aren’t they in many cases a bit on the expensive side of things? Sure, the developers shall get paid for what they are doing in the same way as musicians should get paid for the music they made. But truth is that the VST market offers a whole lot more on all sides of the radar, everything from top of the line stuff from the likes of U-he, to nearly free stuff from TAL. And even if you are prepared to pay up for that one synth in the RE Shop, why be limited and forced to turn to other DAWs just to get your VST collection going. This is by the way how the Propellerhead crew envisions the VST support in Reason 9.5.

It will in any case be interesting to monitor how the 3rd party RE developer community will react to this, bearing in mind the investment they have made into becoming Reason compliant instead of just keeping to the VST/AU formats – time will tell if the RE Shop will keep its relevance going forward.

You’ll be able to drag and drop VST plugins right from the Reason browser, use CV with them, add Player devices and put them in Combinators with Reason devices and Rack Extensions. Any instrument or effect that’s VST 2.4-compliant should be compatible. There’s automatic plugin delay compensation, though you can also set this manually on each mixer channel if you’d rather.

“Today’s music makers need access to all the great software instruments and effects out there – but without compromising their creative process,” said Mattias Häggström Gerdt, Reason Product Manager. “Opening your favorite VST plugins in Reason taps into Reason’s legendary workflow, from simply playing your favorite instruments to using the audio and CV connections for a truly modular music-making experience.”

3. Time to ditch ReWire?

Originally appearing in the ReBirth software synthesizer in 1998, the protocol has since evolved into an industry standard. For many of us though ReWire has simply been a way of hooking up Reason to an alternative DAW – that can play VSTs and feed it back in to Reason. Sure this is playing it a bit too harsh, ReWire do have many other use cases, but perhaps the introduction of VST support in Reason will make life somewhat easier on many of us.

But there might be one disappointment on the horizon, it has been indicated that hosting VST’s won’t work with Reason hosted in slave mode in a DAW such as Pro Tools. If true, this may be a major limitation for a whole lot of Reason users.

ReWire: Currently used in macOS and Microsoft Windows 32-bit or 64-bit audio applications, ReWire enables the simultaneous transfer of up to 256 audio tracks of arbitrary resolution and 4080 channels of MIDI data. This allows, for example, the output from synthesizer software to be fed directly into a linear editor without the use of intermediate files or analog transfers. There are also provisions to remotely trigger actions, such as starting and stopping recording.

The ReWire system consists of “Mixers”, “Panels”, and “Devices”. Mixers are the host applications which typically do the sequencing at one end and the final mixdown at the other end. A Device is a dynamic link library that only generates sound; it has no user interface. A Panel is a graphical interface for setting the parameters of one Device. A typical setup would be to use Ableton Live in “Mixer” mode, and use Propellerhead Reason as a synthesizer. In this case Reason would provide Device/Panel pairs to Ableton, which could then send midi commands, sync timing and mix Reason’s output into its own effects chains. Many applications support either mode. In fact, an application could (at the discretion of a developer) act as both a Mixer and a Panel at the same time.

4. Improved workflow

We all make music differently and most likely if automation of any sort is not your bag, then please skip this tip. But if you are into sound sculpturing and ID-ing that one unique bassline and using automation to load and test your sonic adventures, adding VST support will be a blessing. For example, you can now add a software synth such as Serum to your Reason rack, and modulate the sound panning with the DAW’s native LFO effect. It puts it into a similar category as the recent Bitwig Studio 2, which has an extensive modulation engine that can be used with third-party VSTs.

The VST UI will appear in a separate window. So they don’t appear side-by-side in the rack the way Rack Extensions do, though that also means they can take advantage of GUI functionality that would otherwise be impossible.






5. Compability

Music producers are seldom faithful to one supplier, their curiosity continuously keep them on the hunt for new stuff that can enrich their arsenal of music production gear, be it hardware or software. At the same compatibility is a key ingredient to be able to include and learn new software, e.g. the way they behave and how they interact in your DAW or stand alone. With Reason 9.5 adding VST support many music producers will be able to work as they do on other platforms and it will make it easier for new users of Reason to quickly get up to speed.

One downside here though is that Reason 9.5 will support VST 2.4 but not the newer VST 3.0. This is not a deal breaker but fairly odd choice considering that they are building this new feature up from scratch.

Need even more info then read the FAQ from the Prop page below:

Now that Reason has VST support, will you kill the Rack Extension technology?

Absolutely not! Reason now supports two plugin formats and Rack Extensions will remain a key Reason technology. In fact, combining VSTs and Rack Extensions open up fantastic music making possibilities! Having VSTs in the rack will let us focus our development of the Rack Extension platform even more.

Will Reason 9.5 support all VST plugins?

Reason’s VST implementation is based on VST 2.4. Any 2.4 compliant instrument or effect plugin (that’s just about every VST out there) will work in Reason.

Can I use VSTs with other Reason devices?

Sure! In that regard, there is no difference between VSTs and other Reason devices. Play them with Players, put them in combinators, add Reason effects, patch audio and CV to them – just like you always do in Reason. The only difference is that the VST plugins open in a separate window.

How are VSTs used in Reason 9.5?

Reason will find any VST plugin that you have installed on your computer. The VST plugins can then be found among Reason’s own devices and Rack Extensions in the browser. Drag your desired instrument or effect to the rack and it’s there! VST plugins live inside the new plugin host device in the rack. This is where you can route audio and CV and open the plugin’s own window.

How does the delay compensation work?

Some effects in a signal chain will introduce delay in the timing. With the delay compensation on, Reason will calculate the total delay in each signal path and adjust the timing of each discrete signal path accordingly, to assure perfectly timed, phase correct playback. The adjustment is automatic but can also be set manually for each mixer channel.

What about stability? Will Reason be less stable now?

We’ve implemented a limited crash protection system for VSTs that means we attempt to detect crashes in the VST and prevent the plugin from crashing Reason. Since VST plugins are third-party code, it is still possible to experience problems with plugins. Keep in mind that our VST support in Reason in itself doesn’t make the application less stable if you don’t have or use any VST plugins.

What are the system requirements?

The minimum requirements are listed below. Please note that using third party plugins can require significantly higher performance, and that some third party plugins come with different minimum requirements than these.

Mac OS X:

Fast, stable internet connection for installation and registration required!
Intel Mac with dual core processor
4 GB RAM (8 GB or more recommended for large ReFills or Rack Extensions)
4 GB free hard disk space (program may use up to 20 GB scratch disk space)
Mac OS X 10.7 or later (64-bit)
Monitor with at least 1280×768 resolution
CoreAudio compliant audio interface or built-in audio hardware
MIDI interface and a MIDI keyboard recommended


Fast, stable internet connection for installation and registration required!
Intel or AMD processor with dual cores
4 GB RAM (8 GB or more recommended for large ReFills or Rack Extensions)
4 GB free hard disk space (program may use up to 20 GB scratch disk space)
Windows 7 or later (64-bit)
Monitor with at least 1280×768 resolution
Audio Interface with ASIO driver
MIDI interface and a MIDI keyboard recommended

For more information, see the Propellerhead site.