MacDirectory Magazine

Winter-Spring 2012

MacDirectory magazine is the premiere creative lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts featuring interviews, in-depth tech reviews, Apple news, insights, latest Apple patents, apps, market analysis, entertainment and more.

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Page 106 of 115

REVIEW PROPELLERHEAD BALANCE / REASON ESSENTIALS WORDS BY TREY YANCY metal, solid state jazz tones and traditional country, but as with most other modelers, you would be hard pressed to find a satisfying version of the classic Les Paul whine or a Mark IIc tube tone. For modern wailers, however, it fills the bill quite nicely. Hands On Audio interfaces vary widely in price and features, as does digital audio workstation software. If you are looking for a nice intermediate level combination of both you might consider the duo of Propellerhead's new hardware product, Balance with Reason Essentials. Balance Balance is a solidly built and very well- designed 2x2 USB powered audio interface featuring two mic ins with phantom power, two stereo pair " line ins, two high-Z " inputs with pad buttons, and two " TRS outs. Controls include four rotaries (two input, main out and phones) and two rows of lighted input select buttons for mic, guitar and lines one and two, supported by LEDs for signal/clip, record ready and phantom. The unit also features a pair of toggle buttons for mute/direct monitoring, meter/tuner, and a clip safe button for recording a simultaneous backup track at a lower gain; the latter two, as with the record ready LEDs, are intended for interaction with Reason or Reason Essentials. As it is Mac class compliant (Intel Mac required) and supports Windows ASIO and WMD drivers, the unit can be used with other audio packages as well. It also serves as a dongle for Reason. Reason Essentials Essentials is a very nice starter DAW that, while not offering the full range of features and instruments as Reason, offers everything you need to create serious music. Its virtual rack motif, which includes the option of patching with virtual cables is easy, intuitive and opens many creative possibilities. Essentials is a well-rounded package that includes a synth, sampler, loop player, sequencer and drum machine, along with an excellent mixer, an assortment of effects and processing modules and a generous supply of patches. You can create as many duplicate instruments, mixers, modules and tracks as desired and you can also create Combinators, which rolls complex multi-device rigs into unified rack devices. The controls for these instruments and modules can be patched to external devices as desired and most can be automated. With Propellerhead Record now rolled into Reason, the package also offers high quality audio recording with quite a few options. As Essentials supports external DAWs and instruments, it not only provides a nice step up from Garage Band, but you can beef up your old projects by syncing Reason to Garage Band. For more details on Reason, please see the accompanying Reason 6 review. As Balance is primarily a mic / guitar interface, it is appropriate to mention the Line-6 amp and cab modules included with Reason. They are ideal for overdriven The Balance has a wedge profile with the controls on top, connections on the back and a mini headphone jack on the right side. It is solidly built, with enough weight to prevent movement. The gain controls are notched for exact synching while the oversized main out and phones controls are smooth with just a touch of resistance. The lights are bright and highly visible, although the tiny labels can be hard to make out in dim light. The interaction between Balance and Reason is exactly as expected and Reason's tuner / meter display is large and easy to view from across the room. The overall look, feel, and function make this a definite keeper and after using it for a few minutes I was ready to put my overkill FireWire rack unit in mothballs. Considering the intent behind the design, I simply cannot think of anything of substance that could be improved upon other than a larger label font. Conclusions The Balance / Reason Essentials combo has a SRP of $499 ($480 street), which is certainly within reach of must budgets and it is an excellent step up from entry-level DAW apps. Balance is a solid, well-designed unit and when combined with Reason Essentials the two make a solid team for budding pros and beginners alike. Product Reason Balance / Reason Essential From Propellerhead Price Balance with Reason Essentials $499, Reason Essentials $299 Pros Solid, highly functional design, excellent intermediate DAW Cons A touch pricey for beginners Rating HHHHH MacDirectory 105

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