New gear for the DJs, beatmakers and performers
It’s the NI news we’ve all been waiting for. Even better when it drops out of nowhere. And, as huge Native Instruments (NI) fans, it’s even more exciting for us when the new gear in question is significant updates to four of its most popular lines.
Any new releases from NI are sure to attract a lot of hype, but when it’s their flagship software compendium, along with three of their most important hardware lines, then the anticipation is sure to be off the scale.
Let’s take a look at what was announced, and how it could complement or improve your existing studio setups.
First up is the big one; Komplete 12. The industry’s favourite production software package is back, packing in more instruments, effects, synths and other tools in one enormous package.
Couple of headlines here, both of which centre around two of Komplete’s longest-standing inclusions. Massive X is a brand new version of the classic Massive synth and is promising an entirely new sound engine and effects. The original version, which has been around since 2007, is hugely popular among producers and performers alike. But this new version promises to take things to another level.
Also worth noting is an entirely new version of NI’s iconic Kontakt sample engine. For the first time since debuting in 2003, NI delivers a full update, taking it from version 5 to 6. Among the key new features are a tonne of new instruments. Plus, wavetable synthesis which gives you the ability to meld together two separate sounds to create entirely new tones. The potential for sound design here is incredible. Different combinations, entirely tweakable, can be made to create completely original new sounds.
As before, there are a number of different versions of Komplete 12 available. Komplete 12 Standard is the main entry point to the range, and offers 52 different instruments and effects, with a sound library spanning over 220GB. If that’s not enough, Komplete 12 Ultimate comes equipped with 101 instruments and effects, with a sound library coming in at a cool 600GB.
If it’s sounds and instruments your studio is lacking, Komplete is the answer you’re looking for.
Next up is the long-awaited upgrade to the wildly popular Maschine Mikro system. We’ve covered the ‘full fat’ Maschine in detail on this blog. However, if you’re looking for an introduction to its considerable powers, the Mikro version is a great option.
As a quick primer, Maschine is both a hardware device and a software package, designed from the ground up to work together in complete harmony. Used together, you are able to programme drum loops, control synths, chop samples, create MIDI patterns, arrange tracks and then produce them into completed songs. It’s an all-in-one application which gives you everything you need as a beatmaker.
The hardware device acts as your go-between, giving you the tactile expression of an actual instrument, with the sound-sculpting capability of a DAW. One of its key goals, over a traditional DAW, is giving users the ability to produce and perform music without feeling glued to a computer.
It’s perhaps fair to say that the full-sized Maschine can seem a little intimidating if you’re not from that world. It has so many buttons and knobs and – it’s also fair to say – comes with a learning curve. This is where the Maschine Mikro series steps in. The series does away with all but the essential components, concentrating on the core music-making experience and getting users up and creating tracks in no time at all.
Maschine Mikro MkIII
It had been a while since the last update, so it’s great to see Native Instruments Maschine Mikro MkIII finally making its bow. It’s been worth the wait too. For anyone looking to dip their toe in the water of hip-hop or electronic music, this is ideal. It gives you the ability to write incredibly detailed drum patterns in an intuitive way, and the famous Maschine workflow remains as clean as ever.
Different sounds are created in ‘groups’, so all your drums in one group, bass sounds in another etc. Being able to jam, write, record and perform by simply switching through these groups makes music-making a hugely rewarding process. It’s also lightweight and small enough, to make a nice addition to anyone’s setup without dominating it.
Speaking personally, having been on that exact journey, I picked up a second-generation Mikro in 2014 and literally within 10 mins of setting up I had the basis for an entire track. If you’re musically minded, Maschine Mikro will help you translate your ideas so quickly and efficiently.
Changes with the MkIII include the addition of a neat touchstrip, so certain instruments can be strummed like a guitar. There’s also three of NI’s most famous synth plugins included, along with 1.6Gb worth of drums sounds from the Maschine library. This gives you a mountain of content with which to start.
Joining the Maschine Mikro MkIII are slightly different versions of the hugely impressive Komplete Kontrol keyboards. The new Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A-series keyboards are a slight deviation, following the Mikro series by offering users a pared down experience.
These new devices are designed to work in conjunction with your existing DAW setup. As such, much of the bells and whistles of the original units are put on the backburner, and in its place, are sleek, stealthy new controllers.
The new A-series controllers feature semi-weighted keys, touch-sensitive rotary knobs for precise control of your plugins and instruments. Plus, two mod wheels for control of pitch and modulation. They also have full transport controls, which take care of basic play/record/stop functions in your DAW.
Where these controllers really shine, however, is in their deep integration with Native Instruments Komplete software packages. We cover Komplete – in all its undeniable glory – in a separate blog. However, if you’re after a monstrous selection of elite-level instruments, effects and tools then Komplete is the holy grail. And it is with Komplete that these controllers truly show their worth.
It’s also worth noting that NI’s main Komplete Kontrol range has also been updated. The professional-grade range, now in its MkII stage, boasts a full-sized 88-key version. Studios and performers looking for the pinnacle in full-sized, computer optimised keys need look no further.
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 and S4
Rounding off the new models in the line-up is updates to two of NI’s most recognisable DJ products. The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol series is respected by DJs and artists globally on account of its high build quality, superb computer integration and unique features.
These two updated models continue that tradition. The updated Traktor Kontrol S2 is the company’s entry-level DJ controller, with full industry-standard dual deck and mixer layout. It packs in individual EQ controls to ensure you can sculpt the sound to suit any room. Plus, 16 RGB backlit pads for triggering samples or loops. It also comes with a full version of Traktor Pro 3 so you can be up and running quickly and easily.
The new Traktor Kontrol S4, on the other hand, continues the lineage nicely and offers more experienced DJs a pile of extra functionality to utilise. Two fully motorised jog wheels, with haptic feedback, deliver incredibly tactile control over your performance, while the 16 RGB pads give you instant access to loops and one-shots in your arsenal.
What sets the S4 ahead of the game is in its connectivity options. As well as multiple phono outputs, there are also two XLR outputs for connecting to monitor speakers. Plus an XLR input for a microphone, all driven by a Cirrus Logic 24-bit/96kHz audio interface, delivering exceptional audio quality no matter the setup.
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