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Native Instruments Komplete 8 Ultimate

December 13, 2012
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If you suffer option anxiety while contemplating the ever-expanding universe of amazing recording and production software out there, this über-bundle comprising 50 products and 240GB of samples will almost certainly exacerbate your affliction. If, however, you lust for lots of creative options—and the idea of possessing a huge arsenal of extraordinary instruments and processors in a comparatively inexpensive package appeals to you—read on.

At the core of Komplete 8 Ultimate are Native Instruments’ flagship products— all of which have become staples for musicians, composers, recording engineers, producers, sound designers, and DJs. Here, we’ll look briefly at what’s included in the bundle, highlight what’s new in Guitar Rig Pro 5, and point out a few specific items that may also be of particular interest to guitarists with home studios.

K8U’s software is organized into eight categories (detailed information about everything included in the bundle can be found on the Native Instruments website):

Kontakt 5: The latest version of this super-flexible sampler sports myriad new features and includes a diverse sound library containing more than 1,000 different instruments, as well as offering compatibility with numerous third-party sample libraries.

Reaktor 5: An exhaustively robust “modular studio” comprising more than 70 synthesizers, instruments, and effects (with thousands more available via NI’s online User Library).

 
 The interface for Kontakt 5.
Creative and Studio Effects:
An assortment of compressors, EQs, and reverbs (some modeled on classic designs), along with several entirely unique processors.

Drums and Percussion: The highly customizable Battery 3 drum and percussion sampler (containing more than 100 acoustic and electronic kits), Studio Drummer, Abbey Road Drums (’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and Modern sets), Balinese Gamelan, West Africa, and more.

Strings and Cinematic: The Session Strings Pro orchestral instrument sets, as well as the Evolve Mutations and Evolve Mutations II sound-design engines.

Pianos and Keys: Alicia’s Keys, Vintage Organs, George Duke Soul Treasures, and many more.

Synthesizers: A collection of additional synths, including Retro Machines, Razor, Absynth 5, FM8, and Massive (most featuring hundreds of new sounds).

Guitar and Bass: Guitar Rig Pro 5, Ramfire, Scarbee Funk Guitarist (and three bass programs).

Rather than enduring the grueling and lengthy process of installing dozens of products individually from DVDs, all of the software included with K8U comes on an external USB hard drive, and may be installed in one fell swoop. The drive is “read only,” however, and just for installation purposes. The software and sample libraries still reside on one of your drives. You only need a single serial number to authorize everything via the NI Service Center application—a truly beautiful thing. And speaking of the Service Center app, it will also keep you apprised of NI’s frequent updates, as well as facilitate their easy installation.

I tested the software on a 3.33GHz 6-core Apple Mac Pro with 13GB of RAM, running Lion 10.7.4. The RTAS and AAX plug-in versions were tested in Avid Pro Tools 10 Native, and I also tested standalone versions when available. The installation went without a hitch, and registration was equally swift and painless.

 
 The interface for Guitar rig Pro 5, showing the Amp Components (left) and a rig based on the Hot Solo + amp (right).
A Look at Guitar Rig Pro 5

Guitar Rig Pro 5 adds several significant features to NI’s popular amp/effects modeling software, as well as increasing its overall firepower. For starters, there are two new amp models: The Van 51 goes after the Peavey 5150 sound, and the Hot Solo+ reaches for Soldano Hot Rod 50 Plus tones (bringing the total number of guitar amp models to 16).

On the effects side, there are six additional processors: Fast Comp (a handy basic compressor with fast attack and three presets), Vintage Verb (eight very nice spring and plate reverbs), Little Reflektor (nine useful convolution reverb patches based on algorithms from the Reflektor reverb plug, which is also included with GRP5), Stereo Tune (a great-sounding de-tuner and image enhancer), Filterbank (sort of like a non-modulating Moogerfooger MuRF), and Resochord (a bank of six comb filters that produces a variety of cool and unusual harmonic effects).

What is more, Control Room Pro is a significant update that combines the original Control Room and Cabinets & Mics sections. You can still blend up to eight different cab/miking setups as before, but now there are 27 cabinets instead of five, 16 microphones instead of eight, and a choice of three mic positions. Also, the very handy Container feature lets you create multi-effects/channel strip presets, and assign eight key parameters to macro controls for easy editing. Finally, several dynamics processors and other modules now offer Side-Chain control capabilities, for keying response using external audio sources—a very nice touch that will be of particular interest to recording engineers and producers.

Setting the Latency on my MOTU 828 MkII audio interface to 32 samples resulted in nearly immediate response to picked notes, and consequently a very natural feel. I can’t say for sure if this is an improvement over the previous version of Guitar Rig, as any differences would likely be subtle, but I can say that I found all of the current models to be remarkably responsive to playing dynamics, and, in most cases, they sounded and felt realistic enough to be quite satisfying. They certainly sounded great when either tracking or re-amping previously recorded dry tracks.

As for the new high-gain Van 51 and Hot Solo+ models, they both pack the requisite guts, oomph, and sustain to get you in the ballpark of the amps they emulate, and, given that the choice of high-gain amp models was previously a little limited, they are welcome additions. Again, I’m not sure if the revamped architecture of version 5 upped the amp ante overall, but I found a lot to like when dialing in the various new components and presets. My favorite Guitar Rig amp model, however, is still High White, which captures much of the vibe of a vintage Hiwatt, especially when paired with the High White 4x12 cab and set for clean and medium-gain crunch tones. Besides sounding great on its own, High White makes the perfect base for constructing complex rigs incorporating lots of pedal and rack effects. And speaking of effects, it is worth noting that all of the effects available for use with amp models may also be used as “outboard” effects processors within your DAW when recording and mixing tracks of any kind. Guitar Rig has always been one of the top applications of its type, and Guitar Rig Pro 5 expands upon that legacy, resulting in a more powerful, flexible, and easier to use tone-crafting tool.

Beyond Guitar

While Guitar Rig Pro 5 will likely be of most interest to GP readers, guitarists with studios will find lots more to sink their teeth into. For example, the hundreds of drum kits contained in Battery 3, Studio Drummer, and the five Abbey Road sets—not to mention all the ethnic and orchestral percussion instruments found elsewhere—will combine nicely with any of the hundreds of available sampled and synth bass sounds to craft rhythm tracks suitable for any musical style. Want to add an acoustic grand piano, vintage keyboard (electric pianos, organs, analog synths, Mellotrons, etc.), or cuttingedge synth and sampler sounds to the mix? There are literally thousands to choose from. And if a string section suits your sonic fancy, Session Strings Pro not only provides greatsounding samples with lots of control over organization, tone, articulation, and ambience— its Animation capabilities even help you play the instruments realistically.

Given that Guitar Rig Pro 5 retails for $199 and Reaktor 5 and Kontakt 5 are $399 each, purchasing Komplete 8 Ultimate essentially gets you 47 additional products ($59- $339 each) for free. Alternatively, you can get those first three and 24 additional products— sans the convenience of installation via hard drive—for $559 by purchasing the slightly less complete Komplete 8 bundle. Ultimate or not, Komplete may be the last software package you’ll need to purchase for a long time—maybe ever.

Specifications

Contact Native Instruments, (866) 556-6487; native-instruments.com
Price $1,099 retail/$999 street
System (Win) Windows 7 (latest Requirements Service Pack, 32/64 bit), Intel Core Duo or AMD Athlon 64 X2, 2GB RAM; (Mac) Mac OS X 10.6 or 10.7 (latest update), Intel Core Duo, 2GB RAM
Formats VST, AU, RTAS (Pro Tools 9 or higher), ASIO, AAX
Kudos Extraordinary collection of outstanding instruments and processors. Excellent value.
Concerns Read-only hard drive.

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