Audio Control 1

Audio Control 1

Have it your way - the big knob and three buttons on top can be extensively customized.


The Audio Kontrol 1 from Native Instruments is close to being the perfect hardware and software bundle for musicians or audio geeks who want an easy way to connect a guitar, microphone, and MIDI synthesizer to a Mac.


The solidly constructed device has clearly laid-out controls, is powered via USB, and is perfectly suited for studio or field use. Its two input channels are designed to accommodate whatever you're likely to plug in. One of the input channels sports a combined XLR and 1/4-inch TRS plug, and the other is a 1/4-inch TRS plug with switchable line/instrument impedance settings. Each channel can be recorded at up to a 24-bit, 192KHz sampling rate, suitable for even the most demanding professional situations. The quality of the A/D converters is stellar; tests conducted with electric and acoustic guitars, as well as with a few different condenser microphones, all yielded smooth, warm, detailed recordings. There are also two MIDI ports (in and out) for connecting any MIDI keyboard, controller, drum pad - or even a MIDI theremin, handy when you're covering Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love."


The Audio Kontrol 1 has separate volume controls for both input channels, volume controls for the dual stereo A/B output channels, volume and mix controls for the direct monitoring mode (critical for studio work or live DJ gigging), and a discrete headphone-out port with its own volume control and switching between the A/B stereo outputs. For instance, you can easily drive a PA system in a club while simultaneously feeding a stereo recording device and an engineer's headphones - and this is just one example of the absolute usefulness and elegant design of the Audio Kontrol 1. The only problem we had is the lack of an S/PDIF output connector, which would be nice for those connecting the Audio Kontrol 1 to a Mac that doesn't have built-in S/PDIF, such as an iMac or a MacBook, but you might not even notice the omission.


The big, smooth, illuminated knob and the three buttons with lovely red lights around their edges can easily be tied to application-specific tasks, such as controlling the record stop/start functions in Apple's Logic Pro and Ableton's Live. You can even use these controls with nonaudio software such as Adobe Photoshop, using the knob to zoom in and out of the current image, for example, or triggering Command-key functions with the buttons. The versatility of the Audio Kontrol 1 is far beyond what you would expect of an audio interface, and the control software delivers a very high degree of creative customization potential.


The bottom line. Native Instruments has delivered its best device to date with the Audio Kontrol 1. Any musician or audio hobbyist looking for a one-stop solution to the problem of getting sound (and MIDI) in and out of a Mac should seriously consider it.


COMPANY: Native Instruments
PRICE: $299
REQUIREMENTS: 1.4GHz G4 or 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo or faster, Mac OS 10.4 or later, 512MB RAM
Excellent sound quality. Flexible software. Nearly perfect blend of audio and MIDI input options. Solid construction. Universal binary.
No S/PDIF interface.





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