Cockos REAPER is an excellent DAW.
While most digital audio workstations can handle similar operations, the approaches differ considerably.
REAPER is one software that has managed to stand head to head with the more popular DAWs in the audio industry. Check our article What is a DAW to learn what a DAW is.
What is REAPER? Simply put, it’s an acronym and means Rapid Environment for Audio Production, Engineering, and Recording.
Cockos, the parent company, was founded by San Francisco resident Justin Frankel.
Initial release: August 2006.
Current version: 6.57 as of May 7, 2022.
Operating system: Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Cost:: Standard license $60 and Commercial license $225.
Trial period: 60 days without limits.
For well over 5 years, I have used REAPER software for most of my recording projects.
Here, I will share from experience all that you need to know about the software.
- Is REAPER a good DAW?
- Things you can do with REAPER (Features)
- Why would you pick REAPER over other DAWs? (Advantages)
- Drawbacks in using REAPER
- How To Get Cockos Reaper
- How do I get started recording music with Reaper?
- As a final note, "don't fear the reaper!"
Is REAPER a good DAW?
Yes! Indeed, it is. It’s considered a very professional software and is capable of all necessary functionality in any audio project. I shall explain further in the sections below why it is such outstanding software.
Things you can do with REAPER (Features)
Record audio and midi signals
REAPER shines when it comes to recording audio and midi. Unlike other software, a channel can record any type of data signal. This means there are no dedicated channels for a specific type of data, be it audio, midi, or instrument channels.
Cockos REAPER is packed with so many editing tools for all data types. You are well covered whether you are cutting, copying, duplicating, or pasting. Rea tune vst is an inbuilt plugin with REAPER for pitch correction. There is a piano roll view for detailed midi editing.
Mixing and mastering
There are numerous built-in tools to ensure your final mixes are well polished. The spectrogram view allows you to see the frequency distribution of channels. The “Rea” plugins are lightweight but with very capable convolution reverbs, delays, compressors, etc. You can also export your project to a primary and secondary output format with different settings in a single run. Find out more on mixing in Reaper.
Film audio scoring and sound effect creation are made simple in REAPER. It’s not a dedicated video editing software; however, basic actions like trimming, cutting, and audio replacement are stressless.
Why would you pick REAPER over other DAWs? (Advantages)
This is probably one of the best value DAWs out there. A standard license costs only $60, which is way below most others with lesser features.
The installation file for Windows x64 is 15MB, and for macOS 10.15, it’s 25MB (the largest). This makes it easy to download and install quickly. I had an experience where I had to set up a multitrack live recording urgently. I had to use another PC, and we were behind schedule. I met up using REAPER as I was up and running within just 10mins. Thanks to the small installation file size.
Cockos REAPER is one of the most stable DAWs available. You can even install it on an external flash disk without issues. This is especially important when recording multichannel tracks for long periods. I do this all the time and have hardly had any hiccups along the way.
One of the advantages of REAPER is that it’s compatible with the majority of operating systems on the market. Mainly Windows, macOS, and Linux. This is an excellent option for traveling engineers who aren’t sure of which systems they’ll encounter along the way.
You have access to extensive customization options in REAPER, from the interface to toolbars, colors, and more. Also, it is an action-based DAW, This means that most operations are actions stored as keyboard commands. There is an actions list displaying all default and user-assigned actions.
Wide Plugin format compatibility
Cockos REAPER doesn’t include other third-party software but is compatible with every VST Standard (currently VST3). This includes DX and LV2; it is compatible with most commercial and free plugins. REAPER is also able to run 32-bit plugins alongside 64-bit processes. REAPER supports ARA 2 plugins.
There is a large community supporting the development of REAPER. Hence, there are rapid and regular updates of the software.
Flexible routing options
Audio from a source channel can be routed to any other channel. This is the routing power of Cockos REAPER DAW. So many operations that were hitherto impossible with many others are pretty simple within REAPER.
Good quality inbuilt plugins
Pro Inbuilt plugins include all Reaplugs, JSFX, and the SWS REAPER extension modules (downloaded separately but free).
Drawbacks in using REAPER
Steep learning curve
Getting used to working with REAPER takes a lot of learning. This may be partly because REAPER generally uses a different approach for some regular tasks.
The user interface can be pretty intimidating for beginners. It is also not the most appealing interface around.
No inbuilt Vst instruments:
Aside from a basic synth and drum machine, no inbuilt virtual instruments nor bundled 3rd party plugins are available.
Midi routing for multichannel Vst and rewire can be confusing. I still struggle with it sometimes, especially when connecting Reason via Rewire.
How To Get Cockos Reaper
- Reaper download link:
- Reaper guide download link:
- Just install as usual and follow the prompts. Also, study the pdf guide. You can try it free for 60days without any limits.
How do I get started recording music with Reaper?
- Download the software
- Go through the guide and other resources. Examples of such resources.
- Start a project
- Do basic setup with an interface and start recording
As a final note, “don’t fear the reaper!”
We have seen that REAPER is a remarkable piece of software. You will need some patience and an open mind to learn new concepts to reap the benefits. Go give it a shot today.