There are those things in music making that are just pure joy. There’s finding a particularly nice groove or pattern, or getting that really juicy synth or effect parameter to morph just so. And there’s getting to use all those toys and external gear you really love.
So, while Maschine 2.6 is just a “point” release, I think it works out being one of the most welcome updates to come to Maschine’s loyal audience of groove makers yet. It gets at both these points. First, it inherits all the clever stuff added to Maschine Jam for adding variations and randomization and live improvisation. But now that works on any hardware, so if you prefer your 4×4 velocity-sensitive pads and don’t feel motivated to buy that new Jam grid hardware, you don’t have to. Second, it adds MIDI CC support for external gear – ’bout time – plus a whole bunch of external gear support right out of the box.
MIDI CC support is very, very cool. When I wrote about Akai’s standalone MPC introduction, a lot of you replied that what you most liked about Maschine was actually its computer integration. Many, many readers like a software drum machine precisely because it lives on a computer, inside your DAW, with all of your plug-ins.
Now, Maschine starts to look just as appealing for its support for external gear. Being able to send MIDI Control Change messages for manipulating parameters on external gear is overdue. But Native Instruments have given us a nice present by including pre-mapped parameters.
Of course, a lot of the appeal of external gear is being able to reach out and grab a knob or fader directly. But with MIDI CC presets included, you can also draw in or automate parameters, by name. (So you get “filter cutoff,” for instance, instead of “uh, what’s that MIDI CC number again where’s the MIDI implementation chart ugh?”)
And wow, NI have put in all our favorite stuff – including CDM’s very own MeeBlip triode and anode synths. Here’s the complete list (cue elevator music and a slow infomercial crawl animation):
Elektron Analog Heat
Jomox MBase 01
Jomox MBase 11
Jomox X-Base 09
Korg Volca Bass
Korg Volca FM
Korg Volca Kick
Korg Volca Beats
Korg Volca Sample
MFB Tanzbär Lite
Moog Little Phatty
Nord Lead 2
Novation Circuit Session
Novation Circuit Synth
Novation Circuit Drums
Waldorf Pulse 2
Waldorf Pulse Plus
It’s really lovely to see some more obscure boutique stuff among the big three Japanese brands, no?
And that means all of this hardware now behaves in your system as if it’s software, complete with parameter storage and recall and morphing. So this makes Maschine a really powerful hub for live performance, because it can be a home to all the presets for a string of different songs – and that’s a reason to take that computer onstage.
The other features in 2.6 standardize a bunch of features across the whole product range – so features exclusive to Maschine Jam now work with all previously released Maschine hardware, and visa versa.
Maschine Jam features now everywhere else
Maschine Jam brought a lot of subtle but really powerful functionality for composition and improvisation. Now these work with Maschine MK1 and MK2, Maschine Studio, and Maschine mikro MK1 and MK2.
Humanize and Randomize. The so-called “Variation Engine” now lets you automatically add more variety to percussion and melodic patterns programmatically – yeah, in case you aren’t really good enough at finger drumming, for instance.
Lock and morph. “Lock” is an even more interesting feature. You can store snapshots of parameters and then recall them, or morph between them over a number of beats or bars. If you’re thinking this could be really cool when combined with all the MIDI CC stuff above — yeah, absolutely.
Maschine features now available in Jam
Step support for notes, parameters. Maschine Jam is cool, but it was missing some significant functionality available when using other Maschine hardware. The step sequencer now has support for all note parameters (pitch, velocity, length, swing, and position), plus parameter access on each step (for plug-ins and other sound sources).
Fixed velocities. You can now set velocities on an individual step using one of 16 fixed levels on a grid – especially handy on Jam since it lacks velocity-sensitive pads.
Also, one subtle improvement for everyone: when you change scale, that setting will also be used for the next group.
Maschine 2.6 is a free update for existing users; you’ll get it in Native Access now.