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Synth and Software’s Top 10 Soft Synths

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Native Instruments Kontakt ($399)

Kontakt is an an industry standard that belongs in every serious computer-based musician’s software stable. Running standalone or as a plug-in, it is top-of-the-heap for sample playback. The full version comes with a large and well-rounded library of electric, electronic, and acoustic instruments and voices of almost every description. Kontakt also hosts hundreds of sample libraries from Native Instruments and other soundware developers, opening the door to other soft synths that depend on it.

Using samples as raw material, Kontakt is exceptionally versatile for designing synthesized sounds. Although it’s marketed as a sampler rather than a synth, Kontakt is not a true sampler. That’s because you can’t record directly into it as you can with sampler hardware. To create your own sampled instruments, first you import files from an audio-recording application. Then you use Kontakt to create and play your creations from a MIDI controller or DAW.

Don’t want to build sampled instruments from scratch? Kontakt is the most popular vessel for third-party sample content. In fact, some instruments wouldn’t be possible without it. Depending on what libraries you’ll be using, you may not even need the full version. The free Kontakt Playerplays about many third-party instruments for Kontakt. But the most cost-effective way to buy the full version is as part of a bundle. For just $200 more, for example, you could get Komplete 12, comprising Kontakt, Reaktor, and most other software instruments and effects from Native Instruments, along with tons of professional-grade content.

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