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Review of Kontakt 3
Continuing towards Sampling Excellence
When Kontakt first came out there was quite a buzz around it. Just take a look at my original review of Kontakt. Could a software plugin actually replace a hardware sampler and improve on the process of making sampled instruments? The answer was a resounding yes. But Kontakt did not stop there. With version 2 Kontakt added an amazing number of import formats and improved its GUI and audio processing tremendously. (See my review of version 2) What was to be left to improve? That was my question as a laid down the cash for yet another Kontakt upgrade. Could they possibly improve it?
Here's the short list of new stuff in Kontakt 3
click to enlarge
Initial Contact with Kontakt 3
Perhaps what is most striking on first load is that the drab army green is gone, replaced by a more colorful and contempory eye pleasing design. Its not easy to design a plugin that is good looking as well as useful, but NI has managed to do a fine job here. Patches are color coded depending on the collection of which they are part. Out of the box, Kontakt has 6 collections, Orchestral, Vintage, World, Band, Synth and Urban Beats.
I upgraded Kontakt through upgrading Komplete 4 to Komplete 5. Installing Komplete 5 took a lot of time. While I did not time it, it seemed like it was hours. The package contains 12 DVDs, a huge mass of sounds. This was kind of a drag, especially since I had 80% of the sample content already on my drives from Komplete 4. But the Kontakt sample stuff is new, or is it? Lets check it out.
It did not take long to please me in the orchestral department, but it should be noted that the orchestral instrument names appear to be the same ones that were in Kontakt 2 form the VSL orchestral library, though perhaps now in a different organizational scheme. It seems there are more instruments though.
Love the world instruments, particularly the ability to tune them to exotic scales.
Loading instruments seems faster than the GUI. You can play the instrument before the graphic display is finalized.
I have a huge arsenal of samples here, more than I will ever want to organize, so it is important that my sampler of choice has an excellent search foundation. The database functions are very fast, but still take time. I found myself wish there was a way to pause it and resume later. Its nice that it adds instruments, samples, and other presets as you go.
Working with Kontakt
Kontakt has never been as easy to use as it is now. The process of getting samples defined in the mapping editor remains simple drag and drop from either the browser, the database, or on the Mac, the finder and even spotlight. If you use Kontakt as a stand alone application, as you would if you were a sound developer, you can now detach the mapping editor and the loop editor from the main application window. This is cool, particularly because the Loop Editor now has sample editing functions like cut, copy, paste, delete, fades, silence, normalize, reverse and of course remove dc offset. This will cut down the times you have to run to an external audio editor but in case you have to, they made that easier too with a conveniently placed button.
One cool thing is that the older East-West libraries like StormDrum (not SD2 though), Symphonic Choirs, Rare Instruments work well in Kontakt 3 on a PPC Mac. Unfortunately, they do not work on an Intel Mac, or at least i can't get them to work on my Mac Pro. However, the new East West libraries featuring the so-called PLAY interface do not work in Kontakt 3 or any other version of Kontakt. So, don't invest in PLAY libraries thinking you will increase your Kontakt library. I find this disappointing.
Kontakt in Kore2
Kontakt, of course, works in Kore 2. Kore allows the creation of sounds that can use and software instrument on your system as an element. Hence, you can combine Kontakt instruments with Massive, FM8, Absynth or non NI instruments too such as Albino, MiniMoog V, Omnisphere. Kore builds a database of Kontakt sounds. Unfortunately, Kore does not appear to use Kontakt's database and instead makes its own. In order to get a Kontakt sound into Kore2 you have to save the .NKI or .NKM file as a .KSD file from within Kore. If you already have a huge Kontakt library as I do this is going to take some time. Fortunately, the new sounds in Kontakt 3 already have .KSDs made, so upgrading to Kontakt 3 will increase your Kore library handsomely.
You can add to your Kontakt 3 library by ordering some of the Kore SoundPacks, but be careful there, they each have different requirements. Of course you have to own Kore2 or the Kore Player.
Kontakt 3 managed to crash Logic 3 times during my first session. This was during my initial exploration of the GUI. "Hmm wonder what happens if I double click this...oh...won't do that again!" Pretty much what I expect from NI plugins. The search field seems too small. Neither my keyboard or mouse seem to be able to enter text on the search line in a consistent fashion.
There is little doubt in my mind that NI has the most features of any software sampler on the market. It has so much going for it, it will be difficult to catch them competitively. However, one that does give Kontakt a run for its money is MOTU's new BPM Beat production Machine. In fact, for drums, the MOTU is going to win for its ease of use. However, for building pianos, strings, synths, and acoustic instruments, Kontakt stays ahead of the game.
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