NI_Komplete_Kontrol_S-Series_Keyboards_Perspective_03

The changes are subtle. And if you’re looking for some kind of splashy way of integrating Maschine with Traktor or transforming how you play plug-ins, this isn’t it. But some point updates to two flagship Native Instruments production tools are worth applauding. They make these tools not only more useful, but give them more longevity.

Maschine sounds better. Maschine and Komplete Kontrol play better together. And whereas hardware/software integration sometimes seems designed solely to lock you in to certain products, Komplete Kontrol now not only works with your host and other gear, but works even when it’s unplugged from your computer – as it should.

Both are free updates, and both also now include for free Komplete Select. For Maschine users, that’s a nice add-in — and actually, this is kind of what I run mainly on my cramped SSD on the go. You get a nice upright piano, the terrific Monark Minimoog-inspired emulation (which has an amazing filter model), Massive (no intro needed there), an electric piano, the beautiful Reaktor Prism synth, and more synths, keys, drawbar organs, West African rhythms (why not?) and a really good bus compressor.

Maschine Studio's knobs and display now do more.

More Drum Synth sounds. The Drum Synth was one of the best parts of Maschine 2, moving the machine beyond samples to real tunable, playable synthesis. There’s now a Cymbal module with “Crash” and “Ride” modes – yeah, you needed that. And “Hi-hat” accordingly gets a “Hybrid” mode. The Snare and Tom get new modes, too (dubbed “Breaker” and “High,” respectively).

Better-sounding reverbs, more effects, guitar cabs. If you liked the old Reverb effect, it’s still there, renamed “Legacy.” But there’s a new reverb to try out, with hall and room modes. There are new effects, too – a new distortion mode, more transparent limiter, and from Guitar Rig a new selection of cabinets and mics.

Easier to play, better integrated with Komplete Kontrol. The Arpeggiator has a hold function (on keyboards and pads). And for us keyboardists, there’s really a reason to use a keyboard with Maschine and not just the pads. Aside from the ability to work in both directions with Komplete instruments and metadata, and save settings from each, you can now use the keyboard’s touch strip modes (including the wacky bounce-y ones, fun for modulation). You can see octaves and key switches.

There are a bunch of other tiny details and enhancements that have clearly kept the engineers busy, but I’ll let you dig through the readme if you want to get to that level of detail.

NI_Komplete_Kontrol_S-Series_Keyboards_Perspective_Macro

In keyboardland, Komplete Kontrol 1.1 delivers a bunch of features we knew were coming but that finally move this from a “sit on the shelf” toy to “oh, okay, now I remember why I thought this was a good product idea in the first place” tool.

Yes, you can get MIDI notes from the Scale and Arp features out to your host.

Yes, you can also output those Scale and Arp to external hardware via the MIDI Out port. (And you were wondering why it was there.)

You can use the Light Guide to show a scale without remapping notes, if you want a visual aid to learning scales but don’t necessarily want the piano keys to stop acting like piano keys. (This works in Maschine with the keyboard, too.)

And finally, you can access touch strip settings from the hardware. Previously you had to dig into a menu and … yeah, let’s just say it was enough work to make the feature kind of useless. Now, the touch strips are fun and useful, and you can easily choose whatever you want the touch strip to do from either the Komplete Kontrol software or Maschine.

You can also tempo sync modulation on the touch strip. This is the sort of thing that previously required Lemur. Very cool.

And best of all, Komplete Kontrol works as a standalone MIDI controller when you’re not connected to a computer. You can create control pages with the Controller Editor and use that hardware

Oh, Hell, yeah. So, that moves my rating of this keyboard from “admire from afar” to “buy.” Because let’s be clear about this. It’s a practical thing. Most of us now own some kind of synths, especially since some are dirt cheap. And it’s a philosophical thing. If you drop your laptop on the floor, or just don’t want the temptation of booting up your machine and looking at some depressing email or Facebook instead of actually making music, the pretty, pricey music hardware you own should not – I repeat, not – turn into a useless brick. End of rant. It’s fixed.

Good stuff, and as I plan to take this gear on the road I’m really pleased. So, hey there, Komplete Kontrol S25, time to see if you fit easily into my suitcase.

Of course, Native Instruments has some competition nipping at its heels – particularly in the form of Akai’s own controller keyboard, the Advance. Now, interestingly, though, several of the issues I raised back in January have been addressed by NI. In fact, the things that most bothered me – the inability to use Komplete Kontrol in standalone mode or to work with plug-ins and hardware with the built-in arp and chords and scales – were just fixed with this very update. But that still leaves an interesting horse race, and I hope we’ll have a full review of the Akai soon.

What are you using? What do you want to know? Let us know.

Full details on that Maschine update found on the forums.

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  • fierywater

    Both are also getting the Komplete Select package, which has a bunch more things than what were previously included. Looking forward to getting Monark and The Gentleman free. Sounds like Maschine owners will get an email on how to claim it “in the next couple of days”. http://www.native-instruments.com/forum/threads/maschine-2-3-available-now.257609/

    • Ah, good catch – yes, added that. And agreed, those two are particularly nice. The bus compressor is also really useful.

    • Got the email already, nice!

    • Alessandro Automageddon

      The Gentleman sounds amazing even with my poor piano skills…

  • fierywater

    Both are also getting the Komplete Select package, which has a bunch more things than what were previously included. Looking forward to getting Monark and The Gentleman free. Sounds like Maschine owners will get an email on how to claim it “in the next couple of days”. http://www.native-instruments.com/forum/threads/maschine-2-3-available-now.257609/

    • Ah, good catch – yes, added that. And agreed, those two are particularly nice. The bus compressor is also really useful.

    • Got the email already, nice!

    • Alessandro Automageddon

      The Gentleman sounds amazing even with my poor piano skills…

  • I wish NI would make Maschine a bit more stand-alone too. It’s impossible to use it as a controller with the iPad – not even with iMaschine, which is ridiculous.

    • Yeah, and in fairness Maschine also has a pretty good template editor, so I could see it being useful. I think I was hard on the keyboard because, well, actually maybe because I’m a keyboardist. 😉

  • I wish NI would make Maschine a bit more stand-alone too. It’s impossible to use it as a controller with the iPad – not even with iMaschine, which is ridiculous.

    • Yeah, and in fairness Maschine also has a pretty good template editor, so I could see it being useful. I think I was hard on the keyboard because, well, actually maybe because I’m a keyboardist. 😉

  • Ashley Scott

    Improved MIDI routing choices in the Maschine update.

    • calvin

      anything else?

      • Ashley Scott

        – feature-adds to the built in drumsynths & effects
        – some UI improvements
        etc, plus the extra komplete content (1/2 of which was already bundled w. maschine). I’m not complaining even though I’m unlikely to use it.
        It’s still early days.

  • Ashley Scott

    Improved MIDI routing choices in the Maschine update.

    • calvin

      anything else?

      • Ashley Scott

        – feature-adds to the built in drumsynths & effects
        – some UI improvements
        etc, plus the extra komplete content (1/2 of which was already bundled w. maschine). I’m not complaining even though I’m unlikely to use it.
        It’s still early days.

  • TJ

    Cool, thanks for the update. Agreed, this is looking more interesting now.

  • TJ

    Cool, thanks for the update. Agreed, this is looking more interesting now.

  • Matt Jackson

    OT: I can’t deal with “cramped SSD” any more!!!!! Give me my spacious old Macbook pro with a 4 TB mechanical and a 1TB SSD or 2TB hybrid ANY DAY OF THE WEEK! Just can’t do much music on the go with 1TB. My sample library is almost that big. Forget Komplete or Live packs.

    • Join the raster-noton revolution, Matt. Some single-cycle sine waves are really all you need, anyway. 😉

      • wetterberg

        It’s funny what happens when you liberate yourself from the giant sample libs.
        There’s a happy median in the 0-200 gig area where you can do a lot of damage with very little.

        Also, have we all forgotten about synthesis? sheesh?

    • foljs

      And you really need 2TB on sounds, or are just hoarding?

  • Matt Jackson

    OT: I can’t deal with “cramped SSD” any more!!!!! Give me my spacious old Macbook pro with a 4 TB mechanical and a 1TB SSD or 2TB hybrid ANY DAY OF THE WEEK! Just can’t do much music on the go with 1TB. My sample library is almost that big. Forget Komplete or Live packs.

    • Join the raster-noton revolution, Matt. Some single-cycle sine waves are really all you need, anyway. 😉

      • wetterberg

        It’s funny what happens when you liberate yourself from the giant sample libs.
        There’s a happy median in the 0-200 gig area where you can do a lot of damage with very little.

        Also, have we all forgotten about synthesis? sheesh?

    • foljs

      And you really need 2TB on sounds, or are just hoarding?

  • Alessandro Automageddon

    I’m not sure I understand correctly, now all functions of Komplete Kontrol work in standalone mode for external midi? Does that include the nice guiding light to show you the scales?
    If so, it would be an amazing upgrade compared to my midi keyboard…

    • I’d be interested in that, too. I consider it w/ the Ableton stock plugins and look for something to learn scales. In order to do that, the Kontrol needs to send the set scales via MIDI to the host, not just dedicated NI plugins.

      Second question: what is required to have the lights flash on playback? Will it work with any MIDI track (regardless of the used plugin) in Ableton?

  • Alessandro Automageddon

    I’m not sure I understand correctly, now all functions of Komplete Kontrol work in standalone mode for external midi? Does that include the nice guiding light to show you the scales?
    If so, it would be an amazing upgrade compared to my midi keyboard…

    • I’d be interested in that, too. I consider it w/ the Ableton stock plugins and look for something to learn scales. In order to do that, the Kontrol needs to send the set scales via MIDI to the host, not just dedicated NI plugins.

      Second question: what is required to have the lights flash on playback? Will it work with any MIDI track (regardless of the used plugin) in Ableton?

  • Kevin Reynolds

    Super happy about this. Glad I bought it to complement the Maschine. The two together are a beast. When I first purchased the KK49 I was like “whoops, did I just buy a $600 midi keyboard?”. But now with the Select and further integration it reminds me of the old days of working on a workstation like my Ensoniq and getting lost in the box. Love it.

  • Kevin Reynolds

    Super happy about this. Glad I bought it to complement the Maschine. The two together are a beast. When I first purchased the KK49 I was like “whoops, did I just buy a $600 midi keyboard?”. But now with the Select and further integration it reminds me of the old days of working on a workstation like my Ensoniq and getting lost in the box. Love it.

  • Benjamin Aker

    Still no in-hardware transpose, I see (unless I’ve missed it), which makes it a non-buy for me. Almost every other MIDI keyboard on the planet has this feature. Odd omission.

  • Benjamin Aker

    Still no in-hardware transpose, I see (unless I’ve missed it), which makes it a non-buy for me. Almost every other MIDI keyboard on the planet has this feature. Odd omission.