In the sea of themes that exist in the REAPER stash, the HYDRA theme by blankfiles is one of my favorites, and perhaps one of the most used themes in the community. This theme was last updated in 2017, but it still holds its charm and other members of the community have modded it further. So, in this article I’ll be sharing with you a few things about this theme. If you’re new to REAPER themes, go ahead and check out this guide on theme installation before you proceed.
For those people that really like to emulate other DAWs inside REAPER, the HYDRA theme uses a very similar layout and aesthetic to Presonus Studio One, maybe if you wanted to mod it you could get it mostly spot on, but I really recommend you start using it as it is first. This theme really likes big resolutions. If you want your mixer to show FX and sends while docked, you may want to use at least a 1080p HD resolution, or even better 1440p QHD resolution.
This is a really dark theme, the highlights are not very intrusive, and the shades of gray draw your attention naturally to whatever needs it.
The transport bar is very low resolution friendly as it’s compact and tucked to the left side of the display. It actually reminds me of the Pro Tools transport bar with how everything is laid out, works really well.
However I like a lot more, the A-SMALL transport bar variation that you can select from the Screensets/Layouts window.
It looks a lot more REAPER-esque to me, and feels much more slim and elegant.
The default colors for Markers and Regions work perfectly fine, the timeline ruler is easily readable, and the boundaries of the items are easy to recognize, especially when they are selected.
However the contrast between the item color and the audio waveforms are not as easy on the eyes, especially if you like to use bright colors. If you want to change that, you can do it in the Theme development/tweaker window.
For me, darker Media item peaks and lighter Media item peaks when selected works much better.
The TCP uses a slightly unconventional layout which switches the Mute and Solo buttons position with the Record arm and Record monitor buttons. These last ones are to the right of the Track name and below it respectively.
However, somehow this default layout and design looks sick! Like an expensive sports car in my opinion. Vertical meters, dark panel with tinted side, and full Panning control for all tracks.
About Track Panel layouts, I really like the F-CUSTOM COLORFULL for normal tracks, and using the B-BUSS/BLACK for folder tracks and B-FX for “Aux ” tracks.
If the TCP is too crowded for your taste or you have a lower resolution screen, you may want to try the A-MINIMAL and A-NO CONTROL Track panel layouts.
The Mixer Panel keeps the dark panels and tinted stripes and highlights, and here is where you’ll see this theme take the most inspiration from Presonus Studio One. I think it’s a solid inspiration, it’s one of the best organized Mixers out there for my taste.
The FX list looks more like a list of plug-ins than slots, Sends show as an overlay bar that fills the send’s name with a small icon to the right.
Folders don’t indent, so all the tracks are at the same level in the mixer, which can make it harder to identify which tracks belong to which folder. However, this can be overcome by using Mixer panel layouts.
I personally prefer the FULL dB SCALE layouts, but if you’re in a large live recording session, you may want to check the C-STRIP FULL METER or E-METERBRIDGE layouts.
The appearance of the MIDI editor is one of the best out there for me, notes are easy to differentiate form the background, the grid lines are not too intrusive but still easily identifiable, the piano roll just works, and the velocity value lane somehow looks very stylish.
My only inconvenience is that when the MIDI notes are colored by velocity, they all look too similar from each other even if they don’t have the same velocity value. If you want to take that matter into your own hands, that can be changed with a MIDI color map, try researching it, REAPER’s stash has a bunch of them that can be imported to your theme.
This theme is a great allrounder in my opinion. The whole user experience guided by its design makes it one of my favorites, plus it’s all black! I just can’t resist dark themes with good layout. I hope this review serves you to find a theme where you feel comfortable, don’t be afraid to try a bunch, I already uploaded other theme articles that you may like, check them out here and have fun!