Reaper DAW Review -Digital Audio Workstation (2012 Edition)

You can also install its open source/free plug-ins known as the ReaPlugs VST FX Suite. You can also read this tutorial for sample procedure on how to install VST plugin in Reaper.

You can then experiment a lot of important audio mixing/editing effects such as EQ, compression, reverb, etc.

Score: 5/5
Back to top

Resolution of the internal mixing engine

The resolution of the internal mixing engine is important to retain the accuracy and audio quality of your mix. Any processing that goes inside your DAW software are done mathematically using algorithms. There is a lot of calculations involved particularly if you are using a lot of effects in the mix.

The default track mixing depth of REAPER is 64-bit floating point mix. This is similar to the one used by industry standard DAW software like Pro tools. Other older DAW software only supports up to 32-bit floating mixing. There are clear advantages of 64-bit DAW over 32-bit float Digital audio workstation.

REAPER allows you to select different mixing depth in the project settings:

Reaper mixing bit depth

Reaper mixing bit depth

Score: 5/5
Back to top

Support for audio editing

REAPER offers non-destructive form of audio editing. This is very important for digital music production since it will preserve the original recordings on your hard drive during the editing. For example if you like to re-edit the audio, you can simply repeat the editing process using the original recordings.

This is different from destructive form of editing where you cannot anymore undo the changes. Non-destructive editing tools in REAPER are envelopes which are applied directly to the multi-track session waveforms. See an example below:

Non-destructive editing Reaper

Non-destructive editing Reaper

If the above example are volume automation where you can control the amount of track volume in different time section of the tracks non-destructively.

There is no dedicated/built-in audio editor window in REAPER as you would see in other DAW like Cubase. Dedicated audio editor is great for zooming detailed audio waveforms and performing sophisticated audio editing like removing noise. This is not easy to be performed directly on the multitrack session window. Nevertheless, REAPER audio editing features are sufficient enough for most basic tasks.

There is also an option in adding an external audio editor in Reaper.

Score: 4/5
Back to top

MIDI Support

REAPER does support basic MIDI functionality such as editing, recording and playback. Below is a screenshot of the MIDI editor:

Reaper MIDI editor

Reaper MIDI editor

In addition, REAPER allows you to insert a virtual instrument on a new track. This is very handy if you want to add a virtual instrument to your projects such as Superior Drummer.

Score: 3/5
Back to top

CPU and memory resource usage running a full session

To test the CPU and memory usage; a multi-track project with 67 recorded tracks (with effects) has been tried with REAPER. Below is the comparison of CPU and memory usage with or without REAPER (only this software is running):

CPU and memory usage of REAPER

CPU and memory usage of REAPER

As you can see, REAPER is very light on system resources during multi-track playback. It utilizes around 552MB and 11% CPU usage for the playback of 67 tracks with effects.

Score: 5/5
Back to top

Usability

Based on my experience; REAPER is actually easy to use. After launching the program, you can easily insert tracks for recording by going to Tracks – Insert New Tracks. After inserting several new tracks, you can easily assign their corresponding audio interface inputs. These are particularly important for multichannel/simultaneous recording such as drum tracking or live band recording session.

The tracks in the REAPER mixing session have layouts similar to real-world mixing consoles. In the screenshot below, you can easily see the tracks added like channel strip on a mixing console. These are the faders, pan knob, FX and IO. These functionalities are the heart of the REAPER multitrack project.

Usability in Reaper

Usability in Reaper

REAPER developers do a great job in providing a simplistic DAW layout design that makes it easy for beginners to use. Reaper DAW file management also allows more efficient and user friendly workflow for saving files.

Score: 5/5
Back to top

Video Editing Support

Reaper video editing as well as other rendering options are very basic . It utilizes FFMPEG open source libraries. You can do the following:

1.) Import and play video files in REAPER. Tested video file extensions: MPG, MOV, WMV, AVI

2.) Cutting and selecting sections of the video and rendering the edited video as a new video file.

3.) Mixing audio tracks for a video project.

There are still a lot of video editing features that are not available. For example, you cannot work with subtitles, adding detailed video effects, in-depth video editing like you see in other video editors such as Windows Movie Maker and Sony Vegas.

It would be great if REAPER developers would focus on improving this feature in the future.

Score: 3/5
Back to top

Final Verdict

REAPER is basically complete as digital audio workstation software for professional music production projects. The 64-bit floating summing engine and compatible to industry standard VST/DX plug-ins allows you craft the best sounding mix for your projects.

This is highly recommended for beginners that are looking for a great DAW for their home digital recording studio and for those that are budget-conscious; considering that it cost only $60 to license.

REAPER though is not perfectly suited for serious video/film professionals and for those sound editors that are looking for a more detailed sound editing environment.

Overall score: 90%
Back to top

Content last updated on June 4, 2012

  • Emerson Maningo

    Your welcome Rigel! If you need to learn more about REAPER, you can read a lot of tutorials in this site. You can start here: https://www.audiorecording.me/category/reaper-daw-tutorials

  • Rigel Best

    Thanks!

  • von boson

    One of the biggest reasons I am so happy with Reaper is the high degree of customization it allows for your workflow. I’m sure you’ll find this valuable as you move forward with Reaper. You can change options to have it work more like Sonar if that’s your preferred workflow. Or Pro-tools, Logic, etc. Just don’t let all the choices overwhelm. But once you’ve set it up to your liking, you are good to go. Instead of having to adjust yourself to Reaper, Reaper can be adjusted to how you already work. I just had to take my time understanding just how many options Reaper provides. The most options of any DAW I’ve used to date. (I’m a strict PC guy since I custom build my machines and enjoy doing so. It soothes my inner geek and ultimately saves me a lot of money.) And Reaper is just such a pure bargain. I think they are really on top of their game.

  • Emerson Maningo

    I’m pretty sure that with the decent amount of followers for REAPER and its active community, it will be headed to a bright future. Majority of these users/followers are home studio musicians/producers that cannot afford high licensing cost. It make sense REAPER will be keeping its price reasonable with the features provided. This will even attract more users while keeping its old fans loyal.

    I understand that it takes time to change a DAW software. Before I used to be so proficient with Adobe Audition that I do not plan on switching DAW because it might affect my workflow and productivity. I’ve tried REAPER to lower the licensing cost in future upgrades. Then I’m glad that it is indeed very easy to use. Now, I can call myself a bit proficient and I have my new workflow in REAPER for doing audio mixing/mastering. The effects on work productivity before and after the change of DAW is not so much 🙂

  • Bill Norris

    I have been using Reaper for about 1 year now. I have always used Cakewalk Sonar for many years right up to the latest version (X1 expanded). I have to say; even though I have found Sonar to be a great DAW; I think with my own experience and the comments that I have seen above, Reaper gives you far more for you money than the mighty big competitors. I would not use Cubase, Pro Tools or many of the big punchers even if they were given to me for free. But this is purely down to the way work I and find Sonar and Reaper very easy to use. If Reaper keeps heading in the direction I think it will and Keeps it’s price reasonable’ I will probably be fully converted.

  • Emerson Maningo

    I agree and that is why I stated “basic” in my review. I do give 5/5 initially since most DAW work won’t involved heavy MIDI editing at all. And basic features are enough. I’m not fond of using MIDI in my DAW projects as all are based on actual recorded performances – real recording by real musicians. Probably a heavy MIDI user reviewing Reaper would give it 3/5 or even as low as 2/5. To make this review fair to heavy MIDI users planning to use Reaper, I downgrade it to 3/5. Thanks for the feedback on making review more accurate!

  • zeekat

    Actually MIDI implementation is considered a bit lacking in Reaper (see Reaper’s forums – I don’t know much about MIDI myself but there’s apparently a lot to improve there). Video editing is a nice, free addition – you’re downloading a DAW not a video editor after all 🙂