Digital audio workstations (DAWs) have taken the music industry by storm in the transition from analog audio production to digital. They are also tricky platforms to compare because there really is no "ultimate winner" on the market.
Which platform to choose for your audio recording and editing purposes largely depends on various personal factors, and different editors will find different platforms that may fit better for their unique needs.
In this head-to-head comparison, we're putting one of the most popular DAWs, Pro Tools, and putting it up against a relative newcomer on the scene, REAPER. REAPER has set itself apart by introducing a platform that is more customizable than nearly any other platform on the market. In this head-to-head comparison, we'll break down their features and find out which platform reigns supreme in various key functionalities.
So, get ready for the showdown of Avid Pro Tools vs. REAPER.
What Do Avid Pro Tools and REAPER Do?
REAPER and Avid Pro Tools are both DAWs and can be used for recording, producing, and mixing audio projects. Essentially, they replace the old "mixing boards" that used to dominate dozens of square feet in a recording studio, cramming all that functionality into your PC. While REAPER is a newer player on the scene, they are both now used by professionals in applications from music production to film scoring.
Both have all the features needed to record and manipulate audio files to your heart's content, which is why in the increasingly crowded market for DAWs, it's impressive how REAPER has jumped ahead of the competition and is competing with one of the most entrenched industry leaders.
The Main Differences Between Avid Pro Tools and REAPER
While Avid Pro Tools and REAPER have a lot of similarities, there are also some key differences in their functionality and features. These include:
- Avid Pro Tools is available on both Mac and Windows, while REAPER is available on Mac, Windows, and Linux systems (a plus for people who like a really hands-on approach with their OS and software)
- REAPER is significantly more affordable than Pro Tools but lacks some of Pro Tools' features
- REAPER allows users to write their own scripts, which gives room for lots of workflow customization, while Pro Tools is closed, proprietary software
So, if you have some programming skills and like being able to customize your workstation, you may find REAPER to be the perfect solution for you. However, if you like sticking with the industry standard and don't feel the need to over-engineer solutions, you may lean more towards Pro Tools.
As we mentioned before, it all comes down to personal preference. But that aside, how do each of these programs perform against each other in some common features and functionalities?
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Ok, here's what you've been waiting for. It's time to put these programs up against each other and see which ones excel in each of our key categories:
Ease of Use
Winner: Pro Tools
Why: REAPER is great for people who like to tinker, but because of that, it has a pretty steep learning curve that requires a lot of practice with the platform to develop a comfortable workflow. Because of this, Pro Tools is our winner for ease of use thanks to its simpler interface and slightly easier learning curve.
Sound Editing Functionality
Why: Functionality is where REAPER really shines. The “build out from basic” model allows you to not only mimic the layout and functionality of Pro Tools (or any other DAW) but continue to customize and tweak your workflow to fit whatever style works best for you.
Winner: Avid Pro Tools
Why: While both Pro Tools and REAPER offer a solid selection of recording tools, this is an area where Pro Tools' years of experience as an industry-standard really shine through. Its recording interface is much more intuitive to operate, and the proprietary multi-tool makes editing on the fly during a recording session a breeze.
Why: For mixing, it all comes down to the plugins, which is another area that REAPER has gone above and beyond to accommodate. Pro Tools is limited to just using AAX plugins, while REAPER can support the full range of 3rd party plugins, giving you infinitely more options to fit any mixing project you can dream up. With this broad support for plugins, you could design a workflow that works almost exactly like Pro Tools but with access to many more niche plugins.
Quality of Support
Why: Overall, users found the quality of support to be slighter better for REAPER than for Pro Tools. However, both not only have access to 24/7 customer support, but both also have communities where you can ask questions and get advice from other users. Part of the higher quality of support attributed to REAPER actually comes from its active community, who are as much troubleshooters as they are editors and can offer a wealth of advice to anyone who may be stuck.
Why: G2, one of the most trusted sources for software reviews, rated both REAPER and Pro Tools as a solid 4.3/5 stars. This is reflective of how divided the community is becoming when it comes to which DAW reigns supreme on the market. Gone are the days when Pro Tools was the only "real" professional program in town; as REAPER and other platforms continue to innovate, the options for professional editors and mixers continue to expand.
Why: Capterra users rated both REAPER and Avid Pro Tools a full 5/5 stars, giving them a dead tie as two of the best DAWs available on the market. As we mentioned before, this is reflective of how good both of the programs are, as well as how more editors are straying away from the old standards and landing on newer platforms like REAPER.
Why: REAPER has one thing that Pro Tools can't compete with, and that's price. For just a one-time purchase of $225 for a commercial license or $60 for a personal/educational license, you can have access to the whole platform, which makes REAPER infinitely more affordable than Pro Tools in the long run. Pro Tools functions on a subscription model, with most subscriptions starting at around $29 per month.
Who is Pro Tools Best Suited For?
Professional Audio Producers: Pro Tools is considered industry-standard for professionals, so for anyone looking to make a long-term career as an audio producer, you're more than likely going to end up on the Pro Tools platform at one point or another. This is likely to change as the industry continues to experiment with new platforms, but for now, if you want to work on the most popular professional platform, it's Pro Tools.
People Who Want "Plug and Play" Functionality: If you're not looking for a lot of flexibility or customizations and just want a DAW that works as designed, you may prefer Pro Tools over REAPER. You'll benefit from an easier learning curve and have all the functionality you need right "out of the box."
Who is REAPER Best Suited For?
DIYers: REAPER's strength is its flexibility, so if you're someone who likes to tinker, you'll love how customizable the platform is.
Professional Producers: You'll have to spend a few hours with REAPER to get the most out of it, but you'll be rewarded with expanded functionality that has been enough to get many pros to switch from tried-and-true Pro Tools and jump into the “choose your own adventure” world of REAPER.
So, Which One Should You Choose?
With both programs sharing a heavy amount of overlap with each other, choosing which one you'd like to work with will likely come down to three factors: functionality, workflow, and price.
If you don't like to tinker, you're probably not going to love REAPER, as it's a huge time commitment up-front and requires you to really roll up your sleeves and dive in to get to its biggest strengths. However, if you like a challenge and want to be able to expand your DAW functionality beyond what Pro Tools can provide, REAPER may be a tantalizing option.
Price is also a huge divider for these two. REAPER is infinitely cheaper than Pro Tools if you plan on using it for more than a year. If you're looking for an affordable DAW that you can pour hours of learning into without breaking the bank, REAPER may be just the fix.
As always, the best way to figure out which platform is right for you is to try them out. Experimenting with both platforms is the best way to figure out which workflow suits your particular style of editing, recording, or mixing.
If you're looking for a better way to bring your remote audio editing team closer together and collaborate more efficiently from a distance, check out Evercast. Evercast allows you to stream your edit sessions, whether you're on REAPER or Pro Tools, in full-HD while video chatting and exchanging notes with your team, all under one platform. Because we believe collaboration is the magic behind unlocking your best work.