Kontakt needs a serious overhaul for 2023 to meet great plugin standards. The Gui should be resizeable, preset management should be modernized, even the way we select a library and add it should be more of a a bunch of smaller squares or something instead of the current large panels on the left. Samples are slow to load, volumes need to be cranked up to hear them.
Is Kontakt the best sampling platform I can imagine? Not even close. Worse yet, the version 6 pitfalls have been among the worst since early version 4 (about 10 years ago). Have they added features? Sure. And gigantic bloat.
Unfortunately, the bloat is not only in the size of the engine. The screen real estate it fills with useless graphics is even worse.
All that negativity aside, Kontakt is the standard of the industry for sampling that sits in your DAW. If you don't license it, you will be missing a significant chunk of available sound libraries and virtual instruments. And that's the cool part: if you want more sounds, get Kontakt for endless possibilities.
At this point, in 2021, Kontakt is very much a necessary evil. If you want to use many of the best sample libraries out there, you need to pay up the cash for the full version of Kontakt. But you probably won't be happy about it.
There are competing products out there that offer (at least) most of the same functionality, for a lot less money, and without using anywhere near the ridiculous processing overhead that Kontakt uses.
Oh, and those competing products have re-sizable GUIs as well. Still not figured that out in Kontakt, Native Instruments, despite what you charge for it?
It's become a bit of a joke how little regard NI has for its customers concerning this and other core products. They keep pumping out new expensive products and focus on drawing in new customers, whilst completely ignoring the problems with Kontakt that existing customers have been complaining about for years (yes, YEARS).
Sadly, it has gotten to the point where I will actively avoid buying Native Instruments products unless there's absolutely no alternative. Their market segment is ripe for disruption and frankly the day can't come soon enough...
The worst piece of drek this side of Pro Tools. Overpriced, the ridiculously cramped screen with tons of real estate wasted, you can't resize or even simply maximize that cramped screen, the ridiculous cobweb of file extensions, the lame and inconsistent file navigation, the weak customer service, the short shelf life (it's not long before simply having Kontakt is enough, you need a newer version for newer plugins, and can only get the free upgrade for minor upgrades), I could go on. And really this plugin within a plugin thing is stupid in the first place. It's a shame that so many plugins were written just to appease this archaic software sewage, which is the ONLY reason to get it. Fortunately I there are a ton of great plugins which don't require it, and few if any sample libraries do anymore, so I'll never waste money on it (I'm only familiar with due to a friend having it and quickly realized how happy I was that I never bought it).
Kontakt by itself is a five-star sampling application and the literal heart and centerpiece of all my music production. Kontakt as an MPE software ranges from 3.5 stars to 4.5 stars depending on a billion factors, like:
If you can find a Kontakt Library that's MPE-compatible that fits your project or use-purpose.
If you have to do any finnicky fiddling / routing to get your desired effect.
If you'll buy an MPE-enabled synth or plugin instead of even trying anymore.
So if you need Kontakt for its core functionality (loading up and playing your virtual instruments beyond the Kontakt Player functionality) and also found at least one MPE-enabled Kontakt library, then grab it for sure.
But if you think Kontakt is (as of 2020) a playground of enldess MPE-controlled fun, dig much deeper before pressing the buy button.
Industry standard sample player, complex scripting, tons of additional content and continuous support. It's really a no-brainer as part of the Komplete bundle, which is very reasonably priced with it's upgrade path.
2 major version upgrades to what is arguably one of the most widely used and influential software instruments on the market, and not a review in nearly three years? I mean - come on, people!
Then again, writing an even half-way comprehensive review in the space allotted here is impossible, so I won't even try.
Quite a few people still complain about the fact that the Kontakt “sampler” still does not sample. Fair enough. However, calling it a just sample player wouldn't really be very fair either. In fact, the entire concept has evolved so far beyond a traditional sampler that I think the best comparison nowadays is rather more the “instrument design environments” like Reaktor or SynthEdit.
The Kontakt Scripting Language together with a staggering amount of internal FX and sample-mangling/processing capabilities means you can take your basic raw samples in any direction you like – striving for the utmost in real-world instrument emulations, or making sure the sound that goes out the speakers have almost nothing to do with the sound of the raw samples.
Add to this the per-instrument GUI customization (introduced in Kontakt 3 and greatly enhanced in Kontakt 4) and more than ever before, you now have a feeling that each Kontakt patch acts as a discrete, solid instrument with at least the same diversity and level of real-time control as stand-alone plugins usually offer.
On paper, the changes in Kontakt 4 might have sounded a little underwhelming compared to the huge leap forward that was Kontakt 3. However – especially with the release of 4.1 – some usability enhancements has really transformed the product, and begs the question “why wasn't these very obvious features included years ago”?
First up, Kontakt f-i-n-a-l-l-y has a half-way decent database/patch browser allowing you to categorize all your Kontakt instruments in a meaningful way (although you have to “batch resave” (convert) all your instrument files to Kontakt 4 format first). Currently, the browser has its share of performance problems, most of which I expect will be addressed in upcoming updates. (However, working with the database on a discrete sample level could remain a very sluggish business, if you read between NI's own lines...)
Secondly, Kontakt 4.1 recently introduced intelligent background sample loading which means projects containing several huge Kontakt instruments now take seconds rather than minutes to load. It may then take a while before playing such a project becomes smooth and crackle-free, but the feeling of increased responsiveness is tremendous – as is the experience when loading single instruments for live play, or quick patch-browsing.
The amount of work that has gone in to re-designing Kontakt's instrument library is quite impressive – they have really gone to town on the old content from previous versions to make use of the new GUI possibilities, and the new additions are just the things that I were sorely missing – a decent choir, some mellotron tapes, and orchestral solo strings. Having gone from a haphazard collection of odds and ends in version 2, the library now feels coherent and fairly complete. Two recently killed-off NI products are “compensated” for by the inclusion of all instruments from the Elektrik Piano library, and a decent number or Hammond organ variations (which are usable but sadly don't hold a candle to B4 II.)
An amateur/casual musician could spend a long time making amazing music without ever leaving the confines of Kontakt and its included library.
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Comments & Discussion for Native Instruments Kontakt
Dear dizzyfingers, it can be the file how it's designed (no bread and butter here, all patches are made with several layers to have a complex movement) or the way you play it back in Kontakt 5, the higher the key you play the more it sounds jittery... try to start from C3, and follow the note "try lower keys" for more subtle and soft soundscapes. Cheers.
Oh, come on. It's no less of a review because one NI fanboy doesn't agree with it. You're entitled to your opinion of Kontakt, just as I'm entitled to mine (as a dissatisfied paying customer). Prospective buyers of Kontakt should be made aware of the drawbacks as well as the benefits. However, feel free to refute anything within my review that you feel is factually incorrect. If you look again, you'll notice I did essentially say Kontakt is the standard, but if NI aren't prepared to bring it into the current decade, the industry should move on. Just because something has always been done a certain way, doesn't mean that should be the case in the future.