I learned on ProTools, and by ProTools 10, I became so frustrated with the 'glitches, crashes, lack of features, inability to do power functions, etc...' that I began a quest to test the rest. I sampled Ableton, Logic, Digital Performer, even Bitwig. I didn't find any of them convincingly different to convert me from ProTools, so I then decided to try some Freeware applications in an attempt to maybe record with a more basic program, and do my finishing work in ProTools. Again, nothing really convinced me to change my workflow. I continued using ProTools 10 through 2014 as I didn't want to spend a ton of cash on an upgrade knowing I was about to jump ship. Then, in 2015 I just happened to come across Reaper. I didn't think much about it prior, thinking it must surely be a buggy outlier, something only fanatic fan-boys used because it was cheap. I figured because the price to own was so low, and it spent $0 on advertising, it must be an amateur product.... BOY, WAS I EVER WRONG!!!! Not only was I an immediate convert, I am now one of those fan-boys, spreading the gospel of Reaper everywhere I go.
First off, a complete DAW that doesn't rival the big boys, but actually obliterates the big boys in terms of being able to do ANYTHING you want it to do in a 60MB footprint is an insane concept. Rock solid. The only time Reaper ever crashes is when a plug-in crashes, and Reaper is 100x better about averting a plug-in crash than ProTools. The responsiveness is unparalleled. Again, the program itself opens in less than 2 seconds. If I have twelve projects opened to start, the plug-ins take all the time to load. The fact that I can have twenty projects opened at once, with hundreds of tracks and plug-ins loaded in EACH project is a testament to its stability. Try doing that in any other DAW, with a lag of only 2 to 5 seconds switching between projects. Routing abilities is almost infinite, controlling automation with everything from MIDI, to OSC, to audio side-channeling is incredibly powerful and a cinch to set up. While the simplicity of the program does make some actions seem less than intuitive, relying on action commands, scripts, or even programmable macros, the free instruction manual is a power guide at almost 500 pages, and the community is AMAZING in their willingness to help answer any question. You do not just buy a DAW with REAPER, you join a new paradigm in community support. Every update in the 5.xx series has been chock full of advanced features, now bringing video sync, notation editor in the MIDI functions, spectral graphing, web-controlled interfaces for live-settings or remote recording (from your phone!). All the meanwhile, staying at around 60MB fully installed.
CONS - there are a few DigiDesign hardware incompatibilities with REAPER. There are a few older consoles and PCI boards that AVID just won't allow compatibility for anything other than ProTools. This is not the fault of REAPER in any manner, but it is something to investigate. Luckily, you can evaluate REAPER with full functionality for 30 days to see if any errors pop up. The MIDI editing is not as geared towards loop production as Ableton Live or FL Studios, but if that is the main purpose of your DAW needs, there are already three or four programs out there designed specifically for that function. I have rewired FL Studio through REAPER, and have done loop production that way, choosing to bounce the finished product back in to REAPER. There are third-party extensions to give REAPER these abilities natively as well. Other than these two major concerns, if they are applicable to your situation, just about any other drawback can be worked around, and the pros far outweigh the few limitations.
Review by Marc DeGiovanni
May 26, 2018 Version: 5.90
OS: Windows 8 64-bit Ease of use: 10/10
Value for money: 10/10