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Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Reviews

4.0 stars based on 9 customer reviews
Questions about the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88?

Questions about the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88?

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  • Customer
    from May 15, 2017


    I love this thing. Keybed is really great; feel is solid, action is really smooth and responsive. Integration with NI software is smooth and easy, and really helpful. I love the speedy reactions of the pitch bend & mod control strips. Shifted to this board from an older M-Audio Pro 88, and I'm really glad I made the conversion. A really great keyboard. Simple, elegant, well-built, and ideal for any keyboard need.

  • Customer
    from March 6, 2017

    A Must

    If you're a programmer or piano player you will love this piece!!!! It's a game changer as far as work flow and functionality and the action is great!!!

  • Anthony Pezzelle
    from Landover, MD June 19, 2016Music Background:
    Music Educator/Composer

    Komplete Kontrol

    If you are invested in the NI realm, this instrument is for you. Great keybed (a bit on the lighter side for me, but I have my personal piano regulated to be a bit heavy so, take that with a grain of salt). Incredibly responsive dynamic ranges, smooth DAW integration (Logic Pro X) The only real complaint that I can possibly think of is that the controller doesn't send midi data out from the arpeggiator and harmonizer functions (granted this could be patched in a later update to the Komplete Kontrol Software).

    Solid Build
    Great Dynamic Response and Control
    Komplete Integration
    Light Guide makes keyswitches a BREEZE

    Hammer action is great, slightly lighter than comparable yamaha/casio boards (Privia series is slightly heavier)
    No Midi Output for Automated Features (Arpeggiator/Chord)
    Navigating Komplete Kontrol software is still faster with mouse (Though this could be from inexperience).

    I wavered back and forth for weeks on wether or not I should pull the trigger on the S88. I'm glad I decided to move forward and would do it again every time.

  • Jim Erwin
    from Overland Park, KS February 1, 2016Music Background:
    Former full-time performing musician now playing part-time with The Suburbans

    Action Alone Worth the Price of Admission

    When I purchased my Alesis Wireless Vortex from Sweetwater in October, I had a conversation with my sales rep, Alan Finkbeiner regarding my plan to replace my old Alesis Fusion 6HD with some type of controller in early-mid 2016. Little did I know that less than a month later, my Fusion would die in the middle of a show, forcing me to pull the trigger more quickly.

    When I discussed my "wish list" with Alan, the S88 wasn't even available yet. I already used some elements of Komplete 5 and Komplete 7 in my virtual rack, so I was already familiar with NI as a whole. As Alan and I review the specs of the S88, it appeared that the NI Komplete Kontrol fit virtually all of my wish list. I didn't think that was possible. My wish list was a well built 88-note weighted controller that would integrate well with my existing virtual rack, have a ribbon controller, , come in at under $1000, fit in my car and weigh less than 40lbs. I figured this would be an impossible find, but I was completely wrong.

    NI has just about hit it out of the park with the Komplete Kontrol S88. The action is simply to die for. Barring the fact that it doesn't have true hammer action, I actually prefer the feel of this keyboard to my Roland KR-15m intelligent grand piano. I have become completely spoiled at the feel of this keyboard in a live setting. Like my review says, the action is worth the price of admission alone.

    But wait, there's more! The ribbon controllers are an absolute blast to use. I'm a huge user of continuous controllers and these do not disappoint in the least. Top that off with the integration with Komplete Kontrol software and you can find 'anything' in Komplete 9 and higher at light speed. I've discovered instruments I didn't really know I had.

    Now, to be fair, I did go ahead and upgrade to Komplete 10 along with buying the S88, but again, totally worth the expense. I won't go into a detailed review of Komplete 10 as part of this review, but I will say this. Up until I made this purchase, I always used the pianos on my Roland Fantom X7 in favor of the pianos that come with Komplete 7. Once I played and heard "The Prestige" and "The Maverick" included in Komplete 10, I replaced all my Fantom X7 piano sound routing in my live rig to use one of these two pianos. The combination of the feel of the S88 with these sampled grands absolutely blew me away.

    If you already have bought into the NI ecosystem and want the ultimate 88 note weighed controller, this is it right here. If you haven't already bought into the NI ecosystem, this is still a fantastic engineered keyboard and I can't recommend it enough.

  • Jan Cornell
    from Hobbs, NM January 20, 2016Music Background:
    Drummer turned pianist

    Love this thing

    I ordered an upgrade from Komplete 9 to Komplete 10 Ultimate along with this keyboard because my Sales Engineer made me an offer on the two that I couldn't refuse (thanks Jeff!) It's a massive thing and arrived in an enormous box. It was very well packed. The pictures don't convey what a thing of beauty it is.

    Overall it was very easy to get things up and running after downloading the appropriate documentation from the NI website. I love EDM and techno and so on but at present I'm primarily a pianist. So I confess I've barely scratched the surface of the plethora of instruments available in Komplete 10 Ultimate! I've been using the keyboard to play Pianoteq 5 and Ivory II. I dearly love the action on the keyboard. It is very responsive and allows one to effortlessly play very expressively. I'm extremely pleased with this purchase.

  • Lorenzo Giusti
    from Provo, UT June 7, 2016Music Background:
    Music Composer, Video Games Composer, Film and Television Composer

    Fantastic Keybed

    It has to be noted that, contrary to how itnis advertised, playing synth action stuff on this unit, is a little unpleasant. So take this keyboard for what it is: A fully weighted, hammer-action keyboard. Piano and organic orchestral instruments are going to feel that much more real and natural.


    -Fatar Keybed is the cherry on top of this quite delicious cake. It feels very solid and well built and the dynamic range is unbelievable. My father, whose a life-long pianist and musician has fallen in love with this keyboard.
    -The MIDI controls are fast, responsive and well built in the body. They never feel flakie nor on the verge of breaking down. The plastic is sturdy and the finish is truely wonderful to behold.
    -Amazing with orchestral, cinematic, acoustic and more organic instruments.
    -The LED screens are extremely clear and crisp. The qualitt is real high.


    -At times, the MIDI capabilities can be a little wack. Sometimes I find myself switching from a Komplete Kontrol instance to a normal Kontakt instance and the colors and the CC channels don't switch with me. They get a little stuck behind.
    HOWEVER, it is important to notice that it hasn't been doing it much at all after the last update. Perhaps I was missing or mistaking something.
    -Not so good with synth instruments and patches.
    -Use of the surface space very unintelligent, in my humble opinion.


    If you want a complete experience when composing music, consider this unit as your new best friend.

    I'm a fan.

    I absolutely would recommend this item to a friend.

  • Eric
    from Kansas City August 29, 2016

    Awesome Idea, Not Ready For Prime Time

    I so want to give this keyboard the absolute top rating, but I can't.

    First, the good stuff. Great Fatar keybed, weighted and all that, feels like a real piano. With a good piano patch, it's really nice.

    The star of the show, I guess, is the "light guide." Not a gimmick at all, this is incredibly useful when you're playing MIDI patches with weird key layouts. A drum set, for instance: how the hell are you supposed to know which key is a snare, which a kick, which a cymbal, floor toms, cowbell, all that? Just memorize it? Not likely. With the S88, the keys light up with different colors: maybe red for snare, blue for kick, yellow for toms, etc. Or say you have a violin patch that only maybe 3 octaves, not the full 7+ of the piano. This keyboard lights up the active keys, no light on the dead keys that have no note associated with them. Or say you're playing an organ patch, a B3 for example: the organ's top keyboard will be one color, the top keyboard will be another, and over to the left, about a dozen keys are yet another color to indicate they control various drawbars. The light guide only works with Native Instrument software, but that's a lot of software, if you have one of their big suites, like Komplete, or Komplete Ultimate. Native Instruments claims that other developers are beginning to design software sounds compatible with this keyboard, but that remains to be seen.

    In addition to the lights, there are 8 physical rotary dials on the deck of the keyboard that change control parameters with the different patches. Twisting an actual knob rather than using the mouse is so much nicer, faster, and more accurate.

    Now for the bad news. If you use the S88 with a DAW-- any DAW-- using more than one Native Instruments MIDI patches, the light guide will revert to the last NI patch you opened, and there you are stuck. Let's say you lay down a bass line using some NI bass patch. The light guide is all there, just as it should be, lovely. Then you open a drum patch. Good enough: there's the drum light guide. Boom boom chika-boom, you lay down your track. Then you decide to tweak your bass line. Go back to the bass, hit a key, there is the bass SOUND... and the drum lights. I figured this was a bug, or a glitch, maybe a toxic reaction with something else on my Mac computer, maybe this thing hated my solitaire game, or my word processor... so I called Native Instruments tech support. They barely seemed to even comprehend what I was saying. Finally, they'd say something inane and generic like, "Have you downloaded the latest drivers?" Because, they seemed to be saying, this is functioning wrong, so maybe it's the drivers, or maybe I have a cord unplugged. No, I said, it's brand new, just loaded it all one week ago. Oh... okay... try this... try that. Nothing. Oh, said one guy, push this combination of actual physical control buttons on the S88's deck. Nope. That changed the light guide all right, but to something else completely wrong. So I emailed Native Instruments, spelled out my problem in painstaking detail.

    No reply.

    Not even a wrong reply. They just ignored me.

    Here's the bottom line: you buy from Native Instruments, you're on your own. They appear to have made a corporate decision to invest approximately zero dollars in tech support. And zero hours. And zero interest. Nothing. They seem to think their very nice products (when they work) will carry the day. And they are nice products. But if something goes wrong... well, dude... lots of luck.

    On the bright side, Sweetwater provides tech support for their products. I called. The tech support guy was obviously unfamiliar with this feature-- unfamiliar with the S88 itself except in passing (no recrimination there: Sweetwater only carries about a million different products)... but to Sweetwater's credit, my tech support guy did ferret out a bug fix, of sorts: it's clunky, it's an extra set of steps, it seems way out of keeping with where computer-based products SHOULD be in plug-and-play 2016. The bug fix is this: every time I change a patch, I have to open the software and find a little button gizmo and click that. I guess NI couldn't be bothered to actually design this thing all the way, so they stopped JUST short of really 100% done. This is about a 94% keyboard. Then, of course, they don't have any tech support to speak of, so that 6% looms large. (Google "Native Instruments Tech Support" and read a litany of horror stories, many worse than mine.)

    Anyway, this is my main keyboard in my recording studio. The good outweighs the bad--so far (two months). I like the good things about the S88 a lot, even though it is sort of crippled by NI's design laziness. But I can be philosophical about this: software circa 2016 is still pretty crappy, when you get right down to it. Take Pro Tools for instance: every single time I open Pro Tools, there is this idiotic error message that represents exactly nothing. There is no error at all, but there sure is an error message, every stupid time. So I have to go through the idiotic motion of telling the dialog box to close, then I can go into Pro Tools. And of course, Pro Tools crashes more frequently than rush hour where every single driver on the road is drunk. So... Native Instruments pretty much sucks, with their "not quite ready for release but here it is anyway" business model, but so does every other software developer. Such is life.

    But I'm keeping the keyboard, right? If Sweetwater tech support had not found this bug workaround-- as Native Instruments' tech support could not-- then I would NOT keep this keyboard. It would be worthless to me. But... but I'm keeping it. And I use it every single day. And I'm going to buy Ultimate 11 in about 3 days from now, when it is released. So... NI sucks, but... "Thank you, sir, may I have another?" Whack!

    Ugh. I think I need an intervention.

  • Marcus
    from Toronto June 25, 2017Music Background:
    songwriter composer producer


    I too was very excited to finally have an integrated keyboard that would make more sense with Ultimate and those lights were very sexy. But it feels very cheap as far as weighted action goes - my Yamaha is far more realistic. The biggest problem was a creaking sound that occurred when playing. This added to the cheap feel and frankly was unacceptable for creating quiet, tender pieces of music. You're trying to perform a soft, subtle pad thing and every other note you play causes a creaking or squeaking sound coming from the housing itself. I had many, many interactions with Ni about it and as per other review on here, customer service is not high on their list. I sent it in for "repair" and examination - 5 weeks worth and they "didn't find anything". So, I returned it. My dealer was nice enough to refund almost all the money since he actually understood what customer service meant. Now I'm back to my Yamaha and am happy as ever. It was a spend that really wasn't worth it in the end. Yeah, the lights were cool along with the knobs but it wasn't enough to keep me on board. If I were to dive in again simply because of the Komplete Ultimate integration, I'll probably just get one of the smaller ones. I love my weighted Yamaha too much and will just use that when needed. Oh, after all that 5 weeks of "repair", NI's next "solution" was for me to ship it to California. Yeah, no. You should have just replaced it with another one as I may have just had a lemon.

  • Rob
    from Seattle July 14, 2016Music Background:
    composer & songwriter for 30+ years

    Concerning the keybed (action, etc)

    I was really excited to get this unit and waited a month for it to come back in stock. I had read some really great reviews on the new Komplete Kontrol/NKS system (I use numerous supported VSTs), the light guided keys, etc. However, the one review I could not find a solid answer on was the keybed, thus my review will focus primarily on this one important area - hopefully to help another person looking for information.

    FATAR is not an unknown name for us composers, and apparently this is a FATAR keybed that NI has used. More than likely some of us have used StudioLogic boards or even the FATAR boards (think Doepfer) from back in the 90s until now (SL88, LMK2 - 4+, etc) They were/are killer. Some had wood keys and the action was really great - graded hammer action, likened at many levels to a natural grand piano. I was hopeful this was the case with the S88, but I couldn't find any info to verify that. So, I did my homework, I asked around, I even wrote to Native Instruments and tried to find out more about the keybed before I pulled the trigger on the unit. I wish I could have just tried a unit out locally but nobody had them in stock (a good sign perhaps?). The response I got from NI was less than ideal - infact, it was a bit presumptuous:

    Response from NI:
    "As it turns out we're not communicating used parts of our hardware products to the general public - in addition, there's much more adding to the playing experience than just a specific type of keybed."

    Listen, I understand if you don't want to release your hardware secrets. However, to say that there's more to a playing experience than "just a specific type of keybed" tells me that NI doesn't understand that the playing experience BEGINS at the keybed for a very large population of the people who will be buying an 88 key controller. It's probably the most important part of that particular product line. Their response left me wondering if maybe they didn't really care about the keybed much and were banking on the integration only. Still, I took a chance and bought the board hoping all would be fine. After all, FATAR and Native instruments together on 88 keys! Enough said right?

    When the S88 arrived, I pulled the unit out of the box, purposefully preventing my fingers from pressing any of the keys until I was sitting in front of it. I wanted to set everything up and have a true in-use, in context trial of the unit with 8DIO 1969 Grand loaded up, etc,etc as my first experience. The first few minutes I think I was more taken back by the beauty of the unit. The lights, the gloss, the knobs... oh the knobs feel just awesome. But, when I closed my eyes and began to really take in the keybed, I already knew in my gut that my worst fears were becoming true. The keybed was frighteningly cheap feeling, like a toy Yamaha keyboard I grew up with. The keys are heavy gloss/slick plastic tops with extremely spongy, heavy weighted action - nowhere close to the feel of a standard piano (knowing that action is pretty broad on acoustic pianos). I was so bummed. I waffled back and forth for days trying to decide if the hardware controls (NKS) and light guide would be enough for me to keep the unit and overlook the horrible action/feel. I tried to write a couple pieces and work with other instruments to win me over. But when it came down to it, I already knew that my creativity doesn't begin in the knobs and the lights. It begins the moment my fingers touch the keys. And if the keys don't respond well, no amount of pretty lights and fancy software integration is going to help creativity move from my fingers to recorded tracks. Don't get me wrong, that fancy software integration kicks major butt, but it's all worthless if your keybed is uninspiring and fatiguing to play.

    I'm disappointed that NI has put out a product that has so much potential with its integration with Komplete and other VSTs, but fails so much in the one area that a "weighted" 88 key controller needs to excel - the action and feel of the keys. If NI creates another version of this unit with a graded hammer action keybed (think Fatar TP/40GH or Roland Ivory Feel), I would buy it in a heart beat. Until then, if you are a composer looking for something that resembles piano action (or comes close), avoid this unit. It's not what you are looking for.

    Beautiful instrument. Well built and sturdy.
    Not heavy, but heavy enough to take a beating with some forceful key strikes.
    Software integration with Komplete is really nice and makes manipulations a breeze.
    The light guided keys are to die for. GAHH! Loved this feature. No more hunting for key switches.
    Ribbon mod/pitch "wheels" are so much fun to play with.

    Keybed action is extremely heavy, spongy, lacks graded hammer action.
    All keys are the same weight from lowest to highest.
    Keys are glossy plastic and slippery and fatiguing - not good for long hours of writing/playing.
    Velocity manipulation is limited to presets inside komplete kontrol instead of allowing precise customizations for varying playing styles.
    No step/cent tuning. Only octaves.

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