Maschine’s greatest achievement has been dragging staunch hardware users away from their MPCs and towards computer based production. It’s been a real investment for early adopters, as two major updates since the original release have seen Maschine grow from a great idea with slightly flawed implementation into a tour de force of production potential – and all for free. 1.6 continues this tradition, and brings some radical additions to Maschine’s workflow, perhaps most notably audio plugin support and full 64 bit support. Have Native Instruments succeeded in giving Maschine all the tools it needs to compete with a DAW, or are they over egging the pudding and taking the focus off its core features?
A long requested feature by Maschine users is plugin support, and the 1.6 update finally implements both instrument and effects plugins in VST/AU format. Rather than simply shoehorning the capability in, however, there are a variety of workflow tweaks and additions to maximise both the advantages that plugin support brings and the ease of use of plugins within a project.
In 1.6, rather than each pad having a source select and two effects slots each pad is comprised of four modules, one of which one can be an input source and the other three effects – or all four effects, should you wish. You can route groups and sounds to each other through the module chain, too; you could dedicate a group to being an effects bus and load in effects chains into each of the 16 pads, then send sounds or groups to the chains in those groups via an aux channel. This is a very powerful but at the same time very simple system, made even more powerful now that Maschine’s outputs have been doubled to 16.
Actual handling of plugins is implemented really effectively. Maschine will attempt to map plugin parameters in a sensible way, but if, by the plugin’s design, automatic mapping doesn’t do such a great job, learning is built into Maschine and is as simple as switching learn mode on, fiddling with the control in Maschine and then the plugin. These mappings can be saved, so you can create different presets to load for different uses, and your favourite can be saved as the default that will load whenever you load that plugin – a godsend when a plugin developer has assigned their plugin’s CC messages alphabetically, for instance.
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