These days its all to easy to gloss over the surface within the first initial weeks of launch and essentially say the same as every other reviewer, but I don’t really feel this gives products the correct level of coverage they need and deserve and with products like NI’s new Maschine Studio and the accompanying v2.0 software this doesn’t really give you the user a fair impression of the overall product on the whole.
So, in my usual style I’ve taken my time over the holiday period to properly get up close personal with the new Maschine Studio to give a real insight into using the new hardware and application.
I’m not going to lie and say I am a personal fan of the whole Maschine product range and have been since inception but this is for genuine reasons from an objective standpoint for making music and due to the ranges of overall creative flexibility, so with that said let me explain why and look specifically at what the new Maschine Studio brings to the table and what make it a great addition for both professionals and aspiring bedroom producers alike.
I’ll steer away from the usual tech specs and discuss things from a more hands on perspective, they are of course important so for those interested they are available here.
Maschine Studio Hardware
Right let’s start with the actual unit.
The first thing that draws your attention over the other existing models is the size and the addition of the 2 new 480×272 resolution full colour screens, it’s quite evident that NI are very keen to position this as a complete music making solution, you do of course need to run the unit via your Mac or PC but there is heavy emphasis on breaking focus from the computer to the actual unit itself which to me is a good thing, but can also a double edged sword at the same time.
Having moved up the range from the first unit several years ago and coming from a traditional MPC / drum sequencing background having all the info on a GUI on your actual computer / laptop screens is one of the units most valuable assets and as an experienced user I always find myself referring back to my main monitor to edit, create and sequence, simply because it feels like the larger the image the easier the task – but maybe that’s just an individual production quirk !
This said I can certainly see their value and have found myself breaking away from my main monitor to perform tasks that I would of traditionally done on screen on the unit itself, predominantly where menu navigation is concerned & quick access automation and editing, before I found myself constantly referring back to mouse selection in the actual software itself for work flow, where as now I undertake a lot more on the actual unit itself with instant visual reference and confirmation on the units screens.
I can overtime, see me undertaking much more on the actual unit itself which is certainly a good thing eliminating constant toing and froing from unit to keyboard /mouse but I do feel that for me personally I will always edit & chop samples and edit sequences themselves on my main monitor simply because its easier to see the “bigger picture” – this is of course my personal preference, the main benefit of them being here is the instant reference to data on the unit itself so I can see what’s happening in real time without looking away.
Another plus point here is that to accompany Maschine’s great plug in support the screens can also support and display most NI plug ins on the unit itself so now you can actually see the GUI itself on the unit for each particular plug, meaning if you wanted to you can undertake all plug programming and editing on the unit itself (if you want to of course) which is a great feature and of course an additional benefit to workflow coupled with the unit’s ability to now display the mixer section which means all mixing can be completed without breaking sight from the device.
Another new feature is the all new jog wheel which offers a great new way to quickly browse/navigate and control proceedings instantly by assigning itself to the particular parameters you need in any given work space within the software. When browsing the wheel can be used to navigate the library, plus go-to parameters such as volume and swing are all supported making it much easier to contain your activity to within the unit itself, but strangely Native have moved away from the turn and click functionality adopted on nearly all of their other products which is slightly disappointing as there are a few option items that would of potentially been easier with the turn and confirm method. It still remains on the jog wheel but not on any other of the knobs.
Aside from that all of the controls are still present from the smaller version including the great colour assignable pads and as expected clear planning has been undertaken on the ergonomic use of the device. The unit has now the additional benefit of a visual VU style meter to show your required output levels and enables quick access for desired routing options and the new Studio console also includes a few additional edit buttons to remove the need to shift click with another button for certain functionality, which again is a another plus point for workflow.
There are only a couple of niggles as far of the physical hardware side of things goes, one thing that did strike me as a trick missed by Native, although trivial, was the location of the new feet to prop the unit up and make it more ergo friendly. As the new unit is quite large and clearly the intention is for the user to retain focus on the unit itself I would of loved for the feet to clear a 15” Macbook at either side so the unit could actually be slid up over the keyboard eliminating the use of the keyboard itself and leaving just the unit and screen to focus on – with a slight resizing of the bottom of the window size to allow for the screen estate the unit obscures in the application this would of offered a great workstation solution – just an idea, but one I certainly think would have been useful in a lot of situations.
I’d also like to see a console with an integrated audio card as a parallel product to one without and with Native already producing an extensive range of external audio processing units it would certainly consolidate the products versatility by offering new options for live use as one of Maschine’s greatest assets has always been its use as a hands on creative tool perfect for live scenarios. Neither of minor gripes detract from Maschine’s studio prowess and usefulness.