Native Instruments has released Maschine 1.6, a major free update for its acclaimed groove production studio. With the addition of plug-in hosting for Instruments and effects, this version significantly expands the scope and functionality of the system. Native Instruments Maschine 1.6 also includes a free download of the Komplete Elements Instruments bundle, and adds a multitude of features for studio production and live performance.
With added support for VST and AU plug-ins, Native Instruments Maschine 1.6 profoundly widens its creative possibilities, turning the system into a full-featured instrument host. Both the whole range of Native Instruments Komplete Instruments as well as all third-party Instruments and effects can now be used directly in Maschine, complementing its integrated sampler and FX features. Due to an "Auto-Mapping" function, plug-in parameters are conveniently pre- assigned to the high-resolution knobs on the Native Instruments Maschine controller, allowing for intuitive sound tweaking directly from the hardware.
To give producers an even more comprehensive sound arsenal on top of the sample-based factory library of Native Instruments Maschine, the 1.6 update also includes a free download of the Komplete Elements Instruments and effects collection. Based on the powerful engines of Kontakt, Reaktor and Guitar Rig, it contains over 1,000 production-ready sounds selected from the studio-standard Komplete 7 bundle, including Abbey Road vintage drums, Vienna Symphonic Library orchestral sounds, an assortment of sampled band Instruments, various Reaktor-based synthesizers, a versatile assortment of amp emulations and effect pedals from Guitar Rig and more.
Further enhancements in Native Instruments Maschine 1.6 include an increased number of effect slots, "Pad Link" feature, individual swing per sound, clip and sample renaming, expanded Drag & Drop functionality, support for up to 32 audio I/O channels, full Mac OS X 64bit support, and a wide range of detail optimizations.
Maschine 1.7: Preset Browsing
With the 1.7 update, an upgraded level of integration and intuitive workflow is achieved thanks to Maschine's support of Native Instruments' "NIS" sound format. With version 1.6 you could already use your VST/AU plug-ins inside Maschine, but now with 1.7, you can even browse and load the plug-in presets from all Komplete 8 versions - Komplete Elements, Komplete 8, and Komplete 8 Ultimate – directly inside the Maschine hardware browser. This means you can operate Maschine fully without ever having to touch your mouse or keyboard – keeping your focus on the creative flow.
Featured In Maschine 1.6
Use any Native Instruments or 3rd party VST(R) or Audio Units(TM) plug-ins directly inside Maschine. You can even hook up combinations: e.g. load Massive* to Slot 1 and Guitar Rig* to Slot 2 - and tweak them both from the hardware controller - the parameters are automatically mapped to the knobs on the Maschine hardware.
Komplete Elements Included
To get you started using plug-ins inside Maschine a free copy of Komplete Elements is included with this update. Komplete Elements comprises over 1,000 stunning sounds drawn from the flagship Komplete software bundle, including Kontakt's vintage Abbey Road drum kit and Vienna Symphonic orchestral Instruments, six Reaktor synthesizers and 35 Guitar Rig amps and effects.
In addition to plug-in hosting, many other improvements have been made. These include pad-link, swing per sound, internal drag and drop of audio, renaming of clips, duplication improvements, and 16 stereo outputs.
Any pads in the same link group can trigger each other - play multiple sounds such as two snares and a clap by hitting just one pad. Select one or more pads to be the master, and others in the group to follow as the slaves - perfect for musicians using Maschine in a live context.
Swing Per Sound
Swing allows for rhythmic shifting of a pattern, creating a shuffled, live feel.
Swing can now also be applied to individual sounds in Maschine 1.6, rather than just at the Group or Master level.
The architecture of Maschine's module slots have been modified to allow great freedom and flexibility, with instrument and effect plug-ins now selectable in the first module position - select either Sampler, Input, MIDI Out or Plug-ins for the first module slot and use the remaining slots to host any combination of effects, external or internal.
Enhanced Drag & Drop
Now you can drag-and-drop single or multiple files into Maschine directly from your operating system, and build up your own customized library of samples.
Plus it's now easy to move audio within Maschine from one location to another - great for converting a Group to audio to free up resources in Maschine.
Also in Maschine 1.6
- Extended audio channels: Now 16 stereo outputs
- Renaming objects (now clips, scenes and samples can be renamed inside Maschine)
- Full 64-bit compatibility (incl. VST Mac)
- Duplication improvements: Duplicate Scenes along with the pattern events
- Mapping improvement when dragging multiple samples (similar to Kontakt)
- Snap events to grid, when moving with mouse
- REX 2 import
* Massive and Guitar Rig are not included, but available separately
Extended Sample Library and Additional FX
The much lauded Maschine library has just grown even stronger. The update comes with a ton of high quality content, made up of 100 additional sounds and updated acoustic and hip-hop kits. These additions include more premium content from NI's ever-expanding network of pro sound designers.
Over 1 GB of additional drum kits and multi-sampled Instruments -- over 6GB total. Meticulously sampled strings, acoustic kits, vintage synths, electric basses and pianos. Includes professional samples from studio legends like Abbey Road and Scarbee and vintage MPC60 kits sampled by Goldbaby.
Grain Stretch - stretch out the break, until you're ready to drop the beat. A dramatic effect designed to perform.
Additional Sampler Features
Maschine's sampler has been upgraded with several improved features, making the process of perfecting your loops and samples simpler and smarter. This update truly sees Maschine refining the science of making beats.
Program import from major MPC models
- 5 additional Vintage Sampling Modes emulating the sound of MPC60 / SP1200
- More than 10 additional destructive audio editing tools such as normalize, reverse, fade in & out, silnce, cut, copy and paste
- Extended Slicing options: split mode, preview and 8 tools for individual editing of slices
- 16 Velocity Levels: Map a sound to the 16 pads for dynamic grooves
Improved polyphony with choke and legato options on the Sound level
- MIDI pitch bend and CC (i.e. mod wheel) support
Improved Workflow and Studio Integration
This update adds a new level of integration between Maschine and your host DAW and other hardware and software in your studio, as well as some elegant improvements that further elevate the general beat-making workflow.
- Extended import (REX2 files) and export: Drag MIDI or audio to host
- Extensive MIDI I/O: sequence your MIDI gear with Maschine and vice versa
- Save Project With Samples: Easily share and collaborate on projects
- More than 10 additional hardware shortcuts for mouse-free editing and navigation
- Group Macro Controls for assigning any parameter to the 8 knobs on the hardware -- easy control that also works perfectly with host automation
- Increased performance of many effects
- Quiet sound selection, customisable defaults and much more
Maschine combines the hands-on feel and sequencing of classic grooveboxes with advanced sampling, effects, and seamless DAW integration. Now featuring 6GB of production-ready sounds, and numerous feature improvements, Maschine continues to evolve so you can focus on finding the perfect beat.
Rise of the Maschine
Integrating the flexibility of computer-based music production with the hands-on creative clout of MPC-style hardware, Maschine is the next step in beat production. Once you touch the hugely playable controller, the slick, intuitive and immensely fast workflow takes over, allowing you to stay focused on what matters - the groove. Maschine's blending of classic feel and cutting edge technology makes it the perfect tool used on its own, performing in the club, or working within your DAW.
As Easy as MPC
With Maschine the boundaries that defined beat making for years are blown away by an all-in-one approach. Starting from the iconic strengths of the MPC - including the intuitive pad layout, 16 velocity levels and Note Repeat - Maschine is instantly familiar, yet breaks free of hardware-only limitations. The library comes with a staggering 6GB of premium sounds and of course can be easily expanded. The simple-to-arrange sequencer, intuitive sampling, re-sampling and slicing features, and fully integrated FX and automation create a blazing workflow that takes your idea from a rough sketch to a professional production in no time. As a studio centerpiece, Maschine plays all your existing gear - and to make for an easy transition, it even lets you import your old MPC programs. Maschine perfectly preserves the instant pleasure of groove box beat-making, introducing the flexibility and power only software can provide.
Rock the Joint
Set Maschine loose in a club or live environment and its heavyweight punch will tear the joint up. Its super-sturdy build, premium pads and knobs are perfect for performing in uncompromising conditions. Thanks to the visual feedback provided by the screens and backlit buttons, Maschine thrives free of mouse and keyboard control. Use Maschine live as a solo instrument for performing your own productions without further prep time, or sync it up with other gear with the minimum of fuss. What's more, you can instantly switch into MIDI mode and use it as a controller for any other software - such as the tightly integrated Traktor Pro DJ software. Perform with Maschine once, and you'll never leave home without it again.
Maschine's immense versatility means it also excels when working with your existing studio set up. Want to freshen up an idea you recorded in your DAW? Open Maschine as a plug-in and drop some beats. Got a good groove flowing in Maschine? Drag and drop sections, loops or full tracks directly into your DAW as either audio or MIDI. Built in to Maschine is a powerful arsenal of studio-quality effects including modulation, distortion, delays, reverbs, filters and EQs. Combine all this with Maschine's vast library of drum kits, multi-sampled Instruments, sliced loops and one shot samples - many of which have been prepared by renowned beat-makers, artists and sound designers - and you have a powerhouse capable of revolutionizing your studio productions.
Free Online Update to Version 1.7
Maschine Version 1.7 offers plugin preset browsing, plus all the great features of version 1.6 including plugin hosting, a free copy of Komplete Elements, workflow enhancements and much more.
zZounds Expert Review
Maschine's initial software installation and authorization process went pretty quickly, especially considering the amount of sample content (roughly 7 GB) included in the package. The software is tightly integrated with the hardware controller, which was plug-and-play easy to connect to my computer. If you've installed any other Native Instruments applications, the steps for Maschine are the same, so it should be very straightforward.
I found the included sounds to be of very good quality, though heavily percussion-focused. The Maschine controller can be used to sequence and trigger anything from basic one-shot samples to complex, layered, multi-sample/multi-velocity sounds, so I would have liked to have seen a wider range of included material. Fortunately, Maschine lets you import your own AIFF and WAV sounds and can also handle REX2 files (slicing intact). These sounds can all be tagged for genre/style browsing within Native Instruments' organizational structure, making it much faster to find what you're looking for when building up sounds for a pattern or song.
At the heart of the hardware interface, you'll find a familiar 4 x 4 grid of velocity-sensitive, LED-backlit pads. You can use them to trigger anything from individual sounds to pre-sequenced patterns. Flexibility is the name of the game, allowing you to customize the workflow to suit your personal style. Load kick, snare, hi-hats, and shakers into separate pads, for example, and play them like a standard drum kit. Or, load the same sound into all sixteen pads, each with a different velocity setting, to get a less robotic sound. You can program separate sequences for the verse, chorus, and bridge, then trigger them during a live performance while playing over the changes.
Maschine organizes everything into groups. A group can hold up to 16 different sounds and 64 different patterns. Eight groups are available. For my initial exploration, I loaded drum sounds into Group 1 and created a few simple patterns (more on that in a bit), then loaded some bass sounds into Group 2. Within just a few minutes, I had a nice groove going. I then loaded some chopped guitar samples into Group 3 and a multi-sampled brass patch into group 4. Things were sounding really good, and I had only just scratched the surface of Maschine's capabilities.
As I said, hardware and software components are tightly integrated, and both give a good level of feedback to keep you informed. The software interface shows the groups you've got loaded along with the patterns and sounds available in the active group. The center part of the screen has a familiar sequencer setup. You can choose to view the patterns for all available sounds at once, or for a single sound in a piano-roll format. The hardware controller has two display windows: the left window is sort of a global menu, and the right window acts as a sub menu depending on what global option you've selected.
The LEDs in the pads also provide useful feedback, with two levels of brightness (plus 'off') to indicate which pads are loaded with sounds or patterns, which sounds or patterns are active, and more. The Shift button accesses alternate features for the pads, allowing you to perform common actions such as paste, nudge, and undo without leaving the hardware surface. After getting familiar with these functions, I found I could make my way through a complete session without having to touch the mouse or keyboard (after firing up the software, of course). Still, some actions (such as selecting a group of note or velocity data at once) can be done faster with the mouse, but spending most of my time on the Maschine's hardware surface helped keep the creative juices flowing.
Step Right Up (Or Fly)
Step sequencing and on-the-fly triggering methods are both available, and both were effective for different situations. In step mode, the pads correspond to step positions on the pattern timeline. You can set the subdivision with the grid function. With quarter note subdivision, for example, you can lay out a one-bar groove with just four pads. Select a kick drum sound and light up pads 1 and 3, then a snare sound to light up pads 2 and 4, and you've got a basic backbeat. Subdivide to sixteenth notes, and the same one-bar pattern now spans all 16 pads. You can create patterns of more than one bar, and call up each bar separately to sequence the note data. Once your pattern is created, you can use the dedicated Shuffle knob to massage the feel. I mainly use step sequencing to quickly create repetitive patterns such as drum and bass grooves.
These same patterns can be created on the fly, assuming your time is up to the task. If you find yourself off the beat, you can use the quantize and/or nudge functions to get back on track. Maschine has four realtime modes for expressive performance. Standard mode typically maps a unique sound to each pad, and both note data and velocity data are recorded. If you're not concerned about varying the velocity, the aptly named fixed-velocity mode lets you assign a velocity ahead of time and only note data is recorded, no matter how hard you hit the pads. The MPC-style 16-velocity mode maps a single sound to all pads, each with increasing amounts of velocity. Finally, keyboard mode lets you specify a starting pitch on pad 1 and raises the pitch (by a semitone) on each successive pad. Keyboard mode is cool for some stuff, but with Maschine's MIDI input, I'd just as soon use a standard keyboard controller for this type of thing. If you don't have a separate keyboard controller, or just want to quickly transpose a note or phrase, it's there if you need it. If you make a mistake, the Erase function can get rid of your last step(s) without stopping the action.
Once you've got a pattern created, Maschine makes it easy to copy and paste to lengthen the phrase. Or, you can copy and paste to a new pattern location (remember, there are 64 patterns per group). I like to come up with a fairly basic pattern, then copy it over to a few other pattern locations and tweak them a little bit. Then, I have the same basic theme, but with several subtle variations to choose from. This is a great way to make your grooves seem a little more organic.
On The Scene
Song arrangement is a simple matter of taking the patterns you've created and placing them into scenes. Think of it as a group of groups, or a sequence of sequences. The longest pattern in a scene determines the scene's length, and shorter patterns will automatically loop to fill the void. You can set up muting and soloing of individual patterns within a scene to make your arrangements more streamlined, and all of this can be triggered via MIDI. You can also tell Maschine where inside a particular scene you want to switch to a new scene, which I really liked.
At any point in the process, you can engage any of Maschine's 22 effects patches to add filtering, delay, compression, and much more. Effects can be set up at any level, as inserts on a specific sound, in a group, or globally over a scene. Of course, all effects parameter tweaks can be automated as you go.
No Maschine Is An IslandI spent a good amount of time getting comfortable with Maschine in standalone mode, but when I fired it up as a plug-in inside Ableton (will work in any other DAW supporting VST, AU, or RTAS too), some cool new possibilities presented themselves. Right away, I noticed a total of eight stereo outputs available in the plug-in. You can use this to route the eight groups or even eight individual sounds to dedicated channels in the DAW. Now you've got even more control over the mix.
Even better, you can call up as many instances of Maschine as your DAW and computer hardware will let you run. You can select which instance you're working on right from the hardware controller. If the load on your CPU gets to be too much, you can drag and drop MIDI data from the plug-in right into your DAW, or convert the parts to audio and drop that into the tracks.
Overall, I was really impressed with Maschine's workflow flexibility as well as the quality of the onboard sounds. If I have one complaint, it's that the system is capable of so many things, it would take a significant time investment to get up to speed on all that's available. That said, the common functionality is pretty intuitive, and I was able to get groovin' without much hassle. If you're a producer looking to make a move from a fully hardware-based setup to a computer-based rig, Maschine has a familiar layout and offers plenty of power.