Kontour

Resources for Stephan Schmitt’s Reaktor Kontour synthesizer

big brain audio Kontour videos

Here are a series of five video tutorials on Kontour, the latest Reaktor synthesizer created by Stephan Schmitt and included in the Native Instruments Komplete 11 bundle.

We created nearly an hour of video material on Kontour (more than 55 minutes) and feel that we barely scratched the surface! If you consider yourself a bit more than a preset monkey (no offense to non-human primate users of synthesizers), you might want to take a little time to get to know Kontour. It has a great deal of sonic depth to offer for anyone willing to explore it a bit.

1. Overview

This video provides a general overview of Kontour. It provides some background information, but also explains the basics of the synth engine and describes the main elements of the user interface.

2. The Oscillators and Shapers

The oscillator/shaper pairs are at the core of the synth engine. Using sinewave generators only, they can create an astonishingly wide range of sounds. The shapers can form the oscillator output (in their pure sine form, or phase modulated) into very rich sounds. Using the shapers and oscillators alone, you can create waveforms which come very close to sawtooth and square waves. With extreme settings, it’s also possible to create noise-type sounds, as well as just about everything in between.

3. The State Variable Filter and the Comb Filter

The filters — and particularly the comb filter — contribute a large part to Kontour’s power and character. Both filters are very flexible in terms of routing and modulation.

A relatively rare and powerful feature is the FM modulation on the filter cutoff of the state variable filter. You can use the output of one or both oscillators (with a crossfaded mix between them) to do this.

Like all of Kontour’s tunable parameters, the comb filter is tuned by pitch — MIDI notes — and not frequency, meaning you can play it like a synth oscillator. If you have used Prism, you are probably familiar with this approach.

Putting the comb filter into a feedback loop within Kontour can create very unusual sounds.

4. Modulation and the Motion Recorders

This video goes into Kontour’s modulation possibilities and includes an in-depth description of the unique Motion Recorders.

You won’t find any LFOs in Kontour. The Motion Recorders can serve as LFOs, but actually do much more. They are actually more like movement sequencers; they record macro knob movements over time and then can play those recordings back. The recordings themselves are scalable in terms of amplitude and offset, as well as time. You can even make them run backwards. In addition, a clever motion filter creates an adjustable “swing” and smooth effect, rounding out edges and creating a kind of soft — or hard — the user determines this — bounce.

5. Kontour’s Effects

To round out this series, here’s a video going through Kontour’s five effects.

Kontour’s effects chain is very much like the ones in Stephan’s previous instruments. A mono audio signal goes into a cabinet effect (which can sound very much like the distortion from a guitar amp). The mono signal is important because it allows for the kind of intermodulation which occurs when two or more notes are played at the same time into the mono inputs of a typical guitar amp effect.

After the cabinet comes the gap filter, which splits the signal into stereo. Most of you probably have never heard of a “gap” filter. It is actually two four-pole filters whose cutoff frequencies can be moved independently of each other creating a bandpass or band reject effect. But this “gap” (the reject or pass part of the frequency) can be offset so that there is a strong stereo effect created by the different filter characteristics on each channel. It’s definitely something to play around with!

The following time-based effects — the flanger, echo, and reverb — make it possible to create a lot of space in and around the sound. A very important aspect of Kontour is that there is a separate feedback line for the effects. This opens up a large number of sonic possibilities for the user who dares to go there.