“Ernst Nathorst-Böös, CEO, Propellerhead, told us, ‘Propellerhead is thrilled to partner with Mind Music Labs to help manufacturers build groundbreaking hardware products in the most cost-effective and scalable way. We believe that together, we can bridge the gap between music creation software and hardware, and help manufacturers bring the next generation of incredible synths
Propellerhead Software has announced a partnership with MIND Music Labs, enabling manufacturers to run Rack Extension plugins on instruments and music hardware products with ultra-low latency. This provides hardware manufacturers with an incredibly scalable, powerful and cost-effective way to incorporate Propellerhead’s future-proof Rack Extension platform into hardware synthesizers and effects using widely available ARM and […]
“Complex-1 is a modular synthesizer from Propellerhead Software, bringing the quirks, freedom and sonic depth of modular synthesis to to your Reason Rack. Boasting a 4x oversampled synthesis engine, a freely routable signal and modulation path and a sound like nothing else, Complex-1 is a synth lover’s dream machine.
Propellerhead Software has announced the release of Complex-1, a modular synthesizer plugin for Reason. Whether you’re looking to add flavor to your next song, or if you’re dreaming of wires and wall-to-wall modules, Complex-1 is a synth lover’s dream machine. Drawing from several schools of modular synth aesthetics, Complex-1 brings the quirks, freedom and sonic […]
Propellerhead has unveiled a modular instrument add-on for Reason, Complex-1. It puts a patchable, West Coast-inspired synth inside the already patchable Reason environment – and it sounds fabulous.
Complex-1 is a monophonic modular synth delivered as a Rack Extension, available now. What you get is a selection of modules, with a combination of Buchla- and Moog-inspired synths, and some twists from Propellerhead. You can patch these right on the front panel – not the back panel as you normally would in Reason – and combine the results with your existing Reason rack. The ensemble is very West Coast-ish, as in Buchla-inspired, but also with some unique character of its own and modern twists and amenities you would expect now.
Propellerhead have also a lot of design decisions that allow you to easily patch anything to anything, which is great for happy mistakes and unusual sounds – for beginners or advanced users alike. The three oscillators each have ranges large enough to act as modulation sources, and to tune paraphonic setups if you so wish.
Prepare to get lost in this: the recent Quad Note Generator is a perfect pairing with Complex-1.
What’s inside: Complex Osc This is the most directly Buchla-like module – subsonic to ultrasonic range, FM & AM, and lots of choices for shaping its dual oscillators.
Noise source, OSC 3 Noise sources including red, plus an additional oscillator (OSC 3) with a range large enough to double as a modulation source.
Comb delay If the Complex Osc didn’t get you, the comb delay should – you can use this for string models by tuning the delay with feedback, as well as all the usual comb delay business.
Filter Here’s the East Coast ingredient – a Moog-style ladder filter with drive, plus both high pass and low pass outputs you can use simultaneously.
Low Pass Gates Two LPGs (envelope + filter you can trigger) give you more West Coast-style options, including envelope follower functions.
Shaper Distortion, wavefolding, and whatnot.
More modules: LFO, ADSR envelope, output mixer, plus a really handy Mix unit, Lag, Scale & amp, Clock & LFO + Clock 2. There’s also a useful oscilloscope.
Sequencer plus Quant: You can easily use step sequencers from around Reason, but there’s also a step sequencer in Complex-1 itself, useful for storing integrated patches. Quant also lets you tune to a range of scales.
Function: A lot of the hidden power of Complex-1 is here – there’s a function module with various algorithms.
Yes, you can make complex patches with Complex-1.
The dual advantages of Complex-1: one, it’s an integrated instrument all its own, but two, it can live inside the existing Reason environment.
I’ve had my hands on Complex-1 since I visited Propellerhead HQ last week and walked through a late build last week. Full disclosure: I was not immediately convinced this was something I needed personally. The thing is, we’re spoiled for choice, and software lovers are budget-minded. So while a hundred bucks barely buys you one module in the hardware world, in software, it buys a heck of a lot. That’s the entry price for Softube Modular, for VCV Rack and a couple of nice add-ons, and for Cherry Audio’s Voltage Modular (at least at its current sale price, with a big bundle of extras).
Not to mention, Reason itself is a modular environment.
But there are a few things that make Complex-1 really special.
It’s a complete, integrated modular rig. This is important – VCV Rack, Softube Modular, Voltage Modular, and Reason itself are all fun because you can mix and match modules.
But it’s creatively inspiring to work with Complex-1 for the opposite reason. You have a fixed selection of modules, with some basic workflows already in mind. It immediately takes me back to the first vintage Buchla system I worked on for that reason. You still have expansive possibilities, but within something that feels like an instrument – modular patching, but not the added step of choosing which modules. The team at Propellerhead talked about their admiration for the Buchla Music Easel. This isn’t an emulation of that – Arturia have a nice Music Easel in software if that’s what you want – but rather takes that same feeling of focusing on a toolkit and provides a modern, Propellerhead-style take on the concept.
It sounds fantastic. This one’s hard to overstate, so it’s better to just go give the trial a spin. In terms of specs, Propellerhead points to their own DSP and 4X oversampling everywhere. In practice, it means even just a stupidly-simple patch with raw oscillators sounds gorgeous and lush. I love digital sounds and aliasing and so on, but… it’s nice to have this end of the spectrum, too. You get a weird, uncanny feeling of lying in bed with a laptop and some studio headphones and hearing your own music as if it’s a long-lost 1970s electronic classic. It’s almost too easy to sound good. Tell your friends you’ll see them in the spring because for now you want to spend some time along pretending you’re Laurie Spiegel.
It lives inside Reason. The other reality is, it’s really fun having this inside Reason, where you can combine your patches into Combinators and work with all the other pattern sequencers and effects and whatnot. You can also make elaborate polysynths by stacking instances of Complex-1.
There’s basic CV and audio interconnectivity with your rack. This may look meager at first, but I found this in addition to the Combinator opens a lot of possibilities, especially for playing live/improvising.
You get loads of presets, of course, which will appeal to those not wanting to get lost in patching. But I also welcome that Propellerhead included a set of basic templates as starting points for those who do want to explore.
Patching is also really easy, though I miss being able to re-patch from both sides of a cable as in a lot of software modulars. Better is the hide/unhide cables functionality, so you can make the patch cables disappear for easier control of the front panel. (Why don’t all software modulars have this feature, actually?)
You don’t get unlimited patchability between Complex-1 and the rest of Reason. For simplicity, you’re limited to note/MIDI input (from other devices as well as externally), basic CV input and output, and input to the sequencer. There’s also a very useful audio input. That may disappoint some people who wanted more options, though it still provides a lot of power.
Mostly I want to buy a really big touch display for Windows and use that. And with this kind of software out there, I may not be looking at hardware so much. I even expect to use this live.
Some sounds for you (while I work on sharing some of my own):
VST brings more choice to Reason, but more support demands, too. Here’s an update on how Propellerhead are optimizing Reason to bring plug-in performance in line with what users expect.
For years, Reason was a walled-off garden. Propellerhead resisted supporting third-party plug-ins, and when they did, introduced their own native Rack Extensions technology for supporting them. That enables more integrated workflows, better user experience, greater stability, and easier installation and updates than a format like VST or AU allows.
But hey, we have a lot of VSTs we want to run inside Reason, engineering arguments be damned. And so Propellerhead finally listened to users, delivering support for VST effects and instruments on Mac and Windows in Reason 9.5. (Currently only VST2 plug-ins are supported, not VST3.)
Propellerhead have been working on improving stability and performance continuously since then. Reason 10.3 is a much-anticipated update, because it addresses a significant performance issue with VST plug-ins – without disrupting one of the things that makes Reason’s native devices work well.
The bad news is, 10.3 is delayed.
The good news is, it works really well. It puts Reason on par with other DAWs as far as VST performance. That’s a big deal to Reason users, just because in many other ways Reason is unlike other DAWs.
I met with Propellerhead engineers yesterday in Stockholm, including Mattias Häggström Gerdt (product manager for Reason). We got to discuss the issue, their whole development effort, and get hands-on with their alpha version.
Why this took a while
Okay, first, some technical discussion. “Real time” is actually not a thing in digital hardware and software. The illusion of a system working in real time is created by buffering – using very small windows of time to pass audio information, so small that the results seem instantaneous to the user.
There’s a buffer size you set for your audio interface – this one you may already know about. But software also have internal buffers for processing, hidden to the user. In a modular environment, you really want this buffer to be as small as possible, so that patching and processing feels reponsive – just as it would if you were using analog hardware. Reason accordingly has an internal buffer of 64 frames to do just that. That means without any interruptions to your audio stream, you can patch and repatch and tweak and play to your heart’s content.
Here’s the catch: some plug-ins developers for design reasons prefer larger buffers (higher latency), in order to reduce CPU consumption even though their plug-in technically work in Reason’s small buffer environment. This is common in plug-ins where ultra-low latency internal processing isn’t as important. But running inside Reason, that approach adds strain to your CPU. Some users won’t notice anything, because they don’t use these plug-ins or use fewer instances of them. But some will see their machine run out of CPU resources faster in Reason than in other DAWs. The result: the same plug-in setup you used in another DAW will make Reason sputter, which is of course not what you want.
Another catch: if you have ever tried adjusting the audio buffer size on your interface to reduce CPU usage, in this case, that won’t help. So users encountering this issue are left frustrated.
This is a fixable problem. You give those plug-ins larger buffers when they demand them, while Reason and its devices continue to work as they always have. It’s just there’s a lot of work going back through all the rest of Reason’s code to adjust for the change. And like a lot of coding work, that takes time. Adding more people doesn’t necessarily even speed this up, either. (Ever tried adding more people to a kitchen to “speed up” cooking dinner? Like that.)
When it’s done, existing Reason users won’t notice anything. But users of the affected plug-ins will see big performance gains.
What to expect when it ships
I sat with the engineers looking at an alpha and we measured CPU usage. The results by plug-in are what you might expect.
We worked with three plug-ins by way of example – charts are here. With Izotope Ozone 7, there’s a massive gain in the new build. That makes sense – a mastering plug-in isn’t so concerned about low latency performance. With Xfer Records Serum, there’s almost none. Native Instruments’ Massive is somewhere in between. These are just typical examples – many other plug-ins will also fall along this range.
Native Instruments’ Massive gets a marginal but significant performance boost. Left: before. Right: after.
iZotope’s Ozone is a more dramatic example. Stack some instances of this mastering-focused plug-in, and you can max out the CPU quickly in Reason. (left) But in Reason 10.3 alpha, you can see the “big batch” approach yields resolves that performance issue. (right)
Those graphs are on the Mac but OS in this case won’t really matter.
The fix is coming to the public. The alpha is not something you want to run; it’s already in the hands of testers who don’t mind working with prerelease softare. A public beta won’t happen in the couple of weeks we have left in 2018, but it is coming soon – as soon as it’s done. And of course 10.3 will be a free upgrade for Reason 10 users.
When it ships, Reason 10.3 will give you performance on par with other DAWs. That is, your performance will depend on your CPU and which plug-ins you’re using, but Reason will be more or less the same as other hosts beyond that.
So this isn’t really exciting stuff, but it will make your life easier. We’ll let you know how it comes and try to test that final version.
“Unexpected, unpredictable, unanticipated, unforeseen, from out of left field or out of the blue. Quad Note Generator is the Player device that creates an endless stream of musical ideas. Melodies you wouldn’t have thought of, rhythms not yet heard and music about to be written. Far beyond just random notes, Quad Note Generator will take your music and
Loop Depot has launched Europa Club, a collection of 180 rhythmic loop patches for the Europa synthesizer by Propellerhead Software. The Europe synthesizer patch pack for all who want to get the groove on within a second. High-quality patches crafted to support your track with movement and energy. The patches are made to be used […]
Propellerhead Software has announced its new Player plugin Quad Note Generator, a Rack Extension that creates endless stream of musical melodies, rhythms and harmonies. Create melodies, rhythms and harmonies you may not have thought of with Quad Note Generator. This new Player Device will help create bass lines, leads lines or other musical phrases to […]