Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Complete History of Komplete - All Native Instruments Komplete Versions Compared

All the Kompletes
UPDATE (August 1, 2016): The comparison chart has now been updated for Komplete 11!

In 2003, a seven year old Native Instruments knew what it wanted to be when it grew up: The dominant force in virtual music instruments. When they packed their nine best products into one giant box and dubbed it "Komplete," the message was clear: Why go anywhere else for software instruments when everything you need is right here? Today's Komplete Ultimate bundles are the soft-synth equivalent of Waves Mercury. No other single virtual instrument publisher offers quite the breadth and depth that the Komplete series has consistently delivered since that first big blue box hit store shelves.

Product Comparison of all Komplete Versions


Every year or two when a new Komplete release looms, music message boards light up with users asking, "If I have version X of Komplete, what would I gain by upgrading to version Y?" This hasn't always been an easy question to answer, because Native Instruments preserves very little information about older products on their site. To satisfy my own curiosity, and to help my fellow KLFs (Komplete Lovin' Fools), I spent a fair amount of time compiling the contents and release information of every Komplete bundle since the series debuted.


Click image to view the Komplete product version comparison worksheet.

You can find my detailed product comparison of all Komplete versions right here. It lists every major version of every individual product that was ever included in a Komplete bundle, and when each product was introduced or discontinued. The Legend tab describes the color scheme used in the worksheet (green products are first-appearance-in-Komplete, red products last-appearance/discontinued, etc.) The Release Details tab gives detailed stats on each Komplete bundle (month and year of release, price, number of products, etc.).

The worksheet and its tabs represent the raw data, and what follows is some various trivia and analysis of Komplete over time.

Ultimate Notes

  • The first "Ultimate" bundle was 2011's Komplete 8 Ultimate. Unlike "standard" Komplete releases, which are a selection of popular products in the Komplete product line, Ultimate bundles contain the entire Komplete catalog of software products as of a specific date which  Native Instruments specifies.
  • Any new products in the Komplete line that Native Instruments brings to market after a Komplete Ultimate release date are usually not grandfathered into that pre-existing Komplete bundle (although there have been occasional exceptions). Those new products generally will be included in the next major Komplete Ultimate bundle, however.
  • Another distinguishing feature of Komplete Ultimate bundles is the fact that they ship with small USB hard drives for installation instead of DVDs. The Komplete Ultimate hard disks are not used at product runtime, and aren't intended to store any information other than the product installers. They are only provided to facilitate installation.
  • Neither Komplete 8 Ultimate or Komplete 9 Ultimate are available in downloadable form. Registered owners of standard Komplete 8 and 9, however, are granted download access to the ISO images of the DVD install discs in the event that their discs are damaged or misplaced.

Discontinued Products


Over time, Native Instruments has discontinued a number of products that once featured in earlier Komplete bundles.
  • Acoustic Refractions (Komplete 7) was the only full Kore soundpack included in a Komplete bundle, although some content from other Kore packs has trickled into various Komplete products since Kore was discontinued. Kore was a hybrid hardware/software product that acted as a sort of master library and control center for your Native Instruments sounds. Some see Maschine as an evolution of the Kore concept, although Maschine lacks Kore's advanced sound morphing engine. See the Kore Soundpacks section later on for more details about that product line.
  • The Akoustik Piano and Elektrik Piano Kontakt instruments that appeared in Komplete releases between 2005 and 2007 were discontinued, however most of their samples were reused in other Kontakt piano instruments that are still available today (and included in current Komplete Ultimate releases). The four real electric pianos sampled for Elektrik Piano were the Fender Rhodes MK I and MK II, Hohner Clavinet E7 and Wurlitzer A 200. These instruments now appear in the Band > Electric Pianos folder of the Kontakt Factory Library. Read on to learn what happened to the Akoustik Pianos samples.
  • The contents of the Classic Piano Collection appeared in all Komplete bundles from Komplete 7 through Komplete 9 Ultimate. The samples used in these instruments come from the discontinued Akoustik Piano product, although any references to the original manufacturers and piano models were removed from the Piano Collection versions. The original pianos used for Akoustik Piano were the Steinway D, Bechstein D 280, and Boesendorfer 290 Imperial, and the charismatic Steingraeber 130. In Kontakt, the new instruments appeared as individual products in the Library tab as New York Concert Grand, Vienna Concert Grand, Berlin Concert Grand, and simply Upright Piano. These products were discontinued in 2014 in favor of the new pianos that debut in Komplete 10.
  • B4 Organ (Komplete 1-5) was a popular emulation of  the Hammond B-3 organ. In 2005, Native Instruments even released a bespoke MIDI controller just for B4, called the B4D Organ Controller. While the Vintage Organs Kontakt library includes a "Tonewheel Organ B3" instrument that represents the B-3, it is purely sample-based whereas B4 was synthesized. 
  • Intakt was a slicing and looping sampler that had several features which now appear in Maschine.
  • Kompakt was a multi-timbral sample player based on the Kontakt engine which has more or less been replaced by Kontakt Player.
  • Reaktor Session (Komplete 1) was a stripped down version of Reaktor 4. It had the full engine, so was capable of playing any existing Reaktor ensembles, but apparently couldn't be used to create new instruments. Replaced by the modern Reaktor Player.
  • NI-Spektral Delay was a sophisticated FFT-based stereo delay effect, and one of Native Instruments' earlier products. It was officially discontinued in 2007 because the potential benefits of keeping the product alive did not justify the effort required to keep it up to date with evolving computer and DAW architectures.
  • Vokator was an advanced FFT-based vocoder. Like NI-Spektral Delay, keeping the product current proved to be more trouble than it was worth, so the company discontinued both products in 2007.
  • Pro-53 was actually Native Instruments' third and best emulation of the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 analog synthesizer. The earlier emulation products were Pro-Five and Pro-52. While there are some Prophet samples in the Retro Machines Mk2 Kontakt library included in all current Komplete bundles, Native Instruments does not currently offer any true Prophet emulations.
  • In 2007, Native Instruments released three bundles under the Komplete banner. Alongside the major Komplete 5 release, there were two subset bundles: Komplete Synths, with Absynth 4, FM8, Massive, and PRO-53- and Komplete Classics, with Akoustik Piano, B4 II, Elektrik Piano, and... PRO-53. They didn't release multiple Komplete SKUs again until Komplete 8, when they introduced the Ultimate concept.

    The 2007 Komplete bundles.

Kore Soundpacks

While Native Instruments sells many expansion packs for Maschine, occasionally distributes free remix sets for Traktor, and frequently promotes third-party Traktor remix sets, they do not currently market any expansion sets for the Komplete product line. This wasn't always the case, however.

During the heyday of the Kore product line, Native Instruments sold around 30 different Kore Soundpacks, which employed the various engines behind Native Instruments' flagship Komplete instruments. While most of the soundpacks focused on a single engine (there were several Massive and Absynth packs, for example), a number of them included patches that used several engines together, taking advantage of Kore's powerful sound morphing capabilities.

After Native Instruments discontinued the Kore line, a lot of content from the original Kore soundpacks made its way into various aspects of the remaining Komplete products. After a fair amount of research, I've compiled a list of all Kore soundpacks that were released, and where they ended up in Komplete. You can find the full list here. (It's a tab on the main Komplete comparison worksheet.)


Click image to view Kore Soundpacks worksheet.
While content from about half of the soundpacks is still available in Komplete in one form or another, please note the following:
  • Around half of the soundpacks are simply not available in any manner in Native Instruments' current line-up. Most of these were either produced by third-party developers or were too complex to break out into presets for any single Komplete product.
  • While a number of soundpacks used only a single Komplete engine, many used more than one. So even though the content from an original soundpack might appear today as a Massive, FM8, or Absynth sound bank, for example, it might be missing presets that relied on different engines.
  • Without Kore, you lose the ability to take advantage of its sound morphing; today you only have individual presets.
  • Many of the Kore "sound variations" from the original soundpacks didn't make the translation into individual Komplete preset libraries.

Freebies and Upgrades

  • Komplete 2 initially shipped with Battery 1 and Absynth 2, but in late 2004, Native Instruments granted free upgrades to Battery 2 and Absynth 3 to all registered Komplete 2 owners.
  • Driver was offered as a free gift to Native Instruments customers registered as of late 2012, but was later released as a commercial product and made its Komplete debut in 9 Ultimate.
  • Komplete 8 and 8 Ultimate included Abbey Road "Drums" products at launch, but several months later, when Native Instruments released improved "Drummer" products (which included MIDI grooves), existing Komplete owners received the new versions as a free update.
  • Komplete 8 Ultimate owners got free upgrades to the Solid Mix Series and Vintage Compressors effects when those items were re-released as standalone plugins. 
  • Driver and Session Horns were originally exclusive to the Ultimate bundles, but beginning with Komplete 10 they are now part of the "standard" bundle.

Series and Collections

  • The Discovery Series of Kontakt instruments has appeared in Komplete Ultimate bundles since Komplete 8 Ultimate. It includes Balinese Gamelan, a "lite" version of a Soniccouture product of the same name, Cuba, which was produced for Native Instruments by e-instruments, and West Africa, which Native Instruments produced entirely in-house. In 2009, Native Instruments released the first entry, Discovery Series: North India, as a Kore soundpack. Although Kore soundpacks are no longer sold separately, all instruments from that soundpack are currently part of the "World" category of the Kontakt 5 factory library.
  • While the Reverb Classics plugins (RC 24 and RC 48) are listed on the box art for Komplete 9 Ultimate, the installer drive for K9U did not include those plugins at launch. Registered K9U owners received download links a couple days after registering on Service Center, but users could also download the Demo versions of the plugins from the Native Instruments site and use them as fully licensed products without needing an additional product key.
  • The Solid Mix Series, which includes Solid Bus Comp, Solid Dynamics, and Solid EQ, was originally only for Guitar Rig, but in early 2013 Native Instruments re-released them as standalone plugins. Registered Komplete 8 Ultimate owners got these updates for free. They still appear in Guitar Rig under "Solid Mix Series."
  • The Softube-developed Vintage Compressors line, made up of VC 160, VC 2A, and VC 76, was also originally exclusive to Guitar Rig, but was re-released as standalone around the same time as the Solid Mix Series. They still appear in Guitar Rig under "Vintage Compressors."
  • The Grandeur, The Maverick, and The Gentleman comprise the Definitive Piano Collection (mentioned in some leaked copy as the "Essential Pianos Collection") that replaces the now discontinued Classic Pianos Collection in Komplete 10. The new instruments were produced by Galaxy Instruments, who also produced The Giant and Rise & Hit.

Plugin and Application Formats

  • Since the very first release, all Komplete editions have fully supported both Mac and Windows (32-bit).
  • Komplete 6 was the first edition to include 64-bit installers for some products (in addition to the pre-existing 32-bit versions), but it wasn't until a 2011 software update several months after Komplete 7's release that all Komplete products were available in 64-bit formats on both Mac and PC.
  • Every version of Komplete has included both standalone and plugin versions of major products such as Reaktor, Absynth, and Kontakt. Initial plugin support in 2003 was 32-bit VST 2.x, AU, DirectX, and RTAS.
  • To date Native Instruments has never supported Steinberg's VST 3 format.
  • Komplete 7 was the first release to include any products that weren't stand-alone applications or DAW plugins. It included Kontakt instruments, Reaktor ensembles, and even a Kore soundpack.
  • Native Instruments dropped the DirectX plugin format sometime between 2006 and 2007. (Unclear whether Komplete 5 included any DirectX plugins. There definitely weren't any in Komplete 6.)
  • In October 2013, Native Instruments added AAX plugin support to all relevant products, enabling 64-bit functionality in Pro Tools 10 and 11. Komplete 10 will be the first Komplete bundle that ships with AAX support in-the-box.

Licenses and Registration

  • Native Instruments debuted the Service Center application for product activation in 2006, and Komplete 4 was the first Komplete release to include it. However, upon Service Center's introduction, the activation process for older products, such as Komplete 2 and 3, was changed to use Service Center as well. (Users had to import a key file into the Service Center application to activate those products.)
  • Native Instruments commonly offers attractive upgrade or crossgrade prices to owners of previous Komplete bundles or qualifying products in the Maschine or occasionally Traktor product lines, enabling loyal customers to affordably stay up to date with Komplete. It is important to note that once you use a qualifying product in order to get an upgrade or crossgrade discount on another Native Instruments product, their licenses become linked. So, for example, if you use your Komplete 8 license to get a discount on Komplete 9, you cannot turn around and sell your Komplete 8 license to someone else without contacting Native Instruments and paying the difference between what you paid and the current retail price of Komplete 9.
  • In a similar vein, Komplete is sold as a bundle, with a single serial number that covers all of the individual products within the bundle. As a result, you cannot resell individual products that you don't intend to use. Komplete ownership is an all-or-nothing prospect.
  • Once activated, all Native Instruments software products are tied to your specific Native Instruments user account. If you ever plan to buy a used Komplete bundle (or any other Native Instruments product, for that matter), make sure that the seller has unregistered the product from their account, and that they provide the original serial number upon sale. Sellers can go here to find out what they need to do, and potential buyers can learn more here.
  • Also note that "EDU" (educational) and "NFR" (not for resale) licences can never be transferred/sold.

Random Facts

  • The first Komplete bundle shipped in an enormous box- the reason it was so big was that it contained nine fully boxed products. Komplete 2 was the first "single box" edition.
  • Reaktor 5 is the longest-running single product in the Komplete series. Version 5 has been included in every Komplete release from Komplete 2 through Komplete 10. Reaktor has seen several "point releases" since its original introduction (it's currently up to 5.9), and owners of Komplete 2-10 have all been eligible for those updates.
  • Historically, almost all Komplete editions have been released in September or October- in time for holiday shopping. The only two Komplete editions released in different months were Komplete 2 (June 2004) and Komplete 9 (March 2013).
  • Many customers expected a Komplete 9 announcement in Fall 2012, given the traditional Komplete release cycle- but instead of announcing a new version of Komplete at that time, Native Instruments refreshed Komplete 8 Ultimate with new box art. Komplete 9 was announced several months later, in a rare early Spring release (March 2013).
  • In November of 2013, Native Instruments released a massive slew of updates for all major Komplete products, enabling their libraries to better integrate into Maschine 2.0's updated preset browser.
  • With only one exception, Komplete becomes a better value in terms of dollars-per-product with every subsequent release. Komplete 1 contained 9 products, with an MSRP of $1,499 USD, coming out to around $167 per product. Komplete 10 Ultimate, on the other hand, sold for $999 USD and contained 75 products, bringing the per-product cost down to $13 USD, making Komplete 10 Ultimate possibly the best software deal in the entire industry. 

Crunching the Numbers - The Komplete Discount

The new Komplete 10 Prices tab on the version comparison worksheet summarizes the pricing of the Komplete 10 bundles in great detail. Here are some quick facts regarding the bulk software discount that is Komplete 10. Note that all prices are in US dollars (USD):
  • If you paid the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for all 39 Komplete 10 products individually, it would cost you $4,541 USD, making Komplete 10's asking price of $499 an 89% discount over retail. Similarly, if you paid the full MSRP for all 75 products that make up Komplete 10 Ultimate, the total would be $9,255 USD, which also turns out to be an 89% discount; the two bundles deliver the same price-per-product value (of $13 per product).
  • If you're upgrading from standard Komplete 9 to standard Komplete 10, the 10 new products you'll get in the upgrade would cost you $712 to purchase individually, making the $199 upgrade price a 72% discount from full MSRP. Things get even better with the Komplete 10 Ultimate upgrade, where your $399 upgrade price buys you $1955 worth of software (14 new products), resulting in an 80% discount from MSRP.
  • If you are trying to decide whether it will be worth it for you to upgrade from your existing version of Komplete to Komplete 10, just visit the Komplete 10 Prices tab and tally up the prices of the individual products in Komplete 10/K10U you think you'd actually use (the individual prices are all there). If the total price of the products you'd like to have is higher than the bundle update prices, then the upgrade will be a better deal for you in the long run.

Credits

This post and the related worksheets are the result of many combined hours of research that I've done over the past couple of years. While I've picked up details from many dozens of places, there are a few sites and people that have proven particularly valuable to my research:

Corrections


As time goes on it becomes increasingly difficult to find accurate information about the older releases. If you have any corrections or you're able to fill in any of the gaps in the worksheets, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!