Native Instruments just revised their Maschine and Komplete Kontrol hardware. Here are some early impressions of what’s new, in advance of our review.

It’s funny to think that back in 2009, the first release of Maschine really set the bar for integrating production software with a hardware controller. This was the year the APC40 and Launchpad had just hit the market – without a screen, and at that point with only limited control capabilities. Maschine was built with software and hardware designed in parallel.

Since then, few pieces of hardware have had quite the impact that Maschine MKI did. The MKII, with color, better pads, and better workflow certainly had some people selling their MKIs. And for hard-core Komplete users, Komplete Kontrol saw some popularity, though perhaps didn’t radically transform workflows.

My guess is the Maschine MK3 and Komplete Kontrol MKII will make a splash, precisely because they seem focused on how these two users bases work.

We will have a review unit in next week, and you know I like to get in depth with how machines work. But here are some important things to know – having at least met with the teams that developed the gear and gotten a quick hands-on.

In short, Maschine Mk3 is now the only hardware you need, thanks to built-in audio. It requires looking at your computer screen less, thanks to the displays found on Studio. And it packs the best pads and control layout yet.

Komplete Kontrol, while a subtler update, goes from being a keyboard with some extras on it to something you’d actually want to use for finding sounds, editing sounds, recording takes, and even working with your DAW or Maschine.

No major new software revisions (though more minor stuff to cover separately) – this is mainly about the hardware. Here’s what’s changed:

Both have terrific new industrial designs. It’s tough to overstate how much more refined these two instruments look and feel. It’s really a class act, even as some big rivals in this field leapfrog one another.

Both get big, color, high-definition displays. These look gorgeous, clear, and bright, and they have incredible viewing angles (like you can practically lay on the floor while you play). The screens are great news, especially on Maschine. I love Maschine Studio – the high-res color screens make sample slicing and production far easier. I also hate it – it’s too big. Too big to fit on my studio desk, too big to fit on a bag. So, the big thing here is, now you get all the workflow power of the Maschine Studio, all that ability to focus on the hardware and not look at the computer screen, but in the MKII footprint. And as if that weren’t enough —

Maschine Mk3 has an audio interface. Finally. 24-bit / 96kHz, though of course we’ll need to test the actual quality. If the Ableton Live template is as good as the one on Jam, my Ableton Push may cease to leave the studio. (Ableton, Push 3 – with audio, please?)

Forget all that shifting around. More dedicated buttons on Maschine and a thoughtful new layout mean less of the shift+pressing you had to do – and less hunting around for features. Given that’s the whole point of Maschine, that’s welcome news. Komplete Kontrol gets a similar overhaul.

Both have USB bus power. No. Power. Dongle. Needed. Yes.

Both have nice new navigation. The 4-directional push encoder makes it really easy to browse through sounds and parameters, and it feels lovely.

The pads on Maschine Mk3 are incredible. This is a first impression, not a full review, but — yeah, basically, wow. Sensitivity across the pad is fantastic and they’re eminently playable, perhaps finally besting Akai. This could also be a reason to choose a 4×4 grid over 8×8 (as on Push).

Maschine also gets a “Smart Strip.” Touch control of effects and parameters, as seen on Jam, are now on the MK3 – but unlike the Jam, you also get more controls, displays(!), and velocity sensitivity(!). Jam remains interesting mainly for its use as a fader or controlling multiple parameters.

Komplete Kontrol now generally makes more sense. The first Komplete Kontrol showed potential, but I could never quite justify its existence. What you got was a premium keyboard, this colored lighting and touch strip business, the displays and … not much else. The sum of all those parts would be almost hard to describe. The Mk2 keyboard, though, is another story, all thanks to some small additions. With a DAW, the keyboard has dedicated controls for transport, undo, and the like, so you can quickly add takes. With Komplete software (and NKS-compatible instruments), you get more hands-on controls and easier ways of finding and editing sounds. With Maschine, Komplete Kontrol integration finally works the way you’d expect – so if you’re a keyboardist but not a finger drummer, this keyboard at last gets you around your Maschine workflow, too.

And there’s popular DAW support. Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, and GarageBand support ships immediately, with Cubase and Nuendo to follow.

Preview sounds without loading. This is a big one. Now you can (optionally) hear pre-recorded sounds of presets in Komplete without loading the whole sound (which is slow).

Komplete Kontrol doesn’t have audio. Well, okay, I get that a keyboard is more of a studio machine, but for gigging musicians, it’s still a little disappointing. Then again, a great-looking keyboard with aftertouch and control features to me may move this from “who buys this?” to “yeah, buy this.”

Komplete Kontrol is mostly the same keyboard, physically. That’s not a bad thing – the Fatar keybeds on the NI are the best of breed.

Komplete with wheels. At last, you get a conventional wheels on the Komplete Kontrol for pitch bend and modulation, and not only touch strips. There’s still a touch strip when you want one – useful for its interactive quality, and the ability to “jump” to particular parameters. But now, you can choose the right control tool for the job.

The two share designs and hardware. Actually, this for me may be the biggest story. Previously, even on the Maschine line itself, there wasn’t a lot of consistency from model to model – Studio, Jam, Mikro, MKII, all seemed to introduce different ways of working. Now, Komplete Kontrol and Maschine share a lot of controls and layout directly. I expect that helped optimize production and cost – they certainly feel more premium without lifting the price. But more than that, your muscle memory and concepts can transfer between keyboard and Maschine. As a keyboardist who also likes the beat production workflow, I love this. And even if you only get one, it seems more thought has gone into the control layout.

One Maschine to rule them all. There’s only one Maschine Mk3. It seems Mikro and Studio are being relegated to the dust bin and … well, quite frankly, good.

S-Series still has the same options. 49- and 61-key synth action keyboards, or an 88-key hammer action, though only the first two appear to be available at launch.

Prices are the same. The new corresponding models have the same pricing as the old.
MASCHINE EUR 599, USD 599, JPY 72800, GBP 479, AUD 899
KOMPLETE KONTROL S49 EUR 599, USD 599, JPY 69800, GBP 479, AUD 899
KOMPLETE KONTROL S61 EUR 699, USD 699, JPY 79800, GBP 559, AUD 1049

No word on hackability yet. One final note. NI are quick to talk about their “open,” expanding ecosystem. But if it’s expanding, it’s still closed. Maschine Mk3 is one I’d really like to hack, as it seems an ideal general purpose controller, but there’s no word on that yet. That said:

Both pieces of kit work with other stuff, not just NI stuff. Apart from supporting NI’s own NKS format, which is used by a number of software and soundware makers, the Komplete Kontrol keyboard now fully supports VST plug-ins. It’s really just a matter of how hackable/accessible the displays and controls on these two devices are from other pieces of software.

There’s a new editor. Burying the lede for those of you who use MIDI extensively. The NI Controller Editor gets a badly needed replacement, which hopefully will address some of the quirks and limitations of the original. And you can do all the editing directly from Komplete Kontrol. Quick picture, but I’ll be looking at this:

For Maschine users and Komplete users, I already feel pretty confident these hit the mark. My main interest in testing will be how to really get to the bottom of Maschine workflows, how adaptable Komplete is if you have a mix of software (that may or may not support NKS), and how well these work with software like Ableton Live. And my deeper question is really to do with how hackable and flexible these controllers are in the long run outside of the particular one vendor ecosystem – because it’d be a shame if we invested in hardware but were restricted to one vendor’s ecosystem. We’ll do a review by the 19th, and answer some of those deeper questions in the marketplace at large hopefully over the coming weeks.

Also worth investigating, if a niche note, is how well this hardware supports people with different physical abilities; Komplete Kontrol’s product owner showed us that keyboard range as used by blind customers. (A screen reader announces parameters.)

For now, more information:

Maschine (MK3)

Komplete Kontrol S-Series (MK2)

NKS information, for more on the protocol by which other plug-in makers can take advantage of control features on the keyboard

  • Dubby Labby

    Now is time for Traktor 3.

    • God, yes. I know nothing of their plans there, though. No one’s breaking NDA. 😉

  • 😆😄

    So, I guess the Maschine software is still at v2.6.8? Does v3 come with this?

    • Yeah, no new software rev for now.

      • smutje

        An iOS Version perhaps? iPad Pro+Maschine MK3=Instabuy (because audio interface)

      • Dubby Labby

        The unfocus at screen makes me wonder if something is being hide. Since I’m not Maschine user I can’t recognize version :V
        https://youtu.be/eLPprRLdANI

    • Danny Valentino

      Of course it does. When you buy it and register it you then download the latest Maschine software version.

  • itchy

    well it looks like the new push im sure. hoping for a better ableton version.

    • I’ve used Push a lot – be sure I’ll do some detailed comparison.

      Push also looked a lot like Maschine. 😉 NI and Ableton have also seen migration of employees in both directions…

    • PaulDavisTheFirst

      how would you improve the push 2?

  • Reinier Rothuis

    What about a S25 MK2? Portable with nice screens and control, yes please!

    • Jonathan Almeida

      PLEASE. This would be the dream live setup ! JAM in the middle, maschine left, S25 Right

      • Reinier Rothuis

        I know right! For me it would be Push in the middle, 2 Traktor X1s on the left and s25 right! Goin into a xone 92 (or model1 🤤)

        • Toby

          Yes! I have the model 1, 2 Traktor D2’s and a Rytm. I’m thinking of getting rid of my Rytm and going for the Maschine MK3, a Jam or a Push 2. I’ve heard a little whisper that Maschine – once the new softwares released – the midi in and out will be able to sequence outboard gear. I don’t like the idea of the Jam not having velocity sensitive pads hence why I may go for the Push 2 instead.

  • deecodameeko

    No hardware upgrade option I’d imagine you still need to buy machine with software regardless of being a new or existing user…

  • Presteign

    With Reason support, Komplete Kontrol could quickly become a Nektar Panorama killer. The hackability question is definitely on my mind as well – even if NI doesn’t add first-party support for Reason (which I kind of doubt they will, even with the recent ability to use Komplete in Reason), I’d be *very* interested to see what the creator of RetouchControl might be able to do.

    • TJ

      Not with 9 rotary knobs imo.

  • Artemiy Pavlov

    Yeah sure okay but does it have a credit card slot so you can keep up with all Maschine expansions NI releases? 😛

  • Questions for everyone

    Does the built in audio interface mean we can use it standalone? How much ram memory and storage does a maschine have?

    • Presteign

      The new hardware has enough onboard processing power to drive two high-resolution displays, but definitely not enough to run Maschine itself.

      Now if NI were to port Maschine to iOS (the full app, not just iMaschine), that would be interesting, because it would bring Maschine much closer to a standalone solution – especially if you could use your phone as the brains of the setup.

      • Jason C

        I use maschine on a surface pro 2. Very compact setup

      • Dubby Labby

        the reason behind make it usb powered and class compliant could be a new maschine software with its iOS iMaschine updated counterpart (something like BM3) to take full adventage from mobile gigging and so.

        Hard to see of course but totally doable if they want (and pay the Apple mfi license).
        Time will show us.

  • Mario

    I love reading your articles Peter. You always seem to get the big picture and what this could mean to musicians. Anyways thanks.

  • AS

    I’m not sure I get the point of the I/O: at first I thought they were there to make Maschine working standalone, but since it can’t run that way why adding the feature to a product that is hooked to a computer anyway and with likely much better converters?
    Maybe it’s meant for live use only?

    • Dubby Labby

      Class compliant limitations.

      • Frank

        Uh ?

        • Dubby Labby

          https://developer.apple.com/library/content/technotes/tn2274/_index.html

          Teoretically you can add better soundcard (and i/o) to a class compliant devices but then you need to struggle with energy drain and since the new maschine is usb powered it adds extra compromise. NI made it audio class compliant for the first time (this mean iOS compatibility almost for the soundcard like z1).
          It could be also midi class compliant and doesn’t need dedicated driver to work (aka code that inside the app like z1 with traktor dj app) but it will require a low energy mode (like launchpads) and forget about screens…

    • Yermom

      This allows you to take a Maschine controller and a laptop and run it all off bus power on batteries. That’s a pretty big win, especially at the same price. Given the audio interface and size, I would much rather have this than my Maschine Studio which is much bigger and less portable.

  • pinta_vodki

    i just hope they keep supporting the good old Mikro in terms of software. It made a great job of squeezing all Maschine functions into an affordable package. Maschine hardware is pretty pricey for many, and Mikro remains a great budget(ish) option.

    • You can still use Mikro, yeah. I mean, there’s a limit to how much they can cram in there, but they’ve kept it compatible.

  • Olle Holmberg

    Been waiting since 2009 for time stretch

  • Danny Valentino

    I wonder why you said “It seems Mikro and Studio are being relegated to the dust bin and … well, quite frankly, good.” Why wouldn’t there be another newer version of the Micro and Studio in the same vain as the Maschine MK3?

    • Dubby Labby

      Mpc live/X models are the answer.

      • Danny Valentino

        I do quite like the MPC Live and X, but the MPC software is just eons behind Maschine. It’s been forever since they announced their 2.0 software, but as of this moment it hasn’t been released. The internal software of the MPC Live/X is 2.0,but the desktop version is stuck on 1.9.6. Meanwhile Maschine has been going from strength to strength with regular upgrades and improvements.

        And while the MPC line has the big advantage of being able to work in standalone mode as well as a controller it comes at a cost. The MPC Live is twice the price of the MK3. Matter of fact you could get Maschine Jam and MK3 together for less than the price of MPC Live, the cheapest new MPC hardware.

        • theinvis

          and after you got a maschine, maschine jam, and kk keyboard you still couldn’t record mutes and solos… Saying that the mpc software is eons behind Maschine software is only true if you’re looking from the wrong directions….. thats just crazy talk. You might wanna take a peek at an mpc manual and compare what the mpc sequencer and the maschine sequencer are capable of because it’s not even close. then compare maschines sequencer to all of the other even older mpc sequencers but first make sure there are no sharp objects around you when you do cause there’s no telling how you’ll react when you find out the truth.

          • Dubby Labby

            Different beasts. Akai come back to standalone from Reinnassence series it’s a bet. They still need to prove those machines are rock solid like olds (which were partly due third party dev aka jjOS) and keep updating them in right timming and long shot. None of them (NI/Akai/Push) are perfect but price changes, specs changes and hype work against Akai. NI almost keep the price with old model when they are delivering a step in the middle with the olds being even a studio model replacement.
            About sequencer, well Maschine could work as plugin inside the DAW of your choice and it has a huge nks library. Mpc can load vst on its own (standalown) so if you want to compare them (in price/specs) you should add the computer price to the equation which make those not so cheap/spec-wise or… standalone.
            Akai did a great upgrade, NI too.

            The funny side is I don’t use none since these aren’t full iOS compatible which I’m placed since more than a year ago. 😉

        • Dubby Labby

          Different beasts same niche. Money worth you should count maschine mk3 plus computer (usually a macbook) where you find NI placed between Mpc models. The old studio is too much (big and price) the old mikro too less (to compite with the MpcLive) so it’s coherent to ditch almost the mikro and try to sell this as studio/gigging one. It has the best of both and can be reliable from money POV against Akai proposal.
          Also Push2 is a competitor of NI/Akai so focus in what most users want seems legit as business brand.

          Don’t you think that? Tell me how do you see it, mate.

  • mercury

    Wonder if the Mk1 stand will work with this still? If not, are they releasing a new one?

  • Alan

    I hope they will continue supporting Komplete Kontrol S88 MK I… I just got one last month and I love it.

  • Frank

    In regards to Maschine MK3: Meh.
    NI tries to milk the cow further by borrowing from Push
    (touch strip), Akai (built in audio interface), Korg/nativeKontrol
    (Strum on Padkontrol x/y pad) and make a total unnecessary product. Really, who
    needs these high-res displays when you have to hook up the thing to a
    computer anyway ? For the same reason, who needs a built in audio
    interface that (besides only being 2×4) even doesn’t have phantom power ?
    Most users probably have a (better) interface already anyway.

    • Dubby Labby

      Phantom power has to deal with energy dry struggle I pointed in the other comment. Understanding the potential behind being class compliant and making it compatible with iPad pro (as example) could be a game changer (that most users were asking for. Just visit BM3 forum or Audiobus forum and search for BM3)
      Obviously most of these users could have better audio interfaces at home but will be very glad to have the all-in-one for live gigs since it makes it straight forward (no need for hubs) and if NI releases an updated iMaschine version with support for these screens then it will be instabuy for most iOS users.
      Now ask yourself about the market target between iPhones/iPads and macbooks (the most sold mac computer) and make your numbers as brand.

      Which group is bigger and which one is growing more?

      • Toby

        Also, which is more easily upgrade accessible for a user that tends to upgrade their iPad/iPhone every 2 years anyhow? I feel that given a year or 2 the MPC will be outdated big time. This is a smart move from NI if they do make this iPad compatible. And I sense the reason they have midi in/out is due to planned future software updates so it can sequence hardware. They noted this Maschine will strive for both live performance and studio.

        • Dubby Labby

          It could be but also mpcs could be updated (software). That’s one of the points of every side that both of them should to maintain. Any of them without long term strategy are dawned IMO.
          Let’s see what happens anyway…

      • Frank

        Why would you take the ipad with you on a live gig instead of a laptop when you have to carry the Maschine hardware with you anyway ? Also, i think the major target market are still the people that will use Maschine at home/ studio.

        • Dubby Labby

          The point is some of us haven’t a laptop or desktop anymore (or don’t want to risk 1000€ when we can use 450€ iPad or 250€ second hand iPhone) and that makes us don’t have a reason for Maschine (software included) so if NI makes it compatible (class compliant is the first step) then we could take in consideration buy one.
          Looking at Traktor as example of iOS app.. I can run DVS since iPad 1 (djplayer app) and some other brands are porting DVS into iOS. So for the “Beatmaking” BM3 has been released recently setting a milestone for iOS DAW and Intua plans are releasing later the desktop counterpart (oppossite strategy than regular players).

          Do you think the major target are still the people that use Maschine at home or studio? Ok…Then ask yourself why NI is ditching the Studio and mikro to only have just one. Maybe the target market has shifted and NI notice it meanwhile you don’t. Anyways I’m agree with that target was the major but not the biggest grow potential which is where “future” will be. Apple post-pc era forcing things like soldered ram and releasing expensive-as-f**k iMac/Macpro (with iPad pro as “the new computer”) is contributing to that shift. We can agree maybe these still can’t run macOS but BM3 is like desktop Maschine/Mpc software running on iPads (from mini2/air and above) so almost as proof of concept those apps talk about the “possibility” for that market. If NI makes mk3 compatible (and release a proper iMaschine update like they did with Traktor dj and S4/2 mk2 years ago) it can fuel sales, or almost get a target which actually is out of their scoop.

          They left Traktor Dj app abandoned (probably due to 30 pins to lightning evolution, mfi licensing program and iPad air release instead iPad pro which rumours pointed in that time) but now they are taking it back.
          In three days it will be one year from this post:
          https://www.native-instruments.com/forum/threads/ni-reaching-out-to-tdj-users.309099/

          Some improvements have been delivered like icloud sync and Ableton link. So maybe there is new life for NI iOS apps? iMaschine was also update in between but iOS competition is hard (Beathawk 2, iMPC pro, BM3…)
          Continuing with the argument they had the best dj app but they seem focus on desktop (D2, Stems…) but it failed (at sales and user adoption like Pioneer Djm2000 and probably like the new Rane 72… and my gut says me those were not so successful due “that market shift” (so called bedroom djs) so all of them needed to think twice about “Future of sound”. In my eyes NI seems trying to converge both worlds as Apple seems doing too meanwhil Pioneer/Akai seem focused on standalone hardware solutions (toRaiz/MPC).
          Middle step pseudo-standalone was proved by Akai with Reinnassence series and failed (being the Mpc fly the most similar to actual standalone proposal) needing to step back and release a standalone ones but probably due to computer stagnation (includding iOS with the Air-fake-pro iPad). Obviously Maschine users aren’t those who gone MPC route but some users seem start to consider the standalone route if you check the comments on few sites.
          NI seemed interested back in the day but Apple iPad air was dissapointing and each brand took a path. NI told in the past they are software based company (and x86 based) but if they consider new iPad pro (or directly iOS 11) a market target or not only they know.

          I left you two more links to feed my argument. These aren’t the truth per-se but maybe help you understand why some of us see mk3 a possible step in the right direction.

          http://cdm.link/2015/09/native-instruments-ceo-soundcloud-cto-talk-musics-direction/

          https://www.native-instruments.com/forum/threads/traktor-dj-ipad-versus-traktor-pro-win10-tablet.315729/

          Cheers.

          • Frank

            “some of us haven’t a laptop or desktop” yeah. Some of you. That’s not really something that would be a deciding factor for any company.

          • Dubby Labby

            Of course but few of us are more than most of you in total number sales (aka iPhone/iPad vs Macbook/iMacs).
            Can NI sold twice the same product? Who’s going to buy maschine studio now?
            Make this iOS compatible only allows more potential users. Keeping it closed to desktop only makes these potential users looks elsewhere.

            https://www.macstories.net/news/apple-q1-2017-results-billion-revenue-million-iphones-million-ipads-sold/

            IPad sales are near macs being iPhones the 70% of their revenue… I had a mac and sold it but I have two iPhones and one iPad since I’m near to esrly adopters than later adopters but look at numbers and answer me this question:

            Where is the market, dude?

            First find where are you to say “us” or “you”. Then (once again) make your numbers.

            Pd: check the NI link I posted. Even them were considering it in the past but didn’t make the jump due to Apple stagnation (and saying what you said but in 2015 before iPad pro born). Could be this time?
            I can use an old vestax pad one with Bm3 in my iPad, computer and even standalone hardware with midi din. Could you use a Maschine with anything else withou a computer?
            Not until now, now you can use the audio side almost… that’s what class compliant means. Open to wider standard to catch a bigger audience…

  • Foosnark

    I bet there are some annoyed Jam owners right now.

    I like the looks of the MK3 for sure, but the audio interface is not useful to me. It’s good for people with more limited needs, but I upgraded from a Komplete Audio 6 to a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 because I needed the inputs. Two, and without independent hardware level controls, certainly isn’t enough.

    If Windows could competently handle multiple audio interfaces, it’d still have some potential as an expansion. But it doesn’t, so… nope.

    Also having the monitoring level controls on the back, where they’re awkward to access, isn’t a choice I like.

    Apparently there’s no upgrade path/discount for MK2 owners? To me, nicer LCDs and some control improvements to an already excellent controller that I’m kind of underusing now, is just not worth $600.

    I loved Maschine when I first got it, but my musical style has evolved away from percussion parts and gone about 80% modular. On the surface it doesn’t make sense that I use Maschine as my DAW. But it’s tidy and simple and quick to use, and I kind of am reluctant to put in the time to figure out the confusing-looking interfaces of Reaper, Bitwig, etc. (which I’m sure would be just fine once if I got to know them).

    • Tekknovator

      For some reason, I have no pitty for people who always say: “If I had known that a new version comes out…” 1. The thing you purchased won’t do less, just because a new version exists. 2. That’s life and by not enjoying what you have you make your own life miserable. 3. Are you using what you have to the full potential? Propably not, so the new features of the revision wan’t matter at all, other then making you feel bad for their existence when in reality you do not miss out anything at all by just sticking with your initial purchase. My recommendation for gear happiness: Make an informed purchase decision, know why you want/need it, explore its deepest corner to the fullest potential. Gear Zen so to speak 😛

  • thundercat

    where is the updated software with real time time stretch, proper automation lanes/curves, song mode etc…??

  • Gavin Little

    Great article! Do you know if the push encoder on the Komplete Kontrol can act as a scroll/scrub in Logic Pro X?

  • AS

    Also, what does “DAW support” mean? Does it mean they have finally fixed the workflow issues that plagued Maschine up till now? That sounds more like a future software release thing though.

  • Janusz

    Hi Peter. When you will be doing review, please write how new black buttons feel, are they soft or hard, etc