Getting started: Kontakt basics

About Kontakt

Kontakt is a software sampler by Native Instruments that has grown to become the industry-standard for orchestral or otherwise demanding sample libraries.  Even though the family of Kontakt-related software has grown immensely, including Komplete and Maschine (offering native support for NI’s Komplete Kontrol and Maschine hardware controllers), this article will focus on Kontakt, since it is our experience that this is how the majority of our users use our sounds.

Standalone vs plug-in

Kontakt can run as a standalone application but is used most often as an audio instrument (or plug-in) inside a digital audio workstation (DAW, sequencer). Kontakt supports the VST, AU and AAX protocols, making it compatible with virtually any DAW, including Cubase, Logic and Pro Tools.

Kontakt is loaded onto an instrument track inside the DAW, then an Instrument from a Kontakt library is loaded into Kontakt:

Kontakt vs Kontakt Player

The free version of Kontakt is called Kontakt Player. All of ProjectSAM’s libraries can be used in Kontakt Player.

The main limitation of the free Kontakt Player versus the paid, full version of Kontakt, is that you cannot access the Editor. The Editor is used to build instruments: mapping samples to keys, adjusting amplifiers and envelopes, adding scripting for special behaviour and much more. It is worth noting that the full version of Kontakt is included in Native Instruments Komplete bundle.

If you load an instrument in Kontakt Player, you can adjust and tweak the instrument only using the controls presented in the custom interface of the instrument. It is up to the developer of the library which controls these are. If you have a need to tweak more, say, move an individual zone from one key to another, tune a sample, or add your own scripting, then the full version of Kontakt is needed.

Libraries browser

When starting Kontakt, by default, a list of all installed sample libraries is shown in the browser on the left side of the window.

All libraries in this list have an Instruments button. A lot of them have a Multis button as well. Multis are preselected combinations of multiple Instruments.

Click the Instruments button to open a drop-down tree structure of the library, then load an Instrument by double-clicking it or dragging it onto the large empty area next to the browser.

Global settings

Kontakt can be loaded as a standalone application, running natively in macOS or Windows. However, most users will want to load Kontakt as an audio instrument inside their DAW (Cubase, Logic, Pro Tools, etc.) so that they are able to record and playback MIDI, mix multiple Kontakt instruments (or other sound sources) and export or bounce the final result.

If Kontakt is loaded inside a DAW, a number of settings are automatically copied from the DAW, such as the audio driver, sample rate, latency, tuning and MIDI inputs. If you run Kontakt as a standalone application, these settings have to be adjusted manually. To set up your audio and MIDI devices, click the cogwheel icon at the top of the Kontakt window to open the Settings window:

To change the master tuning and tempo (standalone mode), click the Workspace icon and enable the Master option:

Audio and MIDI routing

Each loaded Instrument in Kontakt has its own audio and MIDI routing settings. This applies to standalone and plug-in mode.

MIDI Ch sets the MIDI channel Kontakt should listen to for note input. If you’re using Kontakt as a plug-in inside a DAW, this setting needs to correspond with the MIDI output you’ve set for the channel strip that Kontakt is loaded onto. If you’re running Kontakt as a standalone app, MIDI Ch needs to correspond with the channel your MIDI keyboard/controller is sending out.

Setting a MIDI channel to OMNI will make the Instrument listen to all incoming MIDI channels.

Output determines the audio channel Kontakt will output the playback of the Instrument to. If your audio device has multiple outputs, you can set a different audio output for each Instrument. You can set up additional outputs to choose from by clicking on the Workspace icon and selecting Outputs. This way, Kontakt can be used as a multi-channel audio instrument in your DAW.

In addition, some Kontakt Instruments allow you to select multiple outputs within an instrument. For example, in Symphobia and Swing! you can select a different output for each individual microphone channel.

Now that we have covered some Kontakt basics, let’s go over some of the essential features found in our libraries.


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