The Komplete Audio 6 is a new fist-sized, heavy-duty metal interface from Native Instruments.
As an ideal partner to a laptop (and an ideal introduction to their software) it's portable enough to sling in a bag and flexible enough to make both producers and DJs happy.
Its main forte is its six ins and outs without the need for external power. There's four balanced quarter-inch outs on the back and four ins via combo jacks and quarter-inchers. Inputs and outputs '5/6' remain exclusively S/PDIF however.
There's quick and easy line/ instrument level selection buttons on one and two, with gain knobs supplying enough power to bring quiet mics up to strength. There's noise at the top end but if you need to push your gear this far then it's time to go shopping.
The Audio 6's flexibility starts to show when you check out the separate monitor level knob and ability to kill this signal or sum it to mono with a pair of push buttons. This means that you can have main outs with a totally separate controllable monitor mix.
Likewise a separate headphone level knob (with selector for whether it listens to '1/2' or '3/4') means you've flexibility and simplicity without having to go to an on-screen driver application just to set your routing how you want them.
Use the headphone as an out and you've actually three stereo outs each with hardware level controls right on the box.
While other interfaces stick with tiny rotaries or go for large, continuous, multi-function dials, there's something reassuringly 'right' about the Komplete Audio 6's big, top-mounted 'Main Volume' dial.
Used to control the level of '1/2' out, it falls quickly to hand with a tangible stop at the zero position where you can be sure that everything is 'off'.
Installation requires a simple driver to be added and - on our test Mac OS X computer - it appeared on software drop-downs for audio and or MIDI immediately after installation.
Software you want it
Special mention to the superb software package that comes in the box too. Not only do you get Cubase LE 5 and Traktor LE 2 (taking advantage of the unit's 'two deck' outputs nicely) but you also get the full Komplete Elements, too.
This is a 1,000-sound preset suite of plugs and sounds taken from their Komplete 7 premium synth package. As a 'starter pack' interface therefore, Komplete Audio 6 is a bit of a killer.
Audio quality is punchy and full range and as good as we've heard from bus-powered boxes and MIDI response is snappy with no (detectable by ear) latency in and out. Likewise audio runs glitch free with no jumps or spikes on the CPU meter.
Maybe you're in need of an upgrade from your first basic two-channel box? Or just need a hardwearing, great-sounding, bus-powered unit for taking on the road. Either way the Komplete Audio 6 fits the bill and with that software package delivers a great all-in-one deal. Flexibility through simplicity is hard to argue with.