Jake Duffie here from The Underground Alliance, and today I’ll be giving my two cents on the quickly popularizing recording Software, REAPER! Justin Frankel, the lead designer of REAPER is best known for developing WinAmp in 1997, which is still being used today. I’ve been using Reaper for a little over 3 years now, being my primary DAW for most of that time. Does Cockos deliver a DAW that can compete with the likes of Pro Tools, Logic, and Cubase, or will it fade away as software that just didn’t make the cut? Let’s find out!
With a discounted license costing 60 bucks, the pricepoint is quite lean considering the 300-500 standard cost for similar software. The discounted license covers individual or business use , and yearly gross revenue does not exceed USD $20,000, or an educational or non-profit organization. That is pretty much all of us, by my judge. With the trial version of the software being fully unrestricted for 60 days, REAPER is priced more than fairly. The full commercial license runs $225 USD.
REAPER isn’t the prettiest looking DAW right out of the gate, but the visual doesn’t fail to get the point across. I’ve come to like the default look of it by now, but there is a wealth of different themes on the internet, some which replicate other popular DAWs which can fix that up for pickier users. I’d say this is the first spot REAPER fails to impress, but it is quite easy to get used to, and is more than worth where the software excels.
Now we are venturing into what really makes REAPER fantastic. Every single option, IS, an option. If you are a plug and play kind of guy, this might not be the DAW for you, but if you want everything running EXACTLY how you like it, you’re in luck. The preferences menu would be a nightmare, if it didn’t have a built in search function that works much like a Ctrl+F find, between all option tabs. You’ll find everything from stability functionality, Multi-Computer processing through ReaMote, and the obvious stuff.
Where the fun stuff kick in, is the Actions menu. Anything you can think of as a function, is there to be assigned to a hotkey. This has made dropping stretch markers on an off time track, tabbing to transient, locking them to the grid, and any other functions needed for that job quick and painless in my workflow.
This is venturing into the realm of personal opinion, but I rarely find myself googling where any particular function is within REAPER. If it is important, it is obvious, and placed right where it should be.
Though most DAWs have reached this point anyway, faster than realtime renders are always a plus. If your computer can handle it, so can REAPER! And if it can’t it will render at slower than realtime.
On the topic of rendering, users of After Effects will recognize this feature; The Render Queue. Whether you just want an MP3 AND and Wav of your track rendered, or whether you are rendering multiple formats of multiple files in a single session, there is no good reason to have to sit back down to the computer every 3 minutes to adjust settings. Line them up, and knock them out.
This isn’t something you’d normally care too much about, but REAPER weighs in at a microscopic 11mb before installing. 70mb post-install. It can run off of a USB stick. You can download it with your phone data in about 3 seconds. There is a lot of peace of mind, that comes with a piece of software this lightweight. A computer without REAPER can become a computer with reaper in less than 5 minutes, and I can’t help but love that.
Though I hear many people defend it, I am so sick of the iLok. I own one, as well as Pro Tools, and still would just rather not use it. Cockos decides that you own the software after buying it, and doesn’t deal with any of such nonsense. The difference between an activated version of REAPER and one that isn’t is a single 1kb file that constitutes your licence, which you can use as many times as you would like.
Reaper doesn’t come with any CPU heavy plugins to keep the file size as small as possible, but the ReaPlugs suite has a combination of functional tools like the MidiDrumTrigger or tone generator, and very transparent crucial sonic processing like the ReaComp or ReaEQ plugins. The visualizer on ReaEQ is a real treat, and is one of the reasons the ReaPlugs suite is well worthwhile to install on any DAW, not just REAPER.
I’m glad to say there isn’t much to say here, as it is just pretty damn stable. If you have internal VSTs locking things up, REAPER has a handful of Bridging/Firewalling options, and FX bypasses to keep things flowing. I can’t think of a time REAPER crashed because of itself, but Windows isn’t perfect, and crashes certainly can happen.
There is a handy extension out for reaper, called SWS (Standing Waters Studio). It contains some functions REAPER doesn’t have inately, like auto-coloring tracks based on user-set rules, a loudness analyser, region playlists, and more. If you’re the type of person who really like to tinker and set up their software to work for them, and do a number of automatic processes, don’t forget to download this popular extension when trying REAPER.
With how much time most of us have to spend staring at, and poking at our DAW, it can be a very peticular thing from person to person. My final verdict, it that this is the good stuff. It’s not built to be the tool for everyone, but it is definitely the tool for me. I’d hesitate to recommend REAPER to someone who likes to work in expansive MIDI environments, but it can certainly pull it off.
With the trial being fully unrestriced for 60 days, there is no good reason not to give it a go! If you’ve found other DAWs restrictive in any way, shape or form, that is exactly the niche REAPER fits into.
Good luck finding the software that works for you, and Rock On!