Cue the theme music! It’s … Universal!

Okay, Mac-using Native Instruments fans: your ship has finally come in. Two of the most awaited Universal Binary versions are here this week, in the form of Kontakt 2.2 and Reaktor 5.1.2 (as I predicted here on CDM). The update will cost you US$29 at most, and if you purchased after September 12 or own Komplete, the updates are free. (The Universal edition of Guitar Rig was announced last week.) If you’ve been waiting for the software, or waiting for an excuse to buy a new MacBook, this could make your day:

Reaktor 5.1.2 Universal Binary [Native Instruments update page]
Kontakt 2.2 Universal Binary + New Features [NI]

Reaktor is particularly good news because it’s such a CPU-hungry app, and it seems very happy on the Intel platform. Reaktor runs really efficiently even on my pre-Core, single-core 1.5GHz Pentium M laptop from Toshiba — much less so on my PowerPCs. I look forward to benchmarking this soon. And given that original-model MacBooks are as cheap as US$900 and PCs are running as little as US$600, just about everyone should be able to afford a fast, slick new Core Duo-powered laptop.

In other news, NI has been adding features in small, free updates that should please Mac and Windows users alike. Kontakt 2.2 has a variety of improvements, the best being better slicing and dicing of loops: you can drag and drop sliced loops, preview in sync, and so on. There are also new modulation, tuning, and envelope functions. If there’s one thing you can safely say about Kontakt, it’s that it’s unquestionably the deepest sampler on the market.

Somewhere, a KORE addict has found a way to produce an entire song with only a single MIDI keypress, utilizing every instrument and effect NI makes in one planet-crushing patch. Only problem? How to look cool pressing that one note.

The bigger update is to KORE. As you know, I’ve been critical in the past of some aspects of KORE. Native Instruments has addressed three complaints that I talked about in my review for the August issue of Keyboard Magazine. In fact, three of the major updates come directly from the “cons” column of that review: the need to be able to use KORE without the hardware, easy auditioning of sounds, and MIDI clock output. (Stability issues were addressed by updates that followed shortly after I completed the review earlier this summer.) That’s what we like to see, of course: software companies responding to our feedback and making things better (and I know I wasn’t alone on these complaints, either; they were common among users, too). As of KORE 1.1:

  1. You can use KORE without the hardware. This has been the biggest obstacle for me using KORE. Despite an independent authorization system, the previous release of KORE only functioned with the hardware plugged in, making the interface into a giant dongle. That’s an annoyance, particularly for mobile users. Thankfully, this restriction has been removed: you can take advantage of the hardware when you want, or leave it at home and edit your KORE sounds on the road. (Yep, some of us do use layovers and flight delays to program sounds!)
  2. Prelisten to sounds: Browsing through sounds wasn’t much fun in KORE 1 because you had to load presets before you could hear them. Now you can audition sounds with one click. (There are still some unavoidable limitations here, just because of the laws of space and time — complex sounds with multiple layers of sampled instruments will take some time to load — but it’s still likely to be useful.)
  3. External MIDI sync: Now you can slave KORE to external MIDI clock, as well.

In addition to these improvements, NI is also unveiling something called SingleSounds, which basically tightens integration with new NI products. This sound can be loaded right in the synth (like Massive or FM8), loaded in an identical version in KORE, and used regardless of whether you own other NI instruments. I’ve really been enjoying the single sound presets in Massive, so this sounds great to me. (In contrast, sounds built with multiple NI products will naturally require you own all of the products used.) If you do happen to own multiple NI instruments, KORE 1.1 also includes lots of new presets in the MultipleSounds format.

The combination of SimpleSounds and pre-listen capabilities should appeal to people like me who actually like to browse presets in a single instrument more often than browsing multiple instruments at once. I still think KORE isn’t for everyone — and even NI customers may be just as happy to use NI’s excellent instruments without it — but it is great to see NI address customer feedback. KORE owners, I’ll be interested to hear what you think.

KORE 1.1 Update, New Features [NI]

[tags]Native-Instruments, plug-ins, software, upgrades, Mactel, Universal, soft-synths, samplers, Mac[/tags]