NI KOMPLETE KON­TROL MK3

With its all-new dual dis­plays and im­proved in­te­gra­tion with Mas­chine and cer­tain DAWs, this fu­tur­is­tic key­board hits all the right notes

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The sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of NI’s in­no­va­tive MIDI key­board claims even deeper in­te­gra­tion than its pre­de­ces­sor ( 212, 9/10) with their own Komplete suite of in­stru­ments and Mas­chine, as well as NKS-com­pat­i­ble plug­ins from de­vel­op­ers in­clud­ing Arturia, Rob Papen and u-he. It’s avail­able in 49- (£479) and 61-key (£559) ver­sions, and while the Fatar synth ac­tion keybed is un­changed, ev­ery­thing else has been re­designed to match the si­mul­ta­ne­ously-re­leased Mas­chine Mk3 ( 249, 10/10). It’s got the same sexy new look and feel, and – more im­por­tantly – the same full-colour LED screens (re­plac­ing Mk1’s mono­chrome text dis­plays), the same com­bi­na­tion 4-way joy­stick/ ro­tary en­coder/but­ton, and a new lay­out sim­i­larly re­con­fig­ured for work­flow par­ity.

Phys­i­cal pres­ence

Komplete Kon­trol Mk2 is 23mm deeper from front to back than its pre­de­ces­sor, as is to be ex­pected given the ad­di­tion of the screens. Hap­pily, it’s now USB bus-pow­ered, and we know that many Mk1 users will be over­joyed at the ejec­tion of the pitch and mod­u­la­tion touch­strips in favour of reg­u­lar pitch and mod wheels and a sin­gle freely-as­sign­a­ble touch­strip. The build qual­ity is ex­cep­tional – it feels and plays like a pre­mium in­stru­ment in ev­ery sense.

Komplete Kon­trol Mk2 hooks into the Komplete Kon­trol soft­ware, which runs stand­alone or as a VST/AU/AAX plugin. With­out that, it’s is just a con­ven­tional con­troller key­board, al­beit CC-map­pable us­ing the free Con­troller Ed­i­tor soft­ware. Komplete Kon­trol is a browser for all your NI and NKS in­stru­ments, essen­tially. Prior to Mk2, you had to look at it on your com­puter mon­i­tor to see what you were se­lect­ing, and use a sin­gle push en­coder for stepped nav­i­ga­tion and load­ing. Now, the dual screens repli­cate ev­ery bit of it in glo­ri­ous tech­ni­colour, and the main row of ca­pac­i­tive knobs (touch to pop up menus) and 4D en­coder give ‘par­al­lel’ ac­cess to a se­ries of hier­ar­chi­cal se­lec­tion fil­ters – it’s a vast im­prove­ment. Hit the Browse but­ton and the left screen shows your NI and NKS-com­pat­i­ble plug­ins as thumb­nails, while the right lists their pre­sets and banks. Se­lect a sin­gle in­stru­ment or cat­e­gory (drums, sam­plers or synths), and fil­ter the re­sult­ing

“The build qual­ity is ex­cep­tional – it feels and plays like a pre­mium in­stru­ment in ev­ery sense”

pre­sets by Type (Bass, Strings, etc) and Mode (FM, Sam­ple-Based, etc). It’s ex­actly the same in­ter­face that Mas­chine Stu­dio users have en­joyed for the last cou­ple of years.

Newly added (for Mk2 and Mk1), how­ever, is the Pre­hear op­tion, which fires off a stored sam­ple of ev­ery pre­set as it’s se­lected, so you can au­di­tion be­fore you load. This is just a static one-shot or loop, but ob­vi­ously it wouldn’t be pos­si­ble to in­stantly load each de­vice as you sweep through them, so it’s as good a so­lu­tion as is pos­si­ble. We ex­pect we’ll be able to gen­er­ate pre­view files for User patches at some point, but currently it’s for fac­tory pre­sets only.

As be­fore, load­ing a pre­set launches its in­stru­ment within the Komplete Kon­trol shell, where it ap­pears just as it would if called up as a plugin in any other host. The Mk2 dis­plays show a static graphic of the plugin (not a real-time rep­re­sen­ta­tion), and the knobs are au­to­mat­i­cally as­signed to its pa­ram­e­ters in banks of eight – it all looks a lot nicer than be­fore, but func­tion­ally, ev­ery­thing is as it was.

Apart from thin­ner LEDs, the bril­liant Light Guide sys­tem re­mains the same. This uses an RGB LED on ev­ery key to high­light the notes of the scale, chord or arpeg­gio set up in Smart Play, as well as in­di­cat­ing the MIDI notes com­ing in from the host DAW, and mir­ror­ing the coloured keyswitches and cells in in­stru­ments that have them (Kon­takt, Bat­tery, Poly­plex, etc), and the pads in Mas­chine. Smart Play is one of the key­board’s most use­ful features, en­abling scale/ key fil­ter­ing/snap­ping, au­to­matic chord gen­er­a­tion and arpeg­gia­tion di­rectly from Komplete Kon­trol it­self.

De­spite those swanky new dis­plays, for us Light Guide is still Komplete Kon­trol’s best fea­ture. We loved it be­fore and we love it now.

Kom­pletely in­te­grated

Komplete Kon­trol’s Host In­te­gra­tion setup af­fords a de­gree of con­trol over a hand­ful of DAWs – currently, for this ver­sion, Able­ton Live, Ap­ple Logic Pro X and Garageband, with Stein­berg Cubase and Nuendo com­ing soon. With Mk1, this was lim­ited to trans­port func­tions, and track se­lec­tion and fo­cus, but now, thanks to the screens, 4D en­coder and new mul­ti­func­tion but­tons, it in­cludes the mixer (se­lec­tion, lev­els, pans, so­los and mutes, with the dis­plays show­ing level me­ters and faders), Live clip/scene launch­ing and record­ing, tap tempo, time­line scrub­bing, and ded­i­cated but­tons for Quan­tize, Undo/Redo, Au­to­ma­tion arm, and Loop and Metronome on/off. It’s a big step up from the orig­i­nal im­ple­men­ta­tion, which was (and, in­deed, still is) hob­bled by the lim­i­ta­tions of the Mk1 hard­ware.

K class

Komplete Kon­trol Mk2 is a huge up­grade. With Mk1, the hard­ware con­trolled the browser on the com­puter, but now the hard­ware is the browser. And the in­te­gra­tion with Mas­chine and other DAWs is ut­terly trans­formed by the two screens and re­vamped knobs and but­tons. Let’s not for­get the chunky pitch and mod wheels, ei­ther, which feel su­perb. On the down side, as with Mas­chine Mk3, we could take or leave the 4D con­troller, which never feels quite right for ac­cu­rate nav­i­ga­tion; and non-Mas­chine users might feel a bit glum about the five re­dun­dant but­tons to the left of the screens.

Pow­er­ful, lux­u­ri­ous and gen­uinely as­sis­tive, Komplete Kon­trol Mk2 is the ul­ti­mate con­troller for the Komplete in­stru­ment range, and the perfect part­ner for Mas­chine.

“De­spite those swanky dis­plays, for us, Light Guide is still Komplete Kon­trol’s best fea­ture”

The Komplete Kon­trol soft­ware is a cen­tral hub for all your Na­tive In­stru­ments and NKS in­stru­ments

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