Native Instruments update their flagship controllers
Maschine and the S Series controllers get a smart new look and plenty of workflow enhancements
Native Instruments have unveiled updates to their S Series Komplete Kontrol keyboards and hybrid beat-making platform Maschine, giving them a sleek, industrial new look along with an assortment of workflow enhancements. Both controller ranges gain a pair of hi-res, full colour screens, similar to those already found on Maschine Studio. In both cases this improves sound and preset browsing, aided by a new four-direction ‘push encoder’ which acts as a one-stop shot for scrolling, menu-diving and selecting.
On the Maschine front, the other major update is the addition of a built-in 96kHz/24-bit audio interface. This brings with it a pair of line-in ports, a mic input, a pair of main-line outputs, a headphone output and an expression pedal input. These join the hardware’s existing MIDI-in and out ports along the rear of the hardware. Despite the additional innards, the Maschine Mk3 is the same size and weight as its Mk2 predecessor. The Maschine pads have been updated too. The new versions are larger than those found on the previous hardware, although the centre-to-centre position of the pads remains the same. The pads are more responsive too, particularly at the outer edges, making them generally easier to play.
The new Maschine hardware gains a touchstrip too – effectively a single, horizontal version of the performance strips found on Maschine Jam. This brings across a variety of Maschine Jam’s best capabilities too, such as the ability to lock and morph between parameter states, the ability to ‘strum’ instruments, and the touch stripfocused performance effects.
Elsewhere, changes to Maschine focus mostly on workflow refinements rather than major overhauls. A new strip of buttons makes it much easier to control keyboard and step sequence modes. The eight parameter rotaries are now touchsensitive too, allowing a more convenient way to assign macros.
On the software end it’s mostly business as usual. NI added a 303-inspired bass synth to the software recently, but beyond that the only changes coinciding with the hardware release will be minor aesthetic and workflow updates.
The updated S Series controllers, meanwhile, benefit from an enlarged central interface, containing the aforementioned screens and ‘push encoder’ as well as eight touchsensitive rotaries and an expanded array of buttons. It all adds up to smoother browsing and significantly tighter control over NI’s Komplete range of instruments and effects, as well as the growing roster of NKS-compatible plugins.
The controllers offer plug-and-play integration with Live, Logic and GarageBand too, offering visual representations of the mixer sections across the two screens, as well as mix control via the rotaries and buttons.
The other major addition is the arrival of physical pitch and mod wheels, replacing the touchstrips of the previous versions. The controllers do retain one touchstrip though, which is now placed horizontally below the pitch and mod wheels.
The rest of the hardware is mostly the same as that of the original. The keyboard itself is the same semiweighted Fatar design, complete with a – slightly restyled – Light Guide, which indicates chords, scales and keyboard splits. Connections around the back remain the same too, offering two pedal inputs, MIDI in and out, and a USB connection which also provides power.
Again, the software side of the Komplete Kontrol system remains largely unchanged. The most significant improvement is the addition of a pre-rendered audio preview for every preset, allowing users to get a taste of sounds without the need to boot up instruments or sample libraries.
Both the Mk2 S Series controllers and Maschine Mk3 will arrive 5th October. The keyboards come in 49- and 61-key varieties priced at £479 and £559 respectively, while Maschine Mk3 is priced at £479. It’s worth noting that these prices are all the same as their predecessors, which is impressive given the additional screens, and the added interface for Maschine.
There’s no word official from NI if we can expect 25- or 88-key controllers to follow, or updates to Maschine Mikro or Studio.