NI_Musikmesse_2015_05

I’ll be honest: my Komplete Kontrol keyboard has been sitting on a shelf. But I believe that’s about to change in a big way.

So how did it wind up on the shelf in the first place? Yes, this is one of the nicest-looking, nicest-feeling keyboards around. And yes, it works seamlessly with Native Instruments’ own instruments and effects – particularly in that it makes it easy to dial up presets and to map parameters to the encoders and display their values.

The problem is, most of us don’t live in a world where we only use Komplete. Because Komplete Kontrol software didn’t originally support plug-ins, and because you couldn’t capture MIDI events from features like the arpeggiator and chords, it didn’t fit into our workflow.

An updated version of Komplete Kontrol changes that experience – and in an event last night here in Frankfurt, the future of the keyboard looks like it will realize some of its original potential.

First, there are some subtle fixes coming in updates. Finally, the arpeggiator and chord mode on the keyboard transmit MIDI back to the host – so you can record those patterns and chords directly, or route them to other instruments. (Previously, these were invisible to your host.)

And now, you can use your own plug-ins inside Komplete Kontrol, for features like the keyboard’s color-coded splits.

NI_Musikmesse_2015_03

There’s also new integration with Maschine. So, for instance, you can use the transport controls on the keyboard and not just the Maschine hardware. Unfortunately, you can’t use both the drum pads and the keyboard to control a single Maschine instance, though as before, you can load a couple of instances and route the controllers separately. (So, for example, you might play a bass line on the keyboard on one Maschine instance, while a Maschine Studio triggers drums on a second instance.)

The coolest feature in the update is for the touch strips. In the first release of Komplete Kontrol, you could already use physics on the touch strip. With the “friction” setting, drag and release your finger, and a parameter can “bounce” up and down. (I first saw this feature on the original Lemur hardware.) It’s basically creating your own LFO with a gesture. Now, though, you can also optionally tempo-sync that – so it can sound rhythmic, not random.

openup

You’ll get most of this in a 1.1 update to the software in May. There’s improved preset management in the software, too, and more integrated control from the hardware, promise NI. I haven’t yet been able to evaluate what this means, but the claim is that onscreen you’ll be able to save your presets more easily, and offscreen you’ll be able to do more looking only at the hardware.

In the summer, VST support will follow. That will allow you to load VST plug-ins directly into Komplete Kontrol. From there, those VSTs will work in any host – Pro Tools, Audio Unit hosts, and so on. (That means Komplete Kontrol is also effectively a wrapper. Got VSTs that don’t run in Logic? Now they will.)

No AU support yet; that’d obviously be welcome, though I’m hard pressed to think of a plug-in I use that doesn’t have both formats.

Bundled Instruments

The other major issue with Komplete Kontrol was that it wasn’t terribly useful if you didn’t own Komplete in the first place – because it lacked bundled software. Now, you’ll get some software bundled free, in what’s called Komplete Select. You get Massive, the new piano The Gentleman, the Monark (which I think is hands-down the best-sounding Minimoog emulation apart from an actual Minimoog), and the acoustic/electric Drumlab. Massive alone should keep you plenty busy, so that’s welcome. And now there’s much-needed upgrade path pricing, too.

Buried in the press release is the (unsurprising) revelation that more S-Series keyboards are coming. Hammer action seems a likely candidate to me, especially as NI are already using Fatar keybeds.

NI_Musikmesse_2015_02

What’s Next: Native Kontrol from Plug-ins

But these are essentially expected, if welcome, updates. The bigger plan from NI seems to be making the hardware a platform for third-party development. Under the somewhat grandiose headline for the night “Creating Standards,” the basic idea is that plug-in makers will be able to include specific support for integrating with the hardware.

NI says they’ve got various partners on board – Arturia was notably present in the presentation. (That’s something of a surprise, too, and shows just how well collaboration can work – Arturia makes their own KeyLab line of controllers, but will still evidently support NI.)

“Native Kontrol Standard” (NKS) will allow developers to customize support for the colored LEDs above the keys, parameters, unique behaviors for those touch strips, and so on. And, of course, it’ll let plug-in developers add tagging so their presets show up alongside NI’s.

This isn’t accomplished via MIDI, so you’ll need to be a plug-in maker with access to NI’s developer tools to exploit those parameter controls. Those developers are granted access to what is essentially a simple API for the Komplete Kontrol host software (and, by extension, both the Browser and the hardware functions on the keyboard). This isn’t some new control protocol, and it isn’t a new plug-in format; it’s some kind of thin layer of description that plug-in developers add when they bundle their software for release.

As before, this isn’t a keyboard for people who want something that stands alone with other hardware. Komplete Kontrol is only useful when connected to a computer. Nor does Native Kontrol open up the ability to create your own behaviors or mappings – at least not yet. But I do think this direction makes sense for what NI says they’re trying to do with this product. And it’s great to see that integration work with a range of tools (though we’ll have to see how quickly those developers ship). It also looks like it’ll be more plug-and-play than Akai’s approach of making all their mappings themselves – and Akai hasn’t shipped yet, so all bets are off until that happens.

Don’t write off the keyboard as a MIDI controller, either. You could already create color-coded splits and read CCs and values clearly off the display – a trick few other keyboards can pull off.

All in all, this seems a good direction. I don’t know if “standard” is the right word here; whether this keyboard is right for you depends on your needs and working style. But NI’s S-Series is now a very effective tool for keyboardists wanting software integration. I’ll report back when that 1.1 update arrives – and, yes, it seems time to compare some of the other keyboard offerings on the market in terms of what delivers for you.

standards

  • SomeDude

    “(That means Komplete Kontrol is also effectively a wrapper.”
    Ouch… Not sure that’s good news. Wrappers seem to introduce all sort of issues. I now barely use the Automap on my ( otherwise pretty good ) Novation keyboard because of that.

    • Aventure Numérique

      Same for me. Automap should desappear and replaced by InControl.

      • Oskar

        Novations automap is a train wreck, Akai is looking better and you even save money over NI’s offering. Think I’ve made up my mind which to get.

    • Tracy Evans

      Automap was soooo painful.

  • SomeDude

    “(That means Komplete Kontrol is also effectively a wrapper.”
    Ouch… Not sure that’s good news. Wrappers seem to introduce all sort of issues. I now barely use the Automap on my ( otherwise pretty good ) Novation keyboard because of that.

    • Aventure Numérique

      Same for me. Automap should desappear and replaced by InControl.

      • Oskar

        Novations automap is a train wreck, Akai is looking better and you even save money over NI’s offering. Think I’ve made up my mind which to get.

    • Tracy Evans

      Automap was soooo painful.

  • SomeOtherDude

    Agree the platform has potential but still, nothing yet screams must-have. Been instancing VSTs in Logic/Numerology with Plogue Bidule forever (speaking of must-have’s).
    Maschine MK1/2 is still the sweet-spot NI device, ymmv of course.

  • SomeOtherDude

    Agree the platform has potential but still, nothing yet screams must-have. Been instancing VSTs in Logic/Numerology with Plogue Bidule forever (speaking of must-have’s).
    Maschine MK1/2 is still the sweet-spot NI device, ymmv of course.

  • Gary

    Kudos to NI for not leaving Maschine owners out in the cold! We now get 5 more plugins from Komplete for free! You can’t beat that. Between Massive, Monark, Retro Machines, and Prism, I think most of my bread and butter synth needs will be covered. Time to say bye bye to buggy, cpu hogging Arturia plugins… Thank you Thank you Native Instruments. The Rhodes, organ, piano plugins are just the cherry on top.

    • NI Man

      laughable. Arturia v collection pigeon drops all over komplete
      but arturia couldn’t make a drum machine to save their life, maschine rules!

      • Freeks

        Not really. I have both and older arturia synths sound dated compared to Monark. But as Komplete AND mascine user i’d like to get discount of K10 update as i monthly bought complete for Monark and Retro Maschines.

  • Gary

    Kudos to NI for not leaving Maschine owners out in the cold! We now get 5 more plugins from Komplete for free! You can’t beat that. Between Massive, Monark, Retro Machines, and Prism, I think most of my bread and butter synth needs will be covered. Time to say bye bye to buggy, cpu hogging Arturia plugins… Thank you Thank you Native Instruments. The Rhodes, organ, piano plugins are just the cherry on top.

    • NI Man

      laughable. Arturia v collection pigeon drops all over komplete
      but arturia couldn’t make a drum machine to save their life, maschine rules!

      • Freeks

        Not really. I have both and older arturia synths sound dated compared to Monark. But as Komplete AND mascine user i’d like to get discount of K10 update as i monthly bought complete for Monark and Retro Maschines.

  • Apoclypse

    Still more interested int eh Akai keyboard than this. I am(was) a huge NI fanboy but as of late I don’t like where they are going.

  • Apoclypse

    Still more interested int eh Akai keyboard than this. I am(was) a huge NI fanboy but as of late I don’t like where they are going.

  • Martin Wheeler

    ” Finally, the arpeggiator and chord mode on the keyboard transmit MIDI back to the host – so you can record those patterns and chords directly, or route them to other instruments. (Previously, these were invisible to your host.). ” Hallelujah !

  • Martin Wheeler

    ” Finally, the arpeggiator and chord mode on the keyboard transmit MIDI back to the host – so you can record those patterns and chords directly, or route them to other instruments. (Previously, these were invisible to your host.). ” Hallelujah !

  • heinrichz

    Great news, just what i was hoping for. Btw. tranport control of Maschine already works now using the Kontrol encoder.

  • heinrichz

    Great news, just what i was hoping for. Btw. tranport control of Maschine already works now using the Kontrol encoder.

  • Will Copps

    Any chance we are talking a 64-bit plugin that can wrap 32-bit VSTs? Because then I’m much more interested in putting the work in.

  • Will Copps

    Any chance we are talking a 64-bit plugin that can wrap 32-bit VSTs? Because then I’m much more interested in putting the work in.

  • Freeks

    We have Kontroller 61 in our studio. I don’t think anyone have used Komplete Kontrol after first week’s novelty wore off. We just use it as standard midi controller. Maybe when it becomes compatible with non-NI plugins i’ll try it again.

    It’s too un-convient to use wrapper with plugins. The day will come when you need to open the track in computer that does not have that wrapper and you are f*ckd.

    I have Arturia controller at home and it’s done it should: No wrapper. You open any Arturia synth and controls are mapped.

    • Freeks

      And like i said when these were released: They were way over priced for what they did. This update gives a bit more value, but it will be MK2 where the real value comes.

  • Freeks

    We have Kontroller 61 in our studio. I don’t think anyone have used Komplete Kontrol after first week’s novelty wore off. We just use it as standard midi controller. Maybe when it becomes compatible with non-NI plugins i’ll try it again.

    It’s too un-convient to use wrapper with plugins. The day will come when you need to open the track in computer that does not have that wrapper and you are f*ckd.

    I have Arturia controller at home and it’s done it should: No wrapper. You open any Arturia synth and controls are mapped.

    • Freeks

      And like i said when these were released: They were way over priced for what they did. This update gives a bit more value, but it will be MK2 where the real value comes.

  • Francis Fabian

    I’ve looked at a few articles on this subject. Yours is the clearest and most in depth. Thanks. I was “probably” going to get the keyboard. Put off by the price. But these additions are interesting. I’d have maybe 80% of NI stuff and Arturia’s V collection so I’m pleased. Birthday coming up in August. Things should have settled down re: updates etc. and the family can give me money instead of shirts & socks. If I recall Kore 2 was also a VST wrapper. Haven’t opened that up for awhile. I wonder if it still works.

  • Francis Fabian

    I’ve looked at a few articles on this subject. Yours is the clearest and most in depth. Thanks. I was “probably” going to get the keyboard. Put off by the price. But these additions are interesting. I’d have maybe 80% of NI stuff and Arturia’s V collection so I’m pleased. Birthday coming up in August. Things should have settled down re: updates etc. and the family can give me money instead of shirts & socks. If I recall Kore 2 was also a VST wrapper. Haven’t opened that up for awhile. I wonder if it still works.

  • Franz

    I was thinking about getting a Kontrol S61 until I read about all the hardware defects surrounding the touch strips. A lot of them seem to be affected. Leaning towards the Akai Advance now.

  • Franz

    I was thinking about getting a Kontrol S61 until I read about all the hardware defects surrounding the touch strips. A lot of them seem to be affected. Leaning towards the Akai Advance now.

  • “more S-Series keyboards are coming”. So the people who went and bought the MK1 S-Series are going to get burned already? I would just wait until the MK2 drops, and I’d still hold off for a few months until all the bugs are reported. I honestly believe NI could of put all these features into their keyboard from the start but didn’t. AKAI comes in with their Advance Series and NOW they want to do right by us. Sure, better late than never but c’mon. Hopefully they get things right this go around. And still no updates to their flagships like a Massive 2, FM9, Absynth 6?

  • “more S-Series keyboards are coming”. So the people who went and bought the MK1 S-Series are going to get burned already? I would just wait until the MK2 drops, and I’d still hold off for a few months until all the bugs are reported. I honestly believe NI could of put all these features into their keyboard from the start but didn’t. AKAI comes in with their Advance Series and NOW they want to do right by us. Sure, better late than never but c’mon. Hopefully they get things right this go around. And still no updates to their flagships like a Massive 2, FM9, Absynth 6?

  • Dub Gabriel

    I bought the Komplete Kontrol S61, It was a bumpy start with me not knowing that it runs at 64bit only, but after having to update my system, Including upgrading to Komplete 10 (trying to run it on 9 was a nightmare, I couldn’t even get the serial # to run it from NI) I finally had it working. I have been a Komplete user for many years now, but was a little burnt out on soft synths and using the mouse. I have a few analog sytns that were getting allot more attention. But I have to say, getting the Komplete Kontrol has been doing most things I was hopping it would. First off, it feels great! The keys are some of the nicest in any controller I ever felt. The software, does what Kore promised to do, but never did. It is very usable and easy to navigate with from the KK and never need to touch the mouse. But the best thing is, It feels like I am playing a synth now. I can grab a filter and do a live sweep, I can shape tones with ease and it feels more musicale to play like when I play my analog synths. My biggest complaints are exactly what they are talking about with this update. I figure it will only get better, but so far, I am loving it. It’s nice to play something more solid then a typical controller.

  • Dub Gabriel

    I bought the Komplete Kontrol S61, It was a bumpy start with me not knowing that it runs at 64bit only, but after having to update my system, Including upgrading to Komplete 10 (trying to run it on 9 was a nightmare, I couldn’t even get the serial # to run it from NI) I finally had it working. I have been a Komplete user for many years now, but was a little burnt out on soft synths and using the mouse. I have a few analog sytns that were getting allot more attention. But I have to say, getting the Komplete Kontrol has been doing most things I was hopping it would. First off, it feels great! The keys are some of the nicest in any controller I ever felt. The software, does what Kore promised to do, but never did. It is very usable and easy to navigate with from the KK and never need to touch the mouse. But the best thing is, It feels like I am playing a synth now. I can grab a filter and do a live sweep, I can shape tones with ease and it feels more musicale to play like when I play my analog synths. My biggest complaints are exactly what they are talking about with this update. I figure it will only get better, but so far, I am loving it. It’s nice to play something more solid then a typical controller.

  • I replaced my Axiom with an S49 and I’m very happy with it. Sending arpeggiator notes to the DAW is going to be nice – but all i really want is a simple way to save edited/customized patches in the Komplete Kontrol software.

  • I replaced my Axiom with an S49 and I’m very happy with it. Sending arpeggiator notes to the DAW is going to be nice – but all i really want is a simple way to save edited/customized patches in the Komplete Kontrol software.

  • Will Copps

    “KOMPLETE KONTROL is exclusively available in 64bit format, means it won´t be able to host 32bit plug-ins.”

    I couldn’t find NI at Musikmesse so I shot them a note asking if it could wrap 32-bit VSTs into 64-bit… because, you know, that might make the work worth it. This was their reply.

    Blegh.

  • Will Copps

    “KOMPLETE KONTROL is exclusively available in 64bit format, means it won´t be able to host 32bit plug-ins.”

    I couldn’t find NI at Musikmesse so I shot them a note asking if it could wrap 32-bit VSTs into 64-bit… because, you know, that might make the work worth it. This was their reply.

    Blegh.

  • sid ahmed

    slam

  • sid ahmed

    slam

  • George Young

    I’m using EastWest wit Reaper on Win 7 and would love it if the Kontrol S88 lights would show the note ranges of instruments and their key switches so I don’t have to flip windows back and forth to see what the keyboard map looks like.