Review: Komplete 12 by Native Instruments
Native Instruments has released a new version of their massive collection - Komplete. I'm always SO excited when NI announces one of these, because its always a great chance to get tons of new products for dirt cheap. This time they pushed the boundaries even further by offering 900 GB of sounds in their new Ultimate Collectors Edition, an absolutely staggering amount of instruments, plug-ins, and samples.
In the image below you can see the various options NI is offering for Komplete 12. They have Select, regular, Ultimate, and Ultimate Collectors Edition. This time around they're including Expansions, which are like preset and sample packs created around certain genre's or musical applications. Which version you pick will highly depend on which instruments, expansions, plug-ins, and samples you need. I've been following the Ultimate edition for a couple years, so I went for the Ultimate Collector's Edition.
Komplete 12 Select: $199
Komplete 12: $599
Komplete 12 Ultimate: $1,199
Komplete 12 Ultimate Collector's Edition: $1,599
Its important to note that if you already own one of these versions NI will give you an upgrade or a crossgrade price, heavily discounted off the base cost depending on which version you own.
Want to know what I think are the best Kontakt libraries in every category (like orchestral, synthesizer, and ambient)? Check out my blog post on the topic.
Whats New? - A lot
Kontakt is world's most popular sampler, and its been long due for an upgrade. This time around they've added wavetable synthesis, which is an absolute game-changer for Kontakt developers. They've also included a KSP IDE of sorts to help with scripting and library development, we'll see how helpful it actually is but it sounds incredible. There are also some new effects added such as new reverbs, delays, amps, and more.
I've made a tutorial showing how to create a wavetable instrument in Kontakt 6. Overall its very easy, you just drop your wavetable file into the mapping editor and use the position / phase controls to tune the sound. I'm not sure how the scripting will work for these, but I'd imagine its just as easy as any other control.
In addition to the functionality of Kontakt 6, they've included 3 new "Kontakt Play Series" libraries: Analog Dreams, Ethereal Earth, and Hybrid Keys. All three of these are excellent libraries capable of very diverse sounds - they give about a total of 8-10GB of sounds in a very elegant GUI. Check out my demo's playing around with these instruments in the videos below.
Hybrid Keys - a collection of excellent acoustic pianos, electronic keyboards, organs, mallets, and more.
Analog Dreams - a collection of nostalgic synthesizer sounds for your next 80's track.
Ethereal Earth - a collection of ambient, spacious, and cinematic instruments.
New Included Instruments
Every time Komplete comes up NI increases the amount of products included. So if you skipped buying something in the past year, its probably included here for a discounted price. This time there are some very interesting inclusions, i'm using the Ultimate edition here as a reference so check the comparison chart to see exactly what each version has.
TRK-01 - A unique bass / kick sequencer and sound sculpting tool
TRK-01 allows you to independently sequence bass and kick grooves, while assigning modulation settings for every step. Its an incredibly powerful tool and the presets alone could inspire hundreds of tracks. Check out this demo I did exploring the sounds of TRK-01.
Thrill - Cinematic atmospheres, clusters, textures, and hits
Kinetic Toys - Vintage children's toys fused with synthesizers
Effect Series Crush Pack - Elegant, colorful, and creative modern twists on distortion, bit-crushing, and FM
Driver is a filter and distortion plugin with envelope following and oscillator modulation. Its amazing how the envelope follower really makes a groove come alive, I can imagine using this on industrial drums to really dirty them up. Check out this demo I did exploring the sounds of Driver on drums.
Effect Series Mod Pack - Three classic modulation effects with new twists
Strummed Acoustic 2 - Vintage 6 and 12 string guitars, pattern based acoustic guitar sampler
Session Guitarist Electric Sunburst - A playable pattern based electric guitar same instrument
Electric Sunburst is a fantastic tool for people who don't play guitar to add some very realistic guitar parts to their tracks, whilst keeping a lot of control. Traditional sampling gives you a lot of control but loses a lot of the realism during performance. Loops of guitar parts take away almost all control. The Session Guitarist series is a hybrid approach that allows you to play patterns of electric guitar parts - kind of like Output Arcade, except specialized in guitar songs (and NI did this first). Check out this video I did exploring the sounds of Electric Sunburst.
Discovery Series Middle East - A collection of sampled middle eastern instruments
Session Strings Pro 2 - A flexible 22 piece string ensemble
Want some free sounds? Head on over to the Genera Studios store, and click the 'Free' page!
NI has included 50 expansions with the Ultimate Collectors Edition, with less included for cheaper packages. For a full list of the expansions included with each version, check out their comparison chart. These will give you ~40GB of samples, presets, loops, one-shots, Maschine projects, and more. I purchased many of these back when I bought my Maschine, and they are excellent. Every expansion gives you the potential for dozens of new songs worth of inspiration.
This won't be released until February 2019, and we don't know much about it yet. However, given that Massive is one of the best wavetable soft-synths in the world we can expect that NI is planning on upping their game. This release is long overdue, and my guess is that there will be plenty of third party preset packs coming out very quickly after its launch.
If you get the Ultimate Collector's Edition you will also get the Symphony Series line of sample instruments for Kontakt. This is a collection of all six instruments in the series, each being about 15-20GB of samples. These are each incredible instruments and will make a great thing to have if you never owned an orchestral library. I personally don't like NI's take on orchestral libraries as much as Spitfire's or Heavocity's, but they're still incredible. It really depends on your application, this might be the perfect orchestral range for your needs.
To try to put my opinion of Komplete 12 into some kind of perspective you can relate to, i'm going to establish some metrics. If you saw my Spitfire Studio Strings review you'll notice some differences in these, this is because this is a completely different kind of release so I can't judge it on the same metrics as a whole.
Cost and Cost / GB - partially opinion based, partially objective, relative scale
Flexibility - how diverse is this collection? opinion based
Sample / Instrument Quality - how I feel about the sounds, opinion based
Cost and Cost / GB
First i'll give you my opinion on the cost of Komplete 12 (all of the versions). Overall Komplete is always a killer deal, as you're getting almost all of NI's products for over 70% off. I can't think of a single recording musician that wouldn't benefit from buying Komplete - its just so massive and diverse theirs always going to be something for everyone. In terms of my impression of Komplete its a 5/5 in cost.
Lets take a look at the cost / GB for each version:
Komplete 12 Select - $4.42 / GB ($199 for 45 GB)
Komplete 12 - $2.72 / GB ($599 for 220 GB)
Komplete 12 Ultimate - $2.00 / GB ($1,199 for 600 GB)
Komplete 12 Ultimate Collector's Edition - $1.78 / GB ($1,599 for 900 GB)
Overall the bigger package you get, the better value you get. This is why I went with the Collector's Edition - the 50 expansions alone is worth $2,500 if you were to buy them separately, and then the Symphony Series alone is $1,000 if you buy it by itself. While its not a direct comparison product-wise, for reference the Spitfire Studio Strings library was $2.38 / GB, and Heavyocity NOVO is $14.45 / GB. Native Instruments doesn't mess around when it comes to value.
Cost - 5/5
Again this will depend on which version of Komplete 12 you purchase, but i'm going to assume for example that you want to get at least the standard Komplete 12. I'll just list out a few inclusions you'll be getting with different applications:
Kontakt 6 - The world's most popular sampler, with the ability to make your own sample instruments and even create commercial sample libraries. Plus you can buy hundreds of packages for Kontakt. They also include the West Africa library, the Middle East library, and Strummed Acoustic (and more).
Battery 4 - One of the best tools for drum programming, with thousands of included drum samples and many more available online.
Massive - One of the best wavetable synthesizers on the market, with thousands of preset packs available online (along with the several hundred or more included for free).
Reaktor 6 - A block based synthesizer tool that allows you to create your own modeled instruments, and create commercial ones to sell (and buy / download for free thousands online). They also include Prism, Monark, and more for it.
Guitar Rig 5 - An incredibly realistic guitar amp / effects simulation software. Even if you aren't a guitarist, a lot of people use this for the effects alone - very powerful!
This is only a small sample of what you're getting, and its an incredibly diverse list. You can make African or Middle Eastern world music, you can make electronic music with the same tools as professional producers, you can start your own business creating sample libraries and modeled instruments. No matter what type of music you're into, there is something for you here. To me Komplete 12 is the best example of flexibility - a 5/5.
Check out this song demo I put together using Hybrid Keys, Analog Dreams, Ethereal Earth, TRK-01, Rise and Hit, Driver, Replika, Flair, and more from Komplete 12. I think it helps show the diversity of some of these instruments, not necessarily used for their 'intended' applications.
Flexibility - 5/5
Sample / Instrument Quality
This is hard to judge on a package basis, so i'll be very subjective here. I've never once had an issue with Native Instrument sample libraries, loops, or samples. Every instrument seems very well thought out, and very thoroughly beta-tested. However, as a general comment i've noticed that NI never seems to have the best sample libraries compared to the third party developers. Native Instruments does an excellent job at creating tools that literally spawn entire industries, but for some reason their vision of how you use these tools is never quite as good as other companies.
My feeling is that they're probably trying to appear to a very wide audience with their sample libraries, so they don't excel at any single area. This is not to bash on them at all, in some instances their version of a product is the best on the market (in my opinion, their Session Guitarist series is the best pattern based guitar instrument on the market). In some cases they partner with other vendors (Heavocity Damage is included with Komplete 12, and its absolutely amazing) to include a killer product.
If you look at their synthesizers, namely Massive, FM8, and Absynth, they're all stunning. In many cases these instruments were the first software versions of their kind. In the case of FM8 and Absynth, they do look a little dated but they sound stunning. Is there even anything in the music industry similar to Reaktor? While NI isn't always perfect with their sample libraries I think they still deserve a perfect 5/5 score. There simply isn't anything on the market that even comes close to the tools they develop, and in many cases they were the first or they created an entire new industry.
Sample / Instrument Quality - 5/5
Did you expect anything less of Native Instruments? NI seems to have a dominance in the music software marketplace that is unparalleled by anyone. If they aren't making the world's best sample instruments, the world's best sample instruments are running on their software and paying them a cut. If they aren't making the best Massive presets then someone else is selling Massive presets and likely giving NI more business by demonstrating the power of the synth. By buying Komplete 12 you are purchasing a lot of the same tools that world class musicians use, just take a look at their artist page and you'll see a lot of familiar names.
The value is there, the quality is there, and the future support is there. If you don't already have Komplete, buy it. If you do have an older version, upgrade. You will not regret it. I still remember the day I bought into the Komplete series (I think it was Komplete 8), and it changed my music life completely.