NI Komplete 8 Ultimate
Once upon a time, Native Instruments, like many other companies, made a range of synthesizer products which, at first, emulated classic instruments.
They then expanded to start building a wider range of applications of their own, including Kontakt which has become the stand-out third-party sampler available.
As other sample library suppliers began to use this as their playback engine of choice, NI developed their own libraries, collaborating with studios, other manufacturers and celebrities in the development of new content, as well as a free, sample-player version of Kontakt, which encouraged third party developers yet more.
"Once the install process is finished, it's kid-in-a-sweet-shop time."
Fast forward to the here and now and NI have a staggering array of instruments, sample collections and effects processors at their disposal, which are available separately, or in appropriately grouped bundles.
However, if you're ravenous to get your hands on a number of these, your appetite is about to be sated in the most astonishing way. Enter Komplete 8 Ultimate - a bundle of no fewer than 50 titles, including a huge number of Kontakt libraries, additional patches for almost all of NI's synths and much more besides. Gulp.
Let's run through the install process first, as it's a little unusual. Komplete Ultimate arrives on a neat silver USB hard-drive - but don't be fooled, as this is merely a replacement for the 50-odd DVDs you'd require to install the content otherwise.
Put another way, this drive won't read or play back the samples that make up Ultimate - it's merely a way to provide all of the install files, and once you're done you put it back in the box.
So be prepared to sacrifice 200GB of your current hard drive space if you're intending to install all content. It feels weird but it makes sense the more you think about it.
Up and running
At the install stage, this is broken down into applications (Massive, Absynth 5, Guitar Rig 5 etc) and content, which contains the sample libraries for instruments such as Kontakt 5 and Battery 3, for instance.
While you must install the applications to your main hard drive, the Content, which accounts for about 170GB of the total data, can be installed anywhere, so a fast internal or external drive is recommended (again, that's 'anywhere' apart from the Ultimate drive that comes in the box…).
Neatly, if you're installing 'over' a previous Komplete incarnation, the installer has a look at your hard disk and works out if you need a fresh install or merely an update to applications you own already. Special mention to the gate-fold box that opens to reveal the vast array of goodies which await you.
Be patient though, as a full install of applications and content libraries takes three hours, even though the progress bar frustratingly spends most of this time telling you that it only has 41 minutes left to run.
There's no doubt the drive-based install will divide opinion - have NI missed a trick by not making it house Komplete's content? While the applications would have to be installed to your hard drive, it might make more sense for this drive to house the libraries and have all of the content premapped in the software.
That said, this would mean you could only run Komplete on one computer at a time - not great for studios that want to offer it to multiple clients simultaneously.
Fortunately, once this process is finished, NI's Service Center, which is used for authorisation, only needs a single 25-number code to register the entire collection, saving you the need to complete this process 50 times for each part of the bundle. This is printed on the back of the manual and, thereafter, it's kid-in-a-sweet-shop time.
For those unfamiliar with how NI structure their instruments, you might be momentarily baffled to discover that your plug-in folder has only gained a handful of new instruments but panic not, as a number of these are 'hosts within your host'.
Kontakt 5, for instance, will act as the playback device for all of the library content included in the box, while Guitar Rig is increasingly inappropriately named, as this is where you can build effects chains of all descriptions, including tone and dynamics modules.
Likewise, through the inclusion of a number of 'players' within Reaktor itself, it's well worth having a thorough look around within these plug-ins, especially as you begin your trawl through what's included.
As Komplete as it gets
Reviews often finish by asking, 'to whom will this product appeal'? The more apt question here might be to whom won't Komplete Ultimate appeal, as it's hard to imagine a user-base not catered for by the extraordinary array of products bundled within this collection.
Dance enthusiasts will love Massive and Absynth's new sounds while pop producers will be overjoyed by the pianos, drums, basses and guitars offered within Kontakt 5.
For sound designers, Reaktor's appeal is expanded, while everyone will delight in Guitar Rig - while it continues to provide great guitar-based effects, the inclusion of Traktor's 12 effects and the new EQ and dynamic processors means that its appeal stretches way beyond guitar processing alone.
Meanwhile, those interested in score writing now have quality tools at their disposal with the inclusion of Session Strings Pro and two Evolve Mutations libraries that bring widescreen sounds to your DAW.
Having named this library 'Ultimate', NI face a challenge when releasing succession products further down the line, but that's a nice headache for their marketing department.
In the meantime, this collection really does represent the sonic equivalent of the adventure playground - if you can't find what you're looking for here, you're in the wrong business. Simply mind-blowing.
Mind-blowingly comprehensive plug-in bundle.
Cost, arduous installation time.
Komplete Ultimate by name and as ultimately complete as you could wish for by nature.
All MusicRadar's reviews are by independent product specialists, who are not aligned to any gear manufacturer or retailer. Our experts also write for renowned magazines such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Computer Music, Future Music and Rhythm. All are part of Future PLC, the biggest publisher of music making magazines in the world.
NI's flagship synth, sampler and sound design plug-in bundle.
Processor Type Required
Intel Core Duo
RAM Required (GB)