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The vast variety of surround-sound options will keep your music spinning in every direction imaginable.
Samplers are the bread and butter of life for digital musicians of any stripe, and Kontakt 2 is quite possibly the most awesome and complete software sampler we've ever seen.
Kontakt 2 is available as both a standalone app and an Audio Units plug-in. It imports just about any audio format, from Akai and EMU to WAV and Kurzweil, for a total of almost 30 formats. Kontakt comes with its own massive 15GB sample library - that's enough to fuel your creativity for a very long time - and among the vast selection of guitars, pianos (the Steinway D is simply scrumptious), drums (acoustic and electronic), bass instruments, synthesizers, and loops, there's an amazing selection of classical orchestral instruments from the insanely cool Vienna Symphonic Library.
The real fun begins once you load a sample into Kontakt. The array of keymapping, filtering, editing, and effects capabilities is enough to drive you over the edge of creative sanity. The interface makes quick work of assigning samples to specific keyboard ranges and helps with creating complex velocity-based sample transitions, such as fading between the samples used for a drum based on how hard you press the keys on your controller keyboard. All of the included samples are already mapped out, delivering exceptional realism in the piano and orchestral sounds. Up to 128 different instrument samples can be simultaneously loaded and switched by controller messages, which is critical for live performances.
A myriad of effects can be popped into the audio chain, modifying either an individual instrument or an entire group (allowing multiple instruments to be simultaneously processed through the same effect). The variety and audio quality is absolutely top notch.
Perhaps the most surprising new feature is the Convolution Module, which uses audio sample "fingerprints" (called impulse responses, or IR) of physical locations such as churches, concert halls, and studios to create custom reverberation and delay effects. Native Instruments includes over 500 Convolution presets.
The bottom line. Kontakt 2 is worthy of your time, ears, and disk space.
Company: Native Instruments
Contact: 866-556-6487 or 323-467-5260, www.native-instruments.com
Price: $579 (full), $160 (upgrade from Kontakt 1.x)
Requirements: 800MHz G4, Mac OS 10.2.6 or later, 512MB RAM
Gigantic sampled-sound library. Excellent range of effects. Awesome surround-sound support.
A little unstable. Small interface-font size might be an issue for some.