On the menu: Tiger tussles with Reload, Propellerhead's Akai sample-management software, the excellent free Electromechanical Refill gets an update, and quick tips.
Whenever Apple upgrade their operating system, many of us hold our breath as we wait to see if our favourite applications are compatible or in need of their own update. This is especially the case when the company go for a major increment such as the new Mac OS 10.4, 'Tiger'. And because the new OS ushers in a number of changes and enhancements to Core Audio and Core MIDI, we need to be doubly reassured before we hand over our cash to Steve Jobs. The last issue of SOS covered Tiger in depth, and no doubt this and future issues will continue to do so as appropriate. Here I'll just pass on the news from Propellerhead that Reason v3 is fully compatible with MacOS 10.4. There are no known compatibility issues: during the development of the latest version of Reason, it was continuously tested with pre-release versions of Tiger.
The news is good elsewhere in the Propellerhead software family, with Recycle v2.1 also fully Tiger-ready. And then there's Reload, Propellerhead's neat and free (to registered Reason and Recycle users) utility for converting Akai-format sample CDs into something Reason can load. Apparently, Reload v1 does work with Tiger, but a minor anomaly, related to inserting Akai-formatted CDs into a Mac, has surfaced. Propellerhead are on the case, though, and a solution is on its way: v1.0.1 of Reload entered beta-testing at the end of May.
Reason 3 's new features — mainly the Combinator — have been the catalyst for third-party developers to produce new or updated Refills, and now we hear of an updated version of the Electromechanical Refill that was released early last year, before most of us were aware that v3 was on the horizon. Electromechanical 2.0 remains a free download to registered Reason users (from www.propellerheads.se), but for those without a really fast Internet connection, or those who would just like to have the Refill on CD, it can be purchased from Propellerheads for just £7 plus £2.81 airmail postage to the UK.
And what a download it is: 106MB of excellent samples and patches from a range of classic instruments: electric pianos — Wurlitzer valve EP100 and solid-state EP200, Fender Rhodes MKI tube and MkII solid-state — plus Hohner's Pianet T and Clavinet D6. The collection even includes a Model A, the grandaddy of Hammond organs. The NNXT's excellent multisampling and velocity layering are shown off rather well, and performance tweaks abound — just move that mod wheel!
The collection is largely the same as the original release, but where the original showcased the capabilities of the NNXT sample player, Electromechanical 2.0 highlights the Combinator. If you already have experience of the original Electromechanical release, you'll recall Song setups that added stylistically suitable effects to various NNXT patches. In the updated Refill, setups of this type make up the contents of individual Combinator patches, offering NNXT s processed by complementary effects chains. The custom graphics (an arty image of the sampled instrument is 'stuck' onto an otherwise plain Combinator background) are fun too. No Reason user should be without this Refill.
Reason 3 's new patch browser is so flexible that there's even an option to browse all synth and sample-based patches and add a device to the rack as its patch is loaded. An extension of this option is the fact that all patches can be viewed in any device's pop-up. Say you're using the pop-up to check out patch names in a given Refill from an NNXT 's patch selector. Up pops a patch for the Combinator that you'd like to play. Just click on it, and the NNXT is replaced by a Combinator holding the new patch. How convenient. Under Windows XP, you may find it helpful to see file extenders in the pop-up list, but on both PC and Mac platforms each patch has the device's icon graphic at the front of the file name. Once you're familiar with these icons (or the file extenders) you'll know exactly which file types you're looking at.
I hope you're not neglecting your new MClass 'mastering' processors — especially the Stereo Imager, a tool that can add a very nice subtle sparkle to your mixes. Just remember that there's not a lot of meaningful stereo information in the very low-frequency range. In fact, you might find a mix becoming tighter and more focused if you turn the Lo-Band width control fully to mono, just slightly widening the Hi-Band. The basic 787Hz crossover frequency already set is fine for most purposes, but don't hesitate to mess about with it, especially if you're widening different parts of your Reason mix separately (as you might do with drums or extreme stereo delay effects, for example). Set a crossover much lower than that and you may find the mud creeping back in. But if that mud does something you like, let it stick!