Low-latency, six inputs, four outputs, pristine audio quality, and sleek design make for a great audio interface that doesn’t break the bank.
By Chris Loeffler
Even with all the information available on the web (or maybe because of it?), it can be a daunting task to begin building a recording setup for home and semi-pro recording. There’s an entire signal chain to build out, software interfaces to install and learn, and an entire art of mixing and mastering to dive into once a person is up and running. Native Instruments, known for their professional quality virtual instruments and DJing software, makes the first step of recording easy and affordable enough with the Native Instruments KOMPLETE Audio 6 audio interface that even the biggest technophobe musicians will find themselves confidently recording in short order.
Native Instruments KOMPLETE Audio 6 features four analog ins/outs, two digital ins/outs, and MIDI in/out and is powered via USB. Featuring low latency, high fidelity 24-bit/96 kHz recording and production quality mic preamps, the KOMPLETE Audio 6 is capable of covering almost any recording application imaginable, and the included software suite includes virtual instruments, DJ software, and a hearty enough sequencing/recording package to start creating music with no additional software/hardware needed.
What You Need to Know
- Getting started with KOMPLETE Audio 6 is incredibly simple; both MACs and PCs immediately identify the device and queue up the driver download. Unsurprisingly, Native Instruments software immediately recognized the device and reconfigured audio routing through it, and every non-NI DAW or player that was used during the review identified and rerouted through the KOMPLETE Audio 6. Connecting instruments and mics is as simple as plugging into a channel and adjusting the Gain knob. Helpful LED indicators on the top of the box give clear visual feedback when there is a signal detected for each channel.
- There is almost no latency when running even complex virtual instruments through the KOMPLETE Audio 6. Running multiple analog channels in conjunction with a MIDI controller in KONTACT yields a pleasant and lag-free experience for a small group, a feat unexpected in an audio interface in this price tier but crucial for accurate recording and live performance.
- The preamps for the analog channels are clear and quiet and enhance the sound without adding color to the original tone. Vocals passed through the preamp gain presence and enjoy a touch of additional warmth without the hissy white noise many audio devices in the same price point sometimes generate.
- The software included with KOMPLETE Audio 6 includes KOMPLETE Elements, Cubase LE, and Traktor LE 2. KOMPLETE Elements, which is actually three separate programs (REAKTOR 5 Player, GUITAR RIG 5 Player, KONTAKT 5 Player) is a lite version of the more robust NI packages that gives instant access to guitar effects/modeling, synthesizers, and virtual instruments, so any guitar, keyboard, or MIDI device is ready to go. Traktor LE 2 brings two decks and three effects to the table with advanced features like beat detection/synch and intuitive looping functions. Cubase LE is an industry standard digital audio workstation that allows up to 16 tracks of audio recording and mixing. All three software suites are well integrated into each other, and half an hour after opening the box I was recording guitar tracks in Guitar Rig through the KOMPLETE Audio 6 in Cubase LE. All software included is platform agnostic.
- It is worth stating how elegant the design of the KOMPLETE Audio 6 is and how the sturdy build quality enhances the audio interface. Layout and controls are intuitively placed; the top features simple indicators to show what’s happening, and an oversized Main Volume knob is prominently placed for easy access to the output volume. The box is heavy and buffered with meta end caps, and every knob and connector feels solid and has a consistent throw.
- There isn’t really anything to fault the KOMPLETE Audio 6 for… it performs every function one would expect from it at a level well beyond its modest price point.
The Native Instruments KOMPLETE Audio 6 makes high quality digital recording and digital interfaces about as simple and approachable as possible at a price point far below its feature set and quality. The audio quality and low latency, combined with the ease of initial setup and seemingly endless compatibility means frustration-free operation and frees up users to focus on playing, not mastering an unwieldy tool. The included software is enough for anyone looking to get into the world of digital production and arrangement to get a firm understanding of what’s available and provide a broad enough palette to create gratifyingly polished results.
Native Instruments KOMPLETE Audio 6 Audio Interface at Musician's Friend (MSRP $249.00 , Street $229.00)
Native Instruments KOMPLETE Audio 6 Manufacturer's Produt Page