Reaktor 6- Software Modular Synthesis
Modular synthesis is really growing in popularity. There’s no doubt that hardware Eurorack modular synthesis, with all of its bloops, bleeps and sonic variety has developed a big following in recent years. If you consider yourself the adventurous type that desires to push the limits of creativity in your music, chances are you’ve found yourself wanting to experiment with modular synthesis.
But where do you start? Jumping into owning a hardware modular synthesizer can be a daunting task. For example, What hardware case do you buy? What modules do you need? Is the case power supply adequate to power the modules? And then there’s cost. Hardware modular synthesizers are not cheap! This is where Reaktor 6 (Blocks) could make for the perfect option to get started learning and experimenting with modular synthesis. As I’ll discuss in a minute, Reaktor 6 is a fully functional modular system that is essentially a software version of Eurorack hardware modular synthesizer system.
Reaktor 6 keeps everything in tact from Reaktor 5 with the addition of the Blocks framework. So while you’ll still have access to all of the non modular synthesizers and effects units from Reaktor 5, the Blocks framework brings a whole new layer of modular synthesis to Reaktor. Blocks takes all of the functionality you would expect from a Eurorack hardware modular synthesizer and brings it to your computer with a very stylish UI and an affordable price point.
With Blocks you have everything you need to get started with sonic experimentation. Blocks are categorized into 8 different groups consisting of 30 Blocks in all. The 8 groups and the Blocks that they contain breaks down like this;
- Bento Box Blocks: amplifier, filter, mixer, ADSR envelope generator, LFO, oscillator, CV processor, sample and hold as well as an eight step sequencer
- Boutique Blocks: dual filter, multiwave oscillator and a unique oscillator with five square waves
- Digilog Blocks: pitch quantizer and clock divider
- Driver Block: Driver Filter/Distortion/Saturation
- Modern Blocks: comb filter and Low pass filter
- Monark Blocks: multimode filter, ADS envelope and oscillator
- Rounds Blocks: reverb and delay
- Utility Blocks: scope, clock, note in, trig in, CV mixer, level mono, level stereo, 4 channel mixer
User Blocks and User patches
The Reaktor User Community is constantly adding new Blocks to the User Library. In just a few short weeks the User Community has uploaded over 100 Blocks ranging from a variety of oscillators to logic Blocks and everything in between . The User Community has a large, well established developer presence, so new Blocks are added almost daily. This means that users have a constant supply of new Blocks to draw inspiration from. With the 8 categories of Blocks that come with Reaktor 6 coupled with the Blocks available in the Reaktor User Library the sonic options become limitless. Aside from user developed Blocks, the Reaktor User Library also contains a hefty amount of user patches and as you would expect, Blocks and Patches in User Library are completely free to download. http://www.native-instruments.com/en/reaktor-community/reaktor-user-library/
If you’ve spent any time in the previous version of Reaktor, with some of it’s fixed architecture synths like Monark, you’re already aware that the coding and audio engine in Reaktor does an exceptional job of re-creating the subtle nuances that you find in analog synthesis. Reaktor 6, without question brings the same level of detail to the Blocks framework. In fact the Monark oscillator, filter and ADSR are included as Blocks in Reaktor 6. So needless to say it does sound great.
Blocks VS Eurorack Hardware
Blocks CV to Eurorack modular working great! 🔲▪️◻️🔳◼️ A video posted by Upright (@upr1ght) on
To briefly compare Blocks to Eurorack hardware, I find that in terms of sonic ability Eurorack and Blocks are on par with each other. Blocks is also equally as inspiring as Eurorack when it comes to patching/routing options. Modular synthesis is all about self-expression, the ability to choose the modules you want to use and route them the way you see fit. Reaktor Blocks does this every bit as well as its hardware counterpart. One area where Eurorack is superior to Blocks would be the level immersion you get from physically interacting with the hardware. Although, I did find that almost all of the Blocks parameters can be midi mapped to a midi controller, doing this greatly increases the level of immersion of Blocks and gives the same real-time manipulation you get from hardware.
- Price ($199) / $99 upgrade from Reaktor 5 to Reaktor 6
- Free User Blocks and Patches via the Reaktor User Library
- Sonically comparable to hardware
- True to hardware control voltage and audio routing
- Save and share patches with other users
- Patching is done with the mouse so it can become tedious over longer sessions.
- No dedicated hardware to interact with
- Lack of multicore support means that larger patches can potentially hit the CPU pretty hard
Reaktor Blocks gets several things right where other software modular synths have been lacking. Blocks offers a wide variety of modules and an open platform with a large development presence. While blocks are not hardware, mapping parameters to a midi controller like the DJ Tech Tools Midi Fighter Twister does give Blocks a surprisingly hardware-like feel. All in all, the price point, sonic characteristics, true to hardware control voltage and audio routing options as well as the user community, makes Reaktor 6 an extremely solid option for anyone looking to experiment with Modular synthesis.