Review: Cockos Reaper (Bonus)

Reaper''s flexible routing can be a bit difficult to grasp, so an example will help clarify. Let''s say that you have five tracks and would like to add some reverb to all of them.
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This online bonus material supplements the Cockos Reaper review in the May 2008 issue of EM.

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FIG. A: Reaper''s Routing Matrix lists each audio source down the side, with destinations across the top. You can make adjustments by clicking on the intersecting cells of the matrix.

Routing Around

Reaper''s flexible routing can be a bit difficult to grasp, so an example will help clarify. Let''s say that you have five tracks and would like to add some reverb to all of them. Reverb tends to be a processor-intensive effect, so it''s often added at the end of the chain by means of an effects bus. To do that in Reaper, you add a sixth track and then place the reverb in the effects bin. You click on the IO button and choose the option to Add Receives from All Tracks. You''ll now have controls including level, pan, and phase for each of the five original tracks. You can reduce the signal coming from the drums (for less reverb), boost what comes from the vocals, and close the dialog box.

If you revisit the IO page of one of the five original tracks, you''ll find a new set of controls in the Send column corresponding to the sixth reverb-only track. This example only scratches the surface of Reaper''s routing capabilities. Want to set up a sidechain compressor that automatically ducks the music bed when the vocal announcer speaks? You can do that. If you''ve worked with modular synths or studios with hardware patch panels that allow you to connect anything to anything else, you''ll feel right at home in Reaper.

To help you keep tabs on what''s going where, you''ll probably want to take advantage of the Routing Matrix (see Fig. A). This view (which can be docked in the Docker) shows every possible source down the side and every possible destination across the top, including tracks and hardware connections. A single click in the matrix is all it takes to add or remove sends or arm a track for recording. Right-clicking on a cell in the matrix lets you adjust levels or recording options for that particular combination of source and destination.

Rounding out the audio-routing capabilities, tracks can be designated as Folder Tracks, which automatically turns them into submixes for the tracks they contain. In that case, the I/O option to send audio to the master is replaced with one that sends it to the parent folder. You can have multiple track folders in a project, but they cannot be nested. You can, however, hide the child folders to save screen space or render them to a new audio file to reduce your project''s CPU load.

Additional Goodies

One capability I''m particularly fond of is Reaper''s performance monitor. Not only do you get a basic CPU usage meter as in other programs, but you can also see a graph of that usage across time. What''s more, the performance monitor shows you the CPU usage and effects count on a per-track basis, which is helpful for determining where your CPU hogs are.

Other handy features include a navigation window to see an overview of your project, a large time display called the Big Clock, and a virtual MIDI keyboard for plunking down a few notes. You also get high-quality pitch-shifting and time-stretching. Loop-based recording is supported reasonably well, though I couldn''t find a facility for explicitly marking the beats of a sample loop (so that the downbeats stay precisely aligned with tempo and time-signature changes).

Plenty of Reaper''s capabilities make your work more efficient. I''ve already mentioned effects chains and extensive keyboard shortcuts. You get templates at both the track and project level, so you can reuse your favorite configurations once you set up something you like. In addition, screen sets let you associate keystroke combinations with particular layouts for a quick recall.