Over time, it has grown from a quiet user base populated by a few kind souls sharing their humble revelations, into a bustling community of avid REAKTOR tweakers.

Users searching for an emulation of almost any hardware effect or synthesizer will likely find multiple recreations of the same piece of gear. In fact, the quality of the User Library‘s virtual hardware collection has only improved with time, thanks to numerous Ensemble updates and evolutions – and that’s to say nothing of the “remixes” done by countless other users, reworking Ensembles to suit their own specific needs.

Beyond those seeking to emulate that which exists in the real world lies a different class of power user. These virtual REAKTOR gods have contributed creations so otherworldly and innovative as to question the very idea of what virtual instruments, effects, and sequencer ensembles can be.

In this multi-part series, Native Instruments puts the focus on the game-changing creations of some of the most innovative Ensemble builders in the User Library’s near 20-year history. This is a collection of tools that has played a crucial role in some of the most wildly innovative music of the last two decades.

 

The old gods

In the earliest days, Ensemble hunters seeking all things weird and wonderful had only to search for one of four names: martin brinkmann, Dieter Zobel, program child, and lAZy fISh. While all four shared an affinity for mind-bending granular synthesis and insane aural experiments, they each established an unmistakable visual aesthetic, and – for those who dared to pop the hood and peek inside the Structure view – an approach to REAKTOR patching and programming that was just as recognisable.

A complete and exhaustive overview of the Ensembles these four juggernauts have created over the years would be a near impossible task. As such, what follows is a curated selection of some of both their most popular and slept-on creations.

 

martin brinkmann

While the idea of sequencing multiple parameters from a single control interface is as old as Kraftwerk, martin brinkmann drove the concept to its logical conclusion. In brinkmann’s view, any parameter – no matter how obscure – could be a potential target for modulation, and his creations provided elegant interfaces for impossibly complex and paradigm-shifting instruments and effects.

 

Grainstates

While a later version, Grainstates C, was eventually added to the permanent REAKTOR User Library, the original version of this granular sampler is still a work of programming art, and well worth a look.

Get it now.

 

Ginger

One of the earliest demonstrations of REAKTOR’s initially humble graphical capabilities, this generative sequencer/synth was also one of the first Ensembles to realize the power of fractal math.

Get it now.

 

MadPad

A multi-fx ensemble with XY control power blown to extremes. Hours and hours of fun, no matter what you throw at it.

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clixline

One of the first table-based sequencers and an incredibly fast way of both entering steps and controlling a second parameter with mouse clicks. While as the name suggests, this one focuses on clicky, minimal techno sounds, it was a huge inspiration for a great many techno boxes in the years that followed.

Get it now.

 

mmmd1

Multi-parameter sequencing and drum synthesis are combined to devastating effect in this virtual analog drum machine.

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ovalsequencer

Inspired by Oval’s Markus Popp, this darling of the clicks and cuts scene gets his entire early-90s process boiled down into one lovely instrument at the hands of brinkmann.

Get it now.

 

g-layers

Hard day? Pop in a few samples of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Curve, and Swans and send yourself into a sea of fuzzy, multidimensional bliss.

Get it now.


Dieter Zobel

The iconic “mad rabbit” logo that was so prevalent on Zobel’s early Ensembles virtually guaranteed that the sounds coming out of one’s speakers were destined to be hellishly noisy, broken, and utterly inspiring. Over time, Zobel distinguished himself further by creating fantastically playable, comparatively simpler Ensembles, purpose-built for the times a song needs a dose of well chiseled weirdness to push it over the edge.

 

CrossCriss

Resonant tuned FM drone madness, perfect for the traffic noise of alien cities and broken radio symphonies alike.

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Chimaerandom

Imagine, if you can, the sounds of a flautist blowing weed-smoke through a copper pipe into the airlock of the Nostromo moments before the first Alien incubation. That’s pretty much what you get with this space drone synth.

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Umox

The unparalleled EBM generator bar none, sprinkled with distorted DMX drums. Add mildly offensive vocal and apply eyeliner as necessary.

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POLE-ONAISE

A lovely approximation of Stefan Betke’s famous broken Waldorf 4pole filter, a piece of hardware responsible for some of the warmest clicks, cuts and crackles ever intentionally put to wax.

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DIGEDAG

Loopy, gloopy brain-dance nonsense in which every subtle push and pull of the XY pads exponentially increases the weirdness threshold, yet somehow manages to achieve entirely usable results.

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ClouDom

Like an angry South German butcher with a dull cleaver after 10 or 12 too many Schneider Weisse. Your drum loops will never be the same.

Get it now.


program child

The undisputed enfant terrible of the REAKTOR library’s early days, program child was responsible for some of the most enigmatic, speaker-thrashing, and just plain weird Ensembles ever uploaded. Long before the mainstream plugin developers began emulating tubes and other analog distortion circuits, program child’s immense, math-heavy creations set the bar for analog distortion and compression emulation with a remarkably low CPU hit. What’s more, his novelty synths and music-generating games injected a much needed strand of laugh-out-loud humor into a community which tended toward poker-faced nerdiness.

 

THE ROSWELL TUBE

Chaos in a can. To quote the disembodied voice emanating from the leftmost XY control, “Enjoy another program child Ensemble”.

Get it now.

 

THE SEVEN SEALS

A near-incomprehensible beatbox that invites all of the mouse button-mashing of a first-person shooter. Smash and enjoy.

Get it now.

 

DISCO TALK

Imagine Siri’s grandparents drunk in a 1979 nightclub. This is the evidence of their rude  flirtations, poorly recorded via contact mic over a 56k modem from a spy station in Vladivostok for later blackmail usage.

Get it now.

 

pocket beats

Four synths with four different waveforms driven to varying states of FM tomfoolery in a pocket-sized, deceptively simple beat-making package. Make yourself a coffee, take two paracetamol, open the REAKTOR Structure window, and wallow in the depths of your own lack of genius.

Get it now.

 

Fist of the Dragon

A classic example of program child’s novelty games. Play against yourself, or with a friend usingwith a MIDI keyboard, or just let the computer duke it out on its own. His kung fu is stronger than yours, and everyone else’s.

Get it now.

 

Red Channel

An absolutely mind-blowing tube emulation posted way back in the REAKTOR salad days of 2004.

Get it now.


lAZy fISh

If the early REAKTOR universe had a god of noise, it would have been lAZy fISh. His interfaces tended to include only a handful of parameters with names so obtuse as to defy all logic and reason. However, a look under the hood typically revealed a spider’s web of modules and connections so dense as to make even the most seasoned REAKTOR hacker hang their head in shame. Most importantly, lAZy fISh’s instruments produce sounds so completely alien and unique that they are impossible to generate with any other instrument, REAKTOR-based or otherwise. Soundtrack for the impending Apocalypse? Look nowhere else.

 

. H E I S H E R E .

The penultimate REAKTOR noise machine by the designer, remixed and updated more times than anyone should bother to count. Like a Rat distortion pedal for the digital age. Tweak and cause instant havoc.

Get it now.

 

n o i s e w o r k s

Need weird, loud noises? This one does exactly what it says on the tin.

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s i m p l e c y c l e r

Only accurately named if your “cycle” happens to be a rust-encrusted Harley-Davidson with a busted muffler and a blindfolded Hunter S. Thompson providing directions.

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c h o n n d o

Had Chonndo existed in the days of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Delia Derbyshire would have very likely told her superiors to send all the tape machines to David Attenborough to record more Borneo birdsong so she could concentrate on the important stuff. A truly fascinating generator of bleeps, bloops and flat-out weirdness.

Get it now.

 

TG-8H

The unofficial beta version of what would go on to become the mighty Skrewell, perhaps the most obnoxious and unpredictable noise machine ever given commercial release in the main REAKTOR library.

Get it now.