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]