Reason+ Review (And Monthly Cost Value)

Reason+ has its pros and cons. Nearly all of the issues people have with Reason+ would be negated if Reason Studios did one of three things:

  • Lower the price of Reason + Devices + Sound Packs
  • Lowered the price by offering only Reason + Sound Packs (no devices)
  • Include a rent-to-own option.

It’s very important to note that you’re basically renting (subscribing) to Reason, the rack extensions and the sound packs. Although if you download the sound packs, you can keep using them with a standard Reason license. But access to the subscription version of Reason and those rack extensions are cut when you decide to stop paying. Any existing Reason and rack extension licenses you own will still work. And Reason Studios states they currently are still selling Reason, upgrades and rack extensions outside of the subscription. But, at Reason+’s debut, you cannot access Reason+ offline like you can with standard Reason. Reason Studios intends to implement this soon.

Reason+’s three tenets

At its debut, Reason+ offers three main tenets for the monthly $19.99 subscription fee:

  • Access to current version of Reason
  • Access to all Rack Extension (RE) devices by Reason Studios (including those previous released by Propllerhead)
  • Sound packs (instrument patches with a focus on song construction)

Access to current version of Reason

Reason Studios made big claims about having up-to-date access to Reason. This is both true and not true. As a Reason+ subscriber, you’re entitled to receive the current version update. But that doesn’t mean your version of Reason is automatically updated as if you were loading Reason (via Reason+) from the cloud. Reason (via Reason+) still gets installed on your computer like normal Reason does. (A special Reason is installed titled “Reason+” that will live alongside any other version of Reason you own.)

There currently is no difference on getting updates to Reason if you’re subscribed to Reason+ or if you have a paid license to the current version of Reason. Reason+ users will get updates to Reason 12 at the same speed as Reason 12 license holders and both will have to go through the standard process of updating Reason.

The song files you create in Reason+ will be saved as the current version Reason (assuming you’re updating your Reason+ program). This means if you own Reason 9, then subscribe to Reason+ that is currently in version 15, if you stop subscribing to Reason+, your song you’ve been using with Reason+ will be version 15. The only version of Reason you own, version 9, won’t be able to open those version 15 files you were using with Reason+. You also won’t be able to access any rack extensions you don’t own a license to.

Access to all Reason Studio Rack Extensions 

A lot of users will see parallels with (now discontinued) Reason 11 Suite. Nearly all devices Reason Studios offers are available to Reason+ subscribers. Not just devices that existed at the time you signed up for Reason+ but all devices Reason Studios will produce is what’s currently being offered.

For each Rack Extension you own, the value of Reason+ decreases.  The value proposition is the highest for those who own no Reason rack extensions.

If you currently own rack extensions (or VST plug-ins), they all can be used with current and future Reason+ versions. (Reason Studios could change this in the future). So if you own, say, the Scenic Hybrid device rack extension and Reason 11, you can use it in Reason+ 12, 13, 14, etc as long as you pay your subscription. If you stop paying your subscription, you’ll still be able to use the Scenic rack extension in whatever version of Reason you own a license to (in this case Reason 11).

Sound packs

Much of Reason+’s appeal or lack-of is based on its value proposition. Access to the current Reason version and the Reason Studios rack extensions are something most people can assign a firm value proposition for themselves or even others. But the value proposition of these sound packs are different for each person.

General consensus on the sound packs from Reason+ seem to be split; many people love them and many people hate them. Both are valid points so I’m going to discuss this with a focus on both sets of opinions.

Many people are comparing these sound packs like those from subscription services like Arcade or Slice. But Reason+’s sound packs are different as they give you Reason device patches (either individual devices, such as Friktion, or multiple devices inside of a Combinator). The goal of these sound designers who create these sound packs is to create the construction of a song (typically within the theme of a genre). The sound designer will literally create the basis of a song to let you hear how the song sounds via the Reason+ companion app. You can then access the device patches inside of Reason+.

This is why some of these patches include an ID8 inside a Combinator. People, including some third party rack extension developers, incorrectly assume the sound designers are doing this because they’re lazy, rushed or ignorant. But the reason is because the ID8 is a device that doesn’t have savable patch presets. So if a song designer uses an ID8 as an archtop guitar (“Jazz Semi”), they can’t provide a patch to share with others set to “Jazz Semi” unless they place it inside a Combinator. 

A real value in Reason+ sound packs is hearing how other sound designers are constructing their songs. Is that guitar a complicated A List Guitar device or is it surprisingly an ID8? Is that synth an advanced Europa configuration or is it simply a Subtractor with a Synchronous on it?

Those of you who think it’s easy to tell, it’s not. Most times I can’t even identify how I created sounds in my songs just from listening. In my song Life Lockdown, listen to the main melody; is it a Europa with parameter automation or a simple NN-19 parallel processed with modulated effects? 

Reason+ sound pack value

Now that the intended purpose of Reason+ sound packs is explained, we can finally move onto the value proposition. Do I feel these sound packs make Reason+ enough of a value for $19.99 a month? A better question is, do I feel it will be enough of a value for most Reason users, both established ones and those who don’t even own Reason?

After a month or two, I don’t think Reason+ sound packs will be enough value proposition for the majority of users. One of the issues is that there are more than enough patches currently in the Reason sound banks. Of course, those patches aren’t categorized by genre and certainly aren’t pair to go well with other sounds (i.e. “this bass goes well with this pad”). The Reason+ sound packs do. They’re useful as an educational aid; you can always learn from observing how someone else operates.

However, that education can just as easily be had by searching Youtube “Reason studios house tutorial”, “Propellerhead Reason hip-hop tutorial”, etc. Watching YouTubers, the very people Reason Studios loves to have on their live streams, showing how they create songs is far more educational. And, unlike Reason+, it’s free and works even with old versions of Reason. So even if a Reason+ subscriber who was new to Reason asked me for resources on learning, I would direct them to Youtube tutorials and not Reason+ sound packs. That person will learn things like navigating around in Reason and tips and tricks just from watching a seasoned Reason user (something you don’t get with Reason+ sound packs).

Thus, if one of the most appealing aspects of Reason+ sound packs isn’t better than the free alternative, I don’t believe the value will be very high for most Reason users. I especially think the value of Reason+ sound packs will likely disappear after a few months of subscription. Reason Studios has designed Reason+ to be a subscription people stay with for more than just a few months, ideally people stay subscribed for years or even the lifetime of the service or the user (whichever morbidly comes first).

Reason+ value distribution

Of the three Reason+ tenets, how much of the value is distributed between the three? 

  • 60% Access to Reason
  • 35% Access to Reason Studio rack extensions (RE)
  • 5% Sound packs

Notice that these are percentages and not dollar figures. This is the value distribution; whether Reason+ cost $5 a month or $50 a month, what’s being received with the service have different weight. Distributing 5% towards sound packs of Reason+’s $19.99 monthly price doesn’t mean that the sound packs are valued at only $1 a month. Rather, that’s what the price ends up as the distribution. 

Some may argue that the value distribution of Reason Studio’s rack extensions should be higher than 35%, but not everyone needs or wants all offerings by Reason Studios (such as the Auto-tune Reason device) and some people (such as Reason 11 Suite owners) already own a majority of the devices. Assigning 35% seems to be the most appropriate average between users.

Getting access to Reason upgrades and to Reason Studio’s rack extension devices are far more valuable compared to the sound packs. Using this value distribution chart of 60/35/5 makes it far easier to assign a personal value on Reason+’s offerings. 

If Reason+’s price changes and Reason+ still offers the same three tenets, the percentages can still act as a guide to help you decide if Reason+ is right for you personally. 

Reason+ value vs ownership upgrade cycle

Based on our 60/35/5 value distribution, we can apply the 60% value of access to Reason to the predicted upgrade cycle. 60% of $19.99 is $12 a month. The time between Reason upgrades (version 5 to version 11) averages to 20 months. Reason Studios claim future upgrades will cost the same $129. So the math works out as:

60% valuation of $19.99 a month = $12 a month 

20 months x $12 = $240 

$240 over 20 months – $129 Reason upgrade = $111 extra spent with Reason+

So in this scenario, an existing license holder actually loses $111 every upgrade cycle (20 months). And, unfortunately, a Reason+ subscriber doesn’t actually own Reason.

Reason+ value vs new ownership

Based on our same 60/35/5 value distribution, we can factor in the cost for someone who doesn’t already own Reason.

60% valuation of $19.99 a month = $12 a month

20 months x $12 = $240

$240 over 20 months – $399 Reason new purchase = $159 saved with Reason+ 

So in this scenario, by the time a new Reason+ user has subscribed over our average 20 month upgrade cycle period, they would have saved $159. This amount can be carried over to the next version (20 month period).

60% valuation of $19.99 a month = $12 a month

20 months x $12 = $240

$240 – $159 saved previously = $81

$81 over 20 months – $129 Reason upgrade = $48 saved with Reason+

It’ll take a new user until their third upgrade cycle before losing money.

60% valuation of $19.99 a month = $12 a month

20 months x $12 = $240

$240 – $48 saved previously = $192

$192 over 20 months – $129 Reason upgrade = $63 extra spent with Reason+

So based on our 60/35/5 value distribution, for a new user it’ll take them three upgrade cycles totaling a average 60 months before they start losing money with Reason+. So that would span from Reason 12 (2021) to Reason 14 (2026).

Surprisingly, a new user could benefit even more if they had periods of inactivity with Reason+ and skipped some months. And as sad as it is for me to point out, a new (or existing) Reason user would benefit the most if they were the least active, paying as little months as possible. According to this logic, the maximum value a user can get per year is by paying for only one month of Reason+. But at this point you can’t even compare partial monthly payments of Reason+ as a regular Reason license offers unlimited use (theoretically lifetime use, a.k.a. a “perpetual license”).

Reason+’s monetary vs ethical value

Most of this review has been helping you, the user, determine Reason+’s monetary value. But what about its ethical value? Is Reason+ good for third party rack extension developers? Is it good for Reason itself? Is it good for Reason Studios? And is it good for the music community in general?

Reason+ and third party rack extension developers

Reason Studio’s handling of Reason+ in the first few days of its debut has been rocky to say the least. And no more is that apparent with its handling of third-party rack extension developers. A handful of rack extension developers have voiced their concerns over the handling of Reason+. One of the first things Reason Studios did was remove access of their own shop from any top, side or middle navigation elements of their site. For existing users, it’s easy to think they removed the shop. For new users, it’s easy to not realize it exists.

The only place you can find the shop is at the footer of Reason Studio’s web site. In fact, Reason Studios made the entire front page one entire advertisement making it seem like it wasn’t even possible to buy normal Reason because Reason+ is the only option.

Because practically everything being sold in the Reason Studios shop goes against the goals of Reason+ (rack extensions and sound resources are included in the subscription), the debut of Reason+ can be seen as unethical treatment to those that are either trying to better the Reason community by offering rack extensions for free and those trying to make money by selling their rack extensions exclusively through Reason’s shop.

The issues are made worse by the fact that Reason Studios did not even envision a way at debut of Reason+ to buy rack extensions through a Reason+-only subscription. If a user has never owned Reason before, they’re barred from buying a third party rack extension or even installing free ones.

Some will wisely point out that Reason Studios may be protecting Reason+ users from being stuck in a situation where they buy a rack extension to own (perpetual license) without being able to access it perpetually (since they lack of perpetual Reason license).

Reason+ and Reason

What impact will Reason+ have on regular Reason? Reason Studios used to offer Reason 11 Intro for $99 and Reason 11 Suite for $599 full version or around $240 as an upgrade. As soon as Reason+ was introduced, Reason 11 Intro and Reason 11 Suite were discontinued. Why did Reason Studios do this? Because both products were a threat to Reason+. Reason 11 Intro offered a great introduction to Reason and Reason 11 Suite offered much of what Reason+ is offering. Reason+, at debut, doesn’t have a way to use it offline (although that functionality is promised at a later date).

Is this likely a signal that being able to buy future versions of Reason is going to end and paying for a subscription to Reason+ is the only way forward? Due to the way operating systems and technologies evolve, future versions of Reason may be the only way to run the program. Apple has introduced its M1-line of processors (which I’m currently typing this article on). Reason currently runs in translation via Rosetta 2 for Reason 11 Suite. Apple will likely end support of Rosetta 2 in some future version of macOS. This means the current version of Reason (11) won’t be able to run (I estimate Apple will drop non-Apple silicon support between the years between 2025 and 2030). This is an example of how owning a perpetual license, such as Reason 11, may guarantee you can run it for “life” but not that it’ll run on future hardware or operating systems.

To further incentivize Reason+, Reason Studios is likely to increase the price of rack extensions it produces bought directly by Reason license holders. A device Reason Studios might normally value at $20 may be sold at $100 or more just to make the virtual value of Reason+ higher. You get all of these “$100” devices included for only $20 a month may be the rational. Yet there will be plenty of people who pay the $100 price of those devices because they’re forced to buy them outside of Reason+. Reason Studios may artificially make owning a perpetual license for future versions of Reason a bad deal.

Reason+ and Reason Studios

The Reason+ situation may end up causing a rift between the people at Reason Studios. The staff may be split between moving head-first with Reason+ and those that feel the company should be moving in a different direction. If so, we may end up seeing people who have been the heart-and-soul of Reason leave the company within the next two years of Reason+’s debut. This may include people who have been product managers from the early days of Reason to even those responsible for coding the audio engines of the devices inside Reason. As a result, this would literally make Reason sound different as well as feel different.

Reason+ and the greater music community

Although Reason has a smaller user share compared to other digital audio workstations (DAW), Reason has a large impact on the computer music community as a whole. And the computer music community has an impact, of course, on the greater music community.

Many companies will be observing the rollout of Reason+. Although Reason+ is not the first DAW to offer a subscription service, the way Reason Studios is going about it is unique and bold enough for other music companies to take note (especially those with existing subscription services).

These companies want to know if they can imitate Reason Studio’s strategies. They want to know what works, what doesn’t, what angers the community base too much and what they can get away with ethically.

Adobe lead the charge for the entire world for subscription-based software as a service (SaaS). During Adobe’s subscription debut, many tech pundits openly worried that this would lead the way to most software being offered with a subscription. Fast forward a few years and those fears have bore fruit.

The good and the bad that are happening with Reason+ may be isolated to the Reason community now, but it may end up being replicated to other areas of the music community.

Should you use Reason+? 

I’ve broken down the three tenets of Reason+, discussed that Reason+ sound packs are essentially song construction device patches, gone over the Reason+ value distribution, the math and money behind Reason+ and the ethical value as a whole. After reading this review, if you feel Reason+ is something that interests you, go for it. 

How do you feel about Reason+ and the direction Reason is headed? Exciting, worrying, confusing? Hit me up.

Later – MJ