Cockos’ REAPER, the lightweight audio and MIDI multitrack editor from the creator of Winamp, is coming to (Intel/PPC) Mac, too. There’s a full discussion of the update on the REAPER forum. It’s an “alpha” build, but comes as a surprise: REAPER may have a lot more appeal as the “standard” lightweight host as a cross-platform app. Finished version is due “Q4” of this year.

REAPER has been getting endless updates of other kinds, as well, including this new “Stealth” color scheme which looks suspiciously like SONAR to me. (Sorry to be harsh, but it was fugly before. If it’s SONAR-y now, that’s a huge improvement.) If you want to try it, it’s downloadable as “uncrippled unexpiring shareware.” Remember when most shareware worked that way? That’s a retro trend I could get behind.


Rather than praise or criticize REAPER, what I’d really like to know is, are any readers using it? What do you think so far?

  • I didn't know they'd added MIDI support. I may have to look at it again, now.

  • Apparently they not only added midi, but they gave you the ability to record the midi output of their included gate plugin. So both virtual and real midi recording apparently work in Reaper.

  • Yeah, seems short of being a full sequencer yet, but perhaps that's coming. There's the age-old challenge of just how lightweight you keep it, and what the balance is, but I would like to see real MIDI support. I still can't see a need for this in my own work, but that's not any kind of judgment on the merits of the software itself. And after years of clones of the same thing and endless updates to the same few giants, it's always great to see someone taking a different approach.

  • seismo

    Reaper is fully skinnable.. so to say it's "fugly" or that it "looks like Sonar" isn't completely fair. Unfortunately, of the slew of skins that come with the Reaper installation, precious few are actually "nice" and none feel 100% pro.

    However, at this point I think Reaper holds its own vs the big boys in terms of functionality. I've used it a handful of times in the last few months, and would choose it over Cubase, Sonar, et al. It's got immediacy without feeling like Tracktion, which I just can't get comfy with.

    Right now, though, Live6 is handling everything I throw at it.

  • Sorry, I should have emphasized the skinable point. But isn't this one of the default skins, or is a third-party skin? (If you have one you like, do let us know.)

  • The MIDI editing feels incomplete, compared to the audio recording side of the app, but Reaper's a strong DAW at any price, and I swear there's a new version to download every day.

    I don't think I've seen a recording app {and developer} this "agile" and so obviously getting it all right since Live.

    I never found it all that fugly, though. Probably because I spend more time looking at synths than the monitor.

  • seismo

    I like the "akoustic" set of color themes the best.

    I think Reaper (which, as Niall said, is strong in the audio department) plus an app like energyXT (to round out the midi side of things) would be a totally killer combo. And that would cost.. what.. $100 to register both? Nice.

  • i run a lean ship.

    i keep a limited set of tools/plugins/sequencers/etc.

    i prefer tools that aren't drooling, lumbering giants

    ones that let me get in and get out like,…



    reaper is one of those tools of the ninja variety

    i used it to polish rendered multi-tracks for my last record

    … hooked up to my tablet [tablet2midi ftw!]

    with my mixer hack…

    its a stable work horse

    a swiss army knife

    a semi-transparent shuriken

    a katana made from the finest of sharewares


    its 90% fugly

    most of the skins are *blech*

    maybe we could get some of the CDMers to take a crack at designing and building out an unfugly skin for it…

  • REAPER is the best sequencer I've ever used, hands down. And, some people say, intimately inspired by Ardour….


  • You know…the first time I heard about Reaper, it sounded like yet another cheap, barely-functional DAW that wouldn't be able to hold a candle to Sonar or even Audacity (which I regard as one of THE worst pieces of software ever written)–but now that I've taken a look at its features, it seems like it could very well be an impressive little device! I just downloaded it and will be beating on it pretty hard for the next few days. 🙂

  • bliss

    Cool! Didn't know it was being developed for Mac. Definitely will give it a workout.

    Peter, your on a roll this week! 🙂

  • bliss

    Oops, pardon my misuse of the word "your". Should have been "you're". I'm definitely not on a roll in the comments section these past couple of days. lol

  • Rick Christy made a cool skin for REAPER.

    Check it here.

    He's probably going to do a more pro looking one as well.

  • EJ

    I frequently turn to REAPER over much more expensive software that I own (Sonar 6 and Live 6, for example), especially for audio-centric stuff. I think that the project navigation (thanks to the contextual scrollwheel behaviour and the brilliant "follow" behaviour during playback) and recording workflow are as good as anything out there.

    The big advantage over Sonar, which I've used loyally for years, is the far smoother audio engine. When I was recording other people with Sonar, I'd find that musicians would be inherently unconfident in the whole process because small operations like enabling the metronome cause huge gaps in the engine; also, with Sonar you have to stop playback every time you want to enable recording on a track or edit most options, which can be a serious interruption when you're trying to record a jam!

    I'm really not interested in the tit-for-tat of the host wars, but the fact that I actually impress other musicians when I record with REAPER rather than dealing with technical headaches is for me a much more important "feature" than anything REAPER lacks at this point.

  • Tom

    I've been using Reaper for a couple of months now – my PC imploded and I wanted to keep things light. I don't like doing much on the PC, so I wanted something which could record audio and sync with the MPC, which I use as the main sequencer.

    I've really enjoyed it – it's very simple, but it seems robust enough. Very quick to work with as a multitrack. There are interesting included effects, and it loads Audio Damage plugs OK.

    It starts quickly, it works properly, it's cheap. Pretty much everything Cubase isn't.

    Of course, you don't get the instant gratification you get from Ableton, but I find Ableton such an endless tweak/fiddle/tweak/fiddle tool, I wanted something a bit more linear.

    Fugly? Software is all ugly – either brushed grey apple designed up the wazzoo ugly or 'coded by russian schoolchildren' ugly. Until Audio Damage create a fully cell shaded DAW, it's all just software – that's why I try to avoid looking at it any more than I have to…

  • Some have pointed out that it is because it is so early in the development process that so many new features are added, without hiccups, at this stage. To say its features are on par with Cubase is freaking ridiculous. Maybe for a lot of people they don't need the extra stuff in Cubase but there's just no comparison to be made.

  • @loops: Thanks for those Rick Christy schemes — now that's more like it!

    I'm not looking for aesthetic perfection; the default skins of REAPER were roundly criticized not only by me but several others here. It doesn't have to be pretty, but it does have to be easy on the eyes, and good design can make things clearer on the screen. This looks like good stuff; reminds me of some of the plasq work.

    It'll be interesting to see if REAPER can be as successful with MIDI as it has with audio. Thanks for the feedback, everyone!

  • Lets be fair now, plenty of us like the looks, I'm partial to Youn's API theme, looks AWESOME

    Also, my customers could care less what kind of drawing is on my screen, only that I get their album done.

    Andrew Swihart, honestly, if Cubase were capable of working in the style of REAPER, do you think the developer would have created REAPER? I can tell you, no way! In fact the apps the developer liked are also at the same price point or more than cubase, but money isnt the issue, functionality is. REAPER is designed by/in consultation with – REAL audio engineers

    not marketing engineers. When you see what has been missing or broken from most apps over more than TEN YEARS, yet in and correct from the start in REAPER, you can begin to appreciate this fact

  • bliss

    Looks aside. The major thing I have problems with are the naming schemes of some of these apps. REAPER, Lucifer, etc. Who wants to have these names buzzing around in their heads all day? I know I don't. There's real subconscious association going on when you use names that have been assigned to certain things. That's why no one in their right mind would name a child REAPER, Lucifer, or Jesus Christ. Well, GG Allin was born Jesus Christ Allin, and his story is not exactly heartwarming. Anyway, I'm sure Carl Jung would advise against applying certain names that function as symbols of evil or dark ancient archetypes to things that are meant to be beneficial. For instance, I'm could be in my bed at night thinking about making music, and over and over in my head I'm saying things like, "Lucifer, Lucifer… REAPER, REAPER… Lucifer on hi-hats, REAPER to mix Gospel tracks!" Okay, okay, maybe it's all tongue-in-cheek. Ha Ha Ha, I get it. But how many people could be using this software if only the names were different. I'm pretty sure there are folks who don't find it amusing––they don't want their music to have anything to do with death or the devil. If you say those names enough times to yourself it starts to sound like a chant. You have a client that turns out to be a Christian fundamentalist and you're sitting there bragging about how Lucifer has changed your life and improved your workflow! Whether real or imagined, do you really want to be calling upon dark forces without intending to? It's a stretch but one worth considering, I think. 🙂

  • It's a funny name, I love the points you made, Bliss, very funny.

    pipelineaudio – I agree that the two are different. I think Reaper has a much better basic form of GUI compared to Cubase. It reminds me of Sony Acid 6 actually. I like the different panes, instead of the bazillion windows in Cubase. I also LOVE the tabs pane at the bottom where you can have your mixer and other things switched to the front in such an elegant way. Surely Cubase has a lot to learn from Reaper, but my point was that Cubase has a ton of advanced features that make it very appealing to use instead of Reaper, at least for me.

  • Reaper is great for audio. I've not really used the MIDI so can't comment.

    It has proper sidechaining and ludicrously flexible routing. I love it and I bought it. Uncrippled/unexpiring is how it should be.

  • si

    use it – bought it – can't say enough good things about it.

    used to be a cubase person but as of late cubase has become so bloated that it was stifling my creativity – searched for something lighter and comparable for a long time and i stopped looking after discovering reaper.

    if you haven't tried it do so – you'll more than likely throw your dongles in the trash.

  • Andrew Swihart, for sure Cubase is still kicking REAPER's but in the MIDI dept. Im just an audio guy. Cubase taking more than a decade to even realize monitoring might be an issue, more than a decade to realize sidechains and decent routing would be an issue and the need for multiple tools and a MUCH higher click count/keystroke count for the same functions as compared to acid and vegas all indicate to me that the focus of the app is not users like me.

    To call Acid/Vegas' GUI basic, when it can accomplish in one mouse tool, what cubase needs many to do says the opposite to me.

    There are few or no "advanced features" cubase has that I need that are not in REAPER. There are many "advanced features" I need that are not in cubase, such as the routing paradigm.

    REAPER is a TOTALLY different focus than cubase, though the lines are becoming more and more blurred

  • I was trying to say, "the essential design of the GUI", when I said "basic."

  • I too don't understand why Steinberg refuses to allow skinning, let alone any customization of the interface. No, I don't consider having a million windows positions all over the place as customization. The only reason I bought the Cubase 4 upgrade was for the improved GUI, but they could have done a lot more, IMO. I don't know why you think I'm bashing Reaper, I'm not!

  • "I don’t know why you think I’m bashing Reaper, I’m not!"

    Im not, just clarifying…did you see the api theme for reaper? I really love it! Theres lots more too, but like you say, the faders are still the same basic size and shape

  • I like a LOT of what he has done with icons and so on. But, I think it could really benefit a whole lot from taking advantage of some more shades other than black and midnight. It's like I'm looking into a pothole almost.

  • "I like a LOT of what he has done with icons and so on. But, I think it could really benefit a whole lot from taking advantage of some more shades other than black and midnight. It’s like I’m looking into a pothole almost."

    Be careful what you ask for LOL! Im a fan of BRIGHT colors…heres a screenie of my Neve 8128 theme

  • Mr.E

    The ability to skin colours and widgets certainly helps with the fugliness of this software, but IIRC you can't alter the fonts, which also aren't nice imho.

    Apart from the fonts, I find the whole interface looks too cluttered. There are more elegant ways of presenting everything in one screen, and Tracktion provides a much better attempt I think.

    Peter – did you know that the guy who coded Reaper is the same fellow who started the whole "Gnutella" filesharing revolution?

  • pipelineaudio

    You can choose whatever font you'd like. In fact you can use different fonts in different parts of the UI. Also you can choose color and size.

  • Marvin

    I think Reaper audio features are amazing for such a small app, but lacks many basic functionality yet, (eg, you cant use the mouse to change values like tempo,etc, and many more things like that), besides that, midi it's just almost a joke, and it seems it wont be a priority for its developers,

    maybe in 3 years could become a valid alternative to any of the establish DAWs,

    but right now it's not for me……

  • dana9

    i was so surprised just by the size of the download then the price, it has an intuitive learning curve, (something i miss ever since my MAC died and had to move to a windows system, i LOVED Logic), it has some features i was impressed with, example being able to route a soft synth to an audio track and record the out put (given it is a sort of track freeze that can be a pain, but then i like messing with audio tracks). it would be nice to see some future implementation, support for Acid loops, beat matching and of course track freeze (but as i said earlier there is a work around for that, the improved GUI and Skins is a nice addition, it used to be as fugly as an offspring of two very close cousins from the west Virgina hill tops, "like the movie "The Deliverance" fugly, i am keeping an eye out on this one, "much potential" as Yoda would say, it has features that make my work flow go smoothly and it doesn't tick me off as much as much Cubase or Sonar (god i hate Cubase, i wish Apple would have some heart and port Logic back to the PC platform), but then again i haven't really had the time i would like to emerse myself into it…

    wish there was a full manual along with the "basic Reaper user guide", but the half the fun of learning is exploring…


  • I've only been using it for mixing my band, but for that there is no competition on the PC. Was SO sick of Cubase's routing limitations, couldn't hack trying to mix in Ableton (wish they would sort it out cos I love that app), Reaper has totally solved my problems in this area.

    No way I'm gonna spend x amount to upgrade to Cubase 4 now, Reaper totally owns it for audio. MIDI side is limited but honestly, there are updates every day, I can't see it taking too long to get up to speed on this side.

  • John V

    For the record: REAPER is fully skinnable now… check this long thread at KVR about that

    And btw it took me one week to learn that this DAW is the BEST out there….