Photo (CC) our friends over at Synthtopia.

I was one of the first people outside Native Instruments to lay eyes on Maschine, and immediately I saw something with real potential. Here was a software drum machine that was different: it was a real attempt to fuse some of the advantages of a software interface with some of the working methods of hardware. Software and hardware had really grown up together, instead of the latter simply being fitted to the former. And, of course, it had NI-style effects and UI look-and-feel, for fans of the software house’s style.

But 1.0 releases are a funny thing. As someone who spends a bit of my life developing tools, you always wind up with a choice of delaying the release, implementing something partway, or choosing not to implement it so it can be done properly later. And Maschine 1.0 lacked for me the one thing that was really essential to workflow – proper MIDI input and output support. Without that, I felt it was difficult to even give it a fair test. You’d wind up getting hung up on what was missing.

Well, good news: Maschine 1.1 gets all the little features I feel are essential to making it a viable and valuable part of the production workflow. It’s in public beta now, and I’m giving it a proper test. But here are the current changes in the present build, which includes all of the major items on my must-have list:

MIDI Out Mode for sounds
MIDI In for sounds and groups
Drag-and-Drop audio export for scenes and patterns in host
Record and trigger scenes switches via MIDI notes in host
Scene retrigger option in plugin mode
Loading groups without patterns
Additional slicing sizes (1/8th etc.)
REX file import
Scene naming
Adjustable metronome volume
Record Count-In option
Quick adjustment of group and sound volumes on controller

MIDI capabilities mean, for instance, you can throw Maschine into your host of choice (including the popular Ableton Live) and make really use of it. And you can drag and drop audio with the host, as well. The ability to have more slicing sizes is absolutely fundamental, as well.

Stay tuned, as this is just a first look at what’s in the beta.

http://www.native-instruments.com/index.php?id=publicbeta [Public beta signup]

The usual disclaimers apply: you need Maschine 1.0.3, backup projects made with 1.0.3 before opening in the beta, once you save a project with the beta, it can’t be opened in earlier releases (though it sounds like it can be opened in the final 1.1.0), and don’t expect technical support – expect to fill out bug reports! That’s what makes it a beta!

Also on the NI front, there are some excellent new Ableton Live templates for the KORE controller – yes, KORE, not Maschine – recently added to the KORE build, so I hope to cover that, as well. What I want is a Native Instruments Timepak(R). Add it to your existing KOMPLETE(R) or KORE(TM) setup, and instantly have more time for sound programming and less need for sleep – aka SCHLAFEN(TM) and – what I often get – SCHLAFEN LE.

  • Art Gillespie

    Now that I'm a parent, I find I'm getting a lot more done with KEINSCHLAFEN XL

  • Steve Elbows

    I've had a maschine for some months, but as I want to use it for AV stuff (with VDMX & QC), I was waiting for midi out from the sequencer so I could have fun. I rushed to try the beta as soon as it came out and its made me very happy. It now does just enough to satisfy my needs, and I have found workarounds that fit my flow and avoid the shortcomings.

    The midi out stuff has opened several cans of worms, as can be seen in the NI forum for the beta. For example:

    Weaknesses in how certain DAWS or plugin architectures handle midi out. Audio Units apparently dont support midi out at all. VST midi out seems limited in certain hosts, eg Ableton Live does not appear to let you differentiate which midi channel you want to listen to if the midi source is from a plugin rather than a midi interface. So if you want to control more than one instrument in live using the maschine as a plugin, times are hard. Workaround is to use maschine standalone, its quite easy to hook it up to ableton to enable 16 separate midi channels, whilst still getting sound in from the maschine and having them in sync. Logic users may have a harder time if Logic does not support VST plugins, and also doesnt listen to the same type of midi timing data that maschine sends. These issues and a relative lack of mass awareness of some of the limitations of midi out from plugins may create a dodgy experience for some users and NI trying to support them.

    Then there are midi features that some users expected NI to support with this release, but have not materialised. Maschine mostly sends only note data, and some were expecting cc & other automation parameters to be transferable via midi to a DAW, one way or another.

    Im reasonably sure some of these shortcoming will be dealt with in time, or at least worked around, for example by enabling midi to be exported from the maschine sequencer as a file, but it certainly does not seem to be the end of the growing pains yet, and there is some way to go with getting user expectations in tune with the reality.

    Personally Im lucky and Ive managed to get the beta to do pretty much everything I want, and its hard for me to overstate just how much fun and productivity this device can offer if it fits your needs. I am still happily surprised every time I wonder how to do something with it and figure it out almost instantly, they got something very right about central features and how you control them with the hardware. This thing has already been more enjoyable than the Jazzmutant Lemur and an assortment of other stuff Ive gathered over the years in the quest to have enough joy from the creative process, things that have ultimately fallen well short of my hopes. I wait with much interest to see how much looming developments such as max for live in conjunction with the APC40, an Apple tablet, and ultimately project-natal-like interfaces bring. It feels like the last few years we are finally getting to the good stuff, the early promise of so much is reaching fruition, and digital finally gets as much soul and joy as older, warmer technologies. Almost makes me wish I hadnt bothered starting my voyage till recent years, I could of saved a lot of heartache and walletache, but I guess it interesting seeing stuff evolve, just hope Im not too jaded now to miss all the fun to be had in this brave new world – Maschine is helping.

  • Peepo

    Just DL and tried Maschine 1.1 beta. Works just great in Live (where before it was a complete turn-off to use in a daw).

    The midi implementation is great and I sent random midi notes from live to trigger scenes in Maschine. Amazing results! Same feeling when you trigger them from a keyboard. First very good update.

    For the next one, I am still waiting for some very common requests:

    - shorter loading time for sounds

    - some CPU optimisation, Maschine is currently very way too CPU-greedy

    - real-time samples time-streching

    Anyway, well done NI.

    Pascal

  • Actuel

    I'm guessing they still only allow forward based looping. I am always startled at the fact that modern software companies haven't embraced forward > < backwards looping, or any number of other fun looping methods. Amazing you can find this on hardware from 20 years ago.

  • Steve Elbows

    Ah thats good to hear, Im currently quite a bore about the details of the midi out so I tend to forget about the midi in, which by the sounds of it works well. And as for weaknesses in the sampling features, its the first sampler Ive really used so I dont know what its missing.

  • Steve Elbows

    To apply my midi rantings to the title of this article: Maschine gets some midi, but full & proper midi to the satisfaction of all will probably have to wait for a future headline & software release.

  • Gustavo

    I've owned Maschine for a couple months now, and I've been waiting for this update. Haven't had a chance to play with it since i'm away from the studio right now, but I've been reading the forums regarding the update. The inconsistent behavior for midi out in different hosts and plugin formats is one of the reasons I'd suggested Rewire as a solution – but NI (or at least the forum admins) seem very negative about that idea. Having Rewire support in Maschine (and Traktor too!) would be such an elegant solution for working with DAWs, since almost everyone has decent enough support for it.

    If you want to voice your opinion about adding Rewire to Maschine – post in this thread on the NI forums: http://www.native-instruments.com/forum/showthrea

    Cheers!

  • Steve Elbows

    I suspect NI dont like Rewire for some reason(s) unknown to me, Im not sure any of their products support it and Maschine wouldnt be the first to benefit if it did. So I wont hold my breath on that one.

    Im guessing that the wide range of different ways people are trying to use Maschine might be doing NI's head in right now, I dont think they quite new what they were letting themselves in for by going for the hybrid hardware-software approach. When seen as a sampling instrument that happens to have self-contained sequencing features, the picture is fairly straightforward, same with using it as a straight midi controller, its when people want to drive other stuff with the sequencer that the picture has gotten messier.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, they don't like ReWire for reasons similar to the issues here with plug-ins — there are some significant issues getting stuff to work on these specs. And as a developer, there's often nothing you can do if the spec or the implementation in a popular host isn't exactly what you'd want. This is why it's been frustrating that the industry has failed to come up with a truly open standard for things like plug-ins and inter-app communication.

  • Steve Elbows

    Yeah. In the sad reality where that has failed to happen, I assume the solutions to these woes will be a combination of further NI developments fleshing out the missing midi features, and people finding workaround for the midi out issues. Whether it be waiting for NI to offer midi drag & drop/export support, using the maschine standalone rather than as a plugin, or using kore if you want to drive multiple instruments on differnt midi channels at once from maschine (as I think you can load maschine into kore and route its midi out within kore to multiple other instruments in kore ok) Im sure NI would love people to use that as a solution, and its interesting to consider a future setup where much is done within the NI universe of tools, in Kore and Maschine in conjunction with other instruments, and the DAW is relegated to a more mior role or even completely.

  • kobe

    funny. many of us wish we DID start our voyage earlier… just for that background.. :)

  • Steve Elbows

    Id probably have happier thoughts about my voyage if Id been productive at all, but I got addicted to tinkering on the bleeding edge whilst dreaming instead of doing. My joy in recent years is that I finally seem to be getting stuff thats evolved enough that it doesnt just leave me thinking 'so near but yet so far'.

  • vasculator

    i slept on maschine for quite a while…even made fun of it…and then picked it up 2 weeks ago instead of a monomachine. i immediately sold my mpc1k w/ jjos2xl after a few minutes with it. it is amazing and the first thing that has taken precedence over the machinedrum as far as being 'fun to use'. i really hope NI keeps updating this over time. it is an amazing idea and so well done for the most part.

  • http://www.five12.com jimAtFive12

    For the record: The Audio Unit spec does support generation of MIDI by plugins. If you have XCode installed, open /System/Library/Frameworks/AudioUnit.framework/Headers/AudioUnitProperties.h and look for these properties:

    kAudioUnitProperty_MIDIOutputCallbackInfo

    kAudioUnitProperty_MIDIOutputCallback

    These properties have been in the spec for several years; I remember Doug Wyatt demonstrating them at WWDC. However, no hosts that I know of support them, not even AULab, which is the CoreAudio team's designated AU test host. So this is an issue with AU hosts, not the AU spec.

    Even more annoying is that most hosts do not provide valid "host time" timestamp values to Audio Units when rendering them. These 64 bit timestamps are required for generating MIDI events with accurate timing. In their absence, any AU that wants to generate MIDI events (by creating their own virtual MIDI ports) with anything approaching stable timing behavior has to go through quite some coding gymnastics. This parameter should be easy for a host to provide, as it is included with the main audio render callback used by any CoreAudio-based host.

    Best,

    Jim

  • Steve Elbows

    Thanks Jim, that is very interesting and somewhat depressing information. The idea of using virtual midi ports has been getting some traction on the beta forum, so its sad to hear that there are also timing issues that NI will need to deal with to implement this properly.

    Funny to see you on this thread actually because Ive just been wondering how I can best make use of both Maschine and Numerology in some way. And the I inevitably start dreaming about what a perfect hardware interface for numerology would consist of.

  • s0undc10ud

    i was one of the 1st people in Europe owning Maschine. i was AMAZED from the 1st time i saw it, and after watching of some demos, i was thrilled! since 1.1 it was just sitting on my studio desk without using it at all in all my projects. it was just nearly impossible to use maschine as my main drums editor and creator since it lucked the drag and drop to host midi function! i mean.. i could always export one pattern to audio and then insert it manualy to the host, but HEY (!), that was sooo irritating and time consuming! so i decided to wait and wait and wait till developers offer us the drag&drop to host function. Day 1 using maschine with the 1.1 update: i started using maschine like a total MANIAC! i found my self re-re-re editing the drum lines of all my latest projects, since maschine 1.1 is the ULTIMATE tool for me! till maschine 1.1, i tried e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g! from classic akai drum maschines to software like NI battery and drum guru.. All i have to say now that maschine is an amazing software-hardware hybrid with just unlimited flexibility.. finally i am soooo happy i got my maschine.. and finally we can unleash its powers with the 1.1 update.

    For all the people thinking about getting one: Get one NOW! since they brought us the 1.1 update, there is nothing like it! cheers!

  • Qmun

    ^ sounds like a sales pitch aimed at Jr. high school students.

  • http://www.five12.com jimAtFive12

    @Steve Elbows : Yes a bit depressing, but not unsolvable: lobby you DAW manufacturer. On the other subject, think touch interface and OSC… ;)

    Jim

  • Steve Elbows

    Does Numerology support OSC then? I would love to pair it with a Lemur but I think last time I checked it didnt support OC?

  • http://www.TRACERfire.net John-Paul McCarthy

    I'm also enjoying the Maschine 1.1 public beta.

    True words regarding the forum. It is still filled with people being disappointed with the MIDI performance in their DAW. I have minor sympathy for those that come from a musical (rather than technical) background. Regardless of one's background, voicing questions in a civilised way is of great importance. As always, manners & patience first.

    Thankfully, The no MIDI out in AU plugins appears to have been completely dealt with. Additionally, a member has posted a Bidule template that allows you to utilise 16 midi channels within Ableton when combined with MidiYoke (PC midi routing utility).

    Steve Elbows' comment about finding workarounds to shortcoming in the featureset does resonate with me. I've been using Maschine as a VSTi plugin within Bidule to push sequenced MIDI data into a couple instances of Battery (also VSTi). I then record the Battery audio into the Maschine Sampler. This way I have complete access to the FX & time stretching facilities of Battery. I am planning to expand my setup to incorporate control and sampling of Reaktor, Kontakt and also integrate my monome as loop trigger/control of this monstrosity.

    Aside from not having all of the features that people dream of; I certainly consider Maschine to be one the better hardware purchases that I've made.

    -JP

  • http://www.five12.com jimAtFive12

    @Steve Elbows : OSC support will be added to a future release. I have a prototype implementation running and it is quite fun. However, I don't want to hijack this discussion, so if you have more questions, it is probably best to make a post at five12.net.

  • Steve Elbows

    Cheers, I will, and sorry everyone for drifting off-topic.

    @John-Paul McCarthy: Yes, although I wouldnt quite go as far as to say that midi out from AU has been completely solved, there are various workarounds and ways that NI can improve the issue, but even with additional documentation about these issues once the release is final, midi headaches will likely continue for some from some time.

    As for the forums, I guess its pretty much the usual mix of reactions, from reasonable frustration to people who dreamed up their own list of feature expectations for Maschine and got all upset when it turns out the actual product didnt match. I would guess that by version 2 or 3 of the software, it will have enough features to meet most expectations, but there are still going to be a few fools who think that handing over money for something entitles them to expect it to do whatever they want. Ive no clue where some people got their ideas from about this product, or how they can get so crazy when they discover that the devil is in the detail. I mean its got the word studio on the box, but Id be very silly to read much into these words.