Mon, 19 Apr 2010 Reaper 3 review
A fully featured digital audio workstation for a third of the price of other commercial offerings
Hang on a second, we need to take a breather. We review all kinds of software at Macworld, and this section usually focuses on small and useful applications. Well, in this case we’re looking at a truly sprawling tool – a full digital audio workstation – for just $60. That’s about £40.
Sure, Mac users are spoiled with GarageBand – a slick and easy-to-use multitracker that comes bundled with iLife for £71. But this isn’t GarageBand: it’s a music-making tool for grown-ups. The best points of comparison are nowhere near the same price range. We’re thinking about Logic and Cubase Studio, programs that cost at least three times as much.
So what does Reaper offer? Pretty much the works. It’s a multitrack project studio system, with digital audio recording, MIDI input and VST plug-in support, including effects and virtual instruments. The music you create is arranged traditionally in multiple tracks. What isn’t traditional is that Reaper doesn’t make a distinction between different types of track. You can do the same with a MIDI track as you can with a digital audio track.
There’s a lot of intuitive, drag-and-drop functionality too. For example, it’s traditional to send multiple audio outputs through single tracks called busses. You might want a stereo mix of a drum track or to give all vocal lines the same set of effects. In Reaper, you just drag and drop those tracks to the designated bus. Job done.
And we haven’t even covered audio mixing, for which you use a familiar channel-mixing tool in an interface that can be skinned from top to toe.