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Reaper Review: A Collaborative Option for Recording & Editing Podcasts

Reaper is one of the many options available to you for recording and editing your podcast. But is it the right one?

We've been keen to get a Reaper review on the site for some time now. And as it happens, our go-to production guy Matthew Boudreau is a recent convert to the DAW (that means Digital Audio Workstation, by the way) so we thought we'd ask him to give us the lowdown.

Reaper is a piece of audio production software that you can use to record and edit your podcast. It's an alternative option to other programs such as Audacity and Adobe Audition, and ‘podcast maker' apps such as Alitu.

So is Reaper a good fit for you and your own podcast? Read on and find out.

Home Recording – The Early Years

Over the past several years as an audio professional, I have worked with a lot of multitrack recording systems and DAWs.  My first recording system was a boom box with a dual-cassette player and a microphone input.

I would record a track to one tape and then basically duplicate the tape while recording another track over it.  The loss of audio quality was horrific. And the results were often lacking in flavor and texture, as I had no effects aside from the compressor pedal from my bass, and the spring reverb from my brother’s guitar amp.

In my twenties I graduated up to a four-track recorder and some midi software on my 486 PC.  It was a vast improvement. But we still had to record vocals in my bathroom to get good verb.  And the MIDI instrumentation sounded like… well, MIDI instruments. There was no way that they would pass for the real thing.

Home Recording – Today

By comparison, the DAWs and plugins of today feel virtually unlimited.  The only limitations are your computer’s processing ability and the availability of a good quiet space to record in.

I’ve worked in a number of DAWs over the years.  Voyetra’s Digital Orchestrator Pro was my first. Then Cakewalk.  Then Cool Edit Pro all the way up until it was Audition CS6. In college and in the studio world, I work in Pro Tools.  But at home, when I design and edit, I work almost exclusively in Reaper.

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My Introduction to Reaper

I first started working in Reaper for an annual horror podcast series I produce called 11th Hour Audio Productions.  We enlist folks internationally to collaborate on horror audio dramas that are recorded and post-produced in the month of October over the course of 28 days.

The first year was just a group of us that got together and recorded in Lowell Massachusetts.  I was sound designing and Eli McIlveen of Alba Salix was doing the dialogue editing. In order to work together remotely, we wanted to use a DAW where it was easy to share project files.  

Eli works on Mac.  I work on PC. So the DAW also had to work well cross-platform. Eli works in Reaper.  At the time I worked in Pro Tools and Audition.

Reaper Interface

Price

Pro Tools is costly and at the time, required you to have proprietary equipment and an iLok to run.  Audition set me back $330 and has terrible MIDI implementation, which I use for some of my SFX process.

By comparison, Reaper had an unlimited trial period, costs $60 to register and has full MIDI sequencing.  

So, I decided to challenge myself by giving Reaper a try.  If I didn’t like it, I could always go back to a prior DAW or find something better.

I had one week to edit a half-hour audio piece, Vultures over Low Doves.

What's So Good About Reaper?

The first day was slow but eye-opening:  I had before me a suite that made designing feel like designing again – an artistic process, rather than a technical one.  

Despite the learning curve, I was still able to flow and work within Reaper, and it required almost none of the special tweaking I have to do to get Audition or Pro Tools running smoothly.

All total, it probably took me about 45 minutes to get my computer setup into a reasonably workable configuration and start designing.  That said, Reaper also incorporates a lot of new functionality that I will definitely be implementing.

Probably my favorite feature is the folders.  Both Pro Tools and Audition have grouping functions, but nothing like this.  Reaper allows me to configure groups of people, settings and grouped builds under a master folder that acts as a bus for all of its subfolders.   This is incredibly useful, if like me, you tend to build your designs into a space.

“It can run on a potato”

Another super easily accessible feature of Reaper is the ability to render audio quickly on the fly.  This takes a lot of power off of the processor, which means I can use all the plugins I need to without burning out all my available processing.

Now, I use Reaper for everything. The ripple edit function makes it incredibly simple to edit interviews, dialogues, and host wrap-arounds quickly and efficiently.  

The DAW is configurable, skinnable, expandable. It works of Mac and PC and even Linux. Compared to Pro Tools, it is far less resource intensive but will all of the tools, flexibility, and power you need to get editing done.

Reaper is mythologized to be able to run on a potato.  And indeed, I have had Reaper running on an old Windows XP mini-laptop and a ten-year-old Linux box in addition to my regular studio PC.

Reaper comes with an outstanding suite of plugins, including compressors, noise reduction, and a very flexible convolution reverb.  With the SWS/S&M Tools extension, Reaper is capable of automated track coloring, loudness, and so much more.

Reaper Review: The Verdict

ProsCons
Super stable/runs on anythingNot typically used in professional studios
Incredibly small programNot free
Inexpensive $60 priceNoise reduction plugin (ReaFir) is a bit lacking
Unlimited trial period
An excellent suite of plugins
Compatible with VST, AU and JS plugins

I don't see a lot of faults with Reaper. It's inexpensive and if you’re new to DAWs or are just looking to find a new DAW with flexibility and stability, you’d be hard-pressed to beat Reaper.  And it’s $60 price point makes it a super-affordable investment. I highly recommend giving it a try.

Next Steps

  • If this Reaper review won you over to using it for your own podcast, you can sign up for a free trial.
  • If you're still keen to explore other options, check out our Podcast Software Guide.
  • And if you'd like direct access to Matt and the rest of the team here at The Podcast Host, then check out our Academy. There, you can attend live Q&A sessions, get help and advice in our community forums, and take our courses on everything from equipment and editing, to promotion and monetization.

Discussion:

2 Comments

  1. Randal Silvey on 19th June 2019 at 4:59 pm

    Just wanted to add a major pro about REAPER. I edit podcasts in a professional capacity and the key highlight to Reaper for me has been the extensive customization capabilities. Primarily in the way of hotkeys, actions, and macros. Huge time saver if you edit a lot. I’ve got nearly all common edit actions assigned to single button press hotkeys. Even complex actions.

    For example, I edit with Ripple Edit on all the time. Sometimes I need to cut a section of one track without the Ripple Edit kicking in, though. I’ve been able to set up a conditional macro using if/then logic that will automatically turn Ripple Edit off it is on, cut the highlighted audio, and turn Ripple Edit back on. One key press. This is natively supported by Reaper. So many potential key presses all condensed down to one has saved SO much time for me.

    Added tip… I’ve set it so a right button click and drag will highlight sections. Bought a gaming mouse with programmable buttons on the side, each set to my most commonly used editing actions. I rarely need to touch the keyboard while editing now.

    • Lindsay Harris Friel on 20th June 2019 at 3:24 am

      Your tip about the gaming mouse is really helpful. Thank you for mentioning it!

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Written by:

Matthew Boudreau

Podcast Editor and Sound Designer from Buffalo, NY. Works with The Once and Future Nerd, Wordtastic, The Activist Files, 11th Hour Audio Productions. His audio post-production credits include The X-Files: Cold Cases, Joe Hill’s Locke and Key. Matthew currently runs UberDuo.com, where he edits podcasts, sound designs, and records professional sound effects for film, games and audio drama.

June 14th 2019