Today we’re reviewing the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6, a 6 channel USB audio interface from the German-founded Native Instruments. Originally known for their software instruments the company began introducing audio hardware into their product range as of 2004. Though still primarily focused on software, Native Instruments currently sell a number of keyboards in addition to the interface that we’ve been testing here over the past week. Read on to see what we made of it.
Construction of the Audio 6 is reassuringly solid. Weighing in at around 1.9 lb (850 grams), the internals feel suitably protected in a rugged but attractive black and silver metal chassis. Once unboxed and we’d finished admiring the overall aesthetic our attention was quickly drawn to the rather huge analog volume control that’s centered on the glossy top panel. In practice, the utility of this oversized dial can’t be overstated and we loved just how convenient it became to make volume adjustments with barely a second thought. The remaining regular sized knobs are made of rubber and turn smoothly, and the various buttons give a satisfying click when pushed. Rubber feet on the bottom of the unit provide stability while protecting the chassis and your desk. Overall we were impressed with the build quality of this interface.
On the brushed aluminum front panel you’ll find two analog XLR/TRS combo inputs for microphones and instruments, each with a complementary gain control and a standard line/instrument switch. XLR retaining locks add a small professional touch. Moving along we find separate controls for monitor and headphone volume, headphone input, a headphone source switch, a mono switch, and a direct monitoring switch for zero latency monitoring.
Located on the rear are a further two 1/4″ TRS inputs and four balanced 1/4″ outputs, MIDI in/out sockets (for those with legacy synths and drum machines) and digital stereo input and output (SPDIF / RCA). Finally for the rear, we find a USB socket, and a 48V phantom power switch enabling you to connect condenser microphones.
In addition to the aforementioned volume control the top panel features prominent indicator LEDs which display the status of connections and settings. Helpfully, the LEDs change in intensity and color to advise of levels and overloaded inputs.
Setup & Software
Preliminary browsing through user reviews of the Komplete Audio 6 seemed to suggest some occasional problems with the drivers provided for the interface. We forged ahead with installs on a Windows 10 desktop and a 2015 Apple Macbook Pro, having downloaded the most recent drivers from Native Instruments’ website. Installation on Windows 10 of driver version 4.2.0 was quick and painless, resulting in a straightforward settings panel being installed. On our Macbook we’re running OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) which does not appear to be officially supported by the most recent Mac OS X driver, a Native Instruments representative confirmed however that internal testing has revealed no significant problems and indeed installation on our Macbook was as expected with no issues to speak of so far. Stability of the drivers was not in question with us suffering no dropouts, popping or hissing on either operating system.
Native Instruments have bundled in some entry-level software with their interface in the form of Cubase LE 6, DJ software Traktor LE 2, and Komplete Elements. Both Cubase LE 6 and Traktor LE 2 are lighter versions of their larger siblings while Komplete Elements serves as an introduction to Native Instruments’ ever-growing range of instruments and effects. Containing over 3GB of material with over 1000 sounds we think most users will be able to get some mileage out of the Komplete Elements software.
Audio quality from the Audio 6 is clear and punchy and on par with competition in its price range. We found the gain controls to provide more than enough volume for quiet microphones but noted that the headphone output is not quite as blaringly loud as some other interfaces. Volume should be sufficient for general use but the maximum level did fall just a little short of our expectations. In contrast, we were thoroughly impressed with the low latency experienced while recording at the interfaces limit of 24-bit/96 kHz.
In use we appreciated the flexibility of the Audio 6’s routing options and would similarly expect DJs to derive value from the headphone source selection switch and ability to have main outs with a separate controllable monitor mix.
The inclusion of four ins and outs plus MIDI in and out combined with the impressive design, rugged construction and solid performance make this a top contender in this price range. Highly recommended.
- Plenty of I/O and control
- Smartly designed volume knob
- Comprehensive software bundle
- Lower than expected headphone output