Native Instruments Reaktor
Reaktor from Native Instruments is a very flexible and great sounding software-based modular real-time synthesizer, sampler and effects processor. Select from a large library of synths/samplers or build and create your own! It functions just as any other Modular Dream machine would except that in its software environment, there are virtually unlimited amounts of flexibility, patchability and sonic possibilities. But prepare for a steep learning curve if you don't already know a lot about how synthesizers use oscillators, filters, envelopes, effects, LFOs and so much more to generate sounds.
The Panel layouts of most modules are straight forward and offer a lot of functionality, but the greatest challenge is in patching and building these modules. Not only do you patch modules, but you create, add and assign knobs and buttons to control the various parameters of the module (can you say, tedious?). Even the real-time Midi controllers have to be assigned. Of course Reaktor comes with plenty of preset patches to play with and get you going, and storage of your own creations is virtually limitless! As usual with software synthesizers, the bigger and better your Windows or Macintosh computer is, the better Reaktor will perform, with almost no Midi-audio latency issues on computers over 200MHz and with well over 100MB RAM.
Reaktor is all about modules. Just about any imaginable oscillator including FM-synthesis and osc-syncing are available. Synthesis is handled by the Generator component of Reaktor. Synthesis methods include analog modeling, FM, sample-playback and granular hybrid. The other major component to Reaktor is the Transformator, a sample player. Though it isn't a full-featured sampler it offers all the basic editing needs including some cool time-shift, resampling and key mapping functions. Sounds are loaded from libraries and can be traded with other Reaktor users over the internet. Still, it seems this sampler is there just for kicks when you compare it to the capabilities of the Generator synth section!
For its price, Reaktor offers almost unlimited synthesis potential at a steal of a price! But the complexity involved even in creating the simplest patch may limit it to synth Programmers with PhDs, who enjoy tediously creating and assigning each knob within a module and then patching together various modules. Using Reaktor can be very challenging and very rewarding, but unless you have a lot of free time to tinker with it or you just want to learn the intricacies of signal-flow concepts and logic of synthesis, it may just overwhelm you. In other words, if you had trouble using ReBirth, don't even think about tackling Reaktor! But for that professional synthesist out there, you're sure to fall in love with the synthesis power of Reaktor! Demo sounds and Plug-In demos and updates are available from Native Instruments.
REAKTOR 3 offers optimized performance, a redesigned user interface and many new functions and modules. Drag-and-drop capabilities have been added, as well as selectable background colors with decoration bitmap integration and an extended interface for the handling of snapshots. REAKTOR 3.0 supports the DirectX plug-in interface. The new tape decks are capable of reading audio files directly from and writing them directly to disk. MP3 files may be loaded and played as well. Akai samples can be read directly from CD. REAKTOR 4 adds support for Mac OS X and Windows XP, Audio Units, CoreAudio and CoreMidi. Automation of ALL parameters is enabled in v.4 as well as sample mapping technology borrowed from Kontakt. Reaktor 4 allows for 32-bit samples to be used, there's a new granular delay effect, and an anti-aliasing feature for the oscillators (borrowed from the Pro-53) to give Reaktor even more realistic synth emulation capabilities. There's even a whole new Library in v.4 that takes advantage of these new features.
Reaktor has been used by Juno Reactor, Matmos, LFO, Depeche Mode, Kid 606, Richard Devine, Squarepusher, Autechre, Mouse On Mars, Dan Hekate, Somatic Responses, and Coldcut.
Demos & Media
Images from Native Instruments.