Review: Audio Kontrol 1

Easily control music input with a variety of software and one box. (July 14th, 2008)

Electronista Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: Native Instruments GmbH

Price: $249.99 US

The Good

  • Small and portable. Use buttons for keyboard or MIDI functions. Easy to use and flexible software. Well-written, easy to navigate documentation. Usable with many programs outside of MIDI sequencers. Good value due to excellent bundled software.

The Bad

  • Knobs are very close together.

Native Instruments has the perfect compact audio interface for today's music producer. It is small, compact, portable, and made of sturdy light-weight aluminum.

The Audio Kontrol 1 has a continuous controller knob, three buttons, a mic or instrument input, a line input, four outputs, a MIDI input and output, and a headphone output. It is a USB 2.0 bus powered interface and all inputs and outputs are balanced.

Audio Kontrol 1 Hardware

Hardware Controls - Top

Set Up

I installed the mapping software, and driver, and connected the Audio Kontrol 1 (AK1) to a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo using OSX 10.5.3. The software requires a restart and you must have Internet access to activate it. Next, you set the input in the Sound control panel of the System Preferences pane to AK1, and it shows up in your audio recording program of choice. In order to use the knob and buttons the mapping software must be running, but you can use the inputs and outputs alone without the software.

Audio Kontrol 1 Hardware

Hardware Controls - Front


It is a breeze to set up the inputs in the software I used, Steinberg Sequel, Apple GarageBand, and Verilogix Audacity. The AK 1 shows up in the routing of audio signals in each programs' live audio settings. It is no problem to set up Audio Kontrol to interact with these programs. If you don't have software on hand, the AK1 includes Traktor 3 LE for DJs, Guitar Combos and Keyboard Collection with eight sampled keyboard instruments, and Cubase LE 4, a light version of their signature music production software.

I plugged a Blue Microphones 8-Ball condensor microphone in the Mic Input to record a few different woodwind instruments. The performance of the AK1 was great; there was no latency and the recorded image was clear with no hiss or alterations to the sound the microphone picked up.

Transport Made Easy

The versatile button mapping software has pre-made button assignments for many popular Mac software programs such as, iTunes, Cubase SX, Live, Nuendo, GarageBand, Logic Pro, Digital Performer, Reason, Final Cut Pro, iMovie, Photoshop CS2 and many Native Instruments software synthesizer products. It is simple to adapt the knob and three buttons for use in other programs, plus their combinations are an easy way to eliminate mouse use for any play, stop, rewind, and record buttons in these programs. After you choose the AK1 as the input in the Sound System Preferences pane, one menu in the mapping software holds all these presets. You select the program to use from a drop down menu in the mapping software and the AKI is instantly enabled to operate the transport buttons.

Audio Kontrol 1 screen

Button Assignment Display


You can assign keyboard strokes or MIDI messages to the Audio Kontrol's buttons. Each button can be a toggle or a trigger. Press or release of a button can be two events so pressing it once activates something and pressing it again returns it to its original state. Additionally, press or release can be one event so that you activate a software action only while the button is pressed. Each of the three buttons can also act as a modifier, similar to a Shift, Control or Option key on a keyboard, so that there are ten different parameters in one panel, which makes the interface very flexible.

Audio Kontrol 1 screen

Mapping Software Window

Recommended

This portable, durable, and attractive interface has many uses including recording a variety of instruments and controlling a number of programs. The AK1 is flexible within those uses because it supports many sampling rates, and has easy to use mapping software. I highly recommend the Audio Kontrol 1 to anyone that wants to speed up their multimedia production work with easy-to-use buttons whether in a audio or video musical workspace. If this is your first foray into using an audio control interface, the Native Instruments site contains video tutorials, and a variety of learning materials. When you consider the whole bundle, the AK1 price is very reasonable.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Marcus Sholar


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