When it comes to software sonic goodies, loads of virtualized gear you can add to the digital, computer-based studio, Komplete is one of the deepest boxes out there. Komplete 7, announced today, is the latest edition of Native Instruments’ bundle of virtual studio software. As always, that means a refresh of what’s in the box to recent upgrades of synths like Absynth, FM8, and Massive, plus drum instrument Battery, guitar effects and amp simulation Guitar Rig, and the modular creation powerhouse Reaktor.

In addition, though, today’s Komplete 7 announcement brought some new tools to the table, as seen in the image gallery above. (Click on the thumbnails for a closer look.) They include a number of surprise effects announcements, and one less-surprising – but intriguing – synth for the new release of Reaktor from NI’s sonic scientist-in-chief.

  • Reaktor Prism is a new “modal synth” created by NI founder and Reaktor creator Stephan Schmitt. Stephan walked me through Prism when I visited him in Berlin earlier this summer, and I have to say, it’s one of the software releases I’m most excited about – Stephan’s ideas about synthesis are always refreshing and inspiring. It makes a lot of use of the new objects in 5.5. It’s hard to describe, so stay tuned for more on it soon.
  • Reflektor is a “zero-latency” convolution engine for simulating reverbs and other effects.
  • Traktor’s 12 brings some of the effects from Traktor into producer’s hands. That’s good news, because some of Traktor’s far-out and granular-based timbres seem a natural for non-DJs.
  • Rammfire is a new amp emulation developed with Richard Z. Kruspe of Rammstein.

While some standalone instruments and effects had been casualties of a trimmed Komplete suite in previous releases — Spektral Delay, Vokator, B4, and Akoustik Piano come to mind — those are replaced in this version by the addition of extensive soundware for the remaining flagship instruments. Scarbee Vintage Keys and MM-Bass, Abbey Road 60s Drums, and the Classic Piano Collection more than make up for the omission of dedicated piano and organ instruments, folding these instead into the consistent interface of the Kontakt and Battery samplers. Vintage Organs becomes the new replacement for B4, or as an NI spokeperson described it to me, a “spiritual successor.”

More interesting, you also get some more unusual instrumental creations: Reaktor Spark (also by Schmitt), Tim Exile’s insanely-brilliant performance effect The Finger, and the sonically-adventurous Acoustic Refractions.

So, that’s what’s new in terms of new stuff. But the new Komplete also represents some shifts in strategy, ones that mean cheaper access to sounds for those who don’t want all of the editing capabilities. That shift goes beyond even previous player and Kore soundware from NI.

Player for Guitar Rig, Reaktor

In addition to the expanded sonic palette, Komplete reflects a different way of delivering instruments. Guitar Rig Player allows effects to be delivered standalone in a “universal” (well, that’s what NI calls it – it’s universal for them) effects platform. Reflektor and Rammfire are delivered on the Guitar Rig Player platform, a bit like the soundware we’ve seen for Kontakt.

More notably, Reaktor Player means that Reaktor patches can finally be distributed without having to buy the full release of Reaktor. Unlike previous Kore versions, these won’t have a crippled UI. You’ll get the full, graphical user interface for some brilliant Reaktor patches, without having to buy the whole Reaktor package if you don’t want to edit them. Depending on how much NI exploits this idea, that could make Reaktor a more compelling tool for artists to create new instruments and effects for the platform, at least for those who work with NI directly.

Pricing and “Elements”

At US$559 for the whole set ($229 update), Komplete is also looking more economical, and I think is competitive with the pack-in instrument bundles in tools like Logic and Live.

If half a grand is steep, there’s also a budget “Elements” edition at US$119, which incorporates the Kontakt, Kore, and Guitar Rig engines plus 12 gigs of sample materials and 2000 sounds. You don’t get the full editing capabilities of the whole packages, but it means a cheap way to get a huge dose of preset sound content. There’s also a $60 voucher for adding on a la carte instruments and effects presets.

Upgrading from standalone NI products appears to be more difficult, unfortunately, say a couple of readers. That’s not great news; I’ll contact NI for clarification. Previous Komplete owners can easily upgrade from any version. Some standalone NI products are covered; here’s the upgrade deal:

Introductory Komplete 7 Upgrade
for owners of Kontakt (any version), Reaktor (Version 2 and upwards), Kore 2 or Guitar Rig 4 Kontrol Edition
Available until December 31st, 2010 as long as stock lasts
$339 / 299 €

But this isn’t a review – merely an acknowledgement that some of this is stuff I think will get us excited. Stay tuned for a full review, and details on some of the stand-out creations here, soon.

See comments for some interesting discussion of for whom this upgrade and pricing makes sense, and for whom it might not.