A powerful DAW with a lean price point, and the absolute holy grail of customization.

Created by Justin Frankel (best known for developing WinAmp in the 90’s), is the mastermind behind REAPER. And what he and his team have managed to do is create a powerful DAW, at a ridiculously low price, that can go toe-to-toe with the likes of Pro Tools, Logic, and Cubase.

First impressions…

To be honest, I didn’t like REAPER at first. You launch it and there’s not much to look at. The interface is super plain and simple, so one would assume there’s not much you can really do. But I think their approach is to give you a blank canvas of sorts, and you customize it from there. There is a seemingly never ending list of themes out there, some which even replicate other DAWs which can fix that right up.

Customization…

Now we venture into what really makes REAPER fantastic. Every single option it has, is just that… an option. If you want something that’s more plug and play, this might not be the DAW for you, but if you want everything running EXACTLY how you like it, you’re in luck.

The preferences menu would be a nightmare if it didn’t have a built in search function that works like a search feature. You’ll find everything from stability functionality, plugin processing, and tons of other options.

Where the fun really kicks in is the Actions menu. Anything you can think of as a function, is there to be assigned to a hotkey. This has made dropping stretch markers on an off time track, tabbing to transient, locking them to the grid, and any other functions needed for that job quick and painless in my workflow.

The list of available DAWs is extensive and the price range is quite enormous. While there are at least 50+ out there, here’s a quick list of the more popular ones:

REAPER

The REAPER website has its own forum that has lots of highly dedicated members, some of which actually create and develop some of the plugins and program the code. This is a really great aspect to using REAPER – when you start to use a new program, you can be sure that you’ll need to ask lots of questions.

A devoted online community can help massively with any issues you have. If you’re curious, start with the following video by Kenny Gioia. Kenny’s YouTube channel has everything REAPER related, so chances are that whatever you’re looking to do within REAPER, has probably been covered in one of his videos.

It has all the features you’d expect from a DAW (and then some), some of which are:

  • Recording & Editing

  • Mixing
  • MIDI
  • Automation
  • VST/DX/AU plugin support
  • Sequencing
  • Control surface support
  • Effects/Processor plugins

It also includes some features that are truly unique. One of which is the ability to customize the visual layout using software called WALTER (Window Arrangement Logic Template Engine for Reaper). And it even has support for custom scripting. A feature not found in any other DAW.

There is a handy extension out for REAPER, called SWS (Standing Waters Studio). It contains hundreds of functions REAPER doesn’t have innately, like auto-coloring tracks based on user-set rules, a loudness analyzer, region playlists, and more.

If you’re the type of person who really like to tinker and set up their software to work for them, and do a number of automatic processes, don’t forget to download this popular extension when trying REAPER.

With how much time most of us have to spend staring at, and poking at our DAW, it can be a very particular thing from person to person. My final verdict, it that this is the good stuff. It’s not built to be the tool for everyone, but it is definitely the tool for me.

REAPER
REAPER

The overall quality of REAPER, coupled with the amazingly low price means that it’s definitely a DAW worth checking out.

Having used other DAWs in the past, it can definitely compete with the bigger, more mainstream studio packages, and that’s purely due to the excellence of the program.