Native Instruments remains the unchallenged heavyweight of instruments and effects. Apple’s Logic Studio 8 recently got a formidable upgrade and a big price drop (US$499), but its bundled instruments and effects, behind cosmetic improvements, are largely unchanged from previous versions. Cakewalk, Digidesign and others have also gotten in the ring, but no one can match up to the insanely massive collection of sound production and mangling in NI’s software. So, when NI offers an upgrade, we notice. I’ll be meeting up with NI next week at the AES show for a full preview of the new KOMPLETE kitchen-sink bundle and updated individual apps (plus KORE 2, due in November), but here’s a quick look.
- New Sampler: KONTAKT 3 is the latest version of NI’s flagship sampler, and in terms of raw breadth and depth of features, Kontakt appears to remain at the top of the heap. New in this version: a 1000-instrument, 33 GB sample library, a new looping/slicing/syncing Wave Editor, new envelopes, new amp and cabinet emulations, better browsing, and more. I’m curious to see how the Performance View and the updated KORE stack up to OnStage in Logic 8 (or even what it’s like using both together).
- New Guitar Effects: GUITAR RIG 3 adds new amp models, new matched cabinets, new effects (tape echo and ring mod!), and more. Guitar effects competition is brisk, but Guitar Rig’s edge to me has been its range of sound possibilities, straight out to the bizarre/experimental.
- Addition of Massive: MASSIVE is NI’s latest soft synth, especially geared for “sonic impact” (read, great basses and leads), with drag-and-drop, semi-modular sound creation.
- Lots of updates: Refreshed versions of previous synths include Absynth 4, Akoustik Piano, Battery 3, B4 II, Elektrik Piano, FM8, PRO-53, and Reaktor 5. With the exception of Reaktor, most of these have gotten feature improvements lately, and all have been updated for Vista and Intel Macs.
Partial Bundles, Lower Pricing
One problem with Komplete is that it has so much in it that it really is overkill for many people. There are two fairly sensible partially-complete (INKOMPLETE?) bundles priced at US$449/EUR 399 worth considering. “CLASSICS” includes Akoustik Piano, B4 II, Elektrik Piano, and PRO-53, and seems ideal for a gigging keyboardist. “SYNTHS” hits the electronic lovers with Absynth 4, FM8, Massive, and PRO-53. Still, you lose the sampler, and even as a non-guitarist I’ve found Guitar Rig to be very useful for effects, so if you do have the cash, you should weigh your various options.
KOMPLETE 5 is cheaper now, too: US$1149 / EUR 999 for the whole bundle, and less if you qualify for upgrade pricing. As a software instrument advocate, I have to notice both in my own work and what I’d suggest to others, this makes for a pretty incredible deal. Add Komplete to a host like Logic Studio, SONAR, or Ableton Live, load onto a $1000 laptop, and you’ve got an all-in-one production powerhouse that still costs about the same as a high-end workstation keyboard, even after you add in some extra hardware. In terms of sonic range and flexibility, there isn’t really anything in hardware that compares to the sound set. (Yes, there are still reasons to choose hardware, some having to do with intentionally having less choice. But I’m just sayin’.)
No More Spektral Delay and Vokator
That covers the good news. Here’s the bad news: Spektral Delay and Vokator, two of the more unique effects in NI’s stable, have been end-of-lifed. This to me is really unfortunate, particularly in the case of Vokator. (One option that’s out there: ELS Vocoder, though it requires a dongle, which to me is a big deal-killer.)
Also, there’s no direct equivalent to either in the existing NI suite. Reaktor has some built-in effects and even vocoders, but they’re not quite the same. I’m hopeful this will convince NI to offer these tools free for download; right now, they’re just gone.
Fortunately, NI did update both effects prior to discontinuing them. They’re both Intel Mac-native and Vista-ready, and they’re very stable and mature in their final versions. The problem will be just getting hold of them. I’ll let you know if NI decides to make them available — maybe some well-reasoned, thoughtful letters in support of this will help convince them.
While neither will get any further updates or sales, they do remain supported, and join Intakt and others in the forums:
Discontinued Products [Native Instruments]
October 1 is the promised date for KOMPLETE 5 and associated updates (KONTAKT 3, GUITAR RIG 3), with KORE 2 following in October. We’ll have a look at all of it at AES, so stay tuned.
KOMPLETE 5 [Native Instruments]