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Making Sense out of Chaos
NI's new hardware/software UI brings it all together

By Jurek Ugarow
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The advent and subsequent flowering of desktop digital recording has provided both professionals and "home recordists" many benefits. The obvious benefits of editing and storage, instant recall and repeatability have elevated the whole field to a level where today, virtually no area of audio production is left untouched by digital processing. Indeed, after initial capture, whole projects are now completed entirely in the digital domain.

This process has spilled over into areas not previously envisioned. The introduction of "plug-ins" provided whole new creative options for musicians and sound designers. And as synthesizers moved away from being purely analog devices and moved first to digital control and eventually to full digital implementation of the sound engine, so too has there been an explosion of "virtual instruments" that can be truly described as astonishing.

Digital audio is awash with virtual samplers, synthesizers of every hue and color, dedicated virtual instruments that emulate choirs, orchestral instruments, while developers are tackling even more possible permutation with ever and ever greater success. This is a great time for the electronic instrumentalist, but with this vast resource comes the ever present problem of how to manage this huge inventory.

Enter KORE from Native Instruments.

At its core (forgive the pun) KORE consists of a hardware and software component, the hardware being a MIDI controller that includes hardware knobs and switches. So far nothing new. There is an abundance of controllers on the market place that can control software synthesizers and plug-ins. What is different however, is the software interface and its integration with the hardware.

Basically, the software allows you, the user to load all your VST and Audio Units virtual instruments and plug-ins into a unified software interface. All the important parameters are laid out in identical fashion while mirroring the layout of the hardware controller. No longer does the creative flow have to stop while you try to remember how a particular piece of software works or to learn newly installed instruments.

"...software instruments and effects become tactile instruments that are highly intuitive and uniform in their operation..." to quote Native Instruments, the developers behind this unique product, a company that has done much to pioneer the use of virtual instruments. Of course NI's KOMPLETE package is a no-brainer for this application and the software company has already assigned the most important sound parameters for nearly all 9,000 presets included in NI KOMPLETE 3 - plus the 2,000 included in NI KOMPLETE SOUND 2 to the knobs and buttons on the KORE interface.

A structured concept was followed in assigning each of the presets' parameters to the KORE interface, resulting in the controls for timbre, source, modulation, effects always being grouped together in various easy access pages. Of course, other controls are always accessible and the complete instrument or plug-in can be fully opened out of the KORE rack with a simple click of the mouse.

But as mentioned, the system is not limited to NI products. Any VST or AU instrument or plug-in can be easily configured to reside within KORE and saved as a permanent set-up to use at any time.

But to get back to the controller.

It should be noted that this is not just a generic MIDI controller. If required, it can also function as an audio interface that communicates with, and is powered from, a computer via a USB 2.0 interface. Dual 1/4" inputs and outputs, headphone output along with controller pedal input, two foot pedal inputs and digital output make the controller a fully functional audio solution.

Additionally the controller provides complete remote control of the entire KORE software. Use the KORE controller to switch from one channel to the next; skip through the controller pages - browse through your KoreSounds, performances, performance presets, plug-ins or MIDI files and adjust a KoreSound's settings.

Ready to go live?

In standalone mode, KORE does the same for all your instruments and plug-ins as described above. However, with KORE it is particularly easy to create different instrument and effect set-ups for live performances. These set-ups can contain split and layer combinations and you can swap seamlessly between different set-ups on-the-fly. Mapping editors and master keyboard editors, including most MIDI filters are available for setting up anything from simple instrument combinations to programming a complex sequence of different set-ups, remembering that at any moment, anything can be immediately tweaked in real time for ultimate live performance control.

KORE is not only a fantastic tool for live performance but it can also be used as an effect rack with which to manipulate live signals by routing external audio sources through KORE, via the controller and using the on-board or AU / VST effects to change the sound. Sync can also be established to run in tempo with other loop or tempo generating sources.

There is much, much more to KORE than has been covered here. Needless to say, the concept, even as it stands today and without the planned enhancements, is visionary and promises to expand the concept of virtual software objects in the future.

This is a great time to be involved with audio.

Kore is available on the B&H website.
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