[Review] Shell's Kontakt 7 first impressions...
Well, guess who recently jumped onto the Kontakt 7 bandwagon? 😉 Although I was quite satisfied with Kontakt 6 I recently got hold of some new interesting instruments in preparation of a project I'll be working on for a while so I figured... what the heck; let's do this.
Don't tell Native Instruments please but... do you know of their Play series? At the time of writing there's an awesome offer: buy one instrument, get another free! 🤗 But guess what happens if you buy two instruments? 🤔 Then you'll also get two for free! 😁
Ok, lame joke but anyway... it really got me in a good mood so I figured I'd share by writing up my experiences.
Kontakt 7, what's new?
Yeah, yeah; I am well aware that I'm a year behind the facts, but that never stopped me before!
The new browser is the first thing you'll see when you fire up Kontakt 7, either stand-alone or as a plugin (as shown above). It definitely takes getting used to and you may even somewhat dislike it at first. But if you do then I'd still strongly suggest to keep an open mind and give it a try anyway because... it's actually quite good!
See, here's the thing.. Kontakt instruments tend to provide dozens of presets for us to use. When I take a look at my Maschine I get to see this:
And that's merely what Maschine provides because these are NKS compliant. If I check the Kontakt browser itself then I get 165 results for East Asia for example, though such differences obviously don't apply all the time.
The point here is that unless you're going to study every instrument your have in full detail and try out all its presets then there's no way that you're going to know what all of them provide. And this is exactly why the new browser can be of a huge help here.
Type & character of presets
There are now 2 specific ways to filter your presets, types give you just that: it allows you to filter all presets based on, well, a specific type of course. Some examples are Bass, Brass, Chord, Drums and of course Vocal as shown above.
Character then allows you to apply yet another filter, a more subtle one, and this can be used both stand alone or, also shown above, in addition to the other filter. In the above screenshot I'm looking for vocal type presets with a dark character.
Once you make your selection(s) you'll be given an overview of all the Kontakt instruments that provide presets which fall within your specification.
Trust me when I say that this may take getting used to, especially if you're fully used to looking for presets in the old way: based on a per-instrument search. If you look again at my previous screenshot (the one with Live in the background?) then take a closer look to the browser, so the column on the left. That is Live's "Sounds" category and it roughly provides the same functionality as the new Kontakt browser: it allows you to look for (sound) presets based on a specific type.
Fun fact: Even though Ableton Live introduced their new browser sections all the way back in Live 9 it's only recently, in Live 11, that I warmed up to the idea and also started using those categories. I know it may require an attitude adjustment, really.
But what if I still don't want to use this new stuff?!
Then Kontakt has you covered:
As you can see the "old" Kontakt view hasn't been discarded or anything, it's still here and ready for you to use. So if you prefer not to use the new browser then all you have to do is switch to this view first; see the library icon in the toolbar which I highlighted for that.
Then just use the menu option shown above. Note that this only applies when you're using Kontakt as a plugin, so this doesn't apply to the stand-alone application.
But even if you do then I still suggest to keep that library button in mind, and maybe give it a try sometime when you're looking for "that" sound. Seriously... if you're in a situation that's comparable to mine: owning a dozen or so Kontakt instruments? Then just skimming through your collection using the new browser can easily surprise.
Useful UI options
I already covered the browser above, and it has a useful button to call it up, but I'd also like to mention the option to switch from a "rack view" to the (individual) instrument view. This can become extremely useful if you're using multiple Kontakt instruments in parallel, as shown above.
As soon as you press this button then two things are going to happen... First the library or side pane on the right will disappear after which you only get to see the full individual instrument interface.
Next you also get to see two small "arrow icons" behind the highlighted icon above, and these allow you to select either the other instrument(s) one on one or an empty section which will allow you add yet another Kontakt instrument, or maybe create one of your own?
On a down side though I'm not very happy about the "shop" icon... I generally don't want commercial nonsense sitting in my audio environments, and I would be much happier if I could somehow remove this option from the toolbar.
Still... in full honesty I don't dislike this as much as I did with FL Studio: that shows you a frickin' shopping cart icon in your toolbar by default! 😤 The difference of course is that you can fully customize the 'FLS' interface so that option was quickly disposed of.
Kontakt factory library 2.0!
This is a good one guys! See, it's easy to overlook when your focus is fully on several of the amazing Kontakt instruments such as those in the Play or Spotlight series. And don't get me started on the Symphony series.
However the full Kontakt instrument also has a factory library which usually contains a lot of useful contents, I'm now specifically referring to the previous Kontakt 6.
So here's the thing which seriously stood out for me... the factory library now also provides assets that can even somewhat rival the several available Kontakt instruments. Take my screenshot above: here you see the Choir instrument which can be used for vocal sounds. Soprano vowels, shown above, gives you access to a, e, i, o and u sounds, obviously done by a soprano.
Notice the other instrument at the bottom? That's Olympus Choir Elements by Sound Iron, it's one of my favorites when it comes to working with vocals in Kontakt. Now, I'm not going to claim that both these instruments are equal because Olympus provides me with much more customization options. Comparable to a Kontakt instrument and its Pro version.
BUT... I can honestly tell you that the vocal section Choir section within the Kontakt factory library comes very close indeed, and it is definitely a very useful variant for this sound type.
Do not underestimate this stuff!
I obviously didn't have a chance to try out the full library, but I did specifically look into the Choir and Orchestral sections and I'm honestly impressed with all the contents we get here.
In fact... the library used to be approx. 22Gb worth of data, with 2.0 we get approx 35 (!) Gigabytes. That's quite a step up I'd say, especially when you keep the high quality of this stuff in mind.
Some other notable changes...
However, there are also a few critical comments to make.
The editing of Kontakt instruments is no longer something that can be commonly used because many more modern instruments block this feature, the wrench icon I highlighted above? This includes the instruments in the factory library and I was a little surprised by this.
As far as I can tell this is mostly because of the new development methods that are used for this version of Kontakt, and it'll depend on the instrument you're using if this option will still be available.
Of course you can always build your own instruments 😉
This doesn't happen often, but still often enough that it's noticeable: sometimes the plugin can plain out stall whenever I load an instrument, most notably some of those which can only be loaded by using the file browser (or after manually adding them to the library yourself).
Like I said, it doesn't happen often but still... when it does it's annoying.
And there you have it...
I've been working with Kontakt 7 on and off for the past few days now (first the player, then the full instrument & library) and I'm honestly pleasantly surprised with my upgrade in the overall. Yes, it has some inconveniences and it's most definitely not perfect in any way. But then again, what software is?
And despite the "lag moments" I sometimes got it's also fair to say that my experiences with using some of my more heavier instruments is quite different. Now talking about Thrill, Mysteria as well as the previously mentioned Symphony Series... Whenever I'm messing with those the CPU indicator in Live is actually noticeably lower than it was before.
But as the topic of my thread says: this is mostly a first impression and definitely not a super in-depth review, I can't rule out the option that I'm overlooking something.
Still... I can say that I'm quite satisfied with my upgrade so far. But allthough I'm happy with the new browser (even though I start Kontakt in the 'old way') I think that the new factory library is definitely a major factor which can (and IMO also will) make the upgrade worth your while.
There's some seriously good stuff in there which I think should not be underestimated!
So yah... here's my 2 cents on all this.
Thanks for reading, I hope some of you found this useful!
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