Komplete Audio 2 Interface Review: NI’s portable Mac recording at under $140

Today we are taking a closer look at the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 interface. While the company is best known for its massive lineup of virtual instruments and samplers for producers, we have had a chance to dig in to some of its most affordable new hardware over the last few weeks. We were previously impressed with NI’s higher end MIDI keyboards and Maschine Mikros, but is its budget-conscious interfaces worth your time? Head below for all the details.

Komplete Audio 2 Features:

More specifically we are looking at the Komplete Audio 2, which is a dual channel variant in the latest lineup. The portable interface works with your Mac right out of the box (we did not test this machine on PC) with 2 inputs/outputs, 48V phantom power for condenser mics and zero-latency monitoring. The inputs are carried via mic/line/instrument combination jacks with individual selectors for the source. You’ll also find top mounted VU meters and a giant volume knob with hardware monitoring control and a headphone output on the front panel.

Komplete Audio 2 Build:

When it comes to the new Komplete Audio 2, NI has taken the overall design up a notch slightly. Using a mixture of brushed and smooth-as-glass textures across the hard, black plastic exterior, it’s a slick looking little machine. All of the pots as well as a giant volume control along the top of the interface are quite sturdy and robust as well. There is an almost rubber-feel to the knobs which is a nice addition. It certainly isn’t the toughest-build out there, but it has easily been able to handle getting thrown in a bag and dragged around the city over the last couple weeks.

Sound Quality:

Now let’s talk about the actual sound quality and performance of the Komplete Audio 2 interface. This kind of thing is always hard to write about in reviews considering everyone’s idea of what “sounds good” is different. But one thing I will say here is that as someone who uses a Universal Audio Apollo 8 QUAD Thunderbolt interface on a daily basis, it sounds quite good to me. NI upped the sampling rate to 192kHz, and it’s hard for me to imagine any beginner musician or producer on the road being disappointed with the overall recording quality. Especially at under $140. If I was going to be incredibly picky about it, I’d say it handles vocals and electric guitars a little better than subtle and expressive acoustic guitar performances. 

Bang for your Buck:

Native Instruments also includes a plethora of software with purchases of the Komplete Audio 2 interface. You get Ableton Live 10 Lite, the Monark synth, Phasis phaser, the Replika delay, Solid Bus Compressor and Maschine 2 Essentials as well as the as the Komplete Start production suite. When ti comes to software add-ons, Native instruments is one of the best in the game. This is literally hundreds of dollars of add-ons for free to get your production suite off the ground before you’ve even purchased any instruments and effects.

Conclusion:

The top-mounted controls, 48V indicators and meters are a stroke of genius as far as I’m concerned. These miniature, portable interfaces are inherently hard to get your hands on, never mind get a good reading of the input meters. Whether you’re standing up for a performance and/or just sitting around a podcast desk, all the important stuff is very easy to get at. Every mini interface should copy this feature from now on. The same thing applies for the giant volume knob. We’ve seen high-end companies like Apogee sporting over-sized, easy to grab knobs in the past and we hope this trend continues in the mini interface space forever.

The recessed USB jack on the back of the Komplete Audio 2 is also a nice touch here. The chance of it getting knocked out seems to be pretty slim to me. But that brings me to one of my complaints here. There’s no USB-C cable in the box. Really? Just USB-A to B is provided. Considering this is a portable-focused machine, it would have been nice to see NI throw in a cable most MacBook users can actually use. Or at least a USB-C adapter.

With the incredible value the software brings, NI’s pedigree in this space and a sub-$140 price tag, it’s hard not to recommend the Komplete Audio 2 interface. Whether you’re a seasoned vet looking for a mobile recorder or just starting out, there’s is a heck of a lot of value here. And while we didn’t saccutally go hands on with it, much of the same impressions can be applied to the $109 Komplete Audio 1 interface.

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