There are several DAWs to choose from, and sometimes it can seem hard choosing one over the other. Every DAW has its own sets of strengths and weaknesses. Hence, today we’re comparing two DAWs that are pretty popular: Cubase vs Reaper.
If you’re a music producer, then having a DAW is crucial. Before we start, let’s take a brief look at some of the features of both of the DAWs.
Cubase: A Brief Overview
Cubase was developed by Steinberg for music recording and editing and was released in 1989. It began as software for music and MIDI recording but rapidly became a cross-platform software that works on PC and MAC. Cubase is an excellent substitute for other DAWS such as Logic, Pro Tools, and FL Studio.
Cubase is popular among composers and other people who score music. Some of these include Hans Zimmer, Amon Tobin, Zedd, and Ian Kirkpatrick. This is because this DAW comes with almost every tool you need to make any type of music.
Here is a list of some of the best and most helpful features of Cubase.
This is an excellent feature of Cubase as it allows you to take multiple takes of the singer and seamlessly merge them into a single one. Sometimes you just need to record various song variations and snip out the best parts, combining them into one cohesive master track.
Although many other DAWs also include this feature, Cubase specifically offers one for drums. Other DAWs come with a piano roll that allows you to make MIDI tracks. However, piano rolls with drums can get messy if using complicated drum parts. The drum editor in Cubase doesn’t consider the note lengths when programming rhythms, so it’s much easier to view.
This feature allows you to change the pitch and timing of the notes. This means that if a note is missed when recording, you can simply fix it when editing. It’s a unique feature uncommon with most DAWs and can be an excellent reason to consider this DAW.
Several Stock Audio Plugins
Cubase comes with some great stock plug-ins for audio. These include a variety of excellent virtual instruments and effects such as compressors, equalizers, reverb, delays, and more.
Great With MIDI
Most DAWs work with MIDI and virtual instruments. However, MIDI and virtual instruments are what Cubase excels at. It’s because it’s effortless to work with MIDI instruments and virtual instruments at one time which is why Cubase is an excellent choice for many.
Reaper: A brief overview
Reaper, the digital audio workstation developed by Cockos, has come a long way since its launch in 2006. It offers a full mixing console and has live audio support. It’s a bit complex and requires learning. However, once you put in enough time, it offers a lot of flexibility and provides a ton of features.
It offers most of the features provided by more well-known DAWs such as Pro Tools or Cubase at just a fraction of the price. A lot of composers are using Reaper, and some of them include Deadmau5 and Tycho.
Here is a list of some of the best and most helpful features of Reaper.
FX Plug-in Embedding
Reaper allows you to embed smaller versions of various plug-ins, such as ReaEQ, ReaFIR, ReaXcomp, graphical JSFX plug-ins, and more, inside your track control and mixer panels. It also comes with hundreds of JSFX plug-ins that are fully user-scriptable, and it also allows you to create your own.
This feature allows you to stretch and reconform audio around tempo changes. This will help you to work with tempo mapped and live recordings together.
Routing diagrams allow the user to view and edit their projects with ease using a high-level graphical emulation
MIDI CC Envelopes
This feature allows MIDI CC data to be handled as continuous data rather than discrete events. This will enable you to have smooth-sounding musical articulations and effects.
Comparing Cubase and Reaper
A lot of features between Cubase and Reaper are similar. Yet, there are many features one DAW has which the other might not have. Here is a brief rundown of these features.
Pros of Cubase compared to Reaper
Let’s look at the pros of Cubase compared to Reaper and some of the strengths of Cubase.
Great for Scoring
Cubase comes with a built-in video editor, so it allows you to import video files so you can compose a score for it all while being in the same application. Even though there are other DAWs that can do the same job, Cubase is known for this.
Cubase is available for both PC or MAC, and this can be a selling point for someone who uses both and collaborates a lot. It also allows you to seamlessly work on multiple computers without the hassle of learning an entirely new DAW.
This will not only help you save money but also saves you time and effort.
This is one of the more excellent features of Cubase. However, keep in mind that it only comes with the most expensive versions of the software. This feature basically allows you to correct the pitch and change the timing of notes.
Most DAWs don’t come with similar features, and VariAudio 3 can be a feature that can make Cubase an excellent choice for you.
Cons of Cubase compared to Reaper
Here are a few things that Cubase doesn’t do as well as Reaper.
Although there are cheaper versions of Cubase, they just don’t provide all of the features that a composer may need. Also, every few years, you need to pay for an upgrade when there is a new version of Cubase.
You can continue to use the old versions, but they tend to lose support after a while after the new version comes.
Using Cubase, especially on a laptop, is particularly risky as the software is prone to crashes. Do keep in mind that it doesn’t crash too often to make it unusable. Still, it’s a great pain when it does, as it can cause you to lose progress.
Pros of Reaper compared to Cubase
Unlike Cubase, Reaper provides Linux support. However, Linux support is still in beta, and several plug-ins are prone to fail. You can counter this by using Reaper on Wine in Linux.
Lightweight and Portable
Reaper is very CPU efficient and can be run on mid-range laptops too. You can also do a portable install of Reaper on a USB device but do keep in mind that this will have the installation have a bit less feature than what it would typically have.
Each software has a similar pricing model as both software just has to be bought once, and they offer updates for a lifetime. Cubase comes in at $580, while Reaper comes in at $225 for a commercial license.
Each software offers discounted prices for specific individuals, and their pricing models can be checked out at their relative websites.
If you’re looking for a cheaper DAW, then Reaper is undoubtedly the way to go. However, keep in mind each software has its own set of features, so make sure to do thorough research before buying one.
Cons of Reaper compared to Cubase
Here are a few things that Reaper doesn’t do as well as Cubase.
Hard to Use GUI
Reaper’s UI is a bit old-fashioned and may seem outdated to many. However, you can install several themes that can help combat this.
Steep Learning Curve
Using Reaper can be a bit tough if you’re used to another DAW, as it has a steep learning curve. To get the best out of Reaper, follow Reaper’s video tutorials on YouTube. You will save yourself hours of setting up and learning all of the features.
Cubase vs. Reaper: Conclusion
Both Cubase and Reaper are powerful and popular DAWs with their own strengths and weaknesses. If you’re looking for a DAW that’s inexpensive and serves the purpose, then we suggest going for Reaper. However, if you’re looking for something professional and widely supported, then we recommend choosing Cubase.
Try both of them out and see which one you like the most.
Alternatives to Cubase and Reaper
There are other DAWs to choose from besides Cubase and Reaper. Here are some other DAWs that we have reviewed:
Josh is the founder and main author of Songwriter Nation. He has played music for over twenty years and even studied music at university earning a minor in music.