I was surprised to find that Cockos’ Reaper is actually an acronym. It stands for Rapid Environment for Audio Production, Engineering and Recording. People in the know refer to such a program as a DAW, for Digital Audio Workstation. Myself, I call it a recording program.
Can Reaper do everything that Cubase, Logic or Pro Tools can? Honestly, I don’t know. Without extensive fact-checking, I can only assume that you get what you pay for. But for my purposes, I don’t see what the big, established, big-name applications could offer that I don’t already get in Reaper. I repeat: for my purposes. The sounds I record are those coming from my guitar and bass, and the MIDI capability I use for drum programming. Sometimes, I add vocals to the former and keyboard sounds to the latter. Reaper is more than enough for this sort of thing. It does exactly what I need it to do. It doesn’t come stuffed to the brim with synthesizers, but you can find free VST plugins easily enough through a simple Google search. And the built-in effects were more than enough to enable me to produce an entire album of instrumental guitar rock.
The amazing part is that you get all of this in a sub-10-megabyte download, and with a post-installation footprint that doesn’t even top 50 megabytes. It is a fast, agile and mostly stable program, it has an uncluttered interface that even made it possible for someone like me to get going and produce a finished song in one evening. Reaper is updated frequently – it seems as if though there is an upgrade available just about every other time I use the software, and the upgrades always seem to address any issues I might have with stability and/or usability. The best part is that the non-professional license costs 60 dollars, allowing you to spend your recording budget on other things. But even the evaluation version is quite usable. All you get is a nag screen that counts down for five seconds, and there are no limitations to session time or save cycles.