Kontakt Libraries: 12 Free & Paid Options for Producers (2024) 🎹

Kontakt Libraries have become a foundation of modern electronic music production. Whatever your preferred genre, Kontakt libraries across all instruments should be part of your producer arsenal.

However, there are hundreds of Kontakt libraries out there. And it can be hard to know which ones are worth it, and which ones are over-hyped.

But today is your lucky day! I’ve scoured the Internet and brought you the best Kontakt libraries available in 2024. In this guide we’ll cover:

  • What exactly Kontakt is
  • What Kontakt libraries are and how they work
  • The best Kontakt library options out there

And make sure to stick around to the end – I’ll be covering some free options too πŸ˜‰

Let’s dive in! πŸ‘‡

Note: Kontakt works in most modern DAWs, including FL Studio, Ableton Live, and Logic Pro X.

Also, this is also not a sponsored article, but an honest review of my favorite libraries.

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So… What is Kontakt? πŸ€”

Native Instruments introduced Kontakt in 2002. Since then, it has become the leading software sampling application on the market.

In a nutshell, Kontakt combines sampler abilities with synthesis and effects functions.

But most will know Kontakt as a platform for powering sampled instruments. It looks a bit like this:

Kontak Player interface

Sample instruments use sample libraries, i.e. collections of samples that have been recorded and edited.

Think of it this way. Instead of having a single piano sample, you have thousands of them.

Each sample is recorded at different velocities, with different articulations, etc.

Kontakt then enables you to play each of them seamlessly.

Let’s look at an example. Here I have a Kontakt instrument called “The Gentleman” loaded up:

The Gentleman Kontakt library

When I play my keyboard, I will trigger samples from actual piano recordings! Depending on the library you load, you will have more or fewer parameters.

In this case, I can change the tone of each note, its transients, if the piano lid is open or closed, etc. All of these changes trigger different samples.

If we look at another Kontakt instrument, the options will be different:

Analog Dreams Kontakt library

Here I’ve loaded up a Kontakt library called Analog Dreams. You can see that the layout and options are completely different. However, we are still in Kontakt!

That is the beauty of Kontakt: thousands of sample-based instruments at your fingertips.

Kontakt doesn’t come cheap but is one of the best investments you can make. Alternatively, you can download the free Kontakt Player. Kontakt Player runs all NI instruments as well as approved 3rd-party instruments.

Talking about samples, check out our massive compilation of free sample packs here!

What Are Kontakt Libraries? 🧐

Kontakt libraries are where all the samples are grouped. These are shown when you open Kontakt:

Kontakt library interface
The Kontakt libraries are on the left-hand side

People will often use Kontakt “libraries” and “instruments” interchangeably. For the sake of this guide, we’ll assume they are the same. The minor differences between the two relate to licensed vs. unlicensed libraries.

But the beauty of Kontakt is that anyone can develop their own library.

These are often referred to as “3rd Party Libraries”. Thanks to the Kontakt Script Processor (KSP) and Creator Tools, developers can create their own instruments:

Kontakt libraries
Each Kontakt instrument has its own layout and parameters

This means sample library developers can create instruments that can be played and controlled via Kontakt. This is one of the reasons Kontakt has become so popular.

My 7 Favorite Paid Kontakt Libraries βœ…

Analog Dreams

If you’ve read my review of the best Waves plugins, you’ll know I love my retro. Anything with the words “analog”, “retro” or “lofi” catches my eye.

One of the reasons I keep returning to Analog Dreams is its beautiful design:

Analog Dreams Kontakt library

This Kontakt library is deceptively simple to use, which is why I love it. But first things first, let’s demo some of its sounds:

Analog Dreams is a Kontakt library that blends 2 samples together (A and B). These samples were recorded on vintage synths of the 70s and 80s. This is what gives the instrument its warm, analog feel.

Each sample is interchangeable at will. You can then blend to taste between the two with the “Balance” knob.

With each preset comes a different set of Macros you can control:

Macros in Kontakt
The Macros available change with every preset

These Macros are usually enough to tweak the sound to your liking.

But you can go one step further with the Sound and FX tabs:

The Sound tab in Analog Dreams
The Analog Dreams Sound tab

The Sound tab is where you can adjust things like sample choice, envelopes, noise layers, and LFOs.

The FX tab is where your effects are located (duh). You can re-order the FX chain, as well as tweak each effect separately:

The FX tab in Analog Dreams
The Analog Dreams FX tab

I could go on as to why I love Analog Dreams so much. The layout is beautiful and the interface is intuitive. If you want to dig into the weeds, this Kontakt library will keep you busy for days.

Analog Dreams comes “free” with a purchase of Kontakt 7. Alternatively, you can buy it separately here for US$ 49.

The Gentleman

The Gentleman was one of the first Kontakt libraries I purchased. And I still use it to this day!

The Gentleman Kontakt library

The Gentleman Kontakt library is sampled from a vintage upright built in 1908. It provides a wide dynamic range, with multiple customizable parameters. Let’s give it a listen:

Example 2

Let’s go over some of its main features. On the left-hand side are the “Tone” and “Anatomy” controls:

The Tone and Anatomy settings in The Gentleman

“Tone” lets you adjust the harshness of notes, from “soft” to “hard”. Under “Anatomy”, the “Dynamic Range” knob acts like a sort of compression.

But there’s more to it.

Click on the arrows next to “Tone” or “Anatomy”, and you get a lot more to play with:

The advanced settings in The Gentleman

Here you can adjust things like the pedal and hammer sound, stereo image, and more. Here is an extreme example to give you an idea:

Finally on the right-hand side is your reverb section. You get a choice of 26 different reverb models. Each one can then be further adjusted through the “Amount”, “Size” and “Distance” knobs.

Personally, I use the Gentleman Kontakt library for 90% of my piano sounds.

I can get most sounds I want, from radio-friendly and super-compressed to muffled and dirty.

If you’re looking for free VST synths, check out our full list over here!

Buy the Kontakt Libray “The Gentleman” here (US$ 99)

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Retro Machines MK2

Retro Machines MK2 is a Kontakt library gathering 16 different analog synthesizers and keyboards:

Retro Machines MK2 Kontakt Library

I’ll be the first to admit it’s not the sexiest look. But the range of sounds you get well make up for it:

One of the coolest features of this Kontakt library is the “Sound Variations” section.

The Retro Machines MK2 Sound Variations parameters

Here you can store 8 different variations of the same sound. Each variation contains its own OSC, Filter, AMP, and LFO settings.

Moving the “Morph” will then morph the sound between those variations.

Here’s an example:

Morphing between sound variations

Another cool feature is the ARP/CHORD section:

The Retro Machines MK2 arp and chord settings

Here you can activate the arpeggiator to create cool motifs:

Looking for way to make more interesting arps? Check out our video:

You can also activate “Chord” mode to add harmonies:

Retro Machines MK2 chord parameters

In this example, I am triggering a Minor 2nd chord on every note I play. This results in beautiful chord progressions, even when playing single notes:

Here I am playing the notes C – E – A – B

This Kontakt library also features a ton of presets to play with, from bass to pads to leads.

Buy the Kontakt Libray “Retro Machines MK2” here (US$ 69)

Substance by Output

Substance is a bass instrument combining both acoustic and synthesized recordings.

All samples have been heavily processed, resulting in powerful, earth-shattering sounds:

Substance Kontakt Library

The Kontakt library is composed of 3 different layers: sub, synth, and bass guitar. It also features a ton of customizable options such as filters, EQs, and FX for each layer:

The filter section of Substance

But you can also dive right in with one of the 300 presets available.

In my opinion, substance perfectly blends customization with interface simplicity.

You never feel lost, yet you’re always discovering new ways to warp sounds. Substance doesn’t come cheap, but it might just be the last instrument you need for bass sounds.

Looking to design your own bass sounds? Have a look at our in-depth tutorial here!

Buy the Kontakt Libray “Substance” here (US$ 199)

Albion One by Spitfire Audio

Famous for its LABS plugin, Spitfire presents this massive orchestral library:

The Albion One Kontakt library
The Albion One Kontakt library

If you are looking for a rich, better-than-real-life orchestra, few Kontakt libraries are as good as this one.

Albion One features a 109-instrument orchestra as well as cinematic percussions and effects.

Note however that this library is not for the faint of heart. You’ll need at least 100 GB of free disk space to install it. Once installed, you’ll have access to a staggering 47,000+ samples with different articulations, dynamics, and more.

Albion One is clearly geared towards film scoring. However, this library is also suited to some cinematic Dubstep, or even instrumental Liquid Drum and Bass.

Other key features include:

  • Multiple microphone positions for each instrument (close, ambient, and more)
  • Legato articulations
  • eDNA synth engine allows warping sounds beyond recognition. You can morph 2 sounds together, then sequence and process them with effects. All within Albion One.
  • Hundreds of loops are also available

Buy the Kontakt Library Albion One here (US$ 449)

Exhale by Output

No doubt you’ve seen like me ads for this one all over social media:

The Kontakt Library "Exhale" by Output
The Kontakt Library “Exhale” by Output

Output’s Kontakt instrument “Exhale” is a one-of-a-kind library.

It is described as “the first, truly modern vocal engine”.

Are you tired of looking up Splice vocals, then stretching them and adding reverb to create pads? Then this library is for you.

Exhale features 3 independent engines that can trigger different vocal slices, loops, or FX. You also have custom ADSR envelopes, 500 unique presets, custom Macros, and effects.

Exhale works in any genre where you want to add a human element to your track.

However, it works especially well for warped vocals in genres such as Pop, LoFi House, and Future House.

Buy the Kontak library Exhale here (US$ 149)

RealiDrums by Realitone

We haven’t touched on drums too much yet in this guide, so let’s look at RealiDrums:

The Kontakt library RealiDrums
The Kontakt library RealiDrums

RealiDrums is a versatile Kontakt library featuring:

  • 42 Snares
  • 7 Kicks
  • 11 Hi Hats
  • 24 Rides
  • 33 Crash Cymbals
  • Sidesticks, percussions and more

However, it doesn’t stop there. For each drum sound, you get 4 different articulations based on the mic position.

Finally, this Kontakt library also offers an amazing groove generator. Instead of working with hundreds of different MIDI files, you can generate them right in Kontakt. For each drum sound, you can increase or decrease the complexity, adding more or less hits to your beat.

However, once you have a groove, you can always drag it into your Piano Roll. You can then manually adjust any hit you want.

Buy the Kontakt Library RealiDrums here (currently on sale at US$ 99)

My 5 Favorite Free Kontakt Libraries 🀩

Sometimes we need to be careful with our budget… So here’s my list of the top free Kontakt libraries out there!

Note: free Kontakt libraries often provide less customization. This is why I will be skimming over some of these more quickly.

Gombulator by Fine Cut Bodies

Starting off this list with a weirdly-named Kontakt library…

Gombulator Kontakt Library interface

Gombulator is a free Kontakt instrument based on a rare portable synth from the early ’80s. The Yamaha PSR-15 has six banks of sound plus a drumkit.

At first, there seems to be no settings at all…

But tweak the moon and the water and you’ll hear the sound change:

For some reason, this Kontakt library reminds me of my childhood πŸ˜‡

Download the free Gombulator Kontakt Library here (free)

Bigcat’s Sketching Chamber Orchestra

In need of something a bit more… Hans-Zimmer-esque?

This Kontakt library features over two dozen instruments such as the oboe, concert harp, contrabass, and more:

Sketching Chamber Orchestra Kontakt Library interface

The instrument features controls such as reverb, ADSR, EQ, and more. Here’s a little taste of what it sounds like:

This is without any post-processing!

You have more than 20 types of reverb at your disposal, from intimate to majestic. You also have different arpeggiator modes for fast melodies.

For a free Kontakt library, Sketching Chamber Orchestra delivers a stunning number of controls.

Download the free Sketching Chamber Orchestra Kontakt Library here (free)

Ancient Voices by Embertone

Staying in the orchestral world, you need to take a look at this Kontakt library:

Ancient Voices Kontakt Library interface

With the tagline “Party like it’s 1339”, my curiosity was immediately piqued.

Ancient Voices is a beautiful, all-male virtual choir. Parameters include reverb, poly, and legato mode, and different microphone options:

Combining them with some trance-gating gives some cool results:

This is a sound effect massively popular in techno at the moment. For a guide on how to achieve it, check out my noise gate tutorial!

Download the free Ancient Voices Kontakt Library here (free)

Dark Drones by Sun.io

Looking for something more… eerie? Check out the Dark Drones Kontakt Library;

Dark Drones Kontakt Library interface

Your controls however are a bit limited. Turning the “scream” or “crunch” will quickly send the sound into overdrive. So make sure you put a limiter on your FX chain.

This is not the most “instrumental” Kontakt library for sure. But if you need something to set a creepy mood, look no further.

Download the free Dark Drones Kontakt Library here (free)

AcousticGuitar by Pettinhouse

Rounding things off with something a bit more relaxing: AcousticGuitar by Pettinhouse!

AcousticGuitar Kontakt Library interface

Don’t be fooled by the lack of a pretty interface, however…

Because the quality of the samples is breathtaking.

Yes, this was played with my MIDI keyboard! The Kontakt interface allows you to adjust the finger noise, release and fret noise.

You don’t get any other fancy settings such as ADSR or reverb. However, you can easily add them afterward to your FX chain.

For a free guitar Kontakt library, nothing tops this in my opinion.

Download the free AcousticGuitar Kontakt Library here (free)

One Last Kontakt Libraries Tip for The Road ✨

Did you know that you can layer different Kontakt libraries together? That’s right! You can load up several instruments in the same instance of Kontakt:

Stacking instruments in Kontakt

For this to work, make sure the MIDI channel for each instrument is set to “Omni”:

Routing MIDI in Kontakt

Now you can play a single MIDI score, which will trigger multiple instruments:

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Final Words on Kontakt Libraries

That’s it for this guide! Hopefully, you’ve discovered some new Kontakt libraries, and were inspired to lay down some new ideas!

Did I miss out on anything? What are some of your favorite Kontakt libraries? Let me know at [email protected].

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