I know I'm digging this thing up from the dead but I thought I'd chime my two cents. I was in the beta test for Reason 4 and I even submitted enough bugs that I would have gotten a discount on Reason 4.0. I even bought it and while it was shipping I had it returned.
I've used Reason since it's first version and once 3.0 was released, I was already looking on switching - and it's not because Reason 'sucks', it's because I felt limited by Reason with regards to work flow, sound engineering, and synth creation.
The sound quality of Reason sounds great in Reason, and it sounds great when you Rewire it to other software. When you export a wav/aif file in Reason (no matter what options you use) the sound quality simply doesn't reflect what you could 'hear' when the song is played through Reason. There is a number of reasons this is the case, and I understand that the algorithms are increasingly complex with regards to making the sound 'perfect' for every user.
It was when I started getting serious about music that I realized that Reason is really for the music enthusiast - the person who really enjoys writing music but doesn't have the time to spend hours on end trying to produce quality. So what Propellerheads did was create a software that would 'do' things for you so you wouldn't have to worry about it - with regards to sound engineering and synth production. Many of the VSTi's out there do the same thing. Now with Reason you CAN get awesome sound quality - but you literally have to 'trick' the software into exporting the sound you want rather than what you hear. For example, when I EQed my song bass light, the exported wav had the bass heavier and the song came out much crisper and cleaner. I felt like I was tricking the software to give me the sounds I wanted rather than producing what I could hear and monitor. This also leads me to - Reason's monitoring software is pretty lousy, compare the professional software out there that allows you to literally analyze every EQ cut of your entire song - individual tracks - and allow you to edit so that your sound comes out clean and crisp. Anyways, enough about trying to trash Reason.
So why I switched from Reason 3.0.4 to Cubase 4.1.3 instead of upgrading to Reason 4.0 - these are the main reasons:
1) Reason takes more time to create the same sound than what Cubase does. There are synths I want to spend a lot of time on, and there are sounds that I really shouldn't.
I have Reaktor 5 if I want to sit around and plug in wires to ports all day and create my own synth module. I have NWBass for a really simple psybassline.
With Reason, I would take the same amount of time to create both, unless I used a preset (Sir Nuts did a great job with his combinator set - much kudos!)
2) Reason 4.0's Thor has some really neat features, but I just felt that even though you could 'build' your own synth, what other VSTi's had to offer just had higher quality.
3) Live Audio recoding, importing, editing are all missing from Reason 4.0, and I found myself using either the redrummer, NN-19, or NN-XT to play long waves. I had to literally restart the song if I wanted to hear the wave or cut it up externally.
4) Midi controllers, I have a few synths (go go Roland) at home that's been collecting dust since I got Reason. Now with Cubase, I can finally start utilizing it again.
5) The biggest reason for my switch is Third Party support. I can't submit the Xaleph Maelstrom that has additional knobs or switches - or splices the sound differently. I can't create my own sound effect plugins using my own algorithm for a randomizer. These tools just don't exist outside the reuse of already existing products. Though the combinator and thor is really nice at allowing people to 'make' something similar, you are still are limited very specifically to what those devices can or cannot provide. With VST, I can program my own software OR I can use others. Though these are side effects from not allowing VST support, the greater issue is third party support and this is why:
Third party software challenges the quality of your own modules. Steinberg has to keep updating their synths or they will be left behind other VST support. VST companies generally will create better modules the host company's module, mainly due to the fact that the VST company can focus primarily on the VST and the host's main focus will always be the stability of the host. The Host, if using a standard VST interface, can anticipate the protocol (as it is standardized) and easily integrate each unit properly. Of course there is more overhead on the VST client as well as the Host (so more ram and cpu is needed) but you have the flexibility and quality desired. This is why Cubase, along with other host software, have introduced the concept of 'freezing' the track - basically creating a render of the track and then playing the wav in the place of the actual vst in order to save memory and cpu.
In Reason's case, their main focus will always be the host and not the modules. If the host fails, the modules don't matter. To them, the modules really are a liability and they won't ever try cutting edge technology. Since they have a stable unit, it would be unnecessary to really do anything else.
If Reason opened their code to allow for custom modules (not reuse, but creating what they haven't) or if they allowed some kind of plugin support, I would be still using Reason.
6) The Cubase 4.0 crossgrade version was about the same price as Full Reason 4 (non upgrade) and I felt that if I were to switch at any time, financially this was my opportunity.
Do I regret using and/or owning Reason? No, it was a great piece of software to write music, and I enjoyed the interface and experience quite a bit. I put together some songs I really love and I'm glad Propellerheads put it together. It can produce powerful sounds and can do some pretty neat things. I still plan on using it when I go on road trips (on my laptop), but my serious work will be done on Cubase.
Do I think Reason sucks? No, I just feel that it's lack of third party support doesn't create the quality control or 'checks and balances' that the company needs.
Do I think FL is the bomb? No, I used FL a few times, and I really didn't like the interface too much for very shallow reasons... like.... it really is way too fruity for me.
Does Cubase provide better tools that Reason? Well, yeah... it really does. Even the defaults are very nice.
Is Cubase perfect? No, they have a ton of problems and are also losing their user base to Sonar (ironically there are a ton of Reason converts on the Cubase forums - like there are a TON of rewire and reason discussions). Cubase 4.0 had a ton of bugs and the developers are pretty slow at addressing them - but they have updates once every 3-4 months... Note that Reason had updates like once every 2 years... I think Cubase 4.1.3 addresses some issues, and I hope they patch some of them sooner than later.
About VSTs: VST doesn't mean quality - and anyone who thinks I thought the grass was greener on the other side probably didn't know I used to use VST's in Acid Pro and Logic (pre-Apple) before I switched to Reason. VST can mean crap, and there is a lot of it out there. The VSTs now (compared to Reason 1.0 days) are incredibly better and have good customer support. I'm looking into buying some Native Instrument packages currently - and the drum machine called 'Guru' is pretty hot. VSTs can produce problems, but I don't agree it would mean lack of stability, unless the Propellerhead software developers aren't skilled enough or the current Reason architecture uses legacy code and can't handle new features - Then I would agree that it would reduce stability, if you've ever programmed VST software for fun, you'll understand what I mean that stability should not be a problem. You import a lowsy VST that crashes/lags your entire environment (ie it doesn't work). You delete the files and restart Reason - No problems. The real reason that the Reason team doesn't want the VST support is because of the competition it would create between their own developers and NI, Spectrasonics, reFX, Rob Papen, and other VST developer teams. It's easier to not have to deal with competition, especially when you are so proud of your progress..... With that said, because stability is NOT the main reason that Reason doesn't support VST and 'control' is, you will never see third party or vst support.
In conclusion - I'm pretty sad that I left Reason, I really liked the setup, the interface, even the new sequencer. Thor looked promising and I really liked the additional arpeggiator and that groove beat thingy I played with quite a bit in the beta. I just don't like the direction that Reason is heading (and has been heading) - and it's not that they've changed direction, I have changed/matured musically. Through working in several software development teams, I can see through Propellerheads much easier and I don't think they'll change in the direction that would fit my growth.
THE TLDR VERSION
Sorry Reason, It's not you.... it's me...
We've just... grown apart...
I think we can still 'just' be friends! ... right?