Shamelessly Gushing over Cockos’ Reaper DAW (Review)

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It’s not only my subjective opinion – Reaper is definitely the best DAW for music production at home and anywhere else. 

Not only because a lot of digital audio enthusiasts say it, but also because of all the awesome features I’ll cover in this little article.

Let’s start with the most important thing: It’s ridiculously CHEAP.

$65 dollars for personal use (if you make less than 200.000 USD a year, if not it’s 225 bucks) multi-device use, with a 2 month trial period sounds like a real bargain.

reaper logo

But what’s the best part about Cockos‘ Reaper? Their developers trust you. Believe it or not!  So, if you are a greedy person (like many of us), you can try it after the period, only by skipping the “Reaper is not free” screen after five seconds.

So, you can download it now, and it will work in 2030 (after pressing a button that says “You’ve been evaluating REAPER for approximately 3,650 days”).

purchase a reaper licence

Imagine forgetting about I-locks, and copy protection and all that… sounds like a revolution to anyone!

(And with this I prove that I’m just a fanatic of this DAW and I’m not getting paid by the developer – Hey, Cockos send me some money or freebies if you read this!).

But anyway, I’ll convince you to spend the 65 bucks with the rest of this article, considering that any other cutting-edge (but probably inferior) DAW cost at least 300 bucks.

Although this may seem a bit intimidating, my favorite Reaper feature is the ability to program anything.

And when I mean anything, I mean ANYTHING. Let’s imagine that you don’t like the way the zoom or side-scrolling work.

configuration of reaper

You can change it in the ACTIONS menu and make it work exactly the way you need it – and this includes all shortcuts also – if you’re coming from a different DAW, and you’re used to the way it worked, you can mimic everything in the configuration (and even some people have done this before, and uploaded the configuration file to forums, etc).

What’s more, if you’re really a let’s say… Nuendo fan, there are Nuendo skins for this. Configuration and customization are Reaper’s second and last names.

If you even find something missing or wrong in this DAW, you can report it to the developers, and they’ll probably listen to you and fix it in the next update (which are really frequent). If you’re really into scripting, you can create your own scripts, and share them with the world.

reaper can open any plugin

Reaper can open any plugin, and i mean any  (VST, VST3, VST31, AU, AUI), and it categorizes them in a really organized way – especially the FX VST – and if that isn’t enough, they can be searched in a beautiful searchbar – really useful if you are a plugin junkie like me.

Changing plugin order in a rack is a piece of cake (just moving it one over the other does the trick) and you can even copy or cut and paste any plugin, in any track, without losing any configuration, anytime. 

Did I mention search bar? there is an extremely useful one in the configuration menu. So you don’t have to skip pages and pages searching for that configuration thinghy you’re looking for.

As a continuation to the versatility features I mentioned before, I should mention that Reaper is awesome for any music and audio jobs.

From sound design, dialog recording and editing, music recording, mixing and mastering, and the rest of the article will talk about that specifically.

There are three main important features I’ve never seen in any other DAW.

Any snippet of audio in Reaper is considered a Media Item, and any of those, individually, can be subject to any chain of effects, without the need of creating multiple tracks.

Imagine if for example, you don’t like the sound of a particular section of your recording (even one single note), it allows you to apply the needed fx to make it sound as you like.

multiformat tracks

Moreover, the tracks in Reaper are multi-format, which means you can import almost any audio file in any bitrate and sample rate, with any amount of channels in any channel. You can import midi and audio in the same channel.

And even more, you can import JPG or video files, which will display in the video window (I’ll talk more about that later).

Another interesting feature to mention is the audio-rendering flexibility. You can render audio in any know format, but also has a really interesting and versatile tagging system -with wildcards- and a nice region-selecting tool.

Plus, you can render all stem separately with a couple of clicks.

Reaper has some more features of which I’ll mention a couple, but i’m not going to talk much about them, to let you experiment them by yourself.

It has a built-in video editor plugin, a bit like a swiss knife tool for videos (don’t expect it to be awesome, come on 

Reaper is an audio editor at the end) that can help you make some rough videos. It has helped me to create short videos, for example, to create music videos with a still display image to upload to youtube.

batch file converter

Lastly, this has a really nice batch file converter which will allow you to transform an audio file to any other format with some clicks.

If you’re not convinced yet, let your hardware convince you. Minimum requirements for Reaper are not listed on their official site, but that’s not because they’re hiding something, but exactly the opposite.

I’ve known people who could successfully run this software and all the built-in plugins on a 2003, Windows XP, 1.3ghz processor with 512mb ram computer, and by googling a bit, you can see it has been used in even worse conditions.

It even works on Linux OS. If you’re using it on a good computer -less than 5-7 years old-, you can expect it to work fast and flawlessly, and also booting in less than 10 seconds (except those times when it loads all the plugins).

The download size is less than 20 MB (yeah, megabytes, not gigabytes), and 64 MB after installation, with all the base plugins included. You can get the really useful 80 MB extensions packs, which continue to be lightweight. All this make Reaper extremely stable.

sws s&M extension

So guys, try this. I promise you that after the learning curve, this will become your favorite DAW. Most audio editors in my country (Argentina) work with Reaper.

We might have started because of its price, but we continued using it for the rest of the features mentioned above.

About the Author – Marcelo Cataldo (Decimu Labs)
Marcelo Cataldo a musician, audio editor, composer, guitarist and bassist, Musical Education Professor and Licentiate in activity in La Plata, Argentina. Specialized in retro-electronic synth and videogame music. Currently working at DecimuLabs, creators of The Kirlian Frequency (Netflix)
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