Native Instruments KORE is a new product a lot of us can’t wait to get our hands on. By providing a unified interface for working with soft synths and effects, KORE promises to create a whole new product category: it’s a universal catalog for all your sounds, a universal host, a universal control mechanism for adjusting sounds, in performance and in the studio. But it’s also likely to be a tough sell for Native Instruments, since it isn’t quite like anything previously in the marketplace, and it doesn’t do much if you don’t already have a library of plug-ins. NI has been slowly teasing out some of the specific details through the month on their Website, but this week they finally released what we all want to know: how much does it cost?

The answer is now official: US$579 / EUR 499. Now, it does come with a unique USB2 audio interface and control surface, but that poses a challenge: most of you with enough soft synths to want KORE probably already have an audio interface. As for loading up on instruments for use with KORE, NI has a set of special offers. You’re in luck if you just bought an NI Komplete product: you’ll get something for free, from sounds to upgrades, depending on what you own. Everyone else gets a slight discount on Komplete, the “everything in one box” from NI; it’s $1149 instead of $1499. Now the bad news: the offer ends June 6.

That raises some serious questions that I hope NI will answer between now and KORE’s May 8 ship date. At NAMM, NI touted this as a solution for everyone, as a new sound platform that even third-party developers would embrace. But it looks to me like they’ll have an uphill battle getting fast adoption given that KORE costs $579 and doesn’t include any soft synths to get you started, while likewise Komplete includes all the soft synths you’d want to use with KORE, but doesn’t include KORE itself. Keep in mind that KORE will only work with plug-ins, not the built-in synths in software like Logic Pro and Ableton Live. If NI were using this to push their own line of instruments, that might make some sense, but after June 6 will you really have to spend $1499 + $579 list to get the full NI line with KORE? I personally think that’s a great deal compared to the value of a $2000 hardware synth, but it’s tough to get music consumers to see it the same way, especially as software users traditionally opt for soft synths as a way of economizing. Remember, $600 list normally buys you a full DAW with sequencing and audio recording features; it may strike consumers as steep for this “super-host.” Real value aside, perception of value is what determines success.

This is not a product review, and I’m still very excited to try KORE from what I’ve seen. Personally, I think if it’s good enough, it’ll easily be worth the price. But I do think pricing and marketing are important factors, too, issues independent of product reviews, and I honestly hoped for something more aggressive from NI. Why not start bundling KORE with Komplete, or include a small sampling of Komplete’s synths (like the Xpress line, for instance) with KORE? Unless they’re planning on selling only to people who own Reaktor or several NI synths, I’m a bit confused. Part of KORE’s success will depend on the number of units NI is able to sell, because their own claim is that they’re building a platform, not just a product. We already saw how cool KORE was at NAMM, and in the month of March in their product details, but it seems that NI may have missed an opportunity at Messe to explain how they’ll sell KORE, the platform. It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out. In the meantime, I can’t wait until this ships in May.

KORE: Official Product Page


NAMM: Why KORE Could Change How You Play Software Instruments

  • tom

    Things I'd rather spend $600 on:
    A Moog Prodigy + change
    A good Mexican Telecaster
    100 beers at NAMM
    A DSI Evolver + change
    A Prokeys 88 piano
    The Audio Damage back catalogue, then I'd send Chris the change to say 'thanks'
    A Zvex Nano head + change
    A MFB Synth II + a Mungo Sync
    A Electro Harmonix HOG
    And I bet I could think of a tonne more

  • admin

    Sorry, Tom, forgot to break to you how overpriced the Anaheim Hilton is. đŸ˜‰

    But yeah, I think the pricing could cause issues for more than just you. It seems like you want people to say, boy, I'm picking up Reaktor or Kontakt or this couple of other soft synths from other makers, I'll spend an extra $200 and get KORE. (Or KORE Lite, without the hardware, or something.) $500 street is going to make a lot of those same people pass.

    That would be too bad, because it looks like KORE might address a lot of the issues that hold people back from playing more soft synths.

  • martin

    I really think they should (and eventually will) do what they did with Guitar Rig 2: bundle the software in Komplete, then sell the controller seperately. That way, if someone wants the power of Kore but doesn't need an interface or knobs, it will be bundled in with Komplete. Personally, I would find Kore really useful if it came with Komplete, but wouldn't dream of dropping down that much money on it when, as Tom said, the money buys you a lot of other more useful stuff.

    Also, writing this comment has made me painfully aware of the letter K, and I propose we pass regulations banning it from software titles.

  • admin

    Yeah, I think you're right . . . it's possible that they just need to move out the remaining inventory of Komplete in order for that to happen.

    As for the letter "K", well, maybe it's a German thing? (See Komplexer, earlier this week.)

  • velocipede

    The SLs just seem like such a better deal for the average user. For the studio commercial track producer the preset handling of Kore could be the real killer feature, but I don't think the rest of us are in that much of a hurry to find the right patch.

  • macha

    core seems to me the grandchild of the small controller with 3 knobs that NI made about 6 years ago.
    I jusy got the novation sl. This is what I want. Automapping. I own tons of audio units and vsts and I am very happy to work within the original gui s . makes me feel like I still have all the hardware that I got rid of.
    Intuitively something tells me4 thatcore is not what I really need. But i ll give it a chance. Maybe I will be convinced when hands on testing is done….

  • admin

    KORE is more ambitious than the Remote SL keyboard — definitely apples to oranges. Whereas the Remote automaps parameters to controls and displays what those are, KORE goes a great deal further, by letting you configure entire setups of multiple instruments (plus splits, layers, and effects) and switch between them. (And for the occasional knob tweak, it does that, too.) And it allows you to move these configurations between hosts, so you could do your studio tracks in Logic but your performance tracks in Live, etc. There's definitely no real competition for that, so I do look forward to testing it.

  • thesimplicity

    I was really excited when Kore was announced, but reading the in-depth descriptions on NI's site makes me think I was misunderstanding everything about it.

    I imagined that it was an external box that you loaded all your VSTs on and carried around with you. Now I'm seeing that it's just a preset manager and all the VSTs it controls have to already be installed on each computer you use it with. Which goes hand in hand with my other misconception: as a stand-alone live device. I was picturing something that I could load VST effects on and use it like a stomp-box on stage without having to drag my computer with me. But it seems that by 'stand-alone' they mean Kore + a computer rather than just Kore (as the disclaimer Please Note: KORE alone does not generate any sound but uses VST and Audio Unit plug-ins already installed on your computer told me). Am I wrong on any of this?

    It's hard to justify the purchase of a $600 preset manager when my presets are already so obsessively categorized inside of my DAW.

  • admin

    You are correct, sir. KORE needs your computer (and AUs / VSTs on Win or Mac) in order to operate. It's not standalone hardware a la the MUSE Receptor. Calling it a preset manager wouldn't be quite right: it's a standalone host app, or it runs in your existing host if you'd rather, it lets you set up MIDI controller assignments (apparently not only to its own control box), layers, splits, etc. and store those with your presets, and it lets you switch sounds interactively. These are largely features that are either incomplete in most hosts, or difficult to operate (ahem, Logic Environment, at least for some of these tasks).

    That said, one thing it does allow you to do, and why I think they insisted on the hardware bundle, is to see everything you're doing on the LCD. You'll still have to lug a laptop, but you could hide it somewhere, which has some major appeal . . . it's too durned hard to read a standard computer interface in the middle of a gig.

    I think the big question is, which DAW are you using? If it's Logic and a lot of your presets are in Logic's own built-in instruments, it seems like it'll be really hard to justify KORE, because you'll only be able to use KORE with plug-ins, whereas Logic's instruments are built into the app. That said, one of the first things I'll be trying to do is to push the envelope with KORE: can I, for instance, have KORE send a bank/program change BACK to Logic for rudimentary integration of the two?

    In contrast, SONAR and Project5 presumably WILL work nicely with KORE, since their instruments really are plug-ins.

    If I have this right, that is. We'll know more in May.

  • tremorcore

    not seeing or using kore first hand it's hard to compare apples to apples…

    that said, *most* of the "problems" kore seems to want to address are handled very elegantly by a little app called energyXT ($50 pc only…

    with it, i build complex vst/vsti rigs, and move those rigs around from standalone, to live5, to whatever vst compatible DAW i want. for gigs, eXT will load new rigs (presets) via midi patch change. so i can run the whole thing straight from my microkontrol without even glancing at the laptop.

    as for kore's preset handler, i'll file that under "believe it when i see it." my gut says that this is going to require a fairly massive amount of wrangling by the end user to be a truly efficient tool. i'd love to be proven wrong, there.

    i haven't used the novation SL, but i bet it'd be absolutely killer in conjunction with eXT.

  • virgil990

    I think it's important to note right off that even with any concerns I may mention I still very much plan on purchasing Kore. The added discounts only solidify this decision since recently purchasing Komplete Care I will get Komplete Sounds for free, which is fantastic. I mentioned in a previous thread what I thought Kore would end up costing and I'm very happy that I was Korrect (sorry about that, too much? lol) $579 translates to $499 internet retail and, rather quickly, $399 Ebay. This is a price I can definately live with. As for being compared to the SL it is fairly difficult but there is one bit I'll mention. I don't currently own an SL (waiting for the SL Audio) but I do have a couple of X-Stations. These are beautiful products but the most sweeping advantage I see Kore, as a control surface, having is the increased data transfer resolution. The Novation's have all these wonderful control variations but the jagged way in which parameters jump (MIDI) when sliding your finger across the touchpad is less than ideal. Now the main concerns I have with Kore are also in the hardware. I have no idea how the controlls will turn out but since the audio interface and the enclosure are directly ported from the Rig Kontrol 2 I have no reason to think that Kore won't suffer from the same flaws (see official NI forums on GR2.) I do agree that at some point, the Kore Software at least, will be integrated into the Komplete package. Interesting thing for me is whether of not that will be done this year and covered under Komplete Care. From previous experience I have my doubts but they really need to through something our way this year or the NI forums will flame (more so then they already do, lol.) I know I'm forgetting to mention something but… I agree with what the rest of you are saying and am very interested to see how this whole thing turns out. With the NI discounts and the actual street value of this thing I can't really see price being too much of a problem. The best deal I can find right now is if one were actually wanting to upgrade from Komplete 2. There is a very reputable dealer on Ebay selling the Komplete 3 Update and Komplete Care for $379, I'm assuming he will soon be selling Kore as well. At this price you could get Komplete 3, Komplete Care, Kore, and Komplete Sounds shipped for under $800 and if that's not an f*ing fantastic deal I don't know what is. (I hope that last bit doesn't sound like an advert. I'm just on constant lookout for deals and wanted to pass that one along.)

  • velocipede

    There is a thread related to Kore over at KVR. You can read the response of Urs Heckman, developer of Zebra and Filterscape, very clearly there.

    I wonder what other plug-in developers are thinking about this.