Reaper DAW Review | Why I Love Reaper 5

Reaper DAW Review | Why I Love Reaper 5

Reaper DAW. Why this brilliant Digital Audio Workstation is my DAW of choice: –

First published on: July 21st 2016;

Last updated on: October 1st 2018.

What is Reaper?

The name comes from; Rapid Environment for Audio Production, Engineering, and Recording (REAPER).

“A computer-based application which offers advanced multi-track audio, MIDI and video recording environment in both 32-bit, and 64-bit download versions for Windows and OS X”.

Pricing and distribution is somewhat unusual, because it relies on the honesty of the user.

Is Reaper Free?

It’s your choice to buy a license, which I think is very generous because don’t most people love everything to be free these days?

Are there limitations with the demo version of reaper? With the exception of a short ‘countdown’ before the application starts up, there are none whatsoever.

A discounted Reaper DAW license key costs $60 (around £50 UK Sterling) if: –

  • REAPER is for your own individual personal use; Or
  • You are an individual or business using REAPER commercially, and yearly gross revenue does not exceed USD $20,000; Or
  • You are an educational resource or not-for-profit.

Does Reaper stop working after 60 days?

The reaper evaluation period expires after 60 days, but the application doesn’t stop working.

The license key gives access to a crazy feature rich DAW, with more than 300 FX plugins (‘ReaPlugs‘) and a dedicated development team for just £50! which is staggeringly good value for money.

Licensed by Cockos Incorporated Copyright © 2004-2018 (founded by Justin Frankel) and based in New York City | NY 10012

Why did you choose Reaper over other DAW’s?

  1. Because it’s affordable and easy to use;
  2. Open-source: Compatible with just about every available plug-in format;
  3. Support network: Tutorials, videos (watch and learn) and an on-line user forum.
  4. Layout: I’ve used cassette-based multi-track before, and this looks and feels familiar.
  5. Other musicians recommended Reaper to me.

Once I’d downloaded the software, and configured the ‘ASIO’ Driver on my interface, I recorded a track.

Then it was reasonably straight forward to add two or three overdubs on adjacent tracks.

Reaper | License :

Within a few months, I’d decided that Reaper was a keeper and I purchased a license for my own personal use.

I checked recently (October 2018) and I’ve had the license since July, 2013 which was way back when Reaper was at build version 4.4 ; And will still be valid through to version 6.99.

Here is a useful quick start guide and tutorial video to recording your first track by Kley De Jong

What do you like most about Reaper?

1. Logical layout, menus and drop downs

  • Everything is where it should be, so you can concentrate on the track.
  • You can use your own samples; sounds and effects, MIDI, time stretch and loop.
  • I still record almost everything Live into the Reaper, with Line level instruments and microphones.

2. Transport controls

The mixer section is designed to look and feel like you’re working an analogue console;

  • ‘FX’ button; changes to green when the chain is populated and red when disabled;
  • Track ‘Mute’ button changes to red when enabled;
  • Track ‘Solo’ button changes to yellow when enabled.

Reaper 5 DAW | Transport controls | Track and channel management

3. Built in effects plugins

300+ plugins are built into Reaper. The one’s that in my opinion work well are: –

  • ‘ReaEQ’; 11 band EQ with High and low-pass filtering;
  • ReaDelay; Very use-able pre-sets for vocal fattening and slap back;
  • ReaVerbate; Reverb: some decent pre-sets designed for use on Drums and cymbals;
  • ReaXcomp; A very musical multi-band compressor and EQ tool;

Reaper DAW auto-bridges 32-bit plug-ins within a 64-bit environment.

When using a 64-bit installation of Reaper, all 32-bit plug-ins will still work alongside 64-bit plug-ins.

Want to use some of the REAPER plugins, but haven’t made the switch from another host? you can download ReaPlugs, a package of effects which includes many of the plug-ins that come with REAPER DAW — for free!

Which plugins do you recommend to use with Reaper?

These are the VST plugins I recommend, with most of them free to download: –

  1. Tube Amp by Voxengo; Asymmetric tube overdrive emulation usually found in single-tube mic pre-amps.
  2. RescueMk2 by Variety Of Sound; Saturation. Adds harmonics for a ‘richer’, ‘warmer’ sound. The perceived volume is also raised as natural compression and limiting occurs.
  3. Baxter EQ by Variety Of Sound; I love this plugin! Mastering grade EQ with Mono/Stereo capability. It has a fantastic UI, great sounding and very musical pre-sets.
  4. OldSkoolVerb by Voxengo; Reverb which works well on individual tracks and in an overall mix.
  5. LoudMax; Brickwall Limiter and Maximizer to make the final Master sound louder.

Here is a useful youtube video guide to installing VST plugins in Reaper DAW by Kley De Jong

How has Reaper helped you get the most from recording?

Reaper DAW has allowed me to approach recording, mixing, and mastering as three very distinct processes:-

Recording; The focus is solely on capturing the best signal-to-noise ratio on a track without clipping, which is a no-no when tracking on digital. The number of effects to use is up to you.

Mixing; The is all about musicality. The balance between parts, EQ and everything EXCEPT overall volume.

There should be distinct high, mid-range, low-frequency material and dynamics to make the music move to the left, right, front, middle and rear;

At the mixing stage, remember that ‘mastered’ CD’s will generally sound much louder. And no limiting or normalization on the stereo Buss at mix-down. Don’t be tempted to ‘master a mix’.

Using filtering for a mix with more headroom:

It surprised me to learn that by removing frequencies, produced by some instruments at the recording stage, I could produce a mix which sounded punchier, and with a less cluttered, rumble free low end, with more headroom at the mastering stage!

I use the RBJ plugin High-pass (HPF) / Low-pass filter (LPF) by Stillwell on individual instruments and in my mixes, which is free and already installed in Reaper.

high-pass filtering: Instrument guide

Bass: Be careful how much low end you cut. I suggest setting the high pass filter at around 40 Hz.

If you have a sub-bass component for a dance music track, you must be very careful about what you attenuate. The last thing you want is a track with thin sounding bass!

Drums: On most of the kit you can set the filter between 100 and 140 Hz, with the exception of the floor tom and the kick. For those, I’d set the cut off at roughly 50 Hz and 30 to 45 Hz, respectively.

Guitar: In most cases, both electric and acoustic guitars can be trimmed quite a bit with the high-pass filter and still sound good. I start at about 100 Hz and sweep upwards.

If you’re working on a song where the guitar is the only instrument, then you will probably want to roll off less, because it needs to occupy the bass range too.

Piano: If the song has a lot of low bass notes, then keep the cut off in the 100 Hz range, but if it’s mostly right hand, you can come up as high as 250 Hz.

Similar to acoustic guitar, if the piano is the only instrument, then attenuation should be much more subtle.

Vocals: This will depend on a male or female voice, and how low the singer’s range is. I might suggest starting at 100 Hz for male vocals and 150 Hz for female.

Be careful not to thin the voice, or cut resonant lows that make a voice sound warm.

For other instruments, start at a cut off frequency below their range and sweep upwards until you get the results you need.

Mastering in Reaper DAW

Mastering; is not a dark art! At this stage, it’s a good idea to listen to some mastered CD’s, or commercial tracks in the same musical genre as your recorded track.

The idea is to compare overall levels to see how the track might stand up to competition in the real world. For convenience, I tend to A-B my tracks with audio available on-line, but much will depend on your mastering set up and how you work.

This is one example of an FX chain I’ve created to Master a track in Reaper:-

This is one example of an FX chain I use for Mastering my tracks using Reaper DAW: - * JS: Soft clipper/limiter; * Ozone Imager (stereo width); * ReaEQ (11-band EQ); * BLOCKFISH compressor; * VU Meter; * LoudMax (Limiter).

I start by passing the track through the JS: Soft Clipper (no boost) and set at -0.3 which is insurance against any residual stray peaks, left over from the mixing stage;

Then I introduce some stereo width with the Ozone Imager by iZotope (free download) ~ because mastering a track is not all about loudness! It’s about musicality too.

Next up is an 11-band EQ by Cockos called ‘ReaEQ’. I might make one or two cuts, particularly in the 1k range, and a boost at around 75 Hz for some punch on the low end.

The track then goes through a compressor by Blockfish (32-bit only) with 3:1 compression and the output? turned up!

I like to use an analogue VU meter, just to check the overall level, which should not go into the red. Your ears will help with this too.

Finally, I use a Limiter to drive the signal, and this always comes at the end of my mastering chain.

And that’s about it. Seriously. I don’t need any more than that, which may disappoint some? 

Rendering in Reaper DAW

Rendering; Reaper facilitates ‘joining’ the recording, mixing and mastering processes together with ‘Rendering’ (or ‘bounce’ down).

This sounds similar to ‘consolidating’ in the DAW, but you can still insert a rendered version into a new project:-

  1. Firstly, and before you get to the mastering stage; Render and save your ‘mix’ files as. i.e. project-name-Mix;
  2. Start a new project and save as i.e. project-name-Master;
  3. Import your mix file into a new track within your new Master project file;
  4. Produce a ‘louder’ Master version using plugins across the Master buss. Then render as i.e. project-name-Master;
  5. Render your ‘Master’ as any lossless format, WAV and/or MP3 (If you really have to);
  6. Or burn your Master file to CD by selecting “Audio CD Image (CUE/BIN)” as the output format;
  7. Select “Burn CD Image after render”;
  8. Alternatively, upload the Master file to a website for download.

In summary, I hope you learn to love Reaper as much as I do. Please check back for updates. | by Simon Edward | Updated: October 1st 2018.