The Maschine What is it? Ask Ben...

Words by: Ben Eyes
Posted: 28/4/11 10:59

The Maschine What is it? Ask Ben...What is it?
The Maschine is a package that closely ties together simple to use groove sampling software with a nicely designed MIDI controller. The closest rival would be an Akai APC 40 with Ableton Live, however that is not the whole story...

First Impressions
At first glance the Maschine controller looks solid. I can imagine dropping it out of the baggage locker onto someones head and it would actually knock them out or at least give them something to think about next time they sit in an aisle seat. The finish is a nice matt black with large sturdy plastic end cheeks.

All the controls feel good and responsive, with the pads having a nice tough feel (unlike some other pads I could mention!) whilst being extremely sensitive to velocity changes. Although not heavy this thing will take a battering. The tough design is quite appropriate as I can see the Maschine’s main home being in clubs and raves where knocks and spills are pretty much guaranteed.

Size wise it would fit in most DJ bags, it might be a little big for small laptop cases, but a case is available from Native Instruments (they think of everything!).

The display at the top of the controller is easy to read and clear with a nice white backlight LCD. All the pads and buttons clearly lighting up when in use. The orange and blue lights look loverly  and provide a useful clue to help navigate the Maschine in dark environments such as clubs.

Interactive Interface Explorer for MASCHINEThe software part of Maschine is clear and easy to read. It all nicely slots onto one screen with no flicking between windows. It has got the Native Instruments GUI look and feel, which I happen to be a fan of. Not all singing and dancing but functional and clear, which when your playing a raging set is what you want really.

The screen layout is intuitive with a file browser to the left to help you find samples and songs, along the top is your scene view (similar to how Ableton scenes work) and the bottom is a multi function window that displays whatever you are editing, be it drum pattern, wave form or piano rolls.

So far so groove. So what is it like to play? In the Groove
I love messing with new technology and the Maschine is a fun to play instrument, with some serious production twists. It is very simple to use and I quickly got a beat together by finding an 808 kit dragging it onto a group and hammering the pads. The Maschine comes with 6 Gig of sounds to get you started - drums, pads, bass, fx are all represented and you can add your own of course.

However I did think the synth and bass sounds were a bit weak - considering the choice NI have they are a bit stingey with this side of things. It might be that you choose to import your own as samples or trigger external bass synths or VSTs.

The pads feel great to program and there is no latency between hitting them and a sound coming out of your speakers (although you will need a decent sound card), just like hardware. In fact the whole thing felt like hardware with an easier to read screen, with (virtually) unlimited memory, what is not to like?

Maschine - The softwareEditing a pattern was a breeze with a clear piano roll on the screen. Quantizing on the fly could be done in the sweat of a club and I could see myself turning up with a few patterns and jamming out a set in front of a crowd.

I then turned to bass and with lots of bass sounds to choose from I quickly dropped a nice fat bass in. Then I turned to the effects section. What a joy! Native Instruments have always had an amazing ear for effects, just ask Traktor users, and the Maschine is no exception.

Filters, compressors, limiters, eqs,  delays, reverbs (Ice anyone?), flangers, phasers, the list goes on. I loved every effect I tried, and all were easy to edit with the tightly integrated controller. You can also record changes to sounds and effects within a pattern very easily which was great and opened up the Maschine to some serious sound mangling possibilities.

After half an hour I had made a few patterns and copied them into a few scenes. Using the mode buttons along with the pads I could mute instruments, solo patterns and flick between different scenes to create an arrangement on the fly. Very cool indeed. Obviously comparisons are going to be made with Ableton, as this has been the daddy of groove sequencers for sometime. And I would say in terms of DAW functionality Ableton will win. But with the addition of recording, VST support, the promise of more updates, a tightly integrated hardware controller and a competitive price Maschine is a serious match with some lovely ideas to keep the music flowing all night long.

System Requirements, Compatibility
Windows XP (latest Service Pack, 32 Bit), Windows Vista/Windows 7 (latest Service Pack, 32/64 Bit), Intel Pentium 4 2.4 GHz or Intel Core Duo or AMD Athlon 64, 2 GB RAM
Mac OS X 10.5 or 10.6 (latest update), Intel Core Duo, 2 GB RAM

Audio Units™
RTAS® (Pro Tools® 8 and higher)
Core Audio™

Native 64-bit support for stand-alone and plug-in versions
USB 2.0 Port, 11 GB free disk space for complete installation

MASCHINE comes loaded with a 6.2 GB sound library
+ KOMPLETE ELEMENTS for a price of 599,00 €


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