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Native Instruments announces Komplete Kontrol S-Series keyboards

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Native Instruments today announced the Komplete Kontrol S-Series keyboards. The keyboards represent a hallmark in the history of Native Instruments, providing advanced innovations in hardware/softwa [Read More]
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NI Officially Reveals Komplete 10, Kontrol Keyboards [Details, Gallery]

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

NI_Komplete_Kontrol_S-Series_Keyboards_Perspective_Macro

You’ve seen the leaks; now here’s the official announcement.

Native Instruments is releasing an update to its Komplete suite of production tools (including Massive, Kontakt, Absynth, Reaktor, and others). And while the software update is largely composed of some (nice) new instruments, the banner news here is hardware.

As NI has done with its DJ line (Traktor Kontrol) and Maschine groove workstation, the company is unveiling integrated hardware that makes for a hybrid hardware/software solution. The Komplete Kontrol instruments come in 25, 49-, and 61-key variations, coupled with touch strips for pitch and mod, 8 encoders paired with interactive displays for parameter control, sound browsing, and arpeggiator and scale-mapping functions.

While you can’t quite take your eyes off the display with the same ease as you can Maschine Studio or Traktor, you do get interactive access to your Komplete library, and Reaktor instruments, too.

I’ve been testing the Komplete Kontrol S25, so I’ll leave impressions for a separate story. (A full review will come closer to the October 1 release date; the software isn’t entirely finished yet.)

Update – it’s ready. Our hands-on with the S25 keyboard.

But as far as the announcement, let’s stick to the facts – after the obligatory, heart-pounding promo video.

Seriously, I wish you were here. Every time I touch a MIDI keyboard, it’s totally this exciting. It’s like watching NASCAR cars explode inside a galaxy going supernova with an Icelandic death metal band – and that band is buck naked.

Komplete 10 / Komplete 10 Ultimate

As previously leaked, you get six new instruments.

There are three new Reaktor-based instruments, regardless of which bundle you choose. They don’t require the new keyboards, but if you do spring for the new gear, they map to the color-coded light guides on the keyboard and encoders.

Rounds. Imagine a sequencer combined with sound design.

Kontour. This is the latest synth from Stephan Schmitt, founder of NI and originator of both Reaktor and, before it, Generator. Stephan’s name alone should get your attention, and this synth is something special from what little I’ve heard out of it. You can span from more organic sounds to distorted stuff, with loads of clever modulation.

Polyplex. This is the sampler/drum sampler Reaktor users have been waiting for. Because you can randomize samples per slots globally or locally, it’s brilliant for mixing up drum kits and percussive patterns. And it’s full of effects.

Each of these tools is really interesting, and worth following up separately – stay tuned later this month.

There are also three new pianos, part of what NI now calls The Definitive Piano Collection:

The Gentleman. A sampled 1908 upright.

The Granduer. A sampled grand – yes, this is the ubiquitous Steinway Model D, even though NI can’t say that.

The Maverick. Probably the most interesting of the bunch – a 1905 grand made for the Prince of Prussia.

The pianos got a lot of flak on the forums, but as at least one CDM reader pointed out, they’re overdue. NI has made some beautiful sampled piano libraries recently, but the ones in Komplete haven’t kept pace with the accelerating quality of sampled pianos on the market. This should help modernize the piano offerings, and given how often they’re used, that’s significant.

Komplete may not be everything NI makes, but it’s big. Komplete 10 is 39 instruments and effects; the Ultimate version is all 75 products in the Komplete lineup at the moment, with over 440 GB of content.

Pricing: $ 499 / 499, or $ 999 / 999 € for Ultimate.

Don’t sweat yet if you recently bought Komplete; NI says it’ll have its upgrade/update/crossgrade info and the like shortly.

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Kontrol Keyboards

The biggest news with Komplete 10 is what happens when you add the Komplete Kontrol S-Series keyboards.

See our separate hands-on, but the basic idea is really applying to Komplete what Maschine and Traktor Kontrol brought to groove production and DJing, respectively.

The keyboards:

  • 25-, 49-, and 61- key models.
  • Fatar synth keybeds – sorry, no hammer-action model here yet, though that seems likely some time in the future.
  • Komplete Browser controls let you look up sounds, similar to those on Maschine. (No display, though – for that, you’ll be looking at your computer screen.)
  • Parameters map to eight touch-sensitive encoders, with displays showing parameter name and amount.
  • “Light Guide” color LEDs above the keys reveal switches, zones, and other preset information. (Don’t worry, you can also turn this off.)
  • Chord mode, with ready-to-play progressions.
  • Built-in arpeggiator with interactive controls mapped to the display.
  • Scale mapping, which maps to white notes of the keyboard – for specialized scales, fun with arpeggios, or avoiding wrong notes.
  • Touch strips for modulation, pitch bend.
  • Physics modeling for touch strips, so you can have Lemur-style animations as well as the normal functions.
  • MIDI in and out jacks.
  • USB operation. (Note: it requires power; not USB powered.)
  • Two pedal input jacks.

The intention of the Komplete Kontrol hardware is to work with associated software. That’s the only thing bundled with the keyboard, so you need either Komplete 9 or Komplete 10 to make use of this functionality. (Komplete 9 works, though, so you could conceivably buy the keyboard but skip the software upgrade.)

I’ll explain how the software works separately, in my hands-on.

What you don’t get is any bundled instruments with Komplete Kontrol; you need to own the Komplete software to really make use of it.

You can also use the Kontrol S-Series keyboards as MIDI controllers, with custom MIDI templates, as you can Maschine. Colored lights still let you indicate splits in your MIDI templates, too. But the arpeggiator, scale, and chord modes – for now – work only with the NI software. The transport controls are mapped to Mackie Control for control of your host.

Pricing:
S25: $ 499 / 499 €.
S49: $ 599 / 599 €.
S61: $ 699 / 699 €.

Both Komplete 10 and the new keyboards are due October 1.

www.the-komplete-instrument.com

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The post NI Officially Reveals Komplete 10, Kontrol Keyboards [Details, Gallery] appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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Native Instruments announces Komplete 10 and Komplete 10 Ultimate

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Native Instruments today announced Komplete 10 and Komplete 10 Ultimate, which both come with six brand-new instruments âEUR“ Rounds, Kontour, Polyplex, and the three new sampled pianos that comp [Read More]
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Exclusive Hands-on with Komplete Kontrol S25 Keyboard [Pictures]

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

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That NI is making a keyboard to provide access to its Komplete line of production tools should surprise no one. And not just because of numerous leaks – it’s the next logical step for the Berlin software developer.

After all, NI has an entire line of hardware that makes access to Traktor easier for DJing. And it developed Maschine, a software tool that from the beginning was built to facilitate hybrid hardware/software workflows. The thinking is simple: computer software offers terrific versatility, but when it comes time to actually explore sounds and play, you want knobs and faders and buttons and pads.

And keys.

As with the Maschine and Traktor Kontrol hardware, Komplete Kontrol is on one hand a standard MIDI controller. Connected to a computer, there’s no reason you can’t use it with other software via MIDI. But when combined with NI’s own software, Komplete Kontrol magically inherits other functionality and an unparalleled degree of integration with sound parameters and library browsing.

I’ve gotten a chance to talk to the folks at NI who developed Komplete Kontrol, and have an S25 keyboard here that I’ve begun testing. It’s too soon for a full review, but I can offer some first hands-on impressions – and answer some likely questions. Let’s get started.

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Out of the box

First, here’s a surprise: Komplete Kontrol S25, despite the high sticker price (starting at $ /€ 499), comes only with minimal software. You get drivers, plus the Komplete Kontrol software, but the integration features require either Komplete 9 or Komplete 10. You might expect some sort of player software, as NI has done with Kontakt for other products, but – well, you don’t get that. This is a product for current or prospective Komplete owners.

Installation of the keyboard is otherwise simple. You install the Komplete Kontrol software – specialized host software that communicates with the keyboard and includes a Mac/Windows driver. As with Maschine, the keyboard works only when connected via USB; it doesn’t have any standalone MIDI functionality outside a connection to a computer host.

You also get a power adapter, because the S-Series requires external power. (12V / 1.2A, surprisingly! I’m assuming that powers the displays and lights.)

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The Keyboard

I’ll say this: this is hands-down, the nicest looking, nicest feeling MIDI controller I’ve ever used. (And yes, if you’re getting too much of a Guitar Hero / Rock Band game feeling from those LEDs above the keyboard, you can turn them off, leaving it all a tasteful, 2001/Kubrick black.)

Of course, it had better be, at this price premium. But it’s tough to convey in pictures: the top panel is really beautiful and subtle and neatly laid out, the encoders feel terrific, and the Fatar keyboard doesn’t disappoint. Unlike another very nice-looking premium controller keyboard, the Nektar Panorama, NI had the sense to go with an established keybed maker rather than make their own. As a result, the S-Series is solid, firm-feeling, but not too springy.

Then again, you don’t need me to tell you this. If you’ve worked with other NI hardware, you have the basic idea. Those mock-ups of a Maschine browser put on a keyboard weren’t far off: transport and browsing functions are copied directly from Maschine.

What’s new is the silky-smooth encoders, the razor-sharp displays underneath, and the touch strips. The displays look fantastic, visible from any angle, and clearly represent a lot of the cost of the unit. The other high-quality point is the touch strips. They’re perfectly responsive, and already NI has begun making use of the LED feedback along the sides. (More on that in a bit.)

Actually, my only concern as far as the hardware itself is that the minimal design means there aren’t a whole lot of controls. You really only get the eight endless encoders for parameter control. It’d be great to have toggles or push-button functions alongside those encoders. It seems that may restrict some of the options for sound design down the road, or necessitate an additional controller.

I will say, though, the S25 form factor is great. Because I already own bigger keyboards, I wanted this very model to go on the road – and it seems it’ll be a perfect companion to Maschine and Ableton Live. (I’ll cover Maschine/S25 combined workflow in a separate story.)

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The Ghost of Kore

Let’s get it over with and deal with comparisons to Kore.

With eight encoders and displays, browsing functions, and the intent to provide hardware access to Komplete, it’s obvious that Komplete Kontrol has a lineage to NI’s discontinued hardware/software product Kore. But the biggest indication that Komplete Kontrol isn’t Kore is actually the software. Komplete Kontrol, the software, has a much narrower function than Kore did, at least in its first version. And that means that while it’s missing a lot of what people hated about Kore (bugs and instability being foremost among them), it’s also missing what some of you loved about Kore. This is simply much less ambitious software.

Kore was built to work with third-party plug-ins. It had powerful functions for making splits and layers and even nesting sounds inside other sounds. It was built with effects and instruments in mind. It had insanely-deep, often confusing facilities for producing your own complex series of presets and sound tagging. It even had its own modules for recording and adding additional performance tools.

Komplete Kontrol actually does none of those things I’ve just mentioned. Perhaps, though, that’s a relief more than a disappointment. Kore proved not only overly confusing for many people to use, but untenable for NI to develop and support. The results often simply didn’t work. If Komplete Kontrol is more conservative, it also escapes Kore’s massive overreach.

NI will have to win back the trust of users burned by Kore, and Komplete Kontrol will certainly bring back some bad memories. On the other hand, NI has clearly learned a lot about hardware design and software design since – remember that the entire Maschine project has happened in the intervening time. And the conservative approach to Komplete Kontrol, while I think it’s lacking some features that hopefully appear in coming months, is part of that.

So, if Komplete Kontrol software isn’t Kore, what is it?

Komplete_Kontrol_4

The Software

It’s best to think of Komplete Kontrol as a single layer between the hardware and individual instruments or sound patches in Komplete. That software provides just two things: one, access to browsing interfaces for pulling up sounds (radically simplified, I might add), and two, mappings between the sound and the keyboard’s built-in facilities for parameter control and scale/arpeggiator functions.

That’s important, because as you’ll see below, outside the software you lose some of the hardware’s advantages.

Komplete Kontrol is a dedicated tool you load either standalone or as a plug-in. (That plug-in then loads whatever instruments you need in your host.)

One loaded, you can treat everything you have installed in Komplete – every sound pack, every instrument – as if it’s a preset inside of a massive database of sounds. Let’s say you’re looking for a unique plucked sound, or a broken piano. It doesn’t matter if that was built in FM7, in the Reaktor User Library, or in Kontakt. You can dial up those different sounds (with brief pauses for loading) as if each were a preset on a massive synth. Kore promised to do that, but via a complex interface. The UI here, whether working with factory presets or your own custom sounds (or Reaktor patches, even) is dead-simple and quick.

Yes, it’s an extra layer of software. But it’s the first time the result has felt seamless. And since commenters are asking, yes, I vastly prefer this to the automap capabilities of software like Novation’s.

Actually, it’s all worth using for the Reaktor library alone. I’d heard NI folks tell me that, but I was a bit skeptical.

Just sixty seconds after starting up the Komplete Kontrol software, I’d found a Reaktor patch I’d forgotten about and was lost playing with its sounds. If you’re a Reaktor user, parameters will map just as easily.

Otherwise, here things will feel familiar to veteran Kore users. Look at the screen, and you can page through parameters. Touch an encoder, and the value appears on the screen, even before you start to turn the encoder.

That’s the good news. The bad news is, the software is fairly limited. You can’t load more than one sound at a time. You can use your plug-in host to create splits and layers, but Komplete Kontrol doesn’t do any of that – you’re limited to how each preset was set up. There’s also no way to easily create a set of patches for a performance and switch between those. (I’m guessing what you may want to do for that use case is use user banks for the job; I’ll be researching this and follow up.)

In short, Komplete Kontrol will have a ways to go before it becomes a useful performance tool, putting it behind software from years ago like Apple’s MainStage or … yes, the Ghost of Kore.

For now, instead, it’s mainly a preset browsing tool and a way to load instruments so they integrate with the hardware. I’ll be investigating just how you’d set this up for a live situation, though, as I know that matters a lot to Komplete users who want to take their sounds onstage and on the road.

Komplete_Kontrol_1

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The Extras

Seeing parameters alongside the encoders is nice, but it isn’t yet enough reason to get a Komplete Kontrol. NI hopes that the keyboard’s “intelligent” features will entice you.

Scale and Chord. As with the grids on Ableton’s Push, you can remap the notes on the Kontrol S-Series to different scales. Choose a root note, a mode, and optionally pre-mapped sets of chords, and the white notes (and optionally the black notes) will map to only the “right” notes in that collection.

The modes, in my firmware revision (more might get added later):
Chromatic, major, harmonic minor, major pentatonic, minor pentatonic, blues, Japanese, “Freygish” (that’s Phrygian), Gypsy, Flamenco, Altered, whole tone, half/whole diminished, and whole/half diminished.

This does get a little odd on a piano-style keyboard in a way it doesn’t on an undifferentiated grid like Maschine, the MPC, Push, or a monome. The black notes are set to either play nothing or duplicate the white notes. A chromatic mode would be nice, but they left it out here – and there’s some reason for that, because the octaves would suddenly become meaningless in most modes. I’d still like more controls, but I also acknowledge that this is in part useful to people who didn’t spend years learning to play the piano. Speaking of which –

Arpeggiator. There’s a rather powerful arpeggiator built into the S-Series, ordered up, up/down, down, in the order played (cool), or tied to the chord mode (very cool). And you get swing controls, octave range, dynamic controls, and gate, though a random mode would be nice. Actually, to me as a keyboardist, it’s the arpeggiator that really makes the chord mode worth using.

Chords: octave, 1-3, 1-5, 1-3-5, 1-4-5, 1-3-5-7, 1-4-7 – or various pre-programmed major/minor progressions.

Those colored lights. In what I expect is going to be the S-Series’ most controversial feature, yes, there are brightly-colored lights above the keys. In normal usage, their main function will be to annoy you, by lighting up as you play.

But when mapped to presets, these go from useless disco bling to very useful feedback. Inside the Komplete library, they indicate splits and switches, so that very complex percussion patches are at last understandable.

They also integrate with Reaktor patches. In Polyplex, for example, the color coding indicates different sample mappings. Intrepid Reaktor patchers could create their own custom color mappings, to produce keyboard patches along the lines of what the monome community has done with that grid.

And, the color coding gives you feedback when you use scales and chords.

Unfortunately, you can only turn the lights on and off globally, not per patch – a shame, as I’d love to see them turn on for splits and then go dark when I just want to play a piano. But this is an area that could expand as sound designers get their hands on the S-Series.

Touch Strips. Purists may be unhappy that there are touch strips in place of the pitch and mod wheels found on most keyboards. But that solves two problems. First, those wheels are often the first thing to break on a keyboard when you take it on the road, or to respond unreliably. Second, this is another area sound designers can use to provide visual feedback and parameter control. The mod wheel can be sectioned off to provide clear switches between different settings, for example.

NI has also provided physics controls, so each touch strip can bounce or respond to friction differently, as has been found in the past on the Lemur touch surface.

It’s another area that could grow in time.

All about the sound designers.

You see, those LEDs on the strips and colored lights above the keys will be accessible in Kontakt scripts and inside Reaktor. That means that the value of the hardware should grow, not shrink, with time, as hackers come up with clever applications for them. We’ll of course cover how to do that yourself, if you want to be brave – hello, Reaktor lovers.

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Preferences

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And for MIDI Users

The Kontrol S-Series does nothing when disconnected form a computer. Like Maschine, it needs the host software to operate. But you can use it with other software, via standard MIDI communication, as a controller.

Again, like Maschine, you do this by switching between MIDI and controller modes – shift-Instance does the trick.

First, the bad news: alarmingly, some features work only with Komplete Kontrol. You can’t use the arpeggiator or scale or chord modes without using the companion software. That’s a pretty big issue, and one I hope NI fixes.

Also, you can’t use MIDI messages to switch the LEDs above the keyboard. That’s too bad, as it would have opened up monome-style patching in Max, Max for Live, Pd, and the like. Reaktor users are the only ones who get to play here.

But, that said, a lot can be mapped.

The transport section is pre-mapped to Mackie Control, so can control the transport of your DAW. It can’t be re-mapped, but that’s already useful.

The encoders send MIDI CC messages of your choice, and you can change the labels (again, already familiar to Maschine owners).

Nicest of all, you can create your own splits with color feedback, per template.

You can also assign physics features on the mod and pitch wheels via the template editor.

You can see all these features in the screenshots. Combined, I think the S-Series would therefore make a very interesting MIDI controller. It’s just too expensive to recommend without the use of Komplete for now, though if NI would make the arpeggiator and scale/chord modes work outside Komplete, I might be able to revise that.

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Komplete Lovers Get a Keyboard

It should already be pretty clear what the downsides of the S-Series are, even without doing a review. They’re pricey. They’re locked into NI’s software; MIDI functionality is there but is a second-class citizen to NI software integration. The hardware doesn’t work without a computer connected, unlike many MIDI keyboards. You really need to own Komplete – or at least Reaktor, or Maschine. (I’ll cover Maschine integration separately; the Browser and parameters do work, which is very cool, though you’ll still want your Maschine hardware around for sequencing – I’m guessing you’ll make basslines on the S25 and beats on the Maschine pads.)

And the software is clearly version 1 – eventually, features like making your own splits are a must, and more attention to live performance workflows could be a huge help.

But there’s a lot here to like. The hardware design shows tremendous promise, particularly when coupled with sound design in Reaktor and Kontakt. And if you’re willing to spend a little extra on a beautifully-designed and built keyboard, with the ability to easily dial up sounds inside Komplete, you probably already hoped NI would build something just like this.

We’ll take another look as NI finishes the new software and other integration becomes clear.

www.the-komplete-instrument.com

Details on pricing and the full announcement:
NI Officially Reveals Komplete 10, Kontrol Keyboards [Details, Gallery]

The post Exclusive Hands-on with Komplete Kontrol S25 Keyboard [Pictures] appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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New Native Instruments Komplete Keyboards, Software Updates Revealed in Various Leaks

Sunday, August 31st, 2014
Guessing that 'new' flag will not be a feature. This image has been making the rounds.

Guessing that ‘new’ flag will not be a feature. This image has been making the rounds.

Keeping new musical instrument announcements under wraps prior to embargo dates is proving, again, to be more or less impossible. Native Instruments’ Komplete updates, teased in a video on Friday, have now been prematurely revealed via one print magazine hitting newsstands (Beat, in Germany), and multiple leaks by dealers (some even crawled by Google, according to a CDM reader). Forum members at GearSlutz have been dutifully reproducing everything, leaving few secrets. From there, the cat’s out of the bag; I’m seeing this spreading through German-language outlets and expect others will pick this up soon. Oddly, forum members and commenters have also proceeded to review the announcement in some detail, apparently on the merits of a serious of text bullet points and screen shots alone.

I think that’s a little ridiculous. You need to hear instruments to judge them; you need to actually use hardware and software to judge its quality. Implementation is everything.

This isn’t the whole story – not yet. The leaks don’t yet reveal any details of how that works, only the basic physical form of the keyboards, as well as what instruments have been added in Komplete 10′s software.

So, I’m posting it here in the hopes that more inquisitive CDM readers will ask us some questions. What would you want to see tested; what would you want to know? Let’s see some questions rather than premature reviews, and we can find some answers. (My experience is, readers here ask terrific questions.)

But for starters, here’s the information shared on GearSlutz and in a story on (German-language site) Amazona.de. The big story, as the teaser video suggested, is keyboards designed for controlling instruments in Komplete. Many of the hardware features you’ve already seen in the “teaser” video (which actually showed quite a lot):

Komplete Kontrol keyboards:
25-, 49-, and 61-key models
8 encoders with displays
Touch strips
Browser
Scale and Arpeggiator controls
USB, MIDI in/out, pedal inputs
Pricing starting at 499€ (as reported in Beats’ print article, now on newsstands here in Germany)

Komplete 10 update – 12,000 sounds, 130GB of content:
Three new pianos: The Grandeur, The Maverick, The Gentleman
Three new synth/instruments: Kontour, Rounds, and Polyplex
Drumlab, Session Horn, and Supercharger Driver now included
Komplete Kontrol keyboard ready

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Do stay tuned for official information from Native Instruments and CDM’s own take. (For instance, I would hope you’re wondering a little bit about what’s behind these leaked screenshots.)

That said, I think it’s hilarious that one forum poster has already prepared a parody image. The team at NI is pretty thick-skinned; I think they’ll have a chuckle at this and assume the serious reviews will occur once people actually try what they’ve built.

And – yes, forums are amazing, weird places. I don’t have enough time to do things like this image, and this is actually my day job. Kudos. I think.

Someone should create a Reaktor ensemble for The Disappointment that actually makes sound. I’d use it in a set. Where’s Tim Exile?

Lolz all around. Someone named "jokerone" on GearSlutz has a lot of time on his/her hands.

Lolz all around. Someone named “jokerone” on GearSlutz has a lot of time on his/her hands. Actually, I’d very much like an impulse response of a dumpster. Let’s get on that.

See you soon with all the solid details. Have a good weekend, and make sure your Photoshopping leaves some time for making music.

The post New Native Instruments Komplete Keyboards, Software Updates Revealed in Various Leaks appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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Native Instruments Teases New Komplete Hardware

Friday, August 29th, 2014

glitch

Native Instruments today releases a teaser video which it says is “A glimpse of the future” of Komplete, the production suite that includes Reaktor, Kontakt, and various synths and the like.

That video clearly shows some kind of hardware. Now, the degree to which I can speculate about an unreleased product is inversely proportional to the amount I know about such a product.

So, with that in mind, let me objectively describe what you see in the video in ways that are truly obviously discernible, for those of you who can’t be bothered to squint at the video yourself. I’d say we see:

Lights.
Colored lights. (Red! Blue! White! Assuming I’m not color blind… or that the Polizei haven’t shown up. Sorry about running that red light on my bike Monday.)
White things in a row. (from several angles, those things in a row … teeth?)
A knob/encoder.
Scale / Arp buttons.
A browser interface (Browse, Instance, Back, directional keys, Preset increment-decrement buttons, and Enter, plus an encoder).
Knobs/encoders with displays with amounts (Reverb, Reso, Drive, Glitch).
Two tall things with a big, tall LED strip in between and two things on top.
Loud noises.
Native Instruments: The Future of Sound (logo).

So – it’s obviously a Eurorack module. Or an analog monosynth. Joke.

Rest assured, we will bring you more solid information when we can, seeing as I practically trip over Native Instruments headquarters when I try to get out of bed in the morning. (Tricky, that. But I work for you. I’m keeping them as close as I can with that in mind.)

The post Native Instruments Teases New Komplete Hardware appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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Native Instruments updates all Komplete Instruments and Effects – incl. 64-bit AAX

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Native Instruments has released updates for its current Komplete product range, bringing 64-Bit AAX support for ProTools 11 and advanced integration in Maschine 2.0 host software. Absynth 5.2.0: Advan [Read More]
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What NI Was Teasing: Monark Minimoog-Modeling Synth, Remade Battery, in New Komplete

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013
What you can see: something that looks a lot like a Minimoog. What you can't: this decades-old synth was actually recreated using fairly new, cutting-edge digital filter research. Images courtesy NI.

What you can see: something that looks a lot like a Minimoog. What you can’t: this decades-old synth was actually recreated using fairly new, cutting-edge digital filter research. Images courtesy NI.

Native Instruments has been teasing new instrument software in recent days, and now we get to see what they were previewing: a new virtual-analog monosynth and a remade version of their drum sampler.

But, hold on, before everyone yawns and leaves the building – there’s reason to pay attention to this news.

First, yes, there is something notably absent in today’s announcement. While NI is making Komplete, their bundle of their extensive stable of software instruments, available for preorder, there’s still no sign of a big upgrade to Reaktor. The fact that the Monark video showed Reaktor patching may have confused matters further. In fairness, Reaktor did get a couple of important upgrades recently; both simply had the misfortune to be labeled as point releases rather than “Reaktor 6.” (Reaktor 5.7 is nonetheless a major new version with a substantially new UI, and Reaktor 5.8 brought an industry-leading, user-friendly OSC implementation.) But fans of the modular software no doubt want more.

What you do get, though, is still big news. Monark may seem like just another modeled virtual analog synth, but under the hood, it represents significant advances in modeling technology, a labor of love from some of NI’s DSP mad scientists. And Battery 4 shows that NI is committed to an instrument in a category all its own.

Oh, yeah, and Komplete is still a ridiculous amount of software, though that’s not exactly news. Let me explain.

Battery 4: still the most advanced drag-and-drop drum sampler out there, now upgraded. In fact, still one of the only dedicated drum samplers out there, since others tend to be general-purpose samplers or drum machine-oriented.

Battery 4: still the most advanced drag-and-drop drum sampler out there, now upgraded. In fact, still one of the only dedicated drum samplers out there, since others tend to be general-purpose samplers or drum machine-oriented.

We’ll be looking more in detail at Monark with the engineers at NI who built it. What NI can’t say, legally, I can: this is clearly a model of the classic Minimoog. (NI has to legall call it “a classic analog monophonic synthesizer that has shaped four decades of popular music.”)

CDM got an exclusive hands-on with the instrument, and it sounds extraordinary in a way software virtual analog instruments usually don’t. For people just looking for vintage sounds, it’ll fit the bill, because the Minimoog is such a part of music. But I think it could also appeal to synth lovers. Now, the Minimoog is perhaps the most-modeled, most influential synth ever, in some way influencing the design of countless hardware and software designs that followed, so the idea that a new model is “revolutionary” may seem downright odd. From an engineering standpoint, though, NI is applying the latest research in digital filter models. In fact, you can read research on the technique, if you like such things:

The Art of VA Filter Design, by Vadim Zavalishin

There are years of modeling work that went into Monark, which explains some of NI’s press materials on this. They’ve modeled not only the individual components, but the way those components behave together, including filter overload, filter/oscillator drift, and envelope behavior.

What NI has that its rivals don’t is the person who authored that book. (Ahem. In fact, for anyone complaining about Reaktor upgrades, my question for you is, have you mastered Core yet? DSP science? No? Then you should make your own five-year plan wrapping your head around Vadim’s extensive DSP tutorials.)

Many models of the Moog, while aesthetically copying the front panel, are fairly generic in terms of how they actually model the sound. That’s perfectly fine for musical purposes, but it means you don’t get the sorts of dynamic behaviors and sounds you did on the original. So, when Arturia announced they were porting their Minimoog models to the iPad, while that’s nice enough, you could choose instead something that sounds more like a Moog on your computer (Monark), or Moog’s own more creative take on what an iPad could be (Animoog). As far as modeling, Monark simply goes a lot further. (The best competition, as readers observe, is Urs Heckmann’s DIVA. An A/B of those two could e fascinating. But DIVA, unlike Monark, eschews the classic Minimoog front panel for a more complex, knob-laden design, which destroys some of the elegance of the original from a usability perspective. The flipside: DIVA also does more than the Minimoog original, so could appeal to those who want something that extends the original concept.)

None of this will mean much if you’re just tired of monosynths. But even looking to more futuristic instruments, Monark should give you hope. The same filter tech that works here to replicate a classic, decades-old synth could also be applied to more ground-breaking digital instruments to come, too.

(I have more to say about filters, virtual analog, digital, and real analog in regards to the MeeBlip, our own hardware synth project, but that should come … another day.)

Battery 4, for its part, is good news for people who rely on drum samplers. This category is beginning to look threatened, replaced by more general-purpose samplers on one hand, or drum machines on the other. Battery 4, then, fits a significant niche for people who want sophisticated, complex drum samples. You get a workflow designed as such, with drag-and-drop editing to create drum patches and route effects. To that, Battery 4 adds more NI effects, including NI’s recent “Solid Mix” EQ and compressor, a transient follower/effect, tape saturation, low fidelity processor, and convolution reverb. The UI has also been overhauled and looks far clearer and more modern, with a new color coding system to make it easier to follow what you’re doing.

komplete9

Komplete 9, as the latest version of Komplete, remains utterly massive, with 370 GB of soundware for some 65 instruments and effects. You now get the Mix Series for use in your favorite DAW, a string ensemble, the “world’s largest upright piano,” and other additions. In fact, while Native Instruments gets a regular flogging in comments on this site (cough), there’s still not anyone else who offers everything from Reaktor-based interactive instruments to traditional soundware of horns and bass, the full-featured Reaktor development environment and Kontakt sampler and Massive synth in one box. The real challenge for Komplete as a product remains that almost no one would need or even find a way to use all those things. But if you can find some way to use just a fraction of it, the value remains, especially as Komplete is sticking with its reduced price: $ 559 / 449 € for the basic edition. (Ultimate runs you closer to a grand.)

Upgrades start at $ 149 / 149 €, and the software arrives toward the end of the month.

Stay tuned for more details inside the process of designing Monark; I think you’ll like what the engineers have to say.

Komplete @ Native Instruments


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Native Instruments Announces Komplete 9 and Komplete 9 Ultimate (incl. Monark Monosynth and Battery 4 Drum Sampler)

Monday, March 11th, 2013

Native Instruments today announced the latest generation of its two Komplete software bundles. Komplete 9 includes 33 instruments and effects with six new additions, including the brand-new Monark [Read More]
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Muse Research releases Receptor VIP in 3 Configurations (incl. SSDs and Komplete 8)

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Read the full story @ KVR Audio
Muse Research and Development has announced there are now three configurations of their new RECEPTOR VIP dedicated hardware plug-in player. This software-powered music instrument combines the ease o [Read More]
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