Na­tive In­stru­ments up­date their flag­ship con­trollers

Mas­chine and the S Se­ries con­trollers get a smart new look and plenty of work­flow en­hance­ments

Future Music - - FILTER -

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.

Key facts

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.

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