Review: Native Instruments Komplete 14 Collector’s Edition
Welcome to NI’s kitchen sink, 1TB+ ‘kompendium’ of all its hits.
What do you give the producer or composer with everything? Well, you could do a lot worse than the Komplete 14 Collector’s Edition. This is Native Instruments’ ‘kitchen sink’ bundle — everything the team have been able to throw at its hugely successful Komplete platform (including a surprising number of new products), and redefines such terms as ‘epic’ and ‘feature rich’.
Native Instruments’ Komplete software and Kontakt sample player are an industry standard. If you tune into Top 40 radio or pay heed to a movie score, chances are you will hear sounds generated by a Komplete instrument of some type. With the release of the Komplete 14 Collector’s Edition, NI is making available not so much a balanced/curated music software suite as a veritable tsunami of music-making tools that will keep users delving back in and discovering new sounds and features for years to come. All of the familiar tried and tested sample libraries and virtual instruments, such as Battery, Massive, Absynth and Reactor, are retained in expanded and augmented form, but then there’s more….oh so very much more!
Those who choose to spend the extra bucks to spring for the Collector’s Edition will doubtlessly include many producers and recording musicians looking for a sonic edge, whether in the form of a fresh expansion packs by the latest flavours in electronic production or in more flexibly articulated and lavishly-sampled acoustic instrument libraries.
Arguably, the biggest beneficiaries of this new release are screen composers who will find some outstanding new creative tools at their disposal. The headline items here are the Straylight, Pharlight and Ashlight sample-based instruments. All of these utilise what is now a fairly common NI approach to sound-making: blending two different looped sample sources through an X/Y matrix. By independently selecting the sample sources, modifying the loop in and out points, and playing with the X/Y matrix, a huge range of melodic, rhythmic and noise-based sounds can be generated. All three of these instruments excel at creating complex, evolving modern soundscapes that are powerfully evocative. It is hard to classify them too precisely but Pharlight is the most organically ethereal and Ashlight the most digitally brooding and avant-garde, with Straylight somewhere in the middle. Even the GUI artwork is a standout. If you just signed on with Netflix to make a sci-fi movie soundtrack, then these instruments have you covered and then some!
NEED TO KNOW
Native Instruments Komplete 14 Collector’s Edition
Sample, Instrument & FX Bundle
HYBRID SOUNDS: ARKHIS, SEQUIS ET AL
NI appears to have really mastered some interesting sonic territory: that in-between zone of acoustically-based samples that, via the judicious use of effects processing and juxtaposition, achieve a hybrid modern sound. Nothing illustrates this better than Arkhis, an instrument that blends three sound sources to generate some stunning rhythmic and melodic effects. The source instruments are traditional, such as mandolins, hang drums and violins, but the outcomes can be very stylised and ‘now’ sounding.
Sequis uses diverse sources such as voices, mallet instruments and flutes to generate rhythmic and melodic arpeggios that are great song starters or feature hooks.
Lores explores softer organic textures that can take you to some very beautiful places through blending various instruments, including medieval pipes, hurdy gurdies and harps.
Yet another of these wonderfully open-ended hybrid instruments is Piano Colours. This is ostensibly a piano instrument but it can get you anywhere from off-kilter toybox tonalities to complex auto-arpeggiated percussion, to evolving atmospheres and, like its brethren, is highly tweakable if you care to delve beyond simply dialling up the eminently useable presets.
VOICE & MUSIC: OMNIA & MYSTERIA
Filling what was previously a bit of a gap in the Komplete universe, NI has brought several great choir instruments to the table here.
Omnia is a very versatile and beautifully-executed choir platform that allows for both subtle and overt manipulation of a multitude of basic choral tonalities. The combination of numerous vowel and consonant options and the onboard sequencer makes for very powerful and convincing results. When I first fired this one up I couldn’t help but to think about the many projects I’ve done over the years that would have benefitted greatly from this brilliant sample instrument.
Mysteria is a vocal instrument more focussed towards scoring and sound design with atonal atmospheres and chord clusters taking centre stage. Again the tonal range and choice of voicing makes for some very powerful and (you know you want to go there) unsettling effects.
If you just signed on with Netflix to make a sci-fi movie soundtrack, then these instruments have you covered and then some!
Reaktor plug-in Knifonium. Sample instruments Glaze and Playbox.
Moving somewhat sideways towards more synthetic sounds there are also some very tasty new offerings that are more overtly digital. Modular Icons is a ‘two-sample blend’ instrument with a more muscular digital signature. Perfect for hard hitting monophonic leads and edgy chord work. The filter and effects are also nice and punchy on this one.
Glaze and Playbox bring instant colour and digital sheen to the table, while Lo-Fi Glo and Stacks each have their own retro futurist vibe and pack a serious punch as pad or lead instruments.
Over in the Reaktor plug-in lurk many more new sounds courtesy of deeply tweakable synths like Knifonium, Monark, Rounds, Super 8 and Prism to name but a few.
SAMPLE & HOLD
New additions to the sampled instrument content are headlined by the Spotlight Series East Asia. The tonalities of things like the Chinese Guzheng and Korean Janggu are stunningly realistic and this is another area where NI has really perfected the capture and playability of these types of acoustic sounds.
Komplete 14 also sees new additions to the range of Session Guitarist and Session Bassist libraries which expand these instruments into new areas. Keyboardists can now explore the realms of their fretboard brethren via Electric Vintage and Picked Nylon instruments among others.
THE BEAT GOES ON
Last but not least, the Komplete 14 Collector’s Edition brings some very welcome new beatmaking tools to the table. Butch Vig Drums is a plus-sized collection of heavily produced and hard-hitting pop-rock drum sounds. As well as sounding very, erm…’butch’, they are nicely balanced and fun to play with, lending productions a hyped quality that sits well with contemporary styles.
40s Very Own Drums supplies lots of modern synthetic beatmaking sounds, while Empire Breaks (my personal favourite) takes care of the hip hop side of things with some truly great-sounding ready-made beats and individual sounds.
If all that doesn’t yet satisfy your endless hunger for more tasty audio morsels, there are the 32 effects that come with the Komplete 14 Collectors Edition package. These include NI’s own extremely handy and great-sounding Solid EQ and Solid Bus Comp, Softube’s equally useful passive four-band EQ and Vari Comp as well as the bx range of processing plugs. The icing on the cake here is the Ozone 10 Standard dynamics and mastering plug-in courtesy of partner iZotope which takes very good care of the final spit and polish on your mix bus.
you could justifiably make the argument that this is the best value-for-money ‘instrument’ ever brought to market in the history of the world
MY LIFE IS KOMPLETE (AS IS MY HD)
The Komplete 14 Collector’s Edition takes up a whopping 1.125 terabytes of storage for the full installation, and will cost you around two and a half grand. Before you recoil, remember that you could easily spend as much on a mid-range Fender Telecaster or a Dave Smith Instruments analogue synth. In fact, you could justifiably make the argument that this is the best value-for-money ‘instrument’ ever brought to market in the history of the world. The range and power of the tools in this package is outrageous and allows you to make cutting-edge music in just about every musical genre imaginable, from avant-garde soundscapes to electro pop to classical to trap to jazz to RnB to world music to classic rock. If you are serious about making music using a computer, then Komplete 14 is one of the main tools you should have in your kitbag. If you can stump up for the Collector’s Edition you won’t regret it.