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Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1 - Review

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The Komplete Audio 1 by Native Instruments is their entry level sound card. It's lightweight, sleek and has the blue LED signal lights we've seen across their range. It's a nice and compact unit which doesn't require too much desk space. I purchased this to boost signal to the headphones and power some mid-level-priced speakers, to override the Core Audio in my MacBook Pro. It cost me $149 from Store DJ which is bang on what I wanted too spend. 

Taking it out of the box, the lightness of it seems instantly concerning. It makes you wonder if the components inside will be up to the task. I have a Scarlett by Focusrite set up in my permanent studio and that weighs a considerable amount more than this. The build quality of the Scarlett is worlds above this, but I also paid quite a bit more for it. The Scarlett isn't directly comparable to the NI KA 1 as the reasons I've purchased each unit have 2 very different purposes. 

On the front panel you have 2 inputs, an XLR (only) and 6mm audio jack. They have a nice click to them when putting the cables in are seem to hold them in nice and firm, which you would expect. The gain dials are weighty, which is something I like. They have a good amount of control and the input of volume is nice and smooth. The line / instrument switch is quite solid too. It also has a 48v switch for those 'phantom powered' studio mics. I don't have mine here unfortunately so I can't comment on the sound quality. Engaging 48v doesn't affect the sound quality through the headphones which is good, because you never know.

On the top of the panel you have your master gain for your speakers. This dial is a good half the weight of the knobs on the front panel but it doesn't feel horrible, and the lights dance around signalling audio as you would expect. The gloss plastic cover over the LED's is a nice contrast to the flat black which supports the master gain. Simple and modern design, nothing negative to report on.

On the back, we have a USB power connecter and 2 RCA outputs, left and right. I wouldn't say it's ideal but it's not horrible. The sound delivery is perfectly acceptable for my intended use. I'm using 6" Behringer Truth monitors at the moment and, despite the lack of low end, they're not struggling to output the sound. Back in the day when I first started I used a Cakewalk UA-1G (which I still own) and that got me through the first few years of my musical journey just fine. That was a brilliant bit of kit. It wasn't Focusrite level by any means but it was the perfect little companion to get started. The output wasn't very loud and the inputs kinda sucked but it did everything I needed it to do. I'd put the NI KA1 on a similar spectrum as the UA-G1, in terms of a budget sound card, but the modern quality of the NI KA1 makes it a far better unit and will suit any bedroom producer just fine. Cakewalk UA-G1 pictured below.


In conclusion, I pick my Focusrite over the NI KA1 any day of the week. It's a far better build unit and the audio quality, both input and output, is spectacular. However, I'm not writing to compare the two. I am writing to give my opinion on this little budget sound card which is reasonably priced and holds it's own nicely. Native Instruments throw in some free software with it too; you get the lite version of Ableton Live, Maschine Essentials, Replika, Phasis, Monark and Solid Bus Comp. That's a great little package of plugins to add to your arsenal. Monark is a great synth which can be used on the free Reaktor player and Replika is one of my favourite delay plugins - I use it on everything! Native Instruments also give you a $39 gift voucher to put towards another purchase of your choice, on their online store.

Value for money, I'm not disappointed. If I was just getting into it I'd be even happier with the plugins they gift you too. The build quality is good, after initial thoughts that the lightness could be concerning, the audio output is good and it's a nice compact unit. I would have liked to see 2 XLR's with 6mm inputs inside them and 6mm outputs on the back rather than RCA's but it's a const effective unit so something has to give. Something to be mindful for the new generation Mac users with USB-C. You'll have to get a USB to USB-C adapter, not a replacement cable. NI have sunk their USB into the unit quite a bit for some reason meaning their cable is really the only one that fits in it. You'll probably need to spend an extra $20-$30 from Officeworks on an adapter, or maybe more if you buy a docking setup. 

With all that said, I give it 3.8 out of 5 stars. Overall, a good little unit which will do the job just fine. Few nice plugins and an e-Voucher from the kind people at NI is a nice little incentive too.

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