Using Reaktor On A Windows Surface Tablet

Reader Josh Morky – a Mac user for 10 years and also an iPad music app fan – was intrigued by the new Windows 8 Surface tablets. So he tried one and with apps like Native Instruments Reaktor, made a video demo and shared it with us.

“It’s pretty obvious from the thousands of apps that have popped up on the iPad in recent years that performing electronic music on a touch screen is fun, expressive, and kind of what we’ve all been waiting for. It just makes sense,” notes Morky. “I’ve used an iPad for playing music – which I love – but can’t help but feel that Apple is purposefully limiting its potential. File management is a nightmare, and multitasking just doesn’t work.”

So Morky decided to get a Surface tablet. Check out the video demo above to see how Surface works with Reaktor.

And see Morky’s comments below on why he ultimately returned his Surface, even though he like it……

Here are some additional comments from Morky on running music apps on Surface:

The operating system looks great, works great, and is altogether fun to use. Multitasking and switching between programs is great, and its really fun to be able to use a pen/stylus in addition to touch (its super precise and pressure sensitive). It really feels like the future of computers.

I use a new 15″ macbook pro in my studio and a new 27″ imac at work, and now it feels like a bummer every time use them. They feel outdated. Trying to use the iPad is even more depressing. There are a lot of new windows tablets/laptops out there – but there are two things that made the Surface appeal to me more:

1) it comes with a pen (which helps if you need precision – especially with such a small screen – and taking notes or drawing is a lot of fun) and

2) the kickstand. I didnt really realize how nice it would be to be able to prop up a tablet – the ipad can be annoying to use in a lot of situations because it doesnt have one.

Other things that are awesome is that it supports flash (Hulu!) and has usb – so you can use external drives, midi controllers, audio interfaces, etc….

Using Reaktor is great. I personally hate having to use midi controllers whose interface bears no resemblance to the patch Im using, and touch OSC on an ipad can be buggy and you have to create templates for every patch you use and end up constantly changing your template if you change anything in your patch.

I also dont want to have to take 2 computers to a show, I want a tablet up there with me and thats all. Surface does this.

Reaktor is really responsive and expressive – but it doesnt support multitouch yet. I thought this would make it pointless to use on a touchscreen, but I barely notice it. There are times it would be great to use multitouch, and things could definitely get more interesting with multitouch, but even just touching one thing at a time completely blows away using a mouse/midicontroller/touchOSC.

I tried using Ableton and it was super buggy with touch. You’d need a mouse, but even then, the screen on the Surface is just a bit too small.

As much as I loved the Surface, I ended up returning it.

At 10.1 inches, it has the same problem as the iPad in that you can’t fit too much on a screen without making the controls too small. Its fine if you miss a knob when you’re working in your studio, but in a live setting, you’d want something you can reliably hit 100% of the time. Unfortunately, most of the windows tablets are around 10/11 inches.

In the next 6 months a ton of new computer sizes/formats will be coming out – and they’ll get cheaper. When the perfect one comes out, I’ll be ready for it.

What REALLY needs to happen is that software companies need get on board. Theres not much yet that takes full advantage of multitouch. It’ll come, but its not there yet. This is really exciting – its the obvious next step in the evolution of the computer. Windows made a great new operating system, now its the software companies turn to take advantage it.

Got your own thoughts on Windows Surface or Windows 8 tablets for music? Leave a comment and let us know!

37 thoughts on “Using Reaktor On A Windows Surface Tablet

  1. This looks awesome until you realize that the only thing you can use the touchscreen that you paid a premium for is pointing and clicking, like a cheap mouse but not as accurate.

    Both the hardware and software have to be made for multi-touch, which is why the iPad is a success and pretty much all the other tablets are tanking.

    1. The Surface is already capable of multitouch. So, you only talk about the software, which, in this case is just classic desktop software. This was just an example of how powerful a Surface Pro can currently be. Try to run a dektop application on your iPad first, then you can blame Surface.

      1. You missed the point entirely.

        The reason for the iPad’s success is that the hardware and OS are designed for multi-touch, so it works flawlessly.

        The reason nobody cares about WIndows Surface is that it’s touchscreen hardware tacked onto a desktop OS. As a result, it’s not a great computer and it’s not a great tablet either.

        You may not ‘get’ the point of tablets, but hundreds of millions of people do, which is why the iPad is where all the growth is in the computing industry.

  2. Soundforge and Recycle works good on the touchscreen too. You can’t compare a iPad to the Surface Pro. It’s a totally different animal. Both are great products.

  3. Personally I’m still waiting for software developers to take full advantage of the Nintendo Power Glove! Sure, there aren’t that many games for it yet but they’ll come as more people get on board… the Power Glove is the most exciting way to play games, it’s the future of gaming and it’s here to stay!

    1. Really funny analogy. But, the truth of the matter is the Power Glove did evolve. It eventually became the Wii Controller, as well as the PS3 Move, and Xbox’ 360 Kinect in its own right. It took several years (almost two decades), yet it happened.
      Tablets have been 30 years in the making (even longer if you consider scifi designs of history). And unlike the PG, we don’t have to wait that long, only months.
      Right now the iPad supports apps specifically made for it which are 10 point multitouch, but aren’t the ones found on OSX. While the Surface Pro allows for programs from Windows OS to be installed. Still, as mentioned above, there aren’t many music software offering multitouch, less 10 point touch, as Sonar and Fl Studio are now doing. Programs like FlStudio, Ableton and Reason should strongly aim towards supporting 10 point touch, while DAWs like Sonar, Cubase, Pro Tools, StudioOne, Samplitude, Reaper, and others should at least be multitouch. This should all happen within the next year on all updates.
      As for the screen size, I think the comparison is subjective to your needs. Much like an iPad and similar tablet sizes, the Surface is designed for portability. Larger screens (20-27″ all in one PCs) which function as tablets, from Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, and Lenovo, have been showcased at CES 2013 which show great promise. Windows 8 and multitouch is already here for all of us to make use of it. All we need is the software companies to make the feature available on their programs.

      1. To note, all updates of VSTs, RTAS, DX, etc should be multitouch. Older VSTs that have no updates can remain singletouch. Meanwhile VSTIs, RTAS-I, DXi, etc, should move towards 10 point touch. Many VSTIs can open in stand alone form and can feature this option. When opened within a DAW then it reverts back to multitouch, unless the host supports 10 point touch. This would be fantastic for all of Native Instruments, Arturia, IK Multimedia, Toontrack, and others
        And, since Propellerhead Reason is a “closed” environment, the whole program with its Re (Rack extensions) format can benefit from having its entire setup as 10 point touch.

        1. One question that remains to be answered is whether designers can really optimize a UI for both mouse/keyboard and multi-touch.

          1. Valid query. Though, one thing to consider is that new mice and keyboards (google for more details) are made to take advantage of the new Win 8 OS. Most new PCs will be offering these together, and they are being designed to maximize multi-gesture usage. So, in a sense, the new OS with 10 point touch along with the Mice/Keyboards are working in a modern way than previous. And any update made by software companies for Win will be considering this as it is becoming common place.

  4. How come video producers haven’t been calling for touch screen support the same way audio producers have? Are video editors just stuck in the past? Or are they busy professionals with real work to do? You decide!

    1. Most of the time a jogwheel, a keyboard and a mouse are all you need. I’ve seen pro video editors work and it’s like watching someone play an instrument. Touch just isn’t neccesary

    2. They do, colorists like touchscreens and I knew quite a few editors/directors who like doing thier rough cuts in iMovie or whatever the iPad app si called (I don’t have an iPad myself).

    3. Because a mouse and keyboard deliver a level of speed and precision that touch never will. Also, with touch your hands cover the thing you are touching! audio is one of the few things you can edit that wont need visual precision and feedback. There are many applications and workflows that will never be touch based. One size doesn’t fit all!

      1. Actually, I think most editors prefer a Wacom tablet (designers, like me, as well). Very very accurate and more ergonomically pleasing than a mouse, for visual work. I use Ableton, mostly, and I wish the Wacom drivers were better for it, though: any pot you virtually ‘turn’ jacks all the way one way or the other. Never found a fix for that.

        1. My friend, here is your fix! I just found this out the other day and it’s changed everything!
          I mostly use a Mac, but on my PC I have a Wacom tablet. In order to put Ableton’s cursor in “absolute mode” (exactly what you are referring to) you need to create the OPTIONS.TXT file. For Ableton Live 8 on Windows7 the path will be-
          C:\users\\appdata\roaming\ableton\Live 8.x.x\preferences

          Create a text file in that directory called OPTIONS.TXT if one does not exist already. In that text file add the line-

          Save, close, restart Live. You’ll see it’s a whole new world being able to actually USE the pen tablet. It may be a different path for Live 9 and I don’t recall the path for the Mac but if you need it I’m sure you can find it on Google.
          Hope that helps you as much as it did me!

  5. Yeah it’s great…. No wait it WILL be great or it WOULD be great if and when it’s supported then it’s great…. So it’s not great yet….its so intriguing and great that you would return it. That thought never crossed my mind with my ipad…..

  6. Scroll bars and nested menus don’t look like “the future” to me! A well designed app for iOS is way more functional and just as responsive. Reaktor “updated” for touch would look and feel like a current best of breed iOS app. I’m not sure what else this guy was expecting, but touching windows doesn’t make it any less windows, and the sliding boxes in metro don’t constitute an OS designed for touch… Just a touchy launcher.

  7. Really fun to see a video of something like Reaktor on Surface. Hopefully NI and other music devs will give their programs multytouch support soon.

    Eh, btw, if you are to make a video early in the morning; drink at least one cup of coffee 😉

  8. Did you mentioned WHAT SURFACE MODEL IT IS? No.


    To get impression, that any Surface can handle it. Surface RT can’t. So it is damn cheat.

    Reaktor as any PC software works on PRO version, and Surface PRO is just laptop with touch screen and cheap keyboard. Not worth buying or even using.

    This whole “using” article is just drowning Micro$oft PR trick to attract people to this Surface useless rubbish lying on stores shelves.

    iPad is the best for music production. Deal with it.

    Even Oprah said Surface is s**t

    1. Oprah said it? Then it must be true, we all know Oprah is the most knowledgeable geek around!

      “iPad is the best for music production. Deal with it.”

      OSX and Windows says you are wrong. Deal with it.

    2. Really? Your username is “Die Microsoft” – and you have oh-so-cleverly replaced the s with a $ like “teh kidz” did back in ’98 – and we’re supposed to take anything you say about the Surface seriously?

  9. I think that as leap motion develops, an intelligent individual will hybrid with a screen of any size and a midi translation program that will make any computer amazing. It seems pretty simple, actually. Most people want the VSTs and other features of a DAW that are already controlled via MIDI. Maybe even a clever implementation of GlovePie.

  10. I enjoy my ipad, but it’d be super sweet to fire up Plogue Bidule and Mobius on a tablet! And maybe some Valhalla plugs . . .

  11. I’m anxious to see what apple does with file management moving forward. Criticize ISP all you want…. It’s been out for 4 years. They had nobody to copy from when they designed it. It will keep getting better. And, the fact that they pioneered the tablet industry and maintained their fans ( checkout any user satisfaction index) is why there are so many great apps that just fucking work easily…. Which is what I love about it. I have a mpb… I don’t want that experience ok my iPad……….. I want simple and fast and easy and no latency and fun. It does all that. And it has all the best mobile apps. What is wrong about that it leads the reviewer to think its not cutting edge enough?

  12. Hey Y’all – Josh Morky – the video maker – here. I thought I might chime in about a few things since talking about computers – mac vs pc – whatever – always gets to be like a conversation between religious fundamentalists arguing about which religion is better…. I really just wanted to see what this new operating system felt like (i loved it), and how it felt to touch my favorite program – Reaktor (also loved it).

    1) Some people are pointing out that without multitouch (yet!), its just a fancy mouse thats not as precise. Yes and no. First of all, it feels VERY different. We’re all used to using mice, but if you think about it, its kind of ridiculous to move an object around on a table in order to move a little cursor around on a screen. In the real world, we see something, we touch it, it reacts. This is exactly what happens when you use a touchscreen. You want to change a sound, you touch the knob, and it changes. Theres really no comparison to the feeling of using touch versus using a mouse. My one year old nephew can use a touchscreen – zipping around on my moms iphone or his moms android – but I imagine it’ll be at least a few more years before he can handle a mouse and keyboard…. Mice and keyboards are still important, but I think 20 yrs from now our kids are going to laugh about how primitive our computer interfaces are now.
    So yes, you can only touch one thing at a time in Reaktor, and thats too bad – but if FEELS way better, and you can move around much faster and more intuitively.

    2) Its worth noting that Win8/Surface still takes keyboards and mice, so youre not limited to touch. ALSO worth noting is that the surface comes with a stylus which offers the precision of a mouse or a wacom tablet, but with the ease of use of touch. Im hoping other computer makers catch on to this.

    3) Yes, technically not being able to use full multitouch on windows programs isnt that much different than windows 7, which could already handle touch. The real game changer here is that Win8 is SO touch heavy. It works fine with a mouse and keyboard, but its made to touch. Because of this, ALL new Win8 laptops have touch, and an insane amount of windows touch tablets are coming out. New software is slow to come out, but theres no way programmers are going to be able to ignore this as they make new programs or update older ones. Programs like Reaktor are much bigger programs than anything you would see on a ipad so naturally they’ll take longer to update – most big programs only get updates every year or so, and win8 just came out a few months ago. Its going to take longer for the multitouch updates to come, but they’ll be here. I dont think companies will have a choice. I may be projecting here, but I dont think Apple will be able to hold out for too long without starting to incorporate touch into the OS…. They say they’ll never do it – that people dont want it – but they also said they would never make an iPad mini and once they realized they were losing so much money to 7inch androids, they did it.

    4) I do love the ipad. I use it in performances, it responds well, has multitouch, and there are some super fun apps. My biggest problem with it (besides how it deals with multitasking and file management) is that all the apps feel just a little too much like toys. No heavy hitters. Lots of apps that do a little and not much more. Extraordinarily creative apps, but after using them a bit, I feel like I’ve hit their max capacity. What I always end up thinking is “If I had Reaktor, I could make this app – easily – and better”. Win8 is a great operating system – it may be a little more complex than using iOS, but its WAY better. Win8 runs on real computers with fast processors, lots of ram, & good graphics cards. It has so much more power than an ipad, full USB (which means tons of soundcard options!), runs real programs like Reaktor or Max/MSP, VST instruments and effects, ANYTHING a computer does – but with touch. It seems obvious to me that this is a great thing. Yes, it doesnt have all the apps like an ipad, but it has every app that runs on windows, and I think we’ll see a lot of multitouch support coming in the next 6months/1yr.

    5) Last bit – I didnt necessarily mean for the review to be just about the Surface. I was curious about the Surface because it was so beautiful, fast, had a kickstand, and a stylus. I really liked it. I havent had it for a few weeks, and I miss it. My ipad seems stupid now, though I do like really enjoy using multitouch apps for performances. Theres no question in my mind that I will buy another windows tablet. Its worth noting that you can indeed get a Win8 tablet for 500$ (full windows, not RT crap), but the processors are slower Atom chips – not great for performance. One of the real reasons I didnt keep my surface, was because I know that Intel is releasing new chips that are supposed to be much much better for speed and battery life in June. I can wait a few months.

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