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Musical Instrument Info & Reviews

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Native Instruments Reaktor 2.3

Standalone Program + VST Plug In Effects & Instruments for Mac & PC.

Reaktor gets a


New - see our review of Native Instruments Reaktor 3 PC

Reaktor, by Native Instruments "is a piece of software that turns your computer and sound card into a powerful synthesizer and audio processing system"...

At least those are the words the Reaktor manual uses to describe it. In actuality - it is true. But from this reviewers perspective, Reaktor has been widely misrepresented and misunderstood by the Music press. Understandably it is a deep complex piece of software and very often people try to pigeon hole things and therefore I believe it has generally been described or reviewed short of its real application potential. In particular it has been presented as a complex modular system that is difficult for beginners to grasp. That can be true if you are to use Reaktor to it's fullest capability as it offers us the ability to BUILD & DESIGN INSTRUMENTS from scratch. But that is just part of what Reaktor is. It is also a highly usable set of PROGRAMS already constructed and ready to go out of the box. If you desire - you can completely stay away from module building and use the existing programs. Deep - yet accessible immediately to anyone.

So, what is Reaktor? First off it is a combination of several products that Native Instruments has been marketing - all together in one package. It includes the products: DYNAMO, GENERATOR and TRANSFORMATOR which will be described in detail later. Overall REAKTOR is modular software that enables you to custom build synthesizers and samplers as well as effects. It is a stand alone program but also functions as a VST INSTRUMENT and also as VST EFFECTS (other platforms also supported).

From relatively simple analog synthesizer emulations to complex modular systems with sample players and synthesis (FM, Subtractive etc.), Reaktor provides a palette of sounds only limited by the imagination.

Although I must admit this software was intimidating out of the box, Reaktor has been by far the most fun any software has provided. The variety of modules already built and ready to go is mind boggling. Sounds as unique as can be. Capabilities I have only dreamed of are attainable almost instantly without much effort. And that is just playing with the provided instruments. Wanna take modules a step further? You can do it. Now, it will take some time to get the hang of building modules, but the real power of Reaktor is that it comes with a large library of preassembled modules and an ever growing library of user contributed modules available at the Native Instruments web site.

So if you'd rather make music than build instruments - don't worry - Reaktor is the ticket. It offers a palette of sounds that will stimulate your imagination.

Now... How do you use Reaktor? Well, if you read the manual (mandatory) you will perhaps get sidetracked and confused as we did. Unfortunately, we believe the materials presented were not as clear as they could have been. The manual chooses to walk you through the LIBRARY before it allows you to learn how to use the program. This is ok, as it immediately shows you the sonic capabilities, however it leaves a lot of unanswered questions as to how to really apply the program. Perhaps we can shed a bit of light and give you a good understanding of what Reaktor is.

First off - you need to understand it is both a STAND ALONE PROGRAM and a PLUG-IN (or VST INSTRUMENT/EFFECT). Before using it with your sequencer you should get a good feel of what the features are in the standalone program. Simply fire it up by itself and it should work immediately if installed properly. We used it on a Beige Mac G3 with a 450 mhz upgrade chip and 224 MB RAM, MOTU 24i sound card. Admittedly, REAKTOR modules if complex can hog the CPU. It really takes over the computer. We experienced a few crashes here and there but in general the program is stable and gets along nicely on our system. We suggest you "play" with the PREMIUM LIBRARY and open various modules such as CYCLANE and SINEBEATS and get a feel for what the various buttons do. The manual is very good at describing the features of the various PREMIUM LIBRARY MODULES. The real fun however will come in when you use the modules in a sequencer such as Cubase VST which we did.

OK, so lets get the differences straight here... In stand alone mode when you run the modules you can tweak parameters and make changes to the flow. However using them in VST is a whole other ball game. You first open VST and then select VST INSTRUMENTS and choose REAKTOR from the pull down menu on the blank module. The mixer will now have 6 Reaktor channels good to go. Activate the red power button on the VST panel and click the EDIT BUTTON. A blank Reaktor panel will open. Click the folder icon on the far left and you will then be able to select which module you desire to use in VST.

Cyclane for example is a "performance system with sequencers, drum synth, FM Synth and effects". We like this one a lot! It allows for some awesome loops and grooves.

Reaktor's CYCLANE interface - click HERE for detailed description & sound demo.

Now that you are in VST and have your instrument set up and ready to go the fun begins... Since this is a sequenced kind o' module you simply hit PLAY in the VST transport and CYCLANE will start playing at the current tempo of VST... Nice.... Change the tempo... Change a few settings in CYCLANE. Try a few different presets (SNAPSHOTS). When we are satisfied with what we have auditioned then we can record the audio. Simply set the markers to the desired length you'd like to record and hit EXPORT. Boom you get the prompt to save it and after making your settings you hit save and the file is created. Very nice.

Reaktor's InHumanLogic interface - click HERE for detailed description & sound demo.

If you are using say a SYNTHESIZER MODULE such as InHumanLogic (above), it works slightly differently... First off you need to make sure your controller is sending midi and then select REAKTOR in one of the VST tracks on which you wish to record. Then just play and the notes you play will sound in Reaktor. Get ready for some trippy wild strange stuff (that's good, right?).

Do you like knobs? Does using the mouse to change parameters give ya the willies? Well, you are not alone and a great feature of REAKTOR is MIDI LEARN. All ya do is select a parameter you would like to assign a knob to (like on your controller synth or a Phat Boy etc.), hit MIDI LEARN and then turn the desired knob. WHOAH! Now you can use the KNOB to tweak that parameter. Got more knobs? Good! Just do the same and you'll be knobbing to your hearts content! Excellent feature! Painless pleasure! Thanks Reaktor!

Now, to really get the hang of things you will need to spend some time with the manual. This thing has been read over numerous meals as well as open alongside my computer so I could actually do some stuff. We suggest reading up on how to make SNAPSHOTS as well as SAMPLE MAPS. This stuff can be a bit confusing at first but practice makes perfect.

You can also use REAKOR for VST effects... If you've used plug ins before - it is the same with Reaktor. Get ready to mangle some sound!

One feature we would love to see in Reaktor is RANDOMIZE or EVOLVE ALL as in PLUGGO. The capability to randomly change parameters would be really cool. For now we'll just have to tweak them knobs I reckon...

So... this is far from a thorough review. We do hope it sheds some light however on what Reaktor really is. In a short sentence: REAKTOR is a breakthrough in software synths and samplers allowing near infinite sculpting capabilities. It is a beat box, synthesizer, sampler, effects - you name it - it does it. And it can be as complicated as you want it to be. It can also be a simply used plug in utilizing others programming efforts. EZ AS SIN.

IF YOU ARE INTIMIDATED by the complexity of REAKTOR - DON'T SWEAT IT! You will get something cool without major effort. And if ya do put in some effort you will get great results. If we had just one software tool we could use in addition to Cubase VST - this would be it. Truly awesome!

Please keep in mind this is a CPU intensive program and that you will need to have your computer system running lean and mean. That means sufficient disk space, sufficient RAM and a CPU that can handle the demands. There are some workarounds so don't worry too much but in general this program is recommended for those users with some computer horsepower to burn.

Go get it! You'll be amazed! And don't worry about all the folks telling you it is too omplicated for you. Maybe they wanna keep it a secret? After all, who ever utilizes all of the potential of any synth or sampler? The great thing about REAKTOR is that others have toiled long and hard so you can just install the program, get it working and select a pre-made module and compose! No muss - no fuss... Now if that aint easy... Oh, and it works seamlessly on both the Mac and PC with the ability to share files on both platforms. Both PC and MAC versions are included. Yipee!

Native Instruments Reaktor page with features and descriptions

Review of Native Instruments Reaktor 2.0 at the Harmony Central site.

Another REAKTOR review at vintagesynth.com

A Conversation with David Sesnek and Mate Galic of Native Instruments and the power of Reaktor

Building a SYNTH from scratch in Reaktor - from Coomputer Music (parts 1 & 2)

Build a Reaktor Ensemble from scratch - cool tutorial

NEW! Native Instruments BATTERY 1.0 review at beatmode.com




5-6 stars - DECENT - worthwhile for some applications.

7-8 stars - VERY GOOD product with many pluses, highly usable.

9-10 stars - INDISPENSABLE - must have - the cream of the crop!

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