Review: Native Instruments Komplete 14 Collector’s Edition

Review: Native Instruments Komplete 14 Collector’s Edition

Komplete 13 came out in October 2020. Since then, NI released minor improvements for many of its plugins, a gazillion new expansions, and a couple of Kontakt instruments came out. Now Komplete 14 is here, staying within the usual two-year release cycle. New sounds, an updated version of Kontakt, and every release of NI since Komplete 13 are included.

In addition, a couple of products from NI’s Soundwide partners are now included in Komplete 14. From partner iZotope comes the standard version of its flagship mastering suite Ozone 10. And from partner Brainworx come seven plugins: the Auto-Tune clone Bx_crispytune, the two virtual analog synths bx_oberhausen and Knifonium, the Lofi effect LO-FI-AF,  bx_limiter and the two console emulations bx_console Focusrite SC and bx_console N.

Just like its predecessor Komplete 14 comes in four sizes: Select, Standard, Ultimate, and Collector’s Edition. For this review, we take a closer look at the latter one.

First, make sure that you have installed the latest version of Native Instrument’s bulk installer Native Access 2. The software is available for Windows systems, Intel-based Macs, and even for Apple Silicon systems. Once you have installed the latest version, you simply enter the serial number NI provides you after buying Komplete 14. Afterwards, you can either install every NI product that is part of your version of Komplete 14 at once or select which ones you want to use. NI has provided a short introduction to Access 2:

The setup on my Mac Studio went smoothly and without any hiccups. In order to authorize the additional plugins from iZotope and Brainworx, make sure to watch your inbox. After registering your copy of Komplete 14, you’ll receive no less than 14 emails with instructions for each non-NI product!

What’s new in Komplete 14?

The star of Komplete 14 is the new version of its flagship sampler, Kontakt 7.  Kontakt 7 also brings an updated version of its sound library Kontakt Factory Library 2. Also included in the Collector’s Edition is the new sampled choir instrument Choir:Omnia. In total, Native Instruments has added as many as fifty new products to Komplete 14, besides the additions from its Soundewide partners.

Of course, most of the usual suspects of NI’s popular software instruments are still part of the bundleBattery 4, Massive, Massive X, FM8 and Reaktor as well as many of the older instruments for Kontakt and Reaktor are still here. However, none of these received any kind of update along with Komplete 14. And sadly, the experimental synth Absynth 5 is no longer part of the bundle (here is a statement by its original developer Brain Clevinger).

Among the included expansions and Kontakt instruments are Choir:Omnia, Lores, Ashlight, Piano Colors, Playbox, Play Series, Neo Boogie, Soul Sessions, Action Strings 2, Sequis, Session Guitarist (Electric Mint, Picked Nylon), Session Bassist Prime Bass and ten soundpacks for Massive X.

NI’s big sampler Kontakt has received a significant facelift for its instruments browser. The new version is HiDPI-compatible, making it finally scalable on 4k monitors. In addition, it is now possible to pre-listen within the browser to just about every preset and sound from any Kontakt instrument, just like it has been possible in Komplete Kontrol.

The search function has been improved, making the discovery of new sounds and instruments through a tag-based approach much easier. Under the hood, pretty much everything remains the same. NI has added two effects from Guitar Rig 6 (Psyche Delay and Ring Modulator) and has changed the look of the modulation menus.

Review: How does Komplete 14 fit into my production workflow?

Outside of Kontakt 7 and the newly added expansions, none of NI’s old suite of instruments deserves a closer look as nothing has been added or changed. Equally, Ozone 10 has received its own recent review on Gearnews and the plugins from Brainworx are probably well-known enough already. So let’s deep-dive into Kontakt 7.

The new browser makes going through NI’s vast catalogue of sampled instruments such a breeze. Also, pres-listening to any instruments can be a pretty significant timesaver, depending on how fast your system is. The older view is still there, however, if you fancy the browser in the left side and the instrument on the right side.

Besides the new, scalable browser not much has changed in Kontakt 7. Every instrument made for Kontakt 6 still works in the new version, and they all still look the same. Now improvement, but also, luckily, no glitches or hiccups that I can report. For those of us who compose for film and games, who produce pop music or Hip Hop beats or like it a bit more experimental, Kontakt 7 is the perfect playground. A huge variety of string instruments and full-on orchestras is there, a couple of sampled choirs, plenty of piano sounds and drones of just about any sonic variety. Besides the high quality of every instrument, the added macro controls, sequencers, and randomized and play engines present additional possibilities to change the sound of each preset.

As a fan of the Nils-Frahm-supported piano library “Noire, my favorites in Komplete 14 were Piano Colours, Ashlight, Playbox, and the “40s Very Own” series. In addition, I discovered a couple of instruments that NI released in the last two years that I hadn’t had the time to play with. The sound quality is staggering. Sometimes you can almost smell the popcorn in your cinema seat when playing some of the presets.

Compatibility and possible subscriptions

We can’t talk about Komplete 14 and not mention the lack of updates among every other instrument besides Kontakt. NI has promised that these will all receive their updates between October 2022 and spring of 2023, however. But why were none of these updates ready for the release? Or why did NI decide not to wait until they had at least some of the instruments’ updates ready? As of today, 0nly Kontakt 6 & 7 and Guitar Rig 6 support Apple’s new M1/M2 natively (Ozone 10 runs natively as well, just like the plugins from Brainworx, except Bx_crispytuner). All the other plugins – Reaktor 6, Battery 4, Maschine 2, FM8, Massive, Massive X – still only run with the Rosetta 2 wrapper. And that means significantly less available CPU performance.

In addition, many of the aforementioned plugins are still not available in the plugin format VST3. If NI does not manage to make the switch by the end of 2023, Cubase 12 users will not be able to use these plugins anymore as the company has announced the end of VST2 support in its DAW by that time. NI offers support pages that document the status of both the Apple Silicon switch and the VST3 conversion.

There is also the whole topic of a subscription looming on the horizon. Much to my surprise, NI did not make the change with this release. But it’s already implemented into Native Access 2, so it will only be a matter of the next couple of years until a true subscription option (outside of the intro offer Komplete Now) will be offered. This, however, is pure speculation on my part as NI has made no official statement on this issue.

Conclusion

Native Instruments Komplete 14 is a great bundle for musicians who are building an “in-the-box” studio. And with Ozone 10 and the suite of Brainworx plugins added, a DAW is all you need to produce professional-sounding songs with Komplete 14 – from the first idea to the final master in many different genres. Also, the bundle is a pretty big bargain compared to the individual prices of the included products: the update to Komplete 14 costs as much as a single license of Ozone 10.

However, if you own one of the latest predecessors, do spend some time checking out the sound examples on NI’s website to figure out if there is enough new sonic material for you to make the upgrade worth it. Because to me, Komplete 14 heavily focuses on sounds for film and game music composition. Also, many of its Kontakt Instruments bring sounds that fit into pop song productions or Hip hop beats. I’m still hoping for more than just compatibility updates for the rest of Komplete’s instruments, however. The lack of anything new here was a bit surprising.

Maybe we’ve simply been too spoiled with the last iterations of Komplete and can’t appreciate the many high-quality expansions and instruments. Maybe it’s time to fully acknowledge the change NI has been pushing for the last 5-7 years away from innovator and boundary pusher in virtual instruments towards creating the portfolio with the biggest sonic variety in the business.

Prices and Specifications for Native Instruments Komplete 14

Native Instruments Komplete 14 is available at Thomann (Affiliate) in many different sizes, upgrades, and prices. The Collector’s Edition (149 instruments and effects, 103 Expansions) goes for 1799,00 Euros (Upgrade: 499,00 Euros) and Ultimate (140 instruments and effects, 65 Expansions) costs 1199,00 Euros (Upgrade: 399,00 Euros),

Standard (87 instruments and effects, 39 Expansions) goes for 599,00 Euros (Upgrade: 199,00 Euros), and Select (19 instruments and effects, 8 Expansions) costs 199,00 Euros (Upgrade: 99,00 Euros). In addition, a variety of crossgrade options is available.

Most of Komplete’s plugins run on macOS 10.15 or higher and on Windows 10 or higher. For Mac systems, most plugins are available as AU, VST, (some) VST3, AAX, and standalone. For Windows most plugins are available as VST, AAX, and standalone.

Depending on the bundle you chose, you’ll receive between one and three vouchers for 29,99 Dollars each for Plugin Alliance’s online shop.

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