Getting into music production can seem overwhelming with so many hardware and software choices currently in the market. They’re all offering different functions. Then, once you’ve got your hands on a Komplete Kontrol keyboard to cover your instrument needs, knowing which DAW to pick becomes the following problem.
Here are the 4 of the best DAWs for Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol:
- Ableton Live
- PreSonus Studio One
- Apple Logic
- Steinberg Cubase
In this article, we’ll go through these four DAWs one by one and highlight their features, look into their compatibility with Kontrol and how easy it is to integrate them and add in some critical information regarding their pros and cons.
Ableton is one of the original names in the DAW or digital audio workstation market. It’s a favorite amongst music producers and editors alike, being one of the most prominent players in the DAW scene, with almost a quarter using Live as their primary software.
Ableton Live is specifically designed for live performances, making the combination with the Kontrol even more appealing.
The session view is particularly why Ableton is popular, as it can help creative flow both in and out of live performances.
Many users love Ableton because of the ease of using the session view to capture the inputs from the Kontrol, then switching to the linear arrangement view to mix the tracks.
However, unlike some of the other DAWs on our list, connecting Ableton and Kontrol isn’t the easiest of processes to follow. So, it’s worth looking at the official list for Kontrol to see the best host integration options according to Native Instruments.
Now, let’s look at the Windows instructions for connecting the KOMPLETE KONTROL S-Series MK1 keyboard. If you have a different keyboard model or a Macintosh, the Native Instruments website hosts many other guides that’ll have you covered.
- Shut down any instances of Ableton running and navigate to the install folder of Ableton.
- Nestled under “host integration,” go to the “_NativeInstruments” folder and “Komplete_Kontrol_Mk1” folder.
- Copy the contents of these two folders to the “MIDI remote scripts” folder that you’ll find by going to your “ProgramData” folder on Windows. However, keep in mind that this is hidden by default.
- Once you’ve activated Komplete Kontrol as a control surface in Ableton Live, you’ll have full access to all the Komplete features.
Ableton then offers almost unparalleled features, such as Wavetable, a vast collection of native synths. This is a great way to access an extensive digital library of high-quality source material without needing to carefully tweak and adjust presets.
The standard devices offered in Ableton’s DAW like pedal, echo, and drum buss are all still available, with drum buss working as a drum processor to augment through drive and compression adjustments.
PreSonus Studio One
PreSonus’ offering Studio One has excellent integration with Komplete Kontrol. Native Instruments produce their keyboards directly linked to their other offerings via NKS or Native Kontrol System.
It means that it’s advantageous to have a whole suite of Native Instruments products. Unfortunately, though, there’s no DAW produced by the company, and so you have to look outside this ecosystem to find a DAW that’s also compatible.
Back in January 2020, PreSonus released Studio One 4.53 that features integration with the Komplete series. This was a great move forward for Studio One as before this release, Windows-based computers could use Kontrol only in a restricted manner.
On top of this, all bundled PreSonus samples and effects, as well as control over effects, is a big bonus to Studio One.
Generally, when working through a DAW, access to finetune effects and samples isn’t possible until they’re put in the instrument track, making experimentation that much easier.
Adding in Kontrol is as easy as going into options and selecting external devices. You should see your connected keyboard in there. Otherwise, you can browse for it manually and set it in the “receive from” and “send to” fields.
Once connected, you can select “plug-in” on Kontrol to edit the controllable NKS plug-ins, or you can press “mixer” to let Studio One’s inbuilt mixer take over.
Logic is synonymous with electronic music production. With a history stretching back to the 1980s, Logic focuses on:
- Multitrack recording
- Music scoring
- Soundtrack composition, design, and post-production
Logic also has the great distinction of being directly supported by Native Instruments. You can use many advanced features such as:
- Transport control
- Track selection
- Automatic track focus
Connecting the two is simple. As long as Logic is installed, connect and power on your Kontrol. A prompt should pop up asking to link the two, at which point you’ll have full access to the plug-ins and can control them using Kontrol.
One of the most exciting settings available in this DAW is the new Live Loops and Sampler plug-ins. For a long time, many professional music makers have used Kontakt, another Native Instruments offering, due to its massive range of multi-sampled instruments.
With these features included in Logic now, you can get the best of both worlds and the additional functions through Komplete without needing the programming knowledge necessary to deal with Kontakt.
It’s worth noting that plug-ins give extra functionality to DAWs, but given that they’ve been developed in several formats, they’re not always compatible.
For example, the plug-in AU, Audio Units, only works with Macintosh and isn’t the best pair with Kontrol.
This isn’t the most significant issue, as you can grab a VST equivalent for most plug-ins, but it’s an issue if you have your heart set on an AU plug-in without an equivalent option.
Logic does have a massive advantage in that you get updates for free once you’ve already purchased the software.
For more information, check out which is better: Logic Pro vs. Cubase.
Another long-time producer of musical instruments and recording, the Steinberg Cubase, is great for MIDI composition through virtual synthesizers and handles post-production and editing with no issues.
MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface, is a technical standard that allows various electronic devices to communicate, particularly in music-making.
Considering that when you’re using Kontrol to interface with a DAW, it’s often done via MIDI, making sure your DAW can handle the protocol is an important consideration when thinking about which DAW is the best for you.
Once Kontrol is powered on and connected, do the following steps:
- Load up Cubase and go into “studio” and then “studio setup.”
- You can select the keyboard from the list or choose manually after clicking on the “+” symbol.
- Under “MIDI Input” and “MIDI Output,” you’ll have to select the Kontrol, and this should mean you have access to all the usual advanced functions under host integration, including the transport functions and looping.
One of the worst things about the DAW world is the copy-protection schemes. These software and hardware solutions attempt to crack down on piracy and misuse of the DAW software for unlicensed users.
However, it can be quite cumbersome to deal with even if you follow all the rules and purchase requirements, not when your backups refuse to be read as the software thinks you’re trying to get around the anti-tampering protections.
While Steinberg has made announcements that they’re shifting away from the USB dongle to carry out copy-protection and anti-piracy measures, for now, it’s still required.
If you’re running low on USB ports or only have USB-C ports, the dongle won’t even work. If you have a setup that won’t accommodate this, it’s best to avoid Steinberg altogether.
For more information, check out my review on Native Instruments Komplete 13.
- MusicRadar: Ableton Live 11 Suite review
- Home Studio Expert: Komplete vs. Ableton: Which DAW Is Best for You?
- PreSonus Blog: Komplete Kontrol Integration in Studio One, Part ⅓
- Native Instruments: NKS: Top Industry Partners
- PCMag: Apple Logic Pro X (for Mac) Review
- Native Instruments: Setting Up Apple Logic X for KOMPLETE KONTROL
- Bedroom Producers Blog: Native Instruments Kontakt Review
- PCMag: Steinberg Cubase Pro Review
- Sound On Sound: The SOS Guide To Data Protection For DAWs
- Gearnews: Steinberg prepares to ditch its unpopular USB eLicenser dongle system
- Steinberg: eLicenser
- Native Instruments: Setting Up Steinberg Cubase Artist/Pro or Nuendo for KOMPLETE KONTROL
- Native Instruments: Setting Up Ableton Live 9 / 10 for KOMPLETE KONTROL S-Series MK1 (Windows)
- Native Instruments: Displaying Hidden Files and Folders (Windows)
- PCAudioLabs: How to use the Ableton Live DRUM BUSS audio effect
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