Today we'll look at Reaper's preferences, and how we can fine tune the system to our exact needs. Some people need the system to run stable while recording, others for virtual instruments, and others for live production. With so many options available, navigating Reaper's preferences can be a nightmare. Want to see how customizable Reaper is? Read on!
In any kind of workstation, there are usually two approaches to design. Either the workstation designer creates what they believe are the most optimal specifications and workflow, or they give the user the ability to change everything to their liking.
In the audio world, our DAWs are no different. Some DAWs, like FL Studio, Reason, and Pro Tools, insist that you learn their system rather than giving you endless tweakability. Others, like Samplitude, Logic, and Reaper, offer many options, allowing you to fine tune the system to your liking.
Getting the Lay of the Land
As with anything, before you start diving in and changing things you need to have a firm grasp on where everything is. Reaper's preferences menu has a lot of options, but thankfully are (fairly) neatly organized.
In order to get to the preferences you have two options:
- Go to the top menu bar and select Options > Preferences. (It is usually at the very bottom.)
- Press Ctrl-P.
After you reach the preferences you will be greeted by a window with various menu options on the left, and the related suboptions on the right.
Starting from top to bottom on the left scroll window, we have the following big category options. Here is what they do:
- General - Provides basic options, including undo limits, start-up options, keyboard controls, and multi-touch controls.
- Project - Here you can set your template defaults, and how your project should behave. If you plan to use the same template over and over again, this is a good menu to become familiar with.
- Audio - This menu provides in-depth detail for you to tweak your audio settings. Changes to this menu can have drastic implications to how the system runs.
- Appearance - While generally meant for aesthetics, these options also have a few performance tweaks, and also general workflow/editing tweaks.
- Editing Behavior - From cursor and zoom changes, to MIDI, envelopes and mouse tweaks, here is where the workflow options really come into play.
- Media - Controls how Reaper should handle various media files including audio, video, MIDI, and REX.
- Plugins - The plugins menu tells the system where to find your plugins and how to handle them, and provides tweaks for touchy plugins that do not always play nice.
- Control Surfaces - If you have any control surfaces, they will show and can be tweaked here.
- External Editors - Some programs cannot run as plugins, but are still highly valuable. (Melodyne, for example.) This menu allows you to assign various external editors to different file types (wav, mid) and edit them in these external editors, while maintaining the file's position inside Reaper.
Phew! As you can see there are a lot of options to be had inside Reaper. Another cool feature of Reaper's preferences is that, when you hover over a suboption, you will get a more detailed description at the bottom of the preferences window. It helps a lot!
Probably the most important preferences you can change are the ones that impact how the system operates. By tweaking them, we can make the system run faster or more stable, depending on our needs.
Here are some highly useful preference tweaks for Reaper:
- Audio > Do not process muted tracks - If CPU is a precious resource for you, then you want to make sure this option is checked. However if need to switch mutes on and off a lot for to A/B effects, this will cause a slight hiccup after unmuting.
- Audio > Device > ASIO Thread Priority - Generally speaking, we always want our ASIO devices to be the most important part of our DAW, since they handle the audio. Setting this option to Time Critical is almost always a must.
- Audio > Device > Buffering > Thread Priority - Similar to the above, but deals with the audio threads more generally. Again, higher is faster and more stable, but uses more CPU.
- Audio > Device > Buffering > Anticipative FX Processing - This cool option is great when mixing. It allows Reaper to read ahead of where you are playing back from, so it can process and FX before they happen. Makes for a more stable mixing environment.
- Audio > Device > Buffering>Optimize buffering for low latency hardware - Better buffering performance is always a good thing. Make sure this one is checked.
- Appearance > UI updates - When you are recording, you do not want any graphics to overtake your audio in CPU importance, in which case this option should be set to Lazy. However, when you are editing you will want a more responsive GUI, and should probably bump up this setting.
- Plugins > Compatibility > Disable saving full plugin state - If you find that you're getting slight hiccups with certain plugins loaded, it might be because of the sheer amount of data the plugin is storing in the project. This option will prevent them from doing so, but may mean the plugin will not load correctly when you reopen the project. If you are not using samplers, you should be fine with this checked. But if you use virtual instruments, you should not use this option. Useful, but approach at your own risk!
- Plugins > VST > VST Compatibility - If you're running into problems with certain plugins (or UAD cards), this set of checkboxes can save you a lot of frustration. Read them carefully, and only choose the ones relating to your problem.
Conclusion For Now
That's a lot of options just for tweaking audio performance! While we're out of time for now, next time we'll take a look at the various workflow preferences, and how we can make working in Reaper more streamlined and efficient.
Hopefully your Reaper experience will be even better. Thanks for reading!