Many people have a lot of plug-ins installed on their system, and by default, Maschine will scan and show them all to you. But it could be that there are some instruments or effects that you never intend to use with Maschine. In the Preferences > Plug-Ins section you can untick any VST (also Audio Units on the Mac) and hide it from Maschine. This doesn’t affect any other audio software, and you can always re-enable them if you need to. This is one way to simplify the list of plugs that pops up when you click on a slot and avoid unnecessary scrolling.
Also in the Plug-In Preferences window you will find for every instrument or effect an option in the Default Config column to choose a specific preset that will load with that plug-in every time you call it up. This is a great way to have your favourite Massive bass patch always auto-load for example, or your most-used dance drum kit or signature reverb or delay patch. It speeds up your work flow a little but those small gains do add up over time. You can also save a preset as default for the Plug-in via the Save As Default entry in the Plug-in menu. Remove an assigned default patch here using the x button next to its name.
For any plug-in - be it loaded in the Sound, Group or Master section, you can view and tweak quick controls in the central control strip. This is contextual and changes based on the plug. As well as auto mapping major controls to slots, Maschine lets you add custom names by clicking in the text field for each control, as well as adding further pages of shortcuts and using the Learn command to assign or re-assign any plug-in parameter to a shortcut. These also link up with your Maschine hardware controller to give you hands-on control of your third party plugs.
Just like Maschine’s own instruments, third party models can access all the different audio channels inside Maschine and also the outputs it is sending to your interface or into your DAW. With an instrument selected, click on the routing button (which looks a little like a volume dial) and then the Audio section. From the audio assignment dropdown menu you will see all the available output channels as well as internal busses. Use this to route instruments more creatively inside a Maschine or DAW project.
If working with third party plug-ins in the composition area is proving a little fiddly you can always switch to Mixer view and add and manage them here, in a more conventional DAW style. You’ll also get a nice, large layout view of the plugs (both instruments and effects) inserted on any channel and the ability to load any of their presets by clicking on the relevant dropdown menu. Selecting a new channel calls up its associated plugs - it’s a good way to get a clearer overview of any given channel in a project.
This one is a bit meta, but remember that Maschine can be used as a plug-in itself inside virtually any other DAW. And when you do, it is still able to load third party plugs inside itself and then route these out into the DAW mixer. While it may seem convoluted go VST > Maschine > DAW instead of simply VST > DAW, the benefit of doing this is that you can take advantage of Maschine’s sequencer as well as its tight integration with the Maschine hardware controllers which is after all the point of the system. Plus, pre-existing projects and patches that you have built that involve third party plugs can be quickly called up for use inside a DAW. Remember also that Maschine’s sequencer can be assigned to play other instruments outside of Maschine via MIDI which is particularly cool when you’re triggering hardware, or instruments that don’t exist as separate VSTs like Reason’s Rack modules.
Just like in a DAW you can save presets for an individual sound (AKA a track or track preset) in Maschine. In the Mixer view, right click on the header column of a track where its name is. You will then see a Save As… option that will save the preset as a special .mxsnd file containing information about the chain of effects and instruments it contains. You can load one of these by dragging and dropping it into a channel in the song sequencer section, or by again right clicking on a track in Mixer view and choosing Open… and then navigating to the preset file. It makes sense to keep them organised in folders for ease of access.
In the Preferences > General section there’s an innocent looking section simply called “Link” with an on / off button. When this is switched on, Maschine will use Ableton Link, meaning it will sync with any other compatible Link application running on your wired or wireless network. The list is large and includes iOS apps for integrating many different sounds - but one interesting trick is to sync NI’s Traktor with Maschine by turning Link on for both applications. This way you can DJ and perform live with Maschine and all your third party plugins, loops and samples - truly a powerful performance setup.
Third party instruments and effects inside Maschine can be automated just like NI’s own instruments. When playing back with Record enabled, move the coloured dials around the outside of automatable controls to control the changes over time (moving the knobs themselves does not write automation). This appears in an area at the base of the window, and you can switch between parameters and edit the results easily.