Looks smart. There are smart features coming in version 1.8, too – and you get Massive for free. Photos by Arvid Jense for CDM.

In living color: the popular drum machine – combining integrated hardware and software – is more colorful, but also more usable, via updates to the screen and pads alike. We’ve gotten a hands-on test with the gear to share some first-hand first impressions.

Native Instruments’ Maschine hardware gets a major update today, and color is likely the first thing you’ll notice. The pads are backlit with a rainbow of RGB LEDs, as found on NI’s Kontrol F1 for Traktor. Unlike the F1 and other colored pad controllers, though, here you get both color pads and velocity sensitivity. Color choices extend to the Maschine hardware itself. The body is available in white or black, and interchangeable overlays and knob caps let you mod the look of your box.

Both the bigger Maschine and the mikro get the full color treatment on the pads, and the new software and workflow features. (Only the big-daddy Maschine – makro? – gets interchangeable faceplates. But you can still choose between white and black on the little one.)

And, yes, color on the pads responds to MIDI. That means unique custom templates for tools like Ableton Live or Renoise could be in store.

NI has a rather nice video showing off Jeremy Ellis playing a set in one take. (The music is one take, anyway; the video is more than one take.) That’s not a fan driving the wind – that’ll be the natural Berlin weather high atop the abandoned, US-built Teufelsberg listening station.)

Hardware

The update isn’t just skin-deep, though. There are a number of improvements to the hardware:

A clever tool, which we think should be called the Dekapitator, safely removes knob caps so you can swap the overlays. Then, both the knob caps and the overlay around the pads and buttons can be a custom color. (See the gallery for more.)

Pad response: I’ve talked to many artists who already felt that the drum pads on the Maschine were the best-feeling ones available. Jeremy Ellis, of course, is an NI-sponsored artist, but I take his opinion seriously; the guy is pushing the envelope of finger drumming more than any of the rest of us. Other artists, too, liked the feel. On the new Maschine, that familiar pad design is back, but now slightly tweaked for even firmer feedback and incredibly-precise velocity response. As a pianist, I really appreciate that difference. With velocity scaling set to linear and sensitivity turned all the way up, even lightly brushing a pad with your finger could trigger accurately – without any nasty double-triggering. You then get the sense of a full velocity response line as you hit harder, to the point when you’re really slamming the pads and everything in between. Velocity scaling is adjustable in Maschine’s preferences, too, so you can adjust to the way you play.

Buttons that ‘click’: The one thing people may not have liked as much as the pads is the other, digital buttons on the unit. These felt a bit spongy for selecting editing options, since you’re using them as toggle switches rather than as pads. Now, there’s a satisfying “click” as you tap the other controls. (To be clear: the buttons that control editing options, transport, and the like, ‘click’ – you don’t get that on the drum pads, as that wouldn’t make any sense!) Clarification: Note that the click buttons are only on the full-sized Maschine, not the mikro. Apart from the different layout and display, this is really the only difference between the mikro and Maschine; I understand this is an engineering requirement of the mikro’s PCB and those RGB LEDs, not a marketing differentiation.

Single selection encoder: The master push-encoder replaces the three side-by-side encoders on the first Maschine hardware. It’s a lot better-suited to browsing through sample files and the like; I got to try it a little bit with the new software.

Better viewing angles on the display: It’s subtle, but new displays are easier to see at an angle. Not that you’ll be using uncomfortable viewing angles very much, because there’s also:

A new, rugged road stand. On your desk or in the studio, this tilts up the Maschine controller for easier viewing and use. Even better, you can attach it to a standard snare stand and get a performance-ready Maschine controller adjustable to the most comfortable position. (You can even tilt the Maschine toward your audience, so they can enjoy the colored light show and your finger-drumming chops – and you keep your wrists in better alignment.)

The stand works with the old hardware, as well.

1.8 Software

Now with off-line time stretch for greater flexibility with samples.

Integrated hardware and software is part of what sets Maschine apart; whichever generation of hardware you have, you’ll now get enhanced functionality, more effects, and a free copy of Massive.

There are also new software features, and with the exception of color schemes, they all work with the original Maschine and Maschine mikro hardware:

You get Massive, you get Massive, you get Massive, everybody gets Massive! Yes, Massive is now bundled free for all users with the 1.8 software update. That means everyone can begin producing dubstep take advantage of this deep, semi-modular sound design wonder, for any number of musical genres or ideas. And it puts synthesis and not just sampling front and center with Maschine. (You can also host your own plug-ins, but the integration with Maschine is nothing if not convenient – and should unlock synthesis possibilities for future NI sound packs, of course, if you want someone else to do a bit of that sound design for you.)

Offline time stretching and pitch shift. There are many new options here for manipulating samples, in a much-requested improvement on the software side.

Color schemes: If you do get the new hardware, you can use standard color schemes to more easily differentiate between sounds, groups, patterns, and projects. There are presets for you, too, just in case you’re afraid you’re going to wind up spending all your time honing your synesthesia and picking color schemes rather than making actual music. (I … can’t possibly … imagine that … happening … what color is a snare, anyway?)

New effects: Transient Master (a transient follower) joins Tape and Tube Saturators for added processing possibilities.

Auto-Write Pinning: Okay, the term here probably means nothing to you, so here’s the idea: you know how it’s annoying to hold down one button as you, say, twist an encoder for editing? Now, by holding down “shift,” you can lock the edit mode for one-handed operation. You can adjust the pitch of your kick as you use the other hand to sip a Club-Mate/Big Gulp (depending on the part of the world you’re in).

Host Transport Control: If you’re using Maschine inside software like Ableton Live, you can at last use Maschine’s transport controls to run the transport for the host – like playing your session.

Browser Sample Preview Mode: That speaks for itself, but it’s particularly fun on the new encoder.

Locate misplaced samples: Previously, if you moved a folder, you would have to relocate files one-by-one; now you just point at the whole folder and Maschine updates sample paths all at once.

These software updates don’t necessarily address everything Maschine users have been requesting – yes, sidechaining would still be nice, as would (insert the thing you want here). But Maschine is continuing to mature nicely.

Price + Dates

Availability: Everything here will be available by October 1.

Pricing:

MASCHINE $669/ 599 EUR / 62.800 ¥
MASCHINE MIKRO $399 / 349 EUR / 36.800 ¥
MASCHINE CUSTOM KITS $79 / 69 EUR / 7.800 ¥
MASCHINE STAND $79 / 69 EUR / 7.800 ¥

(By the way, if that stand seems pricey, I will say, it feels really, really rugged. The Custom Kits are more of a splurge, only because the default white and black do look nice enough, but the overlays and knob caps also feel nicely-made. It depends on how much you value a little bling)

These are just first impressions; watch for a full review when this ships. I think it’s going to be a busy fall. If only I lived in a place that quickly turned cold, dark, and depressing, where I wanted to lock myself up and just make music for hours of time, with easy access to the people making all the music tools…

Gallery

Arvid Jense, interning with CDM here in Berlin and himself studying industrial design and how it applies to musical instruments, sat in on our hands-on session and snapped all these photos for CDM. The next new gear we see might come from him.

These aren’t thin, plastic overlays: the new overlays feel quite rugged and come with custom knob cap colors. And yeah, men can rock the pink, too, just as lady Maschine owners can opt for the lovely graphite color.

Parents, hide your kids’ eyes – this is a Maschine naked, minus its overlays. (actually, looks kinda nice)

The new mikro and full-sized Maschine, side by side, show off their new light-up pads.

The mikro may lack interchangeable overlays and the stand, but it’s a terrific bargain. You still get an integrated display, color pads, and the new master encoder. Correction: It does not have the click-feel buttons, but it’s otherwise functionally the same. Liking the new white, as well.

Standard white knob caps paired with one of the custom overlays.

Note the new time stretch options.

This color might be our favorite. Here, you can see how the stand – minus its attachment – can tilt up the controller on your desk. And pad velocity responsiveness feels great.

Transport controls now trigger software like Ableton Live, too, when you’re running inside a host. The buttons on this side also add a satisfying click feel.

Have you seen her all in gold / Like a queen in days of old? As mounted on a snare stand. (you’ll have to provide the stand; NI gives you a standard attachment)

Cue the Goldfinger theme.

www.native-instruments.com/
http://www.native-instruments.com/#/en/products/producer/maschine/
http://www.native-instruments.com/#/en/products/producer/maschine-accessories/maschine-custom-kits/

  • kent

    People following along at home — whenever NI puts something on sale, you know it’s going to be replaced soon with a new model.

    • http://www.facebook.com/rmichaelproducer Richard Michael

      RIGHT?!?!?!

    • abraham

      true true

  • http://www.facebook.com/AlessandroAutomageddon Alessandro Automageddon

    I hope there will be a cheap way to upgrade for current owners…

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Honestly, my sense is people are likely to do one of two things.

      1. Get a second Maschine (the splurge option). This way, you can assign one to Maschine and one to MIDI – which would be useful for, say, Ableton Live.

      2. Just get the free update. I mean, honestly, look — the colors are nice. But the original Maschine is still eminently playable, you can still buy this stand, and you still get all the software updates for free. Unless you absolutely needs colors, it seems like you’d just save your scratch and use it in monochrome.

      And mikro is pretty cheap, so the affordable route I’d recommend would be #1 if you already have the full-sized unit and want some color. Then you also have a mobile solution.

      It doesn’t appear to me that NI is offering upgrade pricing, so that’s what I’d suggest.

    • http://www.facebook.com/AlessandroAutomageddon Alessandro Automageddon

      I’ll defo stick to my hardware version (albeit my usb plug is giving me some issues) but my cats would totally love the lights on the new version…
      https://dl.dropbox.com/u/9603384/maschine%20giuliano.gif

  • cnativo

    Amazing report Peter, Amazing

  • http://www.facebook.com/herrsteiner Malte Steiner

    hm, the new displays look actually dark on the pictures, are they really an improvement?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yeah, a big improvement on viewing angle. You can’t really see in the photos. Looking head-on, they look more or less the same. (I don’t know why I didn’t think to plug in the old generation at the same time, but I can show that later under more controlled lighting conditions.) At an angle, though, it’s more noticeable. I could read the display at just about any angle.

  • http://twitter.com/grillobeats grillobeats

    would the 1.8 software update be free (and work properly) on the older geneartion maschines? they’re currently on sale at my local dealer with a tempting price. would buying that make sense for y’all?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      1.8 is a free update, yes. So the old hardware on sale is in fact a great deal, if you don’t need color. I mean, the improvements are great, but the pads on the old units are still very, very good, and you get 100% of the functionality of the software.

      I think you just have to decide if you want the color.

  • griotspeak

    That, that is really nice.

  • Neat

    great review peter.
    I have to say one thing I like a lot about my machine are the rubbed encoders… wouldn’t want to switch them against those plastic caps.
    Also: I wonder how much the colors affect the beat making =)

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      No, these are actually basically the same caps. In fact, if anything, they feel a little softer-touch to me. They just made small changes to the geometry, on the taper on the top of the cap, and the grooves inside. But they’re still soft-touch knobs.

      Honestly, with the all-black Maschine, you’d be hard pressed to notice that anything had changed at all. So, you’re right, the colors are definitely superficial. Now, once you light it up, you do have the possibility of RGB feedback, and subtle changes – like the clicks on the buttons – actually make a big difference in use.

    • Neat

      thanks peter for your reply! Good to know! I guess the looking of colored caps on those pictures misled to that conclusion…

  • JohnJon

    Native Instruments haven’t had an original idea in 12 years. Now they are just resorting to refreshing led colors and pimp my akai controller

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.sparks3 Chris Sparks

      I am _VERY_ pissed off about Kore, but I disagree. I bought Maschine on day 1 and after Kore, I wanted to be done with them, but I can’t. Kontakt is the industry standard for customize-able samplers, and the sample sets available for it are nothing to sneeze at. Maschine is as solid as a groovebox workflow can ever be. I wish I had more labeled knobs to twiddle and I wish it had Kore’s preset morphing, which is what I liked most about Kore and definitely a big part of Alchemy’s sauce, but Kore did it first and others copied while NI took for granted. Also, as much as I hate the Skrillex sect of dubstep, Massive OWNS that sound design space because of it’s modulation sequencing.

      I hate NI’s customer relations and service, but the engineers there make some amazing shit. Kore should’ve been given more love and I question the motives in killing it, because I know too many people using it, to think it wasn’t making money. I know EDM has a much bigger pretender following, but Kore 2 was a powerhouse for organizing libraries of patches and creating fun, playable ambient machines that could be played by turning knobs.

  • active

    that is a shame they are not yet talking about upgrade options. i love my maschine, i use it all the time in the studio and live. it would be great to get the new hardware without buying the whole thing over again. at least the upgrade is free, i do love me some saturation!

  • http://www.facebook.com/AlessandroAutomageddon Alessandro Automageddon

    Peter do you when the software upgrade will be released?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Officially, they’re saying the software release is for October 1 – including the Massive bundle. They’ve also confirmed that you’ll just get Massive when that happens – you’ll just download it.

    • active

      now is this massive plug in vst/rtas/au or just housed as a unit in maschine software? and am i being an jerk by missing this in the article and asking it in the comments section?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000412374804 Igor Warzocha

      yeah, I’d also love to see it being integrated into maschine rather than just hosted by it – some kind of GUI redesign at least… but it won’t happen…

  • http://www.facebook.com/nezoomie Giuseppe Sorce

    orange, a snare is orange.

    • http://www.facebook.com/philipstreeter Philip Resistor Streeter

      that’s the first thing that popped in my head when i tried to visualize a snare. snorange

    • jbm

      Hats are definitely yellow.

    • Heinrich Zwahlen

      yes agreed

    • Tommy Tench

      Idk Heinrich! Snares are blue. Kicks are Red/Orange and hats are green

    • cymbals

      all cymbals are yellow.
      bass drum is big so blue
      snare green (think 4″ brass pop)
      toms from smallest to lowest would be orange, red purple

    • Heinrich Zwahlen

      no it’s grey:)

  • Microwave prince

    NI – RIP …. or we say it traktor instruments….

  • http://twitter.com/SyntheticJuice SyntheticJuice

    So, with 1.8 how does control of external/hardware synths work? (NOT vst’s) From what I researched this in the previous versions, I was surprised to read, in order to use the maschine knobs to send CC out to an external synth over midi, one had to switch the Maschine hardware to “external control mode” or something like that.. basically, it turns it into a plain midi control surface mode, where you don’t have access to the maschine software.

    Does 1.8 let you “stay in” Maschine, while assigning encoders to output specific CC to control external synths? (bonus points for program changes and sysex).. and better yet, let you record the automation too? I would even overlook the lack of multicore support if 1.8 can do this.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      No, the Maschine-integrated and MIDI modes operate separately. You can still run inside Maschine software, but yes, otherwise you’re correct. If you have two Maschine controllers, you can set one to MIDI mode as the other stays the Maschine controller; I tested that yesterday. With the mikro, that becomes potentially cost-effective. But I know this won’t please everyone.

    • http://twitter.com/SyntheticJuice SyntheticJuice

      Thanks! I’ve read about people using CTRLR as a work around, but it is another layer of complexity and possible latency.

      Still, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit, the colored lights and other improvements are attractive. It is near the top of my want list.

  • rickyislazy

    I wish they would just make a midi controller with maschine pads and 8 knobs.

  • Goran

    “with easy access to the people making all the music tools…:”

    Just can’t resist, can you? This blog gets douchier with every passing year.

  • mrbiggs

    Did the price really go up from $399 to $669? And the Mikro from $249 to $399? Is one getting something more than the pretty lights with that price?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      No, it didn’t. I believe the lower prices you’re seeing are the *sale* prices, clearing out the old models. The new launch prices are I think the same as the launch prices, at list, of the original generation. You will also probably see a lower price street.

      And if you’re claiming the “pretty lights” are the only change, you didn’t read what I wrote. (See the hardware changes list, above.) To me, the most significant draw may actually be the new pads, which have a more precise velocity response. To me, this means Maschine went from having the best pads in the market by a small margin to the best by a *big* margin.

    • mrbiggs

      Didn’t realize there was a sale. So the combination of MSRP minus sale price is what bonked me in the head. And while of course I read the entire post as well as NI’s own page about it, I still don’t see a huge upgrade benefit. But I’m not the target audience, I don’t think. I use my OP-1 for laying down rhythms and samples and have never been sure if Maschine is right for me.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Just checked CDM from 2009. ;) It’s the same launch price.

      Now, that said, the old models really are a pretty nice bargain buy!

  • VHS

    You guys did a really good job showing off the new controllers and peripherals. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/leon.tricker Leon Tricker

    Message for Ableton: get your backsides in gear; yer getting left behind; Live is looking increasingly dated.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000412374804 Igor Warzocha

    I remember NI talking about how they don’t want to release mk2 controller, and how the mk1 will be a long term development. Nearly 1-1 quotes. But whatever.

    Peter, any news about a possible connection between Maschine and Traktor? (or should I say maschine mk2 and the F1?)

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Well, if they said “mk2,” that was an unfortunate choice of words. ;) But otherwise, I think they held to their promise. You still get 100% of the functional use of the software with the original hardware as you do with the new model, and that’s what I took their previous statement to mean. (I’d hope so, too, it’s only been three and a half years!)

      Maschine and Traktor – excellent question. I’d assume that’d be contingent on promised improvements to the way Traktor handles controller mapping, which would mean opening up Traktor not only to Maschine but other controllers, as well. They didn’t say anything about this model. But I do like the idea of that integration.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000412374804 Igor Warzocha

      Well, maybe that wasnt “mk2”, but “there are no plans for maschine 2.0 hardware“ is quite close to this.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Right, but I’d say that fundamentally, what you have here is the same layout and mappings as you had previously.

  • luke

    I really love my Maschine, I only hope they have fixed the midi control mode. At the moment my Maschine and Live talk to each other but then stop randomly ( I know I’m not the only one having this problem) making it totally useless as a controller for Live….. If they fix this then I’ll be over the moon but until then I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who also wants to use it as a midi controller for Live…..

  • mercury

    all i want to see is arpeggiation, scale and chord presets built in to the pads, oh well maybe 2.0!

    • Heinrich Zwahlen

      yes some midi effects would be great..of course we have note repeat already.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jwcase Joshua Case

    Isn’t NI a commercial sponsor of this site?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Here’s how it works: we live for traffic. That means that, for instance, a popular story on the Raspberry Pi – for doing something a computer *and* software can do for $30 – is as valuable to us as anything mentioning any sponsor. Until I come up with a better solution, we’re supported by ads, because I work on this site full-time and pay hundreds of dollars in costs monthly. And if anything, those ads makes us more suspect to these kinds of criticism than if we *didn’t* have ads. So, I try to stand up to those criticisms. But it *is* valuable to look at new hardware, and I don’t believe in making up criticisms just to appear balanced – if I’m excited about something, I’ll say so. Believe me, I’ve gone to the mat before as a writer in order to defend being critical.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jwcase Joshua Case

    Did you just delete my question about NI being a sponsor of CDM?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jwcase Joshua Case

    it seems like you’re using a journalistic looking platform to disguise some serious marketing. As a long time reader, I’m a little bummed. I expect this to be deleted too.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      None of the three comments you posted was deleted.

      Unless I’m mistaken, it’s generally not some unethical business practice to do hands-on previews of new gear – not in music technology or technology in general.

      So –

      If you believe that advertiser-supported content is inherently unethical (and you’ve been reading it), how much of a monthly subscription fee would you be willing to pay for a version of CDM that required subscriptions?

  • Courtney King

    Did you check the TStreching? Does it enable “elastic” audio (for want of a better term… Thanks for an insightful preview Peter

  • Claudio

    Nice review, guys! Very explainable, thanks!

  • jbm

    Hey Peter great review! I have the original Maschine and love it.

    I’m actually curious about the new master knob and extra buttons – how does this affect browsing exactly? Is it dented/clicky? I always thought it was a bit cumbersome to scroll through different tags with the non clicky knobs (Kick/Snare etc). Can you use these buttons to browse or move through tags?

    One other question – when trimming samples, is this master knob also used? That would be most pleasing!

  • http://twitter.com/VirtualFlannel ᏉᎥᏒᏆuᎪᏞ fᏞᎪᏁᏁᎬᏞ

    Thanks for this Peter, great flix!

  • josh j

    So will NI offer just the new hardware if one wants? Or will we be forced into paying full price for those of us that only want/need the hardware? We’ve already paid for the software obviously.

  • jbm

    Strange, question I posted has disappeared.

    Basically, just wondering how browsing is affected by the new master knob and arrow buttons?
    Also, if it can be used for sample trimming now?

  • Heinrich Zwahlen

    Having color feedback is great, not sure about the redesign of the master knobs yet as i found them very convenient to adjust volume, tuning and timing on the fly. I do like the big knob on the Mikro though for precise adjustements, so i assume they came up with a decent solution. But I think the biggest deal is actually that they are throwing in Massive to make clear to more people that M is also a great Synth controller.

  • JustinOnTheBeat

    Nice ray bans, the new maschine is so sexy, my mkI is getting jelly. I might have to dump her soon

  • http://twitter.com/itsJiloo Jiloo

    And if I already own Massive can I get something else instead?
    Propably not :(

  • cymbals

    no usb 3.0? this think will be outdated pretty quick since we are seeing usb slowly coming into mainstream

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      There’s no reason this hardware needs USB 3.0. It’s only a controller. In fact, the USB backwards compatibility issues have, if anything, demonstrated that USB3 wasn’t ready for primetime. (I.e., implementation was buggy)

  • http://www.waveplantstudios.com waveplant

    Any speculation about whether updates past 1.8 will support the mk1?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      The hardware layout is the same. And the underlying architecture is shared with the first-gen mikro. So there’s no reason that they won’t continue to support the old hardware.

    • http://twitter.com/frijec Kenneth Jensen

      All Maschine hardware is supported and the update is free for existing owners

  • http://twitter.com/ritec Ri

    Looks lovely but I think I am not buying anymore software/hardware bundles in a while. I own the maschine 1 and kore 2 and i am extremely disappointed at how rapidly they have devaluated, this type of equipment is not as good an investment as stand alone hardware for that reason. Yes it does have its advantages but if you like buying and testing out gear like i do then it does not make sense investing money on software hardware bundles… I was looking into selling my maschine 1 which I bought for 600 but by the time I got around to it the price had dropped to 500 new and then 2 months later this maschine 2 comes out which means my m1 will now be worth like 300 bucks…that’s a 50% value decrease in just about 1 year… Talk about short life expectancy! Might as well just keep it now. I know ill probably take some heat for this comment but that is how i feel. That said the maschine is great for travelling and minimal setups…. Just my two cents.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rmichaelproducer Richard Michael

    SO GLAD I BOUGHT THE OLD MICRO 10 days ago! LOL!

  • http://www.facebook.com/joshmoney Josh Money
  • Chuckie

    So if I buy the current maschine hardware from Amazon, I’ll be able to get the 1.8 update along with Massive for free?