The Audio Kontrol 1 is a two-in, four-out audio and MIDI USB 2.0 interface, with the added bonus of several programmable MIDI controllers, and with the same attractive solid metal and glossy black plastic physical design as NI's Kore. A fold-out poster in the box provides diagrams of various configurations to help you get set up. The four examples also give you an idea who the AK1 was designed for: Keyboard/Studio, Guitar/Bass, DJ'ing (Internal Mixer), and DJ'ing (External Mixer).
A CD installs the drivers, controller setup utility and enough bundled software to get a first-timer up and running in any of the suggested scenarios (but Intel Mac owners should check out the 'Bundled Software' box). On-line authorisation (which is required to use the setup software as well as the bundle) went smoothly for me, via NI's standard Service Center utility.
The Audio Kontrol 1 software is configured by the installer to launch whenever you boot your computer. Although this feels a bit intrusive, it's done because the software needs to be running to use some of the advanced controller functionality. A preference in the application allows you to disable this auto-launching behaviour. Live, Reason, and Kore all recognised the AK1 as an audio device straight away, with access to the usual settings, such as sample rate (up to 192kHz), latency and channel selections. The unit also happily co-existed with a Kore controller, and I was even able to use the I/O of both devices simultaneously by creating an Aggregate Device in the Apple Audio MIDI Setup utility. At first, however, a constant crackling appeared in the audio outputs of both devices. A driver update provided by NI almost entirely cleared this up, with just very occasional small clicks. Used on its own, the Audio Kontrol's output is clean as a whistle.