Native Instruments Kontrol S-series MK3, MIDI controller keyboards go polyphonic aftertouch

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Native Instruments pushes its Kontrol S-series MIDI keyboard controllers in the MK3 generation to the polyphonic aftertouch realm.

For a few days, there have been vital signs that Native Instruments will update its KOMPLETE Kontrol-S series MIDI controllers soon. There is MK3 in the air. The official teaser and discounts on the MK2 versions, released in 2017, point to news coming soon. This day has come today.

Native Instruments today presets the Kontrol S-series MK3, the next generation of their popular high-quality MIDI controller keyboards tailor-made for the KOMPLETE universe.

Native Instruments Kontrol S series

Native Instruments Kontrol S-series MK3

Berlin is calling and reporting on three new keyboard versions in the new Kontrol S-series Mk3: S49, S61, and S88. All three keyboards have 95% of the same features, including seamless hardware and software integration, unique express control, and an all-new industrial design.

S49, S61 & S88 With Polyphonic Aftertouch

The differences lie in the keybed. The S49 and S61 offer semi-weighted (49 and 61) keys, while the S88 provides fully-weighted hammer-action keys. All three have the new highlight of the new Kontrol S-Series Mk3: they feature a polyphonic aftertouch keybed.

After Waldorf installed the new FATAR polyphonic aftertouch keybed in the Iridium Keyboard and Quantum MK2, Native Instruments is now the first company to bring these to MIDI controllers only. Many have been waiting for this step. Me too. This allows you to play notes much more expressively and also to modulate parameters differently for each note you play. Two, three… notes pressed, each has different modulations on it.

Native Instruments Kontrol S Series MK3

In addition, there are some other new changes compared to the MK2 versions. First, they were completely redesigned. In this process, the MK2 two-display layout was eliminated. Now all three keyboards have a large full-color display supported by eight touch-sensitive aluminum encoders for intuitive browsing, tweaking, and mixing.

Native Instruments Kontrol S Series

The Mk2’s light show remains in the MK3. It offers a highly visual lighting system that makes it easy to stay in the creative zone. A redesigned, intelligent light guide illuminates switches, key zones, scales, and more. Then, it also hosts new metal-touch pitch and modulation wheels with central illumination.

The Kontrol S-series MK3 keyboards are USB-C bus-powered. On the connection side, you get a USB-C port for an additional power supply, a USB-C port for data/power, a full MIDI interface, and inputs for four pedals: sustain, expression, and two assignable pedals. CV/gate connectivity is still not a topic with the new Mk3 generation, which is a shame.

Next Generation NKS

A perfect hardware and software relationship made possible with the in-house developed NKS system, a unique-selling point of the Komplete Kontrol Mk2 keyboards. This is also a big thing in the MK3 version

Native Instruments promises in-depth control via extensive Kontakt integration and next-generation Native Kontrol Standard NKS technology. More precisely, the user is able to control all NKS-enabled virtual instruments and effects directly on the keyboard without being distracted by looking at the computer. This worked well with the MK2.

Native Instruments Kontrol S Series MK3 NKS

What the new NKS (2) includes, what the differences are, and what advantages it has for developers, Native doesn’t yet tell us. There is no information about this in the press release. They only say:

NKS brings software instruments, effects, loops, and samples into one smooth workflow, creating seamless integration between NI software, all major DAWs, and thousands of partner sounds, instruments, and effects.

Software Bonus

Native Instruments is primarily a software company, so free software for the keyboards is also a must. Each keyboard includes Komplete 14 Select, the Komplete Kontrol software/plugin, and various other instruments and tools from in-house brands and partners: Stradivari Cello, Hypha, Guitar Rig LE, iZotope Elements Suite, and Ableton Live Lite

First Impression

At first glance, an excellent further development of the Kontrol S Series. The polyphonic aftertouch in particular stands out and makes these MIDI controllers very exclusive at this point. I’m sure we’ll see more PolyAT MIDI keyboards in the future. I like the new display. It reflects more of the NKS system than the previous 2 displays making it more fluid and immediate to use.

I hope that Komplete Kontrol as well as NKS will continue to grow in the future and get new features like creating layers on the hardware. All in all, a welcomed development. I hope I can test them out in the near future. As a Kontrol S MK2 user for 5 years, I know the Komplete world pretty well.

Native Instruments Kontrol S-series MK3 are available now for pre-order and shipping starts in October 2023. The S49 Mk3 costs $749/749€, the S61 Mk2 $849/849€, and the S88 $1299/1299€.

More information here: Native Instruments 

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  1. What I wanna know is if they decoupled the keyboard with Komplete Kontrol, so you can use some of the smart features like chord mode, scale, arp sending through the 5 pin midi to other synthesizers standalone etc. Before you only get those features through the Komplete Kontrol app. They did mention in the video the keyboard has an onboard cpu so I am hoping for that. Also hoping for much easier and thorough mappings template situation so maybe I can map a few of my controls for each outboard synth and switch them on the fly based on whatever synth im using.

  2. What they actually have decoupled is MASCHINE and KOMPLETE KONTROL – after years and years of heading in the opposite direction. Allowing the eight encoders and screens of MASCHINE to also control KOMPLETE KONTROL functions, it would have been a very customer-friendly option. But no, not with NI. Now they want me to through my MASCHINE Studio and my KOMPLETE KONTROL S-Series MK1 out of the window to make room for the new KOMPLETE KONTROL MK3. It will not happen.

  3. What a disappointment. I was hoping for standalone mode aka MASCHINE+ but tha obviously didn’t happen 😟
    Will stick to my trusty S49 MK1 for while longer I guess…

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