Blog: Native Instruments Maschine 2.0 Software Hands On

Adam McLellan posts his thoughts      02/01/14
Blog: Native Instruments Maschine 2.0 Software Hands On

Adam McLellan Writes: Hands on with Native Instruments Maschine 2.0 -

A couple months back Native Instruments released the 2.0 version of their Maschine software. As an owner of a Maschine Mikro Mk1 I was quick to upgrade. Kudos to Native Instruments for making this upgrade available to owners of old hardware rather than forcing them through a costly hardware upgrade path. I'm impressed that they've been able to maintain software compatibility across all of the various hardware incarnations of Maschine, complete with hardware-specific documentation.

While I was initially disappointed that it wasn't a free upgrade, after seeing the amount that was bundled with it--"Prism" (a Reaktor-based additive synth), "Scarbee Mark 1" (a Kontakt-based electric piano), Massive, Solid Bus Compressor, new drum synthesizers, a $25 voucher for the NI store--it was pretty clear it was well worth the $100 (Massive alone is $200!)

While I won't go into all the details of everything that's new in 2.0, I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight my likes and dislikes with the new software and hardware integration experience. Again this is all specific to my experience with the Mikro Mk1. Undoubtedly the features of the full Maschine, and the new Studio version, will vary in terms of some of the hardware integration points.

What I like:

Maschine Mixer

Multi-core support: a very welcomed addition, as it was all too easy to hit the limitation of single-core architecture of the 1.x software.

The mixer: another very welcomed addition is the fully functional mixer, complete with the ability to select multiple tracks and adjust levels in one go (perfect for level-setting when building a kit).

Hardware navigation: NI has completely revamped the way you navigate via the hardware. It's much more seamless and intuitive, and while the single encoder of the Mkro is still quite restrictive, you can now navigate to pretty much any parameter with just a few button presses and/or twists of the encoder.

Drum synth

Drum synths: these are great! You can quickly build very dynamic kits which respond to macro controls for things like tone/color, pitch, decay, etc. Very analog-esque.

Cueing: While I haven't had a need to use this yet it was on my wishlist of live performance features, and from my quick play around it seems like a decent implementation.

Step sequencer improvements: in 1.x it was only possible to specify 2 velocity levels for the step sequencer (regular and accent). You can now specify any velocity value, or have the step sequencer respond to pad velocity--something which wasn't possible before (or at least not on Mikro Mk1).

What's lacking:

Proper "aux sends": as with Maschine 1.x, 2.0's implementation of aux sends is also very clunky and involves repurposing of pads as hosts for audio effects. In other words, you need to give up a a pad for every aux send. To make things even more confusing, the pads light up on the hardware, as if there's a sound associated to them.

You can reduce some of the confusion by dedicating an entire group for aux sends, but it's all very kludgey and strikes me as odd--one would think the addition of a mixer would be the perfect opportunity to create dedicated aux tracks.

Arrangement functionality: while NI has made some improvements in this regard, it still doesn't feel as natural or intuitive as it does with other DAWs. Building up a few scenes is easy enough, but trying to lay out a 6 minute track would be very tedious in my opinion (my patience wore thin just trying to arrange a 2-3 minute sketch)

Timeline/arrangement automation: as far as I can tell this is completely lacking and the only way it can be done is by using Maschine as a plug-in in a DAW and creating macros for anything you wanted to automate from the DAW--all the more reason to arrange in your DAW instead of in Maschine, I suppose.

On that note, dragging & dropping of MIDI patterns is nowhere near as smooth as it was in 1.x. By default, MIDI clips are exported as 16 channels of MIDI data. As you can imagine, if you're trying to trigger more than one group from your DAW this simply doesn't work.

In contrast, 1.x offered a very simple "wizard" approach, asking how you wanted to export your MIDI. As far as I can tell there is no equivalent in 2.0, and instead you need to go through a convoluted workflow that involves mapping the "transposition" of every sound in a group under its MIDI output page (yes, output, not input).

Macro mapping: I would like to see the use of contextual menus to map macros more quickly from within the software (i.e. right-click, "Map to Macro 1"), as in the 1.x software. Instead, you now have to pick from drop-downs, which I feel is a step backwards.

Pad reassignment: another feature absent from the 1.x software is the ability to rearrange pads within the UI by dragging & dropping. Now it seems you can only copy, paste or reset a pad. If you have a full group this makes impossible to rearrange pads without first resetting one.

Some stability issues: I've noticed a few quirks, for example, pads illuminating when they shouldn't be. As 2.0 is still fairly young this is somewhat expected, but I question whether this is a result of NI spending less time testing the Mk1 integration and focusing more so on newer hardware.

Conclusion: Despite all the knocks against it, I feel this is a big step in the right direction for the Maschine franchise and I give it my "Snug stamp of approval". Even if you toss the DAW portion in the garbage you're still getting several hundred dollars worth of quality plug-ins, the majority of which also run as VSTs. And seeing as the software is only at version 2.0.5, I would expect to see many improvements in the months to come.


Adam McLellan, AKA Snug, is a DJ and producer based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Since a young age he's been fascinated by the intersection of art and technology. When he's not producing or performing he's sharing his knowledge and ideas through teaching, writing for his personal blog (


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14 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
GTRman    Said...

NI will never get it right the first time because they want you (the consumer) to pay over and over again for updates. I have just about dropped every NI software package I have ever purchased because I got tired of keeping up with their costly updates. Now Maschine 2.0 only works with Mac OS 10.7 or higher. This update would cause me to upgrade both my OS and computer because it does not support OS 10.7. It never stops. Hardware samplers are the way to go because they never need updating and work exactly the same year after year. With hardware you pay once, with software you pay over and over again. I think hardware is much cheaper in the long run.

02-Jan-14 11:19 AM

axiom    Said...

i agree with GTRman all other can run their software with osx 10.6.8 ( ableton,arturia) only NI can't I have to buy a new mac and all my software new .That only maschine 2.0 working on my system . They would sell much more if Ni accept that there are more people outside working with maschine whitch are not siting in hi end studios with allways runing the latest mac computers

02-Jan-14 01:09 PM

Live user    Said...

Don't see why they can't make the thing a fully fledged DAW instead of just a fancy sketch machine...I mean, it's using the computer's cpu right?

02-Jan-14 04:17 PM

codec    Said...

GTRman has never really written a very helpful or insightful comment. Updating software to entirely new versions is an option. It's something that you don't need to do, and don't be surprised that it has different/higher demands than previous versions. You can't just update a Stratocaster to a Gibson. You can't update a Nord lead v1 to a v2 and so on.

Maybe you're new to computers, but it's been this way for for over 30 years now buddy. Your previous software is not obsolete. I still use Komplete 6, and see no reason to update. It's like the people who furiously complained about Apple abandoning the floppy disk. Be more frustrated when they abandon a product like the Pro-52.

02-Jan-14 05:41 PM

GTRman    Said...

And codec thinks his comment has what (do you mean insight). And what happens when you do get a new computer and your old software will not work with the new computer unless you upgrade? Software instrument have a self life where hardware synths become classic and are well sought after instruments. That is the big difference and why I have a shelf full of NI software that need updating to run on my new computer. I got tired of paying for every update so all these soft synths sit unused. In the meantime my 20 year old Roland JD800 keeps on making music for me.

02-Jan-14 07:11 PM

axiom    Said...

in komplete 6 is old stuff reaktor massive fm8 kontakt its the same as in 9 and in some weeks in 10 all runs with an old osx you dont need to update its allways the same basic software but maschine 2.0 has some very importent new feat. e.g (midi) i dont wont to buy all 5-6 years a new mac only to update ni other companies get their new products work with snowlep ( ableton moog ) only ni cant do it and thats :(

02-Jan-14 11:43 PM

axiom    Said...

in komplete 6 is old stuff reaktor massive fm8 kontakt its the same as in 9 and in some weeks in 10 all runs with an old osx you dont need to update its allways the same basic software but maschine 2.0 has some very importent new feat. e.g (midi) i dont wont to buy all 5-6 years a new mac only to update ni other companies get their new products work with snowlep ( ableton moog ) only ni cant do it and thats :(

02-Jan-14 11:44 PM

axiom    Said...

in komplete 6 is old stuff reaktor massive fm8 kontakt its the same as in 9 and in some weeks in 10 all runs with an old osx you dont need to update its allways the same basic software but maschine 2.0 has some very importent new feat. e.g (midi) i dont wont to buy all 5-6 years a new mac only to update ni other companies get their new products work with snowlep ( ableton moog ) only ni cant do it and thats :(

02-Jan-14 11:45 PM

stab 473    Said...

yeah axiom you are the man ! you're absolutely right my friend

05-Jan-14 11:38 AM

brian from usa    Said...

I'm with gtrman, I have been very disappointed with NI support. They refused to answer a question I had about an Absynth problem because I was running a newer OS (!!!). The way they dropped Kore support was an insult to everyone who had invested in the hardware and sound libraries. I'm done with NI.

05-Jan-14 12:49 PM

samy d    Said...

and if you buy a new mac you get from apple the latest osx version 10.9 and maschine 2.0 needs to run 10.7 or 10.8 lol

05-Jan-14 03:58 PM

codec    Said...

I definitely think NI has some serious customer support issues, and they make some really foolish design choices. My response to GTRman is about this foolhearty "upgrade-itis" that accompanies an expectation that everything must work with everything else. Sorry, but it's not a practical expectation. Maybe he meant "shelf life" instead of "self life". It's not rational to compare software and hardware. Before I became a creative professional I managed a pro-audio store, and occasionally had to deal with people like this (he's probably just trolling, on here a lot). You don't get updates from Roland on the JD800 (seriously? that one? Blah!), and good luck getting the proper ic's if it needs fixing. GTRman is behaving like a teenager who just expects everything to magically work. Does your JD800 have an upgradable sound engine, the ability to run multiple instances, high-resolution DAW integration, etc... Fucking no it doesn't. I suggest you consider your needs and compatibility before doing any manic upgrading, and to consider if you even need it. Good luck trying to upgrade software on an Amiga, or any other older computer. I'm running Komplete 6 on Mountain Lion just fine. I know professionals using even older versions of programs and OS's because they don't need to upgrade from what works. Try acting like a professional and see how that works out. FOCUS ON THE MUSIC.

09-Jan-14 08:55 PM

GTRman    Said...

Codec, you really need to talk to your Mommy about etiquette training. This is a comment page not a place to air out you frustrations. If you don't like my comments don't read them but keep you derogatory comments and foul language you aim at me to yourself. You age is showing.

10-Jan-14 08:14 AM

Paul    Said...

rofl you guys crack me up.

This is just a simple opinion...I won't pretend it's the gospel:

I work on/with computers for a living, remember when the GUI started cropping up, all that.

What people have never understood is if a new product/update comes out it does not BREAK your old setup. it's a choice. If you're serious about what you do then you have a dedicated machine that does that, and only that. If you would LIKE updates you may have to consider what that entails, but in a professional environment it may mean massive overhauls that aren't worth it.

people should probably just learn to use your current setup in a more creative fashion in general, not saying anything disparaging, just that we have so many plugins and hardware available to manipulate audio there's no real limitation.

bought a Les Paul w/ EMG 81/85 active pickups, thought it sounded a tad muddy. changed strings, did a 18v battery mod, exact sound I wanted. I didn't buy a whole new guitar or massive EQ to find out ; p just did some cheap tweaks, no solder involved. (did blow up one pickup though, reverse polarity oops, almost 100 for a new one of the exact same so...consider your studio before you experiment with fancy new stuff, does it still let you make music is the big question? are old projects compatible? how about old plugins? use a test environment first, or let others find out for you.)

I have a strat for when I want a strat sound, and a les paul for when I want a les paul sound. I don't intend to modify anymore because each does what I like. The only reason I see to get Maschine 2.0 is multi-core support and maybe better MIDI features. I certainly will make sure I can roll back easily before implementing it. Image your computer.

to mention: if you need to update software to run on newer computers, you should consider downgrading the OS to a compatible version, or use an older computer. It should be dedicated, otherwise it won't be stable anyway. Windows 7 didn't start running slower because Windows 8 appeared ; p

::system req. checklist ftw::

04-Mar-14 02:00 PM

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