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Native Instruments’ Maschine Studio groove workstation aims to be the new king on the production block

Towards the end of last year DJ Mag gave the world the exclusive scoop on Native’s new production powerhouse, the Maschine Studio. We were so impressed with what we saw in a private showing at Red Bull Studios that we were itching to get our mitts on it.

At the time of its release in November if you asked any producer in the know what they really wanted for Christmas, the answer that invariably came back was the same: “Maschine Studio!” The buzz around this not-so-little black box of delights was like nothing DJ Mag has seen in recent years on any bit of kit, testament to how hot Native Instruments are regarded as well as the excellence of their hardware and software design teams, based over in uber-cool Berlin.

So what was it about this new addition to the Maschine range that had got the industry in such a fervour? Well as it turns out, not only is there the fantastic new piece of hardware that we all got excited about, but there is also a major update to the Maschine software which is compatible with older versions of Maschine and Maschine Mikro.

Maschine Studio is described by Native Instruments as their flagship groove production studio and has clearly been designed to round out the range with a Maschine for every situation. It's designed to spend most of its time in the studio while either Maschine or Maschine Mikro take care of duties on stage and/or in the DJ booth. While the size of Maschine Studio does make it more suited to the studio, it is still portable enough to throw into a bag and take to gigs.

The build of Maschine Studio is of the highest quality. All the knobs, buttons and dials have a firm and positive action — now the jury is out as to which one looks the best. Personally we love the white and silver version, it just looks so cool, whilst the black version definitely is about getting down to the business in hand. But this is all superficial, as regardless of the colour way this is a serious piece of studio gear.

Whilst there is an increase in size, the purpose of Maschine Studio remains the same as the other models in the range — to get producers away from their computer screen and mouse and to start writing their music in the old skool hands-on MPC-style way. Maschine Studio builds on an already excellent workflow and takes things to the next level, thanks to some amazing new features. The most striking of these new features are the two extra large colour screens — absolutely gorgeous thanks to their high resolution.

Maschine Studio users can employ the screens to view the sampler, mixer, pattern editor, arranger, channel strip and more. Clever use of the two screens together makes the user interface extremely slick and user-friendly. For example, when editing samples or working in the pattern sequencer the left screen shows an overview of the full selection, while the right screen is dedicated to detailed tweaking when slicing, editing and composing. The addition of these screens has revolutionised the workflow, making it possible to create a whole track using Maschine Studio without once looking at the computer screen.

A brand-new editing section provides dedicated buttons and a new large jog-wheel surrounded by an achingly cool halo ring, which provides visual feedback along with the inclusion of a UV meter in the metering section that can be toggled between master, group, sound and cue meters as well as input sources. Dedicated control buttons allow fast switching between Maschine Studio’s sampler, arranger, mixer and browser and provide direct access to channel settings and the new plug-in strip, which supports VST or audio unit plug-ins.

Maschine Studio is packed with clever little touches that bear testament to the excellent design and build quality — even simple little things warrant a mention. One such feature are the legs found underneath this controller that fold down to create an integrated stand, angling the control surface in a most pleasing way without needing to purchase an additional stand.

Okay so we love the hardware. It’s amazingly cool, it’s designed for the dance music production community. Some would say that Maschine Studio demands the respect that Akai’s original MPC garnered when it was first released. However it’s not just about the hardware, as this studio warrior would be nothing without Maschine 2.0 the new software from Native that drives the entire Maschine range.

Unlike previous updates which were improvements to the original codebase, this time the software has been completely rewritten from the ground up to take advantage of the new hardware whilst allowing it to interact fully and perfectly with the older members of the Maschine family, breathing new life into a range of kit that has already found favour in dance music production circles.

While all of the previous updates to the Maschine software since 2009 have been free, this time existing Maschine users will need to pay roughly about £80 for the upgrade. While the cost will no doubt irk some users there are some seriously tasty improvements and new features on offer, such as the new mixer, unlimited groups, smoother workflow and the inclusion of four full Komplete instruments and effects, not to mention the 2GB sample library that now comes as part of the Maschine 2.0 package.

That makes the small cost not such a bad investment at all, as it really does bring a more complete experience to anyone who has used the original Maschine software. Also a pleasant and welcome surprise which bucks the trend of needing faster computer hardware to run new software, the latest incarnation of Maschine 2.0 will actually run faster than the original software on older machines, offering improved performance and lower latency, making this upgrade even more appealing.

Maschine Studio is a stunning piece of hardware that has been designed beautifully and has been engineered to perfection. While the price of ownership is high the cost will soon be forgotten, but the quality will remain. For existing Maschine owners the release of the 2.0 version of the software is a godsend, taking an already amazing piece of studio equipment and making it considerably better. The simple advice is this — sell the car, sell an organ or sell a relative to get those hands on Maschine Studio, it really is that good.