The development of artificially structured electromagnetic materials, termed metamaterials, has led to the realization of phenomena that cannot be obtained with natural materials1. This is especially important for the technologically relevant terahertz (1 THz = 1012 Hz) frequency regime; many materials inherently do not respond to THz radiation, and the tools that are necessary to construct devices operating within this range—sources, lenses, switches, modulators and detectors—largely do not exist. Considerable efforts are underway to fill this 'THz gap' in view of the useful potential applications of THz radiation2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Moderate progress has been made in THz generation and detection8; THz quantum cascade lasers are a recent example9. However, techniques to control and manipulate THz waves are lagging behind. Here we demonstrate an active metamaterial device capable of efficient real-time control and manipulation of THz radiation. The device consists of an array of gold electric resonator elements (the metamaterial) fabricated on a semiconductor substrate. The metamaterial array and substrate together effectively form a Schottky diode, which enables modulation of THz transmission by 50 per cent, an order of magnitude improvement over existing devices10.