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Is Maschine for me?

joanq
joanq Member Posts: 2 Noise
edited July 29 in Maschine

I’m growing frustrated with my Maschine mk3 and the Maschine Software, and want to share my experience. There are many people here that use and like the Maschine, and I’d like to contrast our experiences, in order to learn to use it properly, or make sure that the workflow is not for me.

When I started producing music ~3 years ago, I got a Digitakt. After a while, I wanted to try using the computer to make music, and I tried a lot of DAWs before finally buying Bitwig. Meanwhile, I bought some more hardware, including the Machine mk3. I basically bought it because, in a forum, many people were saying the Maschine is highly productive and helped to finish songs.

Although I like the hardware part of Maschine (the pads, the big screens…), I keep getting frustrated every time I try to use it, both with the Maschine software, or as a controller for Bitwig.

These are some of the things I think are contributing to this frustration. I'm talking about basic functionality: events, patterns, effects, arrangements… not comparing with Bitwig grid, sample slicing, or any other advanced feature:

  • Contextual/interactive help: nonexistent, not even a message saying your copy command actually did something. Every time I try to use it, I end up looking for basic functionality tips in the 700 pages manual, which is quite dense as it mixes windows/macOS recipes with controller recipes.
  • Intuitive behavior: I can do all basic operations in Bitwig (or Studio 5, or Ableton) without reading the manual or watching a video. Also, I remember most of the basic commands and shortcuts on an Elektron machine after using them a pair of times, because they are logical. I never can do this in Maschine, always got stuck.
  • Wasted screens: you have not one but two big screens in the Maschine controller. Why the “Filter” word fills a whole screen, but we don’t get a graphic that shows the shape of the filter we are configuring? Even the tiny screen of the Microfreak does this. The same with any basic effect: compressor, reverb, delay…
  • Expansions: Another thing that keeps puzzling me is the sample organization in the expansions. While I like the sounds and find them quite useful, there is a lack of good labeling and organization. For example, just now, I’ve loaded a group from the Halcyon Sky expansion. It has four piano-like chord samples. Well, I don’t know which chords are, because it is not labeled anywhere (just Piano1, Piano2, etc.), I even don’t know what the scale is in the whole melodic group. And there are only these four samples, so if, for example, I need a minor instead of a major, I can’t use them. It would be much better if the expansions were organized as useful sets, not as semifinished tracks.
  • Software UI: you can’t change panel sizes, only show/hide them; the scrolling/zooming is much more inconvenient than in Bitwig… At this point, I really prefer to use Bitwig even with the mouse and keyboard, than Maschine.

So, what’s the problem? Is Maschine simply not for me? Should I put more effort into it, and then I will see its usefulness? Do you agree with these appreciations?

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Comments

  • Isotoxin
    Isotoxin Member Posts: 31 Sine

    Hey!

    I know your frustration because the same feeling I have about Ableton. It looks for me so unintuitive. But looks like it's just a feeling, because maschine interface for me is so simple and so convenient! And it works for me diametrically differently when for you. After a few videos on youtube, I get the concept and fell in love with the MMk3! Of course some times I'm using manual, but only for some things what I don't know. And never read manual for the same thing two times.

    About information on the screens you are right. I love then the DAW shows the things what it's doing. But this is the reason why I know the frequency ranges from my mind and now for me the numbers more then enough. 😁 And I have found, what in a mixer mode, on laptop screen you can see this animations and fancy things of a default modules and fx. Same with an external plugins. They opens with a shift + edit.

    About the expansions and added modules. I have heard what many people praise Maschine for the organization and filters. But maybe other applications now improved more when the Maschine?

    Long story short - try other equipment. Akai, Ableton. Maybe some friends of yours have this equipment? It's normal to search for what fits you. And I'm talking not only about clothes. 😊

  • Flexi
    Flexi Member Posts: 223 Saw

    Just move on, if it doesn't fit, it never will, Maschine rarely changes in any big ways, if the workflow is not for you its not for you.

    Maschine is very out of date in comparison to even the most basic of modern DAWs because nearly all of them have a better drum sampler etc built in.

    The number one redeeming feature for most of Maschines userbase (not me FYI, i still haven't even used my free expansion codes that came with the plus) is the expansions, and you have no love for those either, so i would say its time to move on.

    I personally only use it for sound design and have done so since v1, thats the only reason I use it, its second nature.

  • 6xes
    6xes Member Posts: 125 Tri
    edited July 30

    Integration is everything in my view... when you consider workflow!!

    just as an example... Each Daw & hardware have their benefits...

    once you know the benefits of each... integrating them into one big package is a big key to having the best of everything!! And returning a desired outcome!

    knowing how to integrate everything is essentially the problem you are having...

    ....afterall what point is there in pointing out every flaw in either hardware or software?? ...instead approach a problem, with the understanding that everything is useful and i will make it serve my purpose!!

    its a lesson in life!!

    Romans 8:28

  • Kubrak
    Kubrak Member Posts: 1,341 Pulse

    For me Maschine is intuitive... I have Cubase, Ableton for years, but do not use them at all as they seem to me difficult to use. :-(((( I do not say, they are difficult to use... They are difficult for me... I decided to sell Push 2 and Ableton as I have spent with them few hours and haven't touched them since for several years....

    Concerning Maschine.

    Yes, it could be beneficial if screens on MK3/Studio/KK MK2 would be used to full extent.

    Subwindows of Maschine SW may be modified in size/proportion by using mouse. Just point the mouse to divider (it is not easy to find exact position, but mouse cursor changes look when at right place), press left mouse button and drag to desired possition.

    I am not sure if it is possible to change width of sample browser....

    Expansions are Expansions. I do not use them. But my little son loves them and goes through scatches, plays them and dances. Those are great moments for the both. He is four and does love EDM and dislikes songs for babies.... I would not buy Expansions for my use, I got them with Komplete bundle....

  • filip pietrzykowski
    filip pietrzykowski Member Posts: 11 Sine

    I have had some ups and downs with the Maschine...

    finally, I use it in quite a special way

    You can watch video here - https://youtu.be/W6eyX6YQl50?t=513

    and if you are Maschine user or electronic music producer - sign up to our youtube channel for more info and vids.

    In short, I play music live, 4 to 4 strictly, most patterns created live, on air:)

    It's DAWless setup, but not computerless...:)

    Maschine is used as a audio and midi mixer, as well as host for all f/x (reverbs, delays, distortions, compressors, limiters and others). I use NI standard VST plugs like busscompressor and Replika (love it!)

    All my synhtesizers including drum machine are connected to the Maschine via audio and midi.

    Several midi controllers are assigned to NI Maschine - Novation Lauch COntrol XL - as audio mixer with volume faders, and 2 sends and 1 insert on each channel

    Additionally Xone k2 doing similar things - audio mixer with volume and sends/aux.

    FInally Begringer midi Xtouch programmed as all knobs and buttons on NI Replika (so I can control modulation, feedback and everything else in real time)

    This is really neat solution for setting up DAWless setup, without spending 3000$ on quality delay and reverb and compressor/limiter pedals, external effects.

    Additionally, you would need external mixer if you would like to use full DAWless setup.

    NI Maschine (mk2 in my case as I use external audio interface) serves absolutely great here.

    I can control each effect using midi knobs/encoders, I got audio and midi mixer setup in Maschine,

    and very few cables, light setup, and 3000U$ saved on expensive strymon's:))

    The fact Maschine is VST/VSTi host makes for me massive difference, because I know VST and use it since 90's. I own several dozen plugins, and with free Replika and buss compressor in Maschine - I am setup good.

    I deal also with problem most live performers complain - DJ who played before their set or after - is always louder 6-10 dB fsd... and I use compression on each channel, plus additional limiter on drum machine - this allows me to get 'like record' sound out of my system.

    This is also a budget way to carry on buying synthesizers and don't break the bank on reverbs/delays - as you obviously would need them pretty soon....

    When I got Maschine I did not planned nor expected to end like this...

    After few months I realized shortcomings, midi issues... and yet finally she stays and plays very important role.

    Audio setup I created is really light, Roland TR8, Juno 06a, TD3, Booger model D, Elektron Cycles, Maschine and few midi controllers - it's all below 7 kg weight...without laptop:)

    but lighter, cheaper over full hardware f/x's, easier to transport/ship, if you play music and need to travel.

    And there is more... intelligent setup with RME multiface as pseudo audio mixer (via Totalmix) allow me to mutlitrack my entire setup - each and every instrument separate, including separate f/xs.

    I would say - super neat, imagine you have a full DAWless hardware setup you would like to multitrack to mix it properly later....


    I run that youtube channel, focused on electronic music production, sign up to find out more!

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJw3LVfHLYAb-JBV098aVBg/featured

  • Trevor Meier
    Trevor Meier Member Posts: 48 Tri

    This is an interesting usage of Maschine! You mention MIDI mixing. Do you mean using MIDI to mix audio? Or somehow combining MIDI signals?

  • 6xes
    6xes Member Posts: 125 Tri

    Awesome setup and showcase of integration of Maschine in the videos!!

    well done!

  • filip pietrzykowski
    filip pietrzykowski Member Posts: 11 Sine

    yes, as I explained in th video - I use 3 midi controllers, Allen&Heath Xone k2, Behringer Xtouch mini and NOvation XL Control - those devices control audio via midi (volume, sends, inserts)

    All midi signals form all the synths and drums - go into Maschine and I manage it there (routing and patching)

    It's quite complicated I must admit:), I support myself with MIDI OX in few tasks.

    The main job for Maschine is to use it as a mixer with sends and inserts, everything on separate channels (every instrument).

    please watch live jam video to see how I operate with entire system

    this one is not bad - https://youtu.be/98wyJDV25to

  • joanq
    joanq Member Posts: 2 Noise

    Thank you for all your answers.

    I don't want to fall in a spiral of selling/buying gear, so I'm trying to learn and use what I have. Even in the case I end up selling some stuff, I'm sure this process of going deeper with my gear will pay back. That's why I started this thread, not to criticize Maschine per se, but to know how people are using it, and to be more conscious of its strengths. There are already some good examples in this thread.

    @filip pietrzykowski, regarding your setup, how do you route all your audio signals in separate channels into Maschine? I suppose you use some kind of USB hub or extra audio interface?

  • olafmol
    olafmol Member Posts: 90 Tri

    There are left and right brained people. Some devices were designed by left brained people, some by right brained people. Fe personally I experienced a lot of headscratching and getting lost with the ableton push 1 and 2. Maschine mk3 felt logical from minute 1. So it’s very subjective but for you, I would sell it and find another more fitting tool.

  • filip pietrzykowski
    filip pietrzykowski Member Posts: 11 Sine

    Maschine has only 4 stereo inputs...which is one of the biggest shortcomings imho...

    another one is all midi channels (on Input) are summed into 1 midi channel so you have only 128 CC to utilize (It took me months to setup the template I use for all projects)

    Routing is straightforward, every output of every synth (with small exception explained below)

    TD3 and model D as mono goes into Input 1 - panned extreme left and right - which allows me to use it as 2x mono. Elektron Cycles - stereo out - Input 2, Juno 06a - stereo out - Input 3.

    and finally Roland TR8 - downmixed 4 channels into 1 stereo as input 4.

    This last is a bit tricky, and involves RME multiface 2.

    TR8 got 4 outsputs (4xmono, or 2xmono 1x stereo)

    Now the most important part is to get all instruments plugged into Maschine and inserted with plugins which gives all Inputs almost exactly same latency, ca 3ms.

    This is crucial to get all instruments (especially drum machines like Roland and Elektron) in perfect sync.

    It took me few weeks, until I managed to get them super tight.

    To achieve this, I had to plug all instruments into Maschine, as the one going directly into monitoring and tracking audio system - would have smaller latency, therefore would be out of phase (not out of sync), so the sync with tiny latency...

    RME is utilized by me as a audio mixer, analog and digital. The cool thing about this interface (I had old one and decided to use it instead of desktop mixer) is that you can power it up, program Total mix, save preset and connect external power supply, which allows you to switch off desktop PC and use the interface as solo audio mixer.

    Roland Tr8, set up for Kick to be on mono out 3, all Hats - mono out 4, all the rest (snares/claps/rims/bongos) - on stereo out 1/2. All those outs go into RME, where they are downmixed to 1 stereo channel, which goes out of RME on SPDiF into UMC1820 - main interface used with the Maschine. So no extra conversion ada.

    UMC1820 analog inputs are for synthesizers, going out on separate channels via adat option - back to RME (so no ada conversion) when it's all mixed down in TotalMix into stereo spdif out - into Mytek DSD 192 - for final d/a conversion.

    This way, without switching desktop PC, if I just want to play music, without recording - I can do it, enjoying mine clever setup.

    If I want to multitrack everything (into DAW) I switch on desktop, open Nuendo and mutitrack everything (TR8 on 4 channels as they go into RME first, all other synths on separate channels, as well as f/x and 2 stero pairs of outs from Maschine - just for additional instruments/loops - to have everything separate.

    I press play and record, play music live and multitrack everything nicely...

    the only thing at the end is I need to sync Roland TR8 4 tracks with the rest, as they go directly into RME for recording, so they have smaller latency (but I monitor it via Maschine, so it's perfect sync). I also have 1 stereo track with all TR8 drums (Maschine 1x stereo out), if I am lazy and don't want to mix it, but it's nice to have a kick and hats and rest separate to mix it later.

    I also use another trick (Roland TR8 users) - this device allows to multitrack all 13 drum synths as mono channels, the only issue is it's own Roland audio interface, so you can't use it together with RME in one project (not on Windows PC anyway).

    The trick is to open some freeware DAW, set TR8 audio interface and record it all together (with Nuendo tracking everything), later moving all Roland TR8 tracks into Nuendo project, and have every single instrument of the performance on separate single track.

    Elektron has only 1 stereo outs, so if you use more instrument at once - obviously it will be all together on stereo out. I also found a way to get it solo.

    Simply before playing live, I got some basic sequences programmed, so when I start mulitracking, at the beginning of recording, I simple play several 4 bar loops off Cycles, separately each track.

    It takes really 2-3 extra minutes, to get it separate, and later on, I can use it to edit/mix (yes, it will take some time to edit this).

    Summing up,

    setup is simple, no midi interface, midi chain very basic, yet complex enough to allow me utilize all tools to maximum, 2 audio interfaces, one plugged via USB into Maschine, and RME used as audio a/d mixer (using adat, spdif as well)

    THe only challenge I have right now, is to re-set it up for live performance.

    I won't need RME, so all outs off Maschine via UMC1820, would have to be mixed down to 1 stereo output, as at the moment, each instrument occupy it's own input and output.

    ...Or if I have bigger mixer on stage, I can just plug all outs of Maschine/UMC1820 directly into mixer and use it like this...

    Another cool thing about this setup is dynamic control, and gain staging (giving extra flexibility)

    I slapped limiter (additionally to buss compressor on each channel) on drum machines (Roland TR8 and Elektron Cycles), programmed 2 knobs one for threshold of compressor and another for input to the limiter.

    This gives me extra room for shaping the drums live - with just 2 knobs, I can tweak different sounding drums.

    I can have untouched drums, or with compression, or with just limiter, or with both, tweaked for my liking...

    It does work well, really when I want to create more 'pumping' and more 'impact' in the drums...

    and besides, drum bus really needs some compression, or will poke out of the mix terribly.

    You are very welcome to check my live sessions on youtube, video is not great, but as rough recording, just straight out of th maschine - it does sound very good imho, polished, balanced, more like a record:)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9q8KrUlbqsE

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