Reaper vs Reason Sound Test

I saw that there was a new version of Reaper with all these apparent improvements to how it looks and therefore flows to work with. Reason has got its shiny new Rack VST – now with added MIDI Out so…

I launched Reaper – looks nice – and added a Reason Rack with a Europa. Europa Loads a sound from the library by default. Sounds cool. I have that off by default in the “real” Reason.

Hank Williams didn’t do it like that

It sounds really good. Warm, intimate. Deep but shiny too. Hmmm.

I then add another synth to the Rack. I am just wondering if my REs are there and what happens if I just dump in another synth. Red Rock Ivoks on-board and blow me down if the audio isn’t summed. No mixer, it just automotively busses the audio to the Masters seeing there is only output on the masters. Clever thinking 99.

It still feels like it sounds different. It really does. Fire up a new DAW and suddenly all those instruments that sound samey, feel new & amazing. It must be the curse of Reason Sound.

Now I know that all the summing tests etc show that DAWs all sound the same but it sure don’t feel that way so I figured why not try a testicle (that’s the word for a small test isn’t it?)

Testing 1-2-3

I made a tiny track with that Europa/Ivoks combo and added one of my own Anadyomene VST for good measure. It sounds super here in the new prettier Reaper too.

A bit of reverb is called for as Anadyomene has no on-board FX. Oril River seeing Reaper’s in-built won’t carry to Reason. Or maybe it will but I don’t have it as it is a bit rubbish. I had to goof about a bit to work out how to make a Send and then Reaper defaults to a full 0dB Send which seems ok but is nowhere near as useful as Reason’s default -12dB Send. Set both tracks to the -12dB Send and exporterated the audio. 16/44 Wav nothing special.

I also explicated the MIDI so I wasn’t having to re-compost my peace and get it awl pronged up.

Reaper Test – Reaper


To Reason. I duplicated the synths & overall settings in Reason. Now, they ain’t exactly the same as this is real life. No one is paying me to test atomic bombs here so near enough will do.

I wonder if the sound is not quite the same – a bit flat. But hold my water. No sleep til bedtime and all that.

Reason Rack

I load my Reaper expectoration and render the Reason tracks to a Wav to put em up against the wall (of non-judgment) to be assessed for (non)difference.

Reaper vs Reason Audio export of MIDI to Synths

Well, well, they ain’t the same. Swap phasers for blasters (oops mixing my Sci-Fi universes there) and they don’t cancel each other remotely (or even in the local galactic cluster).

Take On Me

Initially this looks like a win for Flat Earthers. If a null test delivers a non-null result then surely different DAWs sound different and Reason Sound is a thing after all.

Flaming time. Except I have more interest in understanding than being a turdy-panted Facebook Group member – and I mean a like a 3″ member 😉

They may not null each other out becasue:

  1. I didn’t make the settings exact. Assuming -12dB in Reaper is exactly the same -12dB in Reason, that any DAW settings are going to achieve exactly the same results is naive as two SSL Desks probably don’t. I know that two 1176 compressors don’t sound like each other at all.
  2. These are softsynths with complex patches so it it would also be silly to think that in both cases, the OSC where running in exact phase, let alone the choruses etc.

Null tests being non-Null is to be expected. So I used my ears.

Whisper My Name

Oh the analog horror of using ears and not meters with displays. Pah. Music is music and that is an ears thing. If I feel like it sounds different when I run a synth in Reaper (or Fruity or whatever the hell they call Sonar these days) then that is it. Not fact. But it is how I (and many others) feel. That is something. So let’s get back to playing with my testicle (it really is a little test isn’t it) to see why.

But first some diversionary background:

It is a pretty well known secret that if you change the packaging, people will think the product changed. Same applies to hearing too. Change what we see as we hear and we change what we hear. Whack a totally random “boids’ style 3D animation on a synth worth $1, float the word A.I., and sell it for $139. The people who buy it will think they are getting a synth that sounds WAAAAAAY better than whatever was the rage last week (even tho they have no real idea how to use any synth). Stupid is the new black. Anyway, perception is driven by more than the thing we think we are focusing on. If we don’t love the GUI of the synth or DAW, we tend to think it is a bit rubbish. That thinking becomes feeling and that becomes personal truth, which is not necessarily universal truth.

Neither of these DAWs has to sound the same as the other, or different. They simply are.

A-Bing the two Wav files is interesting as mostly they sound the same. If you heard them at different times on the radio, you’d not pick one as “better” than the other. But Reaper sill has some sort of edge.

It sounds really good. Warm, intimate. Deep but shiny too.

I have met this before. It seems like there is a lot different going on but there probably isn’t. If I were testing Mixbus then I could say it must be their proprietary saturation thing, but Reaper makes no such claims.

The more I listened it seemed to me that if it was one thing it was probably brighter in the highs. That matches the “Reason Sound” accusation of Reason sounding flat, papery, thin

So I grabbed the lovely Reason EQ window and played with the high shelf. Just a touch of a dB or so above 8k and suddenly the Reason Wav sounds as good in all those lovely ways as Reaper. Lean on it just a bit and Reason sounds all those lovely things and some. Eew Reaper sound.

Clear View

Now who to blame for being wrong? You know that it isn’t wrong. Merely different. We buy 234 different compressors because they are all um different so why not our DAW.

Here are my guesses (in no particular order):

  • Reaper has a tiny treble boost to make everything that hits it sound fabbo. Now I don’t think this is a Reaper thing alone as I notice the same in Fruity. It is a small furby and does no one any real harm as it would be a rare mix indeed to make it to market without a treble boost to make it sound all kinds of luvverly. The DAW just gave us a head start.
  • Reason has a band limiting thing on the highs to minimize issues with nyquist & aliasing. It helps make the program run really efficiently as oversampling (and the attendant CPU suck) is not anywhere near as necessary. Sure it pulls a bit of luv from the sound but it would be a rare mix indeed to make it to market without a treble boost to make it sound all kinds of luvverly. The DAW just gave us ability to run more devices.
  • Reason is perfectly flat to allow us to make our own decisions on how we want to build the lovely without any invisible meddling hands. The other DAWs aren’t flat/honest so Reason sounds less exciting to start with but can be made to sound more exciting with the use of saturation and the really nice SSL (styled) EQ.

The latter is my assumption. I like this method as it means that, like working with Yamaha NS-10 nearfields, you have to make a good mix where it sounds unflattering. Once you get your mix sounding great there, it will translate really well anywhere – considering most sound systems are designed to be flattering far more than flat.

Your DAW doesn’t matter.
What you do with it does.


Someone just posted me this link to a section in the Fruity Studio manual on DAW Wars and the myths that are so prevalent in the music space.

Audio Myths & DAW Wars

This is really well written (and I have to admit unexpected). Everything here is correct. People waste so much time waiting for their tools to make their music great when all along they just need to allow themselves to do what they are really here to do: let it out.

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