Shell's "Summer of Sound sale" vent => tips, reviews and impressions!

Discussion in 'General Chat' started by ShelLuser, Jun 17, 2021.

  1. ShelLuser

    ShelLuser NI Product Owner

    Hi gang!

    Disclaimer: This post is valid within a limited time span, at the time of writing there are 14 days left. Check this link (<= link in bold) to see if the sale is still valid at the time of your reading. If that link doesn't work (= you don't end up on an obvious sale page) then my post has been invalidated. Please keep this in mind. (this section was in the middle, decided to move it to the top in order to avoid possible disappointments).

    Not finished! => This is going to be a multi-post thread, links will be added at this section as soon as new posts become available.​


    The Summer of Sound sale 2021 is here which means that you (yes you random reader! :D) get a chance to pick up on some high quality products while half the price has melted away! :eek: In other words: 50% discounts! (but we're going to re-calculate them for ourselves as well ;)).

    Now, that's fun and all but how do you know which products might be useful for you? You may know what you want, but what would you need? See, this is also the moment to get started if you're a beginner yet that could only makes things even more difficult on you. There's nothing more annoying (in my opinion anyway) than to buy something only to end up discovering that you actually had no real use for it. And with all due respect to NI: those marketing phrases aren't always helpful (but in all honesty: everyone uses those so... I don't think we should hold that against them ;)).

    So I figured... why not share some tips & tricks + impressions of my own which specifically address some of these sales? I'll try to put some bias aside and hopefully you'll end up with some extra (and honest) impressions that you may be able to use to make your decisions. Yah, and before you wonder: it won't be all positive, it'll be honest.

    About me

    Just for contexts sake I'm a semi-professional and semi-retired audio enthusiastic who's been working within and around this crazy media world for over 10 years now. My field of expertise is sound design and sound processing, so not necessarily composing and performing. I consider myself an audio engineer first and foremost, not a musician or composer or such, though I am getting somewhat better in that field as well. I've been working with specific NI products for well over 8 years (Absynth, several Kontakt instruments (using the player), Guitar Rig 5, and some Reaktor (player) products (specifically Monark, The Finger & The Mouth)) and over the years I eventually upgraded the whole lot and now I work with Komplete Ultimate Collectors + Maschine + NI's Audio 6 (powered by Live, Max / Max for Live and enhanced with Reason).

    About this post and/or thread

    I don't plan these things so I have no idea yet what this is going to turn into. I know what I want to relay but anything beyond that... this could turn into a multi-post or maybe remain a single post. The reason why I do stuff like this is because I am quite passionate about synths, audio and digital audio in general. And please trust me when I say that moments like these, with huge discounts, are the best way to get you started. Because this line of work and/or hobby isn't cheap! At the very minimum you will need a decent audio interface (no, your onboard audio chip is not going to be sufficient!) and some software to "work" with. Reaper is always a good choice, especially if you're on a lower budget (there is no shame in that), and as for an audio card... I've worked for years with a cheap USB external Sweex audio interface (together with Asio4All) and coped / worked around the latency and it kinda worked. Sorta... I somewhat made it work. Far from ideal though.

    When it comes to gear then I have been at the "bottom" (sorta) and at the "top" (more or less). With bottom I'm referring to the low end audio interface, a specific choice to go with Reason (sold around E 240 back then) vs. Komplete (E 500+ back in the day and you didn't even get a DAW!) and the money I saved on all that went into my APC40 (= an Ableton controller).


    Which is my first tip: spend your budget the most where it'll matter. Example... Say you are a guitar player and you want to 'do' stuff. Then it makes sense to concentrate on a high end audio card (sampling is a trade of its own) and maybe also invest in Guitar Rig yet then lower the rest of your expectations within other areas. Or maybe you're more into "engineering" like myself. In that case it makes sense to focus on Reaktor and maybe a controller which you feel comfortbale around (always remember: "what works for me (or them!) doesn't have to work for you") which can then get you started.

    My second (honestly well meant) tip: expect to empty your wallet :rolleyes: I am dead serious. This field of trade is expensive, good audio software is expensive, good quality material is expensive, and in the end there's no real way around that (other than looking up 2nd hand products, which is a thing and a good alternative, but it won't be something I'll be covering here because this post is all about the sale event). Sometimes going the extra milage (= spending a little extra) can work out in the longer run (or end up biting you in the behinds when it turns into an unused purchase).

    Famous last words: I wonder if I'll hit a post size limit in this thread :p

    TL;DR? Then this thread won't be interesting for you! :D

    Komplete Audio 6 + Komplete 13 <=> 50% discount (? *)
    Link to sale section (if this link doesn't work the sale is probably over!)

    So basically.. Komplete 19? :rolleyes: (ok, ok, lame joke! ;)).

    Why is this a big deal?

    Remember my story about audio interfaces? If you want to get serious within the field of digital audio you will need an external ("extra") audio interface. I'm sorry to get blunt here but any embedded crappy excuse for an audio interface somewhere on your motherboard is not going to cover for you. It's not just about the latency, it's also not about the range perse: it's about overall quality. That chip stain is nice for playing games and music, just not for getting serious with (digital) audio.

    And please keep in mind: audio is often a 2 way street?

    This is a big deal because you're potentially getting yourself a large collection of instruments (14 synths!) and effects (16) and if you think that's kinda low then yah, I forgot to mention the 30 (!) sampled instruments and the 5 drum / percussion instruments that you get as well. Please see the overview here.

    And if you think that sounds impressive then I have to burst your bubble a bit because quantity does not necessarily imply quality.

    Therefor I would like to mention that this includes classics like Absynth 5, FM8, the FULL creative power of Reaktor 6, Massive (and Massive X but with all due respect.. I think Massive carries more weight here (= personal opinion!)) and of course this also includes powerhouses like Kontakt 6, (which implies Analog Dreams and Ethereal Earth) and of course Session Strings 2. And more, I only listed my de-facto favorites here.

    With this sale you'll have a wide collection of audio material but also a means to make it sound as intended. Thus high quality *. And that's only talking output, but what about input? If you have some kind of audio source then the Audio 6 can handle it. Note: using 1/4 inch TSR connectors (balanced connectors for input). With a frequency range of approx. 20Hz - 20kHz (= 20,000Hz) I think it's safe to say that your material is covered. Add a nice output potential of 105dB and you might agree that this thing will work just fine within clubs as well.

    Having no immediate experience with clubs myself (other than getting a little wasted and having a good time) I would like to address another example when talking about sound quality... I am a bit of a gamer, Steam being my #1 platform, and I'm enjoying myself. One of my favorite games is Elite Dangerous, mostly because I played the original Elite back in my Commodore 64 days. So.. I had been using a pair of very specific J-S speakers (and a subwoofer) for years already and their audio range... rivals studio monitors (but then again, I got 'm before this whole PC thing became mainstream; back then quality prevailed). And then they died on me. After having used 'm for over 28 years, and I didn't even had any warranty anymore :D. I had a gaming night planned so I did what any nerd would have done: I hooked the whole kaboodle up to my Audio 6 interface + JBL studio monitors. Let's just say that my friends never played E.D. the same way again, because the overall difference in audio quality was noticeable. Please note: amongst 4 friends who all had their different hardware preferences.

    Any (possible) negatives?

    Yes... but if this will still affect you is something I cannot say for sure. When I first got my Audio 6 it didn't work at all. That is: it worked with the freely available Asio6All driver but for obvious reasons I wanted to use the official Asio drivers. No go. Not the drivers nor the firmware upgrades would recognize and use my Audio 6. I eventually downloaded a new version from NI's official driver repository and after that: no more issues.

    In all fairness: because of those experiences it is my opinion that once the card works for you then you should not try to upgrade the drivers any further. Why risk issues when your audio interface does everything you want? At the time of writing several updates are available for me on the previously linked website but... I ignore them because I see no need to take risks when I can already do everything I want.

    Does this apply to me?!

    If you don't have an external audio interface yet I would say: HELL YEAH! Not only do you get a high quality audio interface you're also getting yourself a mindblowing amount of musical potential because these are some of the best instruments you can lay your hands on where quality is concerned. Seriously you guys: you get Komplete + high quality audio interface for LESS than what you'd normally be paying for just Komplete.

    Summing up

    6 inputs which consist of 2 dual XLR/TRS sockets (use 'm either as XLR or TRS); these are at the front. 2 more TSR inputs are featured at the back combined with an analog MIDI input + an SPDIF input.

    The outputs consist of 4 TSR outputs (nothing shared) and the same as above: one MIDI and one SPDIF output.

    This is an awesome audio interface to start off with if you're a beginner and all you need is a decent USB connection to get this going. Of course... to get any output you're also going to need some studio monitors or a pair of headphones.

    Let's do some math...

    According to my "In-Private" browser modus Komplete 13 sells for E 599,- "bundle price". The Komplete Audio 6 interface sells for E 229,- according to the same sources (= I hop into in-private modus on my browser and then go to the NI website and check the prices from my home country (= the Netherlands)).

    So if you get 'm together you'd normally pay: 599 + 229 = (E) 828. The sale price is 478,50. SO... 478,50 / 8,28 = 57,79%. So slightly above the advertised 50% ** but pardon me up front for saying this: only entitled people would make a fuss out of this because... this is a steal. And if anyone is going to make trouble for NI based on my little section here please be sure to also ask NI to fire me on the basis of me telling you to go take a hike and don't come back? Thank you :cool: (this section was sponsored by yours truly watching too much r/entitledpeople).

    I know I am harsh here but seriously you guys... you pay less than the normal Komplete selling rate and still get their top range audio interface included? Sorry, I am not taking anything back.

    * & ** => NI never mentioned 50% off from hardware, my bad! :oops:

    Let's move on!

    MULTI POST warning... this is where I decide that I'm going to spread my posts over the upcoming weekend. My motivation is at an all time high even though my el-cheapo (nah: "non designer") airco stopped flooding my floor (I hate aircos, I'm glad it died, errr: "got repurposed into the recycle directions for a better global environment!").

    Errr... :rolleyes: Yah, let's move on :D

    Maschine Mk3 + Komplete 13 <=> 50% discount!
    Link to sale section (if this link doesn't work the sale is probably over!)

    The best of both worlds!

    Fun fact: the Maschine Mk3 is the de-facto controller for ShelLuser to work with Komplete and he uses it for almost everything related, including the build up of orchestral setups (of which some will be shared with the community "soonish").

    Disclaimer: Bias warnings go into effect for the remainer of this post. (= I am doing my best, but I cannot deny the fact that I love my Maschine).

    Why is this a big deal?

    Because I said so, next! :eek::confused: (sorry!) :D

    Nah, sorry about that pun, but: because pads have the potential to change everything.

    If this can apply to you is something I obviously cannot answer but... for me "pad playing" changed my universe. Now, as you may remember I do not claim to be a musician, and it's true, but even so I can read notes notation and I also know my way around a keyboard. Yet there also lies the problem: the "dreaded black 5". In other words: the semi-tones that sit right next to your C. My Casio even starts with C. All 5 of them... and one more.

    My point here is that - for me - my keyboard lessons did both great and harm. The great part being that I know my way around this, I can play abd somewhat recognize chords, I can play with two hands... I am not complaining. But since we're talking about complaints anyway... :rolleyes: it is also fair to say I cannot "unsee" those previously mentioned black 5. I cannot unsee anything and because of it my mind always tried to match things. C-C E-E G-G E....

    aaarrggghh F-F D-D B-B D- (D- = octave lower). I forgot the name of this play, my grandparents really enjoyed this).

    Playing pads can help move you away from this and allow you to concentrate more on sound and not notation perse. And it goes deeper... while there maybe "only" 16 pads (4 x 4) you can change octaves or semi-tones up or down with one keypress. And if you need more control there's also the (horizontal) touch strip which may look small at first in comparison (in comparison with "other" controllers featuring a touch strip) fact of the matter here is that its specific size is bound to help you find the related notes you may need for crossovers. Riddle me this: How can someone with near to no musical ("composing") talent still find the right notes for the song he's playing by solely using the touch strip at first (before shifting). Luck? I don't think so!

    Pads can open your mind so to speak, and yes: I know it sounds vague.

    Oh, did I also mention that Maschine is fully NKS compliant? So basically... you can use the enitrety of Komplete (and all other 3rd party NKS compatible devices) as well..

    Any (possible) negatives?

    Maschine is a 2 part setup. The controller (as shown in the picture above) and the software:


    But this is not even close to anything you may have seen, no matter how many DAW's you came to use over the years. The workflow here is "specific" and may not cater to everyone. Simply put: there is a learning curve here (but also an awesome community who would be happy to try and help you get started).

    Second.. Maschine may seem like a "black box" at first. It's a given, I dare state that a vast majority (80%?) of Maschine users fell into this "trap". I sure did! :confused:

    But once you get to know its nuances....

    Does this apply to me?!

    Keyword: pads. I'm not going to make this sound better than it is: I got comfortable with playing Push shortly before I got my Maschine and I still had to adapt to the smaller grid size. But to make this simple: if you are looking for a percussion setup then this is a no-brainer at all. Not only do you get the entirety of Maschine you also get Komplete which can help fill in the extra gaps.

    Please keep one thing well in mind: Maschine can go way beyond percussion alone.

    Do not understimate this.

    Let's do some math...

    So yeah.. in the previous section we established that Komplete normally went for E 599,- so that's one. Next is Maschine which goes for E 599,- as well. No, you're not paying E 1198,- but instead: E 798,50. Lessee... 798,5 / 11,98 = 66.65%. So... yah, 100-66,6 = 33,4%. A little short wrt to the advertising, but still a steal.

    And for the record... no one mentioned 50% off wrt to hardware, I quote: "50% OFF ALL UPGRADES & UPDATES + hardware deals". Look for yourself!

    This is huge!

    See, the thing I haven't mentioned so far is that Maschine ships with its own audio interface. And as I explained in the previous section having an audio interface is very important to get ahead into this line of work. In full honesty the "Mk3 sound interface" is not as good as the Audio 6 (I have both, I can compare (and have)). But remember my story above with regards to the el-cheapo Sweex interface? Yah, this one comes with its own ASIO driver and it blows my Sweex out of the water quite easily.

    This is NOT to be compared with some black zit on your motherboard which excuses itself for being a wannabe audio interface.

    Next time on Shells 'Summer of Sound Sale' rant
    • We'll be going into more detail why the Maschine is such a big deal, we're also going to look at a cheaper alternative.
    • We're going to investigate the options of my personal favorite: the Symphony collection (series & essentials).
    • I'll be answering the question what a Maschine library & Komplete Select could have in common.
    • And does Absynth 5 still matter?! o_O
    Stay tuned!
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2021
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