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

  • Ryan Dean

    Ill be supremely pissed if they lock those macros

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      They did. ;) But it seems some of the filter objects are there in Reaktor – and see the tutorials above. There are some possibilities for reusing Monark in your Reaktor ensembles, too – you just can’t get to the lowest level of what they’ve done. (Then again, you might not want to – I’m not sure all the Core stuff would be intelligible, as I expect it’s fairly advanced.)

    • Ryan Dean

      That’s so messed up. The whole value of Reaktor is the user library and all of the crazy things that people like JAL for instance have made and freely shared. NI has always benefited from this and then they send strongly anti-community messages with this type of behavior. I’m familiar with those tutorials and they’ve been available for quite some time.. does nothing to mitigate the fact that this is wrong. Either everyone should be able to lock macros or no one – Period. TT is selling professionally made ensembles, so why can’t they lock their structures? The thing that pisses me of is I’ve sent NI numerous outlines years ago detailing the evolution of Reaktor as a Halo product which can make their other products and allow for a sort of cottage industry among amateur developers. Of course they ignored all of that and proceeded to offer this environment for $99 dollars and then neglected the shit out of it for what like a decade with zero communication about it’s roadmap. Said one thing and did another – That kind of shit is not appreciated or cute. I’ve always defended them despite their anti-user behavior but if they do this F that… classic stupid business move..forgetting what got you where you are. I’m glad I made the decision to pick up Max years ago!

    • don dada

      which macros in particular are locked?
      the filters?
      the oscillators?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I’m sorry, this is my fault and I’m clarifying – please stay tuned as I’ll talk to the devs about this.

      Also, there’s what’s locked now, and what may be available in a future version of Reaktor. I will certainly pass along that people badly want reusable components from Monark.

    • soup

      If NI lock the macros they get the gasface plain and simple.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Out of curiosity, *why*? They at least release a number of the macros unlocked – oscillators and whatnot – making it more reusable.

      They could simply have chosen not to release it as a Reaktor ensemble. So, essentially, you’re punishing them more for having some things unlocked than if they’d had *nothing* unlocked.

    • soup

      Reaktor has always been open, the whole fun of the program has always been that I can get under the hood of everything and frankenstein together things that I want. Locking macros points to a brave new world that scares me. Honestly most of the modern ensembles are already too complex for me to easily reuse the parts from but DRM within Reaktor!? That smells of doom.

    • lollerblades

      Because other developers could simply reverse engineer the DSP routines, and release them in their own VST instruments. It doesn’t make sense for NI to spend research and development funding on new DSP, and then give it away. This isn’t some sort of 1984-type conspiracy, just business.

    • soup

      I’ve realized that I don’t actually know what locked macros mean and apparently there already is 1 so I’m waiting to hear details but … I wasn’t trying to imply big brother just that Reaktor has always been open and both the users and NI have benefited from that openness and any move away from that openness is deeply troubling to the future of Reaktor. Reverse engineering goes hand in hand with Reaktor, there wouldn’t be a user library worth mentioning without it.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yes, but Native Instruments doesn’t release Reaktor patches for everything they do. This isn’t news. See the pages and pages and pages of DSP documentation and Core tutorials – that should keep the User Library busy for some time to come. ;)

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Right, so instead of being frustrated for not being able to see a *subset* of macros in this instrument – macros really very specific to the Minimoog model here – you should take advantage of the pages of copious tutorials on Core. Not only do these walk you through how to build your own stuff in Reaktor, but they’re far more generally applicable to what you’re likely to do.

    • Jonathan Adams Leonard

      You aren’t the only one.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      There will certainly be some components to reuse – I’m finding out which. Stay tuned.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robin-Parmar/100000245432932 Robin Parmar

      I have a suggestion for those who want useful analogue synth components unlocked inside Reaktor… check out the Reaktor User Library. I honestly doubt that Monark adds much to what creative folk have already accomplished, except its pretty face. This is a product for people who want a slick packaged solution. It should be seen for what it is.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robin-Parmar/100000245432932 Robin Parmar

      Some examples from my favourites:

      Oberheim OB-X: OB-Y by ZooTooK
      ARP Quadra: ARP Quadra by Mike Novak
      Roland SH-101: SH-111 by NI
      MiniMoog: ManyMood by NI
      PolyMoog: Polymojo by ZooTooK
      Solina String Machine: Solina-V by Hugo Portillo
      EMS Synthi AKS: Synth-In-A-Case by ZooTooK

  • http://twitter.com/Morpion_IDM Martin Herron

    Any details on how tightly Battery 4 integrates with Maschine?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I wondered that on this color coding; I’ll ask.

    • heinrich zwahlen

      i think nothin new there , besides the updated Library integration..

    • heinrich zwahlen

      Looks like the browser is now using a similar tagging system like M

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=738178514 El Blipo

    Upgrades from Battery 3, is that happening?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I expect so; it wasn’t mentioned in the PR but upgrade pricing generally wasn’t, as it’s complex. Check your user account and let us know what you see? (it may not show up until later this month, though)

    • waldemaR

      @ my account show’s 149€.

  • http://twitter.com/marvotron Normalised

    Seems the reason that reaktor was in the monark video is because monark is built in reaktor.

  • Heinrich Zwahlen

    This should be new fuel for the hardware vs software sound quality debate and just at a time when many thought digital was so over :) Like you said, Monark is bound to open a chapter and raise the bar for software synthesis. I love the sound of Diva as well, but i’m not sure if it’s quite on the level of Monark technically since it is somewhat of a cpu hog..

    • John S

      I think the current situation is, that dsp is limited to processing power of the computers owned by the end users. So when a plugin like Diva hogs CPU, it can only be a good thing to know that there is plenty going on under the hood. I would personally prefer to see more CPU hogging software, if the reason for CPU usage was simply because the developer didn’t want to compromise on quality!

  • ZooTooK

    To leave a flagship product to sleep for a near decade and then promote the bug fix of OSC and a GUI touch-up to be the next big version of Reaktor would have been very unfortunate and not apprechiated by the user base, IMO. NI appears to understand that too. Core is left there at 1.0 with many things to be completed, not saying it’s unusable but there is a long list of obvious improvements to be done. Also the graphics side of Reaktor needs a big overhaul to be contemporary. It’s going to be interesting to see how those Core macros can be used by the Reaktor community, locked down of not.

  • gLOW-x

    I heard the filter on a vid…aggressive madness !

    Last time i was so excited plugin-wise was ACE and Synth Squad release ;) .
    (Not LuSH-101, because i don’t like the “character”.And too much teasing)
    First time (if i remember well) there was zero latency filter and audio rate modulation.
    I crossed the line between hardware/software sound with those two releases.

    Try their NI Driver plugin, very nice.

    PS : i wish they will create another more modern synth, because even if the sound is good, i’m totally bored by this “emulation of old synths design” mania.If Bob Moog thought like this, we will play only Ondes Martenot or Theremin ;)

  • A

    Can you use the filter in monark for external audio?

    Why do they lock stuff? Does it reveal techniques that a developer could use outside of reaktor? Wouldn’t that be copywritable? Feels like gross behavior when they’re ripping off moog’s graphic design in monark.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I need to clarify this, sorry – was traveling right as they handed me over the copy for review, too. But there is already one of these filter implementations in Reaktor. And I think you will see some more reusable components. Don’t despair … yet. ;)

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      And yes, engineers are protective of their work, too – also, my general feeling is that you don’t *necessarily* want to see the innards of everyone’s code or patch. Making it something that’s useful when people share it is a challenge unto itself. That’s not to say I do or don’t support the locking decision, that’s their call, but I *would* say, if you intend other people to see what you’ve done, you might do some… housecleaning. ;) It’s something I think about a lot as I consider sharing patches, code, and our MeeBlip synth.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.sparks3 Chris Sparks

      I would think you want the option to see anything you can get your hands on, especially if you’re learning Reaktor or want to integrate part of Monark in another Reakter ensemble.

  • geoff smith

    Hi Peter it is articles like this that remind me why CDM is set to my homepage. The background info on the DSP design etc. its all really interesting. Thankyou for some fascinating background information and making a bit more sense of why Monark may be a significance addition to a crowded marketplace.
    GEoff

  • maui john

    The DSP tutorials you reference in this article are not on native instruments site anymore with the links you provide. Are they still available somewhere?

  • Michael Coelho

    I’m still on Komplete 6. As someone who likes the NI universe, Komplete 9 at the $149 upgrade price offers a lot of value. I use and like Guitar Rig, so moving from V4 to V5 of that program plus all the new synths and sample libraries is a no brainer.