Too Good To Be True? – Native Instruments Komplete Elements

Intro

Native Instruments Komplete Elements is an abridged version of NI’s Komplete virtual instrument and effect library. It comes with limited versions of Kontakt (software sampler), Reaktor (modular synthesizer), and Guitar Rig (guitar and studio effects). They are limited in that they are “players” meaning that you can use these to load libraries sold by Native Instruments ONLY. You will not be able to load third-party Kontakt instruments or design your own Reaktor synths; and you have a limited selection of amps and effects from Guitar Rig. Kontakt 5 Player however does have a demo function built into the Player that lets to test out the full Kontakt features for a limit of 15min.

Seeing as how this is a $50 product with 3GB of samples and over 1,000 sounds on call, I could not see a reason to at least try it out. As per usual with many other NI boxed products, this comes with a $30 e-voucher you can use on Native Instruments’ online store to expand Komplete Elements even further.

Making Kontakt with sampling

The installation process of Komplete Elements was not too bad. If this is your first Native Instruments product, you basically go through a pretty standard install process with the addition of a copy-protection/licensing program you have in install called NI Service Center. While it’s a bit of a pain having to run this program once in order to register and activate your libraries, they don’t make you jump through any flaming hoops like some other developers do.

When you first open Kontakt in your host of choice (I am using Reaper4), you will see a sleek grey user interface with your included libraries shown on the left. Komplete Elements ships with two libraries: “Kontakt Factory Elements” and “Abbey Road 60s Drums”. The Factory Elements Library has a surprising amount of good, useable instruments. Essentially, it’s an excerpt of the full Kontakt library, as it contains instruments from six of their main categories: Band, Orchestral, World, Synth, Vintage, and Urban Beats.

“Band” has great instruments, such as a drawbar organ, some drum kits, basses, etc. “Orchestral” includes strings and brass ensembles, both with various selectable articulations. The orchestral ensembles, taken from the Vienna Symphonic Library, are a definite plus. I particularly enjoyed the world instruments, covering percussion (my favorite being a fully playable tabla set) to woodwinds (including a nicely sampled shakuhachi). There are high quality offerings from all of the sections. I won’t cover all the instrument included, as the length of this review would be obscene and we haven’t even touched the other two components of Komplete Elements. I will say that all of the instruments have a good degree of control built into the patches themselves. Some parameters can be changed, such as reverb type and amount, filters, eq, etc.

My First Reaktions

The Reaktor Player comes with 6 instruments, including a drum synthesizer and step sequencer known as Aerobic. The five other synthesizers are: Metaphysical Function, Photone, Steampipe 2, Oki Computer 2, and Spark. All of these synthesizers offer modern sounds from above average to brilliant. Metaphysical Function and Photone are both great for strange/warm/eerie/evolving pads. I was honestly underwhelmed with Steampipe 2 as it sounded a bit dated when compared to the other synths. Oki Computer 2 is just pure fun in a chiptune, 1980′s videogame way.Last but not least is the inclusion of Spark: a highly playable, aggressive synth that sells for $70 ALONE. Is it worth it? Having played other commercially available virtual instruments like ImpOSCar2 and Albino, I would say YES!! At first, I was unimpressed with Spark, but after a bit of time, I figured out that this thing’s knobs are begging to be used in realtime, not unlike using the volume and tone controls on a guitar (you can even control the amount of feedback ala Jimi Hendrix).

Taking the Rig for a spin

Guitar Rig 4 Player comes with 8 guitar amp emulations, matching cabinets, and a collection of utilities and effects. The 8 included amps cover the three biggies (Vox, Fender, Marshall), as well as others. For copyright/trademark purposes, all of the modeled amps have euphamistic names (i.e. ACBox = Vox, Jump = Marshall, Citrus = Orange). The amps are all highly detailed and respond well to dynamics. On the effects side, the winners are the delays and reverbs. Two great features of this software are it’s signal routing capabilities and modular nature. This means that GuitarRig is not limited to just guitars. This lends GuitarRig, in particular, a great amount of versatility. One thing that had me scratching my head was a bit of a crackling on some of the patches. At first I though it was an inferior preset, or even the computers CPU choking on trying to keep up with the real-time processing. After digging in and double checking all of my settings, I found out that this software is a bit touchy with gain staging. For example, if you turn up one of the amp models for more output, you risk clipping one of the effect processors, or the output stage itself. This can lead to a crackling noise on some of the more aggressive setups that will not show up red in your DAW’s level meter. This is an unexpected bit of authenticity (and some confusion) on Guitar Rig’s part.

Some More Konfusion

When scouring the interwebs for information on this product, I found out that NI quietly ‘updated’ Komplete Elements sometime 2011. The discontinued version apparently had 9GB more content than the current version. It also came with the Kore Player (discontinued NI product) and sounds from Absynth and Massive (other currently available NI synths). So the Kontakt library shunk, they removed some old content, and the price of the entire product came down to around $50. However, there are some retailers still selling the discontinued version, so if you want it and can find it, more power to you.

Konclusions

Overall, purchase of this ~$50 library is a steal. There are loads of premium instruments and effects, some of which are cost more than the library itself. Of course I can now see why Native Instruments takes this approach. “The first taste is free (or cheap in this case)…” They give you just enough so that you want more. Plus the $30 e-voucher helps things along as well. While being unimpressed with some of the content, the winning standouts for me are the GuitarRig amp emulations, Reaktor’s Spark, and the VSL samples in Kontakt. To me, these products alone are worth more than what this library costs.

Pros: Variety, Quality, Price, VSL strings and brass, Spark,

Cons: Funky registration process, No physical manual, Software version confusion, A few weak patches

Final Verdict: ★★★★☆ 

That’s it for Native Instruments Komplete Elements!
Until next time… keep the recorder on.