It’s been over a decade aback Native Instruments alien the Maschine platform. The committed hardware-software admixture was an burning hit with users attractive for the concrete ascendancy of outboard accessory with the adaptability (plugins) afforded by a desktop. While this admission fabricated it popular, it anon led abounding to appetite article ambitious: a standalone Maschine with the software built-in. It’s assuredly here, it’s alleged Maschine , it costs $1,399 and it’s been on my board for the aftermost anniversary or two. Is it the all-in-one music assembly accouterments abounding bodies (myself included) seek? Maybe, but what I can say for abiding is that it’s an impressive, if not a hardly big-ticket attack at amalgamation desktop functionality with groovebox-style usability.
For those alien with Maschine, it’s a little adamantine to explain what it is after underselling it. You could altercate it’s desktop music-making software with a committed MIDI controller. But afresh there are affluence of software-specific controllers like Ableton’s Push or Korg’s MS 20 VST hardware. Maybe you could anticipate of it as outboard gear, but with the UI active on a PC? But that doesn’t absolutely do the software ancillary of it justice.
Basically, it’s a absolutely anatomic artistic audio tool, commensurable to a DAW, but can additionally assignment aural added software as a plugin and comes with committed hardware, both fabricated by the aforementioned company. Clashing best MIDI controllers, there’s an audio interface congenital and it’s all deeply chip with the software to feel like the two things are one entity. With Maschine there’s no charge for a PC at all (although you can still assignment with one if you wish). For this review, I’ll be primarily because it in its standalone mode. If you currently use Maschine, you already apperceive how it works as a MIDI-software combo. If you haven’t yet, and you’re because the Maschine , it’s acceptable that the standalone affection is what interests you best (and there are affluence of agency to apprentice about the desktop/PC affiliation already if you wish).
The abstraction is obvious: Accepting rid of the PC is article abounding cyberbanking musicians appetite to do. Some feel that beat a abrasion staring at a awning isn’t accessory to creativity. Plus, computers can be capricious (especially in a alive performance). And while I wouldn’t alarm Maschine “portable” in the acceptable sense, you can accompany this with you on the alley and leave your laptop about safe.
If you’ve anytime apparent the Maschine MK3, afresh the Maschine will be familiar. The two are about identical, bar the new metal accomplishment and a few accessory tweaks to board the all-important computer-free functionality. Alike about the back, area all the admission are, there isn’t abundant of a difference. You still accept two inputs and two outputs (1/4-inch TRS), MIDI in and out, a pedal jack and a 1/4-inch headphone port. There are now two USB-A ports (along with the USB-B anchorage for abutting to a PC) which acquiesce you to add added interfaces or MIDI USB gear. Lastly, there’s the all-important SD agenda aperture for autumn your projects and samples forth with 32GB onboard accumulator for amplification downloads. NI alike includes a 64GB SD agenda in the box.
The actuality that it’s so agnate to the MK3 is no bad thing. The third abundance of Maschine provides a analytic workspace with high-quality pads and knobs that accord it a exceptional feel — alike added so on the additional with its metal housing. The bifold displays are still here. Sadly, they’re not touchscreens, though, I anticipate they’re a little baby for that to be advantageous anyway. Also, if you were acquisitive that Maschine could run in standby approach with USB power, you’re out of luck. You’ll charge the included ability accumulation for that, admitting USB ability still works for ambassador mode.
The best important differences in the accouterments are the ones you can’t see: the Atom quad-core processor, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of centralized storage. It’s these additions that acquiesce the Maschine to cut itself chargeless from the PC and run all the software and instruments directly.
This is acutely what makes the Maschine interesting. Standalone avant-garde sequencing accouterments can be catchy to get right. Alteration distinct notes, quantizing or any added cardinal of accepted tasks you booty for accepted on a PC can bound become abrasion credibility on abominably anticipation out hardware. And this is area Native Instruments has been shrewd. By waiting, boring convalescent the Maschine’s ascendancy apparent and workflow while it was still tethered to a computer agency that best of those affliction credibility accept been ironed out. All the aggregation bare to do was accord it the processing power, and (in theory) it was standalone ready. Spoiler alert, this is mostly true, too. Admitting there are still a few tasks area I acquisition myself adulatory I had a abrasion or keyboard shortcuts.
The Maschine software broiled into the additional is appealing abundant what you’d apprehend if you’ve anytime acclimated any of the earlier controllers with the desktop software. If you’re acclimated to that workflow, you’ll be in accustomed area here. If you’re new to Maschine, afresh apperceive that it’s a little altered to what you ability be acclimated to if you primarily assignment with a accepted DAW. For one, clashing Logic or Ableton Live, there’s no multitrack audio — it’s added about beats, samples and plugins. I’d alike say there’s a bit of a acquirements curve, but that’s archetypal of all accouterments grooveboxes (even the tiny OP-Z took a while to get the adhere of).
The big affairs point with Maschine , of course, is not aloof that it runs the sequencing software central the box, it’s that you additionally accept admission to some of Native Instruments’ best bendable synths and furnishings (VSTs) for the aboriginal time in hardware. At launch, the alternative of instruments accessible isn’t exhaustive. In fact, you could say it’s a little sparse, with aloof seven primary plugins to accept from: Massive, FM8, Monark, Prism, Kontakt, Reaktor and Maschine’s own library.
The synths included do awning best bases, with Massive (wavetable), FM8 (FM, obviously), Monark (Analog/subtractive) and Prism (physical modeling/additive) alms best of the primary forms of synthesis. Kontakt acutely is a little added different, accustomed its sample-based nature.
I should additionally acknowledgment that the software instruments that appear with the desktop Maschine software are additionally here: Bass synth, the boom engines and a apartment of effects.
It’s account mentioning, you don’t accept admission to all the ambit you would on a PC. For example, in abounding of the synths, accept too abounding options to map to the eight concrete bulge controls, although best things are actuality as you can “page” through what the knobs chronicle to. It’s additionally not currently accessible to acceptation any of your own presets for the aloft synths you may already accept (although you can save your sounds in projects etc.).
We additionally shouldn’t avoid that, as acceptable as best of these instruments are (legendary, even), there’s a lot that isn’t here. I would accept admired Massive X, Absynth or Razor to accept been included. The bigger account is that added of NI’s archive will be advancing in the future. But if you were acquisitive there’d be abutment for third-party VSTs, afresh you’re out of luck. A aggregation agent told me “There are currently no affairs for 3rd affair plugin support.”
Having assertive instruments is one thing, but what about the sounds they appear with? Of course, you can (and should) accomplish your own, but with the automated cardinal of constant controls, sometimes it’s accessible to dip into the presets and acquisition one already in the accepted administration you appetite to go as a starting point. Also, application a preset that aloof leaps out at you is fine, don’t let the agreeable aristocratic acquaint you differently. It’s what you do with them that matters.
NI has fabricated it appealing accessible to coursing bottomward the blazon of complete you want. If I am alive on a bassline, I tend to ability for Massive. Once that’s accessible I can either browse all the preset sounds one by one, or clarify by category, afresh subcategory and “character”. This absolutely makes coursing through amaranthine (often meaningless) preset names beneath of a chore.
As for samples, there are a cardinal of amplification packs you can download from day one. These accommodate titles such as Deep Amount and Neon Drive. There’s absolutely abundant to awning all bases including soul, funk, abstraction and crud packs amid abounding others. At the time of autograph 23 packs in absolute are on offer. Downloading them is accessible (Maschine comes with WiFi onboard) and the sounds will be adored to bounded storage.
As for the affectionate of sounds on offer, as mentioned, the expansions are appealing varied. As for the presets that appear with the synths, they absolutely skew electronic. I mean, obviously, but if you’re attractive for agreeable strings, or woodwinds, you’ll be beneath annoyed than if you appetite saw-tooth leads or sub-bass. Of course, that’s area NI’s affluent archive of samples and amplification packs (or your own samples or created sounds) appear in. NI’s library has a decidedly able band of agreeable and analog instruments.
Despite over two decades of meddling with music accessory and software, I still acquisition grooveboxes frustrating. (Technically, I wouldn’t alarm this a groovebox per se, but it’s agnate abundant in workflow.) With this array of gear, my academician wants to apperceive how to do aggregate instantly, after accepting to attract through manuals or YouTube tutorials. Maschine took me a brace of canicule to “get.” It’s not that it’s any added complicated than rivals like, say, Akai’s MPC Alive 2. It’s aloof that you accept to apprentice how anniversary area (browsing, sampling, sequencing and so on) works and area assertive appearance are hidden. Clashing desktop software that’s appealing accessible to altered approaches, standalone accessory usually has a specific workflow and Maschine is no different.
For the best part, apperceive that you’ll be alive in “scenes,” which you can anticipate of as “buckets” for sounds — drums in one, advance sounds in addition or a accumulation of samples and so on. There are eight buttons that will about-face amid these “scenes,” anniversary assignment with the 16 pad grid. That filigree can authority a array of synths, sounds, samples or one-shots on altered pads. I adopt to anticipate of it added like you can accept eight capital agreeable “ideas” for anniversary track, and afresh aural that, you accept a ton of adaptability to accomplish anniversary one as circuitous as you appetite (almost).
Before you alike get to the scenes though, you’ll absorb a lot of time in the aerial left-hand bend of Maschine . Actuality is area you cross the top-level functionality, such as switching to the browser mode, the accepted VST instance or the book and settings menus. Below this array of buttons is the capital aeronautics rotary. It’s a mix amid a bold ambassador D-pad and an amaranthine encoder, which is absolutely appealing able at action through all the airheaded and screens. Admitting there were times I was browsing a absolute continued account of presets and accidentally clicked larboard or right, which goes aback one card level, acceptation I’d accept to bang aback in and wind my way through all the presets again. A baby complaint, but one account mentioning.
When you’re in the account stage, jumping about the altered modes anon becomes additional nature. It’s aback you move on to architecture your account into article added like a clue area I begin the acquirements ambit a little steeper.
There’s a button in the top larboard array labeled “ideas.” This area isn’t complex. It reminds me of Ableton Live’s “Session” view. Basically, you actualize a alternation of clips in agreeable sections (say, assorted boom bend variations, and a few altered takes on the bassline etc.) and you can jam with these in altered orders to body a track. This workflow is alleged “Clips” and it absolutely debuted appropriate actuality on the Maschine . It has aback been formed out to all users in the latest 2.12 amend to the desktop software.
For me, the claiming was added in the MIDI/note alteration view, which is hidden beneath the Events or Pattern area (one of the action buttons to the larboard of the capital pads). After a keyboard or a mouse, alteration alone MIDI addendum is a little added bizarre than artlessly beat or dragging. Some tasks, like quantizing out of time notes, accept accessible to accomplished shortcuts. But if you appetite to change the agenda length, for example, it’s a few added button presses and rotary twists to get there. It’s not mind-bendingly hard, and you anon apprentice the quirks, but it was one of the few times I absolutely absent accepting a PC.
Overall, though, I absolutely came abroad cerebration that as abundant as this is a standalone device, I couldn’t see myself application it to accomplish a complete track. No amount how accomplished you get at alive with the centralized sequencer and agenda alteration tools, I would — at the absolute atomic — appetite to animation things out as stems for a mixdown on the PC. But added likely, I’d appetite to accomplishment the alignment on the desktop also. Abnormally for the array of accomplished detail like fills and edits at the end of 8- or 16- bar sections. And afresh for automation and so on.
You 100-percent can do automation on the Maschine , absolute calmly in fact. But sometimes I aloof appetite to get in there with a abrasion and abuse the ambit manually, rather than “play” it in live, or cross Maschine’s menus. Lastly, the alternative of bond accoutrement (compressors, EQs and so on), again, isn’t absolutely as assorted as what you will acquisition accessible for a approved DAW, accustomed the abridgement of abutment for VSTs, but aggregate you charge is actuality — compression, delay, filter, EQ and so on.
All things considered, the Maschine is article of a celebration and an aberration at the aforementioned time. As promised, it’s an all-in-one music authoritative box, with all the strengths that Native Instruments’ accouterments and software accept to offer. But likewise, it’s defective the things that NI isn’t so able-bodied accepted for: aerial affection reverbs, bond accoutrement and so on. Which afresh raises addition question: Who is this absolutely for?
If you’re already application Maschine Mk3 for archetype (currently $649), the alone absolute account is the standalone aspect. But at $1,399 that’s a big absorb aloof for the accessibility of abrogation your laptop out of the equation. If you’re new to production, this is absolutely activity to acquiesce you to do a bit of everything, and absolutely well. But if you’re aloof accepting started, you’re bigger off with a DAW, a simple MIDI ambassador and some chargeless or added affordable plug-ins.
However, if you’re still application an earlier Maschine ambassador and adorned an upgrade, while accepting the allowances of the standalone features, this ability accomplish added sense. Or conceivably you’re aloof a Maschine fanboy and charge to accept the best there is. There will, no doubt, be association who are cool aflame about this and won’t avoid at the price. It’s aloof not accessible to say it’s acceptable for this accumulation or that blazon of ambassador accurately over the Maschine MK3.
Now, I’ve alluded that it’s a little pricey, but for ambience Akai’s MPC Alive 2 is apparently the best accessible battling here, and that’s activity to set you aback $1,200. Both accept altered strengths but are additionally aggravating to address to a agnate market. The MPC conceivably has a stronger ancestry in sampling and achievement (it additionally has added in/outputs — including CV gates). Meanwhile, Native Instruments runs circles about Akai aback it comes to amalgam and sounds, and I acquisition the workflow a little added comfortable. So which one will address to you will be a amount of claimed alternative added than account I suspect.
Groovebox-style accessory is consistently a action of compromises, and that’s accurate here. But it’s additionally adamantine not to adulation the Maschine and what it represents. Creating cyberbanking music can sometimes feel like bushing out a spreadsheet, and Maschine not alone avoids that. It feels like an actual, bonafide bit of outboard gear… or cartel I say, a agreeable instrument. Anything that encourages you to leave the abrasion abaft (for the best part) is consistently activity to advice you actualize in a way that’s added musical, added natural, and for that I adulation it. Let’s aloof get some of the added contempo synths/VSTs on there please!
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