A production quality modular workbench for real-time performance, complex sequences, and audio exploration. It contains dozens of full-featured units, essentially cramming three complete polyphonic synthesizers into one instrument. An extremely flexible design provides access to virtually every audio and event modulation possible. Even so, the control panel is small enough to display completely, even on small 1024x768 monitors.


Inventing a New Modular Paradigm

The Hegel Ensemble was the first Metamusic design, and the first ever in Reaktor, to incorporate a totally modular panel-based routing system. Any audio block with an output can connect to any audio block with an input. As the modularity is in the panel, rather than in the structure, different modular setups are saved with the snapshot. This concept was widely adopted in the Reaktor community.

At the time Hegel was designed (for Reaktor 4.01), there was a real problem with switch noise, because any switch change caused the entire instrument to reset. Since that time, Native Instruments introduced an improved initialization sequence which greatly minimized switch noise, so the second major feature in Hegel, switchless modular event routing, has not been so widely adopted. Its benefit over standard design is that morph changes and snap switches with the same audio routing do not disrupt the sound output at all. This is really a necessary feature in production studio music, which has resulted in much interest in the Metamusic instruments from professionals in the television and movie business.

Architecture Overview

The A panel contains three oscillators, three filters, two distortion units, a waveshaper, three LFOs, six envelopes, six submixers, four sequencers, sample and hold, unisono control, tempo control, and a three-channel mixer with polyphonic mixing and pan, echo, and chorus. The implementation is complete: for example, audio and events can modulate any available parameter for all Reaktor oscillators. The B panel provides detailed manipulation of the sequencers, as well as an audio recorder and velocity/aftertouch shaping.

A switchless matrix lets 30 different event sources modulate >100 different sound parameters. The matrix is a full butterfly implementation, which means different amounts of multiple modulations can affect the same parameter. For example, any number of envelopes, LFOs, sequencer values, and MIDI controllers can all modulate filter frequency by a different amount for each source. Matrix 1 provides modulation of all the audio parameters; Matrix 2 provides modulation of envelope, LFO, sequencer, and tempo parameters.

The audio modules are fully modular, so they can be chained in any serial or parallel combination; audio paths can also be blended together with submixers. Only the audio path is switched in Hegel; if two snaps use the same switch settings, you can change between the snaps without interrupting the sound or timing. This lets you use snapshots to change between vastly different sound scenes, either instantaneously, or gradually through morphing.

Those familiar with modular hardware will know how complicated it is to set up triggers and gates. Here all the wiring has been done for you (if you look inside the structure, you’ll see what I mean). The sequencers, LFOs, and envelope sources offer over dozens of different triggers and gates, so they can trigger and gate each other, or be triggered in many different ways by MIDI notes.

The three audio envelopes can each play MIDI or different sequencer tracks at the same time, polyphonically, letting you split the modules up into three separate instruments that play different sounds. Because all the modules are combined in one instrument, the pitch of one envelope can modulate the filter of another, and so on. Alternatively, all the modules can be configured into one giant complex instrument, as desired.

Even more has been done to reduce CPU usage. After the ensemble loads (which may take some time because the structure is very large), you will find it smooth and responsive. The last beta was tested on PentiumIII, PerntiumIV, Macs, Athlons, and G4 CPUs. Six voices are found functional on CPUs down to a 700MHz G3.

Delving in the Panel

Configuring an Audio Patch

For the audio modules there are switches (displayed as drop lists) called “Input” or “Audio” in the top left corner. To build an audio patch, simply build a chain of these from the oscillator to envelopes. The audio path is the only part of the instrument which uses switches—the rest of the instrument uses event logic, so as not to interrupt the sound. If two snaps use the same switch positions, you can change between them without interrupting the sound. Audio switches have the following inputs:

  • --: Two dashes meanOFF.
  • o1,o2,o3:oscillators 1 through 3.
  • f1,f2: filters 1 and2.
  • m1, m2, m3, m4, m5, m6: submixers.
  • d1, d2: distortion 1 and distortion 2.
  • Eq: Equalizer
  • Sh: Audio waveshaper
  • Out1/2/3: Output mixer channels (aftertrim and level control, before pan and mute. This means, for example, you can mute the audio output of the mixer and use the mixer modulation for controlling an audio source).
  • E1/2/3: Envelopes 1-3 at audio rate.
  • L1/2/3: LFOs 1-3 at audio rate.
  • X1/2: Echo and Chorus (monophonic).

It’s sometimes easiest to set up the audio path backwards, starting at one of the audio envelopes. Say you select “f1” as the input for one of the envelopes. Then select “o1” as the input for f1. Make sure the “env1” button in the output mixer is turned on, and turn up the volume, and the audio patch should be audible.

To make the sound more complex, you can use the submixers to link different components in parallel or in series, simply by chaining modules in different ways. For wider configurations, you can feed the output of one submixer into the input of another.

There are three separate envelopes each of which can be switched on or off, so there may be up to three separate audio paths. Alternatively, only a few of the envelopes can be used, or multiple envelopes can shape the same sound.

The three audio envelopes feed the three channels in the output mixer. The output mixer provides polyphonic modulation of the output level, channel pan, echo send, echo pan, and chorus send for each channel separately.

Some components have additional audio switches. For example, the oscillators also have switches for audio modulation of AM, FM, sync, and phase/width. The filters also have FM modulation. These can be routed from any other audio source, including the submixers.

Getting Started

If you load the ensemble in a Reaktor instance that is already running, you may need to turn the Reactor audio off and on again to activate the design (it depends on your type of audio and CPU).

Loading the Waveset File

Hegel has a custom waveset file. To reduce file size and download time, the waveset is packed separately in the downloaded zip file. So the first time you load Hegel, Reaktor prompts for the waveset file. If you store the waveset file somewhere on your hard drive and navigate to it at the first load, Reaktor subsequently remembers the file location, so you only have to do this once.

Volume and CPU Adjustment

There is a snap-isolated control in the instrument, labeledMASTER on the right side of output mixer. This lets you adjust all the preset snaps for your particular sound card and audio hardware. Generally you can set this control and forget it.

If you have a slower CPU, you can adjust the CPU usage of continuous event controllers using theCPU list box in the output control panel. This list is snap isolated. On a 700Mhz Macintosh this reduces CPU sage by 20-50% when using LFOs or envelopes for event modulation.

A 2.6GHz P4 can run everything turned on with 20 voices at 44.1kHz. By default the instrument has 6 voices. To reduce CPU usage, you can also reduce the number of voices; reduce the audio rate; or reduce the event rate down to 100Hz. If you reduce the number of voices, it’s a very good idea to turn off Reaktor audio (from the toolbar button or menu) first, or it can take quite a long time to reconfigure itself).

Table Data Saved with Snaps

The table data (for sequencers and waveshaper) are stored with each snap, so you don’t have to worry whether changing the table data for one snapshot is going to change another snapshot incidentally. You can copy and paste sequences between snapshots using the copy/paste editor in the B panel.

Velocity and Aftertouch Shaping

You can use the B panel to customize the velocity and aftertouch response to incoming MIDI. For example, press a key with pressure and look on the right edge of the aftertouch panel, you will see an indicator showing the resulting value. Now you can adjust the range with the low and high sliders to the left and right of the vertical control, and the shape of the response (linear, curved, or bicurve) using the XY control. Note if you move the XY cursor around in the XY panel when in curve or bicurve mode, the curve inflexes in the other direction and changes shape. The velocity and aftertouch shapers are snap isolated, so you only need to do this once for your keyboard.


Reaktor’s morph/random controls in the snapshot browser are fully enabled for everything that is not a list or switch. Reaktor’s CPU load during morphing can be very intensive. The instrument does what it can to reduce CPU load, but if you are changing a lot of different parameters, you may need quite a fast machine.

VST and MIDI Out

If you enable MIDI out in the instrument properties panel, you will be able to capture the polyphonic pitch sequences generated the sequencers. The instrument contains logic to prevent MIDI feedback, so you should be able to receive and transmit on the same MIDI channel.

For VST, the instrument is designed so that the parameter names are not truncated, and are as far as possible legible in Cubase SX 1.0.

The three main envelopes are very sophisticated, allowing many different uses. If the audio source in the top left is switched on, the audio envelope is applied to the source on the corresponding channel of the output mixer. If the audio source is switched off, the envelope can still be used as an event modulation source.

Poly, Mono, and Legato

The separate “Pitch” module (in the instruments top left corner) contains one list that sets the overall mode for all instruments. See the section “Oscillators” for more information. The following descriptions assume polyphonic operation; in mono and legato modes, all voices trigger in exactly the same way.