Choosing a computer for production generally means choosing flexibility, the ability to more effortlessly combine lots of sound sources and techniques. So it makes sense that, given that Native Instruments’ Maschine promises to bring computer-style flexibility to hardware-style groove box and drum machine workflows, it should behave like computer software. And that has meant many Maschine enthusiasts have asked for plug-in hosting. It doesn’t make Maschine a generalized “DAW” production tool, but it could mean, for people who like the drum machine style of working, the ability to mix and match sound sources as you can in a DAW.

With a beta scheduled for 2011, and a final release early in the year, Maschine users should get that wish. Version 1.6, Native Instruments recently revealed on their forums, will add VST and Audio Unit plug-in hosting, both as effects and sources.

Thomas at NI wrote up the news last week (whilst I was still busy working on this redesign):

So, according to popular demand, the upcoming 1.6 version will allow you to use VST and AU plugins as sound sources and effects in your Maschine project. This includes both the whole NI range of instruments and effects as well as any third-party plugin.

Check the screenshot for an idea of how this will look like. Instrument plugins can be used in any sound channel, and effect plugins can be inserted on both the sound and group channels as well as on the master.

Obviously the addition of plugin hosting requires quite a bit of development and testing…

1.6 won’t just include plug-in hosting, but this could be a big breakthrough both for Maschine addicts and, on the other hand, people who were waiting on Maschine to add such a feature. Forum post:

Coming up: Free Maschine update with VST/AU plugin hosting [NI User Forum]

I think in a way it’s unfortunate that music tech news cycles are the way they are; usually there’s a lot of attention and focus and “exclusive” cover stories and special issues in newsstand glossies right when a tool is new. But it often takes months and years for the tool to mature, and for users to really sink into productive workflows – indeed, that’s the sign of a deep tool. So I’m happy to give Maschine more attention in 2011. If you’re a user, let us know how you’re using Maschine now, and if this change is relevant to you.