KORE2′s new face reveals its second generation is already looking much closer to our original desire for the tool: give us a powerful, accessible environment for treating plug-ins like modular building blocks.

The first KORE may be hanging out in my closet at the moment. But the new KORE2 makes it look like someone got into my brain and imagined my wish list for the tool. I’ll know in June, when KORE: the sequel ships. Here’s a first look.

I’ll be honest: KORE was one of the bigger disappointments of 2006 for me and many of my colleagues. Being ambitious with a product means taking risks, and for my musical needs, at least, KORE didn’t initially pay off. Many features in the first release were missing or didn’t work right. While these functionality issues were largely addressed over the summer, they left a bad taste in the mouth of many users, and KORE still left many wondering what they would do with the thing. I know a few musicians who got really into KORE as the heart of their performance setup, as NI intended. I also know others who found it literally collecting dust, and many more who just skipped over it entirely. Of course, we’re spoilt for choice from NI alone: you could easily become a hermit and spend the rest of your life programming just Reaktor or Kontakt.

Some terrific ideas and design went into KORE. But KORE2 needs to be more. It may not be the “ultimate sound platform” for everyone — that’s a marketing concept; I’m not sure we’d ever actually want that. But the challenge for KORE2 is, for at least its “core” market of sound-sculpting software mavens, can it become a tool we want to use? Can it make us clear late evenings to play around with sound creation, not only for preset lovers, but sound designers and live performers, too?

A look at what NI is planning suggests KORE could well be reborn as a tool sound designers will love. In short:

  1. Integrated sound engines. One of NI’s challenges with KORE was that they had to compete with themselves, with the incredible sound engines of their flagship Reaktor, Absynth, Guitar Rig, Kontakt, and (more recently) FM8 and Massive. Now, those sound engines are integrated into KORE. What that means, exactly, I’m still working out, but it sounds like a major step in the right direction.
  2. Included sounds. KORE also inexplicably failed to include internal sounds. Now that it has internalized sound engines, it can run 500 presets off the internal engines. In other words, if you don’t own NI’s instrument/effect suite Komplete, you can make sound with KORE out of the box.
  3. Sonic variations. Build up to eight variations of each sound, then morph between them. This sounds to me like a great way to better organize presets and set up variations for performance.
  4. Custom categories. No more squeezing into arbitrary sound categories someone else made up. Want to find your favorite “meeblippiriffic” sounds? Now you can.
  5. Batch-transfer third-party presets. This could greatly ease one of KORE’s originally-promised tasks — helping you keep track of all those presets. Whether you’re a sound design addict or preset lover, that could be good news, indeed.
  6. Drag and drop MIDI/audio routing. One of the best things about NI’s new Massive instrument is its drag-and-drop, modular routing of signal. The new Sound Matrix channel grid in KORE takes a similar approach to KORE sounds, for routing audio and MIDI signal between instruments and effects and within channels. Now we’re talking: this is the kind of modularity I wanted in my sound creation platform.
  7. Step, arpeggiate, effect. A badly-needed, freely-assignable step sequencer and arpeggiator are now part of the package, as are 30 new effects algorithms. (As a big fan of NI’s effects, I’ll be interested to see what’s in there.)
  8. New hardware. More compact and lightweight, no audio interface (which was overkill to begin with, especially since it lacked XLR in), and better integrated with the on-screen interface (which was the point).

Now we’re talking. Real routing and modular power, step sequencers and arpeggiators, and variations could make KORE into a powerful sound platform. And the integration of NI’s sound engines promises to make a useful KORE-only setup a reality, as well as answering the question of what KORE does that other solutions don’t. If NI successfully streamlines the on-screen and hardware interfaces, KORE2 could provide the workflow that KORE just didn’t quite accomplish.

I once heard someone describe KORE as a “solution in search of a problem.” There, I have to adamantly disagree: as we observed in January 2006 when KORE was unveiled, the need for such a product is absolutely clear. In most software setups, categorizing presets is a pain, especially across plug-ins, and despite software’s theoretical flexibility, once you move outside an individual plug-in, you lose the ability to truly combine instruments and effects in modular fashion. It’s hard to navigate sounds from a keyboard or instrument once you’re away from the computer screen, and performance setups aren’t portable. KORE didn’t quite solve these problems without introducing some new ones, but KORE2 might. I look forward to testing it; you’ll be the first to hear how it goes.

Availability: June 2007
Pricing: US$499 (EUR449); upgrade pricing TBA
NATIVE INSTRUMENTS: KORE 2 [Product Page]

  • JDSampo

    I'm curious how the "integrated sound engine" relates to the respective NI products. For example, would I be able to program a patch in Absynth (which I own) and then play it back in Kore without having Absynth present? That's what it sounds like but NI could have been a little clearer on that point.

    –JD

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Yeah, that's the point that confused me, too. They're a bit tricky to reach while they're in Frankfurt, but I'm working on a follow-up.

  • http://www.emulsionmusic.com emulsion

    I actually dig Kore 1 – although not being a preset user I found that much of it's functionality wasn't very useful for me.

    I am curious about upgrading, and whether there will be seperate pricing for upgrading just software, or hardware and software. I do have to say that the audio ports on the back of my kore have never gotten used, and I don't expect they will be any time soon.

  • Michael Pearson

    Wait, wait, so if I upgrade my copy of Kore, do I get the new hardware interface, too? Kore was a bit of a dissapointment for me, too, and I'm thinking that I should just cut my losses and ebay the damn thing.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    NI hasn't released any details on upgrades for existing customers. (They may not have decided yet!) I can't tell how different the new hardware interface is; that would seem to be the primary question for the necessity of that part of the upgrade. As soon as I know anything, I'll pass it along.

    I'm most excited about the software changes, though.

    And I wasn't necessarily slamming KORE 1; I think expectations were set very high.

  • Michael Pearson

    Peter: the image on their webpage makes it look exactly like the v1 interface.

    Also, I'm not sure it's a good idea if they scrap the audio interface. The less gear I need to manage onstage the better.

    The big thing for me would be an arpeggiator. I was silly enough to think that they're such a no brainer these days that it'd already be included. I guess I can fake it with BOME or with each plugin, but…

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Michael, yeah, noticed that. I actually wonder if they haven't had time to shoot the new model. ;)

    I agree about having less gear to manage. The problem is that, unless that's exactly the I/O you need, it's a bit overkill and you'll want something else anyway.

  • moni

    I can see both sides of the sound interface issue. It's certainly not going to replace most folks studio setups, but for many people's live setups, it may just be the ticket.

    I'm curious to know how many of you that play live use your sound interface as a mixer… vs. carrying along a separate mixer. In my studio setup, my mixer & interface are the same unit with ample ins & outs… but it probably isn't something I'd want to lug around. (fw1082)

    As for upgrading from K1->K2, I'd love to be able to upgrade to the Kore 2 software & run the Kore 1 hardware. As others mentioned, the Kore2 hardware looks almost identical to the Kore 1 unit. I think $99 upgrade for the software only would be a fair price. What do you think?

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Okay, never mind. I was completely wrong. There's a 360-degree rotating view of the new controller, and you're right — that's what's in the pictures, and it's impossible to tell it from the original. I'm assuming once I see it in person I'll be able to tell how it's "more compact", but I can't now. I agree that losing audio could actually be a pain in some situations. I'll try to talk to them about what their motivations were. Design is always about trade-offs, of course — but something made them change their mind from the previous design.

  • Michael Pearson

    The businessman in me beleives it's because they want to sell more Kontrol units :)

    Looking at the 360 view it looks exactly like the Kore 1 controller just without the audio, which is a bit silly. I'd be sold if they improved the tensile feel of the controller buttons, which have always felt a little too soft for me, and improve the readability of the LCD.

    Otherwise, after a nights sleep, I'm beginning to think that Kore 2 and the Kore 1 hardware might be a great live platform.

  • moni

    @Michael Pearson

    I'm with you regarding the setup!

  • Machines

    I certainly hope it is better than the original. I really wanted to get into the original, learn how it worked and organize the massive preset libraries of Komplete 4. Especially now that I feel it's a bit harder to navigate those presets with the new browser interface without KORE. Problem is, I downloaded the demo of KORE and couldn't get it to do anything. No support materials, the forums were unresponsive and I didn't want to spend an hour trying to figure out something that if NI was demoing should have been so easy to use that it made me want to run out and buy it the next day.

    I hope KORE 2 is 100% more user friendly and has a demo available that actually works.

  • moni

    @machines

    Was the manual available? Imo it's definitely one of those things you have to read or at least go through the short tutorials due to the potential power & potential complexity of the application.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Surely they included a PDF manual in the demo install? If not, that's obviously a must! (I like that some are doing video tutorials, etc., to get beginners going.)

    I did read the manual, but the bigger issue for me down the road was I just couldn't find a workflow that felt productive. It felt like extra work without a payoff. I see the potential, though, and I like what I see so far of the interface changes. I don't mind things being tough to learn (well, in case you haven't guessed), but I do want to feel like I'm making music in the process! So, I look forward to trying KORE 2 and seeing if it works better.

    I still have the KORE 1 hardware, so you can bet I'll test with it and do some size comparisons, etc.

  • moni

    Peter, you're making me laugh ;) From the looks of things, the controller is going to be the same exact size! It would be pretty expensive to retool/redesign for what is essentially the same product.

    Anyway, no worries.

    As you said, videos would be nice. The marketing videos they had on the site were definitely light on the content & borderline annoying.

    From the workflow perspective, what issues were you bumping into?

  • RichardL

    Supposedly you can buy KORE 1 for something like $270 now and register it after April 1. Then you will get a free upgrade to the new software.

  • moni
  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @moni: NI said the controller was smaller, lest you think I made that up. :) I agree it looks the same in the image, but we'll have to see it in person. NI's press release:

    "The KORE 2 hardware now focuses completely on control functionality and does not integrate an

    audio interface, allowing for a smaller footprint, less weight and an overall reduced price. Further improvements like a USB cable hook and a anti-theft lock option specifically accommodate live performers."

    Yeah, sounds like a bit of a rationalization for taking something *out*, but since there is a price break and it weighs less / is smaller, it might well be a good thing.

    Taking advantage of the special could pay off, but you'll do so at your own risk. NI has not announced anything on pricing. That almost certainly means it's not "free." You might still wind up ahead, of course, but there's no way of knowing for sure.

  • Damon

    This is a much better box than has been getting credit for, but I wonder if the fact that it borrows a bit of headroom might have turned folks off… Ya, you can run a Mini Moog emulation with a reactor patch, and that is about it unless you got a very fast computer.

    I think not to long in the future, when folks again start upgrading their since antiquated machines, Kore is gonna be a much easier to justify purchase. Good thing…

    I also hope they can better integrate 3rd party plug ins along with the NI programs, as this will make Kore much more desirable for those who have not much been into the NI stuff, assuming such persons actually exist.

    Also, it is not too difficult to relegate this thing to merely the status of a plug in organizer, and unless the sound design premise is better integrated and promoted, allowing you to really route your way to sonic madness, being organized is not gonna easily tip the scales towards a purchase.

  • Machines

    I'll have to download the demo again and see if the manual is in there. I didn't notice it last time, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there. I did follow some step by step thing online that didn't seem to generate any results, but it was probably late at night and my brain wasn't functioning at full capacity…lol.

    I love the idea behind it and as someone who uses a lot of the stuff in Komplete, being able to easily categorize sounds would be a huge benefit.

  • RichardL

    > NI has not announced anything on pricing. That almost certainly means it’s not “free.”

    According to AudioMIDI the upgrade will be free if you register after 4/1.

    http://www.audiomidi.com/KORE-P7903.aspx

  • moni

    good thing I haven't registered mine yet!

  • RichardL

    June has come and gone. NI now lists KORE 2 as being available in the fall. I guess we really don't want them to release it until it's done anyway.