Native Instruments have developed a brand-new range of controller keyboards that tightly integrate with their software. The release of the new controller series, named Komplete Kontrol S, is timed to coincide with the release of the 10th edition of their flagship virtual instrument and effects bundles: Komplete 10 and Komplete 10 Ultimate.
Native Instruments have had a foothold in the hardware market for some years now with their Traktor Kontrol and Maschine controllers, but until now they’d never ventured into the world of controller keyboards. Officially unveiled today (previous leaks notwithstanding) and available in early October, the brand new Komplete Kontrol S series takes its design cues from the Maschine hardware in terms of solidity of construction, browsing ability, use of multi-coloured LEDs and transport control.
The new Komplete Kontrol S keyboard controllers pair with a software layer called Komplete Kontrol that is geared towards sound discovery based on tags. The main advantage of this is that you can open patches from any of Komplete’s instruments without having to independently load them up and lose your creative flow. While the company had a similar system in the now discontinued Kore (and Kore 2), this is an altogether slicker experience. Quickly browse patches that meet your description — maybe ‘aggressive’ and ‘bass’, for instance — using the keyboard’s Browse section, then once you’ve found something broadly appropriate, you can tweak it to perfection using the eight control knobs along the top of the keyboard. So-called Native Map technology is used to intelligently map patch parameters to each of the eight knobs on the keyboard. The knobs also have alphanumeric ‘Clear View’ displays below them to show you what you’re controlling. The knobs are also capacitive, so parameter values are shown when you touch them. All of the Komplete Kontrol software functionality will be available in a new update to the Maschine software, including the capacitive knob feature, which is present on Maschine Studio hardware but has hitherto not been taken advantage of.
On the Komplete Kontrol S series keyboards, multicolour LEDs sit above every key and change colour depending on the programme material. SOS were given a demo of the Komplete Kontrol S, and the Light Guide technology seems especially useful for denoting key splits, showing where keyswitches are on the keyboard, and they also come into their own for learning to play in unfamiliar keys. They also track notes played in arpeggiator and chord generator modes, which are the two modes that form the basis of the keyboards’ Smart Play features. These are designed to speed up the creative process and stimulate new ideas. Firstly, the Chord functions let you play complex chords on single keys, or access ready-to-play progressions. The integrated scale mapping features can also make notes in a selected scale light up on the Light Guide. If that’s not enough though, many widely used musical scales can be mapped to the white keys too. ‘Wrong’ notes can be re-mapped so melodies are always in tune, and Komplete Kontrol’s arpeggiator works with every Komplete Instrument directly from the hardware. The eight controller knobs manage parameters such as direction, rate, rhythm, patterns and variations. Furthermore, two ultra-sensitive Touch Kontrols add another dimension to software instrument control by mimicking the behaviour of standard pitch and mod wheels, as well as physical objects like springs and bouncing balls for more interesting modulation curves. They can also be mapped to LFOs and can be split into up to five sections for even greater performance control. It’s hoped that modes will be added, and when the developer community get their hands on it, the sky is really the limit. This is entirely Native Instruments’ intention: to have an extendable platform that is open for further development, including by third parties.
The Komplete Control S series also features transport controls to further separate you from your mouse and QWERTY keyboard. The Komplete Kontrol S will be available in three different sizes — 25 key (£429$499), 49 key (£499$599) and 61 key (£599$699) — from the beginning of October, and we look forward to thoroughly testing them as soon as we can get hold of them.
So, on to Komplete 10, which adds three new Reaktor synths and three new acoustic piano instruments. The new synths are Polyplex, an unusual sampler made in conjunction with Twisted Tools that’s designed around randomisation to find drum and leads sounds; Rounds, which is a sequencer with both analogue-modelled and digital synth engines; and Kontour, a two-oscillator phase-modulation synth designed by NI founder Stephan Schmitt. The new pianos comprise two grands by the names of The Grandeur and The Maverick, and a new upright called The Gentleman.
The Komplete 10 (£429$499) bundle boasts 39 titles, which is six more than even Komplete 9. Meanwhile, Komplete Ultimate 10 comes pre-loaded on a hard drive and costs £849$999 — the same as the previous version — and comprises 75 titles including Action Strikes, Molekular, and Rise & Hit.