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Software Review: KOMPLETE 8 – Part IV ULTIMATE Edition From Native Instruments

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Native Instruments KOMPLETE 8 is a bundled package of instruments and effects for modern digital music creation, composition, production, and sound design. There are three different versions of KOMPLETE 8 – KOMPLETE 8 ULTIMATE, KOMPLETE 8, and KOMPLETE ELEMENTS. Each one contains a variety of instruments and effects that provide value for your musical creation.

In this review I will look at the remaining pieces that make up KOMPLETE 8 ULTIMATE Edition. ULTIMATE gives you everything that came with KOMPLETE 8 – for reference see part 1, part 2, and part 3 of my review, plus an additional 130 GB of library samples providing the most complete set of instrumentation available. I will break this out by product type.

KOMPLETE 8

Synthesizers

• RAZOR is a new, cutting edge instrument based on additive synthesis. It was created in partnership with Native Instruments and Berlin producer Errorsmith. It has a dynamic and precise sound that is suited to tense basses, bristling leads, and shifting soundscapes. It runs in REAKTOR 5 and 5.5. Additive synthesis means that sound is constructed from partials, or single sine waves that fire together, in parallel, changing amplitude and frequency over time. RAZOR’s additive engine consists of up to 320 partials that give you a high-resolution sound that is completely different from other synthesizers. The library comes with over 350 usable presets as well.

KOMPLETE 8

Strings and Cinematic

• SESSION STRINGS PRO is an 11-piece ensemble that was recorded in four different settings for maximum flexibility and realism. This is much more than just a string library – it gives you the ability to create high quality, natural, expressive orchestral string tracks. Each of the four ensembles consists of five instrument groups: full ensemble, four violins, three violas, two cellos and two basses. Play full ensembles, mapped across the keyboard, or individual instrument groups. You have the ability to play chords and monophonic lines at the same time and for instant rhythm, the Animator transforms the chords you play into lively rhythmical phrases.

• EVOLVE MUTATIONS is made for scoring film, game audio, as well as pop music productions. Powered by KONTAKT, this 2 GB collection of resources was created by working pros in the film, TV and game industries. It contains 4 key components – Tonality and FX which brings unconventional melodic instruments and ambiences ranging from effected pianos and guitars to altered synths and pads, Stings and Transitions which is a collection of signature presets providing unnerving static feedbacks, obscure rips, swells and odd effectual textures set the stage, Percussive Kits that contain an eclectic mix of menu-style presets that complement the rhythmic suites or allow you to build your own beats from the ground up, and Rhythmic Suites that provide tempo-synced percussive and tonal loops intuitively key-mapped, covering a variety of styles from electronic and industrial to rock and cinematic.

• EVOLVE MUTATIONS 2 now takes you to the next level with your audio-visual sound design and giving you 2 GB of new and original sounds for composers of film and TV scores, game sound designers and music producers seeking unique effects and textures. This time the Rhythmic Suites contain 222 beat sliced loops that provide a diverse range of percussion and tonal elements, the Percussive Kits have a wide variety of intense, twisted drum-type hits and cinematic impacts are represented in this collection of 11 different menu-style kits, Stings and Transitions now offers distinct ways to heighten emotional impact whether for adding terrifying or serene punctuation to a film soundtrack or bizarre textures to the breakdown of a pop song, and Tonality and FX is a mashed up array of mood and melody that deviates from the traditional sounds in a composer’s library. Also included is the completely new Trigger FX feature that gives you the ability to further transform the original material and give an unexpected edge to your sound.

Creative & Studio Effects

• SOLID EQ is a versatile, 6-band equalizer that offers two fully-parametric mid-range bands and two semi-parametric high and low bands. These are switchable to shelf or bell curves, and you get two additional knobs for the high and low cut bands.

• SOLID BUS COMP is a compressor with the ability to ‘glue’ mixes together and make a track sound finished. It’s simple to use, with an optional auto-release setting. It also features a Dry/Wet control for parallel compression, and a sidechain input.

• SOLID DYNAMICS combines a stereo compressor with a gate/expander module and gives a works-on-anything effect for processing dynamic range on single channels before they hit the master section. The expander/gate module allows you to manage the noise floor on a track to eliminate unwanted background noise and a gate is also extremely useful for making drums sound more direct.

• VC 2A comes across as smooth and warm and is a software emulation of an electro-optical tube compressor with a silky sound. Attack and release are determined automatically in response to the input signal. You can even use the VC 2A for leveling vocals as it leaves the peaks more or less intact but pushes the quieter parts in a natural, musical way.

• VC 76 is much more fast and punchy and recreates a studio legend with a characteristic presence and a punchy, clear high end and based on FET technology, and is renowned for its super-fast attack. The VC 76 is great for making drums hit hard in the mix, but it’s also great on vocals, bass and for limiting the stereo sum.

• VC 160 is bold and dirty and is based on a popular VCA compressor found in studios all over the world. The VC 160 is mostly used for mixing drums, adding a definitive ‘thwack’ or ‘knock’ to even the dullest kick and snare as well as being helpful as a mix-fix for troublesome bass.

KOMPLETE 8

• THE MOUTH is a sound controlled synthesizer created by Tim Exile and it is designed to generate melodies and harmonies out of whatever audio material you feed it. You can sing, beatbox or send a drum loop into it and THE MOUTH takes over as a tweakable synthesizer, bass, vocoder or talkbox-like effect. THE MOUTH works by detecting the pitch of an incoming audio signal which is then auto-tuned to a selected musical scale or notes from a MIDI device – so your creations always stays in tune.

Drums & Percussion

• ABBEY ROAD 70’s DRUMS is the second of Native Instruments’ collaborations with Abbey Road Studios and once again does not contain emulations or modeling of any kind. These are built with high-quality samples of two distinctive vintage drum kits from the 1970s, made accessible via an easy-to-use interface newly created in conjunction with the Abbey Road experts. The kits include the Open Kit which is a Ludwig Vistalite Tequila Sunrise from 1972 with a 26″ kick drum, 14″ rack tom and 16″ and 18″ floor toms, and a Tight Kit which is a vintage 1970s Premier model with 22″ kick drum, 13″ rack tom, 14″ and 16″ floor toms. They were recorded using an EMI TG MKIII mixing console and 16-track analogue 2-inch tape machine using 1970s professional Dolby Noise Reduction and Ampex 456 tape and using an array of microphones including classic Neumann, AKG and Beyerdynamic models from the studio’s vast microphone collection.

• ABBEY ROAD 80’s DRUMS is the next chapter in the partnership with Abbey Roads Studios and this time the kits include the Black Kit which is a vintage Yamaha 9000 from the mid 80s and was a ground breaking design and became one of the most recorded drum kits in history, and the Chrome Kit which is a Slingerland Magnum fitted with single-headed concert toms. The snare drums used include Ludwig, Gretsch, Slingerland and Pearl models. This also includes a full set of Octobans – melodically tuned tubular toms that were popular among many of the decade’s top drummers.

KOMPLETE 8

• ABBEY ROAD MODERN DRUMS captures the sounds of now with two newer kits that include a Drum Workshop Collector’s Series from the mid 90s – a maple Collector’s Series kit recorded in Studio Two, which is call the ‘White Kit’ and is the best from this flagship line of custom made American drums. There is also a Pearl Reference kit from the mid 00s that was recorded in Studio Three and is known as the ‘Sparkle Kit’ which debuted on the market in 2005 and is still the highest quality commercially available kit in Pearl’s current range. There were over 40,000 individual samples with up to 27 velocities were recorded with a choice mixture of brand new state-of-the-art equipment and highly sought after vintage gear to reflect the true sound of professional modern drums.

• MASCHINE DRUM SELECTION collection contains 20 full drum kits adapted from the new MASCHINE library giving you hard hitting urban kits, sounds recorded from specially produced vinyl dubplates, heavily processed acoustic drums and vintage analog samples. Each kit consists of 16 high-quality sounds to which tuning, filter, saturation and other effects can be applied individually, allowing for plenty of sound-shaping potential. It also includes a versatile step sequencer which can be accessed on the KONTAKT interface.

• BALINESE GAMELAN provides another cultural exploration – this time heading to Indonesia and now you get 2 GB of samples from several of the essential instruments that make up Gamelan. Gamelan is an ensemble of instruments from Indonesia, typically Java or Bali, and while ensembles can differ significantly, they are often made up of a combination of metallophones, xylophones, drums and gongs; bamboo flutes, bowed and plucked strings. Gamelan music is most often characterized by its bright, metallic, percussive qualities, its distinctive and complex tuning, the rich layering of instruments, and its cyclical form.

Guitar & Bass

• SCARBEE FUNK GUITARIST is an innovative instrument gives you instant playability and total control, with the genuine flavor of the funk. It is essential for anything from funk and soul to hip hop and R’n’B, but also perfect for adding an organic element to house or pop, this instrument is highly addictive and a true funk phenomenon. Using nothing but two fingers and a MIDI keyboard, you can jam and improvise for hours on end. Your right hand controls the groove and your left hand selects chords and velocity.

KOMPLETE 8

• SCARBEE JAY-BASS creates that slap and finger bass sound. Based on the Scarbee Red Bass, it is an expertly played and sampled late 70s Jazz bass. With three pick-up positions and a multitude of playing techniques, SCARBEE JAY-BASS has it all when it comes to slapped and fingered bass sounds. It utilizes recordings of the full strings of a late 70s Jazz bass, this instrument reproduces the timbre changes that occur when you move between low and high frets on the string of a real bass.

• SCARBEE MM-BASS AMPED will bring you the warm and creamy fingered bass sound of the 70s known from countless disco and funk recordings. It includes the same content as the SCARBEE MM-BASS, but provides four different amp sounds – Fat for rock and pop, Heavy for heavy rock, Crunchy with a distorted sound for rock oriented music productions, and Pop with a crispy sound for R&B and pop oriented music.

• SCARBEE PRE-BASS and SCARBEE PRE-BASS AMPED are two versions of a sampled Fender Precision Bass. They were created by Thomas Hansen Skarbye. It was recorded with round-wound strings to get a fat and dirty sound and it also features a vast set of playing techniques. These are is fully playable in real time, with almost all articulations (including mutes, harmonics, hammer-ons, pull-offs, grace notes and more) available without key switches and it uses the KONTAKT interface, displaying a fretboard overview with articulations dynamically updated as you play. There are over 4,000 samples covering all four strings, nine velocity layers, and advanced scripting that makes playing both intuitive and authentic. The amped version offers four different amped setups – Fat for rock and pop, Heavy for heavy rock, Crunchy a distorted sound for rock oriented music productions, and Pop with a crispy sound for R&B and pop oriented music.

KOMPLETE 8

Piano & Keys

• ALICIA’S KEYS brings you a virtual piano sound that has helped Alicia Keys win multiple Grammys and reach the top of the charts. ALICIA’S KEYS was sampled from her own playing, recorded in the artist’s own studio under the supervision of her trusted engineer, Ann Mincieli. The samples come from Alicia Keys’ very own Yamaha¬ C3 Neo grand piano. This unique and highly-sought after instrument was built to celebrate Yamaha’s 100th anniversary in 2002 and represents the very top of the Conservatory Collection line. Using vintage microphones and preamps and through detailed analysis of Alicia’s playing, they captured the warm, soulful and inspiring sound of the C3 Neo.

• GEORGE DUKE SOUL was recorded by American soul and jazz legend George Duke, over 500 keyboard loops are ready to go. All loops are perfectly sliced and tempo-synced, and you can easily edit and re-arrange all slices to create countless phrase variations. This instrument contains acoustic, Rhodes, Wurlitzer and Clavinet pianos recorded by George Duke and his personal engineer Erik Zobler, using highly sought-after vintage equipment. Each phrase is divided into several slices, which can be triggered individually from any point in the loop, making it easy to re-arrange and create countless variations.

Once again it is just incredible what Native Instruments put into this collection of instruments. KOMPLETE 8 ULTIMATE makes for a complete package that has anything anyone could ask for when creating music. In this grouping SESSION STRINGS PRO is fantastic with the cinematic sounds that you can create. SCARBEE FUNK GUITARIST is absolutely addictive to work with, and MASCHINE DRUM SELECTION is also provides really nice sounds as do the Abbey Road series of drum kits. The two MUTATION instruments and RAZOR really provide for some unique capabilities as well.

KOMPLETE 8

While those I mention alone pay for the collection, the question has to be asked which one to go with – KOMPLETE 8 or KOMPLETE 8 ULTIMATE 8? That really depends on how much you have to spend and what are your goals. The ULTIMATE version comes on its own hard drive and makes it much simpler to install. In both cases you still need a lot of disk space.

Most hobbyists would do fine with the KOMPLETE 8 and have plenty to work with for a long time. If you are working at building a professional sound or business, or you just want it all, then ULTIMATE is the way to go. In either case, both are an excellent value for what you get.

When you consider everything that comes with KOMPLETE 8 ULTIMATE, there is no way to go wrong. If you are serious about creating music, then this is the system for you and I very highly recommend this product.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.