If you want an affordable audio interface that also offers control of your modular system, read on...
Into the crowded market of portable USB audio interfaces, Native Instruments have released three new boxes. The first two, the Komplete Audio 1 and Komplete Audio 2 are sub-£100$150 two in/two out jobbies that if it wasn't for their striking looks would be lost amongst the crowd of similar offerings from many other companies. But following on a couple of months behind is the Komplete Audio 6 MkII. This has a solid feature set at a decent price, but there's something a bit extra that may well tempt you away from the competitors.
This is the successor to the long-lived Komplete Audio 6, originally released in 2011. It was a smart little box made from an aluminium extrusion and featured the six channels of audio (four analogue inputs and outputs, and S/PDIF) that gave it its name. At a time when everybody else was making fiddly little 1U rack height devices with all the controls on the front panel, it had a very cool volume dial on the top. The MkII goes for a completely different aesthetic but retains all the most important features.
All three of the interfaces follow the current Native Instruments design philosophy of smooth lines, square corners and deeply black, minimally featured surfaces. The hard plastic of the KA1 and 2 is outclassed by the metal sandwiching of the KA6 MkII. But they all share the very reflective and shiny fingerprint-magnet monitoring LED panel on the top. The KA6 MkII is weighty with effective rubberised feet that stop it slipping on the desktop. It is also larger than the original, being roughly the size of a Game Of Thrones DVD boxset and just as imposing. It keeps the ergonomically useful top–mounted volume knob from the original, but this only handles the output volume of channels 1+2.
All other controls are on the front, and they are exactly as you'd imagine them to be. Two 'combi' mic/line/instrument inputs have individual gain knobs and 48V phantom power. (There's a mono/stereo switch for linking the channels.) Twin headphone sockets with independent volume control, for you and a friend, can be switched to monitor either outputs 1+2 or 3+4, and a knob mixes between direct input monitoring and software monitoring from the host.
On the back there are the other two inputs, four analogue outputs and S/PDIF coaxial in and out. There's also the very welcome sight of MIDI in and out ports, which is often a rarity at this price. A single USB socket rounds off the connections and points out that this is purely USB bus...
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