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Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49 Mk2 Keyboard Review

Written by Jazz Brown

Komplete control mk2 coming as an S 49 and an S 61 so 49 and 61 keys respectively has all-new industrial design new features. However, they have experienced significant changes compared to their predecessors. On the one hand there were the two high-resolution color displays, on the other hand, the two touch strips for pitch-bending and modulation had to give way to two rubberized handwheels. The usual Minimoog standard for playfully changing the pitch and for fast sound changes is now also included in Native Instruments controller keyboards.

Many proven things have remained the same compared to the first complete Kontrol generation we tested in March 2015. These include the superb Fatar keyboard, which is among the best on the market. The eight encoders have remained the same. Together with the new added eight function keys, they frame the two displays. Which task is assigned to them, show you the respective displays. Above the keyboard keyboard, you will still find colored LEDs that indicate zones within contact or reactor patches, as well as the tones of a scale.

Big and colorful: The two high-resolution displays stand out – but the software has also been further developed.

The associated control software now manages in addition to the adaptation to Ableton Live other templates with which you control your DAW. In addition, with version 2.0 you have direct access to a variety of effect plug-ins. Native Instruments refers to the format in which the plug-ins must be used as NKS (Native Kontrol Standard). Suppliers of NKS-compatible plug-ins include Arturia, Rob Papen, Waldorf and Waves. You load them comfortably over the surface of Komplete Kontrol. If necessary, you can change the plug-in parameters with the rotary controls and buttons. In some supported DAWs, you can even make changes in real time.

The hardware of the Komplete Keyboard

As mentioned above, the Fatar 49mm keyboard we tested is among the best on the market. You can find them in many high quality keyboards. From our point of view, it offers a very pleasant feeling. All keys can be played evenly and with a good feeling of pressure. Fine articulations are well implemented. The eight rotary knobs also impress with their sturdy, firm fit. The same applies to the rubberized function keys, which also have a good pressure point.

You notice immediately if you have pressed one of the function keys. Due to their backlight, they even give you a discreet feedback visually. Unfortunately, the handwheels fall off qualitatively. Although they are pleasantly wide and rubberized, so you can grab them well. However, both feel spongy when moving. In addition, the pitchbend wheel returns slightly to the zero position. The touchstrips of the first generation were unfamiliar, but more convincing than these handwheels. Luckily you’ll find a touch strip underneath the wheels for modulations.

The case makes a stable impression. The simple, elegant surface is clearly structured. To the left of the displays, you’ll find the function keys to control the DAWs, machine, and internal arpeggiator. To the right of the displays are six buttons and the four-directional controller for navigating through the menus. The latter, like machine mk3, is a mixture of endless knob, joystick and push button. Thanks to his help, you can use one hand to navigate through the presets while playing with the other.

Komplete control 2.0 and machine

One of the strengths of Komplete Kontrol is its interaction with the machine and the DAWs. Ableton Live, Cubase / Nuendo and Logic / Garageband are now supported. In fact, the controller is an ideal complement to machine. Especially users of older machine controllers and Machine Jam will benefit from keyboard color displays when searching for and editing sounds. In addition, the introduction of melodies, chords and other tonal ideas for experienced keyboardists with Komplete Kontrol is more elegant than on the 16 pads of the machine controller.

Specially for Machine you will find a keypad to the left of the displays that allows access to Scenes, Patterns and Tracks. With the new four-directional controller, you can quickly switch from one group to the next. Without looking at the computer or the grip on the machine controller, you develop your scenes in Maschines Idea View, which you can arrange later. Pressing the Auto-button while simultaneously pressing the desired knob will record automation such as a “filter run”, ie opening or closing a filter.

Let’s play DAW

Komplete Kontrol S49 mk2 is just as versatile in interaction with the supported DAWs. You can use the “Mixer” function key to call it up in the respective program.Use the rotary controls to adjust the volume of the channels.A short press on the four-directional control changes the setting from volume to pan and back.The M or S button and the corresponding key above the desired channel in the display allows you to solo or mute the respective channel.

The high-resolution displays show you the channels. Without looking at the computer monitor, you mix your current project if necessary. It is even more enjoyable due to the newly introduced NKS-compatible effect plug-ins. Even the introduction of NKS for software synthesizers enabled the use of plug-ins from other manufacturers with complete control (and machine). NKS-compatible means the manufacturer has adapted its plug-in so that you can immediately change any parameter with complete control.

With the extension to effect plug-ins, you can now also use them very comfortably from the keyboard. As many well-known software companies announced their support of this format, with the extension of the NCP standard, many effects are available for every situation. Including replicas of legendary compressors and modern creative effects. Once installed, the Komplete Kontrol browser will always find these effects.

Installation of hardware and software

To connect Komplete Kontrol S49mk2 you only need the supplied USB cable. After connecting this to your computer, you install the associated software. These you load after registration via the Native Access software directly from the Internet. Just follow the instructions on the attached map and you’re ready to go Complete Kontrol. The enclosed software includes Komplete 11 Select, a very good collection of synthesizers (Monark and Massive) as well as contact-based sample players.

To set up Complete Control as the controller for your DAW, you can get detailed descriptions on the Native Instruments website. These are very helpful and should be read. Unfortunately, this information can only be found in the Support pages under “Product Information” (Host Integration Notes). The shortcut list, which shows you which functions of your DAW you control with the keyboard, is again hidden as a PDF under the FAQ for Komplete Kontrol. It would be nice, this information would be coherently visible in one place. Finally, the installation instructions and the shortcuts are important to exploit the full potential of the controller. Therefore, it is good that they clarify all the important questions in an understandable way. Hopefully more DAWs will be supported in the near future, as programs like Pro Tools, Reason and FL Studio will benefit from the very good integration as well.

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49 Mk2 Keyboard Specs

Type Keyboard Controller
Number of Keys 49
Type of Keys Fatar Keybed semi-weighted
Aftertouch Yes
Other Controllers Pitch Wheel, Mod Wheel, Touch strip
Encoders/Pots 8 x touch-sensitive knobs, 4-directional push encoder
Dedicated Transport Control Yes
Pedal Inputs 2 x 1/4″ (expression, sustain)
MIDI I/O In/Out/USB
Software Komplete 11 Select, Komplete Kontrol (downloads)
Hardware Requirements – Mac Intel Core 2 Duo or higher, 6GB RAM or more recommended
Hardware Requirements – PC Intel Core 2 Duo / AMD Athlon 64 X2 or higher, 6GB RAM or more recommended
OS Requirements – Mac OS X 10.11 or later
OS Requirements – PC Windows 7 SP1 or later
Power Supply 15V DC power supply (sold separately) / USB Bus powered
Height 3.3″
Width 33.1″
Depth 11.7″
Weight 12.1 lbs.
USB

Conclusion

The second generation of Komplete Kontrol convinces (almost) all along the line. Apart from the two handwheels for pitchbending and modulation, all the new additions extend the already versatile possibilities for further useful functions. Thanks to the color displays, it is very rare to have a look at the computer while playing music, but Komplete Kontrol mk2 usually provides you with all the necessary information. Each NKS-compatible plug-in is easy to use with Native Instruments latest controllers.

Pros:

  • Built-in MIDI interface
  •  Power supply via USB or network part
  • Two high-resolution color displays
  • Integration into Ableton Live, Native Instruments machine
  • Pitchbend and modulation wheel

Prices:

  • $599.00

Particularly gratifying is the continuous development of the Kontrol keyboard software. Expanding support to audio sequencers (DAWs) such as Live, Logic, and Cubase adds value to the keyboard. Complete Control is an excellent solution as a controller keyboard in your studio.