Finding the right keyboard controller is a tricky task.  There are a wide variety of options to chose from produced by the industry’s leading manufacturers.  After consideration I decided to add the recently released Komplete Kontrol MK2  (KKM2) keyboard by Native Instruments.

This article is not going to be so much a hardware review as a detailing of using the KKM2 with Reaper by Cockos.  There are already a large number of text and video reviews of the product’s features and I recommend you check them out!

A lot of questions came up from Reaper users as to what, if any, features of this keyboard will work with the DAW Reaper by Cockos as it is not listed in their supported products nor in their upcoming supported products.

In fact, when I asked Native Instruments point blank if Reaper support could be expected I received the following reply;

“We currently only have Logic, Garage Band, Ableton and Cubase / Nuendo fully integrated with our Komplete Kontrol. We don’t have any information regarding Reaper at the moment. Please follow this link to have more information regarding host integration : https://support.native-instruments.com/hc/en-us/articles/210280325-Important-Notes-about-KOMPLETE-KONTROL-Host-Integration”

So it’s clear that Reaper isn’t even on their radar.  Not a problem though as the VST which accompanies the KKM2 works fine with Reaper and although some features are un-available, there is more than enough that works to keep anyone happy and productive.

The Komplete Kontrol VST must be loaded onto each Reaper track that is going to use a particular Kontakt instrument / sample with the Komplete Kontrol MK2 (KKM2) keyboard.  Please hold your questions about 3rd party stuff for the moment.

You create a Reaper track as you would any track for a MIDI instrument you’d play with the keyboard (REC=ARM, Input=Komplete Kontrol (All Ports) {or whatever}, Monitor = On).  You then add the Komplete Kontrol VST to the FX of the track.

That’s it.

You can now use the display of the KKM2 to navigate your sounds.  The Preview function is great for ….  well ….  previewing.  The best and most useful feature I find is the ability to use tags to search across your libraries.  When I’m looking for percussive metal sound effects I really don’t care which of the numerous libraries I own the sound comes from.  Just slap my options on the screen and I’ll Preview away.

That’s just on the keyboard’s display.  You can also call up the VST display on your computer (I’m using the Mac version).  The KKM2 and VST work completely in sync no matter where you control it from with both displays reflecting what’s going on.

Other features, like the SCALE feature, work fine with Reaper too.  I love using SCALE  as my keyboard skills aren’t the greatest and although I know theory and am improving those skills each day I can’t remember everything each time a key or scale changes.  With this feature the light guides show you which keys you can play and will transpose any keys you strike incorrectly into the nearest valid note so you can’t hit an out of key sound.

Solo time anyone ; )

Now to 3rd party apps…. Like NI says, the KKM2 works great with apps written to the Native Kontrol Standard (NKS) which NI provides to developers.  I’ve got Arturia’s Mini V2 and V3 and they work just like all the other NI VSTis.  While some U-HE products are NKS compliant Zebra2 (the product I use) is not.  Hopefully that will change.  While I haven’t tested any other NKS compliant 3rd party VSTis  I’m betting they’ll work the same as Arturia’s;  pretty graphic on one screen.  Lots of sound choices on the other.  Plus Preview works with them.

In addition the eight potentiometers that are situated below the screens are automatically assigned VST functions (Cutoff, Res, ADSR, Etc…) through NKS on a VSTi to VSTi basis so re-mapping them manually is un-necessary.

For non NKS compliant plugins simply use them on a track as you normally would but assign the KKM2 as their MIDI controller.  There you go.  Done.  There is an editor which allows you to assign control mappings to the VSTi but I have not yet tried this out.

K, before I go on I want to say something that hasn’t really been mentioned yet and is sort of an important feature for this device;  the keyboard is incredible!  Electronics aside the Fatar key bed feels wonderful.  I’ve got some nice keyboards to compare it to by manufacturers like Roland, Moog and Yamaha and the KKM2 keyboard, to me, feels better than them all.

But enough about the silly black and whites.  We want knob twiddling and screen flashing…

Integration with Reaper as a DAW;  none.  The KKM2 dropped the Mackie Control Universal (MCU) standard so the keyboard can’t simply be mapped into Reaper via the MCU Control Surface setting.  The Transport Buttons don’t function in Reaper either.  Ditto the knobs.

The buttons which integrate the KKM2 with supported apps like Ableton Live also do not work with Reaper.  These include Scene, Pattern, Track, Key Mode and Clear.

One nice thing that is integrated well with Reaper is the clock.  Change the tempo in Reaper and the tempo on the KKM2 changes in sync.

From what I’ve read it appears the KKM2 uses Open Sound Control (OSC) to talk to Logic so perhaps Reaper could be better integrated this way.

On that note, no pun intended, all the disco effects with flashy VU meters on the keyboard’s displays also do not work with Reaper.  Again, perhaps a well developed OSC file could solve this.

For me, none of these integration features matter.  I did not buy the keyboard for those features.  I’ve had a number of keyboards at various times mapped up to my DAW functions.  I tended not to use them but rather to go back to either the mouse or more often to my iPad running TouchOSC.

What’s important to me is smooth workflow when hunting for sounds and easy control of the VSTis.  The KKM2 provides this.  Feel is also important to me and I really like the way the keyboard plays.  I also like the way the unit looks and feels.  It’s sleek, solid and attractive.

The Pitch and Mod wheels feel awesome!  They’re nice, big and fat plus they are rubberized for excellent grip and feel.  The Mod wheel is not auto-return/centre which I love.  When I put I Mod wheel somewhere I want it to stay put.

I’ve not explored all the features of this excellent device yet but I’m definitely pleased.  Is it perfect?  No.  Nothing is on its first release.  Software and Firmware updates are easy though so I’m expecting only better things with this already great product.

So, does it work with Reaper?  Hell yeah!

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Komplete Kontrol MK2 in Lower West Side Studio
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