Native Instruments Komplete 12: Review [Part 2]
We continue our journey through Native Instruments’ KOMPLETE 12…
Our deep exploration into the vast universe of NI KOMPLETE 12 moves us onto the Instruments.
KONTAKT 6 is NIs latest and most feature laden industry standard sampler. Its primary function is to allow users to create their own instruments or simply map their own samples to a controller. There several ways to upload your samples including a drag and drop or manually load samples via a file explorer. Once uploaded there are a number of control options to adjust elements of each sample mapped to a key. Velocity, pitch, volume and ADSR among many options to adjust. KONTAKT 6 is an industry standard sampler that comes packed with ready-made instruments of the highest quality.
The sheer quantity of options available in the sampler can allow you to turn speech samples into keyboards and Guitars into barking dogs.
KONTAKT 6 also comes loaded with 20+ superb instruments that can be used in home recordings immediately. From piano, bass and guitar to drum machines, retro synths and noise making percussion, KONTAKT has everything you could need to replicate a garage band, produce dance music or create cinematic scores.
1. Kinetic Metal
Kinetic Metal is by far the most out there of KONTAKT 6’s included instruments. The User interface is a musical furnace of cogs and levers which might look more at home as a puzzle in Resident Evil. The UI has two large cogs which are labelled Forge and FX. Kinetic Metal works by mixing 4 layers of samples with 4 layers of waveforms. The metallic sounds range from plucked, tapped, banged and percussive sounds combined with combinations of twinkling, chiming, tubular or friction type metallic sounds. The result tends towards an ethereal other worldly atmosphere, while occasionally straying into the industrial.
Kinetic Metal is without doubt one of the more interesting instruments within KONTAKT and further emphasises the depth the product has as a sampler, with the editor you can create customer interfaces to go along with your own sampled instruments.
2. Retro Machines MK2
Retro Machines MK2 is a collection of painstakingly recorded analogue synths with a host of controls to manipulate and create a plethora of wild and weird sounds. This is one of the more out of the box user friendly instruments with a straightforward interface. You can navigate between various samples with the familiar UI of Kontact 6. Retro Machines MK2 has a very simple graphical UI with the synth console having 7 panels for sound manipulation.
You have a basic oscillator with a wavetable position dial called sound and a tone dial called fat. A quite thorough filter with four unique types: Daft LP(low Pass), Ladder, Notch and Formant. The filter [panel also has a cut-off & res dial for dynamic sound shaping. The amp panel has basic attack and reverb dials while the glide panel gives you a choice of glide, solo and legato with a variable dial to set range. Below Glide is a very simple effects pane with a choice of Echo and Reverb dials. There is a large central panel called sound variation. With sound variation you can adjust pre-sets and apply to each of the 8 buttons and the use the slider to morph between each variation. The possible variations are limitless and provide a surprising amount depth and power to what on the surface seems a simple synth engine.
The second console screen are the controls for the chord and arpeggiator. With a choice between a 16 step or 12 step triplet sequencer you can also alter the velocity of each step and turn the step on or off. You can switch between an individual note per step of have a chordal sequence with up to 4 fixed or user defined notes and the option to transpose from a chosen key to a different key. The Retro Machine MK2 is a simple but versatile instrument and isn’t just a lot of fun but produces professional quality tones with a large amount of variance. The interface is very straight forward to use and very accessible for new users of both KONTAKT 6 and KOMPLETE 12. This is very much a good place to start both in terms of your hardware setup and the use of KONTAKT 6.
3. The Giant and The Una Corda
Native instruments have taken piano sampling to the next level and collaborated with the one of worlds most renowned piano makers, David Klavin. Klavin is famed for making pianos with a twist on the classic design making pianos with a contemporary edge. His two most famous works are the Una Corda and the Model 450i vertical concert grand.
The Una Corda is a stripped bare, one string per note upright piano (most acoustic pianos sport a three string per note system). It has a unique soft resonance and is used worldwide. Native Instruments have lovingly re-created the Una Corda and added in a plethora of controls for the user to tweak and adjust giving the Una Corda even more range. Within the controls for the Una Corda are options to reverse the sound on the fly, add punch harmonic plucks and severely alter the resonance creating some very interesting sounds.
The M450i isn’t the catchiest of names so NI have renamed it the Giant within KOMPLETE 12. Given the size and unusual design of this vertical grand piano NI have added voices and controls way beyond what the real Giant is capable of. The Giant has a tonne of sonic possibilities and can be placed in many different types of room to create dramatic or subtle reverbs. The Giant comes in two formats, the conventional grand with accompanying sounds and variations or The Giant Cinematic which adds dark and sweeping elements to the enormous instrument. The reverbs in the cinematic have a greater variance and create much broader landscapes ideal for scoring and film. The attention to detail in the quality of the samples is astounding with a reasonable harmonic range for each key when sustained.
The interface for both of Klavins pianos are very straight forward with a central depiction of the instruments themselves with control panels littered around the edges. The advanced options are simple for the sake of space are accessed as a pop up from their related simple panels. The collaboration with Klavin has added an interesting flavour to the conventional upright and grand variations. Those are still there for the purist, but the Una Corda and The Giant will likely appeal to a wider audience looking for a new sound.
4. Discovery series
West Africa, Middle East, India
The Discovery series is a collection of melodic and percussive instruments from around the world. With focus towards more traditional instruments from India, Africa and the Middle east KOMPLETE has gathered in one place a gorgeous range of sounds. The layouts for all three discovery series packs are very similar and adhere to NIs rather thorough attitude towards customisation.
Two stand out aspects of the discovery series are the ability to map with guidance specific scales native to the area and a basic sequencer that allows you to manipulate pre-set groove patterns. You can choose between a simple chromatic layout for your midi controller which will simply trigger the chosen sound relative to the key you press, or you can have the scale represented via the on screen keyboard and follow that pattern and thirdly you can have it so the intervals not present within the scale are removed leaving only the notes within the chosen scale available to play.
The only deviation from the pattern panel is in the discovery series Africa, here there are a ton of percussion pre-sets, but you cannot change the pattern, but you can alter the mix, groove and swing of each pattern as a whole or within each individual instrument. There is a huge array of melodic instruments across all three areas and the African discovery series has a large number of percussive pre-sets.
Polyplex is a small form 8 pad drum machine. By using the piano roll or midi keyboard you can either trigger individual beats or sounds or use the piano roll to trigger a sequence. There is a large amount of pre-set sounds to load into polyplex. The power stems from the ability to manipulate a host of parameters for each pad. Each sample consists of four individual sounds and each sound can be adjusted via the central console. In the MAIN are of the central console there are controls for Pitch, start, pan and volume each adjusted as a slide bar.
In the ENVELOPE section you can alter the start, delay, attack, decay and release of each sample. The FX portion of the console is where you can assign 4 different effects and adjust each effect individually while determining where they are sent. The bottom portion of the polyplex interface are additional resources for LFOs, envelopes and levels which can manipulate the sliders of the central console. Polyplex is very much somewhere between Battery 4 and TRK-01, it has the lovely interface and depth of Battery 4 with the speedy usability of TRK-01 and will likely be the go-to drum machine for a lot of new users.
6. Battery 4
Battery 4 has been the industry standard drum sampler for six years. Even with a company that has developed some of the most intuitive drum hardware and software Battery is a breath-taking soft instrument. Every review you will read will have a section simply highlighting the remarkable array of sound, kits, loops, one shots and FX available and that is before I mention the level of tweakability.
The first and most noticeable thing you will discover upon loading Battery 4 is the eye-catching up to 6 x 12 grid. Each kit can have anywhere from 1 to 68 unique sounds. You can swap and change out samples from other kits in order to create a bespoke kit suitable for your needs. You can assign colours to each square on the grid to suit your needs as well. The variety of sounds for the larger kits range from percussive analogue and digital hits to synth pads and FX type noises.
The quality of the samples is impressive and even straight out of the box a large proportion of the samples are of high enough quality for pre mixdown tracks. Native Instruments have kept the navigation intuitive and similar to its other products with a file explorer style navigation on the left side if the GUI. The main console for adjustments is split into six tabs.
The main panel has an adjustable wave form slider which allows you to isolate from left and right of the waveform to isolate a particular portion of the selected sample. The adjustable areas of all six panels changes colour in relation the selected sample. There is a reverse option, a micro tune and tuning range selector, pan knob and level slider. The volume envelope has ADSR knobs and a hold dial and there is a choice between this and a simple Attack, Hold and Decay panel. There is a pitch envelope with dials for Amount, Decay 1, Break and Decay 2. The third panel is velocity control and there is a choice between volume and pitch.
The Engine panel allows the user to switch between two (three for some file types that hold timing information) different types of Sampling engine one of which is read and re read from memory and one which utilises granular synthesis to alter sample-speed while maintaining pitch. There is a dual adjust single filter slider that allows you to alter both low and high pass frequencies. The penultimate panel is a compressor dial and the final panel has delay and reverb dials.
As you might expect the effects panel has a selection of sound altering dials and sliders including two comprehensive compressions panels, a saturation panel and s filter/EQ panel. The filter EQ has an adjustable wave form.
There are 2 LFO panels, a modulation envelope panel and 2×4 modulation slots with a central mixer for each pair and exhaustive modulation options. The modulation slots allow you to mix many of the effects and other subtractive elements to really change the sound of each sample. This also includes assigning MIDI controls so you can adjust live. It’s actually a shame that this level of mixing effects isn’t available throughout all the instruments.
The set-up panel offer some interesting options in terms of the relationship between Battery 4 and your MIDI controller. You can alter the velocity of MIDI input, change voice groups and cell activation to be different for different cells. There is a very interesting trigger articulation allowing you to change from a single triggered sample to a drum roll or to play upon release of a key as well as depression of a key. There is a delay/echo related to velocity of MIDI input and a Humanize control which adds an element of adjustable randomness with regards to velocity, pitch and loudness.
The editor is another interesting panel and one which you may find yourself using quite a bit. You can stack samples here to create great big sounds or complex layered beats or maybe chords of a sound at different pitches. You can mix up a kick drum with a sound effect and within the editor alter the length of a wave or only use part of a wave. The editor section is another of the features that helps Battery 4 stand out.
The master as you might think provides global controls for the Filter, EQ, Compressor, TM (Transient Master = LOTS OF FUN!) and the gain of all the samples. what you change here effects the whole loaded kit. This is ideal if you want to drive the gain sound for all elements of the kit or control the compression or level for mixing.
Battery 4 is another incredibly comprehensive instrument and has so many sounds from full kits to individual effects. The customisation options are huge, and you can stack sounds as well as manipulate nearly all aspects of a sample. Battery 4 has a hell of a lot more than I could cram into my limited word count so try it out for yourself.
Too much to mention…
Predictably I wanted to have all the instruments wrapped up for this week but there are so many it will have to become the opener to [Part 3] of my KOMPLETE 12 odyssey. Stay tuned!
For those who want to jump back to [Part 1] you can do so here.