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Reaper: Leaner, Meaner, Cheaper, Than Cubase or Pro Tools


As many of you know, I’ve been a long-time user of Steinberg’s products.  While I still very much feel that Steinberg makes excellent software, all of the dongle and licensing really bummed me out.  The hassle of having to insure my dongle in case I lost it, re-authenticating my computer when I changed systems, and having to use USB hubs and all this crap hanging out of my computer just to boot up software all added up to a big headache.  And I just felt like the software wasn’t getting better at a rapid enough rate to justify spending the increasing cost of the upgrades (wait, Cubase is on version 6 already!?).  So I’ve switched to Reaper.

Reaper is a full-fledged DAW package whose primary appeal is a) that it’s insanely cheap b) the licensing is extremely liberal and c) there are no dongles whatsoever.  If you earn less than $25k a year from your audio work, a license is under $50.  Otherwise it’s $150.  But it’s good across versions.

Reaper Screenshot

Reaper Screenshot

I haven’t found a whole lot to be unhappy about in Reaper.  Its routing is very flexible and the MIDI support meets my needs.  I suspect heavy MIDI users will probably want to stick with Digital Performer or Logic, but those of us who primarily want a powerful audio workstation will find Reaper fits the bill perfectly.

The software also feels extremely responsive, like it’s coded down to the bare metal of the machine.  You get a sense that you can squeeze every ounce of performance out of your box when it’s running.

Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of Reaper is that there aren’t any track ‘types’.  That is to say, stereo, mono, and MIDI data can be shuffled around freely.  It’s all just playable data to Reaper.

I had been keeping my eyeball on the Ardour project and certainly there are beautiful things happening over there, but Reaper is cheap, the developer(s) are responsive and ethical, and it works right now.  So thumbs up!