If you are new to music production, choosing your DAW or Digital Audio Workstation is essential. Your DAW of choice is pretty much everything you need to start music production. And without it, you cannot arrange, create, and mix tracks. Without it, you cannot record vocals or instruments. Choosing between Reaper vs. GarageBand is pretty challenging since both DAWs are capable and excellent for beginners.
Reaper and GarageBand have their fair share of similarities. However, they are two very different DAWs regarding price, user-friendliness, features, and more. GarageBand is exclusive for Mac users. At the same time, Reaper works on both macOS and Windows operating systems.
Either way, both DAWs are excellent for producing music. But if you cannot choose between these two Reaper vs. GarageBand, let’s compare and look at each option side by side.
GarageBand is a free DAW, and they come pre-installed on every Apple Computer, iPhone, or iPad. It comes with over 10 GB of free instruments and Apple Loops—basically everything you need to get started in music production.
Reaper costs $60. It works on both macOS and Windows computers. However, Reaper is free to use for 60 days and beyond. You can continue to use Reaper and all of its features even after the trial period, which is pretty cool.
Both options are basically free to use, but GarageBand has instruments, loops, and effect plugins included. Reaper might not have as many free plugins included to start your music production journey, but you can download free plugins to begin creating on Reaper.
Still, some people, especially beginners, prefer having an entire sound library without downloading different plugins from third-party developers. In terms of pricing and value, it is safe to say that GarageBand takes the point.
Since GarageBand is pretty much marketed as a “beginner” DAW, it is very user-friendly and intuitive. Anyone can quickly learn and instantly produce music on GarageBand without any background or music production experience.
As for Reaper, it is a professional DAW that many industry pros use for creating high-quality music. It is somewhat easy to use, but because it has more complicated features for mixing, there might be a more significant learning curve—especially for beginner music producers.
Again, GarageBand takes the point for this category. It is more user-friendly in terms of having everything you need to produce full-length tracks out of the box. Reaper is easy to use, but you will need to download more plugins and sounds to create music—which is not ideal for non-tech-savvy individuals.
To use and produce full songs on Reaper, you will need to download or purchase instruments, such as synths, loops, effects, and other mixing tools to get started.
However, if you can learn how to do all these things—you have a better shot of learning how to mix and create songs on a professional level with Reaper. But don’t get too discouraged; you can still learn professional music production techniques when learning how to produce music on GarageBand.
When it comes to features, we will see a significant difference between these two DAWs. Yes, GarageBand has the edge when it comes to having a full set of instruments and other plugins, but Reaper has more professional tools for precise music production. Reaper is more complicated to use, but that is completely normal for professional recording software—and Reaper is definitely a pro DAW.
Let’s start with GarageBand. It has most features you would expect in a DAW, such as a sampler, a MIDI piano editor, a mixer, etc., but some of its most notable features include:
Drummer is an excellent and innovative feature on GarageBand. If you want to create a song but you have no idea how to program or play drums—drummer can be very useful. It is an AI drummer plugin that comes with a set of different drummers that are masters of different genres. You can choose between different presets and populate a song with a drum track with just a few clicks.
Sound and Loop Library
GarageBand has a sound library that comes with a vast selection of different instrument presets. It is complete with various instruments that include:
- Acoustic guitar
- Electric guitar
- Electronic Drums
- Classical instruments
- World instruments, and a lot more
It also comes with Alchemy, a well-known synth designer, which is also included in its GarageBand’s pro version: Logic Pro X. Aside from the massive sound library, you also get access to thousands of royalty-free Apple Loops you can sample and use for your own songs.
GarageBand isn’t just for electronic music. It also comes with a large selection of guitar and bass amps and effect pedals for designing the perfect guitar sound. Can choose between the presets or design your own tone by tweaking the amp settings and creating your own effect pedal chain—as if you are using actual guitar effects in the studio.
Now, let’s take a look at Reaper’s features. This DAW doesn’t have an AI drummer. It doesn’t have an amp collection or a giant sound library. But what makes it suitable? Well, it comes with the tools that professional DAWs have. Here are some of Reaper’s advantages over GarageBand:
Reaper is a pro DAW
Reaper comes with all the tools you need to produce music professionally. It comes with devices that allow you to fine-tune any track for better editing, mixing, and mastering. It might not have many built-in instruments and intuitive features; Reaper features professional tools with heavy customization options.
Reaper is a lot faster than GarageBand. Because it has a lighter memory footprint, it does not go too hard on the RAM and allows you to add more tracks and plugins without crashing or overheating your processor.
Who wins the feature round? Well, I think it’s a clear tie. GarageBand wins in terms of actually having a ton of features, but Reaper also wins for having features that cater to professional music producers.
VST and Plugin Compatibility
Since GarageBand is only exclusive for Apple computers and mobile devices, there are only a handful of compatible VSTs and plugins. There are a couple of good VSTs you can use with GarageBand, but it is constrained.
Reaper, on the other hand, is more compatible with almost any VST. With that being said, it is easier to find good free or cheap plugins for Reaper compared to GarageBand.
In this category, Reaper clearly takes the cake in terms of VST compatibility. Although GarageBand already comes with a plethora of virtual instruments, professional producers prefer having more third-party choices.
Reaper works for both Mac and PC, while GarageBand only works on Apple Computers. However, GarageBand also works on iOS and iPad OS, giving more room for creativity whether you are in or out of your home studio. Windows computers, however, have more plugin and VST compatibility—meaning you will most likely find better VSTs on a Windows computer and Reaper.
Who is Reaper for?
Because Reaper lacks electronic and virtual instruments, it is more catered towards organic instruments. If you are a rock music producer, you will get more out of Reaper than GarageBand. I used to be in a metal band, and we almost exclusively used Reaper for recording, mixing, and mastering our tracks.
Many bands that play organic instruments prefer Reaper over GarageBand, and it is totally logical. Reaper is for music producers of all skill levels as it is somewhat easy to learn, and it comes with professional tools that allow you to produce radio-quality music.
Who is GarageBand for?
GarageBand is for pop, EDM, hip-hop, and other electronic genres. Based on the included instruments in the sound library, you can tell that it is best for these genres. However, rock bands and rock producers can still make the most of GarageBand and its included amp plugins.
Because GarageBand is a more complete DAW, it is an excellent DAW of choice for beginners. It may not have many professional recording tools, but it is still somewhat an OK option for beginners to intermediate music producers. If you have the talent, you can still somehow create radio-ready tracks with GarageBand—but it’s going to take time.
Which Option is Better?
Both options are excellent DAWS, and it is pretty hard to choose which is better. So let’s just put it this way; GarageBand is better for beginners, and Reaper is better for intermediate and pro music producers.
Do professional music producers use GarageBand?
Not many professional music producers use GarageBand. The only notable producer who uses GarageBand on the iPhone is Steve Lacey, one of rapper Kendrick Lamar’s producers. If you like to use GarageBand but want to step it up a notch—you should definitely try Logic Pro X.
Is Reaper good enough for professional music production?
Yes, Reaper is perfectly capable of producing professionally-sounding tracks, songs, and full-length albums, thanks to its tools and plugin compatibility.