Sunday , February 25 2024
Do you want to create digital music using a lot of instruments?

Software Review: KOMPLETE 8 – Part II from 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. Because there is so much contained within the package, this review will look at KOMPLETE 8 and will be broken down into three parts.

In the first part I looked at KONTAKT5. In this review I will look at the REAKTOR 5.6 as well as the Synthesizers and REAKTOR add-ons that come with KOMPLETE 8. REAKTOR 5.6 is effectively a musical instrument that creates sound. It can be played stand-alone with a MIDI keyboard, or as a plug-in within a sequencing host.


You define what REAKTOR is. It can be a synthesizer, a drum set, or even something to create sounds that you have never heard before. You just load an instrument file and start playing. It comes with over 50 individual instruments as well as a collection of instruments from earlier REAKTOR versions that unfold more than ten years of legacy sounds – and an online library that holds more than 3,000 instruments of any type you can imagine.


Loading and using the pre-configured instruments only touches on what REAKTOR can do. You also have the ability to edit your favorite instrument’s signal processing, adjust its internal structure to a specific song’s needs, or start building your own instrument from scratch, thus designing your very personal signature sound.

So what is new in REAKTOR 5.6?

• 64-Bit support for both Windows and OS X now gives you support for the latest processors and better performance.
• Snapshots have been simplified for better handling. Snapshots allow you to store and recall an instrument’s sounds. When you create a Snapshot, all of the current settings are stored in the Snapshot.

• Structure Navigation has also been improved making your ability to move around the interface much easier. There is breadcrumb navigation to help you manage through hierarchy levels of the structure, and you have the ability to navigate to the previous location, open a macro in the other split pane, and scroll the Structure with the mouse.

• Object Manipulation now gives you the ability to add objects to the Structure using the Searchbox, delete wires and objects using backspace or delete, duplicate objects with CTRL-drag, and copy objects to the other split pane.

• New synthesis modules include Additive Synthesis that will allow instrument designers to realize additive synthesis beyond the CPU limitations of previous REAKTOR versions. It has been radically optimized to handle a large number of partials in a more efficient way. For ensemble users, instruments can now be created that allow access to sound parameters that were not possible before. Modal Synthesis, made up of an exciter signal and a resonator, is great for synthesizing percussive sounds ranging from mallets to vibraphones, as well as sustained sounds like woodwinds.

• New ensemble content includes Lazerbass, a monophonic synthesizer delivering a pure and direct sound without additional effects. Lazerbass can create a large number of timbres, themselves made up of multiple harmonic or non-harmonic partials. The result is a sound of immense quality, equally at home creating spacey sci-fi sounds or full and punchy sub basses ideal for dubstep and other leading-edge electronic productions. Also included is Electronic Instruments 1 & 2 which include 17 synthesizers, drum machines, and effects.


• Updated structure editor and audio engine mean greater flexibility and more powerful control over REAKTOR.

• Reworked documentation includes the Application Reference manual (400 pages) completely rewritten to reflect the latest improvements, updates, and enhancements within this version. All materials now refer to the new user interface, while the reworked Getting Started makes it even easier to join the world of REAKTOR.

The 64-bit REAKTOR is a big deal, making everything in KOMPLETE 64-bit compatible, giving it the ability to access much more memory and letting you put together more complex ensembles. The Snapshots and improved navigation are a welcome addition as is the updated manual.

I personally like the new synthesis modules and especially the ensemble content including the Lazerbass. What is so good about REAKTOR is that it includes a lot just by itself so that you really get a lot of bang for your buck in this package alone.

KOMPLETE 8 comes with a good-sized sampling of synthesizers as well as creative and studio sounds. The following are included with KOMPLETE 8.


• RETRO MACHINES MK2 brings with it 16 analog synthesizers and keyboards. This set covers the kind of instruments that defined electronic pop in the ’70s and ’80s. These include the Korg 700, Memorymoog, Minimoog, Rhodes Chroma, the Roland MKS-80 Super Jupiter, and more. The interface provides consistent control across the board and the Chord Player creates chords from single notes, which is especially useful in combination with the arpeggiator.

• REAKTOR PRISM is a polyphonic synthesizer and effects processor that is designed for acoustic sounds as well as synthesis. It is based on REAKTOR 5.5’s new “Modal Bank” module, and this synthesizer produces a sound that can be dramatically modified via internal or external sources.

• REAKTOR SPARK is a two-oscillator (pure and sine) synthesizer that acts responsively and adds a lot of percussive and aggressive sounds. It adds a dynamic and unpredictable element that causes sounds to ignite into organic and sometimes chaotic entities. REAKTOR SPARK cuts through the mix and delivers a unique presence in any arrangement and musical context.


• MASSIVE is the ultimate synthesizer for basses and leads. It is for someone who wants to program their own sounds. It can generate a cutting-edge sound. The interface is well laid out and easy to use. This synthesizer has its own sound character that produces distinctive sounds. MASSIVE is able to create the creamiest, punchiest basses to give your tracks a solid foundation. An array of special features makes it ideal for live performances as well.

• FM8 harnesses the power of frequency modulation (FM) synthesis through its powerful audio engine. Over the history of contemporary music during the last few decades, FM synthesis has played a big role. With emphasis on ease-of-use, the FM8 brings simplicity to the otherwise intricate process of FM synthesis. You can load patches from classic FM hardware units or use over 1,200 presets, including the full library from the former product “Transient Attacks.” A key component of FM8 is usability. The “Easy Edit Page” provides a clear interface with simple controls to automatically adjust more complex parameters, so you can take a noticeably more musical approach to FM synthesis.


• ABSYNTH 5 is an organic synthesizer that has over 2,100 preset sounds. Its specialty is a spectrum of unusual, evolving sounds created using the hybrid synthesis architecture and sophisticated modulation and effect system. ABSYNTH 5 is not just a synthesizer, but an effects plug-in for treating audio tracks using the effects bank. Using the Sound Mutator it’s now possible to create completely new sounds by combining the characteristics of other sounds.

Creative & Studio Effects

• THE FINGER is based on REAKTOR technology and derived from the live setup of Tim Exile. THE FINGER is a new type of live performance and remix effect which can be “played” like a musical instrument and provides new methods of intuitive sound mangling, live remixing, and advanced tempo-synced effects processing, whether on stage or in the studio. THE FINGER provides more than 40 effects including real-time samplers. Each effect has two parameters controlled by velocity or mod wheel, and is tempo-synced to a master clock or the tempo of your audio host.

The synthesizers are absolutely wonderful to work with. You have the RETRO MACHINES MK2 if you need that retro style; the sounds are pristine and do get the feel for the character. The REAKTOR PRISM is really good at creating really natural metallic and wooden sounds, but it does have a bit of a learning curve and REAKTOR SPARK is a great dynamic synth that is built with REAKTOR.


Then there is MASSIVE which uses a wave table synthesis that is great for powerful bass and lead sounds and has really a good workflow that makes it fast and easy to work with. FM8 works really great for an FM Synthesizer. ABSYNTH 5 is a lot of fun to play with and I really liked messing with the wave section and how you could draw your own wave forms. Finally THE FINGER is really a set of effects that can be tied together to your audio input and lets you take any sound and change subtly, or into something completely different.

I said above that the just the content that I covered in my KONTAKT5 review was worth the price of the entire package. Now when you consider that REAKTOR 5.6 is $399 as a stand-alone product, you can begin to see that just these two main packages pay for all of the other products and the bargain is in all of the other stuff that comes with KOMPLETE 8. This is really a must-have system if you are serious about creating music and so I very highly recommend this product.

About T. Michael Testi

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

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