Maschine’s lovely hardware controller makes the software drum machine more usable – but the software still behaves like software, and now integrates more fully with your setup in hosts like Live. Photo (CC) Joakim Bergman.

Drum machines may have no soul, but thanks to an update, Native’s soft drum machine has a lot more meat.

As the year comes to a close, inevitably thoughts turn to writing “best of the year” stories and round-ups. For computer musicians, this year has been dominated by Ableton on one hand and mobile apps on the other. But one of the big software releases of 2009 was also unquestionably Native Instruments’ Maschine. The hardware/software combination returns to some of the traditional drum machine workflows, but in a way that integrates nicely with your software setup. I got to see a prototype while in Berlin in the fall of 2008, and thought it had terrific potential. It’s not that it’s radically different from other things we’ve seen so much as the hardware-software integration, combined with a beautiful implementation and lots of NI sound goodness, made it fun. But, as often happens with 1.0 releases, the first shipping version had some missing pieces – like full-functioning MIDI integration – which could be deal breakers.

1.1 changes that, finally bringing the necessary ingredients to make Maschine an essential part of your music-making process. New features in this version (see video demos from NI after the jump):

  • Proper MIDI output: You can use Maschine to output MIDI to play software, and to play hardware. That makes Maschine a powerful sequencer you can drop into any host – including NI’s own KORE, making the KORE + Maschine combination finally workable. And you can use it to sequence that Minimoog Voyager / Sega Mega Drive synth you have lying around.
  • Proper MIDI input: Finally, you can trigger Maschine from your host, so you can, say, drop Maschine into Live or Numerology and sequence it.
  • MIDI scene switching: In addition to triggering notes/sounds, you can trigger scenes from a host, ideal for recording arrangements.
  • Drag-and-drop pattern export: Export patterns as audio into a host by dragging and dropping.
  • Metronome and record count-in: Yes, as I’m not a robot, this will help me actually play my patterns live.
  • Use REX loops: Propellerheads’ REX remains a standard for pre-sliced audio, making it easy to import your loops.
  • Better hardware integration: Navigate and adjust groups, sound volume, panning on the controller, and save files.


Speaking of delicious things that come from Berlin – in addition to NI software – behold, the currywurst. You see, Maschine 1.0 was like this, minus the sauce. Now 1.1 adds the sauce. And… okay, mostly I want to go back to Berlin for another of these. They’re one of the things keeping me from the obvious ethical and environmental imperative to go vegetarian. I’m really sorry.

There are also new options for slicing and pattern triggering and other performance optimizations.

It’s best to see all of this in action. NI has made three videos; I’ve embedded them below for your drum machine-watching pleasure.

For me, these smaller changes have made a world of difference, to the point that I expect Maschine to be a greater part of my work in 2010 than 2009. I’ll be sharing what I’m doing with it here soon. (Also, generally I expect more of our NI coverage will now be here on CDM rather than the Kore minisite; stay tuned.)

Note: Because of the German spelling, and having talked to its creators, I think Maschine should be pronounced with the German pronunciation. Sounds cooler than “machine” anyway. Also, German food is delicious, regardless of what anyone tells you. (Yes, Kirn is a German name, and I grew up loving German-American food.)

Maschine Product Page [English]

  • james

    german food is ok even if you are a vegetarian – kasespaetzle = best thing ever.

  • I love my Maschine. Seerose has great vegetarian German food in Berlin.

  • Okay, fair enough! I'm going to give the veg food a try in Berlin, too. (Hey, NYC is a huge meat city, and I still take advantage of some of our nicer vegetarian establishments, like the wonderful Hangawi. One of my faves, even as an omnivore.)

    But yes, generally, I don't know why people complain about German food. Lots of variety in the different regions, lots of fantastic stuff … I think people are just ignorant.

  • And things are to get even better with the next update in line:

    New and improved features:

    Performance page with eight assignable "Macro Controls" per Group

    Host Automation support

    Support for MIDI Continuous Controller and Pitchbend

    MPC program import (specific models tba)

    Enhanced slicing with editable markers and new "split" mode

    Destructive audio editing with trim, normalize, etc.

    New "vintage sound" MPC 60 and SP1200 emulation modes

    16 Velocity Levels mode for controller

    New "Grain Stretcher" effect type

    "Direct Monitor" option in sampling mode

    MIDI export for patterns, including Drag and Drop to host

    Improved event editing via controller

    Improved waveform navigation via controller

    Various other enhancements


  • Yep, a few of those are ones I'm still eagerly, eagerly awaiting —

    * pattern drag-and-drop

    * CC support

    * host automation

    — but this at least gets us to a critical mass of good stuff. I think Maschine is well on its way to being the most sophisticated drum machine software out there, even with some decent competition (like fxpansion's GURU). And it's one I can see using even with the tools in Ableton Live at your disposal.

  • KDan

    Yeah, this upgrade makes using Maschine within a sequencer much more viable. It still takes a powerful computer to run Maschine as a VST though. (Trying to run Maschine in Cubase made me realize it was time to buy a new laptop.)

    Also, whoever said drum machines don't have soul should relisten to "Sexual Healing."

  • My favorites are definitely the MPC60 Mode and Direct Monitoring while sampling and of course cc support. Good times we are living in 😉


  • KDan

    Wow! When those features are added, Maschine will really be a powerhouse! The vintage SP 1200 sound would be welcome for sure. I think the "grain stretching" would be great too.

  • flux392

    I'm super excited for the destructive editing, the grain stretcher (time stretching) and the mpc import (oh and the midi cc)

    can't wait! I love my maschine now maybe it will work As i have envisioned it.

  • Actuel

    a nice update, but as i have maintained since the original spec list was released, Machine needs to be able to support more looping modes such as fwd-bkwd, etc.

    i love working with waveforms, and am still startled that NI have elected to exclude basic looping features that are found on samplers from over 20 years ago. not everyone loops beats. less cliche and more workstation NI.

    i'll keep waiting until then.

  • currywurst looks well wicked, have you tried any place in NYC that serves it? I love German food.

    Really really liking Maschine, and even more now. tempted to get one.

    And MegaDrive synth? I can haz?

  • danny

    slowly , MASCHINE is evolving into a killer tool for live performance.

    Simple , straight forward , intuitive , it is a great move from NI , and a complement for live users.

  • @lilith: apparently, lots of places do:

    Have to go try some. 😉

    And, oh yes, I'm not being entirely random here; a) I like food metaphors, because I like food, and b) did have my first Berlin currywurst on the trip on which I saw Maschine, so they're nicely associated in my mind.

  • Pingback: Maschine 1.1 od kuchni « Wykopki bloga

  • the_jules

    Whoa, be careful about confusing east and west germany.

    NI has its residence in Schlesische Strasse, which is in Kreuzberg, which is WEST Berlin.

    And according to Currywurst's wikipedia entry, it was first sold in Berlin-Charlottenburg, which is, you guessed it, also in West Berlin.

    I might be nitpicking here, but if you still divide into East and West Germany, get your facts straight.

    To be more on topic, this update actually makes me consider getting one. I'm still so grateful for the recent thanksgiving rebate thing (99 bucks for Reaktor is just insane)

    – A Berliner

  • @the_jules – parts of what is now Kreuzberg had been in East Berlin (Friedrichshain?), but I'm both splitting hairs and splitting cities – and probably incorrectly so – so let's just say Berlin. It's a wonderful thing that Germany is celebrating its reunification this year.

    And, yes, Berlin has the highest concentration of hackers, geeks, and DSP coders I've ever seen – including anywhere in the US, short of standing inside the campus of Texas Instruments or something.

  • agreed,Maschine is getting better and better with each update.

    i'm really excited about all those new features,especially midi cc automation.

    this plus Kore 2,Absynth 5,Reaktor 5 and Live+apc-40 and i'm in performance heaven.

    life's good……..truly…….

  • what i don't read here: I can play with Maschine during 2 hours without a look to my MacBook screen…I've sold all my MPC now, and i'm happy with this marvelous toy 😀

    Kiss frOm Paris :))) And thnx to all this wonderful German tools creators!

  • teiked

    Does anyone know how to obtain those great J Dilla-style sounds without buying the software?

  • Here's a sweet demo of Maschine showing everything from sampling to the next theme for Mad Men:

  • dan

    i want to hear more about the sausage

  • Wechsler's! I'm pretty sure thats the place I wanted to try in the East Village

  • Mark Kunoff

    I purchased Maschine and generally speaking I'm very impressed with it. The intuitive immediacy of the "hardware-like" dedicated controller is ground breaking for sure.

    However, there are equally disheartening issues and glaring oversights with it and in my humble opinion NI brought it to market WAY before it was really ready for prime time.

    With all due respect Peter, I completely disagree with using "proper" to describe Maschines' current implementation of midi output. Without CC or pitch bend I hardly consider this "proper".

    Additionally, there are completely erroneous claims in the operator manual. In Appendix C – Special tricks about 'Create your own looper". NI has admitted the issues with sync-mode sampling during the recent beta testing cycle for the 1.1 update and it is yet to be resolved. It's quite obvious that NI published this capability without testing it first which is imo is absolutely irresponsible.

    The fact that Maschine is a big CPU hog doesn't get mentioned enough. It doesn't even have close to half (more like a quarter) the headroom that working in Ableton alone has. The effects programs are nothing extraordinary combined with the fact that you're usually working with one-shot samples leaves me feeling like, "really?"

    Should I even go into a rant about the abysmal situation with the Library and tag editor?

  • @Mark: nope, I agree with your criticisms… so feel free to be as detailed as you like. I can at least say it's now moving in the right direction.

  • Mark Kunoff

    Thanks Peter. I probably should have sandwiched my statements with a positive note, but imo NI rushed Maschine out in response to the APC40.

    With that said, the really great thing that I've noticed about the growing Maschine customer base is they're actually making more music than they did with previous tools simply because Maschine is VERY playable – a fact which is quite noteworthy. Or should I say, "ausgezeichnet!"

    Btw, have you noticed in the latest vids they are pronouncing it as "Mah-sheena". As a fellow Kraut, I was glad to hear it since that was how I was pronouncing it to my colleagues – albeit with some expected cajoling! 😉

    And for you German food fanatics a particular "Spezialität" which is a favorite of mine is "Königsberger Klops". Mmmmmmmm, yum.

  • @Mark: I don't believe that Maschine was rushed out in response to the APC40. It was in development long before anyone outside Ableton and Akai was aware of the APC, and that means the shipping timeframe was also set (certainly fairly final by 2008). It shipped when they planned to ship it. Now, that's not to say it couldn't have used more polish first, but at least you can't blame the APC.

    And yes, the product team all say Mah-sheena. I think what happened was that it was handed off to US folks doing the videos and they changed to an English pronunciation, but it is a German spelling. 😉

  • I want to be able to use my GROOVES IN ABLETON!!! I use my grooves for my tracks… with the swing an all.. ones I have used for ever… and I want to be able to use that to play my Maschine in groove!!!

    The only way I do that now is bounce to audio, and then bring the loops into Ableton… not the best way of doing things ehh?

    Anyone know anything about this? It is literally the reason I am not using it that much now… !

  • s0undc10ud

    Owning a maschine is a constant "adding new features" living! when i 1st got it, there was no drag and drop (audio) to host, and they added it! they added loads of stuff and they keep planning and adding. So you DONT feel let down by NI at all! these guys do a great job and they really know "listening to users feedback". One extremely happy user here. Maybe the best investment made in my studio so far along with the akai apc40. Anyone thinking of getting a drum machine? defff get maschine! akai drum machines are ok… but philosophy remains the same like the old drum machine days. Maschine on the other hand… its evolving! And its evolving by NI listening to users feedback! Go for it!

  • s0undc10ud

    @Mark. Maschine and apc40 are 2 completely different tools. apc40 is an Ableton control surface and Ableton only. Maschine has nothing to do with it. its a drum maschine (more than this.. but thats the project)that works standalone or within any daw. So there is no way they rushed because of apc40. Plus, i dont think a product like this can be made within a couple of months. it took them more than a year to be made..

  • hey guys, am curious to know how much of a cpu hog it is. i've noted the recommended system specs and mine falls short (1.86Ghz Single core and 1Gig RAM, 100Gb drive). Would i be pushing things too far running it within Live on such a setup?

  • @Mark You're totally right about the Maschine's being eminently playable. I demo'd it a couple of days ago and was blown away by how it inspired it left me.

    There's a really interesting chapter in one of (possibly Malcolm Gladwell? or DJ SPooky?) book which describes how DJ's are very kinesthetic(body processing) creatures so it figures that bringing this element back in would re-connect us with the music.

    It's like rediscovering a part of yourself you've lost. I think i've missed it ever since i sold all my hardware. 🙁

  • KDan

    @Grant: I'm not sure if you are a PC or a Mac user, but I was a using a single core 2.8 ghz PC laptop with 2 gigs of ram when I got Maschine, and I could barely run the standalone version.

    Whenever I tried to run Maschine within Cubase, my CPU meter would spike and my computer would crash.

    You might need a new computer to run, but if you're running a Mac you might fair better.

    Maschine is definitely a massive CPU hog!!

  • @KDan: sounds to me like a bug. I've seen that run on lower-spec machines, no question. There were some significant updates to Maschine, as well.

  • Mark Kunoff

    Well, just for clarification – I would never ever think NI took only 2 months to develop and bring Maschine to market. I'm sure development started way before anyone knew about the Akai controller. But considering that one of Maschines biggest selling points is it's ability to launch clips in Live's session view in similar fashion to the APC40, my conclusions are'nt that much of a stretch. In fact, I chose and purchased Maschine OVER the APC40 because I thought there was more bang for buck considering the MPC-like workflow. I'm intimately aware of the differences in the two products s0undc10ud, but to say that Maschine has nothing to do with Ableton Live is simply innaccurate. In fact, being able to switch between controlling Live and Maschine's own software is what makes it so special imo and probably the number one reason I purchased it.

    But again, I cannot forgive NI for publishing a capability in the operators manual which was obviously not tested. If they did do proper testing and published anyway then that is even far more deplorable. I'm still a happy (but cautiously so) user of my Maschine, but NI certainly deserves a big bitch slap making untested and unconfirmed claims.

    But to leave this on a positive note, the sample content for Maschine (and really all their products) is without question amongst the best in the industry. I purchased Komplete recently and it was by far the best upgrade ever to my sonic palette.

  • so i can agree that the updates are fresh and the software approach to this has eclipsed the mpc as far as i'm concerned. makes me proud to have been using softsynths and the like for about 5 years now.

    i am disheartened by the bug with note repeat. each time i press note repeat, it's not before long that a combination of notes become synced and triggered though i'm pressing something completely different on the drum pad.

    i rely on note repeat for composition and getting out of creative ruts and not just for drums.

    if anyone knows a way around, do hit me up here or twitter.

    thanks and keep it up Peter and other music makers!

  • starving student

    Mark what are the problems with the browser that you're speaking of?