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Taylor

Taylor
November 1, 2013

Native Instruments Maschine Studio Review


It’s been quite a long time since we have seen anything drastically new from the Native Instruments line of Maschine groove production controllers. Sure we got the Maschine Mikro and two new versions with the MK2 line, but these added only slight improvements to workflow and left a lot of active Maschine users (myself included) wondering if there was ever going to be anything substantially different on the horizon. Well those questions can now be answered with the latest controller in the Maschine line, the Maschine Studio.

There are tons of new features on the Maschine Studio which, in my opinion, really improve the sound design process because it gets your eyes and your hands off the computer screen and mouse and onto the actual controller. That’s not to say that this was not achievable on the Maschine MK2 or even the first Maschine, but it was not perfect. The addition of two large full color LED screens as opposed to the small monochrome screens of its predecessor has this Maschine user very excited about getting my hands on the new Maschine Studio.

While the screens are great, there are a lot of other new features on the controller as well as the new Maschine 2.0 software that are worth covering. I’m going to walk through some of the new features on both the Maschine Studio and the Maschine 2.0 software that I think you should take into consideration if you are looking to invest in a Maschine Studio. I’ll also give you the final verdict as to what I think Maschine Studio is capable of and whether or not it stands up against it’s closest competitors: Ableton Push and the Akai MPC Renaissance.

Maschine Studio

The collapsable legs and expanded MIDI I/O are nice additions.

The collapsable legs and expanded MIDI I/O are nice additions.

The first thing to talk about is the general design and construction of the Mashcine Studio. The build quality will be familiar to those who already own Maschine but there have been some design improvements. The collapsable legs on the bottom of the unit are a great design addition and something that I have always pined for on my old Maschine controller. On the back of Maschine Studio are 3 MIDI outputs and two foot-switch controller inputs in addition to your standard USB connection. The need for power seems reasonable considering the full color LED screens, but those that like to use Maschine on the go might find it frustrating that this version will not be USB powered. But a point I will stress throughout this review is that Maschine Studio is meant to be in a…wait for it…STUDIO!

Maschine Studio

There are a couple things that really stood out to me as great leaps forward in terms of workflow on the Maschine Studio. For starters the Edit section is a great addition which more or less takes the functions that had been used with the shift button and moved them over to its own section. For some of you this may seem like a superfluous waste of space but in the years I have been working with Maschine, this is a welcomed addition. The controls are intuitive and make for a very swift ability to edit, quantize, and make precise adjustments.

Lastly we have got to talk more about these full color, LED screens on the Maschine Studio. The old screens on Maschine only allowed for so much control and you had to be rather well versed in Maschine to get the most out of computer-less control. With the new screens you can browse sounds in Maschine and your Komplete library, you have a visual representation of your mixer, and you get a macro and micro view of your scene arrangements. The latter of these features is by far my favorite as I am running Maschine inside of Logic and the arrange window is impossible to really see. I like to look at the grid when I am arranging to help keep track of where I am placing my sounds as well as how my arrangements are setup across the timeline. Now that I have dedicated screens to keep my arrangements tight, I no longer have to guess where my notes are or try to hunt them down in a tiny plugin window.

These are simply my favorite new features and it’s worth noting that there are plenty of other improvements on the Maschine Studio, including the VU meter, which are covered in the video above. A full overview of all of the new features on the Maschine Studio controller can be found on the Native Instruments website. So lets say you don’t have the cash to invest in the new Maschine Studio, and I can completely sympathize considering it’s rather large price tag. You should still consider looking at upgrading to Maschine 2.0 and here’s why.

Maschine 2.0

The browsing functionality has been greatly improved upon. If you own Battery 4 you will be very familiar with the new organization system that Native Instruments have employed to get your sounds swiftly. Instead of the laborious process of picking a kit then discriminating against that kick or this snare, you can now browse all of the one-shot samples or select a kit like before. I love this as a sound design tool when trying to form my own drum kits on the fly. Another great feature is the ability to have control over your start and stop points within your arrangements for more precise control of your compositions.

A new GUI means a new workflow and Maschine 2.0 does not disappoint.

A new GUI means a new workflow and Maschine 2.0 does not disappoint.

A really outstanding plugin that Justin mentions in the video is the Drum Synth. You have 5 different drum sounds all with 8 different engines to manipulate the sound. This is a reactive control over drum sounds that mimic similar ways to create drum sounds on an analog synthesizer. In addition you can get varying dimensions of drum sounds from acoustic drums to electronic drum sounds. All of your old familiar plugins like Massive are still available but you also get full versions of Prism, Scarbee Mark I, and the Solid Bus Comp if you don’t already own them. You also have a much more solid foundation to select and control all of the instruments and FX inside of Komplete 9.

Native Instruments have decided to include a mixer within Maschine 2.0 and it’s great. This is another function that greatly improves your workflow inside of Maschine. The days of sending each drum to its own channel inside of your DAW are over, unless of course that’s a workflow you are not willing to abandon. You could always control levels of individual sounds in the old Maschine, but the way FX and dynamics were controlled were rather clunky operations. The mixer is vital in a workflow that now has unlimited groups and it really makes Maschine 2.0 feel more like a DAW in its own right.

Again these are just a few of my favorite things on the Maschine 2.0 update and there are plenty more things to talk about. Some other improvements to mention are the Multicore Processing, the Plugin Strip, New Arranger, MIDI/Host Automation, and Sidechaining.

The Verdict

Now you can certainly argue that in addition to Ableton Push and the Akai MPC Renaissance there are several other MIDI controllers that compete directly with the Maschine Studio including Arturia’s Spark and SparkLE, the Novation line of LaunchPad controllers, and Akai’s MPD controllers. Those options fall well below the price point of Maschine Studio, Ableton Push, and the Akai MPC Renaissance and, with the exception of Arturia, those controllers do not come with controller dedicated software. Those controller also don’t have quite the same control over software like Maschine, which is why I have chosen to compare Maschine Studio with the Akai MPC Renaissance and Ableton Push.

A lot of gripes are already filtering in about Native Instruments not including a sound card or the ability to turn the Maschine into an audio interface. I find this to be a rather shallow and pedantic complaint as the Maschine Studio seems to be getting compared to the Akai MPC Renaissance in this respect. The Maschine is NOT the Renaissance, nor does it want to be. The power of Maschine is in the sounds available within Maschine 2.0 and the Komplete library of sounds for production purposes. It’s called Maschine Studio for a reason and that’s because it will function best as a studio production tool as opposed to a live performance tool that would warrant a sound card. Frankly to look at the MPC Renaissance in any other way is rather absurd too. Unless of course your name is AraabMuzik. The MPC Renaissance is certainly a powerful groove production system, but the software feels dated and clunky. If you are a classic MPC fan then I can totally understand your affinity for the MPC Renaissance and I would certainly recommend getting the MPC Renaissance. However if you don’t own a Renaissance at this point, you should really weigh the options of getting one before you buy.

Ableton Push has some serious advantages over Maschine Studio but these mostly center around the Push controller’s integration with Ableton Live. If you are an Ableton user then yes, Push is probably the better choice for you. If you are like me (Logic user) and use a DAW that’s not Ableton, then Maschine Studio is one of the best options on the market for this type of production. Ableton users who use Maschine should still upgrade to Maschine 2.0, even if the Maschine Studio controller is rather redundant to your current Push setup.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t be dismissive of Maschine Studio or the Maschine 2.0 software until you try it for yourself. For Maschine users, this is a fantastic upgrade that we have all been waiting for. I am sure you guys have questions and we will be happy to answer them in the comments below. For everything Native Instruments be sure to visit us over at UniqueSquared.com.

SLAM!!

Transcript

Hi my name is Stony. Im Justin Myracks. I’m with Native Instruments. From Native Instruments. And today we’re gonna go over the new flagship piece the Maschine Studio. Ok we’ve added two LED screens. We have an arrange page and the arrange page you have an overview of your patterns. And you can zoom in and out of your notes on the right side and on the left side you get to zoom as well. You can see where you are inside of the zooming and then you can also click on the scene tab and you can also see the full view of the scene on the left side and you can zoom in on the right side. Now we also have a mix button. We’ve added a mixer which is one of the greatest features in here. Click on the mix and you get to see all your levels. These are the first eight pads and you can control your levels with the knobs. As you can see these are all of the different sounds that come inside of Komplete 9 inside of the browser now. Now you can see all of the little pictures of each instrument. We have unlimited groups. Unlimited groups and unlimited effects and the way you access the unlimited groups is you hold down shift and you go to different banks. We’ve got this great jog wheel that is for the user so when you go to arrange, it shows you different options when you go to mix. It shows you different options you can use for the jog wheel and also you can edit notes, you can copy and paste, you can undo, you can quantize. So all those shift functions now has its own section. With our metering section, we have the master metering where you can see your master outs. Now we have the option to go to a group and then when I come here to group A, you’ll see the drums that’s going to group A. Now if I hit group B, you’ll see the levels from group B going. Now if I want to listen to like a kick or an individual sound, immediately I go to sound and then I’ll go to my kick and then you’ll see what my kick is doing. Also if you have an interface plugged in and you’re recording a guitar player or a bass player, you can actually go into input and see the levels of the input. So now you can see my voice going in. I can actually turn down the level and turn it back up. We’re gonna look in the back of the unit really quickly and you’ll see that we have 3 MIDI outs and 1 MIDI in. Now we have two foot switches that we’ve added. Now in Maschine 2 what I can do is extend the loop range beyond the 4 bar scene here. So now if I need to get further into say the previous scene, I can extend the start point here and I can also extend the end point. You also get a reference to aliases that may be created to create the length of the scene. So for example like in this group E here you’ll see that there’s one main highlighted section which is the main pattern and then there’s three duplicated or alias sections that show the duplicates necessary to create the 4 bar loop in this scene. With the Drum Synth, you have different modes that each drum type can have so it’s really a chameleon in terms of sound. So you have tuning, you have decay, you have bend amount, you have the time for the bend, and then you have a couple of attack parameters here. You can add noise to the attack and then you can add the amount of noise. So this is just the sub. For example if we go to something like the Dusty Engine. This is more of a modal synth sound so it has different parameters like filter. It has the impact control, noise control, and of course tuning and decay. We have the snare drum synth here. So the first engine we have here is the Volt Engine which is again more of the analog modeled style of drums. So you have the tune control, decay, you have a gate, you have oscillator modes. So it makes it real simple. You can go from tonal to punchy and then you can add the amount of punch that you want, change the amount of noise. So it makes it very simple and it also just gives you everything that you need to just jump in and start becoming a sound designer, creating your own drum sounds without having to load any samples. Because Maschine was always a sample based workstation before, so we’ve tried to change that and give us a bit more tools to use within the sound development and groove production process.