Native Instruments’ Maschine beat-production platform has gone standalone, with the launch of a new flagship hardware device that lets you create music sans computer.
As behoves a top-of-the-range product, the new Maschine+ is built into a substantial anodised aluminium case, has a locking PSU connector, and features metal encoders throughout (including the ‘joystick’ controller that will be familiar to users of previous Maschines and NI’s Komplete Kontrol series). Audio connectivity comprises a stereo line-out pair, a headphone jack, stereo line inputs and a high-sensitivity microphone input — meaning you can sample straight into the device rather than having to work only with pre-existing audio files (though you can do that too, of course).
The Maschine+ achieves its ‘standalone’ status by essentially being its own computer. It’s powered by a 1.6GHz Intel Atom CPU, boasts 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and runs a customised, embedded version of the Linux OS. As well as allowing it to run a wide range of NI’s acclaimed software instruments (more below), the embedded system includes WiFi connectivity, and offers some eyebrow-raising potential for expansion…
Round the back of the Maschine+ are two USB A-type ports, and these let you connect pretty much any class-compliant device — including QWERTY keyboards for faster file naming, and MIDI devices, for use with controller keyboards and external synths. You can even use them to connect with a variety of NI’s own audio interfaces (at present, the KA1, KA2 and KA6 MkII are compatible), allowing you to take full advantage of the extra I/O by sampling through the interface’s instrument or mic input, and assigning the Maschine+’s instruments to multiple outputs.
Included with Maschine+ is an impressive array of sounds: the Maschine Factory Library is joined by FM8, Massive, Monark, Retro Machines and Prism, and even Kontakt (albeit with a pared-down sample selection aimed at beat producers). Reaktor makes an appearance too, and you can apparently open pretty much any Reaktor preset on the Maschine+, provided it uses only stock modules. (NI tell us it is possible to create custom Reaktor instruments and open them in Maschine+, but that you’d need a full Reaktor licence, and that it involves some care with saving and naming your files.) Effects abound too, of course, and include the Raum reverb and Phasis effect series.
A comprehensive MIDI sequencer pushes the Maschine+ even further into ‘centrepiece’ territory, and you can address each MIDI channel (all 16 are available) individually to either the 5-pin MIDI port or any attached compatible USB devices.
All of the other Maschine abilities (the arpeggiator, scale modes, parameter automation and so on) are present, of course, but you can also use the Maschine+ as a traditional Maschine controller (and, with some limitations, projects will be interchangeable between software and hardware versions of Maschine). Other modes include Storage (which lets you access the data on the Maschine+’s included 64GB SD card), and MIDI, in which you can assign CCs to the device and use it as a ‘dumb’ controller, should you wish.
Finally, the WiFi adaptor mentioned earlier handles routine tasks like registering your hardware and expansion instruments, as well as catering for Ableton’s wireless sync technology, Link. This lets you run a Maschine+ in time with Ableton Live — or even, as SOS witnessed at an advance preview/demonstration, with another Maschine+, chopping and changing between tracks using a DJ mixer.
From what NI tell us, development is very much ongoing, and the company are already busy making more instruments compatible with Maschine+, as well as testing its compatibility with third-party USB devices including controllers and audio interfaces. Maschine+ is due to be available from 1st October, and will carry an RRP of £1099. An SOS review is already under way…