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Taylor

Taylor
October 12, 2012

Nektar Panorama P4 Overview

The Nektar Panorama P4 is a dedicated Reason controller that can also work flexibly with other DAWs. However, the Reason integration is what sets the P4 apart from the crowd, and also what made it hotly anticipated by a dedicated following of Propellerhead users. The most surprising thing about the P4 is that Propellerhead weren’t the ones to do it first. This was the next likely move on the table after the release of the Balance audio interface. However, it looks like Nektar took it upon themselves to beat Props to the punch- and the controller released as a result is no slouch. In the end, the device is a quite attractive black and white affair with a large and lovely LCD display that seems to follow the users every move around reason with relative ease.

If there is a learning curve to the P4, the only one I really noticed is more about getting up and running and organizing how one wants to approach the device itself. The top level functionality is quite self explanatory, and the only real diving one has to do is more about deeper levels of access within well organized tabs and devices. The actual device makes sense with a quick bit of re-orienting for existing Reason users. As one who has used and loved the program in every iteration since the first release, I found myself relating to the device quite naturally. If someone has no experience with Reason, it might take a little longer to adapt to the P4. However, I can’t help but think I might enjoy a world where I had started Reason with a P4 in hand and always related to the software with a hardware counterpart. It is quite easy to see where a songwriter or producer could be quite happy with a suite built from Balance, a P4 and Reason 6.5. Especially in the modern age where Reason has its own plug-in system and includes audio. You’ve come a long way, baby, etc. etc.

The only real hitch I experienced when setting the P4 was locking it to the SSL emulating mixer in version 6. This required me to (gasp) read the manual. That said, I will let all of you know that doing so can save a good ten minutes of stubborn fiddling. Otherwise, the unit performs very well. There are some little things I might change here and there about how to switch between devices, but overall the unit is exactly what it claims to be. With Nektar’s very obvious attention to the dedicated Reason users out there, there is very little to be upset about with the unit. If I was really going to nitpick about the hardware itself, the biggest thing I would change is that I’d like to see future versions with a full 16 drum pads and I’d like them a bit meatier. That said, the drum pads and the velocity controls available at top level are very impressive and this is one of the better “shared surface” implementations of this feature I’ve seen (that didn’t rely upon me being Ableton savvy to make it work.)

All in all, it’s a very cool unit and a welcome addition to the reason family. If you love Reason, give it a look. I am personally on a forced purchase hiatus because I’d quite like a trip overseas next year… but after that, it just might pile in with all the other black and white keyed monsters that call my studio home. This is even more likely with the P6 having recently been announced. Have a look at the video overview to see it in action.

Transcript:

Hi guys this is Paul with UniqueSquared. Today we’re here to talk to you about the Nektar Panorama P4. The P4 is a controller designed specifically for Reason but it is an all purpose controller that can be used with just about any DAW you prefer. However Reason users have always been waiting for just such a device and it’s finally here.
P4 Operates in different modes essentially. For our purposes I have configured it to work with the SSL mixer that is common to Reason 6. It can also be attached to the remix mixer in the older versions of Reason. In addition to having the glory of a fun and fancy SSL controller you now have faders that you can control with. When you’re in the mixing mode the top dials all operate as pan controls and these buttons along the bottom can either be a select for the instrument that is on that channel or you can toggle them and turn them into mutes and solo buttons. Also along the bottom window you will see that there are EQ, dynamics, inserts, and send panels that allow you to access all manner of different things through the mixer mode. Now if there is something that you dont see in the mixer dialog, you pull up the menu button and it brings up this dialog here that allows you to scroll through every other little thing like the master compressor or master insert. And for example if you do go into the master compressor there, all of the controls: threshold, ratio, attack, release, and make up gain are there and these three dials are actually blank. Whenever you’re using anything in the menu these dials correspond to what you see here.
The instrument dialog allows you to take control of different instruments with the same level of functionality that we were just looking at in the mixer mode. You are able to scroll through all of the different instruments on screen in your Reason rack by scooting through the track buttons. Now if there is no track assigned for automating a device, a device wont appear. As In the case of this Pulverizer or this Aligator that I have pulled up here you can see that I’ve got an automated track that allows me to bring up all that functionality here. That also means that when recording you would be able to take any changes that I make within these knobs or anything that I select and automate those changes on the Reason track. Then I can go back through and I can edit that automation. If you’re scooting to something more complex like a synthesizer, you have your basic controls, you’ve got your buttons that you know from the front panel of Thor, you’ve got your rotary controls that you’re used to from the front panel of Thor, and you’ve got a couple of parameters at the top that you can easily access. Again if they aren’t here, you can use the menu dialog and you can scoot right through to whatever it was that you wanted to put on.
Final dialog in the P4 is the transport dialog. If you look here at the top view you’ve got your tempo control, you’ve got click volume, you’ve got the length of your pre-count, and the fourth knob becomes a scrub that allows you to advance to and from wherever you want so that you can start playing right wherever you think you are. And with that you’ve also got the left bar for your loop shape, the right bar for your loop shape. So its a very adjustable setup for your looping dialog and all your basic transport functions. Overall its a very quick way to control Reason and it makes Reason feel like an instrument thats now out beside the computer instead of something that you are so used to having on a screen in front of you that you are accessing with a mouse and a totally unrelated controller. For Reason fans the P4 is and ideal purchase and if you haven’t tried Reason, you want to give it a whirl. If you have tried Reason you might want to give the P4 a whirl.
For the best prices on the P4 come check it out over at UniqueSquared.com. If you have any questions about it ask them in the blog link below this video in the comments section. We’ll get to your questions as fast as we can. You’re watching UniqueSquared.com.