I’m sure Native Instruments wants me to open with discussion of realistic-sounding strings in Kontakt 4, but instead, I offer a loose visual representation of Absynth’s sound engine. Photo (CC) Joe Penniston.

Native Instruments released a slew of soft synth updates today – thanks to everyone who sent this in. The big news is that Absynth, the alien-sounding synth that has become a darling of sound designers, gets a big update. But with so much to cover, here’s the in-a-nutshell version so you can grok it all in one place.

The other big news – Komplete’s price is down to EUR499/US$559, with cheaper upgrade pricing to match. That makes the suite much more aggressive, and certainly as far as software instruments, as much as you can get in any one box, anywhere, for that amount of change. It’s not all good news, though – there were some cuts of instruments from the lineup. Correction: These products are in fact discontinued. Pro-53, Akoustik Piano, and B4 II are being terminated, though unlike the previous vocoder and spectral delay, it sounds as though the replacement is effectively sample libraries in Kontakt.

Disclaimer: I’m reading this from a press release and peppering it with what either might be considered my expansive experience and finely-honed instincts or, in technical terms, “randomly made-up speculation.” Less review, more fauxview. Expect more once we’ve used these in the flesh.


A screenshot, revealing – actually very little. It’s still blue-green, the Absynth. I like my visual representation better.

Absynth 5

The synth Jim Aikin once described to me as a “rabbit hole” has just gotten deeper. New in this release:

  • Supercomb filter for “physical-modeling-type” sounds – think exquisite new resonance.
  • Cloud filter for granular-based modulation.
  • Filter feedback paths for “gritty” “unpredictable” …well, you know, filter feedback.
  • Aetherizer” for breaking up and rearranging sound particles, apparently derived from granular models but implemented in an unusual way.
  • More presets, in case you want a guide exploring the stuff above.
  • Mutator for morphing presets based on musical keywords – an alternative way of navigating presets.

Those new filters and processors sound really extraordinary to me. I have a small selection of “desert island” synths. Absynth might qualify for when you move to a different planet.

Kontakt 4

Here’s a surprise. You see, Native Instruments only updated its flagship sampler to 3.5 as recently as July. That was no minor update, either, featuring 64-bit memory support (on Windows) and greater 32-bit memory (up to 32 GB on Mac), plus improved from-disk streaming, multi-core support, MIDI learn, and other enhanced features and compatibility. In less than a month and a half, they’re back to announce version 4.

And it does sophisticated live convolution of samples. Somewhere, someone is thinking of realistic purposes for that. I’m thinking Absynth may have company on that alien planet.


  • Authentic Expression Technology (AET)  What? A process that mimics authentic instruments – with an obscure acronym to match? Is NI channeling Roland? AET isn’t quite like anything I’ve heard before, with a “phase-corrected convolution” based on an analysis of the original acoustic instrument sample. (In other words, it squishes your sample together with the analyzed behavior of a real-world instrument.) It’s a unique-sounding process, and one I’d love to hear warped to unusual sound design purposes – not just faking real instruments, but inventing new ones.
  • Vowel morphing for choirs. (Yeah, see what I just said? You’re going to want to route synths through AET, too, aren’t you?)
  • A sampled Mellotron.
  • Sample compression to save on resources – without losing audio fidelity or taxing the CPU, says NI.
  • Multi Scripts for Kontakt scripting users.
  • A new sound browser with “more musical” terms.
  • A stack of belgian waffles, dripping in syrup. (Okay, I made that one up. Mmmmm… waffles.)


Guitar Rig 4 (Pro and otherwise)

Where do you go in a crowded guitar emulation market, with a package that’s already crammed with sound tools? NI has chosen to focus on the speakers/cabinet/mic. There’s more talk of convolution – here, “latency-free” convolution – but I know NI’s tools often use different techniques for the different products, which means this may not be exactly what’s showing up in Kontakt; more on that once I find out exactly what they’ve done. New in “Pro”:

  • Advanced cabinet, mic modeling: NI says they’ve applied latency-free convolution in order to get more precise models from their software. (Well, okay, digital processes inherently add latency, so let’s assume extreme-low-latency).
  • Control Room mic + cabinet matching: Other guitar amp emulations do effectively this – there are some simple combinations in Apple’s new Logic 9, most recently. But NI says that, again, their technology is special, with phase-aligned studio mics for each cabinet and work by German guitar and recording guru Peter Weihe.
  • New tube amps: “Hot Plex,” “Jump.”
  • Two new delays, two new reverbs.
  • Dedicated master effects section.
  • True-stereo processing throughout the signal chain.
  • Better sound quality for pitch-based effects.
  • More host automation, controller assignment.
  • Use the Rig Kontrol 3 pedal board as a MIDI controller with anything you like.

That’s just the flagship; some updates apply across the range to other packaged versions of the Guitar Rig line, with different sets of features and hardware that are a bit too complex to compare now.

Komplete 6

For those keeping score at home, here’s what you get if you prefer the whole box.

New versions:

  • Absynth 5
  • Kontakt 4
  • Guitar Rig 4

And the existing lineup:

  • Battery 3
  • FM8
  • Massive
  • Reaktor 5
  • Elektrik Piano (now simply as Kontakt samples, but that’s fine)

And those upgrading who felt burned in the past by the process, NI seems to be giving something back this time. All the way back to Komplete 2, you can upgrade for US$169, and Kontakt and Reaktor owners – any version – can Komplete themselves for US$339/EUR299 through the end of 2009.

The full Komplete package is now just US$559/EUR499.

So, what got cut:

  • Akoustic Piano
  • B4 II
  • PRO-53

These three products are in fact discontinued. Pro-53 was a bit out of place in the suite, it’s true, and looking (and sounding) long in the tooth; NI is generally more about creating new synths than emulating old ones. The B4 and Akoustik Piano, though, I think are going to be missed. Akoustik Piano has some great piano samples and controls that aren’t really replaced by the piano samples in Kontakt. And while the C-3 samples in Kontakt sound terrific, you miss out on the variations and sound design options in B4 II. I’m guessing someone may be passionate about that, seeing as how they’re handcrafting full-sized controllers for it with custom stops and DIY electronics just to play it. It sounds like the direction is toward sampling, though, so perhaps we’ll see some additions in the Kontakt sample library to compensate for these omissions. Meanwhile, if you’ve already got these products, you can hang onto them.

I still think this gives Komplete an extra edge. And let’s not lose the real story here – real time convolution and crazy filtering in Absynth. I’ll sleep on that.

Oh yeah, and iPhone apps? Cool, but when you want to put more supercomputer-style processing on your tracks, your desktop computer is still your friend.

Native Instruments

  • vinayk

    Now I'm annoyed!

    I just bought the whole komplete package for 399. I already owned Reaktor prior to this – so essentially I could have waited and upgraded for cheaper (339!!!).

    I'm sure i'm not the only one in this boat.

  • @vinayk

    I'm sorry to hear that. It's frustrating. (And mirrors how i feel about my non-upgradeable edu-Logic 8, aka Logic 9a.)

    But didn't we all agree that when Komplete went on crazy-sale earlier this summer, it meant an update was around the corner (and beyond refund/inclusion).

  • I too am annoyed about the upgrade pricing. I bought K2 YEARS AGO, and then paid for the K3, K4 and K5 upgrades as they came along.

    Now I will pay $169 for K6, and so will the guy who bought K2 and NOTHING ELSE from NI for the last 6 years.

    Not Fair! There should be a "loyal customer" discount for folks that own MULTIPLE versions of Komplete.

  • digi

    Price is listed as 499 Euro at NI's site.

  • kobe

    @john: but you will have vokator, spektral delay, as well as B4 & akoustik piano & Pro-53, and they won't.

    you also have had use of all those apps this entire time & should have gotten your money's worth out of them by now.

    i see $169 as a good deal & i'm not gonna whine like a loser if some other guy got a better deal than me. obviously you acknowledge that it's worth the price you paid, as no one held a gun to your head when you decided to purchase each edition for the prices you've paid.

  • kinet

    Reducing the price of K5 to 399euro is saying that somethings new is coming.

    But what about Reaktor 6 ???????????????

    that would be nice.

  • Steven Nguyen

    I love the whole Komplete suite, but one minor annoyance is that some programs will let you set a custom library path while others don't, and some don't have uniform file structures, but that's probably just me being extremely strict about organization.

  • Steven Nguyen

    To correct myself above:

    Some will let you set custom paths, but won't let you delete the original content directory path even if there is nothing in it and it is not being used.

  • Till

    Peter, you got a little typo up there which might confuse people about the pricing:

    Komplete 6 will be priced at USD 559 / EUR 499. That's how you correctly state at the beginning. At the bottom of the article however, it says "US$559/EUR559".



    P.S.: Always a pleasure to read your articles!

  • @steven, i'm with you.

    i've always been annoyed with how inflexible the patch browsers are in NI software. supposedly kore is good for that, but you shouldn't need a separate app to organize a file structure the way you want.

    all that said, i want this pretty badly. i've made my best stuff with massive, absynth and battery, and i'm overdue to get into reaktor.

  • shubs

    Reaktor is long overdue being updated. In this day and age I have been really surprised at how much of a needless CPU hog it remains to be.

    I recently jumped from PC to Mac, and Reaktor seems a little cumbersome on IntelMac.

    Kontakt 4 looks great though, shame about the posters above upgrading recently, considering there was a great update in the pipeline! Always happens though.

    I have to say even though a few products have been dropped, B4, Akoustik Piano, and Pro53 might have sample soundbanks for Kontakt. Maybe those instruments are no longer being developed for and provided support for, and support will cease to exist for 10.6 and Win7 and NI will focus their strengths on other products, ones which have a greater market appeal. Which for me is no bad thing as long as they upgrade Reaktor soon!

  • Looks likes in response, line6 is making pod farm free for a limited time:


  • andrew zero

    i just bought komplete a month ago… i knew that was too good to be true.

    still the upgrade cant be much.

  • Sorry about the typo in the US-EUR pricing; that's fixed!

    @shubs: NI is *not* discontinuing support for B4, Akoustik Piano, or Pro 53. They're just no longer bundling them with Komplete, that's all. I think they hope the people who want them will buy them separately. 😉

    I have also found Reaktor to be more CPU-efficient on PC than Mac, even with an Intel Mac – my own unscientific benchmarks, but… I can tell you that, while Reaktor is not the most commercially successful tool in NI's stable, it's very dear to their heart. I know I'm anxious to see an update there, but I'm convinced there's potential to do a release that's really significant.

    @peter: Thanks for the Line6 link. But note you do need to own a Line6 product to use that. I'm not sure it's in response to NI.

    @Steven: I feel the same way about file organization; I think that's a good point.

    As for this upgrade pricing… well, obviously it's a bit hard to please everyone. I complained that Ableton's pricing was overcomplicated, but then I think it was also tiered so that owners of more recent versions pay less. Grace periods seem like a good idea (we got the same complaint about Apple), but then it's always possible to be one day shy of the grace period.

    Even if you bought the most recent version, I think $169 is going to be worth spending in order to get the massive changes in Absynth and Kontakt. On the other hand, what I could really use is not an upgrade to any of these tools, but a week-long vacation in the woods that I spend doing nothing else. Now that'd be a contest.

  • Michael Coelho

    Wow, this is great news even if I am a little disappointed about the pancakes. The only thing that would have made this even sweeter would have been Reaktor 6. Assuming that there will be a Reaktor 6, I wonder what the upgrade path will be for Komplete users who have upgraded to these newer versions? Absynth 5? Hell yeah! This made my morning.

  • Prcls


    I am also a little annoyed. I bought the Komplete Bundle one month before the special offer was made. that was the first disappointment, cause it was cheaper then the educational version. I actually phoned them before i purchased it asking them if there will some news to the Komplete Bundle in near future, but they didn't inform me about the special offer one month later and the upgrad which comes now…

    I mean i can understand, that they havn't told me about concerning business reasons but still i feel a little bit cheated.

    And yes Reaktor 6 – they should at least made a little statement what the status quo is regarding that so many users are waiting for this.

  • Widowsky

    New versions drop Tiger support, which makes me happy to have bought Komplete 5 at a bargain price this summer. Admittedly, it's very personal.

  • EJ

    The Komplete package looks interesting, but if they're not going to include everything, I really wish NI allowed for some options depending on what you need. I lean toward more classic pop sounds and own Logic 9 (with the new amps/pedals), so replacing Absynth/Reaktor/GuitarRig with AkoustikPiano/B4II/PRO-53 would be much more compelling.

  • @Peter B4, Pro 52 and the both the Pianos are being discontinued. From the press release:

    ELEKTRIK PIANO is now included within the new KONTAKT factory library, while AKOUSTIK PIANO, B4 II, and PRO-53 are no longer part of the bundle due to their discontinuation as individual products.

    Also, you don't need the an Line 6 product to use the free pod, there's an iLoked version for those who don't own any of their gear. I don't think the announcements are related though.

  • Bynar

    I really try to avoid NI software. I love to tweak parameters, but I've always felt that their plugins are a little too overwhelming and bloated.

  • Thanks for the corrections. NI has in fact confirmed these products were discontinued. In my haste, I somehow read something else.

    The new versions should continue to work with Tiger, as far as I know; I'll check. I believe that support across the board is being phased out for Tiger, but if you're running on Tiger now without issue, I don't think that's a problem. It's basically an admission that they're not going to continue testing Tiger, and I expect we'll see that from other vendors.

  • Oh yeah, and you can use the Line 6 stuff if you've got an iLok… although I try to avoid needing to have iLoks plugged into my system. 😉

  • Batarang

    Whining about upgrade pricing isn't the answer, not purchasing the upgrade is. Companies like Adobe and Native Instruments need to start looking at reasonable upgrades ($50) in order to entice most of their customers to buy every upgrade. Otherwise, folks will just keep waiting a couple iterations before they get the current version. Those that are impatient are always going to pay a premium and be ticked off. Aren't those that pay considered the "best" customers? Why would you want to frustrate them?

    And discontinuing a program/synth just means you're going to have even more people looking for the warez version. Why not heavily discount it and make it download only? How 'bout $50 a piece. Yeah, NI will still have to support 'em, but they will be increasing their legal userbase and potential customers of other products down the line. If folks still want B4 II a couple years from now and there is no replacement or better product from a competing company, cracked versions offer the only alternative.

  • Actually, I'd be curious is that the case. Is there a warez scene around Vokator? (I'd be surprised to find that, but maybe there is…)

    Whatever you opinion of NI's pricing, there are alternatives, and there's stuff bundled with DAWs, and – in the case of synths – there are always alternative choices.

    And there are free software alternatives that I've been remiss in covering lately. Cracking software, to me, is an entirely destructive alternative. I know it happens, but if you really want a situation to improve, you have to commit some resources to a software maker or time to a free software project. If you can afford a computer (in terms of time and money), you can afford one of the more inexpensive software options or to spend the time to contribute to free software – using and advocating and testing and documenting it, since of course not everyone can develop it.

  • karl

    I bought Komplete 2 many years ago and upgraded every incremental step since then, now on Komplete 5. I see no reason whtasoever to upgrade to Komplete 6 for 169$.

    Seems NI lost me as a costumer, and turns towards Gigabyte-Sampling-Library freaks and Sound Package collectors (no offense, I am just more into Reaktor and sound tweaking, and Absynth 5 is not compelling enough on its own to spend 169$).

  • Adrian Anders

    Jeez…. Okay here is my breakdown of thoughts:

    Absynth: Damn, when I have the free cash I might want this. Way to go NI! I really like the new sound-design possibilities. Still want it to become more modular with unlimited number of sound generators, filters, and effects… but works for an upgrade.

    Kontakt: Damn… I was hoping for an update to their terribly aging granular/timestretch engine. Maybe worth the update for me from Kontakt 2… its a wait and see.

    Guitar Rig: Never owned guitar rig… I was waiting for stereo signal path to and from and all the way in between. Now… Must… Own.

    Komplete: Never wanted Pro-53. Bummer on B4 II (I hope the clearance on it is really cheap) but it bums me out less than Spektral Delay and Vokator, and I was never interested in Akoustic Piano. So for the price… especially with update pricing. Yea, I like it.

  • It really is too bad they have dropped Akoustic Piano from the Komplete Line. I think with the increased competition on the market, the product will become a bastard child in NI's lineup within a few years. Too bad it's a great product. I use it every day.

    It's clear to me what NI is up to with Komplete. They are weeding out apps out of the lineup that are not conducive to an upsell with Expansion Packs (down the road). Any product that is a "platform" for sound packs becomes an ongoing revenue generator for the company and that is what NI is increasing it's focus on. They have done it with KORE and now they are completing the process by eliminating standalone synths/samplers from the KOMPLETE package.

    Ironically, I picked up a copy of Reason Pianos yesterday which has some incredibly innovative stuff going on with how the have processed the piano sound. Pianos sound great, some are outrageously good, but the sensitivity is not up there with Akoustic Piano. This will be a deal killer for some but some of the timbres you can get out of Reason pianos are outstanding.

    There are a couple of other hot s/w pianos out there heating up the competition for NI on this product. Without it being in Komplete they will loose a lot of their market dominance for Akou Pno over time, the product will languish and people will move on. Really too bad.

  • Well, the product won't just languish – see my correction. Akoustic Piano as a standalone product ceases to be.

    I'm not sure I agree with your analysis here. My sense is that the problem is that NI has grown a complex product line that has different engines underneath. That's a major support and development drag on the company. Think of a fleet of airplanes that don't share parts – maintenance is pricier. So yes, they're weeding stuff out, but I don't think it has anything to do with expansion packs as a cause. I think the reason the expansion packs work with the other products is that they're more current platforms. When you factor in the cost of keeping up with new versions of Mac OS and Windows, plus the move to 64-bit, I'm not at *all* surprised that they're choosing to focus development resources.

  • I was also surprised, no stunned that Reaktor wasn't updated. With the marketing focus that NI has placed on Reaktor over the past year by sponsoring music websites (no jab intended) to focus on the depth and greatness of Reaktor, the sound pack releases, NI's own increased marketing on Reaktor…

    I was all but certain they were going to drop a revolutionary update to Reaktor with some mindblowing stuff in the Core portion of the app/platform. Maybe this was the intent but development schedules fell behind on their work.

    It also seems like I just bought Komplete 5 and I bought it pretty much when it was released and here we are with Komplete 6. Seems to me their release schedule on Komplete is a wee bit too aggressive given the bombardment registered users get with expansion packs for their products. My perception as a consumer (and advocate) of their products is they are becoming more blatantly revenue hungry.

    Will I buy Komplete 6… probably.

  • shubs

    NI has in fact confirmed these products were discontinued. In my haste, I somehow read something else.

    Turns out my expectations were met! Mwah ha ha. I was right. Well, probably not the best time to be right as I imagine a lot of people who use those products are going to struggle when support is dropped.

    I've always thought that NI make really great products, but really spread themselves so thinly by having so many products across their range, and that they seem to expend a lot of energy constantly bringing out new products eg Maschine and Massive in recent times, when really a lot of users have had great problems with a good few of their products. Even though it is very sad support for products have been dropped, I get the impression that the Native Instruments has got a bit bloated and needs to be made efficient so they are able to focus upon a few instruments and effects which are impeccably supported.

    By dropping the instruments above though, I am in agreement with Batarang that there is a possibility that Warez of the instruments might crop up more. If they are going to drop the instruments all together, I think it could be great if they could do what Propellerhead did with Rebirth and put them up for free! That'll never happen though…

    Just from the comments alone, the expectations for Reaktor 6 could be seen to have surpassed those for any others. I imagine Kontakt is probably their most successful instrument in their range, probably just from observing the number of sample libraries which have been made for Kontakt. Hopefully, they will sort out some of the problems with Reaktor for the next release. It always surprises me how CPU intensive it is in comparison to Max/Msp for things like sample granulation…

  • kobe

    yeah, i don't think pricing is bad. remember this is an entire Suite. not just one app. to anyone bitching, it did cost $1399.00 not so long ago..

  • JavaJ

    I paid 500k for my house a few years ago- now- I can get a bigger house for half the price. I am so mad- I should be treated better than this- I was a loyal house-owner!!! And worse yet- those renters can now get a bigger house and pay less than what I paid for- not fair!!!!

    (major tongue in cheek here!)


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  • El Conorio

    Why on earth are they discontinuing B4? Why not just keep it around, but not spend any development time on upgrading it?

  • Chad

    They should simply make the discontinued products free and make it clear there will be no continuing tech support. Like, duh. Get some value (traffic / good will) out of the deal. I mean, you already built a virtual organ… now you're just going to destroy it? Very odd, illogical move from an otherwise exceedingly smart and often groundbreaking company.

    – c

  • I think they could easily fold Elektrik and Akoustik into Kontakt. They were probably kontakt patches to begin with anyway. B4 might be trickier…

  • apoclypse

    I have pretty much stuck with Komplete since version 4. This update is kind of wimpy compared to Komplete 5 but I'm excited about Kontakt4. I've never been a fan of Absynth though it has great control and sounds, the soudn engine itself sounds kind of wimpy compare to other synths on the market. Way too much processing after the fact. Guitar Rig 4 looks interesting but I already own Logic 9. Not only do the amps in Logic 8 sound incredible, but hey are very accurate and easy to use, so is pedalboard. Another thing is the the overhead, I can fire up Logic or Mainstage start jamming with very little issues in terms of resource usage, while Guitar Rig 3 is a resource hog and snap crack;es and pops all over the place even at a high latency buffer. Performance has always been my issue with GR3 and I don't think GR4 will be any different, Their tuner sucks as well, very jumpy and innacurate. My iPhone guitar tuner does better.

    I'll probably upgrade for Kontakt4 alone but this is a really anaemic upgrade, imo.

    I'm sad to see B4 and Pro-53 get support dropped. I was hoping Pro-53 would get updated as its NI's best performing synth by far, very little overhead and it sounds great. The patch browser is slow as hell though. Akoustik Piano is not all that big a deal I have Kontakt 3.5 and already used the included pacthes for Akoustik piano. You may not get as many optiosn but its more convenient to use Kontakt for that type of stuff, the same goes for Elektrik Piano. They do have a C-3 library which is supposed to be a kind of B4 replacement, not really but I always though B4 sounded too raw. It would be cool if there a Pr-53 soundpack (maybe they do).

    You guys also have to remember that a lot of these enigines can be built into Kore if need be so its not all that big a loss in the end.

  • @renzu On NI's Kontakt 4 Library info, it does infact say: "Band now also includes all the instruments from ELEKTRIK PIANO!". Nothing about Akoustik tho.