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DAW Production Technology

8 benefits of switching DAW: from Logic to Pro Tools to REAPER (Part 3)

How REAPER improved my music workflow, part 3: open architecture & development cycle, efficiency.

In part 1 & part 2 I discussed:

  1. Cost
  2. Multi-platform
  3. A different workflow
  4. Customization
  5. Community
  6. Stock plug-ins

Benefit 7: Open architecture & development cycle

Dan Worrall’s series also confirmed the agile way the software is maintained, with maximum attention to its community.

In a video about ReaComp (stock compressor plug-in), he pointed out a slight defect in the range of a slider. This is what happened, just a week later:

REAPER compressor received a prompt update after a defect was pointed out on YouTube
REAPER compressor received a prompt update after a minor defect was pointed out on YouTube

Updates and fixes are relased regularly. This allowed me to safely upgrade my MacBook Pro to macOS 11.2 Big Sur, without worrying about compatibility: all my third-party plug-ins and audio interface drivers were already supported for some time.

Benefit 8: Efficiency

The last point would need a whole other slew of posts to be properly explained. I’m going to make a simple list of the main aspects, explaining the major improvements that REAPER brought to my personal workflow:

  • SPEED
    The newest version opens in about 4.5 seconds on my 6-year-old machine. Rendering, editing and pretty much everything I do in REAPER is lightning fast.
  • LIGHT
    The single executable .app on macOS is 130 megabytes. Logic is 2 gigabytes, while Pro Tools is around 3.5 gigabytes.
  • SUB-PROJECTS
    A project can include entire other projects, allowing to divide big sessions in chunks.
  • RENDER MATRIX
    Add many regions to a render queue, which can be taken care of later. Also: render presets, great for exporting mono/stereo versions.
  • POWERFUL BATCH EDITOR
    Together with the previous two points, it adds to the reasons why REAPER is the go-to DAW for game sound designers.
  • SNAPSHOTS
    Save different mix versions and recall each one with the stroke of a key.
  • REGION-BASED NON-DESTRUCTIVE FX PROCESSING
    In addition to the “normal” track-based one.
  • RECORD FX ON THE WAY IN
    This feature translates to an early commit to a sound, if someone wishes so.
  • TABBED SESSIONS
    Open multiple full-on sessions, each in its tab, and switch back and forth. Copy and paste regions, tracks and more from one to another.
  • QUICK BUILT-IN EDITS
    Reverse, normalize, loudness normalize, you name it.
  • ACTIONS LIST
    Open it with a keystroke, filter all the actions by typing in the search box and find anything in seconds. The list includes Cockos’ own scripts, third-party add-ons and all the personal custom-created ones.
  • MARKERS AND REGIONS
    Jump to sections, move entire blocks around, make selections, split, loop certain areas, export and render. Super flexible and powerful.
  • AUTOMATIC COLORS
    It might sound minor, however to me this is a godsend. I always color-code everything: tracks, items, markers and regions. I used to do the same in Logic and Pro Tools, but in REAPER it’s a different world. An SWS extension allows to set rules for automatic color-coding of everything, based on several patterns. Now, whenever I name a track with a specific pattern, the track (and its items) get the color I want. Same for markers and regions. Huge timesaver.
  • METADATA
    Integrated support for writing and reading advanced metadata. Also useful when it comes to importing markers from other sessions or from other DAWs.
  • DOCKING
    Pretty much every single window in REAPER can be docked. The position on the screen can be customized too. Coupled with the amazing screenset functionality, this allows the software to morph into whatever is the best interface for the task.

Conclusions

Working with others

Switching DAW is a dreadful task for many. If you work within a team of people where the flow is based on Pro Tools, that’s something to consider. I’m flexible on this topic, and love to learn and improve my skill set.

I currently work by myself, and a majority of my current collaborators uses Logic. Nonetheless, I managed to get a relatively old and cheap Pro Tools 12.5, which I had to install on Windows 10, as that version isn’t supported after macOS High Sierra.

I decided to keep it for session legacy and compatibility with clients.

My current setup

I currently use REAPER for almost everything:

  • writing music
  • producing
  • editing audio
  • batch processing
  • mixing
  • stem rendering
  • pre-mastering

It’s an unbelieavably powerful, fast and flexible piece of software, I regret not having tried it sooner.

Bonus: other software

As mentioned, I have an old Pro Tools for legacy and compatibility. I still fire up Logic for its virtual instruments, especially for pure sound design. I do plan to try REAPER and Logic in sync: if the ventilation system of my machine doesn’t catch fire, I’d like to have the possibility.

For anything related to restoration, advanced audio editing and clean-up, iZotope RX is my go-to. I also set it to be my default external editor: right-click on an audio region > edit in external editor > fix it in RX > save it and go back to REAPER > done.

For the final stage of mastering, CD building and DDP, I’ve been using iZotope Ozone Advanced and a software called Triumph, recently acquired by Zynaptic. I also own DSP-Quattro v5 for the same task.

I also own a useful utility called Stereo Monoizer, which allows to perform super quick checks on stems sent by clients. The software tells if stereo tracks are actually mono, and converts them. A real timesaver.

Of all my audio software, only Triumph and DSP-Quattro are macOS-exclusive.

Thanks for reading.

I leave you with a video by American composer, producer and sound designer Nick Peck, who explains in 18 minutes his 11 reasons to switch from Pro Tools to REAPER:

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