Review: Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2
Native Instruments’ Komplete Audio 1 and 2 interfaces help to get those new to the game a super-quick foothold into the world of music production.
Native Instruments’ Komplete Audio 1 and 2 interfaces help to get those new to the game a super-quick foothold into the world of music production. In some ways, this page should be a review of all the software that comes with the interfaces — they’re worth more than the hardware, that’s for sure. But NI realises the importance of a hardware host for its top-shelf code.
I spent the most time with the Komplete Audio 2, a USB2 bus powered 2-in/2-out interface. It’s a sleek little box. It’s of a plastic construction, so don’t expect an object hewn from a solid block of titanium. That said, the chassis blends in nicely with your (okay, my) Space Grey MacBook or your matte black everything else. It features a pair of TS output jacks for monitoring (the little bro has RCAs) and clear LED (VU) level readouts for its two combo inputs — both preamps are equipped with ample gain. There’s a big knob on the top for tactile volume control, and a high-output headphone socket on the front. Everything you could expect and probably need from an interface in this segment.
NI’s newest interface plays just as you’d expect. It’s plug ’n’ play with MacOS — something its predecessor the Komplete Audio 6 couldn’t boast of — and served as my personal bass practice DI on its first outing. Here it’s most unique feature demonstrated its worth: the ‘Input-Host’ crossfade pot – Komplete Audio 2’s take on direct monitoring. Using this pot, I could, in theory, fade in as much of the track I was rehearsing to, while simultaneously hearing enough of my bass without any DAW lag. The theory is enticing, while in practice it was sometimes difficult to find the right blend — I found adjusting Spotify’s volume helped me to arrive at the right balance a little more reliably. That said, it’s a great idea on NI’s part. Not all interfaces allow you to overlay your direct monitoring, and yet it’s not necessarily an improvement on the switches you see on a box like the Focusrite Scarlett.
Komplete Audio 2’s preamp sounded just fine (lots of gain, and any self noise was utterly negligible), though monitoring through a channel in my DAW (Reason) did give my bass considerably more ‘oomph’ compared to piping it straight through the interface into my ears. The drivers play very nicely with my 2018 MacBook Pro, with negligible monitoring latency, something I’ve often been plagued with by my slightly anaemic dual-core CPU. Recording a groove to a drum beat felt natural and sounded pretty sweet.
Native Instruments will instantly grab a chunk of the 2-in/2-out interface market. As I mentioned, don’t get stressed by the price. Yes, it’s a few bucks more than some of the competition but NI throw more than enough goodies into the package to sweeten the deal. The inclusion of a great suite of ‘everything you need to start producing tracks’ software (including the phat Moog sounds of Monark) make the Komplete Audio 2 a high-value package deal.