iMaschine 2 Review

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The original iMaschine app from Native Instruments was relatively well-received by reviewers and users alike. It was praised for its ease of use, the diverse sample packs offered as in-store purchases, and the ability to sample from songs stored on your phone or tablet as well as record your own sounds on the fly.

However, despite its widespread acclaim, it certainly met with its share of criticism. One aspect often criticized was the lack of support for “app audio transferring” technology from services like Audiobus, AudioCopy/AudioPaste and Jack. These programs allow users to output sound from one app into another, which opens up lots of possibilities for making more robust compositions. Yet even though this technology has been a staple of mobile beat production for years, Native Instruments never integrated this into their original iMaschine app.

Instead, users could export their beats into files that could be opened with Maschine, the desktop software that iMaschine stems from. You could make a beat anywhere you happened to be, then export it onto your computer and continue working on it from there. Alternatively, you could export your grooves to Soundcloud, where you could then download them and load them into your DAW of choice.

These were nice features and all, but what about users who didn’t own Maschine? What about users that wanted to be able to mix each individual sample in their drum kits, instead of one .wav file lumping all the sounds together? These were just some of the issues that many users seemed to have with the company’s first app, and combined with rare and unimpressive updates and a general lack of communication from the company, people just began drifting away from iMaschine altogether.

Cut to last week, when an email from the company announced that the sequel to iMaschine was now available in the App Store, promising to be a tremendous improvement on the original. I had no idea that they’d been working on this new app, so when I got the email I immediately had a look. It was a nice surprise; I’d been hoping for an update to iMaschine for quite a while.

As of writing this, iMaschine 2 costs $4.99, the same price as the first app. For another dollar, you can purchase a megapack that includes all of the original sample packs from the original iMaschine, which is a pretty good deal. Since I use iMaschine for hours pretty much every day, I didn’t hesitate to grab it and started messing with it right away.

Now, as I said earlier, it was rare that NI would update the original app, and they barely talked about it in their newsletters and promotional campaigns. For a long time it felt like they’d entirely forgotten that it existed. So when I saw that they’d designed an entire second app, it seemed to justify how long they’d taken to release it: they must’ve been working on all sorts of new features, new effects and increased tracks per project and lots of other capabilities, right? It would be so much better than the original that it would effectively leave it in the dust, and they’d just been keeping it under wraps so that it would feel all the more impressive upon release. Right?

Sadly, no. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite.

While iMaschine 2 does have its share of cool new features, it certainly did not warrant being made into an entirely separate app, as the interface is pretty much exactly the same and all of the original functions are as they were. There are no new sample tweaking options, no additional export options, no increased number of tracks and no new effects. Many users have seen this as quite an underhanded move, as they’re charging people the same price as the original app for a new app that should have simply been an update for the original. Until NI makes some significant improvements to iMaschine 2, most users will not feel that they were justified in making this a separate program.

That being said, there are some interesting new features to enjoy. The most unique and talked about is the incorporation of Apple’s new 3D Touch technology into beat creation for iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. This new feature creates new possibilities in various modes, most notably with Note Repeat, where its dynamics will allow you to play faster or slower repeated sounds based on how hard you press. The 3D Touch functionality also allows for quick actions within the newly implemented Step Mode, like muting certain pads or deleting notes of each pattern, and it even functions outside of the app by allowing users to create field recordings or open specific projects directly from the home screen.

Another of the more prominent additions is the improved track viewer at the top, where users can now create multiple scenes and duplicate, rearrange and delete them as they wish. You can listen to one scene on loop or the entire track, which makes it easier to create more full-bodied compositions.

Each of the 4 tracks now has 4 possible patterns, so you can create various sequences with the same set of sounds, also crucial to more robust song creation. You can opt to mute a track during certain scenes, in order to conserve your patterns for other moments within the song.

Each track, as well as each individual pad in your drum kits, can be colorized, which is already immensely helpful when using the Maschine Studio as it allows you to color code your samples and remember where everything is. The added color can be inspiring, too – playing with a drum kit colored dark blue could give you different creative ideas than a magenta-colored one.

They’ve also updated the keyboard to be more in line with the Maschine update from last year that allowed you to play various chords by just tapping one key. The program would play the rest of the notes in the chords, making it easier to create chord combinations in short periods of time, and that feature is especially helpful on the compact screen of a mobile phone. This function also allows for playing in specific scales and creating various arpeggios.

It’s clear that there are plenty of new features to enjoy, but whether or not this should have constituted an update for the first app rather than becoming a second has been debated since its release. Personally, I think it should have been an update, but it could also be the case that they have a lot more in store for iMaschine 2, new features that the original app just wouldn’t have been able to handle.

My hope is that, this time around, Native Instruments will communicate more closely with their fans, and work on improving their new creation based on user feedback. iMaschine and iMaschine 2 are still among my all-time favorite music production apps, I just hope to see more innovation and added capabilities along the way.