The latest product to emerge from the stable is Komplete – a bundle of NI’s biggest and best instruments and sound sets (and considerably cheaper than buying them separately). It takes the bundle to version 8, with Komplete 8 Ultimate being the headline act. Ultimate is exactly double the price of Komplete 8, though various upgrade and crossgrade options also exist.
Our review copy was Komplete 8 Ultimate – the big one, with all the content. Having installed an earlier version of Komplete from DVD some years ago, we very much appreciated the USB 2.0 hard drive that stores the installer content. Komplete 8 still ships on DVDs, so you’ll have to put aside an afternoon to install it. Even installing to an external FireWire drive, as we did, took over an hour. We had assumed that the hard drive would hold the actual samples for everyday use, but this is not the case.
The drive itself is read-only, which means that it cannot be selected as an installation destination for the very large amount of samples content. As a result, during installation you need to select a different drive – your best bet is to use a dedicated drive, since you want access to the content to be as fast as possible. There’s no point in filling up your boot drive with the samples as this will adversely affect performance.
We’re in two minds about this approach. On the one hand, if you follow the instructions to the letter, your NI hard drive will be immediately retired following installation and sit in a box as a backup for the content, should it ever need to be reinstalled. On the other hand, it would have been great to be able to extract the content to the drive itself and have it as your NI content drive, permanently connected as a dedicated sample drive.
It is possible to manually change the permissions on the drive from your Desktop, making it write-enabled. Shifting samples content after installation can be fiddly, though, as the instruments rely on hard links to know where their sounds are. It’s possible but a little tiresome, and not encouraged by NI. Authorisation of Komplete is via the Service Centre application – and you will be relieved to hear that your single serial number authorises all the content in one go.
Once you have completed the install – which is much less of a hassle from the hard drive than from DVDs – you are up and running. Komplete 8 (and particularly the Ultimate bundle) aims to give you a comprehensive range of sound-generation and processing tools. Some of these are new and some have been around for a while, but the price of the Komplete 8 bundles represents a huge saving over buying even half of them separately. Even if you’re more of a funky keyboard player than a Reaktor programmer, for example, there’s still a strong incentive to go for the package rather than buying a few at once.
Loads of styles are covered, from classical pianos to terrifying synths, gritty organs, funky guitars and rock basses, plus all manner of beats. This is really a production toolkit, with instruments that will fit into many types of music at many stages of composition or performance.
The content is divided broadly into a couple of categories: synths and sample-based instruments; within these are things that are ‘powered by’ (loaded inside) Kontakt and Reaktor. The major instruments come both in standalone and plug-in versions, so you get maximum flexibility in terms of how you use them. There’s so much content that there’s not time here for a detailed description of everything, but you can find in-depth information on NI’s website, as well as audio demos.
First up, the synths. Massive is NI’s heavyweight synthesizer, particularly good at generating gritty, authentic dubstep basses, but here you get 750 new sounds thrown in. Absynth 5 is much-loved by sound designers for its cinematic quality as well as advanced sound-morphing and surround capabilities. In Komplete 8 you get 400 new sounds with it.
Razor, which runs inside Reaktor, is a fearsome additive synth with plenty of user-defineable controls. It sounds blisteringly modern, urgent and hard and will suit anyone making up-to-the-minute electronic music.
The new Retro Machines MK2 is a nifty, Kontakt-powered instrument based on vintage analogue synths. It’s fun to use and sounds great. The venerable FM8 synth gets 200 new sounds, and Reaktor Spark and Prism are more unusual synths based on complex Reaktor ensembles.
You will have noticed numerous references to Kontakt and Komplete, but as well as acting as containers for other instruments they are, of course, environments in themselves. Kontakt 5 is an advanced software sampler with extensive sound-shaping capabilities and the facility to let you create your own multi-sampled instruments. New in version 5 are a number of effects, including the Solid G-EQ, Solid Bus Compressor, Transient Master and Tape Saturator. There are 37 new filters, vintage sampling modes and advanced time-stretching algorithms. Version 5 also includes 16 additional internal busses for flexible effect routing inside Multis and instruments.
The vast majority of the samples-based instruments in Komplete 8 are powered by Kontakt, so you’ll spend a lot of time with it (and it’s a remarkably powerful tool). If you don’t like the fiddly patch selection involved in navigating the installed libraries, use the far more elegant database search function to find sounds quickly. Each sound library has its own controls, but Kontakt organises things well, so you should find your way around pretty quickly.
Reaktor 5.6 is essentially a modular tool designed for making your own effects and instruments. It’s an extremely powerful but also fairly advanced environment that isn’t for the faint-hearted. Programmers will love its near-infinite possibilities, though, while beginners may steer clear.
The sheer size of a Komplete installation is the result of the samples content of the various instruments and collections that you load into Kontakt. These are largely collected from NI’s existing range, but taken together provide an excellent palette of sounds. Session Strings Pro is gorgeous-sounding and rich, placing an 11-piece string ensemble at your fingertips. Evolve Mutations 1 and 2 are ready-made for TV, film and game soundtrack composition, offering a stunning range of cinematic textures and hits.
You’ll not be short of drums with Komplete 8 Ultimate – there’s a number of kits on offer covering all sorts of beats. The new Studio Drummer contains three acoustic kits, its own mixer and effects section, plus more than 3,500 beats and fills. In short it’s an excellent all-round drum solution.
Also new is West Africa, a collection of ethnic percussion sounds with a built-in pattern sequencer. Four separate Abbey Road drum sets make up the 60s, 70s, 80s and the Modern collections, all incorporating precise mixing and effect controls.
Maschine Drum Collection gives you a taste of Maschine’s beats in a separate instrument; Balinese Gamelan brings a touch of the Far East to proceedings. Last, but certainly not least, Battery 3 is a fully featured drum sampler with endless tweaking potential and a 12GB sound library.
Guitar Rig 5 Pro is the newest version of NI’s modular guitar and bass effect software. We have long been a fan of Guitar Rig and this version is more powerful than ever, even housing some brand-new effects of its own, including the Solid Mix Series, Traktor’s 12 FX, Transient Designer, Reflektor reverb and Vintage Compressors. There are five Scarbee electric bass instruments plus Funk Guitarist, a collection of rhythmic loops complete with different playing styles.
Pianos and keys are well catered for, too, and most of what NI does so well – multi-sampled keyboard instruments – is on show here. Alicia’s Keys is a gorgeous-sounding Yamaha C3; you also get New York, Vienna and Berlin concert grand pianos plus an upright model, each meticulously sampled and with all the controls you would expect, including tonality, room size, damper controls and more.
Fans of electromechanical keys get the highly authentic-sounding Scarbee Clavinet, Rhodes and Wurlitzer. George Duke Soul Treasures is a collection of sampled soul phrases with time-stretching for fitting into any project. Finally, the Vintage Organs collection contains all the swirling Hammonds and Farfisas you could ever need. Additionally, there are various audio effects that are not part of any instrument, including the VC compressors, The Mouth (an audio harmonizer) and The Finger, a real-time remix and mash-up plug-in.
Komplete 8 provides a huge amount of content that covers music production all the way from acoustic ballads to hardcore underground electronica via soundtrack composition and more or less anything else you can think of. The difference between Komplete 8 and the Ultimate version is mostly in the content rather than the functionality. You still get the flagship products and almost all of the synths, plus at least one product from the other main categories, usually more.
For the price, both represent extremely good value, although perhaps only the more serious or commercial musician could justify the Ultimate bundle. Most of the instruments are mature in software terms – in their fourth or fifth revisions – and these form the backbone of the collection, with many instruments running inside Kontakt or Reaktor. As a result, stability, usability and functionality are excellent. The fact that they are all from one developer also makes life easier when it comes to updates and support.
Komplete 8 Ultimate is an outstanding sonic toolbox – a serious collection of synths, instruments and effects that are for the most part easy to learn and use, but have a tremendous depth of tweaking possibilities. The regular bundle is also a very appealing proposition, with most of the tools and a decent amount of the same content. Whichever you choose, you won’t be running out of ideas any time soon.
Vast amount of content
Get all of NI’s flagship synths and samplers
Huge range of sounds
Easy to learn and use
More complex programming available if you want it
WALK ON BY
Hard drive supplied as read-only
You’ll probably need an additional dedicated hard drive
An astonishingly comprehensive set of instruments and effects that can rightly call itself ‘Komplete’. Excellent value and great-sounding, there’s something here for almost every kind of musician.