In this Kontakt review we’ll be looking at Native Instruments’ robust and versatile soft-sampler. Kontakt 7 operates as either a standalone or as a plugin within your DAW. It delivers tremendous value for its price, but how much you get out of that depends on your musical goals and willingness to delve into the guts of the sounds you are working with.
Note that there are two versions of Kontakt: Kontakt Player and Kontakt Full. The player version is free. However, you can only load licensed libraries and the editing tools are limited to 15 minutes’ use. Many developers do not go through Native Instruments due to the costs involved in obtaining the license, so their libraries will only work in Kontakt Full. You’ll also find that the Player version comes with much less built in content. This works out to about 6GB instead of roughly 55GB with Kontakt Full. For this Kontakt review, we will mostly be looking at the full version.
Comparison With Other Samplers
There was a time when Kontakt was the de facto standard format in which sample libraries were developed. It supplanted Gigastudio, the original king of the soft-samplers. For a while it was nearly the only game in town (particularly if you worked with orchestral sample sets). However, developers have begun shifting to their own proprietary engines to deliver their content. Despite this, based on our Kontakt review, K7 has retained a large number of providers who offer top notch, cutting edge libraries, which are unavailable in other formats.
Kontakt isn’t the only soft-sampler available. Competitors have arisen including Sine from Orchestral Tools and Spitfire Audio’s own player. You’ll also see mentioned UVI Falcon and Vienna Symphonic Library’s Synchron Player. Nevertheless, none have nearly as deep a community of developers as Kontakt. They also may be closed to outside developers entirely. This advantage translates into more sounds for the consumer to choose from. It also means more resources for those learning how to create content.
Kontakt itself offers a full suite of tools for you to edit instruments or create your own from raw sounds. You don’t have to be an expert to benefit from these tools. It is easy to pick up the basics, and there are many resources available to explore more complex features. Once you realize how you can improve your instruments and tailor them to your workflow, you may find it hard to go back to more restrictive sample players.
Hard Drive Considerations
When researching this Kontakt review, we found that the new factory library has around 55GB of instruments. Even in this day and age, that can be a big chunk of real estate on your drive. If your computer is current, you’ll likely scoff at such trivial amounts. But if your machine is a few years old then that space may not be as easy to come by.
If you’ve been working with sampled instruments for a while, you probably have better examples of much or all of what Kontakt 7 provides. It’s unlikely that what it offers could be considered ‘best in class,’ though you may find a few useful patches interspersed throughout the library. Indeed, there are some hidden gem patches within Kontakt’s factory library. These include the Shakuhachi flute and my personal favorites the celesta and harp instruments.
What’s New in Kontakt 7
A handy new feature is the ability to “purge” all instances of Kontakt 7 when running as a plugin. For those of us who create projects with large orchestral instruments (and don’t have infinite RAM), this can be a lifesaver.
Additionally, you’ll see a new browser, though you can switch back to the old one if you prefer. The new browser has support for Hi-DPI. You can also now add Kontakt libraries from indie developers or freebies from e.g. Pianobook to the browser window. Previously these libraries could only be accessed by looking through the file browser, so this is a nice quality of life upgrade.
Many improvements have been made to the engine itself allowing deeper editing, as well as enhanced and smoother time stretching. This is a great thread for a comprehensive list of additions and fixes: https://vi-control.net/community/threads/kontakt-updates-current-version-7-1-8.95552/ which goes far beyond this Kontakt review.
What’s more, you’ll find that the factory library has received a vast update. Kontakt instruments now include over 55GB of content, spanning a wide range of styles. Check out this page for a full breakdown: https://blog.native-instruments.com/why-upgrade-to-kontakt-7/
Pricing and Upgrades
If you are using a previous version of Kontakt already, upgrading to 7 can be really worth it. The regular price is $299, but if you own previous NI software, log in to check your personalized price. There are other ways to get Kontakt 7, for example in Komplete Standard. You may find this to be exceptionally good value in a 50% off sale.
As noted in this Kontakt review, a great deal of version K7’s improvements are ‘under the hood’. Overall it is stable, full-featured, and widely supported. It is hard to imagine a soft-sampler offering more functionality or a wider assortment of sound libraries that will run on it. As developers transition over to K7, upgrading from K6 may not be essential if you continue to use older sample libraries.
For discussion of Native Instruments’ Studio Drummer check out our article here: https://musiclibraryreport.com/software-reviews/review-studio-drummer-by-native-instruments/
Article updated March 8, 2023.
Article written by Mercer Lincoln.