The new standalone production model from Native Instruments, Maschine+, packs everything you’d ever need in an all-inclusive piece of hardware.
With the Maschine+, Native Instruments attempt to go totally standalone on their flagship piece of production hardware. Building upon past iterations, the Maschine+ adds a number of features you’d find in any conventional DAW, an onboard processor to facilitate those new tricks, plus WiFi support, eliminating the need for a computer entirely.
We were recently able to spend a week with this beast of a creative tool, diving into its many characteristics, testing the limits, and having a hell of a lot of fun while we were at it. Here’s what we found.
From the top
Right out of the box, it’s easy to be faced with some option paralysis with the Maschine+. This thing is feature rich. Thankfully the learning curve isn’t as steep as some other gear, given the practicality of the interface.
Similar to previous Maschine units, 16 MPC-style pads serve as the backbone of your workflow. They can be a drum rack, a step sequencer, or a keyboard with modes for various scales and chords, depending on what you need. They’re velocity sensitive too, allowing for some great expression across the board.
Additional expression options come via the Smart Strip, essentially a mod wheel, pitch bend, keyboard, and FX strip rolled into one.
Under the hood a quad-core CPU processor and 4GB of RAM facilitates the use of all onboard software instruments and a powerful sampler, and multiple storage options come via SD card and USB slots – the latter of which allows you to sync with your DAW, compatible gear, or apps.
Nine synths, 35 effects, and seven Native Instruments Expansions mean your Maschine+ comes pre-loaded with thousands of sounds to enjoy, and WiFi compatibility allows the easy downloading of new instruments as well as software updates.
Fitting your Maschine+ into a studio or MIDI setup is made easy with multiple line and MIDI inputs and outputs, so playing the onboard software instruments with a MIDI controller or controlling outboard gear with the Maschine+ are all on the cards. There’s also a line in for your mic and a pedal, if you need them.
The options for interplay with your existing setup are extensive, making it very easy to imagine the Maschine+ as the centrepiece of onstage rigs and home production studios alike.
Leave the laptop behind
Native Instruments’ claims are true, the Maschine+ is a powerful standalone tool, no DAW required. In fact, with the suite of new features the Maschine+ resembles a DAW more than ever.
A new Clips function builds an extra layer on top of the Group, Sound, Scene, and Pattern workflow, allowing for an easier building of complete songs than ever before. The Clips interface resembles Ableton’s Arrangement View, allowing you to create transitions, build sequences, and add variation to your existing clips with ease.
The sampler is as robust as they come, allowing for easy surface-level playback as well as deeper editing. Slice samples on the fly, record internal or external audio, or create your own drum racks within the powerful Maschine+ sampling interface.
Integrating your Maschine+ into a recording or live production setup is limited by the unit’s number of inputs and outputs, but the versatility of those lines means there’s room for a little creative stretching. For instance, you have one 5-pin MIDI input but three USB inputs, meaning any devices with USB MIDI can be used in addition to your main MIDI controller.
The input and output settings of each Group – one software instrument, drum kit, or sample – can be edited individually, meaning you can program a soft synth to take a MIDI input, another to control an external device via USB, and so on. As long as you’re not playing 17 instruments on stage, your setup should be covered.
In for a penny, in for a pound
A week is barely enough time to scratch the surface of the Maschine+, it’s a piece of hardware that you could plunder for months and still be finding new features. It’s easy to pick up but tough to master, yet it’s obvious from your first five minutes that mastery will produce spectacular results.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one production studio, this is certainly hard to beat. All of the essential touch points are covered – sampling, arranging, recording, live expression, and more – each with an interface that allows for startling amounts of depth.
The Maschine+ will appeal most to anyone who prefers a tactile tool for their music making, or those looking for a centrepiece to their hardware setup. That said, the applications for it are quite endless. It’s a monstrous tool, more than equipped to take on any task you throw at it.
Find out more about the Maschine+ here.