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Native Instruments Reaktor 3 - Synthesis - Sampling - Effect Processing Software

Reaktor 3 interface

Available for PC & Mac

Reaktor gets a Beat Mode rating of 10 out of 10 possible.

Native Instruments Reaktor is without question the most powerful piece of music creation & audio processing software ever made. It is the Rolls Royce of all virtual musical instruments & audio processing software and contains a power and depth that you can only attain by combining together the features of multiple audio software programs and hardware. It is without question our favorite music software application ever.

You want a tricked out sampler? No problem. A wild synthesizer. OK, easy as pie. How about a radical sampler that resynthesizes the audio and mutates it into something completely new? No problem. Reaktor does that. How about a sampler that takes several loop files, and automatically matches the tempo and then mutilates and combines them into something completely original? Native Instruments Reaktor can do that and so much more. In fact the modular nature of Native Instruments Reaktor enables it to accomplish so many different types of audio processing tasks it is mind numbing. And best of all you do not need an engineering degree to utilize all the capabilities Reaktor provides. It's so easy to use right out of the box, yet contains a seemingly infinite amount of potential for those who desire to dig deeper into the modular nature and create original and new sound generating creations. In fact there is a thriving community of "do it your self" Reaktor Ensemble creators that provide a seemingly endless amount of new instruments and effects, most of which are available free to Reaktor owners. Who could ask for more?

So what exactly is Reaktor? For the sound designer, Native Instruments Reaktor is a gold mine of unique and original sounds, with a seemingly infinite amount of sound creation capabilities. For the musician & composer, Native Instruments Reaktor is pure inspiration, with an unlimited palette of fresh original sounds to inspire even the most uninspired.

This is how Native Instruments describes it:

"Reaktor is a piece of software that turns your computer and soundcard into a powerful synthesizer and audio processing system. It's completely modular structure ensures that no limits are imposed on your imagination in the creation of electronic musical instruments and sound effects. From the simulation of relatively simple, analog synthesizers as well as large, complex modular systems, through sample players and FM synthesis - Reaktor will show itself to be capable of fulfilling all your desires."

Quite a bold statement - but it is true and then some!

In our opinion, Native Instruments Reaktor has been the most significant musical instrument & effects software breakthrough ever. The most fun any virtual instrument has ever provided. Now, I was thinking to myself about what one piece of software I could not live without... That's a tough one. I'd say Reaktor is without question the most fun and most inspiring, but it is also still necessary to have a sequencer/digital audio recorder such as Cubase or Logic to really get the job done. Combined with a sequencer and a powerful computer, Reaktor could be the only piece of virtual instrument software or hardware you will ever need.

Enter to win Tassman Synthesizer!

It's funny, but we were just reading through Future Music Magazine's excellent issue with the "Top 40 Hottest Software Instruments"... an excellent reference with ratings and reviews of several categories including: "Top Ten percussion instruments", "Top Ten samplers", "Top Ten Analogue synths" and "Top 10 instruments" and guess what??? Native Instruments Reaktor was NOT included in any of those top ten lists... In a sidebar Future Music said the following: "Native Instruments Reaktor: its scope means it doesn't fit into one software instrument category" "Reaktor is the daddy of all VST Instruments"... they said more of course, but to summarize it suggested that it'd be difficult to include Reaktor because it fits into all of the categories and some would feel it is the best in several. Perhaps what was missing was a TOP TEN of all the categories combined, in which case Reaktor would certainly be near the top. So we understand why they didn't include Reaktor, and it was nice they at least mentioned it in a sidebar, but perhaps it should have deserved a page reviewing it and all its various capabilities.

OK, so now it is time for us to review that latest release of Reaktor, Version 3 for the PC (Mac review soon to follow). If you have read our review of Reaktor 2.3, you know that we love the software and gave it a 10 out of 10 rating. So how can the new Reaktor 3 be even better??? We'll get into all the details and tell you about the new and improved Reaktor and all its great new features.

First off some specifics about Reaktor 3 as it compares to the previous version. Reaktor 3 PC in addition to operating as a stand-alone program, is now supporting the following formats: VST 2.0, DirectX, DXi, ASIO, DirectSound and MME. Reaktor 3 now requires a free USB port for a USB dongle for copy protection, compared to the previous version which required the cd-rom be inserted on occasion and a hefty file hidden on your drive. If you don't have a USB port other options are available for an additional charge.


Draw your own envelopes, sequences, waveforms with the Audio/Event Array

Reaktor 3 features an optimized audio engine with increased performance on Pentium III and 4 processors (good reason to upgrade the ole PII PC, eeh?) as well as performance gains on all PCs. It has an improved user interface with new layout options, selectable background colors, drag and drop plus X/Y controls, horizontal faders, waveform and value displays.


New filter from the acclaimed Pro-52

You can now import Akai samples into Reaktor 3 directly from Akai formatted CD-ROMS (hooray) as well as import mp3 files. Reaktor 3 has been extended with several new "modules" including analog modeled filters, granular synthesis and multi-tap delays. It supports sample rates up to 96 kHz and has 32 bit floating point state of the art algorhytms with direct to disk recording.


By moving the mouse within the XY control area, you can control two parameters at once,
while an oscilloscope, waveform, or pattern is displayed underneath.

Reaktor 3 comes with 8 brand new instruments/ensembles including the nifty "Grain State" with advanced sample processing by granular synthesis. There is also new support for OSC, a network communication protocol, which extends midi by allowing high speed data transmission and 32 bit controller values.

Installation of Reaktor was a simple and painless process on our PC and did not overwrite our previous version. Our machine is a Pentium II 450 MHz with 192 MB RAM (NOTE: we have since set up a new machine, a Pentium 4 1.7 and Reaktor rocks in it! Not 1 crash and the CPU meter barely budges. A big step up from the PII 450. See our P4 article.). After installation and a few preference settings we were soon exploring the wonderful new GRAIN STATE ensemble. WOW! What a monster! There are 7 new other ensembles, and in addition many of the previous 100 or so ensembles from version 2.3 have been improved to take advantage of the new capabilities.

We must say that many of the new Ensembles are processor intensive and demand a fast machine. We experienced several crashes and have concluded our PII 450 just isn't up to the task. A new Beat Mode test machine is coming to us soon (P4) and we will return to evaluate performance after we have it in our hands. We did notice however that some of those demanding ensembles seem to work happier from within Cubase 5 as a VST Instrument. Less crashes and generally the instruments seemed snappier??? We've heard the opposite from others oddly enough. Go figure. Once again to be fair we will return and evaluate more specifically when we have a faster more capable PC. Suffice to say, if you have anything less than a Pentium III you may experience occasional difficulties. This is understandable as some Reaktor Ensembles can be quite complex and demand a lot from the CPU. In all fairness, the majority of instruments that ship with Reaktor are not all that demanding and work just fine on our PII machine. In fact many are super simple and work with no strain on the CPU at all. Mileage may vary based on your set up.


Virtuator is one of the nifty new ensembles that ships with Reaktor 3.

Compared to Reaktor 2.3 we couldn't really tell if there were any performance gains. From what we understand, the Pentium III and Pentium 4 processors have new instruction sets that Reaktor 3 takes advantage of, resulting in far superior performance. We can't wait to test that out and will keep you posted.

Reaktor 3 is really quite a friendly program, even for the novice. Despite numerous rumblings in the press as to the complexity of Reaktor, we've always found it quite easy to work with. Granted there are hundreds if not thousands of ensembles (Reaktor terminology for a unique instrument or effect) and they all utilize different methods of dealing with sound creation, henceforth many options, knobs and names, but we've always found it very intuitive to tweak the settings and customize the sounds in emsembles. In fact we find most if not all Reaktor ensembles far easier to program than hardware synths and samplers which can be quite cryptic. After all Reaktor provides a beautiful visual interface to all it's controls making sound design a simple matter. Tweak a knob and see what it does. Now building something completely new from scratch - that's a different story. It can be complex to build your own instruments, but there are so many premade monsters, that chances are you'll find what you need without having to build from scratch. But if that is what you desire, the capability to make up something completely original is there. Judging by the constant influx of user created ensembles, there are a lot of you out there that enjoy coming up with the new stuff and building it for the world o enjoy. Fortunately you creators out there seem to be a sharing bunch and make these new ensembles available via the Native Instruments User Library! (Be sure to also search the web too - there's lots of cool stuff out there too if you look!)

If you have a controller, hardware synth or sampler with knobs, or perhaps an external controller like a PhatBoy or 4Contol, it is super easy to assign knobs/controllers on your external box to within Reaktor. All you do is hit "MIDI LEARN" in Reaktor, click the knob within the ensemble you want to control, and then move the knob on your external controller. With no fuss you know have external control over Reaktor and can tweak knobs to your hearts content. Set another. And another... We love the fact that Cubase will even record these controller movements with Reaktor as a virtual instrument. In fact we find this one of the most powerful hidden features of Reaktor. The ability to assign and move multiple knobs and record variations within the sequencer as you record. You can add sweeps, change pitch, change samples etc. Any setting in Reaktor can be assigned to an external knob. That's power! Transform a static synth sound into a moving and evolving one. Sure beats just using pitch bend or the modulation wheel!

We love to assign the knobs in Reaktor ensembles to our Nord Modular (blessed with 18 knobs!) and our Emu Xtreme XL-1, and then play with the sound externally. Much easier to create variations.

One gripe we do have is more with the VST Instrument spec than Reaktor... It is damn near impossible to work comfortably with complex Reaktor Ensembles as a VST Instrument as the window size is limited/restricted in Cubase. That means excessive scrolling and such to get at the settings. Why can't a VST window be resized instead of restricted to a set size and a small one at that? Hopefully that'll be addressed by Steinberg in the future.

We do give kudos to Native Instruments for adding a nice new feature in their latest update which now gives you the option of saving the ensemble with your songs in a variety of ways, including "save as". Thank you! Now if they could just get the VST windows to be easier to work with...

All in all, Reaktor 3 carries on the tradition of being a superb virtual instrument. It now looks better and has a myriad of improvements. The best is now better. If you have Reaktor 2.3 and are considering upgrading, we say do it! You will not look back in regret. If you do not yet have Reaktor, you are missing out on some of the most incredible music & sound making tools available. It's not an inexpensive program, but is worth every penny. Get it if you can.

Check back soon, as we'll be adding sample sounds of Reaktor in action, plus will have a nice sidebar on Reaktor Sound Design. In the meantime we set up a mp3.com music station with songs that use Reaktor. Check it out! If you have any Reaktor tunes - let us know and we'll add them to the list! Send your suggestions to us at reaktormusic@beatmode.com.

Reaktor gets a Beat Mode rating of 10 out of 10 possible.

See our tutorial on RECORDING seamless loops with Reaktor.

Beat Mode Q & A with Reaktor Specialist Martin Brinkmann

Check out our free Atmospheric Samples - recorded using Reaktor!

Native Instruments releases Reaktor 3.0.4 update to their flagship sampling, synthesis & effects software.

Check out our review of Native Instruments Reaktor 2.3

DashSynthesis - VirtualSynthDesigners - unique ensembles for Reaktor!

What's In A Synth - how to article using Reaktor as example to build synths

Beat Mode Tech Article - MSVRCT error problem with Reaktor - Rebirth

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