Free Kontakt instruments: a treasure trove or a waste of time
The development of quality Kontakt instruments is generally a costly process but despite that, there is a surprisingly large number of totally free ones available on the Internet. The main catch is that you need to have a full version of Native Instruments Kontakt in order to delve into this colorful world, which by itself can be financially challenging regardless if you’re purchasing the program on its own or as a part of Native Instruments’ fabulous Komplete package. Due to the high licencing costs, only the most successful Kontakt library developers offer packages that will also work in Kontakt Player, which you can download and use totally free.
The full version of Kontakt ships with the vast library that covers the most sought for sounds. But like any library out there, it cannot predict every possible situation and need. The quality of included sounds is quite up to the company’s high standards, however the instruments from Kontakt Factory Library simply do not have such depth as the boutique Kontakt libraries, both from the third party developers and Native Instruments themselves. At first, it seems that one can build a vast collection of useful Kontakt instruments just for the price of the program itself (and its factory library), if you search the Internet for the free ones. But needless to say that most Kontakt freebies out there don’t have the quality nor usefulness of their commercial counterparts.
The quality of Kontakt freebies somewhat depends on the motive of their developers for making them freely available in the first place. Most of the well-established companies offer at least a couple of freebies, as a gesture of goodwill. Sometimes, such instruments have deliberately limited set of options in order to entice you into buying a commercial version of the product. Most of the times, Kontakt freebies from larger developers are not limited in any way, however their true value and usefulness can be somewhat dubious. Like that stationary given away by companies on special occasions. Depending on the company’s rating, the giveaway pens can be a cheap plastic throwaway or a Parker pen. Most of the time, they’re just a shiny trinket.
There are several free Kontakt instruments and libraries out there that can even rival some of the commercial ones. These are most often made “by the composers for the composers”. Occasionally, a composer needs a custom Kontakt instrument for a particular project and decides to develop one on his / her own. Maybe you can’t find such an instrument on market at the moment or maybe the instrument in question is too niche to justify the purchase. In either case, some composers have generously decided to share their creations with the community for free. Unlike the freebies from the commercial developers, these Kontakt instruments can more often contain the sounds you’ll really need and you will use on a regular basis. They’re usually also more extensively sampled, though they sometimes suffer from the lack of built-in options.
All in all, searching and scavenging the Internet for Kontakt freebies can be fun and even infectious. I remember I’ve used to spend an hour a day doing so. Of course, as my collection of commercial Kontakt libraries grew over time, I’ve gradually lost interest in collecting the free ones, though there are some that are still part of my arsenal. But even if you’re just starting out with the full version of Kontakt and its Factory Library, you should ask yourself: do I really need a Kontakt freebie? Often, you’ll reach the conclusion they’re really not all that better than the stuff that comes with Kontakt. But sometimes, a good Kontakt freebie might be just what you were looking for. The real truth about their usefulness and / or uselessness is probably somewhere in the middle with the slight inclination to the right. ;)