I’ve been following Maschine since prototype stages. The idea was at once obvious and welcome: build a software workstation, tightly integrated with pad hardware control, that fuses hardware sampler working methods with the on-screen flexibility of software. It’s software that focuses on working with sounds and patterns, outside the DAW-style metaphors.

Of course, there’s one thing you might quickly miss about your DAW – certain software instruments or effects that are available as plug-ins. That makes 1.6 the version a lot of people have been waiting for. With plug-in hosting capabilities, it could now be your all-in-one production and performance workstation – without losing the focus that first made it appealing.

Maschine comes of age in other ways, too, from 64-bit Mac support to better control of pads and drag-and-drop function. It really seems like version 2 – and like the revision that makes an already-growing choice ready for primetime.

Accordingly, while it is a marketing video, it’s fantastic to see what Underworld are doing with Maschine live.

Naturally, you’d make the obvious comparison to Ableton Live, but it’s nice to see Live face an alternative. In fact, I think Live might even benefit from having an alternative with which to contrast. Most of the comparisons have turned to DJ tools live, or conventional DAWs – minus the live performance features – for production, or hardware. Maschine is different than Live – a pad-based sampler at heart rather than Live’s combination of sample-playing tracks and arrangement view. But it’s also finally a tool that has the flexibility of Live (for things like integrating plug-ins), while at the same time encouraging live, physical play and kinetic control, whether in a studio or onstage. (And, of course, there’s nothing stopping you from using these two tools side by side.)

I’m enthusiastic about new drum machines introduced earlier this year, hardware and software alike. But it’d be tough to compare any of them to Maschine, particularly with this update. This isn’t a full review, but you can expect one (or perhaps more than one, from different perspectives) soon.

New in 1.6:
VST and AU plug-in support. Bring in instruments and effects, and – in a feature first seen in NI software in their Kore product – automatically map parameters to Maschine’s knobs.

Bundled instruments and effects. 1000+ sounds cover factory contact selected from Kontakt, ranging from Vienna Symphonic Library sounds to synths, guitar amps, and Abbey Road drums. Of course, those of you who have been chomping at the bit just to use your existing plug-in library won’t care too much about this, but it increases the appeal for those starting out.

More effects slots. There are CPU cycles on your machine not yet being used by crazy Reaktor patches or your library of plug-ins. Problem solved. The architecture of slots in general has been expanded for easier assignment to modules.

Pad-Link. One pad in a group can now trigger one or more additional pads. This opens up more sophisticated drum programming possibilities, or live performance grouping for triggering more complex arrangements of samples.

Clip and sample renaming. Yeah. ‘Bout time.

Swing individual sounds. Ideal for constructing the exact groove you want – and, indeed, often far more useful than global swing.

Drag-and-drop anything.Drag and drop single or multiple files from your Windows or Mac file manager, and move audio around more easily in Maschine. (I recall the latter was what I found a bit frustrating early on – the ability to freely move audio from place to place can radically change the feel of working with a tool that focuses on sound.)

Multichannel audio output 16 output channels out should be ideal for those working with hardware mixing. I’m just waiting to hear a Maschine artist do a set in surround.

64-bit Mac and Windows support. 64-bit computing offers both expanded memory (useful for large samples) and marginal but measurable improvements in performance. (It has really nothing in particular to do with 64-bit audio, which I know sometimes confuses people unfamiliar with the term. 64-bit is a reference to the resolution of a number; in this case, it means the ability to take advantage of the native capabilities and memory addressing of newer computer architectures like the Core 2 Duo.)

Snap to grid.

Import REX 2. REX is the still-surprisingly-popular sample storage format developed by Propellerhead for their ReCycle product.

Speaking of Propellerhead, what isn’t in Maschine, as far as I know: ReWire support. ReWire doesn’t support 64-bit computing, and as far as I know, no plans are in the works. I think it’s time for a new solution, anyway – and maybe time to do some JACK tutorials here as a possible replacement.

I always feel a little dirty adding promo videos from the manufacturers, but let’s give Ski Beatz a few words, too. I’ll say this: a lot of the time, when you talk to artists – no vendors around listening – you get similar testimonials about products people love. That’s a good thing; it means people get enjoyment out of this stuff into which developers invest so much time.

Also, Ski Beatz’ hat and I would like to remind you that tomorrow afternoon is Yankees opening day here in NYC.

Maschine @ NI

Images courtesy Native Instruments.

Hey, by the way, will anyone help with my campaign to pronounce Maschine with the German pronunciation (since it has a German spelling, rather than Machine)? Maybe, um, at least German people?

  • Alan

    Well, as far as the pronunciation of Maschine in German, it would be Ma-sheen-eh.  And those pauses are as short as possible.  And so is the eh.  Very short.  Just say "Machine" and leave a little "eh" at the end.

    Interestingly, that also seems to describe my feelings about Maschine over Ableton.

    I do agree that it's cool to have a competitor, however.

  • http://soundcloud.com/novaghost novaGHOST

    JACK tutorials… PLEASE!!!

  • http://www.synthtopia.com/ James Lewin

    It almost feels like Native has been watching the development of the Feeltune Rhizome, which seems to be an underhyped machine.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lucas-Paris-Minimal/172890112742082?v=wall Lucas Paris

    The only thing missing to turn maschine into a very powerfull live tool is proper midi assignments.

    I would love to use a launchpad with it or even an ipad. integrate OSC into maschine!!!

  • Daniel

    [maˈʃiːnə]

    Yeah like Alan said, the last 'e' is not pronounced as in bee ie. it's more like a short 'eh'. Also the 'a' is more like the 'a' in 'art'.

    Hope that helps a bit.

  • Peter Kirn

    Well, the story is this – when I first saw Maschine, NI were still using the German pronunciation. By the time it came to market, though, I think marketing chose the English pronunciation.

    @Alan: Heh… someone at Ableton just smiled. Seriously, Live is a much broader tool, don't get me wrong. I just mean that at least there's a tool with some overlap that can *also* host plugins. And whether broader is more appealing, or the Ableton UI way of doing things as opposed to the NI way, of course is a matter of taste.

    @James: Yeah, I'm intrigued by the Rhizome. Have to get my hands on one. Having an all-in-one machine sure has a lot of appeal. (And, btw, you should be able to run Maschine on Rhizome.)

  • Jamie

    I honestly tried to make a point of using the German pronunciation. After 6 months of people going 'huh?' I kind of gave up. 

  • Peter Kirn

    It's still better than trying to pronounce monome.

  • http://soundcloud.com/pissypaw Euklides

    DDDEEEAAARRR NNAAAATIIIVEEE IIINNNSSTRRRUUUMMMEEENNTTSSSS::::: TTTIIIIMMMMEEEESSSTRRREEETCCCHHH BAAADDDLLLYYY NEEEEDDDEEEED! still as needed as in version 1.0. also, pls sidechain EQ. a shame they make these huge crazy updates while still overlooking the essentials.

  • zyguli

    I think this will evolve to a future Native Instruments DAW. Remember my  words.

  • lala

    isnt monome pronounced mo – as in mono – nome – as in nomen est omen?

  • lala

    with a silent e

  • http://zeroreference@blogspot.com zeroreference

    tthhhe eeeeee isssss siiiilennnnnnnnnt

    da

    i mean ja. Ja

  • Nicolas

    Is JACK for windows too?

  • Peter Kirn

    Yes, technically, according to its original creators: monome as in ma gnome.

    jackdmp is available in a build for Windows, though I haven't personally tested it as I have the Mac and Linux builds.

  • Peter Kirn
  • http://noisepages.com/members/substrain/ substrain

    @Euklides: You can timestretch like the way you typed with the built-in Grain Stretcher like Darren Price of Underworld was doing in the video.

    NI has already been working on realtime bpm-synced timestretch for Maschine for quite some time so I expect to see it very soon considering their pace of development on it so far. And of course, you can already timestretch right inside Maschine with timestretch plugins in the meantime.

  • http://noisepages.com/members/substrain/ substrain

    @James Lewin: It's more like the other way around. Maschine had already been out for a year following years of development when the first working prototype of Feeltune Rhizome was announced.

  • Mike_D

    I really like machine and the concept, but having gone through the Kore debacle, I don't trust native or any of their artist endorsements anymore. Sound-on-sound used to be good also for independent reviews, but its getting less so in recent years. 

  • Peter Kirn

    @Mike_D: I don't know if you trust me … ;)

    This isn't a review, but with 1.6, I think it's ready. I actually held off on reviewing earlier versions as they felt to me premature, just knowing what the ultimate goal was for this tool. So I will try to put one together soon.

    I, incidentally, do stand by what I've written for Keyboard, Macworld, etc. I mean, with something like this, it is what it is. No artist or reviewer can possibly tell you whether or not it's right for *your* work, and any endorsement of that kind is always going to – rightfully – ring hollow.

  • geoff smith

    Can you set multiple start points like cue points in traktor on the maschine? i.e. take one track load it into machine and then on different pads trigger it from different start points? I always liked that about the asr.

  • Nicolas
  • Peter Kirn

    @Nicolas: Soundflower is cool, but JACK is able to do more – and it runs on Windows and Linux, which Soundflower does not.

  • BenBen

    all we need now is audio inputs, balanced outputs and the some kind of Maschine Expander Modules for more pads or knobs, or … :)

     Maschine2 and a few Dave smith mini synths , that would do it for me .

  • Jonah

    It's not standalone if you have to jack it into a traditional computer. :p I have no idea if it's in NI's plans, but that's what I'm holding out for. Headphone jack, 8gb sdd, ulv c2d. Or uhh glue a macbook pro to the bottom and give me a detachable thunderbolt  screen! Integration is good, but sometimes it's nice to get away.

    I wonder if they'll make a bundle with Komplete now.

  • http://noisepages.com/members/substrain/ substrain

    @Jonah: No one ever claimed Maschine was "standalone hardware". And there are very good reasons why NI implemented it this way. What you're describing would be like a MPC on steroids that would cost too much and quickly get outdated as soon as it comes out. Anyway, most people use hardware jacked into computers for tracking out or into other equipment like mixers.

    As for "getting away", Maschine lets you to turn off the computer screen and you don't ever have to touch the computer or the mouse the entire time you're using it. It really does not feel like you're using the computer at all. And since you don't even need to look at the computer screen, you could run it off ultra-compact 10-hour battery laptops like the Macbook Air for an extremely portable mobile setup.

  • http://noisepages.com/members/davincicode/ L DaVinci

    Darren Price rocks with Machine 1.6 You can tell that kick is so "Underworld." Really enjoyed his take on NI Machine 1.6 Must give Darren kudos for his work with Underworld. But let me make a request to Propellerhead to make a 64Bit Rewire. Its time you amazing Swedes to join the 64bit bandwagon. 

  • Dave Onions

    If I had to pick one site where people would be getting their knickers in a twist over the pronunciation of Maschine, it would be this one.

    Thank you native instruments for making Maschine. It is well good.

  • http://djgirish.com DJ Girish

    Maschine 1.6 is a great update. Not just hosting plug-ins but the individual pad swing feature is also very helpful. For guys like me coming from the MPC background where the beat making and daw integration workflow was a pain, Maschine's workflow is a dream come true. Sampling – OMG.. i can't describe how good its at. 

  • http://soundcloud.com/pissypaw Euklides

    @substrain: By time-stretch what I really mean is that you should be able to pitch your samples up and down without them becoming longer or shorter. This should have been the first thing to be implemented.

  • Lanny

    Have any of you used the software that can be found at http://www.beatmaker-beatmaker.com or http://www.squidoo.com/beatmaker-beatmaker If you have I am curious how it compares to Machine 1.6 because I know it is much more reasonably priced I was just curious…

  • http://alfrednerstu.com Alfred

    Anyone knows what mixer the guy from Underworld puts the Maschine on?

  • http://www.soundcloud.com/fortunedsouls james hopkins

    simply terrified that it'll be as cpu-destroying as their other software! if they could make it run as efficiently as say, reaper—- we'd be seeing a game-changer :)