Reaktor is a very troublesome creature for musicians. Reaktor has incredible potential, and NI promises great things from its "factory ensembles" and its vaunted "user library".
The reality is somewhat different, however. Make no mistake - Reaktor is a truly amazing piece of technology. Reaktor may be the ultimate synthesizer construction kit.. hardware OR software. The problem is in *realizing its potential*.
Think about it for a minute: What do you get when you buy a Roland synth? Sure, you get a piece of hardware. And these days you also get some software. But you get something else: some very smart (usually Japanese) engineers spent years of their lives figuring out how to deliver the right software/hardware implementation to make a really great musical INSTRUMENT. THIS is the part that Reaktor doesn't provide.
Does NI provide a bunch of really great-sounding, MUSICAL factory ensembles with R5? No, not really. There are some awfully good ones, like the Junatik synth, the SpaceMaster reverb, the GrainState synth, and a few others. But most of the NI "factory ensembles" are novelties, good for making stunning squeaks and squonks that sell software, but not much use for making music.
What about the vaunted "user library"? Again, there's not that much there after you spend some time looking at it. Why? Because musical instrument design is hard, and the user ensembles (like the factory ensembles) lack the man-years of talented effort that it would take to make really great-sounding, useful Reaktor instruments.
If you are a talented instrument designer and you have lots of time, there's no doubt that Reaktor 5 will deliver incredible results for you. If you need usable synth/sampler sounds in the near future, you are much better off if you AVOID the abyss that is... Reaktor 5.
My rating does not reflect how much i like Reaktor, because it fails in some respects to be an easy plug and play device. It's the most complex virtual instrument I've ever seen, which is the greatest strength and weakness of the system. If you're like me, and you want to customize every detail of your sound, then there isn't much like it, although Max/MSP or Tera are alternatives. An obvious strength of Reaktor is that if you don't quite agree with the way any part of the program is set up, you can dig into the structure and change it any way you want. Of course, you end up spending a lot of time programming and not as much time playing as you would with a simpler system. That's one drawback.
It is an incredible package straight out of the box if you're willing to take the time to learn about all the elements of the program. The included instruments keep getting better with each new release, including five of the better soft synths (SubHarmonic, Carbon2, TwoOsc, Skrewell, and FM4) four of the better effects (FlatBlaster, SpaceMaster, Grainstates, and Lurker), three of the better rhythm machines (Massive, NewSkool, and Sinebeats) and three of the better sample transformer/playback machines (Travelizer, Scenario, RandomStepShifter) for my purposes on the market.
Reaktor 5 was my first real introduction to the abyss that is Native Instruments' Reaktor product. If you are interested in designing sound creation machines without working with actual hardware (wiring, PCboards, components) then this is the tool for you. If you can imagine it, you can probably build it with Reaktor. If you're not interested in building your own synths, this is also a fantastic platform for playing with pre-made synths. Reaktor comes with about 15 to 20 premade "pieces of kit" to play with. They're all unique and show consideration for visual and ease of use design as well as functionality. Then, on top of that, there is the user library of 2000+ Reaktor creations.
If you are curious about building synths from scratch and have been interested in, but not so pleased with the results of, SynthEdit, Reaktor may be the tool for you. Unlike SynthEdit, the prefabs (called ensembles) sound amazing and you could spend hours just playing those. Also, the sound quality found in Reaktor is leaps and bounds better than SynthEdit. My only gripe between the two where SynthEdit wins is that you can build stand alone VSTs with SynthEdit. Surely some great sounding synths have come from SynthEdit; i'm not bashing SE at all, but i do think that the sound quality of Reaktor is far and away beyond that which is easily accomplished in SE. i really would like if Reaktor allowed you to build standalone VSTs, but that's just my desire for minimalization with interface windows in my hosts.
Reaktor is a DEEP product. You don't have to go deep with it if you don't want to. Use it just as a player of other people's constructions if you like. But if you REALLY want to explore, Reaktor gives you lightyears of space to work with.
The documentation is pretty good, considering how complex this product can be. i haven't built anything from scratch myself, but i am eager to learn and Reaktor doesn't leave you scratching your head as to how and why it works. The manuals cover all the components in at least a useful and functional way.
The new features are nice. Having fully customizable UI design is great for making ensembles "feel" unique from each other. i've toyed with previous versions and it's nice to have different UI looks as part of the overall experience. One of the new features is called Core components and i wont even try to talk about them here. If you're a very serious synth designer, you'll love it.
If you only ever buy one soft synth, buy Reaktor. As a previous reviewer stated, Reaktor is like having the box of parts that Native Instruments uses to build their products. You can play forever or you can build forever. If you do choose to buy more than one soft synth, buy the rest of Native Instruments' stuff. All NI products are great. (no, i don't work for them)
After using Reaktor, my first response to trying some other softsynth is usually "what is this, a joke?"
Reaktor makes sounds nothing else on earth can make. It has a library of over 1500 user created ensembles (synths, samplers, effects, sequencers, algorithmic music generators, live performance devices), all of which you can dig in and modify and learn from. It can sound like everything from a creamy old Moog to a stuttering pile of scrap metal, and anything in between - you have components like samplers, oscillators, LFOs, filters, sequencers, drawable oscillators - this is just scratching the surface - and you can make them interact in very unique and frightening ways.
The sound quality is superb at 44kHz - if you demand better, you can bump it up to 4 times your sound card's sampling rate - so if your sound card runs at 96kHz, that's an insane 384kHz. Take that, Nyquist! (your mileage may vary, this is with my M-audio 24/96)
It's like NI handed me a shoebox of the parts they use to make their products. You can get lost in it for days and weeks at a time. Not a good idea to purchase it too close to a professional or academic deadline!
It can be used as an enormously tweakable assortment of synths - a virtual synth of the month club - or if you have the discipline you can dig in and develop your own monsters.
The only negative is the printed documentation - it's more of a reference than an instruction manual. However, there are online tutorials and you can learn a lot by diggin into other people's work. The forum is also a great resource if you have questions.
Reaktor has been criticised for gobbling CPU, but I find that only the most complicated ensembles are CPU-intensive. I have a 2.4 gHz processor and many of the samplers and basic synths use only 5% to 10% of the CPU.
I find it to be deeply satisfying, one of the best pieces of audio software I've come across. It's not cheap but man do you get a lot of bang for your buck.
Reaktor and I have a true love/hate relationship. I love the sound. I hate the CPU load. I love the possibilities. I hate the quirks when using multiple instruments. I love making my own synths, and finding nice synths on the web. I hate the copy protection.
The sound of Reaktor is very nice. Maybe the best sounding VA based VSTi on the market. A say that fully realizing that it can do much, much more than virtual analog synthesis. Compared to Vaz Modular and Nord Modular Reaktor is a very difficult program to master. If you spend the time the rewards are very satisfying. While you can do most everything with Reaktor, I choose not to. Pro52, FM7, ABSynth and others are more useful and efficient than Reaktor ensembles designed to mimic their abilities. But the fun of Reaktor is building exactly what you want, and creating things that you cannot find on the market. I suggest that anyone build their basic synth collection first, then use Reaktor as the product that fills the gaps and gives you the special sounds.
The release of 4.1 addressed many problems and now my biggest gripe is the copy protection. Reaktor is a program that needs to be studied. I would love to install it on my laptop and take it on vacation, and install it on my work computer to study during my lunch break. Sadly you only get two installs with the current challenge response copy protection. I have it on my main DAW where I record the parts, and plan to put it on my second PC which is used to ease the CPU load on my primary PC. This is the big advantage of Vaz Modular over Reaktor.
User Interface - Good.
Sound - Very good.
Features - Everything you can think of.
Documentation - A nice book but there is a lot to cover.
Presets - There is a huge online library made by NI and the user base.
Customer Support - Good considering how many customers NI must have.
Value For The Money - The most expensive VSTi I have, but with the latest update addressing problems of multiple instances the value of Reaktor just increased.
Stability - Good for the complexity of this program.
Copy Protection - Challenge response with a two install limit before contacting customer support.
Frequency Of Use - Occasional but that may increase with the latest update.
CPU Load - Reaktor instruments take more CPU load than comparable NI VSTi’s with the same structure.
Remote Patch Change - Does not respond to patch change information from my workstation keyboard..
Fun Factor - Very high, when not frustrated with the product.
Even with the copy protection I would buy it again, but not until I have a collection of basic synthesizers.
Reaktor was, and still is the premiere audio sound creation and manipulation package to come out, and still can't be beat. Leave it to Native Instruments to come out with argueably the most powerful package to ever hit the market. FM, subtractive, physical modelling, granular, beat machines, effects from here to kingdom come, and more, it's all here, and here in vast quantity. Now featuring a user library of over 1300+ user creations, you'll spend hours upon hours discovering all the little treasures buried in this beast. From the straight up standard of substractive synthesis, to the odd sounds of granular synthesis, to the fairly nice reverb, to several beat machines, there's bound to be something in here that you'll love.
Best part about Reaktor? You're not happy that the ensembles only has 3 oscillators? You can add one yourself! Granted, some of the 'mechanics' of the more complex synths can be a little overwhelming for the beginner, some time and patience can certainly pay off.
There are other issues that will drive you nuts, like ensembles won't save the patch and settings like you'd expect from most of your VSTi's, but these are minor grievances that you learn to live with, but certainly find yourself cursing at your machine often.
Still, Reaktor is a beautiful love/hate relationship that I haven't regretted getting into almost 3 years ago. I mean, isn't the best things in life the things you have to work at?
Reaktor has made a great leap forward with ver. 4.02. The oscillators have been approved for a better sound. The appearance is more contemporary. However, sometimes the graphics seem to put more burden on the CPU. The new Reaktor seems more CPU hungry to me. It can really slow Sonar down when using multiple instances and FX. However, it is much more stable and remembers the presets in Sonar. The last version did not. There have been some really fine new ensembles created for R4; several beat boxes are designed for live performance. But I mainly use it for synth pads and leads. There are several FX synths that can mangle your sounds. Most of the ensembles have a great variety of usable presets that are easy to tweak and save. I find it to be very stable as a stand alone. I use it with Chainer with other VSTs live with very little trouble. The new manual is better than previous, but still not very detailed. NI's support is not great, but the forum on their website has a pretty good response. The library offers an incredible variety of instruments for free, and the new paid update has some great new instruments as well. This is one of the most versatile softsynths out there.
One of its biggest features is that you can design and make your own synths. NI gives you all the components to create custom synths. It is this feature which is the difference between Reaktor and Reaktor Session. Builders have uploaded their creations in the free library. There are some amazing synths to find there, as well as some clunkers. Users will rate them so you have a good idea if it's reliable. NI has recently redesigned the library making it much easier to use.
Reaktor is an amazing synth and is worth every penny.
Reaktor is my most used synth.It's been reviewed a number of times already,so I'll point out the new features...there's a few cool new modules and macros that are really handy.The snapshot module makes remote morphing and randomization possible-great fun in a live situation:-).The oscillators have been revamped-they're antialiasing now.The mono and stereo comb filters are fun,and the unit delay makes possible some FFT tricks that you couldn't do before.The multipicture option allows you to go as far as embedding Flash movies in Reaktor like Rico Baade(aka program child)did in his ensemble City Racing.Reaktor works better as a plugin than ever before(multiple outs in DXi as well as VST).
Drawbacks-You'll need a hefty machine to really use it.Still,I get OK performance out of my 933 PIII-it just takes planning ahead while doing tracks.
Stability varies-I haven't had many problems(MUCH less than any 3 version until 3.05),but I've heard a lot of horror stories from Mac users.With Reaktor,it's VERY important to make sure you're running the latest drivers for your sound card and interface-M-Audio drivers seem to cause problems,but their newest drivers are supposed to help.
I've had mostly good luck with NI support over the years.
Yeah,Reaktor is expensive.Yeah,it's hard on your machine-it will crash occasionally.It's very challenging to get into at the beginning,but the rewards are worth it IMHO.And,until you're ready to start building your own,there's over 1300 creations in the online user library to download.
Still the best modular softsynth out there.
Latest 8 reviews from a total of 8