Never mind the cryptic name, Cockos REAPER brings MIDI and audio production efforts to life with its powerful-albeit-simple tools and features. Cockos REAPER is a fairly standard MIDI software program. Its interface, features, tools aand various functions are more or less available in other MIDI and audio production software programs with a few key exceptions. REAPER is only 4MB in file size, features writable JS MIDI plugin functionality, as well as a side-chaining for mixed audio and MIDI tracks. Sure, these features are available in dozens of audio production software programs, but seldom are they seen in a program that takes up less space than a web page.
Composition & Sequencing
Its interface could use some additional work (though this is largely a result of its tiny program size) but for what it's worth, the organizational tools and features offered by REAPER are excellent. The MIDI color-customization features, in particular, are very impressive and take much of the stress and guesswork out of MIDI composition and sequencing. Combine this with other features, such as the JS MIDI plugin capability (which is not for the faint of heart) and you have the makings of a surprisingly powerful-albeit-simple, customizable MIDI sequencing and composition engine.
The side-sequencing functionality also provides producers with a means of properly stitching MIDI and audio together without the typical confusion and destructive/corrosive effect, thanks to the modulated parameter feature and top-notch processor.
Recording & Editing
Though they are there, the lines between recording and editing MIDI are porous in some areas/functions and utterly non-existent in others. This is why having accurate, precise tools, well-designed performance features and a sensible interface to tie them all together is extremely important. While REAPER gets some deductions for "splash" (i.e. interface response time for region editing, etc.), it manages to pull off both simple and complicated editing tasks. With multiple editing modes, as well as automated features to keep all the threads together, REAPER helps clean up any recorded or pre-recorded mess, while leaving the necessary notes and breadcrumbs to help users understand exactly how they got there and how, if necessary, to get back. It is common sense features like these that make the difference between a "good investment" and a "terrible waste of money." REAPER is most certainly a good--if not great--investment in that regard.
Essential to all MIDI and audio production functions is the support of various MIDI and audio file formats, controllers and hardware types, not to mention the native program architecture. The architecture is responsible for incorporating various audio and MIDI file formats, line-in hardware and instrument sources and plugins and rendering them in a reliable manner. For its part, REAPER manages to do just that. With the potential for use as a plugin with other programs, REAPER even goes an extra mile.
Ease of Use
REAPER's interface isn't the most visually impressive. Then again, it's not chopped liver, either. Usability could be improved with some additional polishes to the interface, as well as the various tools, features and suites windows, but overall, they're intuitive enough that confusion and squinting are kept to a minimum. And the MIDI production process from input to export isn't too difficult. REAPER's hyper-customization features make it possible to do more than change a few skins, move a window or even save a preset parameter. In fact, producers can customize the color of MIDI events by speed, channel, pitch or source, name pitches, conceal unused pitch rows and create custom keyboard shortcuts for MIDI editing. This doesn't always simplify or facilitate the overall production process, but it does simplify and expedite the tedious little tasks and functions encountered with MIDI production and sequencing.
While still fairly young, REAPER has the foundation in place to eventually have a very active user community, user forum, an in-depth FAQ section or knowledgebase and other resources that are largely the collective product of an engaged, lively community. Cockos covers its bases by offering an impressively in depth user guide "full of illustrated real-world use examples and sensible advice," as well as email contact information for additional technical assistance and support.
Though similarly-sized energyXT has more features and functions than REAPER, this small, portable program still manages to make some very convincing arguments for itself. Its plugin functionality alone lends a flexibility and versatility that at times is painfully absent in MIDI and audio production software programs and could attract a healthy following for that alone.