MASCHINE, is both an instrument and controller that is made by Native Instruments, the maker of the KOMPLETE 8 Ultimate combines a pattern-based sequencer, professional sampler, multi-effect unit, and VST/AU plug-in host with tactile control. Because this is such a complex system I will break this review down into two parts. Part I will covered the hardware aspect, and this article, part II will cover the software portion as well as covering additional custom accessories you can get to spice up your MK2. Throughout there may be some crossover.
MASCHINE 1.8 Software
As I said in part I, MASCHINE is controller hardware and computer software that work together to create music. It can be used live on stage as well as in the studio. It has the qualities of a dedicated instrument, with the advanced editing capability of a software system that can become the creative center of your musical production. You can incorporate it into any Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) that supports VST, AU, or RTAS formats, or use it as a stand-alone unit. You can even use it to control your external MIDI hardware and software.
Like the hardware portion, MASCHINE’s software is segmented into five main areas. At the top is the Header. This contains the main controls such as transport, main output volume levels, and display area. Below it on the left is the Browser area which provides the tools for storing, locating, and managing your projects, groups, sounds, samples, FX, and plug-ins.
Below the header on the right is the Arranger area. This section is where you put together your musical creation. You stack your clips into scenes and you have up to 64 scenes in order to build your arrangements. Below the Arranger area is the Control area. This allows you to control parameters and settings for each of the four modules at each project level (Sound, Group, and Master). This area can hold settings for samples, sounds, plug-ns, FX, MIDI, and routing. Finally the last section on the bottom is the Pattern Editor that gives you the ability for both step programming as well as real-time recording. This provides the basis for each scene. You can have up to 8 groups of 64 patterns. This area also supports automation for sounds, samples, FX, Plug-ins, and mixer parameters.
A project is the basis for producing music using MASCHINE. It contains references to all of the sound content – the instruments, sounds, and samples as well as the effects that you apply to them. The project also contains the arrangement of your song – how the patterns are built from events which trigger sounds and how they are arranged into a song structure using scenes and pattern clips.
MASCHINE can also record internal as well as external audio signals using your audio interface without having to stop the sequencer. This is particularly handy if you want to record your own samples, or rearrange loops that you have created yourself using MASCHINE. There is a Slicing feature that gives you the ability to slice loops to make them playable at nay tempo without altering their pitch or timing.
With MASCHINE MK2 comes the upgraded MASCHINE 1.8 software. It now comes with the ability to use the transport buttons on your MASCHINE hardware to control the transport control in most of your DAW software – NOTE: This does not work with Pro Tools DAW. Another new feature is the ability to scroll through your browser list and pre-hear samples without loading them.
Version 1.8 also includes individual note length and velocity editing, the ability to pin the Auto-Write button for improved automation recording. Here you can tweak with two hands, select and erase events quickly and easily. There is now a panic button that immediately cuts off all sound from MASCHINE.
You can now locate files per project. Just point the MASCHINE software to the location for one missing file, and it automatically resolves other related missing files. You can see the play marker in the sampler wave display and it is also shown in the hardware display. Finally, you have the option to save Group with samples.
Another bonus to the MASCHINE 1.8 is that all MASCHINE users get the full version of the modern legend MASSIVE. This is the synth that gave birth to the earth-shuddering bass tones and speaker-troubling leads that have defined the bass music genre. This synth contains 1,300 ready-to-go sounds. You can instantly browse via the MASCHINE hardware and MASCHINE’s eight control knobs offer direct access to MASSIVE’s eight Macro controls, giving you synergy between hardware and synthesizer, making for a much faster workflow.
You can run MASCHINE as a standalone application or integrate it into your favorite Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) by loading it as a plug-in. It is available in the VST, Audio Unit, and RTAS plug-in formats. When it is used as a plug-in within a host application, you can open multiple instances – up to the limit that your computer can handle.
There is so much more that you can do with MASCHINE and all of its abilities that it would be impossible to address them all here, but if you want to see more about its beat creation, sampling capabilities, and samples of it sounds and demos, then you can check out Native Instrument’s MASCHINE Media Page.
MASCHINE Custom Kits
Now for the first time you can customize your MASCHINE MK2 with the colorful custom kits. The kit is a 1 cm thick sheet of anodized aluminum that is available in several colors including Solid Gold, Dragon Red – the one that I have, Pink Champagne, Steel Blue, and Smoked Graphite. Along with the sheet are matching knobs that coordinate with the color scheme. It also comes with a cap remover that allows you to pull the knobs off of the MASCHINE unit to place the kit on.
As for the kit, it is very easy to put on. The little cap remover neatly slides under the knob and you just pull up on it. They slide right off. Once you have the knobs off, you lay the template on the MASCHINE and apply the new knobs on – of course you can put the old knobs back on just as well, or mix and match for a unique look.
The one complaint I have about the kit is that with the sheet on, the pads are almost flush with the kit. What this means is if you are used to doing a slide off of one pad on to another, it makes it more difficult create the same feel – this is a technique that I sometimes do to take advantage of the pressure sensitivity of the pads. But other than that, I really like the look that they give to MASCHINE.
Another MASCHINE add-on is the new MASCHINE Stand. It fits both first generation MASCHINE models and the new MK2 hardware controllers, and includes a Mounting Adapter for use with standard drum hardware. Made of aluminum, with a black anodized finish and rubber pads for non-slip grip, the stand is designed to provide a strong hold, maximum visibility and improved ergonomics for both studio and stage.
The MASCHINE STAND fits neatly into typical desktop environments, with just the right 15° angle for great visibility, ergonomic beat production and a no-wobble, non-slip stability. Locating pins prevent the hardware from shifting sideways and rubber pads front and back make sure the MASCHINE unit sits snugly on the stand. Down at the bottom, non-slip rubber feet hold the stand steady on your studio desktop.
The stand is rugged enough for any stage, and comes complete with a sturdy, die-cast Mounting Adapter, letting you mount your MASCHINE like a snare drum on standard 7/8” drum clamps. The stand is ideal for integrating MASCHINE into your drum setup, or just to hold your MASCHINE at exactly the right height for optimum visibility and positioning when performing live. Please note, this is not for MASCHINE MIKRO.
If you are looking for the most complete beat creator/groove sequencer on the market today, then you want MASCHINE. I have found working with MASCHINE to not only be a lot of fun, but a very rewarding experience.
Don’t think that MASCHINE is just for creating beats and sequences. It can be used for just about anything you can imagine. I am getting more and more into video production and I have found using some of the soundscape instruments from KOMPLETE 8 ULTIMATE, I can use it to create scores and special effects as well. I do not think there is any limit on what MASCHINE can be used to do.
I found that everything was very logically organized and really made a lot of sense once you get used to it. There are a lot of videos that are available both on the Native Instruments site as well as on YouTube that can teach you just about anything you want to accomplish using MASCHINE. If you want to create music using a groove sequencer then I can very highly recommend MASCHINE MK2.