When I sat down to tinker around with Native Instruments’ Maschine, I was immediately forced out of my chair to find out where my wig had blown to. An ethereal zephyr summoned by the bevy of remarkable specifications on the Maschine had promptly gusted my hair clean off. In this industry, there is a first for everything.
The Native Instruments Maschine is the German equivalent of a famous Japanese product. The comparisons and punch lines have been so numerous in number as to now be nauseating. What is totally surprising are still the number of inquiries as to how the Maschine stacks up against the MPC and the only applicable answer is that the categories are really apples to oranges. Okay, so it is a bit more subtle than apples and oranges, but the MPC was originally designed in ’88. Why on Earth would we be comparing the productivity of a unit designed to be used with laptops more powerful than what NASA was using in ’88 to an MPC? The discussion is one for musical philosophers who hold Chautauqua’s on the metaphysics of VSTs. Let us rain dance right passed that horde of puritanical producers.
The Maschine falls deeply into a rift between groove box and artificial limb. Something like Robin Williams in Bicentennial Man, you’re left with a feeling of curiosity as to what the unit actually is. Maybe we can answer that question by first answering what the unit does.
Native Instruments packages the Maschine with its own software which is primarily what we crafted jams with. The program was intuitive, that is the go-to word for the Maschine, and one I’ll have to fight the urge to use too many times. The entire process of creating music with this device is extremely intuitive. NI’s software uses basic elements of sounds, groups, and patterns sequencing these into songs. There should be a special addendum on how easy Native Instruments has made sampling with this device. It is the SlapChop of musical production. The program itself is not why one purchases the Maschine however and the hardware can be used as a plug-in with your pre-existing DAW.
The hardware aspect of things is an audiophile’s Six Flags Amusement Park. A single MIDI out as well as in and one USB jack are the only ports on the gadget. Maschine is a large instrumental creating machine with a rugged chassis. The deep black color showcases the dustiness of your room unabashedly. There are 16 pads with which to summon funky, head-nod inducing sounds but with the use of the on-board shift key they double as musical functions; also, affecting things from octave jumps to quantization modifiers. 11 knobs ensure that at live shows you will look like an extra on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise making modular adjustments to tectonic acoustics.
By Platonic virtue the unit is defined as a MIDI controller, sequencing sounds on the 16 pads that reside on your hard drive to create music. A song is comprised of groups of sound; the Maschine holds 8 groups each housing 16 samples. There is a step sequencer function to mimic the activity of the old school beat machines as well as a keyboard mode to make pitch changes to instrument samples. You can also plug your MIDI keyboard into the Maschine to do this as well.
The major selling point of the Maschine is not a Copernican Revolution within electronic hardware for beat crafting. It’s a much needed redesign of a system that was developed and not updated since 1988. Therefore, a lot of seemingly small, simple points that one would assume the entirety of this industry would be doing, only Native Instrument’s Maschine does. The use of outside VST and audio plug-ins is an example that comes to mind. Why on Earth did that take so long to catch on within the industry? Regardless, Native Instruments was at the forefront of adopting this on their Maschine. Aside from that no other company is as committed to developing proper software support for their product as Native Instruments. The steady slew of user-friendly updates keeps the Maschine user ahead of the pack.
Native Instruments broke the levy with the Maschine, soon after we saw a number of companies daring to peck at the glory of the MPC Empire and none doing it with such flawless execution as NI. In a home studio, the Maschine will quickly rise to the central creative focal point of your set up and is worth its weight in gold.