Is Maschine becoming a DAW? 1.6 Update – VST/AU Plug-in Support!

The next version of Native Instruments Maschine 1.6 will allow to host VST/AU instruments and Effects along with samples. This will be a game changer and increase the serious production potential of this already very powerful programming tool many fold. Most people have been using Maschine as a plug-in in their DAW so far they might consider working more in standalone in the future, using Maschine also as plug-in host. This will further improve the workflow significantly, while adding better transport and key shortcuts. Consider having 8 racks with 16 synths or samplers!

Some of the new possibilities and benefits that come to mind here are:

  • Using synthesizers for sound design along with samples, a combination known for Ableton Drumracks and something that previously could only be done via a DAW. Layering samples with synth sounds has long been one of the main sound design and production tools in electronic music.
  • Additional Effects and Signal processing tools which could make it possible to produce a finished Mix just with Maschine (standalone) while using the best plug-ins available for mixing and mastering.
  • Hands-on loop based automation of plug-ins becoming a breeze depending on how this will be implemented. I think it might at least happen via the macro controls and it remains to be seen how easily controls could be mapped to knobs without tedious routing and mousing. The autowrite and erase function is by far the easiest way to program automation I’ve seen so far.
  • Step sequencing of any of your plug-in controls just by pressing a pad and turning a knob. This technique is here to stay and makes selecting/editing with the mouse and the computer keyboard feel somewhat awkward now.
  • The Controller Editor could start to play a more prominent role here when it comes to mapping plug-ins to the Maschine knobs and buttons as it looks now the basic lay out to facilitate this is already in place.
  • Beyond the plug-in support there might be a number of other important additions in the works and the Maschine Forum is abuzz with plenty of requests and creative ideas.

Here is my opinion of what could also be in the works for the 1.6 version:

  • Native Instruments might add some kind of a time stretch feature..stretching sounds for granular effects or just synced beat matching. A very popular request and most likely to happen. But then again i could also add Kontakt to the mix and have various high quality time modes..however by abandoning somewhat the simple mouse free ways of Maschine.  On the positive Kontakt (which originally revolutionized sampler based time stretching) is such a well developed instrument for sample based sound design, that it will be hardly outdone by any other platform in the near future. Also being able to use Kontakt format opens up a universe of content by NI and 3rd party developers.
  • So far we have enjoyed mostly the MIDI programming and performance potential of Maschine but NI has ultimately more in mind and will eventually also step on DAW- territory while keeping its cutting edge live midi control as a special distinction. The addition of the VST/AU plug-ins will be a most elegant first step to turn Maschine from a plug in into a host. How easy and smooth that will be remains to be seen, but considering the release is still some time off we all might want to get more powerful computers by then anyway.
  • I also could imagine some kind of a song mode to be added that would allow for scenes to be rearranged easier or automation to be overdubbed as part of a project track. Midi editing could easily be improved. I think the software still has room to grow.

I will keep you informed here on some of the new features as they come over the NI horizon. I had the opportunity to meet the makers and hope for some additional goodies.

Meanwhile, expect a public beta to be available by January, and have fun playing and practicing your Maschine!

Heinrich Zwahlen is an Ableton Certified Dubspot instructor and sound designer currently teaching sound design and synthesis. Zwahlen is a Swiss-born, NYC-based producer who has worked with an eclectic set of DJs and producers from hip-hop to house.

Brainfeeder artist/producer Lorn along with Native Instruments specialist Josh Fielstra hosted a Maschine workshop at Dubspot. Lorn talks about the creative process for his album, performing live with Maschine, using Reaktor to produce and getting signed to Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label.

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I can’t wait

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[...] Native Instruments‘ Maschine is fast becoming the weapon of choice for producers worldwide due to it’s fast workflow and physical interface that brings instant musical gratification to computer-based music production. Maschine combines the strengths of a DAW with the flexibility of MPC-style sequencing and the massive sound library that Native Instruments has been developing since the company’s inception in 1996. NI introduced a massive upgrade to the platform this spring with the release of Maschine 1.6 – an update that added more sounds and functionality for producers. [...]