Maschine 2.0 Newbie Review

It has been some time since I upgraded my Maschine to 2.0. Not a big win for me when I think about it, but you know how it is – old Maschine will hardly have any support and – probably the biggest reason – I wanted to support Native Instruments and maybe get some more sound content in the process.

I used Maschine 1.x with my Maschine Mikro (Mk1) to create a few songs – or mostly just drum/bass lines for songs that we could perform live. It was alright and I liked that I needed to interact only with the controller on stage.

Now I tried to use Maschine 2.0 expecting some improvements over the previous software version. I’m sure many people got what they wanted, but for me Maschine 2.0 is more like a facelift – without bringing anything essential. Kinda like “we have to come up with something new” stuff. This is probably not fair, but I just use basic things and I feel that way.

I don’t expect things to always go my way. I have ideas and try to communicate them on forums of my favourite products, not to mention many bug reports for things like IntelliJ IDEA that even got fixed. 😉 One simply cannot have it all. But there are a few things that are kinda striking.

I use Large layout for instance and let’s take a look, how it looks by default:

First the “red problems”: So the Arranger (upper part) does not display all 8 groups you have (at least by default), and Pattern Editor has plenty of free space for more sounds than necessary. Of course you can use this space in the part with Piano roll…

However, the biggest point here is – even though you can change the layout (use the section corner marked on the right of the screenshot) there seems to be no way how to save it. So even if you change it, the next time it’s gone.

My other issue was with zooming. You can only zoom on the zooming scroll bars (horizontal ones are marked with blue, but the same goes for vertical ones). Now imagine you want to fix a particular event with your mouse. To zoom to any reasonable level you have to go away from the event (that is already probably selected) and meddle with the scroll bar, pressing the mouse button, moving the mouse up/down to zoom – and also to the left/right in order to keep the event in the view. Now imagine using just Ctrl+mouse wheel right on the spot (or Ctrl+Shift for vertical zoom which is less needed in most cases). Wouldn’t that be great?

Generally many things in Maschine UI are made in a way that is completely counterintuitive – the only way is to learn the stuff and keep using it, because otherwise you have to refresh it every time before you occasionally use the Maschine software (my case).

When I compare this with Reaper for instance, that is a true power tool where:

  • you see keyboard shortcuts next to the action in any menu (main, contextual) – this is true for main menu in Maschine as well, but that is just too little
  • you can assign nearly whatever to whatever in their Actions window – not to mention you can use it as a quick reference and find the shortcut for an action there too
  • UI always loads how I left it
  • there are tooltips for buttons, often even with status information (for instance: Metronome disabled) – tooltips would be a big help for any starting/intermediate/occasional user of Maschine

We may argue that focus in Maschine is on another thing (partially true), that they don’t want to spoil it with too many DAW-like features (agreed, mouse zoom is not colliding with anything in Maschine though), and that you should mostly use their hardware. The last thing is valid for things like live productions (and more of course), but one way or the other – if you prepare something in Maschine for later use, you may need to edit it. And that is much easier with UI and mouse.

To sum it up: Maschine UI is different from standard even when not necessary, lacking tooltips completely, there is no in-place help with keyboard shortcuts, few contextual menus (no wonder when right-click deletes stuff, double click would probably did just as good), it doesn’t save the UI layout, zoom is awkward and I’m not going into shortcut customization.

I know that UI is just an addition to the hardware (though absolutely necessary) and personally I can pardon that you can’t change keyboard shortcuts. But many of these things are kinda easy to fix (tooltips?) and they would help a long way – especially users new to NI.

Maschine sure is a lot of fun anyway, but a little bit more seriousness to its DAW aspects wouldn’t hurt at all.

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About virgo47
Java Developer by profession in the first place. Gamer and amateur musician. And father too. Naive believer in brighter future. Step by step.

One Response to Maschine 2.0 Newbie Review

  1. Jeff says:

    I agree. Maschine 2.0 is completely counter-intuitive. I mainly use keyboard short cuts and for some smart reason they got rid of most of them. Also, copying and duplicating scenes is a waste of time. I’m debating just going back to 1.8 where we have the freedom to choose how we want to work instead of being forced to use the controller for everything.

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