Instruments Reaktor 4 and Reaktor Session
Beat Mode review by Mike Liebner
The release of
Native Instruments Reaktor 4 was one of the most eagerly anticipated
software upgrades ever. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.
And apparently I was not alone! Preceded by a wealth of pre-release
product information presented on the Native Instruments web site
and several posted and delayed release dates, there was a swell
of interest. The Reaktor community
getting restless and so was I. But finally the release became reality
and we finally got
this exciting upgrade and subsequent updates.
A little background...
I have been a user of Reaktor dating back to Reaktor 2. To say
I am in awe of this impressive software is an understatement. Version
3 brought a number of enhancements and new ensembles that made
it the best of the best. Reaktor 3 received a coveted 10 out of
10 Beat Mode rating and was proclaimed as being at the top of my "Desert
Island List" of Software Applications. (see our Reaktor
How could Native
Instruments possibly up the ante and top what was already the cream
of the crop in virtual instruments? In this review we'll discuss
what Reaktor is all about, the improvements version 4 brings, as
well as some of the features overall. We'll also compare Reaktor
4 with it's little brother Reaktor Session.
Reaktor 4 is
a music sound design and effects building application with a modular
structure that allows anyone to construct almost any synthesis
and effects processor imaginable. Think of Reaktor 4 as the shell
program behind 1,000's of already constructed musical instruments
that cover most anything you could possibly imagine.
Junatik ensemble updated for Reaktor 4 and Session - one of the
in the box. (click to enlarge)
Reaktor is not
just one kind of instrument, but rather a complete synthesis and
effects programming environment that allows modification of existing
instruments and effects (highest level instruments and effects
are called ensembles in Native Instruments speak), as well as an
environment to build from the ground up. A result of this programming
environment is a vast library of Reaktor instruments that are fully
finished and functional. Reaktor 4 ships with a healthy dose of
30 new ensembles, plus there are over 1,000 free user contributed
instruments and effects available from the Native Instruments web
site. In addition the libraries from previous versions of Reaktor
are now available for use in Reaktor 4. Also Native Instruments
has made available a cd-rom of additional ensembles and effects
called "Reaktor Electronic Instruments Volume 1" (see
review). And there are also some third parties that market Reaktor
Now, lets get
something out of the way up front... Reaktor Session (List $249.
US) is a separate lower priced version of Reaktor 4 (List $499.
US) that allows you
to utilize any of the 1,000's of instruments made with Reaktor.
The major difference being that you do not have the building or
modification capabilities of Reaktor 4. The sound quality on both
are identical and of the highest quality. Reaktor Session was previously
called DYNAMO which can be upgraded to Session for $99. US.
Reaktor 4 and
Reaktor Session both can be used as standalone applications and
can also be used as a plug-in with VST 2.0 (Windows, Mac OS9,
Mac OSX), Audio Units (OS X), and DXi (Windows). Ensembles
are identical and work in both Reaktor 4 or Reaktor Session.
is for you? Well, if you have the extra cash, Reaktor 4 is highly
desirable as you can tweak the existing instruments building blocks
and easily construct variations with the features you desire. Or
you can go all the way and build your own creations. It's a nice
capability to have even if you don't see yourself as a programmer
or plan on building a lot of instruments. Now, if you don't have
that spare cash, don't worry as Reaktor Session will be more than
capable of blowing your mind with 30 excellent effects and instruments
included in the box, plus the 1,000's of instruments in the user
library which are all free when you register your product. And
each instrument has the usual tweakable parameters to create and
modify presets. Plus if you ever get the desire to create your
own instruments you can upgrade from Session to the full version
of Reaktor 4 at a later time.
don't spend a great amount of time building instruments from scratch,
but I have from time to time made a few changes and experimented
with modifying existing instruments. It's easy and fun if you are
Check out the
Reaktor 4 and Reaktor
Session comparison chart
Reaktor Principal - Ensemble:
ensemble is the highest structural level in Reaktor
software. In an ensemble you store your complete
work in its current state so you can restore it
later. As the name suggests it is an assembly of
understanding the internal organization in Reaktor,
the levels of organization should be clear:
Top level is the Ensemble
An Ensemble contains Instruments
An Instrument contains Macros.
A Macro contains Modules
Instruments can have their own Panels with
switches, knobs and faders
Macros can have a rectangular frame in
Ensmemble Panel (click to enlarge)
Structure (click to enlarge)
OK, let's get
back to what Reaktor 4 and Session are all about. The 4th generation
of Reaktor has been improved significantly with many new features
and a sleek new look. Highest on the list are improved sound, new
modules and interface elements, an integrated browser, graphical
sample mapping and new preset options including randomization.
It also includes a new library optimized for Reaktor 4.
Check out the Reaktor
4 and Session Core Library descriptions
new snapshot/preset functions make Reaktor more pleasurable than
ever to work with.
now be selected from either within the instrument window or from
a new free floating snapshot window. In addition Reaktor now allows
up to 16 snapshot banks with 128 snapshots per bank allowing for
2,048 presets instantly available. No more running out of space
to save those new ideas!
Also of great
interest to myself was the new Random Snapshot Generator. A randomize
function that alters the snapshot according to a user selected
amount from 0 to 100. Select an amount, say 25, and then hit randomize
- all the parameters are scrambled and a new sound is created.
In use, the randomized results are often mixed, however a little
persistence and you'll end up with some incredible new found sounds.
Also fun to play
with, RND Merge (Random Merge) creates a new sound by fusing two
existing snapshots according to a randomization factor. Countless
new sounds can be created and immediately saved as new Snapshots.
And there's still
more - "Snapshot Morphing" allows two separate patches
to be selected (An A & B preset) and smooth transitions from
one to the other are achieved by moving the crossfader bar. Very
to Reaktor 4 is the way that it handles samples. There are 2 different
sample map views:
Graphical Editor (no it's not Kontakt!)
Samples can be
positioned on the keyboard per drag and drop, while root key, sample
zone, and velocity range can be graphically defined using the mouse.
Velocity splits are now also possible (calling various samples
according to how hard a key is struck).
Each sample has
individual settings for pitch, volume, and pan. The integrated
waveform editor with zoom and pre listen functions allows users
to draw in loops with total precision.
REAKTOR 4 samplers
now support samples with resolutions up to 32-bit (REAKTOR 3 was
only 16-bit). Hooray! No more restriction to 16 bit samples!
Old Classic but "extended" Mapping Editor
looks a whole lot prettier than version 3! And not restricted to
16 bit samples!
Builders" ONLY! - Improvements in Reaktor 4
Improved oscillators from Pro-53
Grain Cloud Delay - with freezing and live sampling
Mod diffusor delay (allpass) - audio input for delay time
Unit Delay (based on optimized module processing order)
1-Pole Allpass filter
Sample lookup module now has select
Resizable Select (replaces crossfader, scanner, audio relays)(2 ... 16
inputs Event/Audio, 1 output; Control by Event or Audio; Step and Crossfade/Scanning
Resizable Router (replaces event router 16, stereo pan)( 1 input, 2 ...
16 outputs Event/Audio; Control by Event or Audio; Step and Panning mode;
All lamps are resizeable
RGB lamp - three inputs (R, G, B), continually changing color possible
Background bitmap, all controls have alpha channel
Movie - if multiple bitmaps are arranged into a single bitmap (like a
film reel), the input to this module determines the offset (frame) that
is displayed in the panel.
List: text list that sends out numerical values. Can be displayed in
panel as a pop-up menu, matrix list (like preset display of FM7 or Absynth),
or as radio buttons.
Send/Receive: audio and event can be transmitted without cables, and
the user can select receive destinations from the panel (matrix synths
made easy). 4 Views: Radio-Button, Up/Down, List, Menu.
Multi text: essentially a multi-comment with an input to control which
comment is displayed.
Panel objects (knob, fader, button, selector) can be controlled through
a new internal communications protocol, supporting OSC on all platforms
Snapshots can be controlled through structure/panel with full support
for morphing (Patch A, Patch B select, morph index)
(Audio and Event)
sqrt(), 1/sqrt(), log(), 1/x()
arctan(), arccos(), acrsin(), sin()
Support for C-style for() statement.
So, now that
we know what Reaktor 4 and Session offer, how do they work?
Reaktor 4 installed
painlessly on my Windows XP test machine with 1.7 Ghz P4, 512 RAM.
There aint no dongle no more, so one must do the challenge/response
dance to get it authorized. You get 30 fully functional days after
your install to get your response and authorize your drive, so
that isn't too much of a problem. Granted it'd be preferable to
not have that added hassle, but we understand Native Instruments
deserves the right to protect their products.
one of the first things I tried after installing Reaktor 4 was
to load some of my old Reaktor 3 ensembles (instruments, whatever
you wanna call 'em!) and I was greeted with several crashes. They
choked my machine. I gave up trying to load "old ensembles".
Fortunately within a couple of weeks Native Instruments updated
most all of the old library and posted the ensembles in zips on
the Native Instruments web site. I was annoyed however that 6-Pack,
one of my fave Reaktor 3 ensembles was not updated.
In addition they
updated Reaktor Electronic Instruments Volume 1 so it now works
in Reaktor 4 (also as download on Native Instruments web site).
In addition there
have been updates with bug fixes to Reaktor 4 and now all is working
Reaktor 4 is
still the king of all virtual instruments. The improvements to
sound and functionality are significant. Reaktor 4 sounds like
a million bucks. The new ensembles included in the box version
are all excellent with a few standouts that really sparkle (see
Reaktor 4 is
a very versatile program. In addition to the highest quality bread
and butter synth sounds and effects, you will be exposed to a whole
new world of sounds that you never knew you were capable of coaxing
from your computer. Sequenced evolving soundscapes.... Granulized
samples that evolve into unimaginable sounds... Yes, it may be
true that some of the sounds can be found elsewhere on other synths,
but Reaktor 4 has it's share of unique tricks that as of yet simply
cannot be achieved
Think of Reaktor
as a grab bag of tricks. A giant grab bag! You get endless possibilities.
And best of all, even if you are not into programming your own
instruments there are so many other brilliant Reaktor chemists
out there creating new and free Reaktor ensembles and effects that
you will constantly be served up with fresh and new inspiration.
Just regularly visit the Native Instruments user library and you'll
find all new inspiring tools! And for free!
Is it worth upgrading?
If you have Reaktor 3 and are contemplating upgrading to Reaktor
4, I say RUN don't WALK.... Despite the few snaggles I've encountered,
Reaktor 4 is a worthwhile upgrade to the already stellar Reaktor
3. Personally I have both versions on my computer and still fire
up the old one if I encounter a finicky old ensemble. And Reaktor
4 sounds so damn good! The quality improvement alone justifies
the modest upgrade fee, especially if you utilize the capability
for 24 bit samples and better. Add in the wonderful new preset
capabilities (randomization, morphing etc.) along with the improved
sample mapping and you'll be one happy camper with your upgrade.
If you do not
have Reaktor 3 yet and still have not dived into Reaktor 4 or Reaktor
Session, I say - get a 2nd job if you have to! Whatever it takes,
scrape up the cash and get in on the most revolutionary new sound
sculpting tool ever devised. You need not be a rocket scientist
for either version. If all you are looking for is brilliant, unique
sounds and effects and spit loads of presets to push upon, you
will be thrilled by adding Reaktor 4 or Reaktor Session to your
bag of tricks. You'll be exploring for hours upon hours! And if
you're like me, Reaktor 4 will soon be on your "Desert Island
List" of must have programs.
4 and Reaktor Session get a 10 out of 10 Beat Mode Rating.
"Indispensable. Must have. Cream of the crop!"
4 Suggested Retail $499.00 US
Session Suggested Retail $249. US
Mode Reaktor 4 Links
4.1 Update News
Additions for Reaktor 4 and Session - here you'll find the conversions
of previous Reaktor ensembles
New in Reaktor 4.03 - info on the fixes in the latest update
Mode review of Reaktor 3
Loops and Exporting Audio w/ Reaktor - tips