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Thinking of buying Trading Blox?

February 1st, 2010 · 73 Comments · Backtest, Software

Well, I am…

Regular readers might think that I suffer from backtesting-software-indecision-itis. Having first settled for TradersStudio, I then evaluated (and purchased) AmiBroker and found that it was 25 times faster than TradersStudio (at least for the calculation of the e-ratio). However, AmiBroker is not really geared towards true portfolio allocation testing with Futures and could not just replace TradersStudio – so I purchased it as a (cheap: $199) complement to it.

Why TradersStudio in the first place?

During my first round of evaluation, I did hesitate between TradersStudio and Trading Blox. At the time, it appeared that there was not a huge difference in functionality but a substantial price difference ($499 for TradersStudio, $3,000 for the full version of Trading Blox Builder). And this is how the choice was made.

However, I never really got past my TraderStudio’s first (not so good) impressions. Ultimately, I find the platform awkward to work with, documentation rather poor and the user community is very small.

So I decided to give Trading Blox another go and test their latest trial version (v3.3), and give you a teaser review of it.

Trading Blox: friendly, efficient, fast, professional

Trading Blox is vastly superior in terms of user interface “friendliness” and efficiency (love that script management/edit screen!). This makes the documentation lookup less necessary (and in any case, it is rather better).

The simulation runs are also very fast (300 stepped parameter tests under 7 minutes) and the software comes pre-packed with about a dozen ready-coded systems including the famous Turtle Trading system.

Finally, the numerous backtest options (slippage, commission, rollover slippage, volume, interest, etc.) should simulate trading reality much more closely.

Overall, it feels that the difference between Trading Blox and TradersStudio can be summed up by Pro vs. Amateur: both good at what they do, but playing in different leagues.

Trading Blox Support broker: Wisdom Trading

Once you’ve developed your trading system, you can trade it live with Trading Blox. It simply reads new market data, runs the same systems code and generate an order sheet for the next session. And if you don’t fancy the extra workload of running this every day or if you have extra commitments, there is a futures global broker specialised in trading systems and Trading Blox more specifically: Wisdom Trading can trade your system for you. They’re officially recommended by Trading Blox and offer access to many global futures to boot – not a negligible aspect for us system traders, with the importance of diversification.

I can definitely see myself using their services to avoid having to generate orders several times during the day or not having to worry about system execution during holidays or other time away.

User community

Trading Blox forum is very good, with top-notch contributors. I joined it a few months ago and the discussion there is top-level, be it on all aspects of trading in general, backtesting, Data problems, Trading Blox questions, etc. It also has a marketplace where users can exchange code/systems, etc. This forum played a big part in my decision to re-consider Trading Blox (TradersStudio’s own forum and yahoo user group are barely ticking…).

In closing: screenshots

I feel I am about to give in and “cut my losses short” with TradersStudio and redeploy my resources towards Trading Blox. In the end, it is a “time vs dollar trade” and I feel that the initial outlay will give a great payback (in time savings and progress made). After all, automated trading is a business and one should not shy away from the essential investments.

Tomorrow, I should post a detailed system test using Trading Blox; but for now please find below some screenshots of the software (click to zoom in):

Result Reports

Result Reports

rich choice in general options

rich choice in general options

System Editor

System Editor

Blox Editor

Blox Editor

Heat map for stepped parameter

Heat map for stepped parameter

Related Posts with Thumbnails

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73 Comments so far ↓

  • Rajiv

    Have you looked at Multi Charts? I haven’t, but know people who have and say it is pretty good.

  • Jez

    Thanks for the suggestion Rajiv.
    I have had a quick look at their website and they do “promise” true portfolio back-testing.
    downloading their trial version now…

  • Milktrader

    Blox does look impressive indeed. I’m starting down the road of R and Python to bridge the gap from TradersStudio.

    Have you looked at or evaluated Neural Studio. Because once price becomes a back-burner issue, their software looks impressive as well.

  • Jez

    Milk – I think R would definitely be useful anyway (which is why I need to get into it!). Both softwares (Blox and Studio) generate lots of data, and although Trading Blox produces nicer and more complete reports and charts, you still need to perform your own data analysis..

    Dont know much about Python. What are you planning to use it for, scripting or “proper” programming?

    Havent come across Neural Studio before and a quick google did not yield anything useful. Got link?

  • quarterback

    have you considered matlab?

  • Milktrader

    Ooops, not Neural Studio, but Neuralshell Trader

    What is interesting about Python is building a neural network. I’ve just scratched the surface with the PyBrain module, but its utility as a machine learning tool (versus stat tool) is intriguing.

  • Jez

    @quarterback – not really. I am sure matlab is very powerful (from what I remember from my uni days) but I am looking for a software specialised in trading and back-testing

  • Jez

    @milk – thanks for the update. I am not too keen on the neural network approach mostly because I find them potentially more than rule-based systems dangerous (ie they are “Black Box” engines and they are prone to overfitting).
    I also tried to build one about 10 years ago and I did not find anything too exciting. As there is only so much time in the day (unfortunately), I won’t be looking at that again for a while I feel.

    Very keen to hear about your findings though! :)
    And maybe you can correct any misconceptions about NN that I have…

  • Milktrader

    There are a lot of traders who hold the same view you have wrt neural networks. I haven’t gotten one up and running yet, but I feel it’s a worthwhile pursuit. The way I see it, traders look at past data and then attempt to draw an inference about what it will do in the future. Statistical analysis and machine learning (NN) are not really that different in this respect, they just use different terms.

    I’ll post a blog soon about what I’m finding to be the similarities between statistics and machine learning and how traders analyze data and draw inference from it.

  • Mark

    I use both Amibroker and Trading Blox. They are both good in their own domain. Amibroker is good for charting and rapid prototyping of systems. It can also handling huge amount of intraday data. It also supports automatic trading through IB. Trading Blox is good at one thing and is really good at that: portfolio level future trading systems building and testing. As to price, a few thousand dollars should not be considered a major hurdle since choosing a capable backtesting software is a major commitment.

  • Damian

    Haven’t tried it recently – can someone point me to a trial?

  • Jez

    They do not offer a public link to their trial on their website – I guess they probably want to keep it under control.

    However, I did ask the question on their forum about testing the software and if they had a trial version and Tim Arnold (the main TB guy on the forum) sent me the info on how to get the trial.

    I guess they just want to keep some track of it (still better than TradersStudio, which does not offer any trial at all…) so I am sure if you pop them the question via email, they’ll send you the trial.

  • Hans Walther

    Funny people mention tools such as MultiCharts or MatLab. Trading Blox has little in common with them. I’m using TB since a long time and couldn’t live without it. If you are planning on trading a long term trend following system and you’re serious about trading then you shouldn’t waste a single second thinking if TB is worth the $3,000. The price of the software is negligible compared to its versatility and power.

  • Paolo

    What do you thing about Amibroker versus Trading Blox?


  • Jez

    @Hans agree with you. Downloaded MultiCharts and their Portfolio backtester seems very poor compared to Trading Blox. It’s really just a charting platform it looks like.

    @Paolo, check Mark’s comment on AmiBroker and Trading Blox.
    Personally, and only after a few tests on Trading Blox, it seems much easier/intuitive to get started and write code. Also it is definitely better equipped for full portfolio testing on futures (ie handle rollovers, allocation of capital to different sytems, risk management module, etc.)

  • cordura21

    Hi Jezz. Sorry to keep asking the same question (as I did with your TS vs Amibroker post), but is Trading Blox multi-system capable? I remember you said that was a capability that TS had and AB didn’t, and it was a reason why you couldn’t replace TS with it.
    Cheers, Cord

  • Jez

    Hi Cord,
    No worries for the repeat question!
    Yes Trading Blox is multi-system. The starting point of the simulation is a suite where you add as many systems as you want with a set percentage allocation between each system. You can also develop a system which trades its equity curve (ie stop trading if equity curve below Moving Average, etc.). I am not sure if you can change the system allocation dynamically but I would be surprised if you could not.
    I should be buying the software soon so I’ll probably be able to answer more of these questions once I got the hang of the software after a few months of use.
    All in all, it feels that Trading Blox is a great upgrade on TradersStudio at all levels.

  • Damian

    Tradersstudio now looks, to me, like a dead product. TradingBlox looks very cool – the only issue for me is that I love coding rotational systems and I couldn’t see an easy way to do that with TB – even when I asked in the forum. Amibroker is fantastic at this aspect.

  • Jez

    Hi Damian, did you get your trial of Trading Blox?
    Agree with TradersStudio looking dead – but I think it might still find a niche market for people that want to get Trading Blox without shelling out 3k.. However I made that mistake and I regret it :(
    I think I am about to buy Trading Blox now…

    I havent come across rotational trading implemented in Trading Blox (I assume that by rotational, you mean ranking and trading only the best ranked instruments?). When I get it I’ll let you know if I think of a way of doing it.
    AmiBroker is dead cheap for what it offers and I’ll probably keep using it anyway

  • Ian

    Hi Jez

    I purchased Traderstudio last year, not long after you, and have been following your progress with interest (thanks for starting your blog btw, its great to hear about other people’s problems and solutions). I also notice the same problems; mainly that Traderstudio is so slow in backtesting. Have you tried to the Genetic Optimiser? Its been pushed by TS as an alternative but I often get random results from it so I dont find it all that useful. I need to plot the optimised results on graphs to get a good feel for what will work in the future.

    So I’m intrigued by Trading Blox – I also considered this but didnt purchase for price issues. I note it seems to be far faster. Is there a separate language for it? I cant really spare the time to learn a new programming language, I’m ok with VB and TS’s language but dont know any of the other programming languages. And does it have a translator from other languages. Thats a handy TS feature?

    Thanks in advance

  • Jez

    Hi Ian, thanks for dropping by and commenting.
    I did not try the genetic optimiser but if I recall correctly TS charge extra for this, which is a bit cheeky since it is only a workaround to their poor performance. TB is dead fast and this really changes things. For the e-ratio calc for example, with TS I used to kick it off and go get a good night sleep… With TB I only have time to get a good coffee! ;-) And that’s great!

    With regards to TB language, if you know VB, this would be fine. There is a bit of learning curve to understand the internal objects and logic but there is so much free sample code and explanation on the TB forums that it should not be a problem. The only regret I have with TB is not buying it earlier…

  • Ian

    Hi Jez,
    I can imagine that the speed would make the testing process a good deal easier. The e-ratio that you described in other posts seems useful but not essential – perhaps if it could run in 5 minutes as opposed to 24 hours it would be a very useful addition. For TS at the moment its just too slow.

    So Blox sounds very interesting. How long does the trial last for – is it enough to get a good handle on the software? I understand that it is very good for futures; will it also handle stocks? Also, I like to walk forward facility on TS, is there something similar on Blox (although I think you could replicate a walk forward facility easily enough, but its handy to have it in one place)

  • Jez


    Yes, e-ratio is not essential and at a few hours computing time, it might not be viable indeed ;-)

    Or maybe it’s just TS that is not viable… The TB trial lasts for 7 days and if you do spend the time during that week you should start getting a good hang of it (I would recommend reading the user manuals available in full on their website first and then play with the demo) and they are introducing Walk-Forward in their latest beta (for version 3.4). Looks pretty cool…

  • cordura21

    Hey Jez. How are things going with TradingBlox? I am planning to invest in it. Did you find any issues with it? One specific q: do you know if you can do calendar rebalancing? (I tried to search their forum but for some reason every button takes me back to the index page, even the register button) Cheers, Cord

  • Drew

    Jez, which version of Blox would you suggest? I researched NeuroShell and it looks interesting but based on reviews and the broader portfolio level backtesting feature with thorough analysis, Blox appears superior for those functions. Thanks – love the site.


  • Jez

    @Drew – Thanks!
    I’d recommend the Builder edition – if you are into developing – as you do not get the real flexibility of implementing your own stuff. Note that you can also get the Pro version and hire a developer to code things up for you (or download the free blox from the marketplace).

    Things are going well with TB – wish I had more time available to “play” with it. No big isssue so far. There are some aspects of it that could be improved (the whole code editor does the job but feels a bit clunky) but that is the compromise of buying vs. building…
    Re: Calendard rebalancing, I dont think this is a core feature but I have definitely seen people do it on Blox (actually Anthony Garner’s book implements systems with rebalancing – and the blox code for the systems in the book is available on the TB forum).
    Re: the forum, it sometimes “play” a little funny as you describe. I have just had to reset my password to get it working again… Try that maybe?

  • Anarchus

    What system or service are you using for pricing data to feed into Trading Blox?

  • Jez

    Trading Blox comes with free data from CSI (a subset of their normal EOD data including around 70 futures), which can be updated from TB directly.
    However I use CSI on its own with the Unfair Advantage software and their API to get access to a wider range of futures.
    I dont use intra-day data but I know tickdata is recommended by CSI; and a fund manager I was talking to uses them and is happy with them.
    Other users of Trading Blox also use Pinnacle I believe.

  • Len

    I’m new to this blog… it looks interesting.

    Any opinions out there on Trading Blox vs. Mechanica?
    I am hoping to secure a software package for professional/institutional-level backtesting, but while I seek capability for real-world complexity, my programming knowledge is limited and so I will have to learn whatever Basic or VBasic type of trading language employed by whichever I choose.

  • Jez Liberty

    Hi Len,
    Welcome to the blog.

    I havent tried Mechanica myself and I know that it is failry expensive in “full-mode” (ie $25k I believe). I know of some Trading Blox users who use Mechanica as their back-up system. I know both TB as well as Mechanical are used by some CTAs/fund managers…

    TB is good, not perfect but I think one of the best package out there. You will definitely have to learn the language to program your strategies – but this not too difficult and very similar to VB syntax and concepts. One of the great things about TB is their customer support and the forum archies which has loads of info/sample code, etc.

  • brmr

    Hi Jez,

    Thanks for sharing you experiences with us and keep up the good work.

    I’ve been trading based on a discretionary model ( for asset allocation & markets) complemented by a trend following model, (mostly with broker provided tools & manual calculations) on and off for about a year and half. When i came across your blog, I’ve learnt a lot about system trading and am thinking of getting a software to back test my strategy. It seems that trading blox builder might be a good choice. I am novice with regards to programming ( done a bit during my Uni days for course work) So is TBB a good choice and can i automate it to generate trade signals and money management

  • Jez Liberty

    hi brmr – thanks and welcome to the blog.
    Tricky to give a recommendation without specifics but I believe there are good chances your Trend Following model could be implemented in TBB. The coding is not too difficult either so it’s probably a very good place to start your formal back-testing experience + money management is quite a strong focus of TB..

  • LuckyF00L

    Hi Jez,
    You said in an earlier comment that the portfolio backtester of MultiCharts is very poor compared to TB. Can you give a bit more detiail about what you mean for the non-experienced user to understand where the differences lie? MC seems to have very high quality charts, you can have portfolio level backtesting for up to 100 assets(in the standard edition) and it costs half as much as TB. I am about to purchase one of the two and any comments you might have will be very useful.

  • Jez Liberty

    LuckyF00L – I don’t really remember the specifics as I only played with it for less than one hour but it did not strike me as a back-testing platform, rather a charting platform with some added-on back-testing bits to add to the feature list… Obviously I would take my own comments with a pinch of salt given the time I spent with the platform.

    I think simple TB things such as ranking instruments, having portfolio filters, total portfolio risk calculation, etc. did not seem to be there (ie you need more than just back-testing a bunch of symbols together to call a module portfolio back-testing).

    I think they have released a new version not long ago (and my test was before that I believe) and it might be better.

    I know of another trader that uses MultiChart (for trading) but he uses TradingBlox for back-testing if that gives you any indication…

  • Mike

    Hello, been lurking around lately. Very interesting blog!

    One question I have with regard to TB….I know it is a backtesting software, can it also help me automatically execute trades if I link it to a broker?

    If not can it generate signals for the next day so that I can manually execute them myself?

  • Jez Liberty

    Mike – TB can generate orders for the next day. There is no direct linkage to brokers but you could read in the orders file and build the interaction via separate (bespoke) software to send the orders to the broker.

  • Alistair

    Hi, been reading through and had considered Trading Blox a few years back. I am in the UK and would prefer to trade through spreadbetting, does anyone have any experience of doing this and if so what prices do you use to trade from and backtest as I am guessing this will be the main issue?

  • Jez Liberty

    If you search in the TB forum, I believe you would find mentions of forum members using spread-betting..
    I am currently working with a consulting client to build an interface between Trading Blox and GFT, as they have an API which allows to retrieve information (including historical data) and automate the order processing. I believe my client used another data source to back-test and research the system but will be using GFT’s data for trading/signal generation from Trading Blox.
    So GFT might be an option… I think you do not even need to get the API to extract historical data.
    Hope this helps,

  • comment

    Trading Blox is now $4,000 and they retroactively charge more for upgrades!!!

  • Jez Liberty

    This is most likely related with their recent VC deal – which might not be such a bad thing if it helps strengthen the company (which was mostly a “one-man band” before).
    The communication of price increases was not handled really well though (just announced as effective – no warning, etc.).
    But somehow, this was not a shocker – the $3000 price tag had been there for quite a long time – and as a full paying TB customer I do not mind this too much.

    Now let’s see what comes out of this VD deal… (they re-assured the customers that the company would keep its vision. directions, etc.)

  • Erik

    Hi Jez,
    Did you find out if it was possible to use TB to rank and trading only the best ranked instruments?

  • Jez Liberty

    Hi Erik, yes this is definitely something possible in TB.
    You can define/calculate your own ranking index and only trade the top N instruments. I have actually developed a system for a client, which was purely based on ranking (ie every month rotate into the top 5/10/20 instruments based on custom-defined ranking).

  • innertrader

    I had a problem with the price hike. They wanted to charge me more for the Turtle version, which I had already purchased, as I was going to purchase the other two parts of their software. They have sense corrected the problem, but I had already received a refund and moved on. Now I’m taking a second look at TB and wondering if I should continue and what other software should I consider?

  • Jez Liberty

    I am still happy with Trading Blox but if I had to re-evaluate, I would probably look at Mechanica or PowerST as well

  • innertrader

    Jez, thanks for the info concerning Mechanica. Very interesting software!

  • innertrader

    Jez, from my research, I think Mechanica is far superior to Trading Blox. Especially if you are considering managing funds one day. Thanks for the referral.
    However, I already have several months into the Turtle portion of Blox and may revert back to it only due to the learning curve.
    But, trying to work through Blox’s retroactive price increase has been exceedingly difficult and it has left me with a very negative impression of their approach to business. I absolutely NO longer trust Blox, period! I have a tough decision to make.

  • Jez Liberty

    Hi innertrader,
    I heard the same feedback (superiority of Mechanica over TB for a fund manager) from a CTA, but I thought that the rest of the software was more or less equivalent (TB being better if I trust owners of both systems that use TB as primary and Mechanica as backup – although this was mentioned several times in TB forums)
    Would you care to elaborate over the other aspects that you found Mechanica to be far superior to TB? – I’d be very interested in that.
    PS: agree with you on the price change. In itself it was not out-of-the ordinary, but the way they handled it was not good.

  • innertrader

    Hey Jez,
    As a non-programer with very limited experience, I found Mechanica to be much more intuitive; which is exceedingly helpful with the learning curve. Also, I am considering the managed money business and I think that aspect of Mechanica speaks for itself.
    There is also the concern of future business. The Mechanica price INCLUDES Upgrades and Support. Currently, Blox’s annual fee is 18% per year ($720.00) and who knows, they could double the fee in a heart beat.
    Like I said before, I may use Blox, once I get some questions answered, but only due to the time I previously spent on it. However, at this point, my trust in the company is completely gone….. unfortunately, maybe that’s the way it should be.
    If you have any additional comment concerning the comparison of the two programs, I would appreciate it.

  • Jez Liberty

    Thanks for the comment innertrader. This is interesting and I see your point of view on the TB pricing.
    I do not have any additional comment on Mechanicha vs Trading Blox – I have limited knowledge of Mechanica.

  • innertrader

    Jez – I found a more informed opinion that may be useful.

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