Reaktor Blocks is already a lovely hybrid. It has the open-ended sound design possibilities and knob-tweaking delights of modular instruments, down to the look and feel of that gear. But it blends those design features with the sound-making capabilities of digital software – and you never run out of cables, space, or cash.

Of course, to try it, you previously needed a copy of Reaktor. And that might have held some of you back. That changes with the holiday introduction of Blocks Wired. They’re three new pre-wired instruments you can play with. If you’ve got Reaktor, this accompanies some new modules inspired by the “West Coast” synth style of Buchla. If you don’t have Reaktor, though, you can use them for free.

First, let’s talk about what’s new inside Blocks 1.1 – the West Coast modules. There’s scant documentation, but the name and design clearly show the Buchla lineage.

XY, part of Blocks Wired - showing off those new West Coast modules, among others.

XY, part of Blocks Wired – showing off those new West Coast modules, among others.

West Coast DWG is a two-oscillator module with waveshaping and modulation. The MOD / CARRIER format is ideal for FM synthesis, but you can also blend waveforms or try wavefolding. It’s a beautiful oscillator module, and after a beautiful debut from Blocks on the filter side, I think an exceptional addition.

XYS is a 4×4 grid of value and trigger “storage” – that is, it’s a step sequencer, but it can also be used for other stuff.

LPG is a Buchla-style “low-pass gate” filter. As the “pluck” label suggests, it’s also something that can be used to create very fast envelopes – you can make drum hits or simulate plucked strings.

Now, maybe you didn’t follow any of that – but that’s okay. Blocks really are intended for hands-on experimentation. And I find even more many very technically-minded synthesists, that’s where many people got their start.

With Blocks Wired, you get three ensembles, two of them prominently featuring the West Coast goodies.

LUMIKKO is an elegant monosynth, West Coast style.

LUMIKKO is an elegant monosynth, West Coast style.

LUMIKKO is a monosynth. It’s nicely simple, too, so a good way to check out how a few modules can yield a lot of sounds.

XY goes further with the West Coast oscillator and adds the new XY sequencer. As the name implies, that’s the featured module, and here it allows separate Modulator and Carrier pitch control for unique melodic/harmonic possibilities.

SUBMOTION uses the Blocks 1.0 modules to show you how you might create evolving textures and rhythms with modulation.

Submotion's sequenced modulation.

Submotion’s sequenced modulation.

Blocks Wired is a downloadable special from NI.

But Reaktor users, you can go ahead and grab the Reaktor update and start playing now. And oddly, I didn’t see much discussion of these new modules. That’s a shame – this was just what I needed to put me over the top really working with Blocks.

Blocks product page