Dirk Ulrich has left Native Instruments

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Dirk Ulrich, founder and face of Brainworx and Plugin Alliance, has left the Native Instruments group and no longer has an active role in the company.

Update: This will now be purely a news article without a major part of opinion. A lot of people want that. My analysis and impression of the current situation are in a real talk article.


The last 3 years have been anything but quiet for Native Instruments and all other companies that are in the group of the same name. The impetus for these times was the announcement in 2021 that private investment firm Francisco Partners had acquired a majority stake in Native Instruments.

Then the brands NI, iZotope, Brainworx and Plugin Alliance merged in one. What followed was a name change fiasco to Soundwide and back to Native Instruments. In addition, 8% of the team was laid off due to a challenging market situation. All events that leave you with an uneasy feeling about the NI group and it’s future.

Dirk Ulrich Native Instruments

Dirk Ulrich Native Instruments

Are there improvements on the business news horizon to see around Native Instruments for Q1 2024? Not really. Dirk Ulrich, Plugin Alliance/Brainworx’s face and founder, announced that he immediately left the NI group. However, he remains the largest private shareholder of it.

You can read the full details from this letter, which he shared on Facebook.

Dirk Ulrich Statement

It is with a heavy heart that I share these news with you all: Last night I have informed the majority shareholders and the other board members of the NI group that I am stepping down from my Advisory Board role, effective immediately. The NI group includes Native InstrumentsiZotopePlugin Alliance and Brainworx.

This ultimately means that I will have no more active role in this company group whatsoever. Which is definitely not what I expected or wanted to happen for the business or for myself when I sold PA/BX and joined “Soundwide”, now NI.

I’ve re-invested a really substantial sum into the new NI when I sold PA/BX and tried hard for 2 years to serve the group in a rather passive advisory job that I was asked to morph into instead of actually helping to actively steer the new, bigger ship. It turns out though that I am simply not made for passively “advising” other people to run my business, in ways that I may or may not always fully agree with.

I feel very sorry for potentially disappointing many of our employees that I have had many fantastic years with, the partner companies I personally signed over a period of almost 15 years, the Millions of users and fans out there who love and follow what we have created, and last not least my family members and close friends who have helped me to build something amazing between 2006 and 2021! You know who you are and you know how good you are! Please know that you all will always have a special place in my heart for sure! ❤️

“NI ft. IZO & PA & BX” as a combined force has a ton of amazing product and IP to offer, created by hundreds of very skilled people in offices and home offices around the globe. Unleash the beast..!

I will continue to cheer for a future NI from the “outside”, which is definitely something I will have to get used to, especially considering that despite my departure from any and all active roles in the company I am still the largest private shareholder of this group.

Music and Technology and Marketing, these are my passions and make my (business) life. It’s what I know and dream about.

This def feels like an emotional rollercoaster for me, but I am a positive person with a positive mindset, blessed with a loving and supportive family. ❤️

And there is a German saying that goes something like this and that I have followed for decades, through the good and the bad times:

“In the end all will be great. And if it’s not really great yet… then it’s probably just not the end yet.

UPDATE: Plugin Alliance/NI Statement 

Dear Plugin Alliance and Native Instruments Family,
As you may have read, Dirk Ulrich, the founder of Plugin Alliance and a visionary in our field, has left the Native Instruments Advisory Board. Dirk’s contributions have left a lasting mark on the music production industry and our company.
What does this mean for you? In a word: nothing. We remain laser-focussed on developing new products that will help you get to your creative goals faster and easier. So far this year, we’ve already launched the bx_enhancer, Three-Body Technology Cenozoix Compressor and ADPTR AUDIO HYPE and we have a full roadmap ahead.
The partnership between Plugin Alliance, iZotope, and Native Instruments is growing steadily stronger. And throughout this year, you’ll see more examples of how we’re able to bring you an even more expansive and integrated suite of music creation tools.
What’s Next?
We look to this community as a source of inspiration for what to build – and we’re working on an ambitious roadmap including several products directly inspired by your feedback. Building new tools to help you tighten up your mixes or help you sound unique is why everyone at Brainworx, Plugin Alliance, iZotope and Native Instruments comes to work every day – and that mission drives everything we do.
Still, we understand that change brings questions. We’re here to answer them. Feel free to reach out to us with any thoughts, questions, or feedback and we’ll do our best to respond.

My Impression 

Another unpleasant news for the NI group. We’ll see where Native Instruments goes in 2024. Maybe 2024 will be the golden year with many excellent releases. One would like to wish it on them because their products have shaped the music production market. I hope that will get more positive news this year from NI  than the previous years.  

I wish Dirk Ulrich all the best for the future.

More information here: Native Instruments



  1. It is good to give a critical comment to such developments, but in this case I think it is quite biased and not objective at all.

    • why biased? I’m not an ex-worker of NI or so and neither have financial interest related directly to the company. I’m not about to buy NI 😉

      I cleary summarized the facts of the last years (takeover, laid of people, many strange decisions, endless sales,…) and give my objective point of view on it. And it’s not positive to be honest. The Komplete Kontrol Mk3 and Maschine Plus were no products that people always talk about. They nice but they could be done better.

      • “Slowly sinking ship” is already not objective, and just your personal impression of what happens.

        It’s also funny that people think this is a sign for anything. Dirk Ullrich hasn’t really been considered as a lead figure for anything innovative in the music software industry. Rather for being a marketing figure, and, if he only had an advisory position in the NI group, and knowing him for being quite strict in what he thinks is best for his business, I’m not surprised at all that he decided to call it a day. Nothing here indicates that “the ship is sinking”.

        • it’s a personal impression and my point of view so it’s part of an editorial article and that’s exactly how it should be seen

      • I am inclined to agree with the commentators who are critical of the tenor of the post. A little more factual analysis is useful. If ‘sinking ship’ were a direct quote from Ulrich or a source at NI then its use would be legitimate. As it stands, it feels more like schadenfreude. That said, in the context of the industry, NI can sometimes feel like ‘sweaty Steve Ballmer’ era Microsoft.

        • I don’t have “Schadenfreude” with NI, it’s my way how I describe the situation. As I said, it could be that things will drastically change in 2024. We will see

  2. I took a risk on buying machine plus and was at the time new to native instruments. I am not happy at all for the money I shelled out! So much so that I decided to buy in more on the software because it came bundled with more samples. I think greed and capitalism are factors when looking at the company. I gave the company a chance and frankly I don’t like how scarce firmware updates are.

    • @Paul

      Finance people getting involved changes the focus of the company so you’re spot on in your assessment. All the top software companies that are public aren’t driven by customers or product innovation, they’re drive by increasing shareholder value. Investors, not all, but most, don’t care about the products, employees, company or it’s founding principles, they care about market growth and the increasing value (aka money). That’s why so many corporations become evil. It’s not that they want to it’s that they kinda have to by law.

      There are way too many companies that get investors or go public that shouldn’t. And too many that get acquired by financial acquisition specialists that are trying to build a large company to go public or sell it off to a bigger player. Hence why some companies founders are called sellouts.

  3. It seems like the problem of prioritizing doing a few things well vs doing everything half-assed for the sake of market coverage. NI understands musicians and music well but does not prioritize healthy software engineering practices, product stability, delivery or support. For example their “uninstall” process in Native Access is literally a list of files you have to manually delete. The other night I ran the iZotope Product Portal to install a suite of products I bought as a bundle, and the install wizard crashed literally 8 times.

    I really like their plugins but I worry about their dev team…is everything okay over there guys?

    • Agreed on the uninstall side of things at NI. Just terrible and not customer friendly eg the lack of freedom to experiment with various elements of Komplete and then only keep the parts you like. Uninstalling / repairing is right PITA. See Ableton packs as a good example of enabling experimentation . Or Elektron with Overbridge as just a slick install/uninstall.

  4. > Not to forget the PPG purchase with no result and the end of the Absynth development.
    That was a huge loss for the synth community i still feel hurt about.

    I would like to quote some of what they said in the forums about Reaktor 6.5:
    > “At this point, perhaps it is time to comment on the situation. For a variety of reasons, NI is not in a position to invest major resources in this product, which has not been news for some time.
    > “Our team is aware that the lack of more features will lead to frustration. But at this stage, we as a team will not be able to change this situation.”

    Watching everything collapse hurts me on a personal level.
    I still regret not getting iMaschine or the PPG synths on my iPad before everything unfolded.
    Thank you for reporting on this, really sad news.

    • It is sad to watch and experience. I was fortunate enough to have a few of the Palm PPG apps on iPad. Now I can’t update it though as they may stop working. Someone needs to put those apps back out asap. WaveMapper so good!

  5. Why is “slowly sinking ship” in quotes as if that was his quote? Because it seems like the author’s quote, making it incredibly misleading and borderline unethical

    • it’s an impression of mine, I tried to make it clear that it’s not a quote from Dirk Ulrich! Cheers

      • Putting it in quote marks next to a story about someone usually means that its THEIR quote, not yours. This is really bad journalism.

        • Okay teacher! I’m just a human and human make mistakes. Sorry!iIt wasn’t meant to be that from the start. If you read the article, that was clear. Now it’s more clear! Now there are two articles: the news and a real-talk article.

  6. I loved bx and PA, but knew the NI acquisition was going to be bad. They use to have actual deals. Slowly but surely I was buying the plugins I needed. After the NI buyout it became real clear that my money wasn’t wanted in their new business model. I already knew from my experience with NI, Traktor, their lack of updates, dropping Metapop, previous layoffs especially in R&D, and need to be bailed out multiple times that this would not be good for PA or any company they buy out. They will not innovate and will continually devalue themselves while their customers suffer. I hope Dirk can get bx and PA back and let that garbage ship sink.


  7. Thanks for sharing!

    Your perception of NI’s future is already more hopeful than mine. Still, you’re entitled to your opinion.

  8. I have a mixed feeling about NI. They really have great projects however they seem to be losing focus on what’s really important.

    The latest upgrades for Komplete Kontrol and Kontakt shows that eye candy is more important than performance. Following the upgrade, loading times of their plugins are much slower, and tried to uninstall, clear the cache with no positive results.

    Another big red flag which put me away from buying one is the way they treated owners who had the NI Kontrol mk1 series. Basically they stopped support in Komplete Kontrol 3 in such a way that it cannot be used, not even basic support. It is at least expected, given the nature of dependency on their products to work, that basic functions would still work.

  9. Kontakt still looks like it was made in early 2000s. Sometimes it looks like Windows 10, part one design part another. Unfortunately, besides the new libraries, there is no eye candy in recent products made by NI.

  10. I have just entered the digital music world during Covid era…i.e 2021
    And have been immensely loving NI products though do not have good amount of info about Dirk.
    So as an end user I would wish “The show must go on…”
    My best wishes to the company from heart. I own some NI softwares and M32 and glad to explore and use them.

  11. I dislike how NI handled merging with Izotope etc.

    There should have been account consolidation and discounts that reflect how much plugins we have from the various plugins under the umbrella.

    I don’t need the basic izotope stuff offered in komplete when I already own the advanced stuff.

    Also kontakt is crazy slow and needs a serious update.

    I do like some NI stuff but it feels like I’ve gradually been phasing it out of my workflow as more efficient options become available.

  12. After getting burned on a Kore I knew not to trust their hardware, and Kontakt is literally the only thing I still use from them. Arturia has better softsynths now. Yes, Kontakt performs like sludge, but I’ve got so many libraries I’m stuck.

  13. Native Instruments kill their hardware way too fast. The S5 and Maschine Jam is proof of that. Same with software and Absynth is proof of that. Then their new product is the same midi keyboard with a bigger screen and still no pads becasue they gotta sell them separately as Maschine, which btw ist a full DAW as they said a long time ago. I used to own a S4, Kontrol, Maschine, KA6 but today I own none and SO happy about it. They do still have brand recognition to a point but for sure they are a shadow of their former self.

  14. If you’re so confident in this attitude of yours, why don’t your publish your “news”-pinion under your actual name. I mean I get it if you’re embarrassed and all, but you literally require anyone who leaves a comment here to give your their name and email address… just saying.

  15. I used to love PA/BX. Through the years I bought all my plugins with their famous deals, and when they announced the merger with NI and IZotpe all that stopped and I stopped buying plugins. I knew it was going to be bad because they were very different companies.

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