Native Instruments Announce Maschine MkII

Native Instruments, never ones to rest on their laurels, have just announced an update to the Maschine Line: Maschine MkII.

For some reason it feels like it’s been around forever, perhaps because when I first reviewed the original Maschine it wasn’t even on widespread release and over the years has seen updates turn it from a high concept but flawed piece of gear to a pretty dominant force in the world of the groovebox. Maschine MkI’s three and a bit year innings is coming to an end, though, and Maschine MkII is ready to step in place for $599 on the 1st of October from Native Instruments, along with a new version of Maschine Mikro too!

First off, Jeremy Ellis shows us how it’s done:

Maschine MkII – What’s New?

So what’s new? Let’s go into bullet point mode for a second.

  • Multicoloured pad, group, and transport backlighting
  • New light on dark high contrast screens
  • Revised knobs with larger main encoder
  • Revised buttons – buttons now ‘click’ like NI’s DJ line buttons
  • Integrated pitch shift and timestretch
  • New effects – Transient Master, Tape and Tube Saturation
  • Full version of Massive, NI’s power synth
  • Host transport integration
  • Workflow improvements
  • Customisation kits

So, what do we think? Obviously, it’s going to be a heck of a lot easier to tell you conclusively what we think about Maschine MkII and Maschine Mikro MkII when we have our hands on them, but that’s not going to stop me from waxing lyrical right now.

Pads

Firstly and most conspicuously, the pads are now multicoloured. If I’m completely honest, I prefer the flat, soft grey of MPC pads from an aesthetic perspective, but the advantages of backlighting are just too much to ignore. Off/dim/bright provides a decent amount of visual feedback, and other gear that’s gone multicolour has blown its predecessor out of the water when it comes to workflow – so Maschine getting multicoloured pads can only be a good thing.

Buttons

Changing the buttons to the clicky versions found on other NI gear was inevitable, and definitely welcome. It’s just that much nicer to have your touch reinforced by the click, and tows the line perfectly between a soft press button ala the current Maschine and the hard plastic that might not translate so well to controller remapping and so on. Multicolour groups is a nice touch, and similarly multicoloured transport just gives things a bit of pizazz. 

Effects and Synth

A few new effects are nice, but bundling Massive is a smart move from Native Instruments; Maschine has long lacked a synth and Massive is perhaps the most famous soft synth of the past five years. My only worry is that editing Massive is going to require a jump over to the keyboard and mouse simply down to the sheer amount of controls on it, but in general tweaking presets’ macro controls is likely to be enough for users who really want to stick just to Maschine MkII and its pad interface… and really it’s probably better to have a synth with masses of depth than a basic one just for the sake of not being able to completely map it to a layer or two of the Maschine controller windows.

Integration and Forward Thinking

It’s somewhat interesting to see Native Instruments completely happy to stick with Maschine being a groovebox and further improving its integration with third party DAW hosts. I almost expected there to be some kind of linear sequencing rearing its head in the next big Maschine update, certainly to facilitate audio tracks. Then again, if Maschine MkII isn’t running a landmark v2.0 of the Maschine software but sticks to 1.x on its release, who knows what Native Instruments have up their sleeve for the future months? Nonetheless, time stretching is a move in the right direction, and host transport rather than just the existing transport sync will make integration smoother.

Customisation Kits

This is quite a nice touch. The custom Maschines that have been making their way out of Native Instruments themselves (the Artist Series, for instance) inspired plenty of third party options, and Maschine MkII is going to support multicolour faceplates – magnetically attached – and a riser to angle Maschine MkII towards you a little more. Great for those of you that like to personalise your gear but don’t like the cheap feeling of stickers.

What About the Competition?

So with Maschine MkII about to be released, where does this leave the competition? Of course, Akai’s MPC series is the big competition to Maschine MkII, and specifically the MPC Studio and MPC Renaissance. From what we know the MPC Renaissance and Studios’ releases are imminent too, so we should have a real showdown on our hands in a month or two’s time, assuming Akai haven’t had a major schedule slip behind the scenes.

Maschine’s true multicolour pads could be more dynamic than the Akai ones, which I think use seven colour RGB messages as opposed to NI’s nifty HSB shift. Don’t quote us on this though. Native Instruments definitely needed to bring onboard timestretching to the firefight, as Akai’s collaboration with Izotope means this is likely to be a strong area for the new generation MPCs. One area that Native Instruments should really shine is software. It’s mature, features tons of effects, and now includes a synth – it took NI quite a while to polish Maschine to the sleekness it’s at now, so it’ll be really interesting to see how Akai step up to the plate.

It’s important not to forget that Maschine MkII and Maschine Mikro MkII are positioned slightly above and slightly below the Akai MPC Studio in terms of hardware featureset – and Akai has the MPC Renaissance waaaay above them all with integrated audio interface and lots of heft. How this will pan out is anyone’s guess; as I’ve said before, this is going to be a compelling match up…

Let us know your thoughts below – upgrading? Buying for the first time? Trading Native Instruments for Akai or vice versa?

  • VHS

    Pretty interesting, news. The updates to the hardware seem minor but still fairly useful.

    I’ve had a love and hate relationship with Maschine since early on. Well, hate isn’t the word for it, it was more like being “unenthused” about it at times. Initially I purchased a Maschine only later to go back to Live feeling that I was able to complete more ideas with more potency using just Live. I used it for a while as a glorified pad controller with Live and Logic because I love those pads, comparable closest to the oft forgotten Korg Padkontrol, but felt it was overkill and sold it off to an associate. A bunch of inferior controllers later and I eventually went back to Maschine, this time a Mikro. In the interim I’d been keeping up with the software updates via the Maschine that was now owned by my associate. With the Mikro however, I missed a lot of the dedicated knobs of the bigger Maschine.

    Then came the Akai announcement. I was looking at the Studio instead of the Renaissance since I already have a full featured interface that I love the sound of. I’ve all but lost interests in the Akai line-up at this point however, after waiting since Jan of this year for real news and progress. This is further compounded by the fact that NI is an innovative company that seems on the mark with updates, user feedback and progress. I think Akai just lost my money, especially if NI provides some kind of incentive for owners of Komplete, current Maschine owners or such. I wish they would offer an option to buy just the larger Maschine mkII controller for current Maschine owners. Previously, they’ve offered the option to just buy the controller to Maschine owners but the pricing was absurd and we were better off just buying a new controller. I’ve gone on a tangent a bit but you get the idea.

    Akai will have to be a bit more aggressive in it’s delivery and development to compete for my money. I used hardware MPC at one point and moved to Maschine and for now will stick with NI unless Akai does something wonderful.

    • http://www.ohdratdigital.com Chris

      Nice reply VHS! Having played with some early versions of the MPCs I definitely caught the MPC bug again, but I think it’ll take a sit down with the finished versions of each to really see what works as Maschine is very sleek nowadays. Even down to the hardware controls things are so wildly different that I can’t figure out in my imagination which controller will present me with a smoother workflow opportunity!

      • VHS

        So it seems the MPC Renaissance is shipping now and a few early adopters have gotten their hands on them. A third-party video showing some of the software features has surfaced on YouTube.

        I’m not sure what your plans are, Chris but if you review one, please provide some depth to the review. So far, what I’m seeing are very basic features paired with a very nice controller. I’m not sure that such a juxtaposition is worth the price of admission for someone like me when I can get a controller in Maschine that does nearly the same things and supplement it with far more advanced features with something like Live, Logic, Reaper, et al. Most of the aforementioned can even be had in combination with Maschine for less than the MPC Renaissance itself, making it look relatively expensive even if it’s not literally. Of equal importance, to me, is also how well it’s editor works for using it as a control surface for other software, which has yet to be seen. The Maschine does this fine.

        That said, my feelings haven’t jittered. I will most likely be sticking with Maschine and my DAWs but hope to see a real review in the vein of Oh Drat’s previous. As always, I will leave room to be convinced by Akai.

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