Reaper vs GarageBand

Reaper and GarageBand are two popular entry-level DAWs that can be good for beginners. They are both low or no-cost options that give you enough features and functions to record and produce music at a basic level. 

Reaper has more widespread compatibility than the Apple-only GarageBand, but the latter is a little easier to use for beginners. Reaper is also quite a bit faster than GarageBand regarding overall production. 

My name is Donovan, and I’ve been an avid musician for most of my life. I love to write, record, and produce music as often as possible and have experience using Reaper and GarageBand in a home studio setting. 

This post will spotlight Reaper versus GarageBand to give you a good idea of these two DAWs compared head-to-head. I’ll provide you with important details about each to show you how they function and what you can expect if you use them. 

Let’s dive in. 

Quick Comparison

Ease of UseRelatively easy to use but not quite as simple for the complete beginner. Easy to navigate project windows,Very easy to use, and designed for the complete beginner. Intuitive interface and good help features. 
Professional CapabilitiesBetter professional capabilities though not at as high of a level as other pro DAWsNot many professional capabilities and intended more for beginner and amateur musicians and producers. 
Features/FunctionsMore features and functions than GarageBand allow for better overall production. Expanded editing and mixing capabilities. Basic recording and editing functions. Small number of software instruments and plugins. 
WorkflowA handful of workflow considerations that enable efficient recording, mixing, and editing. Not too many workflow considerations to mention. Easy to navigate interface does help workflow. 
LimitationsNot entirely on the same level as industry-standard DAWs like Logic and Pro Tools. Only available on Apple devices. Limitations with editing and mixing. 
Pricing $60Free

Detailed Comparison 

Here is a more in-depth look at Reaper and GarageBand to help you better understand which of these DAWs might be the best choice for your home studio. 

1. Ease of Use

Ease of use is especially important for beginners just learning how to play or produce music. But it’s also a factor that impacts anyone with more experience because you don’t want too steep of a learning curve with any DAW. 

Reaper is a fairly easy to use DAW that most people can get the hang of quickly. It’s not entirely designed for beginners, but it doesn’t have a huge barrier to entry that would prevent you from learning it if you have never recorded music before. 

Projects are pretty easy to set up and navigate within Reaper, and the windows are colorful and laid out in a way that makes sense. This is nice for figuring out how to use the app as well as workflow considerations. 

GarageBand is very easy to use and is one of the most intuitive audio production apps available. That’s why it’s become so well-known and popular with beginners and other people looking for a simple way to make music. 

GarageBand also has a sweet Quick Help feature that allows you to hover the cursor over any part of the project to get more information or assistance on it. This is a great way to help you learn the ins and outs of the app quickly. 

While there is somewhat of a learning curve for any audio app you choose, it’s nice to have ones that aren’t overly complicated or hard to figure out. Both Reaper and GarageBand get good marks for ease of use. 

Winner: GarageBand

Screenshot taken in GarageBand on my Mac

2. Professional Capabilities

If you want to be a professional musician, producer, or engineer, you need tools to help you meet these goals. And a DAW is a very important aspect of helping the music you create sound professional. 

Reaper is the more professionally capable option here, and it has more features and functions that cater to the full suite of audio production you’d expect with a DAW. It’s not quite as common in a professional setting as other big-name options, but it holds up. 

You don’t see many professional recording studios running Reaper as the main DAW, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make professional-sounding recordings with it. It has the tools and features you need to make this happen. 

GarageBand is not designed to be a professional-level DAW, so it lacks the tools you need to make high-level recordings. It’s a great learning tool that can help you gain the needed experience to work toward better-sounding recordings, but it won’t make you a pro. 

No one really uses GarageBand in a professional setting because it’s a beginner app that isn’t intended for this purpose. You can’t expect to charge people money using GarageBand, and you also can’t make extremely high-quality recordings with it. 

Neither GarageBand nor Reaper would be my choice for a professional recording studio. While they can handle the basic recording and editing functions, they aren’t complex enough to deliver album-quality recordings. 

Winner: Reaper 

3. Features/Functions

The features and functions of a DAW are what makes it tick. So it’s always important to understand what an audio app or program offers before you purchase it or put it into use with any of your audio projects. 

Reaper has more features and functions overall than GarageBand, making it a better choice if you are looking for an affordable DAW to add to your studio. It has all the basic tools you’d expect for recording and editing, plus a few more that are worth mentioning here. 

Reaper has a few plugins and instruments you can use to make music without recording live instruments. You can also take advantage of pretty broad plugin compatibility to expand your recording possibilities. 

GarageBand also has the basic functions to let you record and edit audio. It also comes with virtual drummers and software instruments that can help you start making a track if you have little musical experience. 

But there aren’t many high-end features that will help you create complete recordings. This is especially true with mixing and editing in GarageBand. Getting a track recorded is easy, but expanding it from there isn’t all that possible. 

If you want a DAW with more features, then you’ll want to choose Reaper over GarageBand. GarageBand might be the better choice if you want a more simplified option that won’t overwhelm you with bells and whistles. 

Winner: Reaper

4. Workflow

Workflow is another important consideration when deciding which DAW to use in your home studio. This can greatly impact how fast you work, and efficiency is key in many professional studio settings. 

Since Reaper has more capabilities overall, it caters to workflow considerations better. The simple design and layout of the app is one initial way in which you can benefit workflow using it. This will help you stay focused and on task without getting overwhelmed. 

Reaper is also a pretty fast DAW, so you won’t need to worry about glitches or crashes that much. This is another big workflow concern because you won’t be as focused on your projects if you are always dealing with technical issues. 

GarageBand doesn’t have as many workflow considerations in place. It has a simple, user-friendly interface that helps you start a recording project quickly. That’s a nice initial workflow consideration and worth taking into account. 

But since there aren’t a lot of other complex features within the app, you can’t really dial in an effective workflow even if you wanted to. This isn’t that big of an issue because most serious producers understand this and don’t use GarageBand anyways. 

If you are a working musician or producer and you want the ability to refine and expand your workflow, then you’ll want to choose Reaper or another DAW with more workflow considerations in play. 

Winner: Reaper

5. Limitations

Just about any audio production software you choose will have some sort of limitation. It’s good to know about these ahead of time so you don’t waste energy and effort learning how to use a DAW to find out it’s not exactly what you want. 

Reaper has relatively widespread compatibility and works with many different operating systems and devices. That’s nice because you won’t need to change up what type of system you are running to use it. 

There are some limitations with Reaper when it comes to the plugins it offers, and you might need to purchase or install additional plugins for full studio capabilities. This isn’t a huge issue, but it’s good to be aware of. 

GarageBand is limited in several ways, and one of the first is that it’s only available on Apple devices. You can run GarageBand on a Mac, iPhone, or iPad, but it won’t work on any other device. 

There are also limits in GarageBand when it comes to fully producing a track. Since it’s not a professional-level app, you don’t have access to the same tools and features you’d get in more complex DAWs. That’s a serious limitation for a lot of people. 

You might not be too concerned about these limitations if you are just learning to write and record music. But if you are looking for an audio production app that you can use in a complete studio, be sure to keep them in mind. 

Winner: Reaper 

6. Pricing

DAWs can be expensive, and the average musician or producer doesn’t always make much money. You should always keep your budget in mind when you are choosing an option so you can save money for other gear and equipment. 

Luckily, both Reaper and GarageBand are very affordable. You don’t need to dish out large amounts of money to get access to them, and that’s why they are popular and well-known. 

Reaper costs $60 for a full license that gives you access to updates for a while. You can also use the app for 60 days for free if you want to try it out before using it full-time. 

GarageBand is free and comes preinstalled on Apple devices, so you don’t even need to download it. It’s not a highly complex recording app, but the price is definitely right.

Winner: Reaper

Final Verdict

Reaper and GarageBand are two of the most affordable DAWs available, making them a good choice for beginners or anyone else on a budget. Reaper is more capable from a professional standpoint, but GarageBand is free. 

I don’t recommend either of these for a professional-level studio. But they make good alternatives if you are working towards improving your skills and don’t want to spend the money on a professional DAW. 

Have you used Reaper and GarageBand? Which did you like better and why? Let me know in the comments below.

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  • Donovan

    Hi Bron,

    Glad you like the post, and thanks for reaching out and saying so! Hope it helps you get your music out into the world.

  • Bron

    This is an excellent review. Just what I was looking for – thank you!