Reason: How To Stream PC & Mac Audio To iPhone & Android

Here’s how to stream Propellerhead Reason audio directly to an iPhone, Android, iPad or other tablet (even Airplay devices) from PC or Mac. This method is detailed for Reason, but from what I know about other DAW’s, the process is also possible in Ableton Live, Bitwig Studio, FL Studio, Cakewalk Sonar, Logic Pro, Steinberg Cubase, Pro Tools and Cockos Reaper.

Why stream audio from Reason to a mobile device?

Simple; during the mixing / mastering stage (which you should be doing throughout the creation process), you want to hear what your music will sound like on a variety of devices. Particularly on devices that are brutal to your music, such as mono smartphones and tablets with very little low and mid-range audio capabilities.

I’ve tried many methods and most of them failed but the one that didn’t is Airfoil. It’s worth the $29 (but you have to buy a license for either PC’s or Mac’s). It can throw audio from Reason to Windows, Mac, AirPlay, Bluetooth speakers, Chromecast, iOS, Android and even goofy little Linux. Fortunately, they have a trial. Test this method out with the trial (that’s what I did) as, if it don’t work with the trial, it won’t work with the full version.

Using Airfoil to stream from Propellerhead Reason to mobile devices

1 First, I recommend closing down Reason if it’s running (making sure to force quit it if you’re on Macs).

2 Download the trial version Airfoil (for Windows and for Mac) and install the sucker.

3 Then, on your device you want to hear Reason through (such as an iPhone), download and install Airfoil Satellite (scroll down this page for the Airfoil Satellite links).

4 Open Airfoil on your Reason computer (don’t open Airfoil Satellite). Then open Reason, go to (Windows Edit-Preferences / Mac Reason-Preferences)  and click on the Audio tab. For Mac users, select your default sound card. For Windows users, it seems like only the DX version of your sound card will work. ASIO drivers are better to use as they have less latency, but DX is the only one that worked for Windows with Airfoil for me (you can always change back to your ASIO driver when not using Airfoil). Then close the preferences window.

5 On Airfoil running on your Reason computer, go to into the Preferences menu (Airfoil-Preferences) and under “Play Local Audio Through”, select the same source that Reason is configured to use and close the preferences window.

6 Now, hit the source drop down select Reason (you may need to play audio in Reason first if it doesn’t appear). Windows users, you should have Resason already in the list. Mac users, you’ll likely have to manually select the Reason application (Applications folder, Reason folder, Reason program). Then, Mac users, you may need to play audio through Reason; Airfoil will tell you it needs to reset Reason and then it should be ready.

7 Now, play something in Reason. (Hit the speaker icon button for your computer Reason is playing on if you want the speakers on your computer to also play the audio.)

8 Open Airfoil Satellite on the device you want to stream (make sure you’re on the same wifi). In my scenario, this is what I’ve done. Reason is playing and the audio can be heard through the Neocomp (my windows desktop) and the Neocell 7 (my iPhone 7). You can tell because of the blue speaker icons.

Audition mixes / master for different model devices

So the great thing about this is that you only have to pay for the one Airfoil license as the Airfoil Satellite apps are free. This is a big deal because, if they had gone with a “pay $15 for the Mac / PC client, $15 for the iOS / Android client”, it would mean you couldn’t borrow your friend’s, family or colleague’s devices to hear how your mix sounds on their devices as you would not be able to download the app on their App Store or Google Play account without paying another fee.

So fortunately the Airfoil Satellite apps are free. Devices can sound different and, if you’ve got people over chilling, checking out your music or maybe even watching you do the mixing / mastering process, they can load up Airfoil Satellite to help you get a more well-rounded idea of how your mix sounds on multiple devices.

Use Apple Lightning EarPods with Reason

So, there’s a major problem with the iPhone 7. It’s not the fact that it doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack, the phone comes with an adapter and it comes with Lightning EarPods (EarPods with a lightning connector at the end). I love my Lightning Earpods. But the problem lies with the Lightning EarPods themselves. There are crap loads of adapters that go from 3.5mm to lighting, but zero adapters currently that go from lighting to 3.5mm.

Why would someone want this? Simple; to allow Lightning EarPods to be used with devices without lightning ports (currently only iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches can be used with Lightning EarPods, not even new Mac can). So I can’t use my Lightning EarPods with Reason on my Macbook or with Reason on my PC.

Now, normally the only headphones I’ll use with Reason are my Sony MDR-7506’s (same style as the ones I’ve been using for 10 years and still have in storage).

But the reason I want to hear Reason through my Lightning EarPods is for the same reason I want to hear Reason through a smartphone speaker; for mixing and mastering. And, beyond manually rendering and transferring a wave file to my iPhone (yuck), I was out of luck. …Until Airfoil.

So not only can I hear what my mix sounds like live though Lightning EarPods and make adjustments instantly, but this enables me to also walk around and do other tasks to get a feel for the mix; to really listen to it, absentmindedly while doing other things, as people will be doing when listening with headphones plugged into their smartphone to make a better judgement on the audio.

Audition mixes / master to Apple TV / Airplay devices

This is also useful for auditioning during the mixing / mastering phase because you can easily throw your audio out to other sources, such as AirPlay devices. I should note that this can be done natively on Mac’s but not on Windows. Yes, iTunes on Windows can access AirPlay devices but that’s only iTunes. No other apps and certainly not a complicated virtual music studio app like Reason (unless you use something like Airfoil).

This option’s cool if you want to hear how your mix sounds on a TV. But, unless you’re making audio meant for a TV, it’s not very practical as mastering for a smartphone or tablet gives you more realistic results and doing that for a TV is just overkill.

But, for those of you with AirPlay devices that are normal speakers, this can be a fantastically easy way to hear your mix live on other sources.

For instance, I have two dedicated speaker-only AirPlay systems, one in my kitchen and one in my shower. I’m not expecting to play my songs through those speakers when mixing / mastering, however… one of the reasons to audition mixes at low levels is to replicate odd environments. For instance…

“One of the primary reasons I’ve found that listening from a distance helps is that it can mimic what your song may go through in acoustically bad environments. When music is piped through, loud enough, but in bad acoustic environments (such as PA speakers of an outdoor location) it can make the sound behave in unexpected ways.”

So, when you think about it, my shower speakers are the perfect environment. Crazy amounts of reverb, running water and shower curtains bouncing audio off in weird ways. Or the kitchen, with the audio competing with the sounds of meat being cooked, utensils being clanked and the kitchen faucet running.

It’s really nice to have the option to use those speakers, even if I don’t use them.

Airfoil is for mixing / mastering but not producing

During the process of writing this post, I was in the process of mastering my ambient song Oneco for the Bradenton Ambient album. Click play below to listen.

Click to play in new window

Airfoil works great for mixing / mastering, but I don’t recommend it while actually producing. The reason why is because, timing it with my Apple Watch, the delay from Reason to Airfoil is 2.3 seconds.  I believe Airfoil does this delay so that all devices can keep in time; 2.3 seconds is pretty quick response time when going to an iOS device for instance. AirPlay, I feel, is about 3 seconds or longer.

I noticed, playing Reason to two iPhones and the desktop, they all had near identical timing for the music. Placing two iPhones apart, left and right, basically sounded like two stereo speakers the timing was so good. Bring the devices close together and you can then hear a faint delay in timing.

But this is good enough that, if you had multiple devices playing around an area and not too close, it would create a near seemless-sounding “whole house” speaker sound.

This isn’t a problem when auditioning a song for mixing or mastering but it is a huge problem if you tried to produce this way. Hitting play and waiting for the song to start feels short; a key on the keyboard and waiting for the note to register sounds like someone else playing the notes.

Then there’s also the issue of time dilation. Sometimes the song will sound sloweddd downnnn… It’s a real trippy effect. It sounds like someone playing your song from vinyl and hitting the stop button while the needle is still on the record. This doesn’t happen much and when it did I was in other rooms (or a device placed on my stainless steel studio desk, which could have blocked signals).

Airfoil works surprisingly great considering, but you can see how this method is for mixing / mastering and not producing. Just like how putting your sound from Reason to AirPlay is also not a method for producing; nothing wrong with AirPlay itself and the same for Airfoil. Just have to be realistic with your expectations.

Airfoil will open new possibilities for mastering

I’m real happy with the way this baby’s turned out. I highly recommend this if you’re mixing or mastering, whether you use Reason or something else, getting songs to sound good for high-end systems and post-PC devices will always be a challenge.

Later. – MJ