BPM 2014 Kontrol S49 Review

Komplet Kontrol Review

Native Instruments Komplete package is a set of sampler instruments powered by the Kontakt 5 virtual sampler and a series of virtual synthesisers and effects such as Massive and Reaktor. It has become an industry standard set of plug-ins used to create all sorts of popular music and film soundtracks. I have been using Komplete for a number of years on music and film projects and I was quite keen to try out the new Kontrol S49 keyboard and Komplete Kontrol software at the BPM Show 2014. I spent half an hour or so trying out the keyboard and scrolling through sample sets and instruments using the Komplete Kontrol software. The Kontrol S49 is part of the Kontrol S-Series of keyboards, which also includes 25 and 61 key versions.

Komplete Browser

Komplete Kontrol Review

The Komplete Kontrol browser was very easy to use and you can either search for a particular type of sound or use the menu to go straight to one of the instruments if your prefer. It made scrolling through presets easy and fun to play with, keeping the hands on the keyboard at all times. It felt more like playing a digital keyboard with the sound built in, rather than a midi controller as you do not need to use a mouse at all.

The Native Map

Native Instruments Kontrol S49 review

The instant mapping of the Native Map is one of the key selling points of the Kontrol S49. It gives you direct access to all the plug-in parameters from the keyboard and the you scroll through the pages displayed on the screen to find the parameter you want to change. Once you have loaded your instrument, there is no need to look at the computer screen at all as the information you need is all on the Keyboard. The close integration of controller and software is similar to Ableton’s approach with their Push controller, taking the focus away from the computer screen and onto the hardware controller itself. The build quality between the two devices is also equally high and for a Live user who regularly uses Komplete instruments, this could be a powerful combo.

Midi mapping is nothing new, but when using a controller with auto mapping such as the Novation Launchkey 49 (which I regularly use at work), its not always clear what is mapped to  what, so you have to turn all the nobs until you find the parameter you are looking for. The other way of doing it is to map everything yourself, which is easy enough to do, but having the software pre-mapped makes things much quicker, when you just want to make music, rather than messing around with mappings.

The Light Guide and other features

Kontrol S49 The giant

The Light Guide looks a bit like 70’s disco lighting, but it seems particularly useful for indicating different types of key maps/ sample sets such as drum loop and drum hit maps within Kontakt. This can also integrate well with third party sample sets by producers such as Spitfire Audio and Soniccouture

The Light Guide can also be used as an educational tool for learning scales and it would be interesting to see how it could be used as a step sequencer. The S49 also includes Arp, scale and chord function, which users of Logic of Ableton will already be familiar with, but it could be handy having them directly on the keyboard.

Conclusions

The overall build quality of the Kontrol S49 is high and it is reassuringly heavy. There is a nice wighting to the keys which feel heavier than a Novation Launchkey, but lighter than something fully weighted like a Kurzweil keybed.

The people who are going to get the best use of this are those that use Komplete throughout their composition/ production and need to work quickly, such as film and TV composers.

Many people will already have a MIDI controller keyboard and when I first heard that Native instruments where releasing a Komplete controller, I thought it might be something more like their Traktor Kontrol X1 which could sit very nicely next to a keyboard and would cost half the price of an S49. Perhaps this is an idea they are saving for later on down the line.

TRAKTOR_KONTROL_X1

The close integration of hardware and software works very well and if you are a Komplete user who is also in the market for a new midi keyboard, then this would be a very good choice.

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3 Responses to “BPM 2014 Kontrol S49 Review”

  1. iPad DJ and the post-laptop era of DJ’ing continues. BPM 2013 | James Kelly's blog Says:

    […] BPM 2014 Kontrol S49 Review […]

  2. iPad DJ and the post-laptop era of DJ’ing. Thoughts from BPM 2012 | James Kelly's blog Says:

    […] BPM 2014 Kontrol S49 Review […]

  3. BPM 2014 Trends Numark NV Traktor S8 Novtion Launch Control XL | James Kelly's blog Says:

    […] Turntablist and composer « BPM 2014 Kontrol S49 Review […]

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