If you are a music producer or artist, you may have, at one point, scratched your head over which DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) to go with. With the array of choices, it could get tricky to zero in on a particular software tool. Tracktion and REAPER are two DAWs many audio software users or music enthusiasts could find themselves split between.
Tracktion is a free DAW that is also available as a premium tool. REAPER is available only as a premium DAW, albeit with a 60-day free trial. Tracktion is simple yet effective and feature-rich. REAPER boasts reliable performance and increased customization, which its outdated UI can readily embrace.
Like in every other consumer product category, the world of audio production and DAWs are rife with wars between respective software fans. If you are not a hardcore or blind supporter of any particular DAW and are genuinely keen to know more about Tracktion and REAPER, read on.
Tracktion – A Basic Overview
Founded by Julian Storer, a UK-based designer/programmer, in 2002 and then having afforded a rebirth in 2013 by its original developer, Tracktion is known for its intuitive and transparent UI (user interface). Complex filter chains can be built, stockpiled, and recalled as rack effects for later use with the tool.
Tracktion started with model dialog boxes, multiple windows, and menus only to take up a single-screen, streamlined approach later. As a result, the user is presented with just the options they require for a particular task – such as audio editing, effects settings, MIDI automation parameter adjustment, etc.
Tracktion is now called Waveform. The name change hasn’t changed the DAW much at its core. Besides the tweaked color scheme, pretty much everything is the same.
Waveform DAW Flavors
Waveform offers its DAWs in the following categories:
- Free: As the name indicates, this version is free, yet it packs in a fully-featured DAW for all. The erstwhile Tracktion T7, for instance, has been subsumed by this free version.
- OEM: This version is a robust workstation program bundled in for free with every purchase of Mackie, Behringer, or ROLI. The tool offers unlimited track count, compatibility with multiple plugins, etc.
- Pro: This variant is further broken down into three levels – Basic, Standard, & Extreme. Each sport varying quantities of plugins and bundled content.
- Full-featured DAW (Windows, Linux, Mac, and Raspberry Pi)
- Flexible, modular approach
- Rich library of sample content and loops
- Suite of instruments and plugins
Tracktion Pros & Cons
The following are areas in which Tracktion excels, followed by things it requires work in:
Waveform offers unlimited audio tracks and MIDI, besides a collection of professional-grade EQ (equalization), processing, and mixing effects. MIDI clips let you create detailed automation and patterns.
With Waveform 8, several instruments were introduced, including an FM synthesizer and a sampler. Also, melodic pattern generators and MIDI chord progressions were brought in.
The DAW can handle vocal comping, track freezing, step sequencing, MIDI learning, pitch and time warping, sync to video, etc. It is also fully compatible with VST (Virtual Studio Technology) instruments and plugins.
Waveform keeps things basic. For example, there are no separate track types, zero divisions between MIDI and audio tracks. Instead, all tracks can hold all kinds of content. MIDI and audio clips are self-explanatory, except for Edit and Step clips that require further explanation.
The track heads are minimal, showing only the track name, input level and assignment, and the record-enable button. The other track controls – fader, effects, pan, etc. – are situated at the end, on the right side of your screen.
Free Tool Available
Unlike REAPER, which only comes with a 60-day free trial, Tracktion or Waveform is available as a free tool itself. Tracktion Corporation tends to release a newer variant of their DAW each year. When that happens, the versions that are two or three years older are made available for free. For example, when version 10 was released, Tracktion 7 became free.
The interface is bleak and would need some getting used to, mainly if you’re coming from having used another DAW extensively. However, this interface issue is not significant and certainly not something that cannot be streamlined over time with updates and new releases.
And if you’re new to DAWs, this interface concern may be non-existent to you.
If you are just getting started with DAW music production, here is a video you must consider watching:
REAPER – An Introduction
REAPER is a full-blown digital audio production tool. It offers a complete multitrack audio and MIDI processing, recording, editing, mastering, and mixing toolset. The application supports a wide array of hardware, digital plugins, and formats; and can be extended, modified, and scripted comprehensively. REAPER has been around as a DAW since 2006, known for its numerous customization features.
Unlike Tracktion, REAPER is available as the only variant used for home and commercial studios, location recording, broadcast, science and research, education, game development, sound design, etc. This fully-featured version has no artificial limitations. To evaluate the tool, you may use it for free for 60 days.
REAPER costs $60 for a small business, school, or personal license. For commercial music requirements or if you gross more than $20,000 a year through your audio projects, you pay $225 instead.
- Efficient, fast loading speeds, and tightly coded
- Powerful MIDI and audio routing with complete multi-channel support
- 64-bit audio processing
- Supports third-party virtual instruments and plugin effects
- Facilitates automation, modulation, surround, macros, grouping, scripting, custom layouts, and skins
REAPER Pros & Cons
Here are REAPER’s advantages and drawbacks:
REAPER delivers virtual instrument and live audio recording, real notation editing, a full-fledged mixing console, video scoring, etc. It offers complete dual-core support and has better optimization for low latency (minimal lag) performance. Load the tool up with some third-party plugins to derive actual dividends in flexibility and power.
The program supports an infinite number of tracks and effects. And irrespective of the load it’s made to handle, it doesn’t lose its footing or crash.
Besides letting you make your themes or change the color scheme or the entire look of the interface, REAPER also allows you to configure the UI to suit your specific requirements. For instance, it lets you create your toolbars, menus, and macros.
The REAPER developer community is pretty strong and responsive, ensuring the program is up to date – mainly catering to user requests for specific features. The frequency of the updates varies – usually released once every few weeks.
The updates typically include bug fixes, new features, feature improvements, etc. Your configurations and preferences are preserved or won’t get overhauled by the updates. Also, there is backward and forward compatibility.
No Free Version
Though you can try the REAPER tool-free for two months without registering or submitting any personal information, there’s no free version. There is no lite or stripped-down version for free for those artists whose requirements from a DAW are limited or won’t use the slew of premium features.
For some, REAPER’s GUI (Graphical User Interface) is simple and gets the job done. The majority, however, finds the UI to be unattractive and outdated. The GUI does lack the fluidity the competition boasts. The skeuomorphic feedback or animations, for instance, are not adequately intuitive.
REAPER’s effects and instruments are available as sliders and tiny knobs, which rob you of the feeling of handling actual equipment. This, thankfully, doesn’t hinder the DAW’s functionality or performance. Moreover, you can enhance the interface (to a certain extent) by using skins and layouts.
Check out this article about how Adobe Audition compares with Pro Tools.
Compared to Tracktion, REAPER is a more popular DAW and often recommended by the community. The battle between the two can be likened to the tussle between David and Goliath.
However, in reality, Waveform doesn’t trail REAPER as much as some of the former’s ardent followers would like to believe. Waveform is unique, modular, comprehensive in its own way and it’s free – which Reaper is not.
Kindly note this article has barely scratched the surface in terms of throwing light on what the two DAWs are capable of. If you’d like to know more, head to their respective websites.
Komplete and Ableton are two other great DAWs, find out more about which we think is better here!