When comparing Ableton Live vs Reaper, the Slant community recommends Reaper for most people. In the question“What are the best DAWs? ” Reaper is ranked 1st while Ableton Live is ranked 9th. The most important reason people chose Reaper is:
As well as making your own themes, you can configure the Reaper interface to best suit your needs. There are no limitations to how customizable or programmable Reaper truly is. It's almost magic. Couple this with shortcut editing and you have a winner.
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Pro Great creative DAW workflow
Ableton's session view gives a much quicker, more flexible way of experimenting with ideas than a typical linear interface. In session view, each instrument part is a separate entity that can be mixed and matched with other parts without having to rearrange anything. Any and every effect is consolidated into one clean looking interface.
It allows users to experiment with effects and other manipulations very quickly. Because of this, Ableton is known as one of the most creative DAWs out there.
Pro Advanced automation
You can add curves to automation. Additionally, Ableton lets users duplicate certain automations quickly.
Pro Optimized for playing live music
While all DAWs are capable of playing music live, Ableton Live is the most DJ friendly DAW out there as it allows mixing and mashing various MIDI or audio clips together in real-time while still making sure that they're in sync.
Pro Great for sampling
The Ableton DAW offers a great sampling experience, which can be approached in many different ways. Audio can be directly chopped, quantized, warped, and even chopped into MIDI clips. Ableton's built in sampler also allows clean pitching along with useful loop functions.
Pro Max for Live lets users build custom tools
With Max for Live, users can create custom synthesizers, audio effects, sequencers, samplers, and more. Max for Live is a feature that is available starting with Live 9 Suite.
Pro Outstanding EQ
Ableton's new EQ includes an integrated spectrum analyzer so users can see exactly which frequencies need to be adjusted. Additionally, this EQ cuts by 48 db. Up until Ableton Live 9, the EQ only cut by 12 db.
Pro Advanced content browser
The browser lets users choose from live Sets, tracks, clips, devices, presets, samples, etc. There is also an auto-play function for audio clips that enables users to browse samples quickly. The search function is also handy, but only for clips that are labeled appropriately.
Pro Many software specific controllers
Many MIDI controllers have been developed for the exclusive purpose of being used with Ableton. Some popular Live controllers include Push, APC40, and Launchpad.
Pro Minimum skeuomorphism
Skeuomorphism is described as retaining antiquated aesthetic features on an updated version of a device. For DAWs, this happens when an interface is littered with analog nobs, wires, and other things that are reminiscent of older technology. While this can be considered a stylistic choice for some DAWs, it tends to block progress towards better practices in music production.
Pro Endless creativity
After some training this daw can be used for doing anything. There are basically no limits.
Pro Multiple "workflows" or ways of achieving an outcome
Not everyone realizes this, but anything can be done in multiple ways in Live. Multiple ways of playing samples, multiple ways of slicing samples, multiple ways of sequencing MIDI, etc.
Pro Comes with 70GB included sounds, 15 software instruments, 55 audio effects and 17 midi effects.
Pro Dual monitor support
Starting with Live 9, users can see session and arrangement views at the same time with dual monitor support.
Pro Exemplary time stretching facilities
Not only can the time stretching can be done in real-time, there are about a dozen of TC/E algorithms to choose from.
Pro MIDI notes can be forced to a scale
With a simple plugin, Ableton allows the user to pick from a wide variety of scales when triggering notes.
Pro Can play a midi note from the middle
In Live V10, you can trigger MIDI notes without having to do so from the start.
Pro Widespread Online Support
The amount of well-versed tutorials and guides online can help you master Live in a few hours. Secret tips and tricks are also widespread. Forums are filled to the brim with support for any issue you can think of.
Pro VST3 support as of Ableton 10.1
VST3s now run smoothly in Ableton 10.1 and up. However, be careful when loading in CPU-heavy plugins.
Pro Able to to download own skin/theme
You can make your own skin/themes online and use it in "preferences" tab!
Pro Highly customizable
As well as making your own themes, you can configure the Reaper interface to best suit your needs. There are no limitations to how customizable or programmable Reaper truly is. It's almost magic.
Couple this with shortcut editing and you have a winner.
Pro Supports unlimited number of tracks with unlimited number of effects
There are no limits to the amount of tracks or effects that Reaper can run. Reaper is stable enough to handle comically dense projects with style.
Pro Extremely stable, rarely crashes
Reaper receives high praise for its stability. It's one of the many talking points of the software.
Pro Constantly updated
Reaper's developers add features based on user request at lightspeed. This is what makes Reaper reliable and trustworthy. Fans of Reaper are so adamant about the software because of this.
Contrary to Music Radar's review of FL Studio, Reaper is the true "People's DAW".
Pro Very low cpu usage
Reaper's will tailor itself to fit your computer's processing power by automatically using the "anticipative FX processing" feature.
Pro Auto-bridges 32-bit plugins in a 64-bit environment
When using a 64-bit installation of Reaper, all 32-bit plugins will still work alongside 64-bit plugins. On computers with an x86-64 CPU and an OS that supports multi-architecture, you can also run bridged 64-bit plugins on 32-bit Reaper.
Pro Easy to install
No complex activation shenanigans. No dongle and such.
Pro Multiple recording and playback formats
Records in WAV, AIFF, FLAC, WAVPACK, OGG and MP3.
Reaper is lightweight enough to be run off of a flash drive; the installer weights less than 20 MB and the portable installation option is included in it.
Pro Huge community support
Pro Comes with ~300 free plugins
Pro Multi-level freezing
A freeze can be applied to a group, and then picked apart track by track.
Pro Highly Affordable
Reaper can be purchased in two different ways: A commercial license (225 USD) and a discounted license (60 USD).
You can use Reaper unhindered with either license. You can only get the discount if your salary does not exceed 20,000 USD.
Pro Free Reaplugs VST/VSTi bundle allows usage of the basic bundled like EQ's and comp plugins in any DAW
Although it may seem otherwise, Reaper is shareware. After your 60-day free trial runs out, the program remains full-featured. Like WinRAR, the only person forcing you to get a license is you.
Pro Application is extendable
Reaper has no limitations. Once you understand it, Reaper becomes a mixing, mastering and editing mainstay. Reaper punches way above its price range in terms of sheer brevity.
Pro Very full featured but basic recording and production can be learned and done in a few hours
Without prior experience with DAW, you can install Reaper, set up ASIO drivers, connect to your amp and mikes, get the hang of recording/re-recording tracks, and render an mp3 in just a few hours. You can accomplish the basics very fast.
Pro Lua scripting can be done in the DAW with a built-in IDE
Pro Supports ReWire
Pro Editing audio can be done on track
You don't have to go to a separate editor to edit audio files. You can work directly on the track, and drop/drag pieces to other tracks, sew them together. It's a fun sandbox and easy peasy.
Pro Universal Tracks
In Reaper, you can record MIDI and Audio onto the same track. As well, there are no distinctions between any form of audio. Surround Sound, Mono, Stereo files, and anything else you can think of; all of this can be recorded onto the same track.
Pro Many time-saving features
Thought has been given to many time-saving features and shortcuts which speed up workflow considerably.
Pro Tabbing multiple projects
You can have multiple projects open via tabs at the top left. You can then drag and drop clips, instruments or ideas between projects with ease.
Pro Tool-less interface
Set the cursor, press a key, done. Reaper's cursor is extremely intuitive. A monkey could understand it.
Unlike Cakewalk, Bitwig, etc., there is no need to switch cursor editing modes or work around "smart" cursors.
Pro Notation Editing
Miraculously, composition-focused musicians can now find a home in Reaper.
Pro The software advances with you
If you want to use it as a glorified tape machine and nothing else, you'll still be able to get work done. If you want to learn all the shortcuts, scripts, custom actions and macros and really unlock what Reaper can do, you can do that as well. Either way, you'll still be able to make music.
Pro Clean, easy-to-read GUI
While some may disagree, the GUI has been widely celebrated for its informative nature. Everything you need to see is there or reachable. For more analytical types, Reaper can be of use.
Pro OSC Support
You can control almost everything via OSC (and MIDI, too).
Pro Runs well on Wine in Linux
While other DAWs drag their feet on Windows, Reaper hits a solid stride even on Linux.
Pro Potential to be the most beautiful DAW
You can customize Reaper with hundreds of themes, or make them yourself.
Pro Native Linux support
No need to install Wine, Reaper supports Linux natively!
Pro Can edit while you're recording
Reaper allows editing while you're recording for a performative and fluid workflow. This feature can also help save time when mixing.
Running smoothly with 50 tracks on i5 gen3 RAM 4GB laptop (mixing and mastering work done separately).
At 749 USD, Ableton Live Suite (the most fully-featured edition) is more expensive than other DAWs.
Ableton Live Standard can be bought for 449 USD.
Ableton Live Intro can be bought for 99 USD.
Rounding up, all three versions will set you back triple digits. That's before you get into additional sample and plugin packs, which also cost hundreds of dollars. Consider the price of the software before you enter the Live ecosystem.
Con No comping / playlist feature when tracking
Confusingly, Ableton's comping abilities (or lack thereof) cannot hold a candle to other industry standards like Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, etc.
Con Plugins on frozen tracks are loaded and unloaded as the session opens slowing down opening and creating DSP limitations
For example: If you freeze more than the allowed number of plugins on a UAD DSP device, when you open your session, Ableton will open and close all the frozen plugins on every channel even though they are not active in the session. The UAD control panel application displays the DSP usage of the hardware. During loading the levels (bars) will fluctuate by extreme amounts and typically will produce errors once the Ableton session is loaded.
After the session is loaded, UAD plugins that should be running are disabled because there wasn't enough DSP available during load.
The user then has to open and look at each UAD plug in to see if they are disabled and turn them off and on again to enable them. This illustrates there is enough room for the DSP load for unfrozen plugins, but that the loading process was at fault.
Con Can't save keyboard shortcuts globally
There are no global keyboard shortcut editing mechanisms in Live. You are only able save keyboard shortcuts per project. This makes production a long-winded endeavor.
To edit shortcuts on Live, use Ctrl + K, or CMD + K.
Con No SF2 support
Soundfonts need to be imported as samples, and they don't work as intended since the zoning is lost.
Con No 32 bit VST support on newer
The ability to load 32 bit VST was dropped for some godawful reason. At $700 - a hefty price tag - and most of the code already in the software, you'd think they would be able to keep that functionality, but no.
Con Not very stable
Live has been known for its hilariously bad stability on weaker systems. But this is only when it is under enormous strain. It will be under enormous strain, too.
Most people that work in this software love to fill their projects up with tons of cool ideas. Ableton should bear this in mind when continuing to update Live.
Con no LV2 support
Does not support the LV2 plugin standard
Con Non-Free Software
It's not free. Worse yet, there's no source code. This can be a privacy concern for some.
Con You can’t comp your tracks
Con Limited routing
Tracks can go into groups and sub-groups (as of Live 10), and sends are available, but that's the extent of routing.
Con Sometimes very slow reaction, if you switch from one track to another with APC- or Push-Controller
Con Max makes startup longer
Con Long drop down menus
There are many features that you'll find nested deep in the menu system. This is fine, but can be a bit of a workflow-stopper. Everything is there but somethings are difficult to find. This can be remedied, somewhat, using the action list.
The privacy conscious may be unnerved to find that Reaper is closed-source. This means that what the software may or may not know about you is invisible. Try to protect your data when using closed-source software.
Con Midi Latency is still an issue
Con Lacks VSTis
Doesn't come with a wealth of VSTis. Plugins for things like piano, cello, guitar have to be found elsewhere. But is highly compatible with other providers of those products.
Con Lacks LV2 support
Does not support the LV2 plugin standard
Con No native groove quantize feature
Straight quantization is available, but the Reaper 4 DAW is still missing groove integration. This feature can be made available with the free SWS extension.
Con Overwhelming amount of features available
The programmable interface means that tweaking features is daunting for some.
Con The MIDI editor is not intuitive and feels very clumsy and inconsistent
It costs time and extra clicks to control the MIDI velocities. If you use the MIDI editor a lot, Reaper is just not for you.
Con Midi drum editing not so fast or easy
Cubase has more features for creating and editing midi drum tracks.
Con No PFL metering
If you want to meter your input levels before your FX and volume fader, you'll need to insert a metering plugin as the first part of the chain, since there is no option for PFL metering.
Con Midi dropout or inconsistent when render a track
When rendering a track with multiple vst, the midi note either having drop out issue, or not playing on time in render. Tried all render method such as offline full speed, offline 1x and online render, with both case of enabling or disabling the "allow anticipative FX processing", even tried to change the performance options on individual track, the problem still occurs. However, it is still nice to do mixing and recording with all these handful of tools.
Con Potentially unattractive GUI
For some, Reaper appears very dated or clunky. The GUI is nowhere near as fluid as its competitors. Ableton, Bitwig, Reason (and others) all provide smoother animations or skeuomorphic feedback.
Reaper's instruments and effects come in the form of sliders and very small knobs. It takes the user out of the fantasy of working with certain equipment. This makes Reaper very boring to watch from a distance for some.
However, this means nothing in terms of Reaper's raw power. By trading appearance and initial impression for functionality, Reaper stays ahead.