John Krogh takes on this tremendously big bundle of instruments, sounds, and effects.
Komplete 14 was released in September to much fanfare, adding a range of newly included instruments and effects to the already enormous collection of software available in the Komplete bundle.
Notably, this is the first Komplete release from Native Instruments since they were brought under the Soundwide brand, which includes iZotope and Plugin Alliance, and as you might expect, plug-ins from these other esteemed developers are now incorporated into the bundle. This includes Ozone 10 Standard, the renowned all-in-one mastering plug-in from iZotope that features matching technology that will create a custom signal chain to match the sonic characteristics of reference tracks.
Komplete 14 is offered in four tiers — Select, Standard, Ultimate and Ultimate Collector’s Edition — with an increasing number of included products as you move up the ladder. You can learn more about pricing and other details in our news release.
I’d recommend going with the Standard or higher options, as these feature a dizzying number of sample-based instruments, synths, and effects that virtually span the entire spectrum of modern music production. (The Select version is rather thin by comparison, but if you’re on a tight budget, this is a good way to jump on board.)
For those who may be getting started in music, whether it’s hip-hop, pop, EDM, film scoring, or just about any other contemporary style, and are looking for best-in-class sounds and effects that deliver ultra-professional results, Komplete 14 Standard through Ultimate Collector’s Edition would be my top recommendations, bar none.
Of course, with such a massive collection as this, there’s no way to cover everything in the context of a review, so instead I’ll point you to the aforementioned news release for the basics, and get straight into what I find to be the most important update.
Kontakt 7. For many (myself included), the biggest news with Komplete 14 is the rollout of Kontakt version 7, NI’s flagship sampler/sample player that serves as the platform for countless instruments from NI’s catalog as well as from many third party developers.
Kontakt 7 adds Hi-DPI support, which translates to better looking, higher resolution graphics. One of the ways this is represented is with Kontakt’s new browser view. It can be freely resized, and it offers some clever ways to filter and search for sounds. For example, you can use sound characteristic “tags” to filter sounds from your entire library (including many third-party collections), and easily audition individual sounds by clicking on Instrument patches. Check it out in this short video.
While some people online have scoffed at the new browser, I find it to be a big time-saver when searching for sounds, and appreciate the ability to hear a patch before loading. But for those who prefer the “old” style browsing, that’s still available in K7, as you’ll see in the video above.
Kontakt 7 libraries. Beyond the browser, K7 features an updated factory library, which NI bills as “new,” but that’s a bit misleading because much of the content in K7’s factory library is the same as what’s in the original library, with some notable exceptions.
For starters, the strings, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments in the Orchestral collection have been replaced with patches from Orchestral Tools’ top-shelf Berlin Series libraries. These instruments are definitely an improvement from the previous content, featuring improved dynamics performance controls and optional legato, both of which the original instruments lacked.
Though the included articulations/instruments are basic — for example, just sustain, pizzicato, staccato, and tremolo for strings, and only ensembles, no soloists — I found them to be very playable and musical, especially when using the combination mod wheel+velocity Dyn Mode, which lets you use both mod wheel and velocity to shape notes and phrases. Sonically, the orchestral instruments have a pleasing timbre that’s a tad on the dry side in a good way, and can be made more ambient by applying the convolution reverb, which is now built into many of the instruments in the factory library.
Choirs. Other new material can be found in the Choirs collection, which includes all of the original content and adds simplified versions of the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass ensemble patches from Omnia, a new choir library also bundled in Ultimate Collector’s Edition. These new vocal sections within the factory library feature six distinct vowel sounds (e.g., A, E, O, U, etc.), each of which offers four articulations (sustain, marcato, staccato, staccatissimo). You can choose these combinations from a series of keyswitches, making it possible to create convincing and dramatic choral phrases with ease.
Top: The Tenor section taken from Omnia that’s included in the new factory library. Below: The same Tenor section presented with multiple microphone perspectives and the Syllabuilder phrase sequencer.
Beats. You’ll also find a handful of new patches in the Synths and Guitar collections, as well as a new set of patches in the Beats collection, which replaces Urban Beats from the original library. It’s a shame Urban Beats is gone — I’ve often used those instruments as starting points for programming hip-hop grooves, and the patches that contained all kicks, all snares, etc. were useful for experimenting with different kit sounds.
According to NI regarding the new Beats collection, “over 90% is new content, only a handful of samples were taken over. The Beats engine also does not rely on sliced loops anymore (like it was in KFL11), it’s now samples triggered by MIDI patterns. Over 90% is new content specifically created for the KFL2 Beats collection. It’s a complete overhaul of the collection, with the old Urban Beats samples replaced by new content, so users won’t be able to find the old instruments or samples in KFL2.”
The new Beats collection is organized into five “loop families,” each of which presents the same 18 patches but with different tonal and production characteristics. Each patch offers individual kit instruments mapped from C1 to C2 and variations on a pre-programmed groove mapped from C3 to B3, so you can trigger patterns and add accents, or program beats from the ground up. You can also load other grooves from the included library of patterns as well as drag-drop the MIDI patterns into your DAW for further tweaking. The kits span modern and old-school stylings, offering a wealth of inspiring sounds sure to find favor with beat makers.
Interfaces. Beyond new content, the user interfaces of all the instruments have been overhauled, with more screen real estate for easier viewing (the fonts are larger, for example), and a dedicated FX page with EQ, tape saturation, BPM-synced delay, chorus, phaser, guitar cab modeler, convolution reverb and limiter, giving you more built-in creative options to customize your sounds and save these settings with the patches. On a practical level, the larger fonts certainly improve the user experience, and creatively speaking, I found the new look to be inspiring (this is subjective, of course).
Here’s an example comparing the same Persian Ney in the new (top) and old (bottom) interface style.
Overall, I appreciate the interface improvements and K7’s new browser view, though I did discover that the Quick-Load window in the “classic” view can no longer be opened/closed by right-clicking in Kontakt’s rack. Thankfully, NI has confirmed they plan to add this back in a future release.
Other oddities: I also experienced a brief lag in Kontakt’s instrument UIs upon loading, which may be fixed by the time you read this (it’s a known bug). I’ve also heard from other musicians who use a Komplete Kontrol S MIDI keyboard that the LightGuide lights don’t work when playing K7 outside of the Komplete Kontrol software. But since I don’t have a Kontrol S keyboard, I couldn’t confirm this. And I should also note that Absynth — the semi-modular fan favorite — has been retired and will no longer be included in Komplete. Admittedly, these are minor faults and shouldn’t dissuade anyone from giving serious consideration to the Komplete line-up.
Action Strings 2. For a while now, previous versions of Komplete have offered several dedicated instrument libraries for orchestral soundtrack and production work, such as the Symphony Series, Session Strings, Session Strings 2, and Action Strings. Action Strings 2 (AS2) now joins this growing stable of cinematic-oriented titles and it takes phrase-based string libraries to a whole new level.
Developed in partnership with Sonuscore and initially released as a stand-alone product in 2021, AS2 contains a wide variety of sampled performances and “mini phrases,” and pairs this with sophisticated behind-the-scenes scripting, allowing you to produce ultra-realistic string performances just by triggering a couple of notes.
At the heart of AS2 is the Editor page, where you can freely combine multiple recorded modules and single articulations to build phrases, program melodies, and adjust the time signature and loop range of the phrase. Different modules and single articulations can be combined to build a phrase with a maximum length of two bars of the current time signature. What’s more, each patch can contain up to ten key-switched phrases, making it possible to compose longer melodies and patterns.
In practice, it works remarkably well, and because you’re working with pre-recorded phrases (and thanks to Kontakt’s powerful time-stretching algorithms), you can create dynamic string runs, ostinatos, and arpeggios that go beyond what’s possible with traditional multi-sampled instruments.
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Other content. As has been the case with other Komplete releases, V14 incorporates a number of previously released products (such as Action Strings 2, for example), and Synth and Software has featured some of these newly incorporated products over the past year. For your convenience, we’ve corralled our coverage below so you can dig deeper into these fantastic instruments.
Ashlight. In a world where everything is called “cinematic,” here’s a synth that really is.
Piano Colors. Yes, the world really does need another sampled piano library – and this one is not at all what you’d expect.
Playbox. Is it an instant gratification toy or a serious tool to create new ideas?
Sequis. Can this new instrument do what it says: quickly create looping melodies, dynamic pads, and rhythmic patterns?
Session Bassist – Prime Bass. Session Bassist: Prime Bass is the latest low-end addition to the excellent Session Guitarist series created by sample developer Drumasonic in collaboration with Native Instruments.
Thus. The Komplete 14 bundle offers an unmatched suite of software that offers composers and producers a staggering number of music-making tools and creative options capable of delivering exceptional results. While I can find fault with some interface shortcomings and other niggles, on the whole, I highly recommend this package to anyone who’s serious about modern music production.
In short, Komplete 14 stands alone among a crowded field of plug-in synths, samplers and effects.
Upgrade and bundle pricing can be found here.
Available from Native Instruments.