Is Reaper a Good DAW? Here Are the Facts


A DAW, or “digital audio workstation,” is a physical, electronic device or application that helps you make music by allowing you to mix, edit, and record audio files. The primary reason for obtaining a DAW is to make music. While there are various kinds of commercial and open-source software DAWs, the one we’re going to discuss today is called Reaper.  

Cocko’s Reaper is a good DAW choice for anybody looking to make professional-sounding music without spending too much money. Reaper has plenty of features like recording, overdubbing audio, and plugin sidechaining while using little memory.

This article will go into detail about some of Reaper’s perks: 

  • Its streamlined flexibility. 
  • The low price. 
  • Its minimal space requirements. 
  • Its record and playback function. 
  • The mixing and portability functions. 
  • Its customer support. 

I will also discuss Reaper’s disadvantages, like the lack of built-in plug-ins and a potentially tricky interface, so let’s get started.

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What Are the Advantages of Choosing Reaper?

When buying anything, the first thing you probably do is compare it to its competitors. It’s a sensible thing to do – you do want to be sure you’re getting the most out of your money after all. 

An advantage of choosing Reaper is its low price. Many DAWs cost around $100, but you can purchase Reaper for much less. You also don’t need much memory to run Reaper, and the interface is customizable and easy for many to learn to use. 

If you want to know what makes Reaper stand out amongst the other DAWs, keep reading. I’ll explain each of these perks in detail. 

Reaper Can Be Comparatively Cheap Compared to Its Competition

Several DAWs currently on the market enables you to make fantastic music.

There’s a catch when choosing a DAW, though, as you’re likely going to have to pay for it. Reaper comes with a free 60 day trial period to give the software a test run before committing to a purchase. 

You might be wondering why I say Reaper “can be” purchased comparatively cheap. 

Well, after your (approximately) two-month trial, you have the option of buying the discounted $60 license or the $225 commercial license. Admittedly, the latter price is more expensive than some DAW on the market, and the $60 fee comes with a few caveats.

To utilize the $60 discount, you have to be:

  • A non-profit organization.
  • Using Reaper for educational purposes.
  • Have a business or are someone wanting to use Reaper commercially and your yearly revenue is under USD 20,000.
  • Using Reaper for personal reasons.

If you’re curious about how Reaper’s price compares to other quality DAW, here’s a price list with a few basic specs and descriptions.

You Won’t Need Much Memory To Run Reaper

One of the best parts about Reaper is that it won’t take up too much space on your computer. Let’s say you’ve got 200 or so gigabytes (GB) worth of space left on your laptop, and you want to install a DAW for your music-making hobby. 

You’d only need:

  • 12 megabytes (MB) for 32-bit Windows
  • 13MB for 64-bit Windows
  • 18MB for a 32-bit Mac
  • 20MB for a 64-bit Mac

Each version of Reaper takes so little space that it would barely make a dent in the 200GB you’ve got left on your laptop. 

Reaper has such a small digital footprint that you could download the software onto a 2GB flash drive with room to spare. Speaking of flash drives, the minute amount of memory required to run Reaper also makes it easy to transport and work on the go.

You Can Customize the User Interface

This last perk might not be much of a perk for many of you reading this, but you do have the option of customizing the UI with different wallpapers and control layouts. 

It’s pretty easy to acquire different skins too, Reaper comes with multiple skins already in the program, and you can always get more from Cocko’s website if you want. You can even make Reaper replicate the look of other DAW UIs like Logic.

What Are Some of Reaper’s Features?

Arguably, another advantage Reaper has over DAWs is that you can purchase an inexpensive license and still get many features you’d expect from a pricier one that’s been around for much longer. 

Below are some of Reaper’s features and how they work. 

Recording and Editing

To start, you can record audio and MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), then overdub (or layer) them as well. 

There’s no limit to how much recording and overdubbing you can do, as you’re only limited by whatever hardware you possess. If you want to record multiple instruments or vocals at once, it’s not a difficult task for Reaper to do. 

You can also assign each monitor mix (mix where you can listen to yourself) an individual set of effects.

Mixing

Reaper’s mixer has a lot going for it as well. It’s flexible enough to drag and drop recordings to create tracks and move portions of them around to try out different arrangements. 

You can view each project in separate tabs so that you stay organized. 

You can crossfade, glue, resize, or loop your music without having to change tools for each function constantly. It’s easy to multitask in Reaper, too, due to its nested folder system that allows you to group edit, route, and bus.

Reaper Isn’t a Perfect DAW

Reaper does have its flaws. 

While some people learn the interface relatively quickly, others don’t find the mostly empty screen you first encounter very intuitive. The user interface may also feel dated to some because, instead of a streamlined arrangement of tools and options, you end up having to search through various dialog boxes.

Reaper’s small size can also work as a disadvantage. 

For starters, the megabyte-size DAW can’t afford to dress up its bland-looking dialog boxes. The tiny size also comes with the aesthetic issue of any plug-ins you add looking incredibly out of place.

While we’re on the topic of plug-ins, the lack of space means that there are not many plug-ins that come with the software. You can sidechain whatever plug-ins you want, including ones that typically can’t be side-chained, but this means that you have to add them from a third-party source. 

Check out whether GarageBand is a good DAW.

Are There Workarounds to Reaper’s Flaws?

There may be workarounds to reaper’s flaws, which are manageable for some. While you can’t wholly eliminate these issues, Cockos has mitigated them. For example, Reaper does, at least, come with plug-ins that can simulate outboard hardware. 

If you’re having problems using Reaper, you can download the English, Polish, German, or Spanish user guide

Reaper has additional user guides, such as the REAPER 4 Unleashed guide, which teaches you about Reaper’s best and most powerful resources and features. The RealMix: Breaking the Barriers with REAPER guide teaches you how to use the mixing tools and the art of mixing.

For more information, check out which is better: Reaper vs. Audacity.

Conclusion

Reaper is a good DAW if you want to try your hand at mixing music or if you want to create a professional sound. 

You can purchase Reaper for as little as $60, and it doesn’t take up much memory. You can customize the UI, and, more importantly, it still comes with various features like recording, overdubbing, and flexible track creation. 

The DAW’s small size is good and bad. Your computer will have plenty of space, but you can’t customize the various dialog boxes, and you’ll need to download additional third-party plug-ins to compensate for what Reaper can’t accommodate. 

Sources

Vinnie

I'm Vinnie, and I'm here to support you to create your own studio at home, whether it’s for photography, recording audio, podcasts, or videos!

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