The Complete Guide to Using Rewire — Part 1

Last updated on 3/28/2016

Put this powerful protocol to use in your projects


By Craig Anderton with Jesse Jost


SONAR & Home Studio's ability to work with ReWire brings exciting new possibilities to already comprehensive programs. Want to use Project5 or Propellerhead Software's Reason as a rack of virtual instruments for SONAR or Home Studio? Done. How about shooting Project5's SYNCHRON 32 or ReBirth's cool drum and bass line modules into SONAR or Home Studio to get rhythm section ideas down fast? Easy. Care to integrate the live performance features of Project5 or Ableton's Live! with backing tracks previously recorded in SONAR or Home Studio? Sure.

Part 1: ReWire basics, with answers to some common questions about the ReWire protocol.

Part 2: How to set up SONAR or Home Studio and Project5 or Reason to work together as a ReWired team.

Part 3: Multiple applications, most with step-by-step tutorials, that cover a variety of aspects that relate to using ReWire to integrate Project5 or Reason with SONAR or Home Studio.


Table of Contents



PART 3: Specific Applications for Project5

PART 4: Specific Applications for Reason



What is ReWire?

ReWire is a software technology that allows two programs to work together in a tightly integrated way. For example, Propellerhead Software's Reason is a reasonably-priced "virtual studio" with an a array of soft synths, samplers, effects, and drum machines. However, because it's a self-contained software studio, it offers no digital recording capabilities, doesn't accept plug-ins, and has only a limited number of different signal processors. Project5, also a self-contained studio, does accept plug-ins and it offers a wide array of processors, but it too does not offer digital recording capabilities.

With Project5 or Reason "rewired" into SONAR or Home Studio, their instrument outputs go into SONAR or Home Studio's mixer and show up as tracks within the program. MIDI data recorded into SONAR or Home Studio can flow to Project5 or Reason, thus allowing the various soft synths to be triggered from within SONAR or Home Studio. Transport functions are shared, so that starting or stopping one program starts or stops the other as well.

ReWire Diagram

The programs also run in parallel, so if you have sequences recorded in Project5 or Reason, you can add digital audio hard disk tracks in SONAR or Home Studio. Conversely, songs recorded in SONAR or Home Studio can take advantage of Project5's or Reason's soft synths to augment the arrangement.

Reason instruments can go through SONAR or Home Studio's DirectX processors, and of course, you can still use DXi devices to expand the soft synth possibilities even further.

Because Project5 is an open system, you can use its included effects and synths, or any DirectX, DXi, VST, or VSTi plug-in loaded on your system. And you have the added flexibility of running instruments from Project5 through SONAR or Home Studio's DirectX processors and even their auxiliaries where you can submix your Project5 tracks alongside recorded audio. In addition all of Project5's synths and effects show up directly in SONAR and Home Studio and you can use them independently of the Project5 application.

Who's Behind ReWire?

ReWire started with Propellerhead Software, but has since become a true industry standard. SONAR's, Home Studio's, and Project5's embrace of ReWire has taken this level of acceptance even further; more ReWire compatible applications are appearing, and some pre-ReWire applications (such as Arturia's Storm and Image-Line's FruityLoops) are being updated for ReWire compatibility.

Can My Computer Handle ReWire?

ReWire itself doesn't use up much CPU power; it is simply an interconnection protocol. However, by definition you'll be using two programs together, so your computer needs enough power to run them both comfortably. Generally, this means a decent amount of RAM (e.g., 512 MB) and a fast processor (1 GHz will work fine, although a slower one can work if you don't make too many demands on it).

Software synthesizers tend to require a lot of CPU power, as do signal processors. However, there are ways to reduce the amount of CPU power needed, as covered later in this document.

Must I Use WDM Drivers for my Sound Card?

Although ReWire will work with SONAR or Home Studio using MME drivers, WDM or ASIO drivers provide greatly increased efficiency and far lower latency (i.e., the delay between the time you trigger a note, and when you actually hear it). WDM drivers are highly recommended. Check your sound card manufacturer's web site to see if WDM drivers are available for your card. Using SONAR without WDM is like driving a Porsche without ever getting out of second gear — you can do it, but why would you want to?

Do I Need to Install any Additional Hardware or Software?

ReWire is an entirely software-based function that is built within ReWire-compatible programs. There may be a few rules you need to follow, like closing or opening programs in a particular order, but no drivers or other software accessories are needed.

It Seems Pretty Inconvenient that the ReWire Application and SONAR Can't Share MIDI I/O

That's what the documentation says, but it's being way too conservative. I use Reason and SONAR together and have no trouble driving SONAR when it has the focus, and Reason when it has the focus. We'll cover how to do MIDI assignments later, but the bottom line is you can play notes in Reason using the same MIDI port and connections that you use to record notes in SONAR or Home Studio.

Is ReWire Difficult to Use?

Thankfully, no. SONAR's ReWire implementation is excellent (it has even been praised by Propellerhead Software), and it's quite easy to use. And Home Studio 2004's ReWire support is identical to the ReWire support found in SONAR 2.2. Of course, you'll be working with two programs instead of one, but if you know how to work them, using ReWire isn't difficult at all.

This All Sounds Too Good to Be True…

Welcome to the 21st century! Yes, you can have it all - digital recording, extensive MIDI editing, DXi devices, Reason soft synths, signal processing plug-ins, dual sequencers, sample-accurate synching…it really is pretty remarkable.

Continue on to Part 2: Setup

Skip to Part 3: Applications for Project5

Skip to Part 4: Applications for Reason

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