Upper management decided that due to the fact I’m a dinosaur I have to look at a DAW as I tend to do a fair bit of composing/engineering here at home on the analogue synth’s then send the stuff off to the studio for final processing. That said, it was suggested I look at a DAW, that way I can (or should I say “THEY CAN”) find it easier to manipulate so the end product is easier to sort.
If you know me you’ll already know my opinion on suits so I won’t bother going in to that again, I’ll just be doing a comparison between the three DAW’s that are in the title. Now personally, I hate them (DAW’s that is). No let me rephrase that I tolerate them, as I find it easier to find the sound I want by turning a knob or pushing a slider than waving a computer mouse around. But to get them to shut the (insert expletive) up I’ll be comparing three. Propellerheads Reason 7.1, Acoustica’s MixCraft Pro 7 and Cocko’s Reaper Version something that escapes me and publishing my thoughts here just to prove to those who pay me I have actually looked at them 😉 it’s not going to be a real super in-depth review, just my personal view so take it or leave it.
So me being me – captain negative bastard, I’m going to start with the con’s as I found them, the computer I’m using them on is a Windows 7 64bit system with a dual core cpu and eight gig of ram. Apart from that I’m computer knowledgeable but far from a geek – so on to it.
Reason: No support for VST’s which is madness in this day and age as Arturia do some brilliant stuff and I actually enjoy tinkering with Korg’s Legacy, but neither will work in Reason so that to me is a big no major failing.
MixCraft: Regularly crashes due to the fact that a lot of VST’s are 32bit and from my understanding they themselves acknowledge the issue. Sadly a lot of the better VST’s are 32bit and they aren’t being ported to 64bit so if this issue will ever be sorted who knows. I’ve actually had it lock up my machine to the point where CTRL/ALT/DEL don’t even work so a forced restart is needed.
Reaper: I found I had to troll through too many drop downs to get to what I wanted, whether that was a VST a filter or an FX.
Now as for the good bits, I’ll start with midi. All three found what I have plugged in at the moment, the Moog Little Phatty, Roland RS and Korg MS2000 which run through an E-MU 2X2 well the Moog has a USB also so – they also found the Arturia Beatstep and Keylab 61 but that would be expected considering the latter two bits of hardware are essentially made for DAW’s.
As for audio in, I run everything that isn’t midi capable e.g. the modular, guitars, voices etc through a Behringer mixer, I also run the three listed synths through it too as I find there are sounds there that just aren’t available and I just couldn’t be bothered hunting for a similar sound in the DAW’s (yes there’s the dinosaur again).
Reason finds audio in (I use ASIO) without a single hiccup, both Reaper and Mixcraft took a bit of dickin’ about. I actually gave up with Reaper, it used to work but for some reason it now refuses to. Mixcraft however was happy enough to find the audio but the volume was so low and the help files were too vague so I gave up on that too.
Exporting audio, now personally I like Mixcraft for that as you get a number of choices be it FLAC or WAV or MP3, why anyone would export a serious file as an MP3 escapes me but ehh it’s there.
Midi: All three seem to take midi files without argument, in Mixcraft you even have the choice of seeing it in the midi edit feature as a score (I compose some really complex stuff at times – scary) which is a real treat, BUT that’s as far as it gets, either I missed something or Mixcraft can’t handle automation, tempo etc. a good example would be Rossini’s ‘Dawn’ from the William Tell overture. The time sig is 3/4 and the tempo is from memory 54 or there abouts. Loading my comparison midi in to Mixcraft saw it tag the time sig as 4/4 and 120bpm ermm not quite right is that, Reason and Reaper handled it fine. As far as editing a midi file I must honestly say you can’t go passed Reason, both Mixcraft and Reaper were too frustrating – as they say less is more and Reason has that.
Addons: Reaper and Mixcraft make use of VST’s along with inbuilt stuff so essentially your bank of instruments is all but endless oh and Mixcraft also has Izotope Mastering Essentials which I happen to like. Reason on the other hand does come with a fair bit but to get the most out of it you have to obtain refills and and rack extensions which can become expensive.
End Bit: Which one is the better? None really (the dinosaur’s back) but I suppose I have to pick one. Reason has its stability, Mixcraft looks and feels better and the ability to utilise the squillions of VST’s out there, Reaper is cheap hmmmm a toughy.
I think I’ll have to lean toward Reason only because of its stability, if Mixcraft was more stable or the 32bit/64bit issue wasn’t then I’d be leaning toward that instead. If I had to give them a rating out of 10, Reason would get an 8, Mixcraft a 7.90 and Reaper a 6.5.