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Reaktor 4 is the latest incarnation of Native Instruments' flagship product. You can build sound devices from scratch - or use the supplied library of synthesizers, samplers and effects. Instruments are assembled from modular building blocks so they can be easily customized to individual requirements. Replace a filter, add a few more oscillators, combine one instrument with another, or whatever.
Reaktor provides hundreds of modules and functional blocks including oscillators, filters, LFOs, samplers, sequencers, delays and so forth that you can cable together to create instrument ensembles.
Reaktor 4's new Browser window can be used for loading files instead of the File menu. It can also be used to display the structure of the synthesizer ensembles. A double-click on any of the displayed modules will open another window that shows the internal structure. Reaktor 4 has several new modules, including Module-Text and Grain Cloud Delay, and the patches provided with each of Reaktor's instruments have been improved.
These stored patches are called Snapshots, as each one contains a snapshot of all the instrument's control settings. You can morph between any two snapshots with a transition time of up to 60 seconds.
So let's take a peek at what you get. Synthesizers include Carbon, with a hundred other-worldly sounds, and Junatik with retro sounds like the 80s Juno synthesizers. Kaleidon offers impressively realistic mallets, organs, and saxophones; P-Bass is a usable bass synthesizer; Nanowave emulates the PPG Wave; and Steam Pipe uses physical modelling to create bowed, blown and plucked sounds.
My favourite is Uranus, which has lush-sounding pads and analogue-sounding leads. The DSQ-32 drum machine emulates the sounds of classic analogue beat-boxes, while the Memory Drum MIDI drum sampler lets you configure up to 60 drum samples for playback through its synth-style envelope, filter and modulation sections.
Reaktor also has tools for live music, including goBox (a funky mono sampler) and Scenario (a complete live-performance environment with real-time time-stretching, performance-oriented effects, and instant recall of thousands of scenes).
Reaktor can also be used as an effects unit with devices such as the Analogic Filter Box, the Banaan Electrique guitar- and bass-amp simulator, the SpaceMaster reverbs, and Echomania delay effects.
You can use Reaktor as a stand-alone title or as a plug-in for just about anything - VST 2.0, Audio Units, ASIO (and DXi II on Windows). It's particularly good on a laptop for live work, with its loop-based live-performance environment, time-stretching, seamless scene transitions, and dynamic tempo-synced effects. It's also surprisingly easy to assemble your own instruments - although, as with using the supplied library instruments, there's a learning curve.