Kontakt – is it the answer? Is it the reason that everything happens?

Native Instruments today launches a new version of its flagship Kontakt sampler with new filters, effects and processing, improved sound quality, and sound design features. NI also refreshes Komplete – including, at last, a Komplete bundle that really does include kompletely everything. And we see new products covering drum samples and grooves and studio effects, too, as well as a major update to the sound design and processing capabilities of Guitar Rig.

Sadly, that isn’t the Komplete Infinity package we saw lampooned last week, which promised “quite literally every sound that can be possibly be acoustically produced in free space on Earth … ” even including “the sound of one clapping on the North side of a Forest in Tanzania at four o’clock in the morning 60% humidity and low air pressure with a Neumann U87 at a distance of three feet.” But it does include a lot – optionally everything NI makes, bundled on a hard drive.

Here’s the parody ad, wherever it came from (I’m happy to provide credit if someone will step forward):

Okay, not actually this Komplete, but still fairly Komplete. The world of NI sounds, if not in fact the entire planet.

But what we do get is a Komplete I think may come closer to what users have wanted from that bundle.

Aside from Komplete, though, let’s talk Kontakt 5, which in this upgrade promises a whole host of new processing, filtering, and sound design tools, as well as worthy-looking new releases in the studio effects, guitar processing, and sampled drum groove categories.

Kontakt 5

The creator of Massive, the terrific “no, you don’t only have to make dubstep with it” synthesizer, is behind the new Kontakt. As a result, you get:

  • 37 new filters, from Moog-inspired ladder filters to state-variable models to modern formant filters.
  • Adaptive Resonance, which manages “excessive resonance peaks” (I assume by adjusting either gain or the resonance curve or both, but I’ll have to find out)
  • TimeMachine Pro time-stretching.
  • New EQ and compressor algorithms from an upcoming “Solid Mix Series,” plus a new Tape Saturator.
  • Vintage sampling modes from Maschine.
  • Transient Designer, available separately, is now an integrated effect. Ed.: confused here, as NI refers alternatively to Transient “Designer” and Transient “Master.” I’ll clarify. Hmmm… “Transient Lord”? “Dark Sorcerer of the Transients”?
  • MIDI file support for KSP scripting users.
  • 16 internal stereo buses for routing flexibility.
  • New retro synth presets.

To me, it looks like the biggest Kontakt update since the sampler added scripting capability, and a very big deal. It’s really part of the challenge of NI’s product line, honestly – you could easily enough lose yourself in just Kontakt without needing a whole suite of stuff, even before you get into Kontakt’s 43 GB bundle of sounds.

If you are a completionist, though, the new Komplete is looking good.

Komplete 8

Augh! So much software!

Komplete 8 is the obligatory update of Komplete that brings together the latest software releases. The standard version now includes 27 products, adding Kontakt 5, Guitar Rig 5, the West Africa percussion instrument, Studio Drummer, Transient Master, plus 1300 additional presets for Absynth, FM8, and Massive.

More interesting, perhaps, is Komplete 8 Ultimate, which packs all of the currently-available “Komplete instruments and effects” (so, the current active NI product line) onto a USB 2.0 hard drive, with 13,000 sounds and 240 GB of samples.

Clarification: As observed by reader aje of Keyquest Music, the hard disk is a convenience for installation, but not, sadly, a self-contained external means of running the software. As NI words it in their press release:

The hard drive enables a fast and convenient installation process, and also constitutes a compact and robust backup medium for the software.

To be sure, hard disk upgrades are inexpensive these days, but it’d sure be nice to have a version of Komplete you can plug into any machine and use as-is.

This note is interesting, too, suggesting NI sees Massive at the kore (sorry, poor choice of words) of its new strategy:

Both new KOMPLETE versions are optimized for Native Instruments’ groove production system MASCHINE, offering direct browser integration with attribute-based preset search as well as convenient automatic parameter mapping for the rotary knobs on the hardware controller.

So, that gives you a lot of presets. To me, the ease of having things on a hard drive is the real draw. I wonder if we’ll ever see custom hardware/OS combinations for software distribution, but that’s another discussion. (For previous examples, see early custom versions of Final Scratch, Native Instruments’ own Komplete shipping on the Linux-based, rack-mounted Muse Receptor, or, to get really obscure, Emagic’s C-Lab’s work with the Atari Falcon.)

Guitar Rig 5 Pro

I’m glad I didn’t have to write NI’s press release. Guitar Rig includes more guitar rig things. It has more guitar things in its rig than it did before, covering the things that they added to the guitar thing.

What’s new:

  • New amp models, “Van51” and “HotSolo+.”
  • New effects: a new “classic” compressor model, “vintage” plate and spring reverb, studio-grade convolution based on Reflektor, 8-band filter bank, “stereo tune” chorus, “Resochord” harmonizor.
  • Convolution-based speaker emulation with “Control Room Pro,” which adds 27 cabinets, 16 mics, combinations of eight cabinets (which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me relative to real world sound, but sounds interesting, at least), and mic placement and room sound controls. Since where you put mics and speakers in rooms has such a profound impact, this has been a kind of holy grail of guitar modeling; it’ll be interesting to hear how it stacks up to rivals.
  • Sidechaining with modules. (Invent guitar dubstep!)
  • Effect chains can be combined into macros NI calls “Containers” – very cool.

I’ve always been a fan of Guitar Rig for creative sound design, not just, you know, guitars, so this looks like a terrific combination of ingredients to me.

New Effects: Solid Mix, Transient Master

The effects developed for Guitar Rig are also being adapted into studio products. The Solid Mix Series is a 4-band EQ and compressor with sidechain capabilities, and a dynamics section and stereo compressor. Really, it’s somewhat surprising that these didn’t appear previously; it finally gives NI an entry in the bread-and-butter signal processing category for producers. (Aside from some intended for use in Reaktor, or presets based on those, I can’t think of a straight-ahead product from NI that did that.)

Transient Master is basically a dynamic-reshaping envelope follower.

Studio Drummer

Sampled drum kits meet a groove player in the newest drum product from NI. It’s an old idea – simulate what a drummer does by combining sounds with patterns – but the twist here is integration with Kontakt. The actual drum samples sound interesting, too, based on Pearl, Sonor, and Yamaha kits sampled at Berlin’s Teldex Studios and an 18-mic array for 17 GB of velocity-layered samples. That means I could see some people using the samples minus the grooves – and you do get some modern-sounding kits. Otherwise, we’ll just have to hear what the 3500 rhythmic patterns sound like.

In fact, my only real complaint is that the interface to me looks absurdly like the interface in Cakewalk’s Session Drummer. (Heck, they have almost the same names.) The sample content is very different – Cakewalk’s offering even includes electronic drum machines, which gives you the odd experience of looking at an acoustic kit and hearing a LinnDrum.

Anyway, that was just my first impression. Upon looking closer, you can see that the Studio Drummer UI has no rug, and parquet hardware floors instead of hardware floors.

Enough of nit-picking the UI. NI has cowbell and tambourine. Advantage: NI.

Putting it all together…

Pricing and availability, in short:

Komplete: US$559 ($229 update)

Komplete Ultimate, US$1099 ($559 update) with hard drive

Kontakt 5, US$339 ($119 update)

Guitar Rig Pro: US$199 for software, US$449 with pedalboard controller; US$79-only software update

Solid Mix Series: US$229 for the set or $119 a la carte effects

Transient Master: US$119

Studio Drummer: US$169

Everything’s available in September, and all the software is now included in Komplete.

Yes, that’s a lot of software. I hope my few months in Berlin this year prove to be this productive. I’d better chug the Club-Mate.

The word on the street I’ve been hearing is that a lot of users are curious in which direction NI is headed. A lot of users are, understandably, frustrated by seeing Kore discontinued after NI had pushed it as a central strategy, and because they worry about their own personal investment of time in tools. We also saw a shareholder reorganization in May, which returned the company to self-owned status. With the original founders and executive team now also in full ownership of the company, that could give NI freedom to focus on their priorities, and it comes at a time that they’ve seen significant sales growth. (Despite a rough economy, and past claims that music software doesn’t grow the way hardware does, I’ve heard several makers say they’ve seen healthy business right through the global recession. You can probably thank the passion of musicians for that.)

I’ll be interested to see this latest generation of NI software, and more of the company’s direction.

  • P

    Definitely updating to Ultimate for $559. That is a steal.

  • aje

    It's a pity that you can't actually use that USB2 drive to house the samples (apparently you have to install the whole 240gb onto your computer or, erm, another USB2 drive!). That would have sealed this deal for me… 

  • salamanderanagram

    ultimate would take up 75% of my harddrive, lol.

  • So they are back at selling everything again – Just like they did untill komplete 6 came out?
    I bought Komplete 5 back in the day and it came with loads and loads more than you'd get with the newer Kompletes.

    The External Drive is a great idea – Already seen in use with all the professional sample libs out there (foley & sfx libs mostly)

  • This is insanity. Thanks for the awesome overview Peter!

  • Aaron

    @durk – "I bought Komplete 5 back in the day and it came with loads and loads more than you’d get with the newer Kompletes."

    If I recall K5 only had about 10 products in comparison to K8 which has 20+

    Im confused by you'r statement.


  • The Kontakt 5 update by itself is $119.  Everything else new has to be worth the addional $110.  Though actually Audiomidi is already listing it at $199 which is 10% less painful. 

    Since it's only been a couple of months since I did the Komplete 7 update (when it went on sale — quel suprise! — shortly before announcing the new shiney)

    Honestly though, this is aimed more at soundtrack and commercial work, where programming a beat and some cheapo horn parts means not hiring real musicians. Or drummers.  If you're doing electronic music where sound design (AKA FSU) is important, you're not likely to use canned sample sets, even those as fancy and heavy as the NI stuff.

    If they want to really be Komplete, why can't they re-introduce Pro53 and B4?  Those are still dope, and luckily I still have install disks around.  

  • AND ANOTHER THING — Komplete 6 came with a swank lanyard to hang your backstage pass on.  Komplete 7 came with this lame microfiber towel. They better step up their game with respect to the included swag!

  • Kable

    They lost me when they killed Kore support.  If not for that, I'd buy it the instant it came out.  I have absolutely no need for Maschine, however neat it may be, and I don't want to break my current workflow with Kore.  Obviously I'll be out to sea eventually in that regard, but still, I'll hold on while I can.  

    Sorry NI, but I just don't trust you anymore.  I guess I should have listened to the naysayers before I made the leap into Kore land.

  • Jonah

    @peter kirn Do you know if Razor is in 8 regular or only ultimate?

    I wish NI would make a tool to make disk images to quickly load limited sample sets out of what they have.

    You don't have to install the whole thing(?), but it'd be super useful to chunk it out into 64gb groups to install onto a ssd.

    Regardless of the HD space concerns, I think it can lead to creative dead end music where it sounds like the person was just scrolling through sound after sound with no conception of what they wanted to create or they get paralyzed with no idea where to start.

    …And, uh, don't sample sets like this hurt the livelihoods of actual musicians? I hope people that got sampled get a cut.

    Samples and presets are NI goal now? I'm sure it's lucrative. 

    In k9 Can we get some pixel doubling the interfaces are looking pretty low rez.

    Massive has a fun interface and I'm curious to see how this applies to Kontakt.

  • bliss

    NI killed Kore? I had no idea…

  • sardino

    yeah they killed kore and a lot of loyal customers like me with that decission….

  • aje

    @ Jonah: I agree that scrolling through 240gb of samples could quickly become a creativity killer. I'm a pianist, so where would I start? I guess there's the acoustic pianos included in Kontakt 5. But I've heard Alicia's Keys is a tasty package too… then there's the "Berlin Concert Grand" package, the "New York Concert Grand" package, the "Vienna Concert Grand" package, the "Upright Piano" package… having installed all this stuff it's only reasonable to properly audition it all. I could spend several days doing A/B comparisons… and each track might need a different piano sound anyway… but once that is sorted I can move on to finding some nice string sounds, and perhaps a decent drum kit…. hmmm, where to start…

    This makes me more convinced than ever that physical modelling is the way forward. Glad to own the Pianoteq 3 VST piano, which took less than 5 minutes to download and install, sounds superb, is easy to sculpt exactly the sound I want, and is the most playable virtual instrument I have found so far. And for the harpsichord it's a breeze to change the temperament/tuning with a single mouse selection… no scripting required!

    Reading about this new collection from NI and wondering how long it would take to shift the 240gb from the lovely sleek included drive to a cheap 30euro one, I definitely think the word "bloat" is appropriate. Compared to physical modelling this looks a little bit elephantine… in my opinion.
    YMMV of course 🙂

  • TweakingKnobs

    Too many options is never a good option.

    I prefer to stay with zebra2 and operator for all my sonic needs.

  • That Komplete parody may or may not have been my work…

  • I'll be buying this in a sale right before K9 comes out then.

  • Since NI will be reading this, I ought to point out that despite my parody making me look like I'm a cynical bastard about the whole thing, I do appreciate NI have put together a pretty unbeatable package…just a hefty install, a LOT of material. As this is the trend, you have to wonder at what point does it become a diminishing return? What then? Could be exciting, or they could just stop, perhaps.

    But even so, a good library is important and some of the stuff in Kontakt 5 sounds really ace. Particularly welcome to see Maschine's sampler emulation algos coming to Kontakt, that should be wicked.

  • i wish it was possible to use the effects engine of kontakt as a separate plugin VST/AU 

    still no major update for reaktor though, but it could be seen that 5.5 was a major update of sorts…. 

    aside from these small issues i think komplete 8 looks great actually.  a lot of tools for not a huge amount of money. 

  • On the one hand the update to 'sorta' Komplete is a no brainer. Updating to Kontakt puts you more than half way there so you might as well buy the whole thing. 'Course once you do that, you are half way to 'uber' Komplete so….Also the drive IS enticing. I've had to reinstall the various 'Kompletes' over the years and it is a true pain in the *ss. I like the suggestion about being able to install just portions. LONG LIVE KORE! 🙂

  • killing kore wasnt bright.  especially after all the hoopla they made about it.  i for one love it!  and definitely wont be switching anytime soon.  i cant do what i do without it now.  hopefully some other company will have the vision to pick that ball up once NI drop it.

  • genjutsushi

    i bought Komplete Elements a couple of months ago (on DVD not download thus getting an extra gig of material) and have found it to be an excellent source of sounds. Good wide range of bases covered without the bloat of the full Komplete selection. It cost 40 GBP and had a 50 Euro voucher with it effectively making it 9 Euros to buy RAZOR as an add on. Brilliant!

  • r

    I think you hit on a real problem in terms of depth. I've had absynth for about 2 years but it really takes longer than that to master. If someone wanted to actually master everything in komplete ultimate it would literally take a lifetime…

  • r

    btw, re alicia's keys, it sounds nice, I like it, it doesn't have quite the "life" to it that pure-physical modeling pianos do (it has some resonance thing, but it's still primarily sample based)

  • loydb

    They lost me when they killed Kore support as well. Screw them.

  • Wonder if they will do a Komplete Legacy someday with all the apps they dropped over the years.

  • salamanderanagram

    @megatonne; actually that's not true at all. first, they did kill kore. second, while some of kore's functionality is being moved to maschine, it is not going to replace everything that kore did.

    and even if it did, discontinuing one product and then saying, 'hey buy this new product that does the same thing!', is pretty ridiculous. t

  • salamanderanagram

    from NI's website, troll

    Will Maschine inherit Kore's features?

    The crossgrade is just a courtesy offer and Maschine should not be seen as a replacement or direct successor to Kore. Regarding the upcoming version 1.7 of Maschine, it will essentially make it possible to browse and load presets of NI instruments directly from the Maschine browser using a somewhat similar categorization concept, but it won't offer the specific sound design and database features of Kore.

  • salamanderanagram

    oh noes, the smart man who apparently can't read attacked my intelligence.

  • @Jonah: it seems that Razor is just in Ultimate…

    Will wait to see what in K9…

  • Kable

    Shouldn't feed the troll, but sometimes I can't help myself.

    I could care less if Maschine will ever actually replace Kore, because when they kill Maschine I'd just be out on a limb again.  It's a reminder that relying on a single central source for digital management of my tools is a bad idea. 

    Beyond that, Maschine solves zero problems for me.  I have no need for a beat maschine, and I'm perfectly happy with my current sequencing solutions.  Thus, I won't be making the move, and NI is out $600 from me.

  • Dubstep Guitar was added as a preset with the step sequencer module in Guitar Rig years ago.

  • ALTZ

    To me, I think Komplete 8 is not the sort of product that i will buy, or appreciate. I do like Absynth and Massive from NI. I remember the last time I went into my local dealer to buy both Absynth and Massive separately. The salesman asked me why not I choose the Komplete package which was slightly more pricey than the 2. I don't need the oragns. I don't need the pianos…I don't need those massive capacity of samples. Why I need to have Komplete!? If it (the bundle) could sold that 'cheap' why can't you sold those separated cheap as well? Alright, economics theory coming up.

    I do like the idea of the parody. However, i am not a big fan of presets or prepared samples. Sometimes, when I buy a softsynth, for example, what i want is to explore the possibilities of sounds. I never use presets but my own. Then I have an idea of "Komplete(ly) Empty". Despite the development cost of a software, the company have to pay the sound designers to create patches. I wonder if NI (or others) can release a version of a synth which comes with no presets but the sound engine only in a cheaper price for those who have no interest in presets.

    Just a bit of my thought. Cheers. =]


  • Groc

    I am curious as to what people are looking for in software i.e. when is it enough? Why do we need to keep spending money on updates. I think if one is serious about software then they would need less. e.g. Their is enough learning in Reaktor 5.5 to keep a person going for years. Learn that before wasting money on the inevitable Reaktor 6. I believe it is serious overkill. It is the software equivalent to owning 20 guitars. Maybe I'm wrong though but I am curious as to what other people think about this? Am I missing something?

  • ALTZ

    Consumerism. Buying stuff that you do not need or you do not have enough hands to play at the same time. -End-

  • Cynic

    "Emagic’s work with the Atari Falcon"

    To be picky, it was actually C-Lab (the company that had previously distributed the products by the programmers who later formed Emagic) that rebadged the Falcon as a turnkey solution for musicians. Emagic did have an early version of Logic Audio in testing for the Falcon, but, unlike Steinberg's Cubase Audio, it was never released.

  • Peter Kirn

    @Cynic: Sorry, you're correct. C-Lab, not Emagic. 

    If Komplete is too much for you, don't buy it all. Like I said, there's an argument for going a la carte and just getting what you need. It might *just* be Reaktor, or *just* Kontakt (very easily, actually, either one of those).

    I guess I shouldn't be surprised that we hear more complaints about Kore; I think it's legitimate to vent. I remain optimistic about the direction of Kontakt, though. And while not every upgrade is necessary, I can see, for instance, MIDI scripting in KSP being really powerful for someone out there… and I like the synth-style features in a sampler, because of my own biases.

    Vote with your dollars, of course.

  • gzap

    Hopefully NI is going in a new direction.

    In the meantime their sales policies so bug me that I will never buy an add on package since it will inevitably be included in the next Komplete and will only upgrade every second year or so, since the number of new products within the package is never that large.

  • Peter Kirn

    @gzap: The way you're describing things sounds like an eminently reasonable plan on your part – like it saves you your money and maximizes your value! As for NI, how would you have them do things differently?

  • MegaTonne

    lol, that 'aje' dude has been posting all over the web how NI have lost a sale because he can't run komplete8-ultimate from the installation HD.

    And this despite the fact it's been explained to him ad nauseum wherever he's whinging.

    Seriously never seen someone so willfully obtuse in living memory.

  • Peter Kirn

    Well, I still like the plug-and-play idea, even if aje's been going crazy with comments. It's something to consider as we see these sorts of bigger software distributions – and increasingly-huge sample libraries in the 64-bit age.

  • MegaTonne

    you can still do the plug-n-play thing.

    that's *exactly* what I'm doing with K7.

    you simply install it on your own external HD.

    costs about 30 bucks.


    Amazing to me that a guy was prepared to spend 500/1,000 euro… but the very idea of using his own external HD to install onto is putting him off.

    And he'd be the *very* one to complain a year down the line all over the internet, when his NI-hd is fried and he has no backup, and NI won't send him a new one for free.


  • apoclypse


    OMG! That's exactly what I said in the NI forums. Who in their right mind would even think to use your only source of installation every day? Harddrives are mechanical in nature, they wear out. On top of that we have no idea what HD's they are using, are they seagate, WD, toshiba, Hitachi? The first thing I'm doing when I get it is doing a full back to a DMG and putting that on my backup file server and installing Komplete's lib into an external harddrive. You can get a decent 500GB HD on newegg cheap. The Komplete HD is going into permanent storage for emergencies, other than that it will never see the light of day once backed up and installed.

  • A few others have stated they don't trust NI any more. I agree. Since Komplete 2, I have purchased new sound packs and synths only to find them added to the next Komplete for an upgrade cost of less than I paid to buy them separately. It's like they sell you a car for $50,000 and persuade you to buy $20,000 worth of optional extras, knowing that in 6 months time those extras will be standard on the new model which will sell for $40,000.

  • mckenic

    Ive bought almost everything NI have brought out – upgraded to Komplete 2 (with my 4 products license type thingy), bought every version of Komplete, Komplete Kare, Kore, Kore 2 etc. ad nauseum…

    Not that I would touch anything NI releases EVER again but – what is the most effective way to manage all these multi-gig preset libs now?

    Buy Maschine?


  • mckenic

    Wow! Thanks for telling me!

  • ChuckEye

    The real question is, will it be Lion compatible out the door?

  • Are you always so pleasant MegaTonne?

  • ALTZ

    'Buy Komplete then you feel completed.' Sorry, are you a music-maker? It is like 'Buy a Fender then you feel like Eric Clapton.'

  • Megatonne has never used KORE obviously.

    I've been involved with NI since the original Komplete packages came out and the strategy I've adopted is to upgrade no more than every other generation. I've also picked up interesting addons like Razor when those "$30" off coupons show up. Works out to something like $100 a year to own this stuff.

  • Komplete Ultimate is overkill, as much (or all) of it amounts to extra sample packs & patches, of which Komplete supplies more than enough IMO. It's a good deal only if you need your setup to be so genre and application-versatile, that you'd need Alicia's Keys, Bailanese Gamelan, Session Strings, Funk Guitarist, Evolve Mutations and The Finger all at hand.

    The hard drive install is pretty nice, but Komplete already installs fast enough when you've ripped all the install discs to ISOs, which I highly recommend for all Komplete users who anticipate a reinstall sometime during the product's lifetime 🙂

  • jon doe

    i know this megatone guy personally… he lives in his parents basement and still wears diapers,you cant take anything he says seriously people… a real nutjob!

  • @Peter: caught a typo
    massive -> maschine

  • Mercury

    U guys r all bitching about deflation when u should be happy that more is available for less. It's one thing to intentionally release a faulty product and then charge for the fix and another to come up with new ideas and sell them for cheaper prices. This is just basic technological innovation. 

    Did u think kore would be around forever? I'm not happy that they shut it down but that's the risk with software in general. I don't see a tech support number for rebirth on win 95, either, oh well, got over it….!

  • heinrichz

    Like you quoted..the direction will be to put Maschine increasingly to the centre of it all as a hands-on controller for plug-in instruments and effects as well as an alternative to a DAW for midi production of tracks.

  • Girnaralloys – Ductile iron castings manufacturer india, Ni resist Castings Manufacturers & Exporters, Ni hard Castings Manufacturers & Exporters, Ni resist, Ni-resist, Ni hard, Ni-hard, Alloy Steel Castings Manufacturers & Exporters, Ni-resist Castings Manufacturers & Exporters, Ni-hard Castings Manufacturers & Exporters, Casting Manufacturers, Casting Manufacturers India, Indian Casting, Foundries in India, Indian Foundries , Cast Iron Manufacturers, Metal Casting, Cast Iron Foundry, Casting India, Foundry Products, Casting Foundries, Iron Foundry India, Steel Foundry India, Foundry and Casting, Alloy Casting Manufacturers, DieCast Manufacturers, Alloy Castings Manufacturers, Die Cast Manufacturers, Steel Casting Manufacturers, Ni resist, Ni-resist, Ni hard, Ni-hard, in India.

    For more details