MASCHINE, is both an instrument and controller that is made by Native Instruments, the maker of the KOMPLETE 8 Ultimate ensemble of musical instrument plugins and applications. MASCHINEcombines 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 covered the hardware aspect, and part II will cover the software portion though there may be some crossover.
As I said in part I, MASCHINE is controller hardware and computer software that works 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, Audio Units, 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.
The way this works is that you select a group. You add sounds to that group into one or more of the 16 sound slots. Each sound slot has 4 modules available. These modules can be used for samples, VST/AU Plug-in instruments, or FX and each one has their own separate parameter adjustments available. You record instances of your sounds. These instances are called events. This can be done one of two ways – either playing on the pad while in the record mode or through the use of your mouse in the Pattern Editor where you directly add each event.
Using the pads makes it easy to set up your parameters for your sounds and adding and adjusting affects while listening to it in sample mode. Then when you are ready you hit record. Several events create a pattern and this is displayed in the Pattern Editor. If you make a mistake you can edit it in the Pattern Editor as you see fit.
A song is composed of clip each of which represents a Pattern from a given Group. In the Arranger area you combine your patterns into scenes – each of which can contain several clips stacked vertically. All of these scenes –up to 64, creates your composition. These scenes can be triggered independently as various parts – like beginning, a chorus, break, verse, ending, etc.
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.
The MASCHINE software is updated regularly and adds new features. Version 1.6 brought the ability to work with any Native Instruments or 3rd party VST or Audio Units plug-ins directly inside MASCHINE so that you could load them into separate slots. With the latest version – 1.7, you can even browse and load the plug-in presets from all KOMPLETE 8 versions – KOMPLETE ELEMENTS, KOMPLETE 8, and KOMPLETE 8 ULTIMATE – directly inside the MASCHINE hardware browser. This means you can operate MASCHINE fully without ever having to touch your mouse or keyboard. This also means that the sounds that you can create are virtually unlimited.
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.
If you are looking for the most complete beat creator/groove sequencer on the market today, then you want MASCHINE. If I had one request for a future version of the hardware it would be for the addition of audio inputs/outputs for sampling purposes as well as for headphones or monitors coming direct off MASCHINE. Other than that 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.
Once I got through the small learning curve, I found that everything was very logically organized really made a lot of sense. 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.