Just to get it out of the way, I have no formal training in music production, let alone sound engineering. So apologies in advance if I say anything stupid.

I have been using Reason to make hip hop beats for a little while now, and I have noticed two problems with my finished products:

1) They always sound dull and muffled compared to professionally produced/recorded tracks (by that I mean any music I've bought).

2) They always sound softer (as in lower volume) than professionally produced/recorded tracks. This happens even if the volume is going all the way into the "red" in the "Mixer 14:2" master volume indicator.

Based on what I've read, I'm guessing this is due to a combination of a lack of compression, improper EQ within tracks, bad mixing, and a lack of mastering. Is that correct, and can I assume that if I learned to do all of these things properly I would get tracks that sound as bright, clear, and loud as anything else playing on my iPod? If so, can anyone point me towards learning resources for doing this in Reason?

I guess I should ask, is it even possible to really mix and master professional-sounding tracks in Reason? Or would I need a different program (or to submit my tracks to a mastering engineer)?

  • To fix the dull sound in reason, scroll to the very top of reason. Find "Default Mastering Suite" and either erase it, select bypass, or simply tweak the "Default Mastering Suite."
    – user16455
    Sep 30, 2015 at 0:55

16 Answers 16


A good track starts with a good mix. A good mix is needed before any mastering is done on it. The 'dull soft' sound is due to a number of factors and you have mentioned most of them (eq, compression, stereo spread, saturation and volume). As each sound in your mix is different, there are no hard rules to getting this sounding 'bigger'. Different parts of the mix require different processing.

Overlapping frequencies is one cause of sounds sounding dull. As all sounds are wave forms, when two (or more) wave forms collide they can cancel each other out (known as destructive interference). The best way to avoid this is to take into account the frequencies of the sounds and the spatial position.

As a programmer, I code by a rule called "separation of concerns" and I also apply this to music. For instance, when creating sub bass sound, the purpose of the sound is to create a low frequency, therefore it needs no higher frequencies so I eq-out all of the top end (with sub, depending on the sound anywhere above 80-120 hz). With high-hats (and other high frequencies), I eq out all the bottom and some of the low mids. To be honest, I eq-out all of my sounds below the 60-80hz mark (apart from the sub of course) as the only low end I want in the mix comes from the sub. If you have two instruments that occupy a similar frequency range, you can change the spatial position using panning and other techniques/tools. This all helps to keep the sounds clean and out of each others way so they can sound their best. It helps them all sound and fit nicely together in the mix as you don't tend to have too many overlapping frequencies causing issues.

Eq-ing sweeping to find 'sweet spots' can also bring out the character of a sound. To do this, chose a fairly narrow 'q' setting on the eq and set the gain high and sweep through the sound until you hear it sounding overly brighter/punchier etc. Keep it on that frequency 'sweet spot' and then reduce the gain to a decent level. This is also useful to do to remove and resonance in sounds that could occur when it is played at high volume (in clubs for instance), to do this, just listen for frequencies that make it sound resonant at high gains and then do an eq-cut at that frequency with a narrow 'q'.

One other very important thing is that if you are using samples, the quality of the sample is very important (you can't polish a turd as they say) so eq-ing to find and boost frequencies that are not there is futile. Always pick the best sample for the job and then tweak it.

The range of frequencies of your track will also have a big effect, to bring out the low end of a track, it needs to be balanced with a decent amount of high end. It is all about balance. A good way to learn is to take a track you like the sound of and put a frequency analyser on it and compare it to a another frequency analyser on your track, You can use this to see what frequencies are missing in your track.

One other tip, lower frequencies (like kick drums and sub bass) tend to be in mono whilst higher frequencies have more stereo spread which helps give it a 'wider' feel (especially in dance music). Think of the sound as a funnel shape with the lower frequencies central (mono) at the bottom and the higher frequencies, spreading out, at the top. With modern music, especially dance, there are a few things that are important; width (stereo spread), height (volume/loudness), depth (reverb etc.), range of frequencies within the track and dynamics. Pendulum were very good at maxing out all of these qualities giving it a 'wall of sound' feel. Whether this is deemed 'good' or not is debatable and subjective. It takes a lot of time and patience to get it sounding the way you want. Don't be afraid to experiment and just enjoy the process.

Once a good mix is in place with all the sounds fitting nicely together you can start thinking about adding things like compressors and limiters to the overall mix (note: more often than not you will have compressors on certain instruments as well). The best way to do this, I found is to just use your ears, add a compressor, tweak the settings and constantly a/b it, i.e. turn it off and on to see if sounds better. As I am not a mastering engineer however (and don't have the equipment) I tend to just send this off to a mastering engineer who knows what he's doing :-) but it is a good learning experience to experiment yourself.

p.s. I am not a huge fan of reason (although it can be used to produce decent tracks). This is because I use a lot of 3rd party vst plugins and effects which is not supported in Reason and limits its usefulness to me. I was using an older version however so Rack Extensions may provide more flexibility in v6 (but I haven't read too much into it).

  • I'm not sure if the rule "separation of concerns" should be strictly applied to sound design. It seems to make sense when eq'ing elements of a track with separate frequency bands so you don't overlap and cause muddiness in the sound but generally speaking I don't think the benefits of SOC can be realized in sound as it has in software architecture. For instance: when sampling, I find that keeping as much meat of the original sample without putting it on the eq chopping block as much really adds a fullness to the sound, I want some overlap sometimes. Aug 26, 2019 at 19:19

There's possibly not really enough space in a stack exchange answer to actually get to the root of the problem ... though I see the other answers have made valiant efforts, and no doubt you should study these, and they may indeed cover the answer, but still ...

The fact that you a) notice, and b) have the humility to ask shows me that you both have an ear ( which can be honed) and are serious about your tracks sounding good. To that extent I recommend that you study the recording process in as much detail as you can, that way when you as a question like the one you've asked you may be already ruling out some of the more common problems yourself and thus get higher quality answers.

Recording engineering is a vast subject requiring a lifetime of study but you can get the basics without spending a huge amount of time.

I would recommend one or all of the following

  • Get a couple of good up to date books on the subject and read them cover to cover
  • Scour google video/youtube for everything you can find on recording. I would recommend techmuzeacademy.com / www.techmuze.tv and their podcast and youtube pages too. There is also an excellent series on google video called into the lair but it's aimed more at people with a knowledge of the basic
  • Now is a great time to make sure you're using the best DAW for you. I think you can download trial versions of ones you haven't used.
  • Possibly enrol in your closest recording course ... it doesn't have to be a 4 year course or anything, the basics of mic position, signal level, routing, eq and balancing a mix can be taught quite quickly ( it's learning how to get it to sound awesome is the part that takes ages )

Volume level you probably need to use a maximiser like waves L2 Ultramaximixer, or Ozone's Izotope has one built in. I don't know what works with reason but you could google maximizer I suppose.

Mastering. I'm not sure that I'd be mastering in reason, but I don't know the program well so ?? I have used Wavelab with Isotope and gotten good results. I generally think in terms of getting someone else to master my mixes, and you can do that online quite cheaply if budget is a concern , and I've had good results with that myself.

Edit : I haven't checked this out but I think it may help you. If it's not specifically for reason, and I think it's not, then you would still be able to use the same techniques and princibles as all DAWs do essentially the same thing ( or at least I know cubase and pro tools do at any rate ) ... http://therecordingrevolution.com/5minutes/

  • 1
    I can verify that therecordingrevolution.com/5minutes makes a world of difference. My mixes went from dull and lifeless to bright and vibrant after watching the series. The tips at that link apply to ALL genres as well.
    – Herbert
    Jul 2, 2013 at 13:23

Dull and muffled sounds to me like frequency space. That is, there aren't high frequencies where you would expect them. The low frequencies are lacking, etc... Within Reason, that is probably an issue with EQing.

The volume issue is likely related to something called gain structuring. Imagine, instead of Reason, you actually had all of that outboard gear. Each piece of gear has an output 'volume'.

When you chain a bunch of those pieces of gear together, you can see how you'd have to be both careful and deliberate as to how you set the 'gain' of each piece of gear, so that the next piece of gear in the chain would be getting the proper signal strength at its input. There are specific numbers involved here, but to keep it simple, not too high, not too low.

In your particular situation, one thing you didn't mention was how you're listening to the output of Reason. Is it leaving Reason, going to your computer's headphone out? Digital out?, etc. That is certainly one more piece of the gain puzzle. You could have everything cranked in Reason, but if your headphone volume is down, well...

If your master mix meter is going into the red, are you hearing a distorted output? even if quiet? If it is not distorted, then I would guess that you've got a piece of gear (virtual or otherwise) in the chain after that main mix, which is keeping the volume low before it finally reaches your speakers. If it is distorted, your issue lies in your gain structuring.

Finally, EQ, mixing, and mastering can all improve your sound. If you learned to do all of those things properly, you would definitely get tracks that sounded as bright, clear and loud as anything else on your iPod (and incidentally, you might also find yourself a new career! Many people spend a lifetime learning to do it "properly" :) ).

Lastly, yes, it is possible to create professional-sounding tracks in Reason. This book was suggested to me years ago. I wouldn't say I swear by it, but it is a fantastic set of guidelines for mixing. And while googleing for it just now, I also ran across a blog page that someone wrote up... a Top 8 Takeaways from said book.


If you are making hip hop, I assume you want your drums to stand out and 'punch'. My kick/snare, and most drum sounds actually, are generally set a little higher than other sounds on the mix. The meter for my drums gets well into the yellow while everything else stays usually right at the point between green and yellow.

Pay close attention to your levels every time you add an instrument. Remember volume level doesnt always translate to loudness, try tweaking every knob to see what makes something sound fuller or crisper without necessarily raising the meter.

I almost always slightly boost the lower frequencies on the master eq and/or add an eq to my drums to do the same. That is a good point made above about frequencies overlapping.

DONT get into the red or simply raise the track volume because remember you are just making the 'dull/muffled' mix louder. Only AT THE END after you have your mix the way you like it should you play with the master volume.

I generally slightly raise the master maximizer at the end (I'm referring to the 'mastering suite' at the top of the rack above the mixer).


One other tip, and this is primarily for low end. Mono has been mentioned but also use a low cut on everything and adjust it to the point where you can just hear it make a difference. The less low end frequencies there are flying round, audible or not, the less flabby your low end will sound.


There are some pretty in depth and technical answers here already, but I'll try to add some quick and simple steps:

  1. Keep your monitor speakers as flat sounding as possible (don't use any built in EQ on them).

  2. Keep your tracks clean. Use less EQ & compression to try and mold them, just use FX to get a desired gimmick if needed (stiff like delay, distortion, auto tune, etc.).

  3. After all tracking is done and you have a decent sounding mix; put a multi band compressor on the matter channel and play with it a bit.

Chances are that things will start to sound a lot more "poppy" already. You may notice some things that need to be changed in your mix here to have things sit where you want.

  1. Use quality samples. How close to a real 808 kick does your sample come?
  2. Use a reference track to make A/B comparisons with your track when you are mastering. Check that you have enough head room, maybe 4-8 dB, before mastering - so keep meters low.
  3. Keep all your meters out of the red to avoid clipping. Check for phasing issues in the low end (you will have to research more about phase). If you are not sure how to handle phasing issues, keep your bass centered in mono.
  4. Cut all frequencies below 30 Hz to add more head room.
  5. Use professional studio monitors with a range that covers the low end. Check your sound in different crappy speakers and headphones - is there enough treble in the bass drum when the low end does not come through well in iPod-style headphones?
  6. Slap on a compressor - try presets before you understand how to use it. Try a compressor that does not come with your software.
  7. Use an exciter or EQ to boost high frequencies. Think in curves and not individual frequency bands.
  8. Add a (stereo-linked) limiter to the master bus (most audio engineers will probably cringe at this advice, but you have to do more research to understand why it is controversial). Check that there is no distortion, or only "tolerable" amounts in the loud parts of the song.

Mix quietly and don#t eq or compress anything until you have a mix. A good little trick I learned 25 years ago was "tracing" take a track you like by another artist that has similar qualities and characteristics/instruments and what not and simply copy or "trace" its mix. This is done all the time in studios all over the world big and small. You mix quietly because listening to a track through booming speakers can give a false impression of the tracks power and clarity. listening to it quietly AND up against your "Trace" track for reference will keep you much better informed as to the true status of you mix. then and only then would I master.


I use to have the same problem with Reason until I got better at engineering. Other DAWs such as fruity looks come with the sound already made to sound fat and wide, Reason gives you basic sounds so you have to have some skills to use Reason. You have to learn how to use reverb, delay, and other tools to make your sound fatter. One way to make your sounds fatter is to duplicate your sound and detune one of them, there is also a tool called unison that comes with Reason that help you get a fatter sound. Learning how to layers helps too. I suggest watching a few youtube tutorials.


Personally as a user of Reason, I attribute the dullness and softness that you are describing, is basically the result of the sound library that comes with Reason.

Unfortunately mixing will not be able to brighten these sounds to the level of high high fidelity samples that other competitors offer in the AU / VST market. I think the sound engine has improved a lot over the years, which is particularly great if you mixing external audio.

Reason itself is an excellent package though. In my workflow, it is the canvas to get creative ideas down. Things like the step matrix, the drum machine and the music sequencer in general makes the process quick and more enjoyable in the creative process. I often prefer creating tracks in Reason vs other DAW's

What follows on from this however is the process of exporting the midi parts to Logic and uplifting the sounds (using NI Komplete and internal Logic instruments) with mixing in the box to follow, this is the aspect of Logic which I enjoy, and as the other answers describe you still need to invest time in applying compression and EQ in the right ways, however you will instantly start hearing more professional results by using higher fidelity AU / VST libraries.


A dull and soft sound can have thousands of reasons. It starts with the sound material, which might by badly recorded.

But most likely it's a wrong usage of EQs and compression. Maybe wrong usage of effect processors (reverb, delay).

Reason isn't - IMHO - a very good tool for the final steps during music production. Even with it's very good sounding new mixing console, it lacks a lot of tools and - at least for me on a small 27" monitor - it is not very handy. For me, Reason is a tool for creating samples and clips.

The arranging, mixing and mastering happens in more traditional DAW. In my case i prefer Cubase, because i know and use it since version 1.0. But i also use from time to time and depending on the project Ableton, Bitwig, Logic X or Presonus Studio One.

Sounds expensive. But you can start with one of the trials to check, if you like it. Cubase is a bit special, because you need a dongle for the trial and you have to pay for it (roughly $ 20) - but it can be reused, if you purchase it later

For me, the following workflow works quite fine:

  1. Prepare your rack with the good old 14:2 mixer
  2. Add two delays and two revers as send/return FX to the mixer.
  3. Add your instruments and probably required other effects (but do not use more/other delays and reverbs here and do not play with dynamics unless you really need it for your sound design at this stage)
  4. Create your beats, hooks and whatever (do not use EQs)
  5. Turn off all effects (Bypass)
  6. Ensure that each channel is as loud as possible, but ensure that no yellow or red "lights" flicker in the mixer. This is REALLY important.
  7. Export each single track (by muting others) as audio file (WAV File)

Now switch to your DAW. Now you can not only arrange your music IMHO easier and more convenient as it is possible in Reason for now - you can also leverage the more advanced VST or AU plugins delivered with this software.

I use plugins from Native Instruments as well as from Waves. Mainly, because i like the sound of some EQs and Compressors. But even with the stock plugins you should be able to produce a good sounding mix.

One thing... Do not use HIFI-Speakers or "Multimedia-Speakers" during mixing. They are good for checking the final mix, but they are not very useful during mixing. If not already done, plan a session with your local music equipment retailer and pick up some nearfield monitors.

They should have at least 5" bass domes. A cheap set of nearfield monitors for - let's say - $ 350 USD is good enough for the first steps.

The difference to a HIFI set is, that monitors are build to deliver a more or less analytical sound without pushing basses or heights. The more you pay, the better they are. A very good set for home-recording or project-studios costs roughly $ 2,500.

Plan also a investment of at least 10 % of the price of your monitors into acustical components to reduce unwanted resonances, reflections and frequencies in your studio. You can do it yourself too, it's much cheaper - ask you search engine for more details.

A good set of monitors is one of the best investments you can do as a musician and producer. They allow you to find and fix bugs in your mixes much faster and more convenient and they really help you to get a better sound.

Everything else is a question of taste, experience and knowledge.

You may start reading here: http://productionadvice.co.uk/mastering-basics/

If you prefer advice, you may look here: http://www.pointblanklondon.com/courses/online/professional-programmes/audio-mastering/

But sorry, there's no magic rule or step-by-step guide to produce world class sound. Unfortunately.


The first thing you said was that you are a beginner and you probably have no idea what 80% of these answers truly mean even if you have a basic idea.

Reason is not the reason your music sounds dull. You could use any program and it will still have that problem (meaning it doesn't matter if you use pro tools, sonar, cubase, logic, ableton, or any other popular program).

What these guys said is true, but dumbing it down into a one sentence answer, it goes like this: The records you buy were made in places that have anywhere from $100000 to $5,000,000 worth of equipment and there is no one piece of software you can purchase that will make your music sound like that or really even come close.

However, if you go online, there are a number of websites which sell samples for beats which have been recorded using $100K recording rooms and mics and these websites are usually really inexpensive to get material from. Just be sure to look for something on the site indicating the samples are super high quality. If you use these sites, it will solve at least half your problem. The other half? Well... that's the mixing, compressing, eq'ing, exciting, more compressing, that everyone else was telling you about.

The best solution is this: once your song is done being written, hire a major company to mix it and A DIFFERENT one to master it...take a video camera (make sure they will allow this. Some major mixing guys won't, but you can take notes)...and then watch and learn as they mix your track. That's how I learned. It does 2 things. The first is you'll see what to do. The second is you will see what not to settle for because you will know how good your stuff can sound.
In my opinion, if you gotta choose to pay for school or for a name brand pro, use the name brand pro. Major artists are inaccessible but the sound engineers they use are not usually difficult to reach.

One last thing. Remember this one thing if you're having issues that need eqing. Cut instead of boost but as your whole mix sounded dull, that seemed like a need for compression and/or limiting more than anything else. For most beats, you should not need to EQ AT ALL... except for general bass/non bass cuts as one of the guys was talking about above...but if you're into beats, you may not even notice if you don't. Anyway, I said I wasn't gonna get technical. Couldn't help it... Good luck! If you'd like a list of equipment that will help you, it's expensive but here is what I use:

Sonar X3 Toft ATB console (3) profile 2626 interfaces Universal Audio 6176 compressor/pre drawer 1973 stereo multi band compressor Neve Master Buss Processor (portico II) Lexicon Reverb Rack Units Waves Plug-ins (gold, ssl, api, more) Kontakt 10 ultimate BFD2 Ozone izotope 6 advanced...

What I'd recommend for you just beginning is:

Protools OR Sonar X3 ($Free-$250) Waves Gold for mixing ($800-$1200) ozone ozotope advanced 6 for mastering ($1000) Tascam 2×2 interface ($159, comes w/ sonar!!) Beyerdynamic DT770 Headphones ($200)

I specify these headphones because you can't mix what you cannot clearly hear. These headphones are pristinely clear and you can hear every instrument in a mix. The interface is a beginner starter which you will need to record mics or instruments. I actually use that Tascam unit sometimes for major recordings sooooo, don't think cheap is bad! The most important thing is that imho the above equipment I listed covers all your bases professionally. Dont think "well ozone has a limiter but so does waves so I only need waves" or vice versa...if you want the mix loud, separated, and eq'd commercially, the list above is the imho minimum.

GOOD LUCK!!!! OH....and don't forget. HAVE FUUUUUUUUN!

If you have any additional questions or want an opinion on a mix or some tips, ask me questions here.

  • 1
    Hi gary, welcome to Sound. I've edited your answer to make a better distinction between facts and your opinion. I also removed some capitalization to get a clearer text for readers. And lastly I removed your phone number because it made your answer look a bit like an advertisement and we want to keep the knowledge exchange confined to this stack. I hope you understand, thanks for your input/answer! Jul 2, 2015 at 12:34

I think the original poster may not be as experienced. But he does bring up some valid issues with Reason. I've been using Reason for years, and mixing for years. I can get my mix sounding awesome in Reason. Nice and bright, strong solid low end, everything mixed right. Match it up to another professional mix to where everything matches perfectly. Levels on the master output are solid and not clipping. The minute I export that song...everything gone. It's like the bottom just drops out. From there I have to tweek and tweek in another mastering suite. Go back and forth for hours trying to get the final mastered mix to match up with the song I was originally matching up to.

It just doesn't make sense. There has to be something else going on with Reason that makes the levels just collapse after exporting.

  • That, if true, is a horrible fact about Reason. But have you actually measured this effect – i.e., externally recorded the output from Reason running with the output from an audio player with the rendered file? I would highly suspect that Reason is simply louder (uses the audio output at full volume) than the audio player. Jan 29, 2016 at 21:43

Maybe try an online mastering tool - www.landr.com for example. It has really helped me get some polish on some tracks, without the cost of a professional mastering studio. Made a world of difference to my mixes.


That can be due to several reasons. You may not be adjusting your levels properly. Not every sound should be equal. Some need to stand out while others are better fit for the background. Also, mind your stereo width. To get the best results, try using a reference track and try to match your sounds to it. If you want a professional sound, you must be VERY familiar with the main audio effects used in music production. Don't stop experimenting and study as much as possible.


Good article fellas I would like to add something check out engineer Dave Aron's DVD online called multi- platinum hip hop mixing. Its good . He shows you how to make beats in reason and get a good mix then bounce it to pro tools and master it http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/HipHopMixing