Nice But Seems to Miss the Point
I primarily am a pianist, but have over the years built up a significant quantity of computer-based gear. I also compose songs in the more traditional arenas of rock and folk, and do not create or listen to EDM or similar genres. However, I was interested in expanding the horizons a bit, and wanted to create instrumental music with soundscapes and eastern influences. For the latter, I thought that the Studio might fit the bill.
After using Studio for a couple of weeks, I returned it. Now, I do not confess to have mastered the device at all, and in capable hands, I have no doubt that it can be quite impressive, but I did figure out most of the device basics. Here's what I found:
First of all, the "standalone" mode that NI so cheerily throws about in their marketing blitz for the unit is rather misleading. You cannot use this device without a computer. The "standalone" mode means using the device without a DAW. But wait a second. The Maschine 2.0 has to be running, and that's pretty near to a DAW as I've seen. This means, of course, that even in live use, where the device would probably work well, you still need to have a computer connected, and the 2.0 software running.
Not a big deal, but the Studio is not bus-powered, and there are lots of smaller, bus powered, and capable controllers available for far less than the cost of this unit. So, then, you really need to use it in a studio, which might be why they named it the Studio.
There are two issues with studio (the room, that is) use. First, the device is really big. Even on a large desk, I had trouble finding a suitable place for it. But, its large size allows for really nice, large pads, and lots of dedicated buttons. It's big, but well made, and I can't fault the layout other than the ridiculous screens.
The second issue is a larger one. All the hype about those two gorgeous color screens is just that, hype. For one thing, these color screens are not particularly clear, nothing like a computer screen or a tablet device. And, they're really, really small! Yes, they organize information reasonably well, but so does that huge, clear computer display standing right behind the Studio. Which has to be powered up anyway, because you need to be running the software. And the computer screen is far easier to deal with in terms of both size and amount of information provided. Without the screens, the Studio would be a manageable size, so since they nearly double the size of the device, they should be capable of doing really useful things, not simply mirror the computer screen in pint-size dimension.
In practice, I found myself rarely using the two mini screens at all. It was fear easier to look at my main display. The notion that scrolling through two mini screens with text the size of a pinhead is somehow going to accelerate work flow is just silly. It doesn't. One has to scroll through endless menus, just like you do on a computer. The dedicated buttons definitely help workflow, but the screens do not. So, if you have to look up at the computer, you may as well use a mouse, something that works remarkably well.
As for the software, Studio 2.0, I liked it. But again, I found myself asking what the point of it is when most of us own full on DAW's like Live and Logic. The pattern focus in the software is nice, and it's generally easy to use, but it doesn't do anything that DAW's can't do. It is a bit simpler, and that's nice. And, with a mini keyboard controller and a mouse I found my workflow better with 2.0 than when using Studio.
All in all, I think it's a better bet to go with one of the smaller units. They are bus powered, portable, and do everything that Studio does without the two mini screens. In fact, since you have to have the software running anyway, I'm not sure what the point of the screens are really. Well, they look very cool. And, I imagine that is a big selling point for an expensive machine. So, as the title states, Studio is a nice device, but for me it has no point.