MSRP; $299; Propellerhead
The latest iteration of the venerable music software studio adds several new virtual machines to its rack, the most exciting of which has got to be the Kong Drum Designer. Each of its 16 pads can control any of 16 drum channels, each using its own sound source module—including the NN-Nano (a simplified version of the NN-XT sampler), as well as Nurse Rex (a mini Dr. Rex) and seven synths, creating endless fun for drum programmers. And while previous versions of Reason couldn’t sample audio directly, the latest lets you do so from within several of its instruments. The interface has been streamlined in various subtle ways, and the new “Blocks” mechanic for arranging your song is a superb advancement that will surely be mimicked for years to come. While there’s still no support for VST plug-ins, Reason is still the most bug- and crash-free music program out there, and runs extremely well on even the lowliest of machines.