Finally there is some relief in a product
called Kore by Native Instruments. At first I was skeptical. I did
not want to invest in it unless it could really do the job and above all, not
crash in the middle of compositions. Early adopters were not a happy
bunch. I was particularly wary of the claim that it could load 3rd party
AU and VSTi plugins. But I have so much NI stuff, I figured it
had to at least work with those. I also justified it thinking
that eventually they will make it work, if it does not work now.
To my surprise, Kore works here as
advertised. I am definitely digging the benefits. The above pic shows
a lot. There you see in a Kore performance 10 softsynths instantiated.
I've used Kore heavily, for many long sessions running inside Logic 7.2 on
my Mac G5. I've also used it on Cubase SX3 on my PC, where it works
equally as well.
have been able to audition and use sounds I would have never found
the Kore database.
- I have been able to create new, incredibly
big sounds by stacking softsynths in a rack. We are talking big, huge
sounds here. Stack up an FM7 with a Pro 53 and listen--its amazing.
For those of you who have a lot of software instruments and know how to program synths,
to work with Kore is to work
with the most vast and complete synth one can imagine.
- I can find my own sounds much easier.
I just have to name it so I remember what it sounds like. I don't even
have to recall what synth/or sampler made it. If I put the project
name in a database field, I can call up all the sounds in the project.
- Since version 1.1, I have been able to use
Kore on both my Mac and PC simultaneously
If you are still running an earlier version of Kore, update
to 1.1. You will be thrilled at the changes.
Native Instruments Kore Plug-In Host and Controller
|Kore will change the way you produce and perform. As
the world’s first Universal Sound Platform, it integrates all your
software instruments and effects into a single, unified interface. Kore
gives you total control of your sound and instant, hands-on access with
a real analog feel.
Standalone or Plugin
Kore works standalone or inside your
sequencer as a plugin. In standalone mode you can access both the Performance level
and Sound layer of Kore; as a plugin, you can
only access the "Sound" layer of Kore. As a plugin, it is a "host within a
host". You can load any VSTi, DXi, RTAS or AU into it's sound layer. As
many as your CPU allows. So, in both the Performance
and Sound layers you can host multiple plugins, create busses, use
mix the output.
However, there are some differences between standalone mode
(Performance) and plugin (Sound) mode.
A critical difference I have been able to find is that in
the Sound mode the output cannot use multiple outs--it can only output to the
stereo output assigned in the host sequencer. In Logic, Kore cannot be
instantiated in multi-channel mode. It would be nice to be able to send
each plugin in Kore to a dedicated bus in the sequencer, but you can't have
everything. NI writes in its setup guide that they plan to add multiple
outputs in a later version. So you will have to add instrument
specific effects as inserts inside Kore, or create internal busses for the
job. These functions work well, and all your VST/AU/DX/RTAS effects that are
available in the host sequencer are also available inside Kore. I was
leery, so i tried using both a UAD effect and a Waves effect in the same sound
inside Kore. No problems, I am happy to report.
Kore is multi-timbral. You can select the MIDI receive channel for soft synths or choose
you want to layer sounds. There is no problem using just one instance of
Kore for many different instruments on many different MIDI tracks in the
The Database and library are straightforward
to use. Those that have run editor librarians before will have no
trouble. You can assign attributes to any Kore Sound and once saved, the
preset is logged in the database. NI provides over 11,000 single sounds
for its own softsynths in the NI Komplete 3 package. As I had the
Komplete 2 package, the entries for Battery 2 and Reaktor 5 and others are grayed out.
I can still use Battery I and Reaktor 4, but I will have to manually add their
presets to the Kore Database. Same for other synths. If I want my
MiniMoog V presets accessible in the database, I will have to call up each
preset in Kore and save as a Kore Sound. This, of course, is a daunting
I erroneously thought that Kore would
find all my presets with Native Instruments extensions (like .NKI for Kontakt,
etc.) but, sorry to say, that is not how it works. It only
categorizes Kore sounds. So you have to do the loading and
saving game to make Kore's database access all your presets.
If there is
a marketing "gotcha" to Kore, it is when you see all the grayed out presets for synths
you do not have, you will be tempted to get or upgrade to Komplete 3 or
higher. I just did the upgrade
myself. I was disappointed to find out that Kore 1.03 and Komplete 4
still were showing lots of grayed out Komplete 3 presets and not showing the
Komplete 4 presets. Argh! Finally NI fixed the problem with Kore
1.1. Now it properly lists all the provided presets for the upgraded
synths in Komplete 4. I am happy to report the database is now up to
You can make Kore presets from any softsynth
or plugin effect
in your collection that Kore recognizes. I have brought over the best of my presets from my custom libraries. Ms20, M1,
Ethno and MX4, Atmosphere, Guru, Basstation, MiniMoog V the list goes on.
I was even able to get my Emu Esi 32 and EOS samples and presets and my Logic
EXS mkII sounds in by converting them to Kontakt format first. My library is
now huge, yet it remains navigatable and searchable and fast.
Oh, and you know what is cool? You can use
Kore in all your sequencers. Logic, Cubase, DP or if on windows Sonar,
Cubase, and whatever else lets you use VSTis. Anything you have in Kore
is accessible to all your software.
Kore comes with a hardware controller, which
as of the 1.1. update, no longer needs to be plugged in by USB to use Kore.
Hooray! There was an issue defined on the NI forums from users pleading
NI not to use the controller as a dongle. NI listened and acted.
This allows you to run Kore unplugged, and an more than one computer at the
same time. (The Kore license allows you to authorize Kore on 3
computers). The Controller can also function
as a USB 2.0 audio interface. (no mic pres though). You don't have
to use the audio interface features if you already have something else.
I think it has value for those gigging live, and perhaps for those with mixer
based rigs and rigs with limited i/o. There are 3 footswitch inputs, a
coax digital out, left and right balanced outs, left and right unbalanced
inputs and a headphone out. I have used it just to test it out and it
sounded fine, but I don't intend to use it as I already have an audio interface.
The controller has 8 knobs, 8 switches, transport
buttons (which do NOT control the host sequencer, only Kore's clock), an
audition button, knobs for i/o volume, a cursor keypad and a jog wheel.
The wheel, knobs and buttons only control Kore. I am hoping NI improves
the usefulness of the controller to allow it to control the sequencer as well.
The device is a good build. Solid.
The display is clear (red backlight) and the knobs and buttons feel positive.
You can adjust their sensitivity which is a good thing, as out of the box they
are very touchy. Oh, there is a small backlight knob which turns the
display off (which will extend the life of the display). Nice touch.
Configured properly, the knobs and switches not only send control information
to Kore but can be used to automate your Kore sounds in the host sequencer.
You can access your Kore library from the controller, which could be nice
live. I don't see any huge benefit to this in a computer based environment as
it is much faster to find stuff on the big screens.
NI thinks they have a revolutionary product
here for composers and sound designers. I can enthusiastically embrace
their concept. The database does make for finding sounds easier, and its
often better to try to find a sound by category and having all the presets of
all your plugins show up when looking for a bass, for example. People
using hardware synths have enjoyed such search capabilities for years, and its
great someone has done it with plugins. But the biggest possibility has
to do with sound itself, and those you can create easily with Kore. While of
course you can always make complex sounds in your sequencer without Kore by
simply cloning MIDI data to several tracks, there is something about the
interface that is inspiring. As you build a sound, you can have all your
elements right there in one window, like a work bench with all the tools you
Think about what is going on here.
Imagine of hardware synth with FM, analog modeling, sampling and 50-100
other unique synths, with 100s of effects of super quality. Lets say you
invested in a separate Mac just to run Kore as a massive synth. I think
it could beat out even the most powerful hardware synth on the market in terms
of sound and capability. Compare what a $8,000 Korg Oasys can do with
sound and what Kore can do in standalone mode on a dedicated computer, with a
full complement of software instruments. Possibilities for Kore are
BIG. Granted, they are not all real yet, but considered in that
light, I can not help but be intrigued.
I run Kore 1.1 on both my Mac and PC at the
same time. This has huge benefits. While working on a song in
Logic on the Mac, I can run Kore standalone on the PC, like a huge
multi-timbral soft synth, devoting all of its CPU to Kore. This has
given me the freedom to tweak up outlandish sounds I would never attempt.
I can run several Reaktor 5 ensembles and pipe in the audio out my emu 1820m
into my Motu 828mk2 and record them in Logic, or I can build a 32 channel
softsynth with 32 synths and trigger them via external MIDI. Kore
receives and will sync to MIDI clock, so stuff that uses the clock, like
arpeggiated sounds, intakt loops, and BPM based sounds all work on the remote
Kore takes CPU resources as you might expect. Those with cheap laptops may have trouble. When you start stacking up
heavy soft synths and samplers you are going to get hit, with Kore or not.
That's life in 2006. You can always bounce tracks to audio in the
sequencer. When you hear some of the beautiful soundscapes you can
create with Kore, you may be doing a bit of that. Interestingly, it
seems that my PC outperforms my Mac in terms of CPU usage with Kore.
I wish the display on the controller was bigger, at least big
enough to show all of Kore's Mixer. I can imagine running Kore on a
bigger more professional controller. Imagine Kore working on a
controller like the keyboard and screen of the Oasys. Another
drawback--unbalanced audio inputs. That could hurt those who want to use
Kore as a standalone FX box live, and also those who want to use the inputs as
hi quality dedicated sampler inputs. There are no turntable inputs, mic
pres, or instrument level inputs. Not a huge deal, as most of us have
something we can put in the chain to make the unbalanced line ins work.
What Newbies need to know
Kore does not come with softsynths. It
works with those on your system already. It is a "host" for software
instruments and plugin effects. A host is nothing other than a
container. Kore is not for brand new newbies. You should have a
solid working understanding of the sequencer and of how plugins work before
you plunge into it, as Kore will take you deep into that realm. Let me
say it again, Kore could prove frustrating for
those who don't have the computer resources to run a lot of plugins at once.
I would not want to run it on a cheap PC laptop. I suggest a powerful
computer to dig into the benefits of Kore.
Kore is not the program to help you learn how
to program synths. You still have to do the programming on each individual
synth. Kore just lets you combine these sounds in one interface.
Other than that, Kore is no more difficult to understand than your software
mixer. Its kind of like a mixer within a mixer as it is a host within a
host at the plugin level.
Who should get Kore?
Those who have a huge library and a lot of
instruments, a strong DAW, and want to push their sound into new frontiers.
designers should not wait. Get Kore up to speed as soon as you can.
The longer you wait, the more work it will be to save your sounds as Kore
sounds. I think it is an excellent platform for sonic exploration and
creation. Composers who work hard on their sound will appreciate
the more artistic way of finding instruments.
I am left in the positive ballpark. My
expectations were not high for the 1.03 release but NI exceeded them. With
the 1.1 release, Kore has again exceeded my hopes, which were much higher. I
know I will use Kore in every song from this point on. I doubt I will
use it for every software instrument, but certainly will when I want to build
a big sound, or to access those hard to find synth sounds. As I continue
to build the database with my existing synths, Kore will become more valuable.
I have already done a lot of work and my favorites sounds are now all in Kore