November 6, 2013

Two Steps Forward...

by Chris Randall

Boing boom chack.

I got a Maschine Studio last week, and let's just state right now that it's a pretty nice piece of kit. In a nutshell, they've taken the original Maschine controller and broken out all the shift buttons to direct control, and added a jog wheel and a pair of whopping big hi-res color displays.

There are plenty of reviews out on the Interwebs, by people that specialize in that sort of thing, so I won't bother going over all the differences between the Maschine 2.0 software and its predecessor, or all the fine points of the new controller. Rather, I'll just toss off some comments that have come to mind in the last week as I've used it, and answer some of the obvious questions.

1. Not A DAW. There was a bit of a hope among a certain type of person (myself included) that the Maschine 2.0 software would turn it in to a full production environment, but let's make one thing clear: this software has its roots in MPC-oriented programming, and it hasn't strayed from that path. In order to function as a DAW, the software must operate in a non-linear way, and Maschine 2.0 is about as linear as it gets. The ability to chain Scenes to make a song is identical to the one in Maschine 1.x, and that hasn't been added to at all. Without a more advanced, less linear method of chaining patterns, this device and its software are still very much a sampling drum machine.

2. Renderless, So Render Less. The audio export function will only export the current scene. There is no method in which to render a song chain. If you're using it in stand-alone mode, the only way to record your performance is with an analog loopback or a separate recording device. One person's advice was "render the scenes, then put them together in your DAW." That's an awful idea for so many obvious reasons I won't go in to it. My solution, such as it is, is to build the song's parts in stand-alone, then instance Maschine inside Live, and use a Resampling track to record the performance.

EDIT: The above is not entirely correct. The "Export Audio" function exports the loop range, whatever that is. So if you've extended the loop range to encompass several scenes, then that's what gets exported. My mistake.

3. No Studio Required. As I said, the Studio controller is essentially the earlier controller with all the shift buttons broken out. I don't personally see the need for the jog wheel, which only duplicates functionality that is occurring where your hand already was. I could have thought of many better things to put in that spot, but they didn't ask me. The jog wheel is basically superfluous, for all intents and purposes. The displays make browsing for sounds and plug-ins and effects from Komplete very nice. However, if you're using your own library and 3rd party plugs, then you don't see them at their best. So you can live without it. In short, the Maschine Studio controller isn't strictly necessary; it won't limit your ability to control Maschine 2.0 at all, best I can tell. That said, it is a very nice controller, and is extremely well-built. It occupies a much larger footprint than the originals; it is, in surface area, roughly twice as big. However, the pads themselves, where the rubber meets the road, are identical to those in Maschine Mk 2.

4. Synthesize! The built-in drum synths are honestly a bit amazing. I don't know how they did some of them, and I am pretty well-versed in drum synthesis; I assume they're mostly a combination of physical modeling, traditional synthesis, and minor sample playback. You get a variety of starting points for each of the traditional drum voices, with 5 to 8 controls for the voice. In many cases (especially the snares) the result is indistinguishable from a sample. I wish these were a bit more out-there, but no complaints. I can always instance a synth to get what I need.

In any event, my feelings are thus: the Maschine 2.0 software is a must-upgrade. No joke, it is head and shoulders above the first iteration. As far as the Maschine Studio goes, it is extremely nice; if you already have a Mk 2, you probably can live without it, but why on Earth would you want to?

(Obligatory Caveat: I did not pay for the Maschine Studio; I received it as an NFR.)


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Nov.07.2013 @ 5:22 AM
Chris Randall
@involver: A hah. Although the "loop range" song method is so old school as to be almost painful. I'm not a fan of copying out all the patterns and scenes and making minor adjustments to build a song.

Well, I'll give it a shot.

As far as the jog wheel goes, I should mention that my opinion is _heavily_ colored by the fact that it is on the right side of the unit, and I'm left-handed. So while it may appear to offer fine adjustment to a right-hander, it does not for me. I find the shift-soft-knob method from Maschine Mk 1 + 2 (that still exists here) to be much more comfortable.

Your mileage as a right-hander may vary. I should have stated that.


Nov.07.2013 @ 9:24 AM
So, say hypothetically speaking I was saving up for Maschine Mk2 and now this thing comes out. I can get a Mk2 for $480 or the Studio for $800. For someone who has never used Maschine prior to this purchase, which is the one to get?

Nov.07.2013 @ 11:51 AM
Chris Randall
It's the difference between a pretty nice car and a luxury car. They'll both get you to the same place, but one will get you there faster, with more style.


Nov.08.2013 @ 4:04 AM
What is that synth with the weighted keys in the background? Or are they weighted?

Nov.08.2013 @ 5:20 AM
You got Maschine Studio as an NFR? The most NI has given me was KOMPLETE. I envy you, as well as your gear.

Nov.08.2013 @ 5:56 AM
Chris Randall
That's a DK Synergy. Semi-weighted, as it happens. Regarding the NFR, I'm doing some work for Native Instruments that required the possession of a Maschine Studio; they didn't just give it to me because of my boyish charm and rugged good looks.


Nov.08.2013 @ 12:01 PM
Couple of corrections:

For #1, I think you have the linear/non-linear backwards: "In order to function as a DAW, the software must operate in a non-linear way, and Maschine 2.0 is about as linear as it gets"

#2 is wrong. You can indeed use Audio Export feature to export your entire arrangement (of all the scenes, not just loop range or a scene) as separate individual sounds/groups.

Nov.08.2013 @ 12:03 PM
Chris Randall
No, I meant what I said in #1. In #2, note my correction.


Nov.08.2013 @ 12:12 PM
For #2, what I mean is that it's not just Loop Range. In Export Audio, you have separate options for All Scenes as well as Loop Range.

Nov.08.2013 @ 1:59 PM
Chris Randall
No, actually, you don't. Stems, sounds, or 2-buss are the sources, and loop range is the start and end time. That's it. Perhaps you're referring to Maschine 1.x?


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