Though my transition from Pro Tools to REAPER was mostly inspired by the financial reasons, now I can say that I’m truly sorry I hadn’t done this earlier. Much earlier.
REAPER was available at the time when I’ve started to self-study music composition and production in 2008. but I had without any doubt chosen Pro Tools 7 LE instead. First of all, this came bundled with my first audio interface (Mbox 2 Mini) and I’ve also thought it would be beneficial to learn to work in an industry standard program. And REAPER simply wasn’t as mature back then. However, things had changed significantly in the last few years and REAPER is now not only a viable alternative to programs like Pro Tools, Cubase, Logic and Digital Performer - it is superior to them in many ways.
Like with Linux OS, the creators of REAPER were determined not only to break the monopoly of the big players; they’ve wanted to create a product that could potentially be even better for end users. This, among the other things, meant implementing a number of options that the competition was lacking at the moment or for quite some time. However, programs that were created as an alternative to the popular and established solutions, are (ironically) frequently more difficult to use and master. At least, at the first sight. By using them more and more, one learns to appreciate their value in each step taken. It was exactly like this for me with REAPER.
Here are some of the the most important benefits of REAPER and the reasons why it should be one of the first choices when choosing the primary DAW to work in.
Reason #1: Price
This is one of the biggest draws of REAPER. Cockos, the company behind the program, bases the price of their software on the “honesty system”, so they offer two different priced licenses you can buy according to your needs. The first one is a single user / small business license which covers personal use and / or commercial use. It cost only 60$ + VAT for EU customers. If you ask me, this is a cinch for such a powerful and capable DAW. What’s even better, there are absolutely no features missing if you’re using this license. Both licences include the free updates as well as the free upgrade to a next large version. If you’re fortune enough to earn more than 20.000$ per year by using REAPER, then you’re expected to buy a commercial license for about 200$. But this is still much more affordable then any version of the four most popular DAW programs out there. With this approach, you can say that Cockos really care about their users. Large companies such as Avid, will charge exactly the same (a lot) for their software regardless if you’re a struggling artist or a commercial machine.
Reason #2: Stability
Unlike the other DAW programs, which tend to grow more and more in size and hardware demands over the years, REAPER was always a very streamlined program. But not in terms of its features and capabilities. By itself, it has really small memory footprint and the full version of the program is only about 10 Mb in size. All this ensure very smooth operation, especially on a powerful hardware platform, but also on a reasonably modest system. REAPER doesn’t ship with virtual instruments and sample libraries, though it has a plethora of extremely useful and capable plugins included. The lack of the additional creative software could be seen as a downside by some, but it’s also an advantage as you can choose yourself what else to buy, depending on your needs and preferences. If you work strictly with audio, you can get quite far with a REAPER license only. Personally, I mainly work with VI’s, so investing in Native Instruments Komplete was a must for me. Although a somewhat costly solution, such a quality package has an immense value and it is definitely a cornerstone of my virtual instruments and sample libraries collection.
Reason #3: Innovation
In REAPER you can probably do almost all that is possible in other more popular and more widespread DAW programs, but it also has a number of unique features which were developed in order to fill-out-the-gap created by other software developers. One of such features are Actions, which are a huge productivity tool capable of performing complex tasks or whole series of tasks at the touch of a button. Also, REAPER has much more active development cycle. It is improved constantly and the new features are added regularly. If you’re ever missing some feature that could potentially “save your life”, chances are you’ll see this sooner in REAPER then in any other DAW programs out there where there is a chance you’ll never see it at all.