Photo (CC) our friends over at Synthtopia.

I was one of the first people outside Native Instruments to lay eyes on Maschine, and immediately I saw something with real potential. Here was a software drum machine that was different: it was a real attempt to fuse some of the advantages of a software interface with some of the working methods of hardware. Software and hardware had really grown up together, instead of the latter simply being fitted to the former. And, of course, it had NI-style effects and UI look-and-feel, for fans of the software house’s style.

But 1.0 releases are a funny thing. As someone who spends a bit of my life developing tools, you always wind up with a choice of delaying the release, implementing something partway, or choosing not to implement it so it can be done properly later. And Maschine 1.0 lacked for me the one thing that was really essential to workflow – proper MIDI input and output support. Without that, I felt it was difficult to even give it a fair test. You’d wind up getting hung up on what was missing.

Well, good news: Maschine 1.1 gets all the little features I feel are essential to making it a viable and valuable part of the production workflow. It’s in public beta now, and I’m giving it a proper test. But here are the current changes in the present build, which includes all of the major items on my must-have list:

MIDI Out Mode for sounds
MIDI In for sounds and groups
Drag-and-Drop audio export for scenes and patterns in host
Record and trigger scenes switches via MIDI notes in host
Scene retrigger option in plugin mode
Loading groups without patterns
Additional slicing sizes (1/8th etc.)
REX file import
Scene naming
Adjustable metronome volume
Record Count-In option
Quick adjustment of group and sound volumes on controller

MIDI capabilities mean, for instance, you can throw Maschine into your host of choice (including the popular Ableton Live) and make really use of it. And you can drag and drop audio with the host, as well. The ability to have more slicing sizes is absolutely fundamental, as well.

Stay tuned, as this is just a first look at what’s in the beta. [Public beta signup]

The usual disclaimers apply: you need Maschine 1.0.3, backup projects made with 1.0.3 before opening in the beta, once you save a project with the beta, it can’t be opened in earlier releases (though it sounds like it can be opened in the final 1.1.0), and don’t expect technical support – expect to fill out bug reports! That’s what makes it a beta!

Also on the NI front, there are some excellent new Ableton Live templates for the KORE controller – yes, KORE, not Maschine – recently added to the KORE build, so I hope to cover that, as well. What I want is a Native Instruments Timepak(R). Add it to your existing KOMPLETE(R) or KORE(TM) setup, and instantly have more time for sound programming and less need for sleep – aka SCHLAFEN(TM) and – what I often get – SCHLAFEN LE.