Native Instruments Komplete audio 6 Audio Interface Review
Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6
Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6
Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 Audio Interface
I bought the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 back in April this year (2012) as a replacement to my Yamaha MW10 Mixer and audio interface as I found the Yamaha gave me quite a lot of latency and the drivers were not very good either unfortunately, although, it was a good device in terms of the amount of inputs and live controls.
Anyhoo, the NI KA6 costs around £130-£160 online (maybe a little less now) and is a very high quality audio interface.
The KA6 has one large volume dial on the top, which is the only control on the top of the device. It is very simple to use (simply turn) and looks cool too in a metallic black finish with rising spreading out from the centre.
Also on the top of the device you have a number of LED indicators for all of the functioning in the audio interface including, Phantom power indicator, signal input indicators, and direct monitoring indicator. All of these LED's serve to let you know whether a feature is active or whether audio is being processed through the relevant channel. This works well for things like knowing whether phantom power is on or whether the device is receiving as signal from a mic or instrument or whether audio is coming into the device from your computer. The top of the device is covered in a thick high quality clear acrylic like plastic that is easily mistaken for glass and looks and feels very nice.
The front on the device boasts two multi port inputs which can take both XLR and 1/4 inch type input connections and are both phantom powered. They both have independent gain controls and can both be directly monitored through either your headphones or your monitors.
To the right of these you have direct monitoring controls which allow you to audition instruments plugged into your audio interface such as mics and guitars. This feature allows you to hear the sound of what ever is plugged into your inputs directly by bypassing the computer. So you can hear what you vocals or instruments sound like before they get to the computer. A good use for this maybe to hear what a vocal sounds like raw without any effects on it during a mix.
Lastly, to the right once more, you have the headphone amp controls which consist of a gain knob, a monitoring source button and a 1/4 inch input socket. The headphone output on this audio interface is very clear and accurate with great quality sound reproduction, however, I do feel that it is underpowered and for those of you who have meaty headphones like the high end Grado range or some other audiophile headphones will probably need an additional headphone amp, as the KA6 headphone amp, doesn't seem to have as much oomph as I would like. My AKG K99's, although not the most high end of studio headphones are fine with this interface but I do get the feeling that a more powerful headphone amp would push them that bit more.
Around the back of the interface there are a lot of ins and outs, more than I would think you would expect based on the size of the interface which is smaller than an A5 book, but thicker (around 4cm) and heavier (about 1-1.5kg).
You will be pleased to find: 1 Midi out and 1 Midi in which will allow you to connect any Midi device you may have such as a drum machine (MPC etc) or Midi Keyboard. If you don't know what Midi is, its basically musical instructions sent through a cable. So when you press Dsharp (why don't Mac keyboards have a 'Hash' key?) on your keyboard, you r computer and audio software know that you are playing a Dsharp.
There are two 1/4inch main balanced outputs (one Left & one Right) for your monitors, two S/PDIF sockets, which allow you to use SONY or Phillips Proprietary cables for carrying digital sound signals and instructions, 2 balanced 1/4inch inputs and 2 balanced 1/4inch outputs for connecting additional mics, instruments and other hardware. There is also a USB 2.0 port and a button to switch on and off the phantom power.
So, as you now know, the Komplete Audio 6 is fully powered by a USB 2.0 connection which does the job very well. Initially, I was in the market for a Firewire device as the data transfer speeds are higher, however the KA6 had great reviews for its latency and audio buffer capabilities which are ultimately what I wanted from a device.
If you don't know what I am referring to by 'Audio Buffers' and Latency', this basically means how well the device can handle a lot of sounds and instruments at the same time. Devices with high latency and poor audio buffers will cause audio to trip, stutter and in the worst case, completely drop out leaving you helpless in the middle of creating a banging track because it simply does not have the capacity to process a large number of digital audio signals at once. So if you are someone that uses a lot of VST and virtual instruments, an interface with low latency and good audio buffers is a must! (this is a basic overview and to know more you should research further).
The Komplete Audio 6 then, has great low latency and can handle multiple instrument with ease. I have not once had and stuttering or drops outs because the interface couldn't handle it. I am running a 2011 21.5inch iMac with 4gb of ram and a 2.something Ghz quad core and that goes sloppy due to the intensity of a track while the KA6 just handles it like a Boss.
Recording in with the Komplete Audio 6 is easy and the quality is great. I use both a Audio Technica 4033a and and 20something (I prefer the 40...), both are condenser mics and phantom powered. The pre-amps in the KA6 are great and deliver a clear and crisp quality signal into my Mac. Previously on my MW10, the signal was a bit rough and the gain had to be cranked up to ridiculously high levels to get the signal to register in my DAW. With the KA6, I can have the gain set to about a quarter of the way to full and get the miss picking up fine in my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation, I.E Logic Pro9).
One thing that I do miss having this interface that is present on mixing desk style ones is the ability to add FX to the input channel live as opposed to having to do it completely via software. So you have to add things like reverb in your DAW with this Audio Interface, which isn't the end of the world, but having it would have been cool and also takes the load off your computer.
The Komplete Audio 6 is well supported by Native Instruments and has updated drivers easily available at Native Instruments.com. The device also comes with independent software for controlling and managing the latency and buffer sizes, which I like. Previously, I was having to use the ASIO4ALL drivers and interface controls as the MW10 had a very poor set of audio drivers. Those included with the Komplete Audio 6 are effective and very easy to use.
So, all in all, the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 is a great low costing audio interface that has a great quality build, great quality sound output and good pre-amps for inputs and has a good number of additional ins and outs.
The indicator LED's and big volume controls on top are cool features that give the product a quality and well thought out image while the interface controls on the front provide clear, simple and effective access to the interfaces main features. I do think that for people with powerful headphones should maybe get an additional headphone amp as I don't think the in-built one is quite as powerful as you may want. (if you have some audiophile headphones or have an opinion on this matter, please leave a comment below and let me know your verdict).
Although USB 2.0 is not the fastest means of connection nowadays, it still serves the interface well and hasn't given me any trouble at all.
I definitely recommend this interface over the focusrite range in the same price bracket.
You can also watch my video review for this interface below, which should cover anything I may have missed in this written review.
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Native instruments Komplete Audio 6 Video Review
Komplete Audio 6 Unboxing
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