Native Instruments’ software powerhouse still going strong
From DJs to producers, and from studio to stage, Native Instruments’ huge range of software and hardware tools has been the main push behind them becoming one of the biggest names in computer music. The flagship software package, Native Instruments Komplete Production Suite, has long been the fire at the heart of the engine. Here’s a look at why Komplete might just be the only sound pack you ever need.
Native Instruments (NI) started in 1997, as a software company. Its first effort, a computer-hosted modular synth called Generator, marked the beginnings of a rich heritage in computer music. In 2003, NI introduced the first Komplete bundle to the world. Containing nine different instruments, the package was designed to offer musicians a significant reduction in cost compared with buying the individual products.
Thanks to the reputation NI had built up, this was hugely appealing to producers in the fledgling world of computer recording. Now, in one package, users had access to instruments like Absynth, Battery, the iconic B4 Organ and the Kontakt sample engine.
Roughly every couple of years, NI has released a new version of Komplete. And, where Komplete 1 involved opening nine physical boxes, nowadays you get a single USB drive with everything on it. And what a selection it is.
Every DAW you can buy, from Ableton Live to Pro Tools, comes with a selection of included sounds. Some are better than others, naturally. Live, for example, comes with some superb included synths and sound manglers. Apple, meanwhile, has put time and thought into creating new effects and plugins, which are genuinely innovative.
However, there are times when the included sounds are not enough. Maybe you’re a tweaker, and you need to nail that exact reverb tail you have in your head. Or maybe you are indecisive – we’re not judging – and need to trial tonnes of different sounds and instruments.
At times like this, it would be great to have a collection of elite-level, high-quality instruments, samples, sounds and effects to hand. This is where the Komplete packages excel.
Komplete is designed as a specialist production package with everything we mentioned in the first paragraph. Plus, a bunch of stuff you never even considered. I’ve been a home-recording enthusiast for nearly two decades, and I still find things now in Komplete which blow my mind.
Rounds, for example, is a funny little synth programme that is entirely visual and entirely open to creative experimentation. It is also highly likely to leave you a million miles from where you were expecting to be. In a very good way, we should add. It’s in devices like Rounds where NI flexes its creative and innovative instincts.
It’s not all crazy German audio engineering though. The core of Komplete is evident in its instruments. It gets the basics very, very right. Kontakt, for example, is an ever-present since Komplete 1. Its flagship sampler is the home to each of the many, many sample packs which NI releases sporadically. Everything from drums sampled at Abbey Road, to piano keys sampled directly from Alicia Keys, is available here and it all sounds breath-taking.
Synth fans are really spoilt for choice too. Ambient pad fans should be more than familiar with the inner-workings of Absynth by now, while Massive, Monark and Retro Machines are big hitters for fans of those growling, analog-style monophonic bass sounds.
There’s real quality evident in the drums and beats available too. Battery 4 is the go-to device here, with a usable matrix system offering slots for plenty of sounds, each individually editable. Add in a selection of drums from the Maschine library and you’ve got plenty to be getting on with here.
Guitarists too are well catered for in the form of Guitar Rig. This provides an enormous selection of amplifier sims, pedal effects, and other such goodness.
One thing that’s always marked NI out from its peers is the way in which it seamlessly links its software with its own dedicated hardware devices. From the aforementioned Maschine, with its superb hardware devices, through to something altogether more homogenous.
In 2014, NI launched the Komplete Kontrol system. A range of physical keyboards was released which were designed from the ground up to sync with Komplete at a truly granular level.
With Komplete being the size it is – absolutely huge if you go for the full-fat version – it was identified that users could quite easily get swamped with the amount of content available to them. Rather than have people open individual applications or plugins to get where they needed to go, NI devised Komplete Kontrol. A kind-of ‘master app’ if you will.
Using Komplete Kontrol, users can gain access to every single Komplete instrument, effect or plugin from a single location. It loads into your DAW like a normal plugin, but from there everything is laid out like one giant – and easily navigated – sound bank.
And, as with Maschine, everything was made with the physical keyboards in mind. So, finding, auditioning, selecting and tweaking every single element was possible without needing to refer to your computer every five seconds. This made things so much easier for people and allowed them to focus more on their connection to the sounds and the instrument more than to their computers. The Komplete Kontrol controllers are now on their MkII version and are well worth checking out.
It’s worth considering exactly how much good sounds and tools will elevate your studio setup. No more free VSTs or ‘making do’ with bundled DAW sounds. If you want to take your recordings up another level, Komplete will give you the tools to do that.
And, as well as giving you higher quality versions of everything you’re used to, it also has enough components that are unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. This, as we know, is great for experimentation; who knows where an unassuming afternoon recording session might take you.
Komplete 12 is available in a few different versions. The main version, Komplete 12, contains 52 individual products and will pay for itself in the long run too. If that’s not enough, Komplete 12 Ultimate contains over 600GB worth of content; that’s 45,000 different sounds to play with.
If you aren’t familiar with Komplete, we’d definitely recommend taking a look. You may never need another sound pack again.
Get in touch
Check out our full range of Native Instruments gear on the Dawsons website, where you’ll also find our full range of Music Software. Alternatively, head to your nearest Dawsons Music store where our in-store specialists will be more than happy to help you out.
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Our resident software expert Paul put the Native Instruments Komplete 12 Suite through its paces and publishes his experiences for us all to enjoy.
Jon is a multi-instrumentalist with a passion for inspiring others to get involved in making music. After spending many years playing venues here, there and – pretty much – everywhere, he joined the Dawsons’ Music Web Team before progressing into his current role managing the Dawsons Blog.