For more than two decades, the REAKTOR User Library has played a crucial supporting role to REAKTOR itself. This ever-expanding repository of imaginative synthesis, sampling, sequencing and signal processing Ensembles is built by an army of community-minded designers and then shared online for free. And over the years, some of those instruments and effects modules have become what can only be described as modern classics, possessed of an undiminishable appeal that’s seen them endure through even the most seismic technological and stylistic shifts in the music production landscape.
Here, then, we’re showcasing five of our favourite ’vintage’ REAKTOR User Library Ensembles, every one of them a serious creative tool deserving of a permanent place in your own REAKTOR Library. Read on to find our what makes them so essential, and click the links to download them all for free (just making sure you’re using the full version of REAKTOR).
Rolf Schmuck’s venerable “semi-random organic texture generator” positively encourages repeated stabbing of the Random button to conjure up invariably interesting ambiences, soundscapes and sci-fi noises, from the wholly atonal to the surprisingly musical. It’s not always entirely clear what’s happening with lifeforms03, but experimenting with the pulse/saw oscillator, filter, grain delay, reverb and other controls takes you down all sorts of rabbit holes, and the 51 snapshots provide a safe haven when things get too weird. A must-have for ambient composers in particular.
Now 17 years old, Timothy Lamb’s nifty little synth is geared up primarily for retro-style bleeps and bloops, but fits into contemporary contexts easily enough with a bit of clever programming and judicious processing. A morphing sample-based oscillator supplies the source signal, and the ’Table’ step sequencer modulates the waveform, as well as volume, pitch and filter cutoff, and sequences playback and pitch. Three flexible multistage envelopes also modulate volume, pitch and cutoff, and 8-bit reduction and chorus effects round it all off nicely. A brilliant machine for animated, evolving leads, basses, FX and more.
This one’s a relative newcomer compared to some of the ensembles in this list. With just nine years of residency in the User Library, Tom Büttner’s awesome analogue-style drum machine comprises 12 separate three-oscillator synths, with noise and FM, dedicated to the synthesis of drums, cymbals, handclaps and other percussion sounds. Each track in the 64-step multitrack sequencer has its own Length setting, opening up a world of polyrhythmic possibilities, and six modulation lanes, enabling automation of Pan, Color, Pitch, Attack, Decay and Roll. Choke groups make realistic hi-hats easy to set up; and EQ, Compressor, Reverb and Delay effects are on-hand for processing and polishing. Most importantly, though, Drummachinewsky sounds absolutely fantastic – a truly timeless beatbox that you’ll turn to again and again.
Kinderklavier toy piano
Described by once-prolific Ensemble-smith Gabriel Mulzer as “an exercise in precise modelling”, Kinderklavier is an entirely algorithmic (ie, no samples involved) emulation of a toy piano, with added magnetic pickup and reverb. Three ‘quality’ levels, independently set for the tone rods and soundboard, let you choose between the sonic profile of an actual real-world toy piano, an “idealized“ alternative, and a “mathematically pure“ imagining; and several parameters are accessible for extensive manipulation of the model, including Elasticity, Rod Resistance and Key Release Impact. As well as its expressive modelling of the titular instrument, Kinderklavier does a groovy line in clav-style sounds thanks to the pickup option.
Kassian Troyer’s 2004 emulation of the Sherman Filterbank – arguably the most highly regarded filter of the 90s/00s – is remarkable not only for its sheer quality and usefulness, but also the fact that the developer somehow managed to get it sounding within a whisper of the original hardware, despite not actually owning a unit! Two resonant filters are freely mixable between serial and parallel routing, morph from low-pass through band-pass to high-pass responses (modified by the Filter Correction control), and are modulated by various means – LFO, input-triggered ADSR, envelope follower (keyed from the input or an external signal), etc. How Troyer did it, we don’t know, but herMan FiLterbank is a slice of Reaktor history that’s as indespensible today as it was a decade and a half ago.
Sound design: Konstantin Grismann