In DAWs, there are the familiar names – MOTU DP, Pro Tools, SONAR, Ableton Live, Cubase, Apple Logic. All have functionality to recommend them – hence their longevity. But then, there’s one upstart that continues to win over fans: Reaper. Its developers actually advertise that its upgrades are evolutionary, not revolutionary – which may come as a comfort to pro users easily jangled by radical UI changes.

But evolutionary as it may be, Reaper 4 has some highlights I think could significantly broaden its appeal. The changelog is utterly, terrifyingly long, so let me pull out some of the big points. (See also the preview we ran in December.)

A new, customizable user interface. Various DAWs keep trying this, but Reaper has a nice take: easily drag and float or dock windows and toolbars, then customize navigating them with mouse modifiers. There’s also the ability to make your own layouts.

Multichannel and surround. Multichannel track metering, plus a 3D panning ReaSurround plug-in with “rotations, transformations, and diffusions,” make this a serious offering for people working with multichannel diffusions. (Incidentally, that appears to look nice enough for people doing configurations other than conventional surround, too.)

Improved STEREOPHONIC SOUND. Okay, so you’re not quite ready for this 3D speaker diffusion surround business? There’s still some goodness for you. Track pan improvements give you additional control over stereo width – and you can even set stereo width to envelopes for some serious headphone ear candy. You can also set track pan to one of several modes: “balance, stereo pan (L/R + width), dual pan, and classic (3.x) balance.”

Batch capabilities. New batch conversion and rendering options let you easily send batches to folders and files, and use customizable wildcards for more control. You can also save render presets. Translation: people working on complex projects like games are going to love this. (I wonder if the collaboration with Rock Band developer Harmonix might bear fruit here.)

A Project Bay collects media and effects and lets you organize lists of assets for different projects. The Project Bay also manages comps directly – usually comps, multiple takes, are handled only within tracks; seeing them in project management is an interesting new idea. These things you really have to try out in practice over some big projects, but I’m encouraged by the addition.

MIDI musical manipulation: Interestingly, the project management magic also includes the ability to pool and edit and share MIDI data, which is something I’ve never seen before. I imagine you could develop some elaborate compositional workflow based on this, with patterns you modify all at once for … generative techno? Micro-edited ambient? You figure it out! There are also new MIDI constrain features that let you create MIDI patterns based on chords or scales. For the first time, Reaper is looking like a contender as a tool for imagining new musical ideas with MIDI.

Envelope editing lets you customize envelope segments with the mouse. New pitch shift envelopes let you mangle and modify the pitch of sounds.

Did we mention that Reaper costs as little as US$60 for a non-commercial license, and with that or the $225 license, you get upgrades through Reaper 5.99? Mac + Windows (+ Linux, via WINE).

Check out the full, new feature set:
Reaper 4 Changelog
Version 4.0 discussion at the forums
http://reaper.fm/

Thanks to Jeffrey James and everyone who sent this in!

  • http://s.hryx.net/ Stevie

    Tiny bonus footnote: In addition to OSX/Windows, Reaper is advertised as working on WINE for Linux users (like me). Although I haven't tried version 4 yet, past versions have worked seamlessly under WINE.

  • Peter Kirn

    Eagle-eyed viewers will notice I inserted the WINE keyword. ;) I should actually add that to the body. I've also had really good luck with it. I don't know of any change that should impact this version.

    That said, I'd love to see a native Linux version, as we have with Renoise, for instance.

  • metasymbol

    Heyhi,

    I was the man who spreaded the "word" of WineAsio and Reaper via my old jacklab project. It is gone, but Reaper still there!

    "That said, I’d love to see a native Linux version, as we have with Renoise, for instance."

    Do you speak german?

    http://www.audio4linux.de/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6

    Just follow the link and be happy…

  • http://noisepages.com/members/dmlandrum/ Darren Landrum

    The pitch envelopes are a big deal for me, and will change the way I put a lot of my tracks together. My production style centers around assemblage and (sometimes massive) manipulation of clips. It's funny, because I've been using the v4 betas for sometime, and didn't know until just now that this feature was in there.

  • metasymbol

    PS

    I found the Linux prerelease discussion in the Reaper Forum: http://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=82910

  • http://www.papernoise.net Papernoise

    I've been following the evolution of Reaper 4 since the first alpha builds and I must say that they really have put some serious effort into this. The best thing is, the whole development was carried out while listening to the users, on a continuous base! That's one of the best things in Reaper… of course if you need a DAW that can do live tricks, Reaper might not be the right alternative, but if you're more the Logic, Cubase or Sonar kind of user… I think Reaper really is an interesting altenative, for a fraction of the cost you get a tool that is really capable!

  • http://www.ebenestudio.com lematt

    pitch envelopes are AWESOME.

  • http://soundcloud.com/freesoulsound Gerren B

    Reminds me of my old favorite. Cool edit pro v2.1 before adobe bought them out. 

    I just tried to open it up the other day and it looks like adobe didn't like my "licensing" so it now won't work…..shucks. Fun while it lasted. 

    Ps me and the 100,000 other 'marco harmiers' of the world our out of business:(

  • Markus Schroeder

    I finally bought Reaper 3.6 around last December. Since then I am transitioning more and more from ProTools. Live was never an option.

    4 now really came out of the blue as a nice suprise. Will take it to testdrive later.

    I am still a bit at odd with Reaper, since PT handles some things more elegantly. But these things fade away slowly.

  • http://n/a Melvin J.

    I use Reaper live all the time to play backing tracks and then input monitor my guitar with effects on another track. the input monitoring is so darn effective, it's really up to your machine and interface as to how low you can get your latency down to. I'm using a late 2009 I7 920 based PC with a 6-7 year old EMU 1820M and can get pretty low latency (~6-7ms).

    REAPER is also my favorite studio DAW too. The takes and comping functions are so much better now. I could gush forever about REAPER!

  • Buttworms

    Am I alone in absolutely hating customizeable interfaces?  I don't want to be a UX designer, I don't want to solve problems, I want to use the goddamn software.

    It's absurd that in 2011 I'm finally going off about how great Ableton Live apparently is.  I just want everything locked down like that.  Just give me a designated area to do a designated thing and make sure I can't mess everything up by dragging something into a stupid place.

  • Peter Kirn

    @Buttworms: I think you can also leave it be and just use it as-is. And no, I don't think you're alone. But I get the sense the UI is just as usable with the defaults for those wanting to spend time on, like, music.

  • Buttworms

    Yeah I'll definitely be giving this a try, what I mean is that when developers list customizeable features I think they should also mention "And we even got a button that doesn't let you do shit!"

    Although I love Zynewave Podium I still don't use it because it lets you drag anything anywhere and create 4 mixers while replacing your sequencing screen with a single fader that spans 3 monitors. I don't think I need that much freedom, I've only made like 2 tracks in 4 years, just give me less to think about.

  • http://jeffreyjamesmusic.com jeffrey

    ohhhh, clicking my name actually takes you somewhere now. it was broken. I fixed it. yay websites! 

    and double yay reaper 4.0!!!!

  • http://audiovoid.net lindsey g

    I love reaper. One thing that always annoyed me about previous versions was that you had to right click + drag just to make a marquee selection. Well now at least there's a new option in preferences to make Left click + Drag do the same thing. In other words Now you can make it behave like literally Every other program out there (to an extent, anyways).

  • strunkdts

    REAPER will one day rule them all.

    This is a superb release. 

    And cheers to you Peter. It was when you broke news of v3 a year or two ago I jumped on board. Best bit of press/review/news I ever read. REAPER has completely changed my style for the better. Such an awesome DAW.

  • http://robinparmar.com robin

    Also… Samplitude.

  • http://www.document02.com document 02

    Good news….

    I've been testing it for a while and following the dev, this is just perfect.

  • http://no.com Tom

    REAPER is so much more efficient that Live (my other DAW). In REAPER I can run several huge Kontakt instruments and still track with minimal latency. For me REAPER doesn't replace Live, but it certainly replaces Logic.

  • http://Www.nk-e.com nk:e

    For those trying to make the jump (self included), there is a real time investment required. It DOES do a few basic things differently. The more comfortable you are with integrating keyboard shortcuts into your workflow, the better off you will be. FWIW I found the tutorials at Groove3 really helpful. Also, check out some of the UIs offered in the user forums. RADO v4the bone of the best DAW interfaces I have ever used. 

  • http://Www.nk-e.com nk:e

    "the bone of the best interfaces I have ever used"? should say

    …it is ONE of the best interfaces I have ever used.

    Damn iPad spell guesser!!!

  • http://regend.com Regend

    There is a feature in Reaper that I really like. It's the feature that turns on and turns off VST's right under the M,S buttons. When I'm doing a mixdown of a track I click on those buttons endlessly as if I'm performing and I generating remixes so no two mix downs are ever a like. I know other DAWS can do it but Reaper does it effortlessly on one of the slowest laptops I have and have never had the laptop or hard drive hiccup when performing these mix downs in realtime.

  • Dasombre

    the same as strunkdts said above for me. Noticed Reaper 3 because of CDM (thanks Peter!), started mixing in it. Since R4alpha40 I made it my main DAW and now I don't wanna be without it. Definetely the best DAW around till Reaper 5 comes out ;-)

  • http://www.inoutfest.org Flplsx

    Reaper does involve a good time investment to really get the most out of it. The default settings are kind of weird sometimes, like scrolling on a macbook pro (two fingers zoom vertically and scroll horizontally but in reverse, bizarre).

    First impressions are huge, especially when trying to get users coming from a different DAW. So while Reaper can behave however you'd like, the default settings should be immediately familiar.

    Another awkward thing is when loading a plug-in, one has to open the FX dialog, then open the load plugin dialog, then find the plugin. Too many steps. I know that it's configurable, but the average user isn't going to know how to do that.

    I really hope v5 will be a cleansing release, where everything gets streamlined. I love Reaper, but until this is done, I can't really recommend it to anyone except power users.

  • http://no.com Tom

    @Flplsx

    certainly plenty of rough edges to sort out in future releases … The FX dialog is one of them.

    But as with most things in REAPER, you can configure it to work as you wish. I save a Track Template and/or FX chains for each VST and load them by right cicking on the FX button.

    Or you can keep the FX browser window open and docked, and drag and drop VSTs onto tracks.

    Guess you know this, but I just wanted to show the uninitiated that there is usually a way to customize REAPER to your requirements.

  • MegaTonne

    enjoy the honeymoon fellas

    they're working hard to make it the bomb-diggy with the sole intention of selling it off when the time is right, and then it's gonna turn to shit.

    you heard it here first!

  • s ford

    does reaper have a freeze function yet? 

  • mediawest

    as someone who has used everything out there, and protools since it was in beta, i can tell you reaper is amazing, especially for the price. if you need a basic nuts and bolts daw, this is it. and from what i see in v4, wow…..

    too bad every friggin studio and post house is avid controlled………… yeah when i have to do large scale sessions, with many inputs and plugs, pt tdm rules. but for 90% of my pro work, reaper would suffice easily….. and i love the pitch and 3d stuff………….. 60 bucks? amazing…

    now how bout a reaper ipad app?

    cockos rules. and i just like saying cockos…

  • MegaTonne

    mediawest

    as a pro, and for your pro work, you should be using the commercial license. and that aint no $60.

    fool, act like you know!

  • mediawest

    $60 for amateurs like you, i get the shit for free, as we beta test for all companies. fool.

  • luigi

    flawless midi sync on winxp without having to spend hours on tweaking the OS…and I mean sync out to external equipment… Impossible to do that with Ableton Live and this is a huge selling point for me.

  • luigi

    edit:

    sync out is not as tight as it seemed to be at first, is better than Live tho… Is it still a wonderful piece of software and I don't think is it possible to find anything as good as that for the price.