Native Instruments Maschine by Fox Wildboar
Hello! This is my first Review here on GS, but I have been a GS reader for a few years now. I bought the Maschine a few weeks ago, and spent several sleepless nights dissecting it's features. I noticed that most reviews here are on products in the audio domain, so I figured I'd post a review on a MIDI/Sequencing device. Here's what I thought of Maschine:
Most 16-pad sampling devices (MPC, Roland MV, etc) function as a stand-alone unit, complete with built in A/D, MIDI I/O, and built-in sampling software. Hip-Hop heads cherish these devices, as they've been used by many, if not most of the big hip-hop producers.For the tight-budget producers, there are MIDI-only alternatives, such as the Akai MPD18(MSRP $199), which require interfacing into your DAW of choice. It appears that NI tried to bridge the gap with the Maschine. Maschine doesn't have any audio i/o, but comes with a proprietary software specifically designed for the Maschine.
Upon first toying with Maschine's Software, it became painfully clear that using it with a keyboard and mouse is EXTREMELY tedious. The UI is hard to navigate, and is basically ugly, IMHO. The Maschine DAW is clearly designed to be controlled with the device itself. Most of the buttons on the Maschine are labeled to correspond to their function in the software. The backlit led screens ensure that you don't have to look at the computer too often. Having said that though, it is nice to see that there is communication in both directions (changing the hardware reflects on the screen, and vice versa) Once I started fiddling with the hardware, things began to coalesce.
For those of you who are familiar with the MPC, Maschine should feel very familiar. The Sampling Section of the Maschine software is very intuitive, and has a variety of options for how to trigger record for the sample (beat sync, threshold) I started my journey with maschine by sampling my own voice through a microphone on threshold mode. It took about 5 minutes to make a 16-pad drum set out of vocal blips and beeps. The Pads are very responsive which allows for very expressive drum patterns to be produced pretty quickly.
My next experiment was with chopping long samples (dexter gordon sax licks) into phrases. This too was relatively painless. Being able to see/chop/edit the waveforms from the hardware is probably my favorite feature of the maschine.
Once I started laying down drum sequences and patterns, things got a little hairy. The sequencing/pattern/scene interface felt foreign when controlled via hardware, and was downright headache-inducing via software. For laying down simple ideas and compositions, its good, but for complex arrangements, stick to your DAW. (or export audio from Maschine software to your DAW) After an hour of struggling, I decided to test the MIDI/CONTROL Function on the machine. That's when I fell in love.
Using the MIDI Control feature of Maschine, you can bypass the proprietary software, and use maschine as you would any other Midi controller. I like using it to trigger Drum Racks from ableton, and used the knobs and faders to automate software effect parameters.
All in all I was very happy with the Maschine, and now use it in my daily workflow. I was dissapointed with the software, but MIDI mode was a viable alternative. The unit itself has great build quality...brushed alumnium frame, lightweight, and easy to carry...
For $500 street, this is IMHO the best bang for your buck
**Build Quality - Rugged, yet lightweight and small enough to gig with
**Functions - Lots of knobs, faders, and 16 uber-responsive pads
**Built in Library - I didn't cover this in detail, but a lot of usable sounds in here...5.6gb of goodness
** VST Plugin Support...use vst plugins within maschine and use maschine itself as a plugin, pretty impressive.
** Built in software is a nightmare. Some may like it, but for me, MIDI/Control is the only way to use Maschine
**No Audio I/O....gotta get an MPC for that
**Must be used with a computer...not a con exactly...this is inherent in the design.
I hope you enjoyed my review!