Native Instruments have announced the upcoming launch of the Kontrol S-Series MK3, an updated range of their popular S-Series MIDI controller keyboards. 49-, 61- and 88-key variants will be available, each offering seamless integration with Kontakt and NKS-capable software instruments, control of all major DAWs and enhanced expressive control thanks to the addition of polyphonic aftertouch.
The two colour displays found on the previous S-Series models has been replaced with a single, larger display, which can be used to browse and select software instruments without the need to look at the computer screen, as well as offering a wealth of visual feedback over instrument parameters. A row of eight touch-sensitive encoders below the screen offer hands-on control, whilst menu navigation is taken care of by a larger encoder/joystick to the right.
Kontakt, NKS & DAW Control
Compatible software instruments and sample libraries will be automatically mapped to the S-Series’ hardware controls, and the new keyboards all feature an improved version of the Light Guide, which illuminates each of the controller’s keys to show the position of keyswitches, key zones, scales and more. The company have also implemented a new tabbing system with hardware buttons to switch between pages, making it easier to navigate instruments with a large number of mapped parameters.
Extensive integration with Kontakt-based instruments is provided — it is now possible to control Kontakt instruments directly, without the need to run them within the Komplete Kontrol plug-in — and the features aren’t exclusive to Native Instrument’s own offerings: any software that supports the company’s NKS (Native Kontrol Standard) protocol will benefit from automatic mapping and direct control.
A DAW button then switches the functionality of the screen and encoders, allowing users to take control of their session directly from the keyboard. Support for all major DAWs is provided, making it possible to navigate tracks using the large encoder/joystick, whilst adjusting mixer parameters with the smaller encoders and getting instant visual feedback of the changes via the built-in display. There are also a set of dedicated transport controls.
Keybeds & Polyphonic Aftertouch
All three of the new models are equipped with premium Fatar keybeds. The S49 and S61 both feature semi-weighted keys, whilst the S88 boasts a fully-weighted, hammer-action keybed. One of the most significant additions to the range, however, is that all of the controllers now offer polyphonic aftertouch as standard, allowing users to modulate parameters such as cutoff, pitch, vibrato and much more on a per-note basis.
The Kontrol S-Series MK3 connect to a host computer via a USB-C port, and support MIDI 2.0. They also feature a MIDI input and output on five-pin DIN sockets, and are equipped with an additional USB-C power connector which can be used to power the keyboard and use it in MIDI Mode to control other MIDI hardware without a computer, or provide power where the host computer is unable to supply enough bus power. There are also four quarter-inch TS sockets which can accept sustain and expression pedals, along with another two assignable control pedals.
The S-Series keyboards will also be supplied with NI’s Komplete 14 Select software bundle, which contains a range of synths, drums and percussion instruments along with a collection of effects plug-ins, as well as licences for Stradivari Cello, Hypha, Guitar Rig LE, iZotope Elements Suite and Ableton Live Lite.
Pricing & Availability
The new Kontrol S-Series keyboards are available to pre-order now, and will begin shipping in October 2023. Prices are as follows:
- Kontrol S49: $749£649 including VAT
- Kontrol S61: $849£749 including VAT
- Kontrol S88: $1299£1129 including VAT